My guest today is the former trainer to Michael Jordan and Kobe, Mr. Tim Grover who wants to have a real talk about “winning” your race. Whatever winning means to you.With his new book Winning: the unforgiving race to greatness where he does not sugarcoat what it takes.In a day and age where coaches and bosses have been stifled Tim is here to be your true advocate. At first glance, one can easily mistake his no-nonsense delivery like someone who couldn’t possibly “understand”.Quite the contrary. He not only understands he cares enough to say it how it really is. We should all be so lucky to have someone in our corner that thinks about our success as much as Tim does.
Listen to the episode here:
- How To Think [00:04:48]
- Getting Knocked Down [00:08:05]
- Mind Over Feelings [00:17:33]
- Living Your Purpose [00:20:38]
- Creating Balance [00:25:35]
- Pushing Forward [00:33:14]
- Working with Professional Athletes [00:40:37]
- Preparing for the Opportunity [00:48:25]
- Helping People Reach Their Goals [00:55:08]
- Uncomfortable Reality [01:02:29]
- Defining Winning as a Dad [01:09:42]
- True Language of Winning [01:12:42]
- Be Ready [01:16:40]
Tim Grover – Former Michael Jordan, Kobe Trainer – Win Your Race
My guest is Tim Grover. He has a book called Winning: The Unforgiving Race to Greatness. Tim has also been a trainer to athletes like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to name a few. Tim doesn’t sugarcoat things, he speaks directly. It could be perceived as harsh but if you start to pay attention to what he’s saying, you realize that all he wants is he’s talking about you winning your race, whatever that means to you. It’s getting you to look inside and look at what you want, what you might be good at, and what you’d be willing to dedicate yourself to.
He’s like, “Great. Let’s sit down and have a real conversation about what that takes, what you can expect.” He cares so much that he’s trying to equip people correctly. He doesn’t seem overly concerned with offending people or being politically correct. He’s more interested in us understanding what it takes. We should all be lucky to have someone in our corner that thinks about our success as much as Tim does. Enjoy.
Tim Grover, welcome to the show. When was the first time I met you?
We’re going back.
Over 26 years ago maybe or something like that.
I remember meeting you during the filming of Space Jam. We might have crossed paths before that because in your days and in Michael’s days, you were the most prominent female athlete that Nike portrayed out there. For people that don’t know, she was the Michael Jordan of her sport.
I fell into sports and my coach from college had a profound impact on my life. Even as a professional athlete, I’m different from Michael Jordan or other athletes. We weirdly paid our coaches. It’s like tennis. In a way, you could say that the athlete had the power. Still, even at that time in my career, you listened to your coach. You have a book out you. You write these books that are forceful like Relentless and your book is called Winning.
I read the book where it’s even talking about what’s hard about winning. People think that they want to win but they also don’t know sometimes that in its own right is equally as challenging. Even based on our mechanisms, our hardwiring, you might be less liked. You have to fight your own inner doubts. It’s all these things. You’re a person that I’m interested to see how you take these ideas from before and how do we implement them today, especially if I’m a business person who’s working with millennials. I’m not knocking any generation. I’m saying it’s a different language.
I don’t care what it is, work and sports are a competitive environment. Ultimately, at some point, you have to have somebody who is in charge and says, “By the way, this is how it is.” I do appreciate your story on how you go from saying, “I want to train professional athletes and I want to do that but I’m also willing to start.” You’re working in gyms. You’re getting your teeth into it and figuring it out. Tell me where you had this idea and how you pursued your own goals.
I have a Master’s degree in Exercise Science and a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology. I was fortunate enough to say, “I’m going to study something that I’m going to use in life.” When you go through all these books, it teaches you what to think. You look at the book and it says, “This is how things are going to be. This is how it’s supposed to be. Here you go. This is a path you take.”
Everybody’s about what to think. I was always an individual who had the ability on how to think. I know what the foundation is, I know what the structures are, I know what they’re going to do but I was always a little bit out there. I had my own creative ideas. I had my own thoughts. I had my own ideas. I had my own mechanisms. I had no science behind it. I didn’t know whether they were going to work or not. There was no studying. There was no thesis. There was no book that said, “It’s everything I’m thinking.”
It felt right when I decided to get into the coaching business and not do what everybody else wanted me to do, which was going to medical school. For my background, both my parents are Indian so you have two options as a son or daughter of an Indian family, you either become a doctor or you become a doctor. That’s it. That was the path of what to do.
[bctt tweet=”Your greatest winners are the most coachable. They are always open to coaching even though they may not agree with you.”]
When I told them I want to train professional athletes, they’re like, “What does that even mean? It doesn’t exist.” I was like, “It doesn’t exist but I know that there’s an avenue out there. This is something that I can do. I want to do it.” I got out of school and I had all the book knowledge but I didn’t have any of the practical. I didn’t get a chance to work with numerous individuals, whether they were athletes or at what level. I took a job at a local health club. Back then, the minimum wage was $3.35.
Let’s start right there because a lot of people experienced this in their life. They have an internal drive and voice and something pushing them towards their own expression, their own destiny. I didn’t come from a close-knit family with a lot of expectations. That’s easier. You’re coming from what I call a good family. When I say good family, it means a close-knit family. It probably means where the kids are respectful and pretty compliant with their parents. The parents are modeling. They’re good role models. They work hard.
Where do you get the confidence? I’m sure it was a topic of conversation every time you either talked on the phone with your family or visited for family dinner. How do you defend that real estate as a young adult to go, “Inside I know even though I love and trust and respect these people so much.” Where did you get that confidence? That’s what makes it hard for a lot of people.
This is going to sound a little weird to people. Every time you lose or you fail at something, for most individuals, it shatters that confidence. For those unique individuals that enjoy the challenges, know what their destiny is, know where they want to go, it develops them to become even more confident. I lost a lot of things in my career. Education-wise, I wasn’t the smartest kid.
