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Today, my guest is a performance coach and author, Alan Stein Jr. Alan’s passion for helping others perform at their best has led him to his second book, ‘Sustain Your Game.’ Alan has experience working with NBA high performers like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant. His new book creates a simple-to-follow road map on behavior changes we can make or incorporate to better support us regardless of our quest. The book is broken into three sections Perform, Pivot, and Prevail. These are typical stages we may all face when pursuing a goal and then the idea of how to maintain it once we have gotten in the proverbial game. I realize that Alan’s genuine curiosity about how to do this created the book. He doesn’t claim to know more than anyone else. He has simply spent a lot of time investigating performance and achieving goals. Enjoy

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Alan Stein: High Performance Secrets from NBA Superstars & New Book ‘Sustain Your Game’ to Beat Burnout

My guest is Alan Stein Jr. Alan is a Performance Coach and Author. His second book, Sustain Your Game, is out. He’s worked with NBA legends like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant. He knows something about achieving and striving. It’s his curiosity not only on the topic but also on how you pivot once you’re there, how do you continue, or how do you prevail?

He even breaks up his book into three sections. Performing, managing the stress, and dealing with it. Pivoting, once you’re there, how do you adapt and keep growing and learning. Also, prevailing, how do you stay excited and keep in pursuit of something and maybe ask the questions even when it’s time to get out of it.

For me, oftentimes, when people write these books, it feels like they know more or they pretend to know more but what I realized about Alan, it’s his genuine passion for the topic but also his curiosity. He’s trying to figure it out for himself and he’s spent more time in this space investigating performance and how to achieve goals whether it’s in a sport, in your work, or even looking at yourself personally. It’s like, “I have some behavioral things I’d like to change. How would I do that?”

The book has a simple-to-follow roadmap of suggestions and ideas about the behavioral changes we can make or ones that we can add. Regardless of where you’re at in your life or what you’re hoping to achieve next for the first time, Alan Stein is definitely your cheerleader. His latest book is Sustain Your Game. I hope you enjoy.

Hi, Alan.

Hello, Gabby.

Welcome to my show. I’m excited. I read your book. I almost have too many notes so we’re going to do my best to condense things and I’m going to have you lead us through. Is this your second book or did you have other books prior to this that I didn’t see?

This is the second.

I feel when people get into writing books, it’s like you knew something and then you’re like, “Now I know more. That’s why I want to update, connect and communicate.” For fun, may we share a little bit of your background but also, I’d love to brush over what was the impetus for your first book and what you were hoping readers got and then we can get into Sustain Your Game. A lot of people will enjoy this.

That sounds like a great plan. Professionally speaking, I’ve spent most of my career as a basketball performance coach and spent over fifteen years working with mostly elite-level high school players. I live right outside of Washington, DC. There are two different high schools that I’ve had the opportunity to work for, both of which have produced over a dozen players in the NBA, Kevin Durant being the most notable.

That ended up leading to some work with Nike, Jordan Brand, and USA Basketball, which then gave me an opportunity to work with some players that were already pretty well known and established like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry. I’ve had a unique journey and I’ve been able to see a peek behind both sides of the curtain to see what it takes to reach that proverbial mountaintop and master your craft and then what it takes to sustain that and stay there. The impetus for the first book was to show folks how to optimize their performance in every area of life.

The books that I write, I’m writing based on what it is that I’m experiencing in my own life and I’m writing the book that I need to read myself. I made the leap from the basketball training world to the keynote-speaking world more than five years ago. The reason I wrote Raise Your Game was so I could work on mastery of those different traits and behaviors as I started a brand new field and a new career.

Certainly not to imply that I’ve mastered it by any means, I’m still much a work in progress, but as I was focusing on what it took to reach optimal performance, I came to the conclusion that that’s only part of the journey. It’s sustaining excellence but doing so while still feeling fulfilled and having a sense of joy for not years but for decades. That’s where the real challenge lies and that’s certainly where I am in my life right now.

That’s such an interesting point. I’m interested to get into the philosophical sides of it. I’m curious when a company like Nike or these bigger companies hire you. What are they looking for you to do in the performance sector? I’m curious how that translates.

At the time, it was all the physical performance side so the strength, conditioning, and fitness component but because I personally was always so enamored with the mindset and everything above the neck. That was what I was consuming on a regular basis so I would make sure that I’ve worked with that with players as well. Concepts like being in the present moment were something I would talk to our players about all of the time but as far as why they brought me in, it was for the physical development, to improve athleticism, and help bulletproof their bodies against injury.

I’m interested when you were around high-performance programs at the high school level and then beyond that in the pros. When you see talent over and over, and then you see the talent that makes it through because this translates to life if you’re doing business or anything. At what point are they physical gifts? When you see it, the people who are like KD who can transcend besides obsession, how much of it is their ability to put it together upstairs and deal with the losses, injuries, teammates, and things like that? As you get into the higher levels, that becomes more important.

[bctt tweet=”You’re never going to fix something you’re oblivious to and you’re never going to improve something you’re unaware of.”]

You know this firsthand as a world-class athlete yourself. The physical part is a piece to the puzzle and certainly, to make it to the likes of the NBA, it’s in your best interest to be taller, more explosive, agile, quick, and strong but the funny part is, when you get to that level, almost everyone checks those boxes. Of course, you’ve got somebody like LeBron James who was born with some immense physical gifts that most human beings are not born with. For the most part, most players in the NBA and most professional athletes in any sport have a certain level of physicality. Once you’ve checked that box, that’s no longer the separator. Now, the separator becomes the mindset. It becomes all of the intangibles that will allow you to actualize that physical talent.

When I was working with high school players, I viewed it much as a pyramid. The base-level was their body and I wanted them to max out every ounce of potential they had from a physical standpoint but most importantly, to take care of their machinery and their body. The next level up was their skills. It doesn’t matter how athletic you are, if you can’t shoot, pass, rebound, defend, or handle the ball, then you’re not going to be a good basketball player so we had to work towards skill mastery.

The next level up was their mind and their basketball IQ. Did they understand how to play the game? It’s one thing to be able to make a bounce pass, it’s another thing to know when to make a bounce pass and what the proper angle is to make the bounce pass. The top portion, the smallest portion, but arguably the most important is their heart, their grit, their passion, their desire, and how obsessed they are with becoming the best player they can be. I wanted to make sure that we were addressing each one of those levels but as you work your way up that pyramid, each level becomes even more important.

I have a quick question before we dive into the book. There are a lot of parents sometimes who push their kids. I have three daughters. I don’t push them into athletics. Sometimes I’m conflicted about whether I should have more or not. I do believe that the pursuit of a sport is so hard that maybe you could push someone for a time.

Ultimately, if you’re going to have real success, which also means some level of enjoyment of the pursuit, which is challenging, it does have to come from the individual. You want to support them and maybe expose them, but in your mind, do you ever see the coach parents in the long game where that works out, those sideline coach parents that are little league parents?

I’m glad you brought this up. To your point earlier, when you asked me how many books have I written, I only considered Raise Your Game and Sustain Your Game. Those are the primary books I’ve written and those have been traditionally published. I have three children as well. During the pandemic, a good colleague of mine, and also a fellow sports parent co-authored a self-published little guide to address that. It’s called The Sideline: A Survival Guide for Youth Sports Parents.

