How much would you pay to spend almost 90 minutes with a world-renowned performance psychologist (a pioneer in the field), researcher, New York Times best-selling author, C-suite coach, co-founder of the Human Performance Institute (HPI), co-founder of APeak Tennis, advisor and coach of Evolve Leadership? In this podcast episode, I had the privilege of talking with Dr. Jim Loehr as he reflected on his more than 30 years of vast experience and applied research designed to successfully leverage the science of energy management to improve the productivity and engagement of world-class performers in the areas of sport, business, medicine, and law enforcement. He shares what he believes is the most important factor in success, personal fulfillment, and life satisfaction. Dr. Loehr also discusses his recently co-authored book that he believes is “the most important book [he has] ever written” called Wise Decisions: A Science-Based Approach to Making Better Choices.
Dr. Jim Loehr’s parents were deeply religious, devout Catholics so his whole life was centered around religious teachings and beliefs. His sister became a nun, and his brother became a Jesuit priest out of high school and was in the Jesuits for seven years. Dr. Loehr explained that “there was no choice as to where I was going to go to school…I had to go to a school that [my parents] approved.” So, he attended Regis High School then Regis University. The only graduate school his parents would accept, while staying reasonably close to home, was the University of Northern Colorado. Therefore, Dr. Loehr received his BA in Psychology from Regis University, and an MA and EdD in Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, CO.
During our discussion, Dr. Loehr reflects on his academic and professional journey highlighting the experiences and people that impacted him and explains the events that led him to become a pioneer in the sport and performance psychology field. Throughout our discussion, he offers thoughtful and practical advice to those interested in the field. He shares a story in which he wrote a book called Mental Toughness Training for Sports and sent it to 19 major league publishers and got 19 rejections where they all said, “what the heck is mental toughness?” Dr. Loehr’s father played professional baseball and read the book and said, “this makes sense…I’m going to go ahead and take a risk here” and he paid someone to produce the book and they sent it around to see what people thought of the book. The book became an underground bestseller and, all of a sudden, it was picked up by a major publisher and sold millions of copies all over the world. Dr. Loehr realized that the concept of mental toughness was so new and “because it was before its time, they thought it was absolute nonsense.” Resilience and toughness are needed when you are a pioneer and you are doing something different.
Dr. Loehr shares some of the most significant experiences of his career, the ones that impacted him and his journey the most, including his experience as Chief Psychologist and Executive Director of the San Luis Valley Mental Health Corporation. We discuss how he founded The Center for Athletic Excellence in Denver, CO and his involvement as the Executive Director and Sport Psychologist at the Jimmy Connors United States Tennis Center. Dr. Loehr shares the story leading up to getting that position. Essentially, there was an ad for someone to run the Jimmy Connors United States Tennis Center in Sanibel Harbor, so he called Bob Davis and said, “I’ll run all the facility for you, but I want to have access to Jimmy’s brain. I want to be able to do videos and everything else. I want to see what makes that competitive brain work. I need to learn. So, he didn’t check with Jimmy. He just said, ‘no, it’s done. We’d love to have somebody with a Doctor of Psychology down here.’”
He had such a reputation and following that many of the players at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, located up the road, were coming to him and Nick didn’t like it. Nick approached Dr. Loehr and asked him to set up his research institute at his place. So, Dr. Loehr became the Director of Sport Science and Sport Psychology at The Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy where he learned “everything” as he had access to over 240 of the best players in the world at the time. He hooked up the players “to more telemetry than you can possibly imagine” including EEG, EMG, and all kinds of heart rate monitoring between points, during points, and had access to a videographer so they would look at the videos of all their matches.
After 6 years at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, Dr. Loehr was ready to do something on his own, so he joined forces with Dr. Jack Groppel, who had a PhD in bioengineering. They created a company in 1992 called the Human Performance Institute (HPI). They set up the operation and raised the money needed. Dr. Loehr recalls “everybody said it would fail. We had no chance of succeeding at Lake Nona, which is a suburb of Orlando, and that’s when my career really began.” The Institute was purchased by Johnson & Johnson in 2008 and he stayed on during the transition for another 6 years. By the time he left, around 400,000 people went through the Institute which resulted in a huge database. Dr. Groppel was the head of the biomechanics lab at the University of Illinois, so he was looking at the biomechanical part of everything at the Institute and Dr. Loehr was looking at the psychological side of human performance. He states, “And then we brought in all kinds of people. Our faculty was probably some of the most extraordinary human beings I’ve ever been around. We had the former commander of the Navy Seals, former commander of the Blue Angels, Elite Air Force instructor, fighter pilot, we had gold medalists, silver medalists. When they spoke, people listened.”
In addition to multiple stories and experiences, Dr. Loehr shares advice throughout the interview. Some of the advice is geared toward those interested in the field of sport and performance psychology. He says that it is important to follow your interest and passion, but you also need to figure out how you are going to eat, how you are going to pay the bills. He said, “I know so many people who’ve gotten PhD’s in sport psychology and can’t find a job…you have to be an entrepreneur.” When you go out on your own, become a pioneer or an entrepreneur “you are setting up a business. The business of you.” His recommendation is to get a clinical degree and specialize in performance psychology as it has a much broader base than sport psychology. He adds “get licensed, get yourself an opportunity to set up a practice. There are lots of opportunities. Then you can begin to, you know, hone your career specifically in the direction you want.” Dr. Loehr shares that he has counseled many people to go into performance psychology and they have gone into the corporate world using the principles and knowledge from the HPI and “have started businesses, corporate businesses, and they’re doing exceedingly well, and they love it.”
Dr. Loehr recently co-authored a book with Dr. Sheila Ohlsson Walker called Wise Decisions: A Science-Based Approach to Making Better Choices. Dr. Ohlsson received her PhD in Behavioral Genetics from King’s College in London and is a Senior Scientist at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University. Both she and Dr. Loehr serve on the board of the Youth Performance Institute the mission, of which, is “The Youth Performance Institute combines mentorship, coaching, character development, and technology to ensure kids of all backgrounds have the tools they need to overcome personal challenges, advance their talents, and live their lives to the fullest.”
Dr. Loehr shares “we make 35,000 or more decisions every day, 245,000 decisions every week, over 12 million every year. And if I ask you, what are you referencing when you make your decision, most people don’t have a clue.” Drs. Loehr and Walker and a team of industry experts took a science-based approach to decision-making and developed an evidence- and research-based blueprint for making the best decision you can given all of the information you have. In sport psychology you have an inner voice which is called “Self-Talk” which is untrained. In this book, you will learn about a trained inner voice called “Your Own Decision Advisor” or YODA. He says “some YODAs are dysfunctional. They’re not depositories of great wisdom, and so the whole book is about uploading the right stuff to your YODA so YODA can make the right decisions.” This book is a very practical guide as it helps automate the process so that you can turn your decision-making process into one informed by reason, emotion, intuition, and science.
Dr. Loehr reminds us that “the most important coach you will ever have is the coach no one hears but you. And the only voice you’ll have in your head until your death. And you want that not to be an adversary.” He asks “if we projected your self inner talk on a Jumbotron the way you coached yourself, would you be proud of the way you coached yourself through that situation? And when we get that space cleaned up, it is actually miraculous.”
When asked what his favorite term, principle, or theory is, Dr. Loehr replied “this notion of purpose. We are a purpose driven species. And a self-transcending purpose is how we are designed. We are social creatures; we exist to help everyone else be successful. When we get that right, our lives light up. And we can become fully engaged and fully satisfied and we’re likely to become the best we can be.”
Interests and Specializations
Dr. Jim Loehr is a pioneer in the sport and performance psychology field. He has over 30 years of experience and applied research and has developed a ground-breaking, science-based energy management training system that has achieved worldwide recognition and has been featured across multiple media outlets from the Harvard Business Review to Fortune to the Oprah Winfrey Show. Dr. Loehr has worked with hundreds of world-class performers in sport, business, medicine, and law enforcement including Fortune 100 executives, military Special Forces, and FBI Hostage Rescue Teams.
Bachelor of Arts (BA), Psychology (1964); Regis University, Denver, CO.