I played college basketball. I wasn’t the best player on the team. I had to work hard to stay on the team. All those things that came in allowed me to get more and more confident. Even when I was in elementary school, I was one of the short, fat kids. I was athletic but I was heavy. I was 4’11” and 185 pounds so you can imagine.
Why? Is that rice? What is that?
My parents came from India. Back in the day, food was scarce. When they moved to the states, one of the things that they felt was important for them was to always make sure that the refrigerator was stocked with food. I’m not talking about healthy food. I’m talking about you name it, we had it. They didn’t know anything about nutrition and neither did we so it was an abundance to us and we constantly ate but that was their way of showing love.
When I had to lose that weight, I had to go through those things. I got teased for being the fat kid and doing all that other stuff but I was still able to move and be athletic. All those losses made me more confident. I got knocked down often, maybe not physically but mentally. Every time I got knocked down, I didn’t stand up right away. That’s what is wrong with a lot of individuals because they don’t want to show weakness, they don’t want to show that they got defeated.
Every time I got knocked down, I stayed down for a little bit because I wanted to know why I got knocked down, “What was the reason I was down here? If I jumped back up, I’m the same person that fell again and I’m going to get knocked down again. Why did I get knocked down? Let me stay down here and let me figure out why.”
When I stand up, winning is going to require me to be different. I can’t stand up as the same person. When I got knocked down, I stood up. When I was ready to stand up, I stood up smarter, which made me more confident. When I got knocked down again and I stood up again, it made me stronger, which made me more confident. When I got knocked down again, I stood up, and I was more resilient, which made me even more confident. Every time I got knocked down, I stood up as a different person. All those losses and failures allowed me to have the confidence to choose the path that I wanted to do in my life.
I have children. I’ve played with different athletes. I’ve been in business with different types of people. Sometimes you’d say, “Tim was born that way. He had the ability to get knocked down.” It sounds to me that what you’re explaining is that what we try so hard to learn is the choice. It’s like when you get up on the day you go, “I have the choice to believe I can do it or not.” I wonder sometimes if there are people who hear that and go, “I’m not built that way.” Maybe they’re more emotionally centered, let’s say. I’ve been accused by girlfriends of not being the most emotional person in the world and more analytical.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
Are there techniques? Let’s say one person is born. You have an interesting thing that’s innate in you. How does a young boy have this thing to go, “I’m going to slow down here, sit in what would be perceived as a failure or knocked down. When I get up, I’m moving in a little oriented and a little different direction so I don’t do the same thing over.”
You could say that in relationships or a conflict with a personal relationship, a marriage of some sort and go, “We seem to be having this conflict. Let’s stop and see how we want to re-enter to do it differently.” Let’s say you’re working with a CEO or an athlete that’s more emotional, which is maybe one of their superpowers. How do you teach somebody to say, “You’re in it. It’s uncomfortable. You failed.” What’s the process of learning from that to be different?
How I handle it differently than what most individuals do is I go back. To me, there’s a moment in everybody’s life. It may have happened over 20, 30 years ago, or it may have happened yesterday. That pretty much defines how you handle that situation. How you’re going to handle that situation is going to determine a lot of your mindset.
I disagree that people are born this way. When you’re born, the doctor’s not going to say, “This person is going to be a super athlete.” “This person is going to be extremely successful.” “This person is going to work in a hospital.” “This person is going to be relentless.” “This person is not.” It’s the ability to handle situations and to allow individuals to figure things out.
We are innate that we don’t want to see our children or loved ones hurt emotionally that we overprotect them. We don’t want them to fail so when they do fail, they never know how to handle it. The ability to figure things out isn’t all of us. For a lot of individuals, I say to them, “I will guide you. I will give you the necessary steps. For a lot of this, you have to figure it out yourself.” What’s internal to you that keeps you going, “What lights your own fire?” I have no problem with people being emotional. There’s a right time to be emotional. In the book, this is extremely important, I say that there are certain times in everyone’s life where your mind has to be stronger than your feelings.
You say that winning isn’t heartless but you use your heart less.
To me, it’s mind over feelings. Your feelings keep you in bed, they’re like, “I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to work out today. It’s too cold. Why don’t I have to do that?” I love to use the people I talked to as an example. Everyone who followed your career is like, “She has it. She gets up every single morning. She does her training.”
It’s not every day that you want to hop out of bed and say, “I want to go do this. I’ve got to go and lift. I’ve got to go run. I’ve got to go through all these drills.” Your feelings will say, “Gabby, take another ten minutes. Hit the snooze button.” Your mind says, “No, I have to get up.” Feelings make you overthink everything. What is overthinking? It’s the art of creating problems that don’t even exist. Michael always said, “Why should I worry about a shot I’ve never taken? Why am I worrying over a shot I’ve never taken?”
Your mind makes decisions. You have to know when to use your emotions more, when to use your mind less, when to use your mind more, and when to use your emotions less. I talked to every individual, “Think about the worst decisions that you’ve made in your lifetime. They were usually made because they were more related to your emotions than they were to your mindset.”
It’s an impulse. I’d love to get your take on this. What’s interesting is because you work with high-performing people, people who are seeking to be better or to be successful or to win. A lot of times, purpose helped me stay in my mind. I understood what my purpose was. As a default, every time I start to slide into, “It’s hard. I’m over this.” Whatever lizard brain thing I had going on, my purpose kept me back into my mind and back into the system I have put in place.
What you learned to do is you learn to put these bumpers, these guardrails up to drive you towards the thing that you say you’re committed to. This is a genuine curiosity. A lot of times, people aren’t connected to whatever their purpose is. By the way, we’re all unique. Even though we’re similar, this unique thing that’s only Tim’s journey. What do we say to people when maybe that hasn’t crystallized for them yet?
