January 25, 2023

Overcoming Insurmountable Odds: Scott A. McCreight

My next guest has overcome insurmountable odds to become an accomplished engineer, extreme athlete, and bodybuilder. Despite being diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a young age. Welcome to the Author Hour Podcast. I’m your host, Hussein Al-Baiaty. My next guest is Scott McCreight, here to talk with us about his newest book, titled Overcoming Insurmountable Odds. Let’s get into it.

Hello, friends. Welcome back to the show. I’m here with my good friend, Scott McCreight. He’s here to talk about his new book, but of course, celebrate as well. Scott, how are you feeling today?

Scott A. McCreight: Oh, feeling wonderful. Thank you very much.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah. Thank you for coming on the show. I really appreciate your time. Man. I got to say, perusing through your book was really inspiring last night. I didn’t want to put it down, but I had to get to bed. It was around midnight, and I’m here just studying you, learning about you, learning your philosophies in your life. I got to say, I’m very inspired. I even woke up today inspired feeling really good writing up these questions for you.

Again, I just want to say, man, thank you for your time and taking the time to write this book because it is filled with amazing golden nuggets of insight and a remarkable story. I want to give our audience a little bit of a personal background of just who you are, where you grew up, what was childhood like for you. I really want to know about those people that kept you going moving you forward in a positive way, the people that inspired you. Let’s go back in time a little bit and share a little bit about that.

Childhood: Adoption and Diagnosis

Scott A. McCreight: All right. Well, thank you very much. I’m honored. It’s a privilege to have written this book. So going back in time, I was born in Fort Worth, Texas, but I’m adopted. I never really lived there. My parents came up from Austin, Texas. Took me home and so, I’m a native of Austin, Texas. I used to say I was born and raised here, but now that I’ve put out a book, I guess I can’t say that anymore. I’ve never lived as a young kid. I was born and ran as fast as the car could get me back down to Austin.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah. So tell me about childhood. What was that like for you being adopted and growing up in this environment, where you’re starting to learn a little bit about yourself and the world around you?

Scott A. McCreight: Well, okay. So about 18 months after I was adopted, my parents found out that I was not developing naturally or properly as the charts indicate for babies and was diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy that affects my right side. What basically that meant was my little baby right arm and my baby little right leg was not decentralizing or reaching out to explore the new world called humanity, life, whatever we want to call it like my left side was. So with lots of tests, and a lot of wires and gizmos all over my body.to figure that out, I was diagnosed. Then started to receive physical therapy here in Austin and a little-known place called the Austin cerebral palsy Center, which I have a whole chapter in my book about the early days, and what it was like growing up, trying to be normal, but learning that I was not a normal kid.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: As a young kid, going through these kinds of things. Can you give us a little bit of a highlight of what that was like for you? Because it’s something that we don’t obviously hear about or in most cases don’t know that world very well. I’d love to know your experiences and what that was for you growing up, because there was a lot of you can’t do X in your life. So I want to talk about that, but before that there was – I can’t do X because I’m tiny. I’m small. I’m a small human being and for me to recognize that I can’t do something, you needed some filters to go through. What happened? Talk to me a little bit about that childhood, and what that was like for you?

Scott A. McCreight: Well, as a child or a new creature we’re learning all about the rules and all about what we can and cannot experience in life just a normal everyday person would go through, right? Well, on top of that your playmates, your friends that are “normal.” I couldn’t do X, Y, or Z. the doctors kept saying, “Oh, no. He’s got this thing called brain damage. Once the brain is damaged, it can’t heal. He’ll never be able to do this or that.” A lot of this was subconsciously implanted in my head through elementary school. I went to the Eanes school district, which is the home of Westlake High School, which has some of the more talented, physical, sports-related, as well as academia folks, brilliant School District, great education. I found that not only could I not compete, but there was no way I could compete.