As a parent, and you feel the same way, we all love our children more than anything in the world and we want to do everything we can to help put them on the path to living happy, well-adjusted successful lives. I’ve certainly noticed that with my three children, and as a basketball performance coach when I was specializing in middle school and high school age, a lot of parents are blissfully misguided.

I know they want what’s best for their children but they often think what’s best is pushing their children and making them practice. You can see that in their behavior on the sideline, whether it’s a practice or a game. They’re shouting instructions from the sideline, telling their child what they should be doing. They’re berating the referees because gosh forbid, a referee makes a mistake during a game.

I’ve noticed these behaviors and they’re across the board. They’re in every sport and at every level. My children are a little younger. I have twin sons and a daughter so they’ve been playing youth sports for a couple of years now. It used to blow my mind when they were 7 years old, and they were playing soccer, how intense the parents were on the sideline and it was almost comical. I have noted that from the research, as well as my own observation, kids today are quitting sports earlier and earlier. Their number one reason for doing so is adult interference and most of those adults are the parents. It’s not coming from the coaches.

Here we’ve got parents who are trying to do what they believe is best but it’s going in the wrong direction. You and I both know how important sports are to the overall development of young people and to teach them life lessons that they won’t learn anywhere else. I say we, as adults, need to be doing everything in our power to encourage kids to play sports for as long as they can. For most of them, that’s through high school.

When the high school days are over, the vast majority of players will be done but if you have an opportunity to play after that, that’s wonderful. Instead of having kids quit at 10, 11, and 12, can we get them to participate in sports until they’re 17 or 18 during those formative years? That was why we wrote that guide, hopefully, not in judgment of parents or to be critical of parents, but to show them that there is a better way.

I love the word you used before. Support. Instead of pushing children, let’s encourage them, let’s support them, let’s love them unconditionally but let’s make sure they’re playing the sport because of their enjoyment, not because we’re trying to vicariously live through them. I know many well-intentioned parents who have done that.

You’re much more polite than I am. They’re living vicariously through their kids because they have some unsatisfied dreams. I’ve had to learn this as a parent. One of my children gets very good grades, and she is built for sports and I’m like, “What a waste.” That’s my weird filter. It’s an interesting thing but there is so much data, especially for girls, the power of them staying a little bit longer.

I want to remind parents, first of all, if you have a kid that’s in sports, it doesn’t matter how good they are. 1% of them will have the opportunity to play in college. At some point, the lessons of working together in a team, losing and winning, and all these things are valuable. We’ve all met people who have won at everything at every level, and it certainly doesn’t make them a good person. As parents, our job is to develop them as human beings, not, “I have a champion.” That’s great but that’s a whole other story.

Dr. Alan Stein Jr Photo 1

Alan Stein Jr – Every single thing that you encounter in your life is going to either distract you away from your goal or it’s going to add traction and move you a little bit closer.

Let’s get into your book. You sectioned it off into three sections and you alluded to this at the top of it, how to perform and deal with that stress, how to pivot and adapt so let’s say you’re in the thick of things and you don’t want to plateau and then finally how to prevail and sustain and have some longevity.

Let’s go right into someone building the scaffolding to perform. You get into dealing with the stress and fundamentals. Maybe we could talk about this section a little bit because it’s for a lot of people and even if they’re in a job. I’m trying to take everything, regardless of its sport. It translates over and you talk to many businesses and things like that. It’s a great template to work from. Talk to me about how one person gets ready to manage what it takes, this pursuit?

I’m glad you went in this direction. Famous Indiana Basketball Coach Bobby Knight always said that before you can worry about winning, you have to know what loses. You have to figure out what’s going to get in the way and impede winning and that was the impetus for these three focal points. As I was looking at my own life and trying to figure out what was preventing me from sustaining excellence and performing at a high level for long periods of time, it was stress, stagnation, and burnout. These are three things where I’m certainly not alone but I’ve experienced plenty of in my life.

I tried to write books that I need to read myself but I also know that I’m not alone and there are millions of people out there going through the same thing. I certainly noticed through my own observation and experience that the pandemic exponentially heightened all three of those components. It’s certainly through some wrenches into the works.

The baseline of that is something that every human being on the planet experiences and that is stress. I figured that if I could somehow figure out an effective way to manage stress, and notice how I didn’t say master stress, I’m not coming from a place of mastery here. If I could figure out and develop the tools to help manage stress day-to-day, that would certainly make my performance escalate but more importantly, it would make life so much more joyful and fulfilling.

It only took me 40-plus years. I’m a little slow to the party but I finally came to the conclusion that the environment, circumstances, events, situations and what people say and what people do, that stuff is not what causes stress. What causes stress is our response to those things or our perspective of those things, or more importantly, our resistance to those things if we’ve learned to have some level of acceptance.

Before anyone rolls their eyes and thinks that I’ve completely gone AWOL here, I’m not saying that the things that go on in the world are to your liking and I’m not saying they’re your preference and I’m not even saying some of the things that happen in the world were good. I’m simply saying that once they’ve happened. They are now facts. They are reality. You can even fight against that which is completely futile and it will only increase your stress and make you miserable or you can learn to let it flow through you and have a level of acceptance and choose thoughtful and intentional responses to those things.

I say this with a huge smile and all of the love and compassion I have in my heart. It is not the universe’s job to conspire to do everything to make me happy, to do everything in the world to make Alan Stein Jr.’s life as easy and convenient as possible. That’s when I would sometimes laugh at myself if I’m stuck in a little bit of traffic and I’m late for a meeting. I used to get so bent out of shape and so frustrated, acting as if this was happening directly to me. If these hundreds of cars and the people driving them woke up that morning and said, “We’re going to get in this guy’s way a little bit later this afternoon because we want him to be late for his meeting,” is ridiculous.

I’ve learned to accept that there’s nothing I can do. There’s traffic in front of me. It’s not my preference, but I’m going to be okay and I can handle this. Instead of white-knuckling the steering wheel or honking the horn or giving somebody the finger, I’m going to enjoy some stillness. I’m going to listen to another episode of The Gabby Reece Show. Maybe I’m going to call my parents and catch up with them. I have the power to choose my response and I find the fact that I have that power to be liberating and empowering so I still have my moments where I have setbacks, but generally speaking, I manage stress pretty well these days.

How do you teach someone? You’ll see a lot of people naturally who have that capacity and then get put in environments where they can hone it. I say this in a complementary way. If I find someone who is more emotionally heart-based, we all need the skill but there needs to be a practice in place just like everything. What would be the tidbits that you would say to somebody, “Here are 3 or 4 things in your practice of making space from you and that response?”

The first is awareness. Everything will always start with awareness because you’re never going to fix something you’re oblivious to and you’re never going to improve something you’re unaware of. The first thing you have to do is be aware of the fact that whatever is happening right now is outside of my direct control and the only part that I can control is my response to that. I want to be thoughtful and intentional in choosing a response that is going to make things better and move me forward.

The reason I say that awareness is that many people have unconsciously programmed themselves to believe that they don’t have a choice in their response and that it is an automatic default. When there is traffic in your way, the only response possible is to get upset, to get frustrated, to get irritated, and honk your horn. I want to let those folks know again, with empathy and compassion, that is not the only response.