[bctt tweet=”Winning gives you a test with no correct answers.”]
Many people have many distractions. Is it your purpose or is it somebody else’s purpose? Most individuals don’t know what their purpose is because they’re trying to live somebody else’s purpose. They’re trying to say, “This person wants me to act this way. This person wants me to be this.” They get confused and they’re afraid to share what their purpose is because they’re worried about being judged. Whether you share your purpose or you don’t share your purpose, you’re going to be judged anyway. It doesn’t matter.
If you’re spending the whole time worrying about what everybody else says and how they’re going to feel, I have this big thing. People who don’t know their purpose are not going to support your purpose. It’s your purpose, your dreams, and your ideas. Don’t expect other people to support them because they have their own. They should have their own purpose, their own dreams, and their own ideas.
You’re a perfect example of this. I love when I get to talk to elite athletes. When you play, how many people clap for you because they wanted to clap for you or because they had to clap for you? People with that purpose, they’re looking for those people that had to clap for you because people that wanted to clap for you were clapping for you. They were genuine about it so everybody else said, “We better clap. We’ve got to clap for her too.”
People are busy trying to please those people with their purpose when they’re not even trying to support you. They’re not even in your corner. They’re not even telling you the right things. They’re the individuals that have established a space in your head and they’re constantly distracting you. They’re the ones that are causing anxiety. They’re the ones that are causing fear. They’re the ones that you’re dealing with anger with. You don’t even know what your purpose is because you’re busy dealing with that stuff here. The key part of what you said is your purpose.
I have to be honest, and I’ve talked about this a few times, I was a late bloomer. I wasn’t a natural killer. I was a person who pursued the opportunity. I was clear. I was given an opportunity so I pursued that. I was competitive. I wouldn’t say I was a killer, though. MJ is a killer. There are certain people that are different. I can remember thinking as I’ve lived longer that I wish I had focused on what I was trying to do. For female athletes, some of them have it, some of them don’t.
I was still weirdly trying to be competitive and put my foot on someone’s throat but not hurt their feelings somehow. In my mind, I was trying to be a nice person or whatever that means. You’re trying to be in athletics and you’re trying to win. It’s in conflict. It’s an interesting thing. Guys don’t battle that quite as much. I’ve always said that if you observe a lot of female athletes that have older brothers, they don’t battle it as much either because they learned early in the play that it isn’t personal.
People sometimes use each other as reflections. If you’re kicking butt and I’m having a lull, that’s not against me. Another part of this that’s important is when you’re seeking your purpose or you’re pursuing your purpose, to the best of your ability, keep those other people away. You have to have people that go, “You’re training is going good. You’re playing is good. Way to go.” It’s not, “It must be hard. You’re not big. Those guys are pretty big. Do you think you can do that? You’re starting a new company? That’s pretty competitive.”
It’s teaching people that because you want to pursue something, there’s a loneliness to that and brutality. When you wrote Relentless and Winning, it shows up. As a mom, a wife, and all these things, I talk about balance, which is the elusive balance. There’s a part of you in this pursuit that isn’t balanced. It takes all of you.
It takes every bit of you. The late great Kobe Bryant was obsessed. Winning demands you to be obsessed in whatever field it may be. Your obsession earlier on was your competitive nature in your sports, in volleyball, if I remember right, a surfer.
Yes, over 25 years.
People are like, “Your competitive nature could be being in the strongest relationship, raising kids, doing this podcast, or whatever that may be.” Your competitive nature never stops. For individuals that are constantly trying to seek that balance all the time, there are so many books out there. There are so many individuals that love to talk about balance and love to show you their balanced life. They may have a balanced life now or somewhat of a balanced life but they don’t want to talk about the unforgiving race to get to that balanced life and how unbalanced it was.
It’s funny how everyone tells you how you should balance your life. You don’t find balance, you create it. Your balance is different from my balance. MJ’s balance is different than this balance. Everybody creates balance to what they want to do. I always say, “What happens when you have an individual that tells you that you need more balance? That individual will try to add more stuff.” Now you’re even balancing even more stuff. You’re trying to juggle even more.
How do you get closer to balance? You’ve got to delete the unessential. We all have unessential is in our lives. We have people, we have emotions, we have feelings, we have objects and things. You’ve got to start deleting those things. When you start deleting those things, now you start to create more of what a balance looks like for you, not for somebody else. It’s not easy.
I put this in the book, Winning. I do this in a lot of my talks. I was like, “Who wants to have zero happiness?” Nobody raises their hand. I said, “Who wants to have zero success?” Nobody raises their hand. I said, “Who wants to have a zero life?” Nobody raises their hand. I was like, “Who wants zero love?” Nobody raises their hand. What’s the number on a perfectly balanced scale? It’s zero. If you’re going to go after all those things, that’s what you’re going to end up getting.
I never want the scale to be totally unbalanced but you decide which way to shift, which way things go, and you have to have a strong support system for the individuals that you’re in a relationship with that supports you. If you tell them, “This is my goal. This is my focus. I need this much time.” They have to understand, “That’s who that individual is. Give them that time.” When they give you that time, that win has to be for everyone. It can’t be for you. It has to be for everyone and we’ve all done it.
When I got the opportunity to work with Kobe, one of his requirements was for me to move out to LA. My daughter was playing volleyball in high school and upper school. I missed a lot of her games and there were times where I would fly in from Orange County, watch a volleyball game for an hour, and fly back on the same night because I had to be back at work. People were saying that’s crazy. That was my balance at that particular moment. That’s what I needed to do.
What’s interesting is people don’t realize that when you’re in pursuit of something at a high level. I’m always fascinated that you’re in many ways a great example to your family because the family is the trickiest one. It has this unique timeline with children and how they grow. The dynamic is different. You could go and train Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant but your kids aren’t going to think that you understand anything about training. It’s an interesting layer.