Master of Arts (MA), Psychology (1966); University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO.
Doctor of Education (EdD), Psychology (1968); University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO.
Other Sources and Links of Interest
Welcome to the Master’s in Psychology Podcast, where psychology students can learn from psychologists, educators, and practitioners to better understand what they do, how they got there, and hear the advice they have for those interested in getting a graduate degree in psychology. I’m your host, Brad Schumacher, and today we welcome Dr. Jim Loehr to the show. Since 1980, Dr. Loehr has been a speaker, author, and executive coach. He has become a world-renowned performance psychologist, New York Times bestselling author, co-founder of Apeak tennis and advisor and coach at Evolve Leadership. Dr. Loehr’s groundbreaking science-based energy management system has achieved worldwide recognition and has been chronicled in leading national publications including the Harvard Business Review, Business Week, Newsweek, Fortune, U.S. News and World Report, Time, Fast Company, Success and many others. Today, we will learn more about his academic and professional journey, what he believes is the most important factor in success, personal fulfillment, and life satisfaction, as well as his advice for those interested in the field of performance psychology. Dr. Loehr, welcome to our podcast.
Brad, thank you for having me. I’m very excited to join with you on this and I hope we can really create some value for your audience. So, thanks for having me.
Well, I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to be on the podcast with us. If you’ve seen some or heard some of the podcasts, you understand that we kind of go through your academic journey first and so we’ll start there. You received your bachelor’s degree in psychology at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. Tell me more about your undergraduate experiences and how you ended up at Regis University.
So, it’s an interesting story. I guess I’ll start with that. My parents, to put it mildly, we’re deeply religious, devout Catholics, and my whole life was really oriented around, you know, religious teachings and religious beliefs. My sister became a nun and is a nun to this day. She was the 13th nun to be to enter a particular order and she’s now in Corpus Christi, TX, and part of a it’s a worldwide organization. It’s amazing now. My brother, out of high school, became a Jesuit priest. And he was in the Jesuits for seven years and then he decided to leave. But I went to Regis High School. I, you know, played tennis and basketball and played all the sports and, you know, the Jesuits are rough. I mean, they are a very interesting they’re the most brilliant collection of minds I think I’ve ever been around. But uhm, my parents, there was no choice as to where I was going to go to school. And I kind of wanted to go and they have Regis High School and all these other high schools around here, but Regis was the only choice in high school, and it was the only choice in college. I wanted to, yeah, I kind of wanted to go to CU, wanted to go to CSU, Colorado State University. But for them, CU had, according to our pastor, had a very tarnished reputation as a party school at that time, and that there was no chance they would help me go through school. I had to go to a school that they approved, and Regis University was the choice and, after that, the only school they would accept me leaving and wanted me to be reasonably close to home was University of Northern Colorado. So that’s where I ended up and I didn’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter.
Well, looks like or it seems like you had, you had an experience going through your high school and then your undergrad at Regis University and then for, you already mentioned part of the reason, or maybe all of the reason that you attended University of Northern Colorado in Greeley for your doctorate in psychology and you actually received an EdD in psychology. You know I was going to share my screen and I’ll go ahead and do that. But a lot of times I asked my guests, you know what led you to this particular university for your graduate career, you already answered it. Is that the whole reason that was the only university that was allowed, you were allowed to attend for your graduate studies?
Well, I had a professor in at the at Regis University by the name of Dr. Harry Hoewischer. He had his PhD in clinical psychology. A brilliant, brilliant man, he had a huge influence on me. And I told him, you know, we he really felt I should pursue a graduate program. We had a great relationship and either in Colorado or not, and I told him the situation I was in with my parents, and he said well. My interest at that time was what, what I still have a great interest in and that was perceptual psychology. He said, you know, there are, there is a brilliant perceptual psychologist by the name of Dr. Arnold Luker and Dr. Carol Luty at uh that he knew them both very well, familiar with their research, and he said if you go there, get both of them on your committee and you cannot go wrong if you have an interest. I can understand why you have an interest in perceptual psychology. And so, I went and sought both of those individuals out. They were both absolutely brilliant. And they were the core of my program when I. When I got there, I began to get more and more into perceptual psychology and then I realized, I mean, I was my father is a civil and petroleum engineer, brilliant mathematician, and scientist. He wanted me to go into engineering. Wanted me to go to the School of Mines and I said, you know, I really have more of an interest in psychology. And he was a little puzzled because it seemed like that’s wishy washy, it was not real science. And I said, listen, when I get into it, I will bring science. And at the University of Northern Colorado was offered an assistantship in research and in, you know, statistics and research. I was very good in math. I love math. I love science. Probably more from my dad’s genetic unbelievable capabilities and. But as I got into it, I began to get more of an interest in in mental health. And so, I did my internship at Weld County Mental Health Center. And I assumed that was kind of what I would do. I wanted to become a licensed psychologist in Colorado. And that’s kind of how I, you know, evolved. And so, I met a guy that, for a period of time, became the President of Adams State College. I’m an outdoor guy. I love hunting and not so much hunting, but fishing. And four wheeling and I was a mountain guy, and my dad was crazy about the outdoors, and he said listen, you’ve raced through your doctorate like crazy and your master’s program. You need a break. Why don’t you come? I will get you, uh, at Adams State College, we’ll get you an appointment there. And you can do all the work you want to do. And I said there’s Dr. Newell Van Pelt. Who I’m sure will be your supervised training so you can get your two years that are necessary for your license, you can take your oral and written boards and then you can decide where you want to live and what you want to do. And so, I had a, it was a great friendship. His name was Dr. Marv Motz and so I went there and that was it was a great decision because I got my supervised work done that was required for my license and while I was there after I received my license, I was offered the big job with and this is where you I think you want to go and I can talk about that if. You have questions about it, the San Luis Valley Comprehensive Community Mental Health Center system that served the whole central and southern part of Colorado had nine offices, a multimillion-dollar deal, and I became chief psychologist and executive director. And that, for me, a guy right out of school was a little bit ridiculous, but somehow, I impressed people. They thought that I could do something there and that launched me in that direction. And I was there for several years.
Well, you almost answered some of my other questions. You’ve been the associate professor of psychology, as you said, at Adams State University. And then right after that or almost overlapping, I believe you actually became the chief psychologist and executive director at the San Luis Valley Mental Health Corporation. And I could go down. I have multiple screens as I told you. I could go down your LinkedIn but let me let me revisit something that you just mentioned. You know you your original interest was in perceptual or perception psychology and eventually you grew more and more interested in the clinical or mental health side. So, can you think of what changed your mind or what piqued your interest to actually go down that path instead?
You know, it’s really a very interesting question. Perceptual psychology was more kind of academic, you know, and I wanted I love the impact that Dr. Harry Hoewischer had on me as a person, and he was a brilliant clinical psychologist and I kind of wanted to be like him. I kind of wanted to be more on the personal side, even though I could take all the work and the research that I so appreciated with Dr. Arnold Luker and Carol Luty into more of an interpersonal space, and I thought I would probably ultimately want to become a psychologist in private practice or associate with in some way with mental health. And little did I know I would be directing a mental Health Center where we had a very diverse staff, and it was really. I don’t. I’m not sure how that all that happened but it was it, it kind of a natural. When I took the internship at, Weld County Mental Health Center, I was convinced that that’s the work, even though it was very demanding and very challenging, it wasn’t any preparation for what I was going to experience at the center in Alamosa and all the counties and all the it was so much pathology and so many issues that were so very difficult. We had medical directors that would fly in on planes and try to, you know, do some work providing medication, psychotropic medication for patients. It was really, really challenging. You really began to realize that the tools we have for really helping people with serious mental health issues are very limited and that was, you know in the in the 70s and 80s, and you know, we’ve come a long way since then, but it was still really challenging.
Well, the other thing that I found interesting looking at your journey was that you decided to receive your EdD, as I said, your Doctor of Education versus a PhD. And I’m not even sure if a PsyD, I don’t even think a PsyD was available back then. So, tell me how you chose or why you chose the EdD in psychology versus a PhD.