That may be the response you’ve chosen for the last several decades of your life but in a moment, you can change that response and that takes an attitude of extreme ownership. It certainly takes some humility to acknowledge that the way I’ve been approaching things and having these knee-jerk emotional reactions, is not serving me.

Ultimately, think about it when you get upset in traffic, you’re only hurting yourself. All of those cars in front of you are completely oblivious to the fact that you’re behind them. They have no idea that you’re running late for your meeting. The only person you’re poisoning is yourself. I say it with a smile. Although I say it with tremendous compassion, it’s almost comical that this is completely self-induced. When we raise our own stress levels, we’re punishing ourselves.

[bctt tweet=”Give yourself some grace and let yourself know it’s okay not to be okay.”]

I found through years of being incredibly unhappy and unfulfilled that the current way I was handling things wasn’t working so I needed to make a change. One of the things I say a lot of times from stage, as far as changes are concerned is, “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you will keep getting what you’ve been getting. If you don’t like what you’ve been getting, you need to change what you’ve been doing.” I had to acknowledge, with great humility, that the way I was approaching life before was not effective.

What did you realize that’s fascinating? First of all, I use traffic, especially if I’m not with one of my kids because that’ll be the time I try to use to visit with them because that’s a powerful time that they talk to you. I call it active meditation. If I’m by myself, I get real quiet. I don’t have something on. It can be a time for learning. I love learning in the car because it feels like time well spent. That’s when I do my check-in. It’s like, “How am I doing today?” “How are Laird and I?” “What do I think about my business?” These are the small moments where we can do these daily personal check-ins because people think, “I thought about it two weeks ago.” I do think we need these daily check-ins.

Nobody wants to hear what you’re also talking about because they’re so much connected to feelings. Is this too as a discipline to be able to observe yourself and go, “Gabby’s about to go into crazy time.” That’s the other thing. I especially enjoy it when I fail and I flip my crap with one of my kids and I’m like, “You lost this battle. You look like such an idiot.” and I bite the hook. I’m like, “I’m in.” It’s always having that ability to be in it, to be above it, to observe it and be like, “This is probably not serving me.”

I want to remind people that using the time for something and going at the end of it, what’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? You’re going to be maybe a little bit late or what have you and that is stressful but when we can look at it, is this life and death? Does it warrant this intense of a response? It’s like, “Come on.” It’s an interesting thing and sport is an interesting way to learn this because when you’re playing, it does have to be the most important thing. It does have to be life and death.

Let’s say after you play and it doesn’t go your way. How do you then put it back into perspective so you can go to practice the next day? It’s this weird going in and then coming back out of things. Your point is so well taken. You talk a lot about acceptance, which is a form of surrender. It’s a form of this higher idea that maybe we’re all trying to get to. It’s a tricky thing. There was something that somebody said in your book. Coach Buzz Williams talks about how you’re either in two types of activities, traction or distraction.

We’re going to put a pin in that for one second because you said something powerful and insightful and I want to double down on that. You talked about this concept of learning to be a spectator of your own emotions. That is one of the tactics that have helped me the most. It’s almost viewing myself as if I’m an actor in a movie and now the original Alan is simply the director. He’s like, “Here, this character is stuck in traffic and he is acting a complete buffoon right now. Cut. We don’t want that. That’s not what this scene calls for. This character is much more composed and poise so we need to take a take two.”

It reminds me of the fact that our emotions are designed to inform us, they’re not designed to direct us. I want to be crystal clear with everyone. I believe in experiencing a wide range of emotions and I don’t personally ever suppress, resist or ignore my emotions. If I’m feeling angry or upset or I’m feeling frustrated, I allow myself to feel that. I give myself permission. I don’t just don’t let it dictate my behavior. I don’t let it dictate how I show up. I don’t let it dictate my response. I don’t let it dictate how I treat others. I want those things to always be thoughtful and intentional and I want to be consistent in how I show up.

I don’t ever want someone that feels like they need to come to me and talk to me about something to feel like they have to take my pulse and go, “Which Alan am I going to get right now? Is it the moody upset Alan because things in the world aren’t going great or is it that happy and chipper Alan because things are?” I want my response and the way I show up to be incredibly consistent so I allow myself to feel frustrated if I’m in traffic but I don’t allow that to dictate my behavior and how I show up so I’ll choose to do something that is going to serve me and move me forward.

This concept of being able to view yourself and be a spectator of your own emotions is an incredibly powerful tool. Imagine if you were watching yourself behave or you were watching one of your children or a friend behave that way at the moment, you’d probably go, “They’ve lost it. What is wrong with this person?” That’s how we need to be able to look at ourselves.

Is that what family is called? To be honest, traffic is the one that gets me. It’s like my monkey mind takes over. I have also apologized to my children and have been like, “I have been acting like an idiot. I’m going to grab a gear and chill out.” Even within that, you can teach them that awareness and that adjustment in real-time and be like, “Those fifteen minutes of loony mom, she’s going to get it together now. Sorry about that.”

I love the fact that you have the awareness to know that you can change that in a moment and that you can also quickly move to the next play. If you find yourself being the loony mom for fifteen minutes, then don’t be the loony mom in that sixteenth minute. Make sure that we make that change then and give ourselves some grace.

We don’t beat ourselves up over the fact that for fifteen minutes, we didn’t show up as our best selves. Let’s course correct now. You said one other thing that was important with high-level competitive sports or even high-level competitive businesses where the stakes are high. Keep in mind though that maintaining your composure and managing stress at the moment and being present is going to allow you to play at a higher level.

Dr. Alan Stein Jr Photo 2

Alan Stein Jr – All that matters is that we get crystal clear on what winning looks like to us or excellence or whatever it is that you’re trying to pursue.

When you start doing everything at this manic and frantic pace, and you’re getting bent out of shape because the referee missed the call, or you missed a wide-open shot, that’s going to detract from your performance. Getting upset over trivial stuff, or getting upset over important stuff does not lead to higher performance. Those that can stay composed even during the high stakes of an athletic competition don’t mean they don’t care. You don’t have to act like a fool to prove that you care. Keeping composure and poise amidst all of the chaos is the best thing you can do and to me, that’s ultimately the definition of mental toughness.

The most mentally tough athletes on the planet are the ones that can maintain poise, no matter how high the stakes are and no matter how chaotic the environment is. If they missed their last five shots, “Those are over. I’m going to stay focused and composed and do my best to make the sixth shot.” We see that across all sports and that parlays into parenting, parlays into business, and every area of our life.

You say this in your book, too. What’s important is almost the short memory of your mistakes and the ability to be present and forward. That’s true where that connects to, “I was having bad behavior, I pivoted, I’m back on the game plan,” and then allowing other people in our lives to have that same freedom. It’s interesting how sometimes we have standards and it’s a good lesson where you can even have a kid who’s being a knucklehead and then all of a sudden you go, “What’s up with this,” and they get a chance to take a look at it.

We also have to give them, our partners, and people who work with us or work for us that same opportunity to go, “I am going to change gears here.” It’s an important trait to have, but also to give that same grace to the other people in your life because you will encourage that over and over if you can do that.