Throughout my early childhood, I learned the improper lesson of, do not try and you will not fail, attitude. Primarily as a conservative in the way of keeping myself safe and not being humiliated and stuff like that, too. Well, like for instance, there’s a story about me being in physical education thing called a president’s award or was it the president’s field day, something that we used to do when we were kids, do how many sit-ups, how many pull-ups stuff like that. Then do an Olympic type of activities after that. I learned that I just couldn’t. It was very humiliating. They didn’t understand the complications that are associated with cerebral palsy. Heck, I’m now writing this book, and I’m just learning decades later.

The coaches were not cooperative in the way, “Ah, yeah. Everyone should be able to do this. Yeah, get your nose off the ground, McCreight.” Stuff like that. On top of that, which is a fascinating story in itself is, I have grown up in a competition waterski family. My father is a nationally ranked professional water skier, still to this day. The kids were all encouraged to be competition water skiers. There’s incredible stories of me trying to get up on a little kid skis. At one point, they were nailed together and just trying to get me up on skis. I look back at that knowing what I now know, through the functional and the transformational processes that I described in the book.

Again, this was a different time. This is 30-plus years before, functional movements were really known. There was no other way to do it, but at the same time, it shut this little Leo down. I use the term Leo in my book. Leo the Late Bloomer is a book by Robert Kraus is a children’s book, 32 pages long. It’s about a lion who was late at everything, but his mom knew that when that lion, her son, were to bloom, he’s going to be a great lion of leaders tomorrow. It’s ironic that that was the only book as a small infant that I would want my mom to read to me every night before bed.

I incorporated Leo, me being Leo with cerebral palsy into my story. I go through how Leo did this, Leo did that. So as I grew into my middle school years, computers were a new thing back then. I gravitated to the geek side of activities and love to – I built my first ham radio when I was a teenager. There’s a story or two about that. So I gravitated to what seemed it was easy, but when it became the physical being able to run or being able to get around sports related, I shut down, subconsciously. That followed me all the way up until about my college years when I had this epiphany of, I was meant for more. There was a strong yearning to try.

Now try is a word that you’ve automatically convinced yourself that you can’t do it. I was taught this in my transformation in 2011, but try is a word that when people say, “Oh, well, try to do that.” You’ve already convinced yourself you can’t do it. So the better would be attempt or just do. I just did college. I went through a struggle to get into University and see if I could do that. I was – wasn’t easy, but I was able to get through it and excel. Then that started the transformation, the mental side of going, I want to be a normal adolescent, a kid, an adolescent teenager.

When I went to college, I was in a dorm, lived with a roommate, which is in the book. I had no idea who it was going to be. I wanted to experience what normal kids go through. Now, I realized that there is no normality in life, but you can’t tell that to a kid. They want to be in that normal range of activities and we fight hard, extremely hard to be normal. So I tell stories about becoming a skydiver, while I was in college. Oh, yeah. I have cerebral palsy and I skydive. Then becoming that extreme athlete I am today through processes. When I started formally, going through these processes of working with a trainer just I wanted to lose a couple pounds and work out, not kill myself in a thing called a gym. I’ve never walked into a gym in my life before because it was daunting. I didn’t know what to do.

This process opened up a humongous, life-altering paradigm shift in the way of these functional techniques called neuroplasticity, which is defined as the brain’s ability to rewire. We do that no matter if you’re you or me or somebody else, our brain is ever changing and just because we have neural deficiencies called cerebral palsy, or stroke, or traumatic brain injury, it’s still a muscular neuropathic issue that can be resolved. I talk about that and how to go about doing that. So many people came along my side saying, “Scott, you shouldn’t be able to do this.” I mean, I’ve written up in, what was it three medical journals and two Ph.D. papers. I think I got that, right. I started believing that maybe I’m onto something here. So many people have come alongside saying, “Hey, you need to write a book about this. This is incredible.” My doctors were even dumbfounded. They’re going, “You shouldn’t be able to do this.” I said, “Ah, just wait. I’ve just started.”