You know, that’s another, if I had it to do over because most people don’t know what an EdD is. So, if I had it to do over, I would have definitely done the PhD. The only difference was the PhD you had to have, you had to become competent in a in a foreign language. And or I could take math and I love math. I mean, I just, it was easy for me, and I could do anything in math. And so, I took a lot of math classes and that was, you know, EdD is more research based, you know kind of orientation. But in terms of where I ended up, it would have been better because it was more in the interpersonal space than I was, although it did give me a good grounding in solid research, and I can look at a research publication and look at you know how they, you know, organized the research and the psychometrics they use to get their conclusions and all that kind of stuff. So, it helped me understand research from a different perspective, but I probably would have been much better off with the PhD.
Well, it it it. In either case it served you well because we’re going to continue talking about your journey here in a second. And I should say that from my perspective, it served you well. Maybe you have other goals in mind that you still want to accomplish, and we’ll talk about those. But what I found interesting is after you spent four years as chief psychologist and executive director at San Luis Valley Mental Health Corporation, you decided to become founder of the Center for Athletic Excellence, so that, in my mind kind of was almost a shift of applying your skills and knowledge to the next one, which I found very interesting. You actually were the executive director and sports psychologist for the Jimmy Connors USTA Center. And so, before we jump to that, tell me, why did you start the Center for Athletic Excellence?
Well, first of all, at the center I got to know a person by the name of Dr. Joe Vigil, who also was at Adams State College. He’s an Olympic legend. And he produced more. I mean, there are bronze statues everywhere of Joe Vigil. He’s just an amazing, powerful human being. And he got me running. We became very good friends. And every time I would see him, he’d say Jim, as a psychologist, what can you tell me that’ll help me get more out of my athletes. He was a track and field genius. And I would start, we had an indoor track, 16 laps to the mile and, uh, he kept bugging me and I said, Joe, I don’t have a clue. I’ve spent all my life trying to help people. I was a deer in headlights because I’d never thought about the application of psychology to healthy people to make them help them be extraordinary as opposed to helping people who are struggling with mental health issues to help them become a little healthier. And I said, Joe, I don’t know. I wish I could. And I said, OK, you’re bugging me enough. I’ll do a literature search and I’ll find out what’s going on worldwide that might be able to help you. So I went, did a literature search. There was no one in private practice. It was so interesting what I was up against. I looked at all the, you know, countries all over the world, Olympic, you know, venues that were, you know, NGB’s were doing stuff. They’re trying to figure it out because everybody knew it was kind of a big part of it was what was happening between the ears. But it was really sparse, so I said, you know, Joe, I don’t know. And he said, let me tell you something. It’s going to be a big field someday. You love adventure, you love. Really. You’re very, very curious, mind. Why don’t you think about going into that and actually being a pioneer in that area? And I said, well, it’s interesting. So, he kept prodding me and I had a number of people he started. I started working with his runners. They had a tennis team there and I started working with the tennis team just to see if I could learn something because I knew nothing and I did not know where to go to learn it. And so, I said, you know, Joe Vigil, I’m going to do this. So, I resigned to a 23-member board of directors, and they thought that this was a ploy for more money. They nearly doubled my salary. And I said Oh, no, that’s not what this is about. It has nothing to do with money. I’m going to go and apply psychology to sport. And they thought I had duly lost my mind. Because there was no such thing, there was no such thing as sport or performance psychology. So, I lost a lot of my colleagues because they thought Oh Larry can’t handle the stress. He couldn’t handle the stress of what he was doing down here. So, I moved to Denver, and I set up an office right next to the University of Denver Sports Science Department and it was called Center for Athletic Excellence. And started to, you know, set up a private practice specializing in performance problems with athletes and teams. And very quickly I realized I didn’t know anything and that I was guessing and was nowhere to go. There wasn’t research that I could follow, and I said I’ve got to figure this out. So, at that time, the best competitor in tennis and I love tennis was Jimmy Connors. So, I noticed there was an ad for someone to run the Jimmy Connors, the United States Tennis Center in Sanibel Harbor. This guy by the name of Bob Davis and I said, so I called him, and I said, listen, Bob, I’m a performance. I’m in this sports psychology, but I can run your program. I’ll run all the facility for you, but I want to have access to Jimmy’s brain. I want to be able to do videos and everything else. I want to see what makes that competitive brain work. I need to learn. So, he didn’t check with Jimmy. He just said no, it’s done. We’d love to have somebody with a Doctor of Psychology down here. So, I spent two years, and I realized if I had to make everybody like Jimmy, it’s hopeless. I learned a lot. I created a bunch of videos and up the road was the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy and a lot of the players were coming to me at Sanibel Harbor, and Nick didn’t like it because they were leaving the Academy and there was a risk that they were not going to be on the grounds of the Academy. So, he said, why don’t you come and set up your Research Institute here? So, I became director of sports science and director of sports psychology for the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. And that is where I learned everything. We had 240 of the best players in the world. And I mean, I had him hooked up to more telemetry than you can possibly imagine. I did EEG on the court EMG. I did all kinds of heart rate monitoring between points, during points. I had a videographer, I had full time videoing all their matches and everything else. And that is when I all the things I learned, I learned there many things I learned I would say I would not want to do my job became at Nick Bollettieri’s was to humanize the environment and to try to help these young kids who are all away from home from all over the world find a sense of peace and you know comfort in a very in a very rough almost dog eat dog environment. But that’s where I learned everything. And uh then I felt after six years of that, I was ready to do something on my own. And that’s when I joined forces with Dr. Jack Groppel with his PhD in bioengineering. We decided to set up a company called the Human Performance Institute, and that’s we started that in 1992. And we set up the operation in. I went out and raised money. Everybody said it would fail. We had no chance of succeeding at Lake Nona, which is a suburb of Orlando, and that’s when my career really began.
Well, you covered a lot there. I want to kind of rephrase or remind everybody what you what you basically were talking about, you were on this board of Directors, you decided to leave, they thought it was a ploy for a more money. You said no, I want to apply what I’m learning and apply it to other areas, and they thought you were crazy. And then you realized, well, I really don’t know as much as I would hope that I would know at this point. And so, you actually sought out other avenues. So, in summary, you took a chance, you, you put yourself out there, but you also found your niche and you became that pioneer that you mentioned as well. And even though you say you learned a lot at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, I would say that you learned a lot at the Jimmy Connors prepping you, almost a stepping stone to move up to the USTA as well. And then the heart of the matter really got into. But based on what I’m reading, and then, you know, you had 25 years, I’ll repeat that 25 years at the Human Performance Institute before you decided to leave there, I believe about the same time as when Johnson and Johnson acquired the Human Performance Institute. Is that correct?