Well said. We’ve got to show ourselves some grace and we’ve got to do the same with others and we need to resist the easy temptation to judge. When I say loony mom, I’m saying that with a smile because those were the words that you chose.

Don’t get so peaty on me. Parenting, if you’re not a little loony going in, you will be made at least a little loony by the process. Come on now. Let’s talk about traction or distraction. I like this. In this day and age with phones and technology, I thought it was a great comment.

That was one of my favorite things that he was kind enough to share. I realize how complex the world can be and I know that there are so many different gray areas and nuances but personally, I find it helpful when I can make something binary. When I can make it left or right yes or no, it helps make the decision-making process more fluid. Every single thing that you encounter in your life is going to either distract you away from your goal, your north star, and what you’re trying to accomplish, or it’s going to add traction and move you a little bit closer.

The sooner you can have the discernment over which bucket that goes in then the better off you’ll be. It’s helpful for time and energy management because we want to say yes to as many things that give us traction as possible and do our best to say no to the things that distract us. You mentioned one of the primary culprits and that is the phone, social media, and a lot of the shiny objects in the world today that are designed to distract us. Their entire goal is to keep our eyes and ears on them for as long as possible so that they can maximize ad revenue, subscriptions, and things like that so we have to be aware of that and as I said before, “It all starts with an awareness.”

You also have a diagram. This book is full of information, but you have something in there that’s like Eisenhower’s box. It’s a great diagram and it’s so straightforward for time management, urgent, not urgent, not important, and important. You show these cross-sections. In this book, there are concrete actionable ways to dissect your time and where things might fall in this box.

I found that to be a helpful tool. The mistake a lot of people make is in the labeling. Most people tend to lead their lives as if everything is urgent and everything is important and it simply can’t be. If everything’s important then nothing is important. We could make that compelling argument. It’s having the discernment to say, “What things absolutely require my attention right now in the present moment? Which things can be put on the back burner? Which things need to be accomplished now and which things can be done a little later? Which things do I not even need to do at all?”

Most people in the world have some type of to-do list. It’s equally important to have a not-to-do list like, “These are the things that get in the way of winning. These are the things that get in the way of me being my best self so I want to do the best I can not to do those things.” That list is every bit as important as the to-do list.

Sometimes I feel we also don’t give value to being and thinking. I don’t mean stillness and meditation on top of a hilltop. What I mean is hanging out and seeing how you feel and seeing what arises. What do you feel like doing at that time when it’s not on a schedule and not necessarily on your phone because not only is it a distraction but there’s nothing creative about that.

Going inside, there’s a great book called The Comfort Crisis which talked about the power of being bored, boredom, and how many great things come out of boredom. I want to encourage people because people feel guilty for being and letting that take you where it may versus, “How am I going to be productive?” Being online is a time suck, but it’s certainly not as productive. You have to focus and deal with stress but you talk a lot about preparation.

A mentor of mine’s tagline was always, “Make preparation your separation.” That was something that I took to heart. Ultimately, I believe there are only two things we have 100% control over 100% of the time, and that is our own effort and our own attitude. Everything else is a spoke-off of that wheel. If you combine effort and attitude, you get preparation. You control how prepared you are for any scenario. Both of us had control over how prepared we were to show up for this interview.

Preparation is a controllable factor and I find that the more you do the work on the front end, the more you practice, the more you prepare and most of this work takes place during the unseen hours when no one else is watching you. It helps your ability to manage stress at the moment because you’re fully prepared.

[bctt tweet=”Discomfort is a prerequisite to growth, improvement, evolution, and self-actualization.”]

As a keynote speaker, my goal is to be in full service to the audience and I do a tremendous amount of due diligence and customization prior to the engagement so that I can hit the target for the audience but I also rehearse incessantly so that when I’m on stage, I don’t feel like I have to have anything memorized. I don’t feel I have to be robotic. I know it so well that I can show up and be present and be.

When I do that, I have to also accept that I’m a flawed person. I’m going to make some mistakes, I’m going to stumble on my words, and I may forget a point but that’s okay. That’s the human experience. Keynote speaking is a human speaking to other humans. I allow myself and give myself that room but the preparation is what allows me to show up and have the confidence to be in the moment. Preparation applies to every single area of our life.

A lot of people get lost. They don’t know how to begin and they don’t know how to start. Sometimes it’s like studying for a test. Where does one start? I would love to know your take on it because I have to do a lot of preparation whether it’s reading your book and trying to figure out what our journey is in the conversation and the part that I participate in. You’re going to control the other side of that. You talk a lot about having mentors and things like that.

I want to remind people that it can be daunting to know where to begin especially when you’re trying something new. It’s okay to ask for help and to learn from people. When we go to school, we have teachers. We become adults, and we think it’s not okay to have mentors. It’s about also finding or going to people and being like, “I’m thinking of taking this on or doing this. How do you approach it?” I find that to be helpful and you talk a lot about mentorship and having mentors in the book.

I’m so glad you went in that direction. Whether it’s a formal mentor, a paid coach, or it’s something a little less formal than that, we should always be proactive in reaching out. We should be proactive in reaching out in both directions. If things are going well in your life, you’re in the groove, and you’re performing at a high level, know that there are other people out there that could use your help and use your counsel and mentorship. Be proactive in sending the elevator back down to help them and then at the same time, have the courage and the humility to ask for help, whenever it is that you need it.

Oftentimes, our ego and our pride can get in the way. It’s like, “What are people going to think of me if I have to ask for someone’s help?” I always remind them by using sports as an example. The best athletes on the planet all have coaches, and many of them have a myriad of coaches. Many of them have a fitness strength and conditioning coach. They have someone that helps with their skills.

In today’s day and age, many of them have a mindset coach or a mental sports performance coach. Many of them have a nutritionist to help them design what’s the healthiest meals for them to eat. I’m a huge believer in the coaching and, and the mentorship paradigm. I want to serve as a mentor to some people and I also want to be mentored by other people at the same time, because those different vantage points help expand my perspective.

It’s funny because you can also be helping somebody but because they might be a little younger than you, something about their perspective feeds back on you about how you can incorporate this new idea into the skill set that you have already, which is so helpful. I was eating with a friend of mine and she’s smart. She said to me, “I don’t know that much about religion.” We were talking about Christianity. What’s the difference between Catholicism and Presbyterian? It was interesting because I said, “What you should do is either take an online class,” because it was an honest thing.

There are so many things like Greek mythology, history, or whatever it is. A lot of us are like, “I know something but I don’t know.” Maybe now it would be hard to say at my age, “I don’t know that much about that,” and everyone would think you’re supposed to. I want to remind people if there’s a topic or whatever it is that it’s okay. No matter how old you are it’s okay to be like, “I would like to learn more about that because it’s another opportunity.”

Another mentor of mine said something so in line with what you mentioned there. He said, “Alan, every single human being on the planet knows something that you don’t. If you ever get a chance to talk to them, it’s your chance to figure out what that is. Just know that it doesn’t matter what vocation they work in. It doesn’t matter their age or their experience. They know something or have experienced something in the world that you haven’t.”