My daughter hasn’t even read my first book and she’s in it.
There’s something so interesting that it’s the one place. My husband, because he has immediate feedback, is transparent. He’ll tell you exactly how he feels at all times all the time.
Are you like that, too?
I’ve learned more from him. I used to be completely stoic but to a fault against myself. Also, I wasn’t giving indications to my partner, “This is not working for me,” and I would be ruthless. He never shoves anything under the carpet. With him, I have good metrics. It’s fascinating and maybe it’s even one layer different because I’m the mom. With my kids, the arc is so long. It’s twenty years. It’s however long it is until you know if it’s working out. It’s the feedback.
I see them and they’ll go to people’s houses and they go, “Your daughters are great and gracious.” They come home maybe they’re different with you. It’s the one place where I say, “I’m going to do my best. I’m going to course correct when I need to. I’m going to apologize when I need to. I’m going to try to figure out each kid is different.” It is the one court or field that you play on. Your sureness is interesting. That’s where I default to being the best you can be to model to them because it’s such an interesting crapshoot. In business, in sports, in training, and in certain relationships, you can start to drill down and be like, “I’m doing okay here. I’ll keep my eyes open.” It is the one that’s fascinating.
Tim, I want to go back. Now it’s worked out, it’s incredibly sexy, the career, the public speaking, the books. When you’re working in a gym, you’re probably not making a ton of money. Your family’s looking at you on the side of their head going, “What are you doing?” What held you on the line? I know that you had this understanding of what you are going to do but where does that come from? How do you say, “This is what I’m doing and it’s going to work out.”
We all have fear even going through school, playing all this other stuff. I went in and I said, “I’m going to train professional athletes. This is what I’m going to do.” I knew I wasn’t good enough to make any money playing basketball so this was my path. We all have fear. Because we all have it, fear is one of the biggest things that if we use correctly, it’s instinctive to us and we learn how to use it.
Think about all the times where you’ve been fearful, how alert you have been and how quickly you can move or you’re totally frozen. I didn’t have any doubt in my abilities. I had said, “I know this is going to work out. I’m in this. I’m here. I could be sitting at home in my parents’ house. At least I’m working.” It gives me a chance to educate and learn a completely different aspect of something I didn’t do, how a health club was run, how membership was done, how to take equipment apart, how to move stuff, and watch other trainers and see how they were doing stuff and learn from them.
When I got the opportunity, I was like, “No one’s going to hire me to work with a professional athlete unless I’ve trained other individuals.” You had to work the job for a certain amount of time and you could qualify to be a trainer. I put in my mind that I’m going to get every single client I have. This was before social media so the only way to show the results was you had to physically get changes in those individuals. I watched other trainers work and a lot of it turn into more of a feel-good session where everybody would be talking to you so I was like, “I’m not going to be that person.”
How did you avoid babysitting?
[bctt tweet=”The end result and the win that you’re looking for are going to make a difference in your lives and other individual lives. That’s the important thing about the wins. They’re not for you, they’re for everyone.”]
It’s funny. What happened was they were two teams that worked out at the place. They knew. They were like, “If you want the babysitting, you go hire the other two.” He was booked solid and they said, “If you don’t want to talk and you want to go to a person that doesn’t care how your day’s going, he doesn’t want to hear about your family, he doesn’t want to hear about your relationship for an hour. I don’t care if you talk to me. You hired me to do a job. I have a job to do because your results are important to my success.” I would hold them accountable. I would check on them. If they come in and they’d be like, “I had a bad weekend.” I said, “You’ve had four bad weekends in a row.”
I was the individual that was always truthful with these people and it allowed me to get the results and I was able to do that with a male population. I did that with the female population. I did that with recreational athletes now. With each process, I was learning what I was doing and I felt that I’m getting better, I’m getting closer. With each one of those things, I got a little closer to my win. Every time I got results with a client, I got a little bit closer.
I didn’t think of that as, “I spent six years in college and I’m working at a health club for minimum wage.” I never thought of it that way. I thought about it like, “This is an opportunity. I’m in the race. I’m in this chase to get what I want. Keep going.” There moments where I was like, “This isn’t going to work out. This isn’t going to do it.” We all have it. Everyone that tells you they’ve never had doubts, we’ve all had doubts but you can’t let doubt win. I invested too much into this opportunity, too much into myself and other people invested too much in me for me not to take this as far as I could go.
Did you ever fire clients?
I fired more clients than I work with, especially at the professional level. When you are playing, how many times will you go, “I’ll do anything,” until you give them what your definition of anything means? I used to have a test with my athletes. The first one’s come in wanting to work out and I’d say, “Alright.” We go through the whole process and I tell them, “See you at 3:30.” I would want to see if the athlete showed up at 3:30 AM or 3:30 PM.
The majority of them showed up at 3:30 PM and they’d be like, “I’m ready for my workout.” I said, “No, you’re twelve hours late.” They’re like, “You told me you’d do anything.” “What was more important, the other twelve hours that you couldn’t get it? It never crossed your mind to ask, ‘Do you mean in the morning or the afternoon?’ If you’re not sure, you better be there at 3:30 AM.”
What was the transition into the athletes? How did that work?
Michael Jordan was my first professional athlete. I thought, “Okay.” There are fifteen players on a basketball roster. Back then, there were no emails. You can’t contact somebody through Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, or wherever else. I wrote fourteen letters to every player on the Chicago Bulls team. The one player I did not write a letter to was Michael Jordan because I was like, “He’s already the best. He doesn’t need anybody.” In the letter, it said, “I have some new concepts and new ideas. I have no scientific data behind them but I’ve tried them out on a bunch of non-athlete people. These are extremely beneficial if you give me the opportunity.”