Yes, I we our institute was purchased by Johnson and Johnson in 2008 and I stayed on in the transition for another six years. And we’ve created the most amazing living laboratory of high performance I think that I could ever dream. It was again a laboratory living research laboratory. When you, we had at the end when I left some 400,000 people went through the Institute 400,000 is a huge database. I love data and large databases. I love to look at trend sets and everything else and I was in heaven. I mean, and Jack Groppel, who had his, who was really the head of the biomechanics lab at the University of Illinois, he was looking at the bio mechanical part of everything. And I was looking at the psychological side. And then we brought in all kinds of people. Our faculty was probably some of the most extraordinary human beings I’ve ever been around. We had the former commander of the Navy Seals, former commander of the Blue Angels, Elite Air Force instructor, fighter pilot, we had gold medalists, silver medalists. When they spoke, people listened. And all of their knowledge was integrated into this amazing living laboratory that was an intensive 2 1/2-day immersion. You decided what you wanted to test these principles and, but we put you in a, we drew blood, had a really extensive blood draw. When you walked in the door, put you in a bot pot where we got your lean body mass. We tested you from everywhere from Sunday. And then you went on a 90-day mission to test all the principles. We checked with you in 90 days and then in 18 months and tried to make adjustments. We had a nine-acre campus and that was the most exciting time I’ve ever had in my life. I miss it every single day I wake up. I miss going in there. We had sumo wrestlers, a sumo wrestler come all the way from Japan spent six months with us. We had 17 number ones in the world train there and all those people below it. Pete Sampras trained there when he was #1 in the world. Jim Courier. We had chess champions, who spent we trained them like elite athletes. Thousands of what we call came to call corporate athletes from all over the world. And we just collected, I have boxes of data still that I have that I never actually had a chance to get all the insights, but everything, I’ve written 18 books, and all those 18 books came from all the insights that I, I gained there. So, I feel so fortunate. And we brought in a bunch of psychologists: counseling, clinical. And you know, we just try to get everyone to work on the same, you know, with the same human system, applying all their knowledge to how do we get people to go to the next level in their life. Our mission at the Institute was to help individuals and teams perform to the highest level possible in extreme or high stress environments, with one caveat without compromising their health or their happiness. And in the beginning we had a little, you know, we really didn’t know how important that was, but that proved to be that, the fine red line between overtraining and under training was really what we were trying to focus, if you don’t push enough, you never got there and if you push too much, you can actually destroy, you get hurt. We had a complete rehabilitation center that we had Florida hospital run for us on our site. So, we would rehab them, we had world class nutritionists, world class exercise physiologists. We had an amazing team. Everybody there just trying to help people go to the next level. So, I felt like that was the, the crown jewel of my career and the, I’m very sad that I sold it. But at the time it seemed like the right thing to do. But, you know, I miss it so much. And that was, I felt very privileged. I still feel very privileged to have been associated with these extraordinary people. We had Navy seals come there, army Rangers, FBI, hostage rescue teams, any terrorist units. I mean, we had mission critical venues. I had entire classes of surgeons where they would come and really work to try to go take themselves to the next level of precision and surgery and looked at their rituals. I was brought into surgical suites and our team was to watch open heart surgery and to look at all the and then we took notes. We videotaped and it was just an exciting environment. Anyone who walked in there was blown away because it was filled with superstars from every sector of sport. I mean, literally. And uh boxing. And I learned, I think I learned more from all of them than they ever learned from me or from us. But I love to learn I’m a I’m a crazy person about learning something every opportunity I have.
Well, that’s a very good sign of a good teacher, psychologist, mentor, coach, is that you learn more from your students than you do, than they learn from you. And so that’s one thing that I want to applaud you for.
One other thing that I want to mention. Is, you know, in retrospect, you learned a great deal going through your experiences, especially with the Human Performance Institute. So, let’s try to give some insightful knowledge. And in retrospect, you didn’t know a lot while you were starting out early in your career. And sport psychology, performance psychology literally, you know, didn’t really exist at that time.
And so now if you have the chance, when you look back at your journey so far, let’s think about the current psychology students who are just starting out their academic journey. Any advice for those who are interested in sport psychology, or performance psychology field?
Yeah, let me just. I’ll just say one thing here, just to give you an idea of how new this was. I wrote a book called Mental Toughness Training for Sports. And I sent it to 19 publishers, 19 major league publishers. I got 19 rejections, and they all said the same thing. What the heck is mental toughness? There is no such thing. It’s the most bizarre concept we’ve ever used or heard of. And my father, who also played professional baseball and really, really good baseball player. Read the script and said you know. This makes so much sense. I am. I’m going to go ahead and take a risk here I’m going to. I’m going to make five. I will have publisher or somebody will pay them to produce the book and we’ll send it around and see what people think. And so, he did. And the book became kind of an underground bestseller and all of a sudden. And then it was picked up by a major publisher. And it has sold, you know, millions of copies all over the world and it was a book, because it was before its time, they thought it was absolute nonsense. So sometimes when you go into something. You know, because you really don’t know what is really going to land, you’re going to have to have a lot of resilience. You’re going to have to really maybe be pretty lucky in some cases. But if I were to do it over and I have had multiple conversations with graduate students or undergraduate students about who have an interest in this, the most important thing you have to figure out is how are you going to eat? How are you going to pay your bills? I know so many people who’ve gotten PhD’s in sports psychology and can’t find a job. They end up going to insurance sales or is something else? Because there are no jobs out there, that’s one of my big concerns with academia is they, you pay a lot of money to get these degrees, but there’s some academic you know, opportunities, but they’re very limited. You have to be an entrepreneur. You have to figure out how are you going to go out there. There’s no job that you sign up for and there are in some cases like if you want a job with, let’s say one of the Major League Baseball. And you want to be called the chief psychologist for x, you have to pay as much as $100,000 for that experience to be able to put that on your resume. They don’t pay you a nickel, you have to pay them for that opportunity. And so, it’s so my whole thing is you got to figure out how to eat. So, my recommendation is you had a clinical degree specialize in performance and I think performance psychology has a much broader base. And you have, you know, there’s so many ways that corporation work in business, you can work in sport, you can work in any number of areas of medicine and so on and so forth. Everyone wants to be a better performer, and it may not be sport related. So, my recommendation is always get your get licensed, get yourself an opportunity to set up a practice. There are lots of opportunities. Then you can begin to, you know, hone your career specifically in the direction you want, but you can you can, you know if you want to go just into academia and you’re an instant, you’re a research person, and I mean that’s fine. But if you’re really going to go out after a degree and pay for all this loans you have to secure in order to get your degree, it’s very difficult and I’ve known so many who’ve been stuck and really upset that they paid all this money and can’t find a, but I have so many that I have counseled to go into performance psychology and then they go into the corporate world the number of people, the psychologists that we brought in at HPI, they’ve taken our principles and have started all these businesses, corporate businesses, and they’re doing exceedingly well and they love it. So, we’ve spawned a lot of, a lot of psychologists helping them find their way, so I’m very happy with that. But I think there needs to be a reckoning that, if you want to be, you’re going to have to. I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours going to coaches conferences and being part of the USVTA, USTA, PTR, the professional tennis registry, all the coaches in tennis and then in other sports so that they got to know me, I would make presentations. I would bring them up to speed. And they would see me as someone who had some skills that might be used in their sport, and now I’m completely inundated with just about every sector of sport and performance. And I hand them off to all the psychologists that I know, or people who have trained and have the skill sets that are important. But it took a long time to build that, and I had to do a lot of things that I never was never trained to do it. Didn’t do a lot of public speaking. And I didn’t know I was a writer. I had to learn how to write. To write all the books, but that got me, you know, a lot of recognition and lots of followers just from the books I’ve written. The Power of Full Engagement. I was on Oprah for a full hour. She devoted the whole show to it. And that book went viral and has sold millions of copies worldwide, and people still talk about all the stuff I developed in energy management and the power of full engagement so. But all that was evolutionary. I didn’t have anything in my training that led me to that. It was nothing. And then when I got into character, which maybe we’ll talk about. Nothing in my training as a psychologist led me to the character space. I was in the mental toughness space. How does Jim Loehr go from a mental toughness to character and talk about gratitude and kindness? And I’m going, the data took me there, that’s all I can tell you, and that’s about. That’s about all I can say because I never thought it would end up in this space.
Right. Well, one of the things that you brought up, I’m going to bring up for our audience as well. And I was thinking the same thing when I did the research is sport psychologist versus performance psychologist. My own take on that is sport psychologist is a smaller realm. And performance psychologist is applying what you’ve learned as a sport psychologist outside of the sport field into business, into corporate, into whatever area you’d like.
Anything. Yeah, Navy SEAL. Any military special forces it can be. It’s this endless. And if you really have good skills, you have opportunities, and they will pay for that.
Yes, yes. And so when you think of your title, you know, starting out, you might think, oh, I want to become a sport psychologist. Well, if you only want to deal, you know, deal with sports. Then that’s fine, but I would recommend that you either replace that or add sport and performance psychologist. That way it opens up the doors for you to go outside of the sports field.
That’s completely been my experience and I think it’s absolutely the best thing to do unless you’re independently wealthy and don’t have to worry about the money and just do what you want. But I don’t run into too many of those folks.