I talked about some incredible, insurmountable odds that I had to fight through the ones so incredible that I call it the reckoning. It was involving a skydiving accident, but you have to read the book for that tidbit on that. Again, it wasn’t, because I refused to embrace these changes that were occurring. I wanted to see if there was even a bar. People say the bar is set here. You can’t go above this bar. It was pretty darn low. I kept moving this bar up in a concept I call the mouse in the maze.

My trainer put me through a series of experiments like a mouse through a maze, a response theory to see if okay, if this were – we did this, can Scott do that? I was beating every maze that she put me into and to the part where we realized that you don’t have limits that you have perceived, mentally or physically. That’s the biggest takeaway from this is. We have preconceived notions that either society builds upon us, or we through society, or our own interactions in the mirror, so to speak, have put on us. This mouse in the maze became mighty, and I was even quoted on the floor, “Hey, you must be Mighty Mouse.” I thought, “I’m going to write that into the book.” I use the example of the mouse in the maze becoming mighty and then learning to fly. Then being able to do things that only Mighty Mouse can do, kind of deal. You too can be Mighty Mouse.

Making the Transformation into Extreme Athlete

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Right. So powerful. Can you talk a little bit about the phase and the stages that you went through to become an extreme athlete and start doing bodybuilding despite having what a lot of people would deem a condition that would not allow you to do that, right? Which is what you’re talking about, but you started down this path of carving at yourself, really. I would say, slowly removing those ideologies and replacing them with something new. Can you talk a little bit about that journey of going to extreme athlete and bodybuilder?

Scott A. McCreight: That’s an incredible question that I’ve taken many hours, especially in writing this book, to go back and to analyze. Okay, what just happened? What was it and how can I measure this to replicate this in others? I mean, my goal in all this is, I want to see what you the reader can do. I mean, I’ve given a template, but I would love – I jokingly say, my next book, Overcoming Insurmountable Odds, Volume Two, or whatever, would be actually stories of you, the reader, doing more incredible things than even I. So the idea was when I was going back and looking at the Austin cerebral palsy center and what physical therapy, operational therapy, occupational therapy where the kids like me went through. Then where do kids go today? For instance, there’s the Napa center for kids and young adults and people that have neurological problems.

I spent hours and hours with their director and founder looking at the programs and stuff like that. At one point, I was in there doing my analysis, and one of the parents came up and said, “Which one’s yours?” I said, “Oh, no. I don’t have a kid here. I don’t have a boy or girl here.” She said, “So what are you doing?” “Oh, I’m writing a book about neuroplasticity?” “Oh, okay.” Their eyes lit up. I said, “Oh, well, are you a doctor or something, a medical expert?” She says, “No, I’m a former patient with their predecessor.” Their eyes lit up, because I mean, if you look at me, I have a bodybuilding physique now. I mean, I hate to say that, because I’m just like, “Oh.” I’m still –

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah. You’re a humble man. You’re a very humble man.

Scott A. McCreight: I know. I’m still the Leo. I’m still that lion that thinks he’s a Leo, not so Mighty Mouse. I mean, but their eyes light up and going, “Really?” That they’re a kid that they’re just now starting out, have so much hope, powerful hope. So I was analyzing what they’re going through. I realized that when I started in 2011, formally, on this thing called my transformation. I only wanted three hours or so with a trainer that knew what the heck was going on and to be able to use this thing called equipment in the gym and stuff without killing myself. It turned out to be an eight-year transformation.

That first year, my baseline photographs in the book, I weighed 198 pounds and 39% body fat. I didn’t realize that at the time, but I was pre-diabetic, my blood work. I didn’t know that. But when we started this program, my first sessions were very much akin to those sessions at the Austin cerebral palsy center that I can remember, or at the Napa Center, but for adults. Obviously, I was on stability balls learning how. I had to get on the treadmill and how to walk properly. I hadn’t been walking properly for years. Mind you. I’m a scuba diver, by this time. I have overcome of just skydiving and stuff, but I had not learned the basics, because I skipped right over that to go for the very hard. My trainer had to go back and say okay, we need to go back to the basics. I spent hours on how to build this thing called a core muscle group. I didn’t even know what a core was.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Neither did I, but I took up years ago.