I need to be so fascinated, curious, and humble to figure out what that is. If that is true, and I do believe it is true, that also means I know something that everybody else doesn’t know and I want to make sure that I’m doing everything I can to share that and help other people out. If we can get past worrying about what other people may think, if we have to ask the question or ask for mentorship, it’s a liberating and empowering place to come from.

I no longer worry too much about that type of external validation. If someone thinks I’m foolish for not knowing something, that’s okay. They can have their opinion but I don’t worry about that and I’m certainly not going to let it hold me back from learning something valuable that could help me in my journey.

There’s something funny when someone’s like, “You don’t know that,” and you go, “No.” It’s like, “And?” This is an important point. You talk about almost developing an alter ego and the first person that came to my mind was Beyoncé because she had Sasha Fierce. She did this whole other music, type of music, and communication.

Most of us are trying to be humble. I was with someone and they said something about being a good athlete. I go, “I have to be honest. I’ve never thought of myself as a good athlete.” I also live with somebody who I perceive as a very good athlete so that reinforced that for me for years and years. I know so many good athletes. She was like, “That’s interesting.” Maybe that’s a good thing. You say this in your book. There’s something to be said for having this alter ego that can also go out there and do it.

I learned this firsthand from a friend and colleague named Todd Herman, who wrote an entire book that is a must-read about having this alter ego approach. I didn’t even realize I was doing that in different capacities in my life until Todd crystallized it but what he reminded me of is when we were kids. I’m over 46 years old so I was growing up in the early ‘80s. How many times I would either be in the front yard, pretending I was Michael Jordan, or I was in the backyard, pretending I was GI Joe or I was up in my bedroom with a makeshift cape pretending I was Superman.

Dr. Alan Stein Jr Photo 3

Alan Stein Jr – Burnout is not just from working long hours. It’s when the long hours you’re working and the sacrifices you’re making are no longer in alignment with where you find meaning and purpose.

We would take on these different egos and personas, and use our creativity and imagination and we were completely uninhibited. You couldn’t have told me that I wasn’t Superman. I believed it. When I put the Clark Kent glasses on or I had the cape that my mom made for me, I believe that. We all know how powerful belief is. We can believe that we’re not good enough, we’re not capable, and we’re going to screw things up but that’s completely hypothetical. The future is always hypothetical. You can’t ever be in the future outside of your own mind and outside of language. It’s always a projection.

If the future is already going to be hypothetical, why not assume that the future is going to turn out in your favor? Why not assume that your next speaking engagement is going to go well? You can assume that it’s going to go poorly but both of those things are completely made up so I’m trying to reprogram myself and I still have a long way to go in making the prediction and projection that the future is bright and things are going to work out.

I also know that if they don’t, I’ll have the strength, poise, and composure to be able to handle whatever is thrown at me. That all stems from having this alter ego approach. It goes back to what we were talking about earlier about being a spectator of your own emotions. It’s similar to that. You can step outside of whatever labels you’ve put on yourself or whatever labels you’ve allowed other people to put on you. You can absolutely step outside of that and be somebody else.

That’s so important because we’re searching for identity when we’re young and then somehow, we get stuck in that thing and it’s like, “Oh my goodness.” By the way, we’re so many things. We’re partners to somebody. Maybe we’re an employee or a boss. Maybe we’re a friend. It’s all these things, but I appreciated that. I thought this was interesting. You talked about when people choke when in performance and how your inner words speak is 4,000 words per minute. Is that right?

It was something along those lines. It’s astounding. Our brains are supercomputers.

When you drive a car or vehicle, you’re making 26 decisions per second.

That’s remarkable and think of how many of these systems in our lives are completely unconscious. At present, you and I are focused on having a lovely conversation. Neither one of us is thinking about regulating our heartbeat, our respiratory system, or any of that stuff. We’re not even conscious of how our feet feel on the ground until we bring that to awareness and start to think about it. Most of these systems are going on behind the scenes and it has to be that way because if we had to consciously make our heartbeat and consciously inhale and exhale, we’d be in a little bit of trouble.

A lot of people have a fear of not performing well, failing, and choking. Can we put into perspective what’s happening when this happens?

Dr. Michael Gervais says that you’re choking off access to your craft. That was the best way that I’ve ever heard anybody frame that. I appreciated that. What you’re doing is, ultimately, your perception of the stakes at the moment, and this is all self-induced, are exceeding your current skill level or level of mastery and that’s what the issue is. If we go back to being present and having a level of acceptance, it gives us the serenity and the poise to then be able to hopefully rise to the occasion or rise to the moment.

The interesting part about choking is that choking is not poor performance, it’s worse performance than you would under any other circumstances. All of these things are incredibly understandable. They are human. We get it but you have to have the poise to realize, especially in say, sports, that the skill that you need to execute at this moment is no different than the skill you’ve executed a million times in practice or workouts.

It’s an illusion that the stakes are higher because we’ve built that up in our minds. It’s like, “Yes, I understand that it’s game seven.” “Yes, I understand that there are only three seconds left.” If we put our focus on that on the external part, we increase the chance that we’re going to choke or decrease performance.

If we focus on the internal part that says, “I’ve done this a million times. I’ve worked on this skill. I’m more than capable of hitting this shot. I believe if anybody’s going to hit it might as well be me,” then you’ll rise to that occasion. One thing I want to make sure is blatantly obvious to everyone reading. All of the stuff that we’ve been talking about is basic and premise. None of this stuff is easy to do.

I don’t want you to think for two seconds that if they somehow threw me into game seven of the NBA Finals and I had to hit a corner three I’d be able to do that fluidly. It takes practice. All of this stuff takes practice. That’s where we need to be thankful that the world provides us with no shortage of opportunities to practice all of these skillsets.

Every time you’re sitting in traffic remember that this is an opportunity for you to practice being patient and practice being present. Every time you’re in line and there’s a slow cashier, it’s the same thing. It’s another time for you to get a rep at practicing patience. Ultimately, these things that we view as obstacles and hindrances are gifts because they give us another repetition and you know as well as anybody, repetition is the path to mastery.

In life and not in performance as much but in life because monotony is a killer. I play little games where I will acknowledge that I’m feeling rebellious against waiting in line and be like, “Another effing opportunity to practice.” In life, I tend to try to honor both sides. When it’s higher stakes or real performance, I get all more serious about it. The way that I take the pressure off is to be like, “Here we go,” have a little fun and almost be a belligerent teenage girl inside myself but then it’s like what you’ve said. I don’t act. I am cool and have fun with it.

I want to remind people that you don’t have to be a pressure cooker either. You can make it a game scenario when it’s possible because you’re not doing that at work or in the middle of a sporting event. I want to move to the middle part, which talks about pivoting but there was a line in the first section that was, “Discomfort is the beginning of the work.” I could relate to that 100% and it’s like, “Okay. Here we go.”

[bctt tweet=”I’m writing based on what it is that I’m experiencing in my own life and I’m writing the book that I need to read myself.”]

You want to reach that discomfort and the sooner you can, the better off you are. Discomfort is a prerequisite to growth, improvement, evolution, self-actualization, and so forth. We want to learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable and we want to learn how to seek appropriate discomfort. One of the things I put in the book that I found somewhat comical was when they were talking to Cus D’Amato who used to train several boxers and there was this infamous story about Muhammad Ali.