Well, I’ll share my screen because you mentioned a couple books already. And so, one of them, New York Times bestseller, is The Power of Full Engagement here. A few years ago, you came out with Leading with Character. And then the, a companion journal, The Personal Credo Journal, we’ll talk about Wise Decisions in a second here. I’ll Scroll down and you had all these other books that kind of prepared you and it’s almost like that lit review that you did by your friend who challenged you. Hey, I challenge you. Tell me, how can I help my, you know, my athletes become better at what they do? You decided to do that lit review and out of that lit review and then out of your experience with the Institute as you mentioned, it helped you to, enabled you, to actually write all of these books. And even though you mentioned you weren’t really a writer, you had to learn to do that. And that’s the thing that a lot of people, once they receive their degree, they think, OK, I have everything and then they slowly or quickly realize I don’t have everything, especially if you’re an entrepreneur. You need to learn how to promote yourself, run a business, do marketing, do the books. If you’re in clinical psychology, you need to know how to deal with insurance. You need to do all of that stuff. And it’s too bad that our universities don’t teach us to do that. You have to learn by trial by fire basically. Your thoughts on any other advice for those who want to take their clinical psychology, sport psychology, performance psychology out into the real world and create their own business.
You know, you just raised such a great point, Brad. You know, unless you got a, you know, minor in business, I had no business acumen whatsoever, but I ended up having to raise money. Write, you know, I had P&L statements every single day on the business. We were very profitable way beyond anything I could possibly imagine and J&J, Johnson and Johnson, were blown away by the fact that we were. So solid in every way, but I had. I wanted to do things well. I like to do things right, so I did a lot of research I hired a very high-priced business guy to run all our books. I wanted to know and I wanted to know everything was going on with the business and all of the marketing, all of the things, and then you have to be very careful how you do it so that you don’t violate the ethics by the American Psychological Association, I mean, you have to, can you use people’s names and should you use them and all the professional ethics and everything involved. And I tried to. And if you’re licensed in Colorado but you’re doing work now and on the phone all over the United States, there were so many challenging things for me. And so, I had to make a decision that. Some people were wanted me to mention their name because it was kind of, uh, an arrow in their quiver that gave them more confidence and they would be interviewed by the New York Times or somebody and they would mention that they were working with me and on and on. And I go well, if they’re mentioning it and they want me to do it, I guess I can mention that, so whenever I mentioned someone’s name, it’s because they’ve already given me permission and want me to mention their name. And but all these issues are in the business world, you are setting up a business. The business of you. And I had to do that with pull myself up by my bootstraps. Jack Groppel, Dr. Jack Groppel knew nothing about business. And so, we had to create it and we were told countless times this would be a boondoggle. We would never succeed. We patterned it after the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, which was a non for profit and they have to be funded every year. And we said no, we’ll make this work financially. We’ll do it in a way that’s very ethical, but we’re going to make, we’re going to make this a financially for-profit venture. And we did it and I raised, you know, a lot of money and a lot of people who thought it couldn’t be done. You know, I was very happy too at the end when we sold the company, I was able to give them very large checks and I gave a piece of the company to the employees, I wanted them to feel like they were owners and they cared about the business more. So, I would, I totally agree, Brad, that the more diverse your background and you’re going to have to learn a lot of new things, the world changes with, you know, with, you know, COVID everything is different. You have to learn maybe how to do virtual training. I do a lot of work virtually now that we never did before. You have to be pretty savvy digitally. I mean, if you’re going to do a lot of this work, you have your own podcast. You have to understand, like you have, you probably didn’t have any training in this area. Maybe you did at some point, but you know all of this kind of dovetails into having a really successful career, and if you’re not particularly comfortable in front of people, you need to get yourself a speech coach and go to work so that you can get on camera and be exceedingly comfortable. Because I had to speak this last week, I was in front of 4500 people. And I had to do a presentation to 4500 really on performance psychology. And I’ve been in front of 26,000 at one time and the idea of me doing all speeches in front of people was terrifying. So, I mean, I had to learn all that stuff. In addition, I had to learn what the heck to teach people in the area of performance or sport psychology because when I started, we have so many resources, so many excellent books, excellent universities. There’s so many resources that are available, journals that help to highlight what’s going on at a scientific level. There were a lot of pioneers in a lot of areas, not just Jim Loehr.
Well, you mentioned books, so I’m going to go back to your two most recent books and one that came out a few years ago. So let me kind of give a little bit of background in summary before we talk about that book. For almost 40 years from almost 40 years of your experience and applied research, you believe that the most important factor in successful achievement, personal fulfillment, and life satisfaction is the strength of one’s character. You contend that character strength can be built in much the same way as muscle strength through energy investment. You brought this topic to life in one of your more recent books, Leading with Character: 10 Minutes a Day to a Brilliant Legacy. Tell us a little bit more about that book and why you wrote it and a few key takeaways.
So, I’ll try to summarize in 10 years, it took 10 years of trial and error at, when we were putting all the corporate stuff together with Johnson and Johnson and others, to try to understand what actually promotes high achievement in a way that actually is fulfilling and satisfying. There’s this whole area of psychology achievement, motivation. For those that are, you know, our whole society is, uhm, it’s driven to, uhm, define success in terms of how much you’ve achieved extrinsic markers of success. One of my favorite books is a book by Andre Agassi called Open. And Andre was part of the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy that was there, and he went to number one in the world. He was told that if you ever became number one in the world and you know, in the Hall of Fame and everything, you would be happy, fulfilled and all of your dreams would come true. Well, he became number one in the world, he was miserable, and he felt he was lied to. So, he dropped out. He went to 141 in the world and he and his trainer, Gil Reyes, decided to reinvent himself and he’d established the purpose that had nothing to do with him. And he leveraged all of his fame and all of his money and sponsorships to help kids have an opportunity that they would never have had were it not for Andre’s success. He built a charter school and in Nevada, in Las Vegas, NV that and I went to his Hall of Fame induction in Newport. And he had some of his students there talking about how he has changed their lives. There was not a dry eye anywhere. Andre Agassi is an extraordinary human being. He has a beautiful wife, Steffi Graf, they’ve just made it. They’ve got it figured out and that book is about as straight up and that reflected we had a chance to work with 17 number ones. And so many of them were absolutely only as good as their last performance, and they became addicted to achievement. And so, we began to look deeper into that, and we began to look at where what I call the hidden markers of success, which is what happened, the hidden scorecard. They were the intrinsic markers that you know you give your life away to a cause bigger than yourself. And we really went in deeply into it, the institute, this notion of a self-transcendent purpose. And I’ve found that the most important asset that we have as human beings is our treatment of other people. We’re social creatures. This is built into our DNA. You can get to the top by going over dead bodies, not caring about anyone. But when you get to the top, no one really celebrates you. And you’re not going to stay there very long. That’s what happened to Andre and countless others. So, we really try to build this understanding of what are the assets, your honesty, your integrity, your kindness, your humility, your ability to love others, truly your, you know, your inner strength from a character perspective in terms of treatment of other people, that’s the highest level. And if you take people to the end of their life which you are asked to do in that book, you begin to realize that’s the one thing that there is no substitute for. So, and we also began to realize after I always thought visualization and all the mental practice, and all that stuff was the most powerful thing we could do. We learned that the most powerful imprint on this executive function on this prefrontal cortex and I love the work of Damasio. I follow all these neuroscience. I love Robert Sapolsky, and everybody else, but was handwriting. We trained the brain mostly through your hand, through printing or writing, and we started using journals and we got such remarkable success that the book actually helps you to build what I would call your personal credo. So, it becomes a cornerstone of whatever decision you make and everything you do moving forward is vetted through that personal credo and it it’s, uh, it’s very tough work, but we’ve gotten so much great success. If you stay with it, you probably journal for the rest of your life. Your person.
Well, I like that. Yeah, I like that summary. I’m sharing the screen again for some of the images, and here’s that companion book to the Leading with Character: 10 Minutes a Day to a Brilliant Legacy, The Personal Credo Journal. And then you can read a little bit more about this on Amazon as well. We’ll definitely include these links once we go live. One thing that I wanted to mention you mentioned extrinsic and intrinsic and I think when you look back you look at when you’re young, you’re ignorant, you don’t know as much, but you go, and you try to apply yourself. You learn as much as you can. Then you enter the world. You try to apply what you’ve learned, and then you realize another roadblock. I don’t have all the tools that are necessary to succeed in this venue and then eventually you, you have to almost become humble again and become a student again and it. And that’s hard to admit after you’ve been going through grad school, finally achieving what others are telling you. And. And we started our conversation, if you don’t mind me kind of bringing us back here, Dr. Loehr, is your parents and your you know your Catholic priest were telling you, you need to go to this school. You need to do this, this, and this. And. And you followed them because, you know, you respected them. Yeah.