Scott A. McCreight: I know until, you know.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I know, I got big for a little bit and that’s not the core.

Scott A. McCreight: No. I kept saying I had a 12-pack over the six, but in reality, I didn’t even have six, because cerebral palsy even though your abdominals are one muscle group, there were still not developed properly. I wasn’t even sitting or standing properly. I had to go back and do the very basics. I mean, I didn’t even get to pick up a weight until about the second week. Then my trainer stopped me and said, “Scott, I am so sorry.” I said, “What?” He said, “I’ve taken this for granted.” I’ve known you through your father and stepmother for about a year now. I so wanted to meet you and get to work with you. So when you came in, I took you right to the mat. No tour. No ease the client into any of this. I just put you to the mat.” I laughed. He said, “What?” I said, “You’re the first person that’s actually taken me for face value and saying, “You can do this”.”

Then he realized the potential that even I did not realize, although she wouldn’t tell me what she was doing, because in reality, would you tell the mouse in the maze, what you want that mouse in that maze to do as if the mouse could understand you, by the way, but she wouldn’t, because she didn’t want to taint the outcome. I talked about these techniques in the book and how to employ those for your programs and stuff like that. When I first started picking up a weight, simple cable pools and stuff like that, she would have to tie my left hand which is my non-cerebral story palsy side behind my back, so my left wouldn’t do the work that my right was supposed to do, because that’s what I’ve done for years. I’ve just did everything left side, no matter what it was.

She said, “No, you can’t do this. If it’s on the right, you do it with the right. If it’s on the left, you do it with the left. No more of this getting by this stuff.” So she had to change the entire paradigm. I had to change my paradigm. so I mean, it got to be a funny thing to the manager at the gym would receive complaints that one of our trainers are tying up this kid on the workout floor, or standing on this kid on the workout floor. I mean, there’s one video we have of me on a medicine ball doing a plank, and she’s on my back to prove that I can support my weight on an unstable platform plus hers. Now it was all safely done, but I mean, it was awesome, because I started going, “Yeah, this is really cool.” People were starting to take notice.

As I grew in my strength, we just kept going. It’s like, I did my first unassisted, bench press with 45-pound plates on the side, when I couldn’t do a simple, no plates, just a straight bar bench press at all, shortly before that. It’s because my right side was learning how to play with my left side in an equal. It is fantastic. Lots of video, lots of measurements, lots of – Oh, and by the way, that one-year anniversary, when I went back to take that photograph at that same spot in Gunnison, Colorado she wanted me to take a photo of exactly the same spot. I sent that back to her and she put them together and said, “You now weigh 163 pounds at 16% body fat.”

Every year, I’d go back to that same spot to get progressional photographs. So by year eight, I had a fully developed six-pack professionally tanned. Yes, I can’t believe I just said that. I mean, because I was getting ready to compete. That all changed with the skydiving accident. That happened as a part of writing this book. I go into a little bit of the detail in that, but it was a shattering experience that I overcame three and a half years of rehab later. So I had to start all over again, but I was able to use these concepts that I had just recently learned and wrote about to actually overcome this insurmountable odd. This setback was so severe. It almost took me out. It took three surgeries and about three and a half years of rehab, but I was not going to give up. In fact, he gave me more strength and all of this when people saw me and say, “He fell. Mighty Mouse fell.” Okay, I got back up. I was not going to let defeat win.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Oh, man. That’s so powerful. You quite literally — I mean, there’s like the emotional falling, right, which I feel like many people go through. Of course, if you’re on any hero’s journey, you will fall at some point.

Learning From Failure

Scott A. McCreight: if you don’t think you’re going to fall, you’re in for one bigger fall.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Hell of a tree. Right.