Back then, all the letters go in a pile of fan mail for each individual and the player decides whether he’s going to read it, not read it, or throw it out. Michael goes into somebody else’s locker and sees this letter. He pulls it out and gives it to the athletic trainer and the team physician. At the time, it said, “Find out what this is about.” The best player is possibly in the lead. This goes back to what you said in the beginning, that your greatest winners are the most coachable. They are always open to coaching. They may not agree with you. Yes, you are in control. He was always in control. He could have fired me at any moment and he did quite often. You know him.
The athletic trainer and the team doctor interviewed me and put me through a three-month process of different task evaluations. They wanted to see if I went to school, I learned something, and I could apply it. They said, “We do have a client.” I didn’t know who they were prepping me for. They said, “We want you to meet the client. Be at his house at 1:30.” They gave me the address and this was before the big gated houses with all that.
I go up there and ring the doorbell and Michael Jordan opens up the door. I’m wearing Converse. I’m working at a job where I’m not making a lot of money. I don’t have time to go out and buy new shoes. They didn’t tell me who it was for. I knew that I wasn’t going to show up in a suit because it was an athletic interview. He opens up the door. I look at him and he looks at me. I’m not a starstruck person. I took off my shoes out of respect and I got holes in my socks. What did I do? I turn my socks around. You put the dirty side up. I don’t know if it’s better to walk into somebody’s house with holes on the socks or the dirty part on the top. I chose the dirty part on the top.
We sat down for 30 to 45 minutes. I explained to him what my philosophies are and how I want to approach this thing. Michael was like, “I want to get bigger. I want to get stronger. I want to get more athletic.” I sat down and I told him, “Michael, you have nagging injuries. Let’s address those things first. If we can address the hamstrings issue, if we can address the imbalances, if we can address the groin pulls, it’s already going to make you a better athlete. By addressing those things, you’re going to be able to run faster, jump higher, play better defense, you’ll be more athletic, you’d be able to do all those things. Let’s do that.” He goes, “This doesn’t sound right.” I said, “It doesn’t get any righter.” He goes, “I’ll give you 30 days.” Thirty days turned into more than fifteen years.
For everybody in life, you get an opportunity. You may not see it and you don’t know when it’s going to show up. Are you so prepared for it? That’s the one win that’s going to come knocking at your door and say, “I’m here. Are you willing to take me in? Are you willing to do that?” There was no way I was going to let that pass me by.
I’ve never asked him for an autograph, I didn’t ask them for tickets, I didn’t ask him how much he was going to pay me, none of that stuff. I made less money from him in my first three years than I did at the health club because I never asked him for any money. The money wasn’t important to me. You have an individual that played every single year for way less than what his value was to the organization. If he’s doing that and he believes that much in his craft, I should be doing the same thing.
I got along so well with my clients because they know that I’m as messed up as they are. I understand them. I understand the mentality. I don’t judge them. I don’t try to put them in a box. If it helps them win, it’s not hurting them, and it’s not shortening their career, I’m all for it as long as it’s within the rules. I’m not there to judge an individual. I don’t want them to judge me. I want to respect what they do. I want them to respect what I do. We’re in this together. We’re there to win.
You see this now so much on social media, the first thing they do is post their client and they only post the good stuff and they never post anything with that individual who isn’t working and isn’t doing well. I stood with my clients no matter what they went through. A lot of my clients, off their playing field, they’ve gone through a lot.
There’s a couple of things. If you’re raised a certain way and all of a sudden your entire life flip flops at 22 or 23 years old, you don’t have the real education or support to help you navigate things that people have no concept of what it’s like to manage. It’s not only the demands. It’s a beautiful job. You get paid more than you should to put a little ball in a hoop. I identify all that.
With the amount of pressure and responsibility and being pulled by people, maybe even family members, there’s so much that goes into it that people don’t realize how difficult it is especially if you weren’t given a foundation. Who can educate somebody on that reality? Nobody. You talk about being prepared. When you ring a doorbell and you don’t know what’s on the other side, the fact is you did the part that you could control, which is the importance of being as prepared as you can be at that time.
We’ve all had to walk through doors and we have no idea what’s on the other side. Some individuals walk through those doors. Some individuals choose not to walk through those doors. There are no right answers to that. Winning gives you a test with no correct answers. When I walked through that door, I didn’t have any supposedly correct answers but I knew what was right. I knew what I believed in. When I walked through the door, I could have easily said, “We’ll go with the plan. We’re going to bulk you up. I’m going to have you bench 300. We’re going to do all this other stuff.” Everybody would’ve been like, “What the hell? What’s going on over here?”
When I decided to open that door, I had no idea what steps were going to be on that side. I didn’t even know if any steps were going to be on there. Everything I did up to that point led me to that preparation. I was fortunate enough that he was the one athlete that was the easiest person to gather data on because he was on ESPN all the time, he was on SportsCenter all the time, he was on TV all the time. He’s on the local news all the time.
It’s easy to watch his movement patterns and see what was going on and know about his injuries when I open up a newspaper. Whether you were a basketball fan or not, everybody was a Michael Jordan fan. Everybody had their opinions. Everybody was talking about it. I listened to all that stuff and I was able to watch him. The one individual who people thought would be the most difficult to get information from was the easiest person. You couldn’t watch what everybody else was watching for.
When you watch an athlete perform, you see things differently than other individuals do. I’m the same way. I have a bad habit but it’s helped me tremendously and it’s one of my biggest flaws but it’s also one of my greatest gifts. I have a bad habit of staring. I stare to study. I don’t care what’s going on left, what’s going on right.