A reporter asked Muhammad Ali about how many sit-ups he does during the workout. He paused for a second and said, “I don’t know about 50.” They were taken aback because they assumed that a heavyweight champion of his athleticism would do hundreds and hundreds of sit-ups. He further explained, “I only start counting when they get painful.” He disregards the first 200. Those meant nothing to him.

The only ones that mean anything are the ones after the discomfort starts so that’s all he keeps track of. It’s the same thing for the rest of us. Our comfort zone can be a cage because if we stay confined in it we’ll never stretch and we’ll never grow. We have to learn how to embrace discomfort. Mental, physical, emotional, and even spiritual, if appropriate.

Alan, if somebody hears you talking, I can have a shorthand with this because of some of my background but sometimes if I’m objective and I read about this conversation, I think, “These two, lucky them.” “Embrace the sock,” and all this stuff that we’re like, “You can do it,” and all these things.

My real hope is to try to understand how do we prompt people who are genuinely yearning for this thing? Let’s say in sports but beyond. What is the prompt? What is the invitation? The belief is often so strong that somebody couldn’t. Is there something that you can that we can offer that maybe makes sense beyond, “It’s hard and that’s what it is,” because I’m like, “It is. I get it.” What about someone like that?

The first thing to do is to give yourself some grace and let yourself know that it’s okay to not be okay and it’s okay to have these thoughts and it’s okay to not have full belief in some of this stuff. The next step is you also want to do the best you can to not play the comparison game. No one reading this needs to compare themselves to Gabby Reece. All they need to do is to say, “That’s how she approaches it. I need to be internal and figure out how I’m going to approach it.” The mindset that I try to go through life with is to do the best you can with what you have wherever you are. That’s it.

Everybody’s best they can is slightly different. If someone looks at you and is a little intimidated because they know the best Gabby can do is all the way up here and I believe the best I can do is down here, that’s okay. We’re all running our own race. We don’t need to play that comparison game but the key is having, as Jocko Willink says, an attitude of extreme ownership and that we’re not going to blame, complain or make excuses for any of this. I’m going to do the best I can to embrace discomfort but I have to acknowledge that my tolerance and acceptance of discomfort are probably different than somebody else’s.

This is what I do for a living and I’m proud of the man that I’m becoming and the path that I’m on but I don’t think for one second that I have the same tolerance for discomfort as Jocko Willink or I don’t have the same tolerance of a work ethic that the late great Kobe Bryant had. That’s okay because I don’t need to compare myself to either one of them. I’m on my path.

What we need to do is find out ways that we can have tiny daily wins and then make incremental progress. You don’t have to take a running jump into the deep end. You can dip your toe in it at first and then slowly, incrementally get more comfortable with welcoming discomfort in your life. Ultimately, what you’ll see is, “I’m okay. I was worried about that. I did a little bit of it and I’m still here so now I can do it again and I can try to go a little bit further than next time.”

I’m not speaking from a place of mastery. I have to constantly catch myself because I play the comparison game. I easily play the comparison game in a lot of different capacities. I find myself momentarily playing it with other speakers, other authors, and people on Instagram. I find myself momentarily thinking about it with folks that compete in some ultra-marathons and some things that I’ve given an attempt to. Once I have that awareness, I realized that it’s not taking me any closer to who I’m trying to become and it’s not adding to my fulfillment.

One of the perfect examples, during one Labor Day, I participated in an ultra-endurance event. It’s called The Last Man Standing and it’s held in Maine every year. You run a 4.2-mile trail loop and you have an hour to run it. Anything underneath that hour is yours to rest because every hour on the hour, you start again. Ultimately, you run until there is a last “man” standing. We say man in quotes because it’s gender-neutral. There were plenty of women there that were unbelievable.

They’re better at the long step.

They’re incredible. I ended up finishing in the lower percentile of everyone that entered that race. I was easily in the bottom 10%. However, I ran a personal best by far. I ran over 42 miles, which for me, was the farthest that I’ve ever run. The gentleman that won ran almost 160 miles.

How many times did he do that race?

He ended up doing 36 laps. He was running for 36 hours.

What I’m saying is, was that the first time you did that race?

It was the second time that I had done it. I had done it the year prior and I got in an extra loop that I didn’t get the year before so I had made progress and then extended my streak to the furthest that I’ve ever run. It’s a matter of vantage point. I wanted to compare myself to him and I know nothing about this guy. All I have is a snapshot of the fact that that’s what he was able to do. If I choose to compare my performance to his, it leaves me feeling empty and feeling less than and unworthy.

If I compare that to the fact that I did the best I could with what I had on that day, I had a sense of pride and was proud of the fact that that’s what I was able to run. All of these perspectives are open to us at any given time. We have to be thoughtful and intentional in which one we choose to pursue, believe and follow. I did momentarily go, “I only ran ten laps. This guy ran 36. I suck.”

Do you know what I would have done? I would have been like, “He ran 36 but guaranteed he has no life. I’ve got three kids. I got a partner. For this guy, this is all he does. He runs.” That’s what I’m telling myself. I’ll be like, “That’s all he does.”

It’s funny because you bring up a great point. For the most part, we only have a small snapshot of anything that we see somebody else do. That’s so true on social media. We don’t know all of the behind-the-scenes. We don’t know anything else so we have to be careful about making an assumption that we know something about someone else because usually that assumption is what makes us feel worse. Not playing the comparison game is hard because it’s enticing and social media is designed to get us to play it.

When something starts to creep in and I can see it, I will automatically flip to, “Congratulations. Great job.” “You’re great. You’re badass,” and I get out of it because I don’t want to be in that situation. It’s like going out with somebody who makes you jealous, weird, and insecure. It’s like, “Why are you in that situation?” Let’s talk about pivoting. This is a midpoint. How do you not go into slumps and things like this? Midpoints can be many years. You talk a lot about the power of having systems in place.

Dr. Alan Stein Jr Photo 4

Alan Stein Jr – Sustaining excellence while still feeling fulfilled and having a sense of joy, not just for years but for decades, that’s where the real challenge lies.

I’m a big system guy. Part of self-awareness is knowing how you operate best. I know that I’ve always loved consistency, routine systems, and processes. I like having those frameworks but I have some friends that are unbelievably high performers and that makes them feel somewhat claustrophobic. They like having spontaneity. It’s a matter of figuring out what works best for you but generally speaking, every single person on the planet has a morning and an evening routine. My only question is, “Did you design it intentionally, or have you fallen back into it?”

As human beings, we are creatures of habit. There was a Duke University study that found that 42% of everything we do during our waking hours is habitual, which means almost half of everything we do during our days, we have grooved a specific repeatable behavior. We need to ask ourselves are the things we’re doing particularly in our morning and evening routines? Are these things we’re doing with intention and purpose that we’ve designed or fallen backward into them? As far as what you choose to do and when you choose to do it, you’ve got some freedom there.

I’m not one of those believers that there’s one magical morning routine that every person on the planet should follow. Everybody needs to figure out what works for them and part of that is some trial and error and saying, “When I wake up at this time and I eat this or I do this, I tend to feel better and when I feel better, I perform better.” Great. More of that. Conversely, if you figure out that when you do other things, you don’t feel as good then do less of that.