I didn’t. I didn’t have any other choice. And it was I said, hey, I’ll do it.
Right. And then you reach out into the in the world and you’re especially if you’re starting your own business, you have to learn again. And even in Andre and we could talk about countless others who have reached the pinnacle in their particular field. And then after they reached that. We enjoy them at the top. I remember watching Agassi when I was younger, and I loved his character even back then. But then it you hit the realization as that person that, well, there’s got to be more to me because I know I’m not going to stay on top forever. So, I need to build my legacy almost and I need to find something. And so, the reason I’m bringing this up. I don’t want to be on the soapbox here with you, but a realization came to me that I think I knew and a lot of us know, if we think about it, you know, for a second is we can’t always do what others or extrinsic, extrinsic values or what outside of ourselves, because you’re going to deplete that and it doesn’t mean as much to you until you find your drive, your passion. What is important to you? And you mentioned a lot of the different things and so one of the things that I liked about your newest book is it’s called Wise Decisions: A Science-Based Approach to Making Better Choices. So, tell us a little bit more about this book and how it’s different from other books.
So, I’ll just back up one second. I you know, at the Institute, when we finally got it right, I began to realize that our most valued employees had a very clear sense of commitment to something bigger than themselves. They were really interested. They got their self-esteem, was not connected to fame and money and all the accolades it was really connected to the to the extent to which they’ve contributed in a really significant way to the well-being of other people. And so we use that as the primary criteria in in addition to competency and degrees and all that. But I wanted to know what, how do you define success in your life, what are, what are you marching for? And so that so everyone that was there was there with this understanding that it has nothing to do with me, it has to do with how I can help others have better and richer lives. I can help a surgical team be more effective and help them become more, uhm, selfless in what they do, they do the right thing, not for the money, not for the fame and all that. So, it’s. But you can get to the top and be an extraordinarily good person and have nothing to do with trying to be famous. And that’s that was our objective so. It was a great insight for me and it’s very strange, but every book I wrote was more data from the Institute and my learnings. And so, I thought, well, if I didn’t know this, this might be important for other if I can contribute. But I began to realize I really didn’t care what happened to me. I was more interested in really what I could do that might make a difference for others in some significant way? And I wish that I had understood this decision-making area much sooner in my career, I just couldn’t do it. It’s probably the most important book I’ve ever written. And it, it still blows my mind that it took me this many years to learn this. But uhm, the most important competency we have as human beings is our ability to make good choices, wise decisions. And nobody teaches it. Nobody teaches it at home, parents don’t have any clue how to do it. They don’t get it in school, grade school, high school, junior high. They don’t teach it in colleges and universities, very few graduate universities have programs. And even in corporate universities, sometimes they do but it’s very poor content. So, we did a science-based approach. My co-author was Dr. Sheila Ohlsson Walker, who had her PhD in behavioral genetics from King’s College in London, a brilliant scientist at Johns Hopkins University, she’s uh also at Tufts University. She’s really a smart woman. We serve on a board together, and we tried to look at really the equivalent of the human of the Human Performance Institute all that we learned there applied to youth. And it took us again right into the decision-making matrix, and we did a deep science-based dive into human decision-making and, you know, we make 35,000 or more decisions every day, 245,000 decisions every week, over 12 million every year. And if I ask you, what are you referencing when you make your decision, most people don’t have a clue. And so, we try to break it down in terms of, well, how do we become more deliberate and conscious? One bad decision, decision to drink and drive, to take drugs. That’s just one decision that can change the trajectory of our lives forever. And that’s what parents should be teaching. And we’re trying to help parents understand how to teach it, coaches how to teach it. It’s the most important competency we have as human beings. And that took me to the core of the most important learning that for me, I really had no idea it took everything that I have learned to get to this point and it’s the role and importance of one’s inner voice. Inner voice in sport psychology is called Self Talk, but it’s so it really is not what, you know, I thought it was and the ultimate decision maker, the master decision maker is this inner voice. And how do you get to that voice? I called it IV one. Which is untrained, which just shows up and is wild crazy things can come out of that. And then there’s this trained inner voice. And we call it Your Own Decision Advisor was spelled YODA. YODA and YODA ended up being, you know, similar to the Star Wars, but it’s not the same. It refers to your own decision advisor. We all have it. Some is, some YODAs are very dysfunctional. They’re not depositories of great wisdom, and so the whole book is about up uploading the right stuff to your YODA so YODA can make the right decisions and any decision that’s really important to your deliberate conscious and you do you do the work, the very important work of becoming a better decision maker so. And then we automate all those things, those tiny habits that are not necessarily inconsequential, but are not so important, and most of those 45,000 that we make every week, we don’t even think about. But some of those are really critical and need to be properly vetted. And so, we, the book is about that deep dive into decision making. But a very practical guide. We took the science and tried to make it very accessible. Now we’re writing a book for children, for youth to help parents, teachers and coaches understand this from a child’s perspective. So that’s my latest project and I’m just very uh, kind of upset that I couldn’t get to this place earlier in my career, but for me, one’s inner voice runs everything, and no one has really looked at that seriously. I’m hoping that researchers will get into that. It has been the biggest single breakthrough in our work in my work in 40 some years and it took me that long to figure it out.
Well, I’m glad that you figured it out. I thought it piqued my interest when I started reading about it and one thought crossed my mind and I want, I want to pick your brain on this for a second. Your YODA could actually change depending on the situation, depending on your mood, depending on who you surround yourself with, you know we have all these other books out there that say that your friends and family and who you surround yourself with impact your life not only in the immediate future short term, but long term future because it retrains your brain. And so, what are your thoughts on those people who have a negative YODA. I don’t know if that would be the term, but it’s something that you need to retrain your brain.
Yeah, I would. I would call it a dysfunctional YODA.
And by the age of five, your inner voice is actually there’s a primitive narrative that’s already formed. And that voice actually starts forming prenatally. They know the auditory cortex of an infant can pick up, uh, the some of the signals from parents from. Grandparents. Siblings. And what happens that voice becomes their collective accumulation of all the voices that have come, many of which may be very dysfunctional, and they actually it looks like it’s coded in the genes because it goes from one generation to the next. And someone who’s been. Really believe that you have to really kind of beat the heck out of someone and they’ll become lazy. You call people stupid. You’re an idiot. If I had your opportunities, I would become a superstar. You’re a loser. And you really think that this is actually going to help them and so you’re tough on them in that way. Boy, have we learned the opposite and our whole school of work here is around you need to learn to speak to yourself the way you would speak to someone that you deeply cared about in the same situation. We have you grade the coaching voice, you, the most important coach you will ever have, is the coach no one hears but you. And the only voice you’ll have in your head until your death. And you want that not to be an adversary. You want to do whatever it is, needs to be tough minded, need to be kind, gracious. I want you to grade yourself on your coaching of yourself. And the lens you use is this how you would want your best friend being coached in the same situation. And that if we projected your self inner talk on a Jumbotron the way you coached yourself, would you be proud of the way you coached yourself through that situation? And when we get that space cleaned up, it is actually miraculous. I mean, I can take someone in a very short period of time and train them to be their best coach, and that space explodes. And I’m doing it with I have lots of players on the USTA professional circuit at the highest level, and they would tell you it’s been so transformative in a relatively short period of time. But we’ve learned how to do it. And you know, because it’s not out there in the journals yet and a lot of people think it’s just kind of nonsense. But I’m a research guy. I’m a data guy and I have evolved very slowly based on what we had a living laboratory of real people, of real, oftentimes life and death venues. I even flew all the way to Japan. I mean, all the way to Spain to to have an interview with Spain’s most famous bullfighter, Martine Vasquez. Because I wanted to know how they handled stress when they’re facing this just terribly menacing bull thousands of pounds, and all that bull wants to do is kill you. How do you control fear? How do you control your anxiety? And so, I got the interview, and he brought me in. And, you know, it’s a very long story. But he said, listen, if it’s not obvious to you, then you are not very observant. He said we learn to control fear with our physical presence. Have you ever seen a bull fighter, even in the earliest years, when they’re training, look, anything but supremely confident? The way they walk every gesture is there’s no sense the bull can smell your fear when a when you choke as a bullfighter, you’re likely to get gored and maybe die. So, you learn how to present the most unbelievably strong, confident, uh, image of complete superiority. So, when I came back, I started with all of our clients who had difficulty with confidence. I taught them the matador, the Matador walk. In tennis between points, skaters between you know, you know, when they came off the ice or when they came out of the penalty box or whatever. And we’ve learned now that you actually can trigger levels of testosterone by just putting your shoulders back, by the way you walk. So, it’s all, we are mind and body are the same. We’re a unified system, integrated, fully integrated brilliant system. And the more you know, you get into it, the more you realize that you need to be a multidisciplinary student, you need to understand neuropsychology, you need to understand all of all the systems of the human body that interconnect, you know, this hypothalamic pituitary adrenal cortical axis. You need to know everything about that. You need to know everything about how thinking actually can change emotion and how emotion, uh, can be, uh, floating. As Damasio says, actually, there’s no thought without some emotion and feelings are simply the reverberation of this chemical change under the surface. The more you understand about how the body works, the better chance you will not make mistakes. And the more I know, the more I realize, I know very little.