When I get focused, I study and it makes people uncomfortable. I’m studying how they’re moving. I’m understanding their body language. I’m trying to see how they react to certain situations. I get focused on that person. I don’t care what’s going on here or there. When people say, “It’s impolite to stare,” I say, “It probably is impolite to step but this is how I learn. This is my learning mechanism.” If I listened to everybody else about what my flaw was, which it is and still is, I would not be in this position.
Tim, you said an important word and it’s learning. The doors keep opening. You could say, “I’ve trained this guy and that guy. Here’s my system and this is how we do it.” This is another part of this winning mentality, which you’re always putting yourself in a position to be a student to do differently. I want to take it to now. I’ll give you a quick story. I heard of a good school program in a tennis sport. A lot of times in college, you signed contracts with your coach. It’s not that unusual as far as to conduct and it’s what’s agreed upon. The coach and the athlete have an agreement.
[bctt tweet=”Be constantly ready to shift. Be constantly ready to move. The brain is built for two things, survival and comfort.”]
I heard the story of a tennis coach who put a contract forth, he said, “If you have any questions or concerns, come to my office. If we agree, we’ll shake hands, you’ll sign, and we’re good.” They had a scenario where they’re throwing a tournament, which is a big deal in tennis because that means you host maybe 3 to 6 colleges and you have an event. They had agreed that they would meet early in the morning as a team, eat breakfast together, warm up together as a team, it’s not uncommon and they begin the tournament. They had an athlete that they couldn’t get a hold of. It’s with cell phones. They were concerned.
The athlete shows up after breakfast, doesn’t talk to the coach, goes on the court, and starts warming up. The coach approaches the athlete and says, “Are you okay? What happened?” The athlete says, “I decided to sleep at my friend’s house last night. My phone died and I came over.” The coach says, “Here’s what’s going to happen based on our agreement. I’m going to pull you out of the singles, not out of the doubles because I don’t want to penalize your partner.” That athlete went to their parents, the parents went to the administration, and the coach was fired.
Now, we have a system in place. I have a friend who owns a bakery. They sell baked goods. She’s training the baker and the baker then says, “Your intensity makes me uncomfortable.” You’re a bakery selling baked goods. The person might be serious about how it goes down. Also, baking is different from cooking. In cooking, you can wing it. Baking has an exactness to it. What I’m interested in is how do you take these concepts, whether it’s a boss or coach of young people or university, and have these conversations? Life is hard, it is competitive, and not everybody wins trophies.
The other thing that’s important is sometimes realizing it’s important not to be good at things. My list is much longer of the things I’m not good at than the things I am good at and those informed me. I knew the difference, like, “This happens easily for me. This, I don’t seem to be good at.” People might be like, “This may not be your thing, Gab.” How do we have this conversation now in the modern-day so we can keep helping people reach their goals, which is a difficult and challenging and sometimes seems impossible feat?
In our generation, we get labeled as being these individuals that we call everybody soft and they’re not hard workers. One, everybody should know that there are no guarantees. The way I’ve seen the strongest successful businesses work is they have a great support system and they hold everybody accountable, whether it’s the top athlete or it’s the worst athlete. Whether it’s their top employee or whether it’s an employee that’s getting started.
If you don’t accept something when your team is losing, don’t accept it in the individual who’s winning. You always heard Michael say, “I’m never going to ask any of my teammates to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. I’m not asking you to come and practice harder because I’m always practicing harder.” Set an example. Stay with that example no matter what it is.
There is a power change that’s happening, especially in the sport that I deal with, predominantly with basketball, where the coaches don’t have as much as much responsibility and as much say so anymore. The players have a lot of that say so, where are they going to go, and what’s going to happen. The organization that wins on a regular basis over and over again have their values and their support system. They have their individuals that hold you accountable. Are you willing to hold yourself accountable? This goes back to what I said earlier about when you go through adversity, do you handle that adversity yourself or do you go running to somebody else to handle that adversity for you? The one thing I always taught my athletes is it may not be your fault but it’s your responsibility.
That is true to life. The thing is many things happen that maybe we didn’t create or we didn’t control but we’re still a part of that team, whatever that is, whether it’s your family, or your workspace, or whatever. The quicker you click over to it is your responsibility, it goes back to that original thing of getting you out of your feelings, into your mind, and into a problem-solving mentality, “What are we going to do?” You’re not a victim so now you’ve taken charge. For me, that feels important.
It’s also to remind people that no one’s a victim. It doesn’t mean bad things haven’t happened to people. I’m not suggesting that but it’s trying to get people out of that mentality because that doesn’t get us where we want to go. I do find it interesting. I wonder if the pendulum will swing it all back a little bit where sometimes life is unfair.
Life is always going to be unfair. How old are your kids in 2021, if you don’t mind me asking?
I have a 13-year-old daughter, a 17-year-old daughter, and a 25-year-old daughter.
Where has the time gone? The 13-year-old might still have this. How many events have you gone to earlier in your career where the participation trophy is bigger than the winning trophy? In life, you have to participate. You have to compete. You have to win. You have to deal with adversity. Nobody is going to give you a reward for participating. Life is hard. If you participate in life, you’re known as being average. Nobody wants to be known as being average.
It’s the competition. Everybody thinks about the bad things about competition, how everyone’s going to feel and how the kids are going to cry. No one talks about what competition teaches you and how important it is not only in sports but in life. No matter how successful you are, how much money you have, you have to compete to raise your kids. You have to compete to keep your relationship healthy and happy. You have to compete to keep yourself happy and healthy. You have to compete on those things every single day. I see many individuals and I look at him and I was like, “When did you give up? What in life hits you that you decided, ‘I’m going to stop winning at everything.’”
Tim, you say in your book, “Winning wages war in the battlefield of your mind.” For me, I’ve gone through all of this. I’ve met a lot of people that win but they’re not that happy. When I say win, they have been champions in sports or they have accumulated great wealth, which sometimes is perceived as winning. They are truly unhappy and all of those things. You’ve seen it a ton. You’re like, “The best stuff traits are on this wooden floor.”
