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Interview with Relentless author Tim Grover: Michael Jordan's Personal Trainer on Mindset and Performing Under Pressure

"The one thing that Michael [Jordan] has, that really stands out, is that he doesn't compete with anyone else. He competes with himself." - Tim Grover.


Michael Jordan Air Jordan slam dunk contest free throw line
Air Jordan free throw line slam dunk

How appropriate that this interview with Michael Jordan's personal trainer and Relentless author, Tim Grover should appear in issue #23 of the Finance Trends Newsletter.

Although I had planned to highlight Tim Grover's excellent discussion on mindset and champion-level performance in our very next newsletter, I did not anticipate this fortuitous numbering sequence. Actually, I hadn't noticed it until I typed up today's email subject heading while counting back through our prior issues.

I'm excited by the coincidence, but it's only because I'm even more excited to share Tim's message with you. You might say that his interview struck a chord with me.

But first, let me briefly tell you why I find this interview to be so crucial. Our mindset and our beliefs around what is possible dictate what we can achieve in life. If the winning mindset is not there, the desired results will not materialize for us.

In trading, business, and sports, we are entering a global playing field of high-level competition. We're not only competing with the people (or organizations) in our immediate orbit, we're increasingly competing against those half a world away.

We're also competing with ourselves. As many great traders and investors have remarked, the greatest obstacle to success is not other traders but ourselves - our own psychology.


This is also the theme of Tim Grover's quote (see above) about Michael Jordan, the consummate competitor.

Tim Grover trains with Michael Jordan, with Kobe (right) via Sports Illustrated.

Now, if I can spend an hour or two with the guy who helped turn Michael Jordan "NBA Phenom" into Michael Jordan "6x NBA Champion" (he has helped Kobe and other NBA stars get there too)... well, you can bet I'm going to listen well and then do my best to apply what I've learned.

 
Interview with Tim Grover: Relentless author, trainer to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Some highlights from the interview...

Tim grew up in Chicago and played college ball at UIC, but realized that he would not realistically make it to the pro level. That realization was brought into sharp focus as a college sophomore when he squared up on the court against a high school junior named Tim Hardaway.

"I still wanted to be involved in sports, ideally basketball. Let me figure out a way to help other athletes reach the top of their game. I studied kinesthiology... and worked with anyone I could to learn to apply it."

Grover asks, "You know how I choose a client or [collaborator] someone to listen to? They have to be as fucked up and as crazy as I am!"

He is not one for the philosophy of balancing yourself with a partner of differing personality. He wants someone as intense and driven as he is. In his view, you don't want a partner who is pulling you away from the person you really are.

Tim shares a great story (which I won't replay here) of how he finally connected with Michael Jordan and why "the best of the best" was motivated to work with him.

"A lot of individuals, especially in this generation, are jumping around too much these days. They're using this trainer one week and another next week... or this mentor one week and this person on YouTube over here... they're getting all this conflicting information."

Michael and Kobe mastered one aspect of the game. Then they moved on to a new aspect of the game. Master one thing at a time.

Grover divides performers into 3 levels of effectiveness: Coolers, Closers, and Cleaners. The "Cleaners" are top level, clutch performers who always reach down inside themselves to nail the winning shot. They are instinctual in their approach, deeply focused on the task at hand, and they set the standard for excellence.

"Your obligation to yourself to be the best has to be greater than any outside pressure on you." Tim cites Tom Brady and MJ as athletes who exemplify this trait.

"We're not born with greatness. That's bullshit! You earn greatness. You have to fight like hell to get to paradise. People don't know how to fight anymore. People quit [too often these days]... It's the icons who fight like hell to succeed."

Top level individuals stand alone. The inner circle of the "greatest" individuals is so small. Distance becomes their best friend. Most people want to join the group, the in crowd, the fraternity. "Who do you idolize the most? The ones that stand alone."

As Tim points out, the conventional wisdom of "surround yourself with positive people" is bound to backfire if all those people just smile and tell you what you want to hear. You need to surround yourself with people who will straight up tell you the truth (on this point I agree 100%).

We're all going to fail at something. It's only failure if you don't bounce back.

On dealing with pressure: "Everybody can handle pressure. Most people decide not to. We run from it. Stress is just pressure you won't deal with." 


The Importance of Mindset: "Before you have an exceptional skill set, you need to have a great mindset. Michael and Kobe weren't the greatest athletes I have ever worked with. They were great athletes, but their mindset is what separates those individuals.Tom Brady was drafted 199th (6th round)... he wasn't the best athlete. But from a mindset standpoint, he is a killer!"

Related posts:

More from Tim Grover, author of Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable

Interview: Tim Grover, trainer to NBA stars, talks Jordan, Kobe, Lebron and Durant 

Developing Your Mental Trading Edge: Webinar with Dr. Andrew Menaker

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