We tend to make life so much more complicated than it is. At the end of the day, do more of what works. Do less of what doesn’t. I can’t put a bigger bow tie on the key to life than that but it takes being objectively observant to figure out what those things are. I have a morning routine but that morning routine has evolved over the last couple of years as I’ve tried new things

It changes. What work is working now? In a few years, you’ll look at that and be like, “It’s not enough or it’s too much,” or, “I’m going to do this,” or, “I’m spending more time doing this in my life.” That’s the other thing. You want that objectivity to create that system but you want that flexibility to be willing to say I’m going to change that system. In the book, you say that burnout is a misalignment.

People think that burnout solely comes from working long hours and that’s not completely true. I am a big believer that you have to have self-care protocols in place and routines to help refill and nourish your own bucket. You need to do things to physically mentally and emotionally and spiritually recharge your own battery but it’s not from working long hours.

It’s when the long hours you’re working and the sacrifices you’re making are no longer in alignment with where you find meaning and purpose. If the work you’re putting in no longer is fascinating or you’re not curious about it, if the sacrifices you’re making, but you don’t feel you’re making a contribution or moving forward. If you’re on that hedonic treadmill then that’s when burnout arises.

I know folks that do work a lot of hours, but they get so much enjoyment and fulfillment out of their work that they’re not at risk of burnout because they also have those self-care systems in place. That’s ultimately what we need to do from a burnout standpoint. Make sure you find meaning and purpose in the work you’re doing. It challenges you. It pushes you towards becoming the person you want to become and you believe you’re making a contribution to someone or something bigger than yourself.

It’s also important for people to give themselves permission that if something worked well for a long time, or excited them, the possibility is it might be time to move on. That can be confusing especially when it’s something pretty cool. You go, “It is cool. I may not even be on something externally that appears to be as cool but I might need to move on from this.” From pivoting you talk about prevailing.

It’s interesting because my husband’s an athlete and he’s still in heavy-duty pursuit. It’s interesting for me to watch because as far as athletes, he’s over his 50s and he’s like a crazy person. I’m like, “Wow.” I realized that because he never was told what to do, when to be there, how to do it, when to show up at practice, and what day to compete, this has been a rural personal pursuit.

There’s no politics involved. He doesn’t have to be around aggro guys. They’re fighting. He doesn’t have a front office that treats them badly. He doesn’t have a coach that’s putting him on the court to quit from an injury. He’s in control. There’s an ever-changing landscape. A basketball square is a basketball square. Waves are different and ever-changing. We talk a lot about guys leaving games because it’s not fun. It’s not because they don’t love the game and not because they couldn’t play.

Certainly, your husband is the epitome of that, which I find incredibly inspiring and remarkable. You take somebody like Tom Brady. Tom Brady retired for three weeks and realized how much his life would be missing the game of football. He has so much fun playing football, that he’s simply not ready to give it up yet and I find that incredibly inspiring.

He didn’t go back for more money or more fame. He went back because the man loves to play this game and it’s been so intertwined in his life for most of his life that the thought of giving it up prematurely didn’t sit well with him so he wants to keep doing it. I love the fact that both Tom Brady and Laird are so intrinsically motivated. They’re doing this because they love it. It gives them meaning, and fulfillment and it’s taking them down the path of becoming the best versions of themselves. They’ve woven that in so beautifully.

[bctt tweet=”The separator becomes the mindset and all of the intangibles that will allow you to actualize that physical talent.”]

There are two ends to it so you have somebody who wants to get into an occupation. I will use sports but let’s leave sports for a second. Sometimes, you almost have to do a ton of work before you can do the work you want to do. You have to work to get the gig to do it and people think the work is the job and I’m like, “No. The work is getting the work that you want to do.” On the other side of it in this part where you’re talking about prevailing, if not in sport as much, but let’s say in a job in a profession. What are some of the ideas that one could sustain that, that performance and that excitement about what they’re doing given it’s something they still want to be doing?

Are you talking about them making a switch to do something different?

In prevailing and keeping the energy going, because sometimes we get to a certain level and it’s like, “I’ve been around this block before.” “I’ve been around this block 50 times.” I always wonder how it’s such a curious thing because I even feel that with time and aging. I’m like, “I’ve heard this story before.” It is an interesting internal conversation to be had about prevailing.

Most certainly. The single best piece of advice that was ever given as a teenager was to find something you love to do, find something you’re naturally pretty good at, and then find where those two things intersect. Take what you’re passionate about and what you have some natural talent for and find where those two things intersect. That point of intersection will be your strength zone. The more time you can invest in your strength zone, not only will you perform at a higher level, but you’ll also have more joy and fulfillment in doing so.

As we get older, that point of intersection is going to change because we’re going to develop new passions and we’re going to develop new skills and talents so that point of intersection will change and we want to make sure that we’re always cognizant of it. Whatever work you’re in, at present, let’s say, you’re working for a conventional business or organization, make sure that your role is within a few degrees, if not hitting the target of your strength zone. What your team needs from you is something you enjoy and something you’re pretty good at.

Oftentimes that means even within a traditional company structure that you may have to switch to a different role or take on a different responsibility or a different job within that to make sure that that fire stays lit. If you can constantly do work that you enjoy and are pretty good at that’s where you’ll derive meaning especially if that work is adding value to someone else’s life and you know that you’re making a contribution either to your team or to the end customer or client. It’s trying to make sure that you’re staying within that strength zone.

A word that I use all the time is, recalibrate. You have to recalibrate that maybe not every month or so but at least a couple of times a year and ask yourself, “In my current role, is the work I’m doing right now filling me up? Does it excite me? Am I excited to get out of bed in the morning?” This doesn’t mean that every single moment of every single day is puppy dogs and ice cream. I love what I do for a living. There are some portions of the work that aren’t my favorite but generally speaking, I’m absolutely at that point of intersection. I have to keep recalibrating to make sure that I stay there.

When I hear stuff like this separately if you’re a mom. You may think I want to continue to be in the workforce, if not when my children are brand new and eventually try to figure out a strategy ahead while the kids are babies so that you’re going to understand your path back. If you’re a working male that what I have seen shows up that’s supportive for them is a men’s group or once a week where there’s this conversation because it’s easy to forget that everybody has feelings.

Sometimes people are doing what they think they should be doing but they’re not even being asked if they are doing what they want to be doing. You add responsibility, you add family, you add mortgages, and that goes out the window. If someone’s reading this, especially when we’re talking about prevailing or even pivoting, also make sure that when you go back to those mentors to have these groups where you can be forthcoming about what you’re navigating because I see this a lot. It’s an important reminder to go, “I’m here and I need someone to maybe hear me out.”

Well said. If you do find yourself feeling stuck, trapped, and feeling like, “I have to keep doing this job because I need the paycheck and I’ve got a lot of people depending on me,” no judgment from me. I have nothing but empathy and compassion for you but realize that you can find time even in small increments to do some of these things on the side.

Do the things that nourish you and fill your bucket. It was Stephen Covey that said, “Start with the end in mind.” If you’re thinking about making some type of eventual transition from your current vocation to something different, you don’t have to rip it off like a band-aid or go running and jumping and quit your job and put all of your eggs in the next basket.