For me, when I hear you talk about this, those environments, or putting yourself in these situations where you have this stress, it’s to get the skillset to deal with that we are fearful that we are unsure, that we are lazy inherently because that’s how we’re biologically hardwired. It’s all these things that we have.
It isn’t about, “I need you to be number one.” That’s not what this is. It’s creating an environment where you have the skillset from time to time to override some natural things that sit in the back of our brain and, in ways, work against us. For me, when I think about winning, especially now that I’ve won, I have a family, and I have all these things, it’s trying to have those tools to say, “I don’t want to get out of bed today. I don’t even enjoy my family. I’m an entrepreneur and I’m creating this business and it’s kicking my butt.” It gave me the toolset to go, “Here we go.”
Everybody wants to run from those things. You can’t run away from it. They’re going to catch you so you might as well figure out how to deal with them. I don’t care how much money you have, how good-looking a person is, or how successful they are, everybody’s going through something that nobody knows anything about. You might not see it on the surface but everybody is. What social media has done now is fake is the new real.
I tell individuals all this in all my talks. I have everybody and I say, “Pull out your cell phones.” Everyone pulls out their cell phones and I said, “Look at your social media profile, whether it’s on Facebook, whether it’s on Instagram, whatever it may be. Not one of you looked that good. If you’re going to live through filters through this thing, you’re eventually going to start living your life through filters. Those filters are not there to protect you. You’re going to start portraying something. You can’t fake winning. You cannot fake happiness. You cannot fake success. You’re going to have to deal with all those things and all those little wins get you closer to whatever your ultimate win may be.”
For some people, it is about the houses, the boats, the cars, the watches, and all the monetary stuff. For other people, it’s like, “I genuinely want to have the happiest family. I want to have a great relationship where I have no secrets with the individual. We can totally be honest.” When you go through those paths to that win, there are many times where you don’t have those things and you don’t have them for a long time.
You can fester in those things and keep it that way or you can be like, “How can we learn from this? How can we talk about this? How can I make the other individual and myself understand what happiness means to me?” It may not be the same definition. My definition of winning may not be the same definition of that person’s winning. We may have some similarities but they might not be the same. Are you willing to live with what that person’s definition of winning is? Are they willing to live with what your definition of winning is? Are you able to make this work and not judge that person for being that way because that’s who they are? Everybody asks for honesty in a relationship until you’re honest with that person.
It’s uncomfortable. There’s a level to it. You only want that honesty from the people who have your back. When you find them, whether it’s a friend, a lover, a coach, a business partner, but then also it’s uncomfortable. The more you do that and you realize it’s for your benefit, it’s better. I’m curious about your parents. I’d love to know the full circle on them.
My father passed. Until the end, they never quite understood what I did. They knew that I was successful at it. They knew about Michael Jordan, who didn’t? To them, in their mind, that was always a little bit of uneasiness. For them, success was working for someone, having a regular paycheck that came in every two weeks, having health insurance, having a 401(k), and having paid vacation. If it didn’t have those things, it wasn’t a real job.
The athlete is in power. Many times you’ve seen trainers, you’ve seen individuals, skill coaches come and go. There’s a constant change. For them, winning was security, which my older brother has. He’s been at the same job. He has all those things, which is perfect for him. I need to be stimulated to know where my next client is going to be, where my next job is. That’s what excites me, what my next interview is going to be and who I’m going to be talking to.
I was excited to be part of this. I was like, “I haven’t seen or spoken to Gabby for how many years. This is going to be awesome.” I was a high-level competitor who won’t admit it. I’ll admit it for your fans out there, you won in a lot of things. You changed the landscape of sports for a lot of female athletes out there. For them, it’s not only to monetize what the sport gave them but to be able to monetize what was outside of sports. A lot of individuals hated you for that.
It was a confusing time, Tim. I’m not going to lie.
It was not that you set out for it, you got chosen. Winning chose you.
I was grateful. I was a hustler in the way of being curious and trying things. I am grateful for those challenging lessons because they also made me a lot stronger within myself, which I wasn’t maybe as naturally. You mentioned that in winning, sometimes winning does alienate you from other people. For me, I was looking for a tribe and a family, if you will. It was funny because I had that in the first few years and right by the time I got to college, I started getting isolated out of that, which was hard for me.
It was a valuable lesson that we can control how other people react or respond to us. We have to stay clear with our intentions. Was I all about myself? Was I willing to work harder and try to work harder than everybody else? The fruit showed up later when I became more of an adult but it was uncomfortable to go through. With your own children, how does that work? How do you get them to find their definition of winning? How are you able to impact them because you’re their dad?
It’s by the examples I laid out earlier. One of the things I talk about in this book, which was extremely difficult for me and it’s even difficult now, is that I traveled a lot. My daughter would constantly see me packing all the time. I said this in a book, Winning, it was difficult. I said, “Should I leave this in or should I take this out?” I said, “No, this story has to be shared.” She goes, “Daddy, why do you travel so much?” I said, “This is how I take care of the family. This is how I provide for everybody. This is how I put food on the table.” She goes, “Dad, if I eat less, will you stay home more?”
That’s parenting. It’s going to be something. “You were up my shorts too much. You were on me too much. You weren’t here enough. We didn’t have enough.” It’s parenting. We’re going to miss somewhere.
Here’s the thing, you don’t know if you’re a successful player until your kids turn about 40. You have no idea. You have to wait until you’re like, “I’m still not sure when I get to be about 40. Everything I did worked.” I had that conversation with her later and I was like, “I want to explain.” She goes, “Dad, the example that you set, I respected it. That’s who you were. I would have respected it less if you didn’t be the person that you were to be. Those examples molded me.”