I like your summary there. It brings up the point that I brought up a couple times on other podcasts. We are finding a lot of these disciplines coming together and they’re interdisciplinary.
Yes. And they’re integrating and there it wasn’t there, it didn’t start off as neuropsychology. It was one separate and then another separate discipline. And then it’s being combined. You know, I want to bring up one other thing. We started out the podcast by, well, about shortly into the podcast you said hey, one of the advice that I have one piece of advice that I have for all the students is make sure that you learn how to feed yourself. And so, you need to earn enough money to make a living. And we just got done talking about following your passion. And the integrity and your character. And so one thing that came to my mind is there’s a fine line between completely following your passion and having to create your career or earn enough money to support yourself and family. And that that’s difficult for people to kind of grapple.
Yeah, and resolve and to your point, you left this board of Directors and this wonderful situation you were in and you almost could have doubled your salary, but you chose to go off and do and follow your passion. And so, any advice for those students or anybody about how can I help determine should I go ahead and follow my passion, or should I play it safe and make sure that I have enough money for myself and my family? That’s a real-life question.
That is probably one of the most important questions. I took a leap. And it probably wasn’t the wisest thing because I didn’t know what it would take, and I struggled financially for quite some time. Because I. I hadn’t really worked it through and there was no career path to follow, so I believe you should go and smaller increments set up some kind of bridge where you are now to where you want to go, but do it in a way that doesn’t put your family at risk. Your marriage at risk because you don’t have the money coming in anymore. And your kids are wondering, what have we done now? We’re in, we’re in a situation that we were very settled. We had a great life. Great home. What are you doing? And what is this all about? So that you can have a great career and the rest of us struggle. I think you have to look at all those issues. And when I was very young, I didn’t really think that through. And then, in retrospect, I wish I had done it a little differently, but I was very lucky to have been able to make that transition, but it was probably not as thoughtful and well planned as it should have been and we have to eat, have to pay the bills, and we have to provide really opportunities for our kids in sports and schools and it all costs money.
Yeah, definitely. I’m going to go back to a concept that I have seen in your work, many of your works, this concept of energy management. Tell us a little bit more. Can you elaborate on that concept of energy management that you’ve emphasized in your work for us?
So, it’s interesting, I was at the Nick Bollittieri Tennis Academy, I was videotaping everything and cataloging everything, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. You know, we get the kids, all the coaches had they had to be there absolutely on time. So, the time investment was perfect. But then you saw the return for the time invested varied immensely. That some kids were all in had their energy, were excited and were really, you know, fully there. Other kids were just going through the motions and were doing it because they were told to. Even the coaching staff. Some were absolutely dead people walking feeding balls. And it was very contagious to the kids. So, I began to realize it really isn’t the energy. It isn’t the time you spend, it’s the energy you’re capable of investing that is aligned with what the mission is. You can spend hours on a tennis court and get a reverse return because you’re sloppy, and so it is with life. It’s not how long you live. It’s the energy you bring to the time that you have aligned with what you believe is really the most important part of your life. And it takes a great energy. So, our whole performance pyramid begins with the physical. And all energy comes that drives everything else, from the mitochondria in the cells with the 30 trillion cells in the body. Every cell has its own energy production plant, the mitochondria. It’s basically it’s called the Krebs cycle and it’s in the union of oxygen and glucose. And if you don’t and that’s why fitness and nutrition are such critical areas for you to be emotionally engaged, to be mentally alert, to be spiritually aligned with your character and what you want to do at all is driven by these, uh, trillions of cells. The only cells that don’t have mitochondria are red blood cells. But that’s the way we integrate everything. So the whole system of training that that I developed was around managing your energy. And we had Stephen M. R. Covey, who was Stephen Covey’s son, on our board. And it drove. And I knew Stephen Covey very well, and he had no answer to what I would propose to him. I said your entire time management industry is flawed, completely flawed. He said Jim, you, I’m sorry, I respect your intelligence, but you there’s no way we have too many bright people and I said OK, let me give you the promise, the thesis of time management. And you tell me if I’ve got it right. And I said if you want to have a successful life, you need to know what matters to you. You need to know your values. You need to know the most important things that you really you care about. And then once you do that, what you have to do is carefully and very in a very disciplined way devote time to those things, and the more you invest your time in those things you care most about, you will get the life you want. And I said that is 100%, is that it? And he said yes, that’s basically it. And I said that’s 100% false. Time has no, has no valence, has no power, has nothing. The only way your life is going to actually light up is with the investment of energy in that time aligned with the mission. And when I completed my epistle. He was speechless. And so, they invented quality time. Then I came back to Stephen, and I said energy in the universe, like human energy, has quantity and quality, focus and intensity. Time has no, there is no such thing as quality time. You might like to define it as time where you’re there. But it’s about energy. It’s the energy you bring. Energy has quality. The highest quality energy, highest octane energy, is the energy associated with your positive emotions. There’s a right there’s a place for negative emotion, but it’s highly costly, has a lot of toxicity associated with it, and chronic levels actually deteriorate the health system. But positivity is the purest energy. So, I went through that whole thing. And so, you know, I’m. I’m, I can be a contrary thinker. And I really believe the world has not really caught up with it yet, but at some point, I will tell you we’ll realize we are nothing but reservoirs of potential energy and then we need to know how and when we can we can, you know, convert that to kinetic energy and do something important with our lives. And that is what, that’s what’s so important in understanding what your life’s mission is, your life-purpose, why you were born, and it really has nothing to do with you, it has to do everything with what you can do for others, and that was took a long time to get there.
The other thing to keep in mind when you were describing that and when I looked at it was energy management goes well beyond just the physical realm. It goes into the mental, the physical, psychological, religious, and what you were talking about the quality, high impact energy that you devote because you could have somebody, and you gave the good example of the ball boys or the people that were feeding the tennis balls. They were just not in the moment. They weren’t exerting a lot of energy; they weren’t exerting a lot of positive energy to those around you. And you feed off of that psychologically and mentally as well as physically. If you see somebody who isn’t showing that energy, you may mirror them and that’s where the children come into play and why it’s important for the parents to promote that positive outlook, positive self-talk and positive energy all the time. We’re finding right now, Dr. Loehr, that our microbiome is being impacted by our diet and our exercise and our mood.
And our thoughts and our emotions and our our stress levels, yep.
Yeah. So, it’s all of that. So, you know, one question that I had prepared for you, you talked about technology back when you were starting your career is totally different than where we’re at now. Technology has transformed sports in many ways and even outside of sports. So how have you adapted your psychological approaches to resonate with the next generation of athletes and others who are growing up in the digital age right now?