Scott McCreight: Yeah, because you learn more from failure than you do from success. In this, I talk about those failures that, okay, we learned from this. Don’t get me wrong. The whole skydiving thing was not a failure. It was quite simply a trainer, not my trainer from the gym, but the skydiving trainer, not fulfilling his side of what we were supposed to be doing. Unfortunately, we had a film crew there and I was writing for the book. It all got captured. We have gone through and analyzed that and can’t talk too much of that, because of some ramifications there. The book goes into picking up the pieces of both emotional, physical, as well, as financial. I took three hits that day. By far the emotional hit was the hardest.

I say in the book, when somebody gets injured in a sports-related accident, you have a team of experts that come around you and lift you up and get you back into the game. In my case, I’m just becoming an athlete at this point. Learning how that athlete acts and all that, but my whole team of experts at that particular moment, all left. I use the term like a hydrogen atom at a nuclear bomb party. They just split. It took me many, many, many months to years to really understand. Was it that they were scared? I don’t think it was the legal part. Did they think that they pushed me too far and I fell and I’m never going to recover or was I not worth the effort anymore?

By far, the worst, the effort anymore was primarily the hardest to overcome, because remember being put in a box labeled with cerebral palsy and treated like not normal. I don’t mean my parents or anything. I mean, society in general was the biggest hit. I proved that I could hang with the big dogs, so to speak. Then this dog that was involved with an accident and everyone split. I had to learn not only to pick myself up but to find those experts that could take me to that next level from where I was. The ones that did stick by my side are featured in the book even more because we can’t quit on this thing called life. I mean, no matter how much you want to, this is a journey.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: While working on your book, how do you think the journey of writing and editing changed you? What’s something you learned and would pass on to other authors?

Scott A. McCreight: Well, the biggest thing is, I’m not an author. I mean, I say that when I started this project. I was just the mouse, okay? Then when my trainer left, I had to go back and figure out what my trainer was doing. That’s when I started looking back all my evidence that all the measurements and then getting together and doing that investigative reporting that you go through as a writer to figure out the methods and the means and all that. In that, put together an outline, start writing it, and having test audiences look at little bits and pieces of it to get ideas. Then the biggest thing that I got through it all is reading other people’s works. I don’t mean, just for the processes that you’re citing in your own work or understanding that, but we’re literally reading people’s work to figure out how they write, the writing styles, their way of communicating by word.

I found that the more I researched, I have to admit, I started journaling, when I was 17 years old. I talked about why in this book, too. Primarily, I went back to my journals to get a lot of this material. Still today, I’m amazed that why was I writing a book, starting at 17 or when I started writing my journals, not knowing that I was going to be using that as a source for the book to come. The biggest thing I can say, as an author, is talk to other authors, even if it’s not within your scope of influence or your audience.

When I started writing this book, I had no idea how the book was going to turn out. I just knew I needed to write this story. People were saying, “Well, what’s your book? What area is your book going to be about?” Area? I’m just writing. Everyone was trying to push me to the finish line before the journey really got started. So the biggest thing is, everyone is gifted with talents, learn how to harness those talents in writing and let it flow. It’s going to be jumbled up. That’s what your editor in your publisher, Scribd Media has been incredible putting this tattered work that was – well, when I call it disarray now, but into a different order chronological order in this case.

I mean, I read this now. I look back at one of the earlier drafts that was not in order. How could I have been so weird writing that way, but don’t worry about any of that just start writing. I decided when I started this project, I was going to invest in a Mac computer. I’ve been a PC person most of my life, but I was going to get a Mac, so I could do my video editing. The creative part and I just segregated everything to this Mac to go, “This is my book. This is my, the life story where everything else on another computer is complete.”

Now, you may not have the means to do that. I was fortunate to be able to be gifted with that ability to say, “Okay, I can segment where I get on this Mac and it’s just creative in writing and then speaking to other authors. I was interviewed by another author, which has cerebral palsy. John Quinn. I got to meet him and he came down to speak about cerebral palsy, as well. He said, “I want to meet you, Scott. Can you pick me up here?” So we went out to dinner and we traded stories and kindred spirits for cerebral palsy and that helped guide my early work as well.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: So powerful and so inspiring. I love that so much. Scott, if real briefly, can you tell me when your reader picks up your book and begins to read it and finally gets through it and puts it down, what do you hope they feel after putting it down?