It allowed her to push herself harder. It allowed her to pursue what she wanted to pursue without being judged by anyone else. When you think you’re being detrimental, and you may be at a certain point, the end result and the win that you’re looking for are going to make a difference in your lives and other individual lives. That’s the important thing about the wins. They’re not for you, they’re for everyone.
Books are a lot of work but yet they’re gratifying to connect with people on that level. When someone gets this, they’re going to take away what they need and want. What is your hope that this would prompt, spark, or ignite them in someone?
I’m not a big person who believes in “motivation.” To me, motivation is entry-level. If you’re going to read this, hopefully, millions of people do, you’re already motivated. I want you to find that internal thing inside you that elevates yourself, that allows you to push yourself beyond what anybody else can push you. I want to give what the true language of winning means. It’s not about the 30 seconds that you get to stand and celebrate your wins. It’s about everything that took you to get to those 30 seconds.
It’s about the grit, the grind, the obstacles, the challenges, and the pain that we all go through. No matter where your wins are trying to get at, I don’t care what individual you are, we all had to go through those things. This is the real language of winning. This is what it takes. It isn’t about the sprinkles, the frosting, the confetti, it’s about what you’re going to see in the unforgiving race.
I’ve been known as a person that talks about things that nobody else wants to talk about. People always tell me that I’m that family member that nobody wants in their family but everybody needs that makes everybody uncomfortable. We’ve gotten too comfortable. Everything that’s going on in the world and still going on in the world, a lot of us have forgotten what a win even looks and feels like anymore.
We have been lulled through distraction into Mediumville.
That’s where everybody is safe. It’s safer in the Medium world. That’s where the majority of those people are. I do this all the time with my athletes and even my business people. I said, “Describe winning in one word for me.” Kobe Bryant’s answer was, “Winning is everything.” I said, “Elaborate on that for me.” He goes, “How do you feel when you win?” I said, “It’s an unbelievable feeling.” He goes, “How do you feel when your children win?” I said, “I can’t describe it.” He’s like, “How do you feel when I win?” I was like, “Wow.” He’s like, “How do you feel when your friends win? How do you feel when your teammates win?” He goes, “That’s what I mean, winning is everything. For that moment, it fills you up with everything you need to keep pushing to whatever’s next.”
It’s true. In closing, we’ve been having this conversation about always being ready because we don’t know. Life’s coming. We don’t know what’s happening. I always say that it’s impossible to always be ready but I have this idea of what it means to each person so they feel as they go forward in their day to day life, they’re prepared to at least give it a shot, the things that they don’t know. In your life, if I said, “It’s impossible to always be ready,” but if you had these, what would be the tools or what would be the position you’d be in to always be ready?
I gave a description of it in the book. I said, “Winning invites you to a dinner party, it tells you to sit down on the chair, and the chair only has three legs. Be ready to move, balance, shift, adjust, adapt, because you don’t know what’s coming.” Be thankful that you’re blessed with a day that you can open your eyes and put your feet on the ground. After that, everything’s up to you. We hear this all the time and there’s a lot of gurus out there that tell this. I honestly do believe they believe it. I’m not that individual. I always tell individuals, “We don’t have time.” I used to tell Kobe that all the time, “We don’t have time.” To this day, I wish I was wrong.
If you have an individual that’s going to sit here and spend an hour listening to us talk, what did they give us that they can’t get back? They gave us an hour of their time. How are you going to use that time? Are you going to use that time to get more comfortable, become more of a victim mentality, or are you going to use it to become the victory mentality?
Be constantly ready to shift. Be constantly ready to move. The brain is built for two things, survival and comfort. That’s what it’s built for. I’m no neuroscientist. I’m sure you’ve had many individuals that explain it in a lot more detail than I am. To sum it up, that’s what it’s built for and life is the complete opposite. It’s the complete opposite.
Tim Grover, it’s nice to see you. Congratulations on your book called Winning. I appreciate the conversation because it’s getting people this idea of when you send your athletes out, how prepared can we help each other be to navigate whatever the path is whatever that individual is on. Thank you for doing that. I’m sure, at times, it’s not popular.
More times, it’s not popular. It’s funny because the people that understand that do exactly what you do. They laugh at it because they know it. They’ve been through it and they’re like, “What are you laughing at?” You have no idea what’s going on in the head. I’ve gotten to that state where I’ve been in so much discomfort and I’ve been in so many challenges that I can laugh at it now.
Thank you, Tim.
My pleasure. Thank you. Give my best to your husband, your family, and everyone.
I will. Thanks.
Thanks so much for reading. If you’d like, rate, subscribe and leave us a review. All of my music was graciously done by Frank Zummo and Tom Thacker. If you want to see some of the behind-the-scenes action, follow me, @GabbyReece. Remember, don’t miss new episodes every Monday.
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About Tim Grover
Tim S. Grover is the CEO of ATTACK Athletics, Inc., founded in 1989. World-renowned for his legendary work with elite champions and Hall of Famers, including Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and hundreds of other NFL, MLB, NBA, and Olympic athletes, he is the preeminent authority on the science and art of physical and mental dominance and achieving excellence.
Author of the national bestsellerRELENTLESS: From Good to Great to Unstoppableand creator of digital training platformThe Relentless System, Tim appears around the world as a keynote speaker and consultant to business leaders, athletes, and elite achievers in any area who want to know how the best can get better in anything they do, teaching the principles of relentless drive, result-driven performance, and mental toughness. A featured columnist at SI.com and Yahoo.com, he also appears on ESPN, FoxSports, and other media outlets.
Tim earned his Master’s degree in Exercise Science and his Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology at the University of Illinois-Chicago. As a former NCAA Division I basketball player at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Grover was inducted into the UIC Hall of Fame with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.