You can say, “In a perfect world, I wouldn’t be doing this thing over here. Let me figure out what steps I need to take to get to that point. Let me start to map out a plan and figure out what are things I can do in my spare time when I’m not working or I don’t have parental or spousal responsibilities, that I can start working towards that.” The feeling of having something you’re working towards will help improve both hope and optimism, because you’ll see that light at the end of the tunnel, and it’ll make some of these other things much more palatable in the meantime.

In this section, you talk about rest and play. You say that every week you want a day away from your devices and every month have a total of one weekend away from your device.

Alan Stein Book

Sustain Your Game

Untether and get out of work mode completely. I know that this depends somewhat on age and the stage you are in your career. It depends on what type of work you do but the point is, don’t feel that you have to be a slave to your device, or that you have to be plugged in 24/7. There are few occupations or few things in general that can’t wait a little bit extra time for you to respond to them or to pay attention to them.

Ultimately, it’s the mindset of, “Are you letting your device control you, or are you controlling it?” If anyone’s reading this right now, if the thought of me taking your phone away for an hour gives you heart palpitations, then you probably need to start making a change. It’s that old adage where this young kid visits a monk and asks the monk for some direction. The monk says, “You need to meditate for ten minutes a day,” and the kid says, “I don’t have ten minutes.” He said, “Okay then you need to meditate for twenty minutes a day.” It’s that same mindset.

If you don’t think you can give up your phone for an hour, you probably need to give it up for a day to start working towards building that type of muscle so that you’re the one in control. I’m not anti-phone. I’m not anti-technology. I’m not anti-social media. Those are beautiful tools that we can use. As long as we’re the ones that are driving the car. We can’t let them be in control. Because I love structure and routine and consistency, I set up what I call pre-commitments to make sure that I’m not being controlled by my phone.

If I’m going to have dinner with my children then I leave my phone in the car. It’s because if I’m at dinner and I feel it buzz or I hear it ding, I’m going to check it. I’m conditioned like Pavlov’s dog so I don’t even bring it with me. We can decide in advance if you’re going to have dinner with your significant other or some family time or whatever it may be, you can make the decision in advance to be completely untethered from that device.

I get dirty looks from Laird so I leave it in the car at dinner, especially if I know kids are all square if they’re with you. I’m going to finish this up. You talk about fulfillment. Someone would see Sustain Your Game and think, “This is about performance.” What I felt also was that it was a pathway to taking something on, keeping something going, and adding as you go. You said something about if you want more become more and things like that. You talk about gratitude in the book. There’s freedom in all of this because, in the end, to me, it felt that you were talking about overall besides contributing and getting a sense of fulfillment from what you’re doing.

I’m so glad that resonated with you. Whether you’re playing a game of volleyball or it’s a game of basketball, we as a society have already predetermined that the team with the most points at the end is the winner. It’s concrete. It’s black and white. We already know that but life is a little bit more esoteric and abstract. How you might define winning in life might be slightly different from mine. It might be slightly different than many of your readers.

All that matters is that we get crystal clear on what winning looks like to us or excellence or whatever it is that you’re trying to pursue. What do you want that scoreboard of your life to look like? Once you’ve gotten crystal clear on that then you need to design your life accordingly. I use inner peace to be synonymous with fulfillment. I use those two words interchangeably. Ultimately, what I’m looking for is to have a sense of fulfillment in my life. Contentment, if you will.

Contentment isn’t a bad word. Contentment and complacency don’t mean the same thing. I am far from complacent in my life but I’m incredibly content, that I have my health, that I have three amazing children who all have their health, that I have an opportunity to do something for a living that I love to do, and I find meaning in.

With that being said, for me, the goal is fulfillment so I tried to design every area of my life to add to that. I’ve gotten off of that race of trying to let other people define success. Whether that’s monetarily or relationally or anything in between. If it’s not leading to my fulfillment, then I do my best not to let it be a distraction. If it is going to lead towards fulfillment, then I try to find things that will give me traction.

Alan, in ending this, I have to ask you as a human being, because that’s what we are, you’re organized and dialed in. You’ve written books and it’s all this. I can relate to this. Do you fight the structure? I would imagine your children help you with this, but are you able to be messy and chaotic and able to go with that a little bit?

I find that when people are good at this kind of stuff I’m always curious. In the end, I’m curious for myself. Rolling with the punches, and I don’t mean that objectivity going, “It’s going to be okay.” You’re like, “None of this is going the way I planned.” Especially in parenting, you guarantee you have one of your children who is going to take a completely different path than you thought your genetics would produce. How do you make peace with that?

I’m getting better at it. It’s not in my natural wiring to be spontaneous or to go with the flow. I’m a planner and a linear thinker. Even in that description of that, I need to let go of any of these self-imposed labels that I’ve put on myself. The only person saying, “I’m a linear thinker,” is me. I don’t have to label myself like that so I don’t need to use these I Am statements.

Back to something we said earlier, my children give me plenty of opportunities to practice being more spontaneous. They give me an opportunity to practice rolling with the punches because you have no idea what they’re going to do next or what they’re going to say next. I relish those opportunities but also at the same time, I give myself grace. I find that I’m uncomfortable because I’m missing the structure and the predictability, I let myself know. It’s like, “Alan, it’s okay to be uncomfortable with that but let’s try and go with the flow.”

Ultimately, I do have the belief and the optimism that no matter what’s thrown my way, I will have the strength and courage to be able to handle it at that moment. Whether that’s something trivial like traffic, or something much more catastrophic. I’ll have an opportunity to handle it. I don’t know in advance that I’ll handle it with the poise and the grace that I’m speaking with you right now but I know that will be the goal. If I do that’s wonderful. If I don’t, I’ll give myself some grace, and I’ll move to the next play.

Alan Stein Jr., the book is Sustained Your Game. What’s the release date?

It’s out right now and it’s rocking and rolling.

Did you do audio?

I did. I did the read for it. I enjoyed that. For anyone that’s never done their own audiobook, it’s a lot of work and it’s hard to do but I loved every second of it so the audio is out as well.

I encourage people because audio sometimes will get them there quicker because then they can be in traffic and thinking about how to be better in traffic. I will also say that this is a type of book that would be good to have on hand because you could go back and look at things too. I appreciate your time and your work. Thanks.

This was so much fun. Thank you so much, Gabby.

Thank you. Aloha.

Thanks so much for being here. If you’d like, rate, subscribe, and leave us a review. If you want to see some of the behind-the-scenes action, follow me at @GabbyReece. Remember, don’t miss new episodes every Monday.


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About Alan Stein Jr

Dr. Alan Stein Jr Headshot

Alan Stein, Jr. is an experienced keynote speaker and author. At his core, he’s a performance coach with a passion for helping others change behaviors. He spent 15+ years working with the highest performing basketball players on the planet (including NBA superstars Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Kobe Bryant). Through his customized programs, he transfers his unique expertise to maximize both individual and organizational performance. Alan is a dynamic storyteller who delivers practical, actionable lessons that can be implemented immediately. He teaches proven principles on how to utilize the same approaches in business that elite athletes use to perform at a world-class level.