Scott A. McCreight: Inspired. As I said before, my goal is to be able to come alongside folks. You may be an elite athlete that have no cerebral palsy, no stroke or anything like that, but you have a story to tell, too. I mean, everyone starts out the same. Not able to walk. We just come out of the womb and you have to tackle life, but when the end of their book is written or their story, I’m just an inspiration to others to help them realize that, or people realize that they too can do more than they can think they can do. I mean, the biggest thing is I say, towards the end of the book is, just wait. I’ve just started. I don’t know what that means yet, but if these tasks that I talk about in these stories in the book, I mean, I’ve just started. I want to be able to come alongside the parents of kids with cerebral palsy or kids themselves, or young adults and stuff like that, and be able to walk life with them and be that brain muscle alliance champion.

I say what that means in the book. If your brain and your body have to be in aligned to be able to overcome, but it’s also the brain professionals, and the body professionals like the physical therapists, the doctors, the surgeons, the occupational therapists, and the specialists, they all have to coordinate together with that individual. And in my case, I had to figure all that out myself. I didn’t have somebody that came alongside in my later years now. In my former years, when I was a kid and I said this is the very beginning, your parents are your biggest advocate. If they hadn’t pushed so hard to form who I am today, with this “work ethic” towards overcoming I wouldn’t be anywhere near this.

I had given up completely on myself, which I call complacency in the book, 2007, 2008 timeframe, when it’s only around 2011, when I started working out that I had realized that complacency had taken root and was almost devastating in my life. I had not even realized I was that fat, that overweight, or whatever until I met that trainer and just happened to want three hours in the gym, or whatever. I mean, I had not realized that I had slid so far backwards, because of complacency. That’s what we have to really watch out for is it sneaks up on you.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Wow, Scott, I’m so inspired. I genuinely appreciate all your stories and your experiences and really just being vulnerable with us today in sharing all of those to help motivate and inspire us and give us a perspective one that we don’t necessarily see ourselves from, but then you reflect back and dwelling as you’re speaking on all the things that I’m genuinely grateful for today. Again we talked a little bit earlier before the show just being able to grow up here and learn a new language. All those things that were at the time were obstacles and challenges.

Today, those are the things that I needed to prepare myself for whatever was coming which entail gave me this ability, this confidence, to know that I can overcome tough things. Your book really outlines that in such a beautiful and unique way. My friend, I am just honored to have sat with you. I learned so much. Your experiences, your stories are so powerful. The book is called Overcoming Insurmountable Odds: How I Rewired My Brain to Do the Impossible. Besides checking out the book, where can people find you, Scott?

Scott A. McCreight: All right. Well, I wanted to add in there that at the very beginning of the project, I said, and I say this in the book, “This book is dedicated to all who have been told no. No, you can’t do that.” Then faith is very powerful. When you give somebody the faith to do something. Watch out. I can be found through my email address [email protected] is also printed in the book as well because I realized, as I say, this is not rocket science, but there are mostly talking about the stumbles that you’ll go through. People call them missteps. I don’t ever call him missteps, because, as I said before failure teaches you as much or more as success, but what I wasn’t understanding, was success and building upon it.

I didn’t realize that that was success. I thought, “Wait, did I just do? Like jumping over that building, so I’ve come alongside folks who are struggling in certain aspects of their transformation, whether it’s scuba diving, or skydiving, or any of the other extreme athletic sports that I talked about in the book. I’m not done. I mean, this world has so much to offer, no matter what athletic ability. My book is not just about athletes, by the way, it’s just overcoming and as you said that the mental, physical, the social skill set that people are put into. So I can be reached through my email address [email protected].

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I love it. Well, Scott, again, thank you for your time. It was an absolute pleasure and an honor. I wish you plenty of success with the launch of your book.

Scott A. McCreight: Thank you.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Hope to meet you in person one day, my friend. Thanks again.

Scott A. McCreight: Oh, yeah. Thank you very much.