Yeah, it’s a great question. So, we’ll try to take uhm this understanding of that there’s physical energy, emotional energy, you know, there’s mental energy and spiritual energy, which is the energy of the human spirit, which is really basically your values, your character. It could be a religious orientation, or it could be just your own sense of value, what your purpose in life is, or whatever. I mean. So, it’s open. It was the first time it was ever gotten into the Harvard Business Review because of the way we defined it, Tony Schwartz and I defined it. But you know, so I was approached by a really outstanding coach who had. I’ve been approached by a lot of people to do a digital kind of mental toughness training course, particularly with COVID when you can’t have person to person sessions and all of them that had approached me, I said no, but this one really caught my eye and Brian Park is a brilliant uh, just you know, innovator and he recruited senior coders, engineers from Microsoft to design the whole what is now called SuperiorMind for athletes, for people in general and, ultimately, for youth. And I got involved with it and I really feel like there is some great value, whether or not it actually is able to generate a lot of money, we still don’t know. But it is, uh, I think he’s done a magnificent job. Anybody who’s interested in looking at having your own kind of sport psychologist without having to go in and do it, you can do it right in the privacy of your own home and you just kind of decide how you want to orchestrate the whole thing from your perspective, you can do that and so I’ve been involved with that for some time and. I think it’s probably the most sophisticated coding and technological really platform that I’ve seen and I’m very excited that this might really be a contributing factor to a lot of people’s lives.
You are the Co…
It’s called, it’s called Apeak, Apeak?
Yeah. So, I was just going to say we haven’t mentioned it yet, but you are the co-founder of Apeak Tennis and that is an app that you were talking about. So, I’ll share that on the screen now. You know one thing that struck me is this isn’t just for tennis. You could apply this to almost anything that you’re doing as well, because it’s focused on your mental training, goal setting, tactical awareness as you see, and so tell us how one might be able to apply this to not only in tennis, but outside of tennis as well.
Well, the evolution of the app it is now, it’s available and it’s actually for just about any area of life with the integration of sport and performance psychology into it. But there are a number of psychologists, sport psychologists in particular, who are now involved in the content development and writing. And it’s there are all kinds of people involved that are very, very skilled. And I think they’re doing a wonderful job. And uh, so, it’s uh, it is, it’s an app for life and it started out being strictly for tennis, but it has evolved and it’s very applicable to all sports. And it’s applicable particularly I think eventually for youth, which is my biggest passion. But it certainly covers all the areas of life from everything from depression. Sadness. You want to learn relaxation. You want to meditate. Whatever it is, you can access it through SuperiorMind and hope that it will help a lot of people.
So, reflecting back on your career thus far, we’ve gone through a lot during this hour, a little over an hour now, about an hour 15, hour 20 now, reflecting back on your career thus far, what stands out as significant milestones for you?
Well, I had to really understand how little I really knew. And every time there’s another test, you know, you get through Graduate School, get your you get your master, you get through undergraduate, and you go more tasks than your Graduate School, master’s, doctorate then you have to pass your orals and writtens. Then you have, I mean it never stops. Life is nothing but one continuous test of your adaptability, of your ability to keep learning and never stop learning and, I mean, that to me is probably the biggest lesson and I have to be very resilient. I have to face the truth. If it’s nonsense, I got to back up and recalibrate and. But I am, as I said I feel very grateful and very fortunate that I’ve been able to be in the lives of such extraordinary people because they have been my teachers and I’ve learned so much from sadly Ray Smith, the former commander of the Seals, has passed. But George Dom, the commander, former commander of the Blue Angels, I’ve learned so much from him. And so many people learned at our institute so much from him, and I think he learned a lot from us. But we’re always trading insights, real fundamental insights. And as long as you’re alive, you have to be humbled. That you don’t know that much and never stop trying to figure out how to put another piece to this Rubik’s Cube together so you can do a better job for others, and it really has very little to do with you. It’s your competency and your skills and making a difference in the lives of others and that’s what I’ve learned.
Thank you for sharing that. Final question before we get to some fun questions, we usually have a few fun questions at the end here. One final question is, do you have any other professional or personal goals that you hope to achieve in your career?
Well, I’m part of this Youth Performance Institute. I would like to see all that we learned applied to youth. I feel like that is the most fertile ground. And parents, coaches, and teachers, that was what was really the target audience for Wise Decisions. And uh, but that’s kind of the prelude for working with kids and helping them understand how to become better decision makers, how to make better choices, and how to get their YODA really skilled and competent for with some, with the decision-making that they’re going to be making throughout their lifetime. And so that’s. That’s my greatest passion now and I have three sons and I have, uh, seven grandchildren and you know, those are my greatest gifts and I’m just trying to do everything I can to help them be successful. And all the things that I’ve learned, I’m trying to communicate it in ways that get through their Mission Control, so they don’t block me out because I’m. You know I’m. I’m Grandpa and Dad and so I never stop them trying to find ways to influence people positively and but probably the greatest feeling I have is the feeling of gratitude in so many areas of my life.
Well, thank you for sharing all of that and and thank you for sharing your journey. Like I said, I usually have a few fun questions at the end here. The first one I usually ask is tell us something unique about yourself.
Let’s see. I adore. I don’t know how unique it is, but I adore innovating new things. I love. I have a very curious mind. I always want to know how does that work? I really love learning. Whether it’s, uh, tennis, golf, I don’t care what it is, I’m always pushing myself to see if I can learn something. It’s important through this. And so, I’m, I’m a forever learner. I’ll learn up till my last breath. And that’s what gives me the most pleasure is creating something. What I think nothing’s new under the sun, but for me it’s new.
Well, speaking of new, one of my other questions is what is something new that you have learned recently? It can be inside or outside of your field.
Well, probably the most important thing is the importance of the voice no one hears but you, and that is the importance of training this inner voice to be the greatest coach you will ever have. That is your YODA. I had no clue that that was going to explode into the powerhouse that it has in our work. We were very lucky to get a lot of ways into that space and to me that’s the most important work that I’ve done in a long, long time.
OK, what is your favorite term, principle, or theory, and why?
I guess this notion of purpose. We are a purpose driven species. And a self-transcending purpose is how we were designed. We are social creatures; we exist to help everyone else be successful. When we get that right, our lives light up. And we can become fully engaged and fully satisfied and we’re very likely to become the best we can be.
OK. Do you have any other advice for those interested in the field of performance or sport psychology?
I would say it’s going to, it’s going to evolve. It’s going to, you know, whatever you learn in school by the time you get out and get into the real world, it’s going to change dramatically. You’re going to have to be constantly innovating and nothing is going to set you up. It’s not like going in and being an attorney or getting set up and have a job as a, as an MD. I mean, our world, you’re going to have to figure out a lot of things and technology is going to change how we operate and so be very adaptive. Be very passionate to help others and be open to new learning because you’re going to have to learn a lot of new things.
Very good advice. If you had the time and money to complete one project, or go on one trip, what would you do?
If I had the time and money to go on one project. I would go. I would go into the world of kids somehow. I would go into helping, helping me and others understand how to get that inner voice trained for kids in a better way and I would like to immerse myself in the, in the world of kids and it’s very different than our world. And we want to develop mentors, kids mentoring kids, parents mentoring parents. Kids listen to kids; they don’t listen to adults. So, we need to have kids who figured it out, coaching other kids and their helping build really strong and brilliant YODAs and so for me it’s all about unlocking this potential in young people as early as possible.
OK. And I might add, if you have the kids mentoring other kids, the kid who is doing the mentoring, it becomes even more real to them and cements that idea in their in their mind as well.
Is there anything else that you would like to discuss or bring up on this podcast?
I think we covered it all.
We did, we did. We covered a lot.
Thank you. You are very intelligent and well researched questions. You’ve done your homework and I hope your listeners are able to garner some significant insights that will help them on their way, but I think you’ve done your job brilliantly.
I appreciate those words. Very kind words from you. I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to be with us. Jim, thanks again for being on our podcast.
It was my honor and my privilege. Thank you.