Dr. Jim Loehr on Mental Toughness, Energy Management, the Power of Journaling, and Olympic Gold Medals (#490)

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The power broker in your life is the voice that no one hears. How well you revisit the tone and content of your private voice is what determines the quality of your life. It is the master storyteller, and the stories we tell ourselves are our reality.

— Dr. Jim Loehr

Dr. Jim Loehr is a world-renowned performance psychologist and author of 17 books, including his most recent, Leading with Character, which also comes with The Personal Credo Journal: A Companion to Leading with Character.

He also co-authored the national bestseller The Power of Full Engagement.

From his more than 30 years of experience and applied research, Dr. Loehr believes the single most important factor in successful achievement, personal fulfillment, and life satisfaction is the strength of one’s character. He strongly contends that character strength can be built in the same way that muscle strength is built—through energy investment.

Dr. Loehr has worked with hundreds of world-class performers from the arenas of sport, business, medicine, and law enforcement, including Fortune 100 executives, FBI hostage rescue teams, and military special forces.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.

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The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#490: Dr. Jim Loehr on Mental Toughness, Energy Management, the Power of Journaling, and Olympic Gold Medals

This episode is brought to you by Helix SleepHelix was selected as the best overall mattress of 2022 by GQ magazine, Wired, and Apartment Therapy. With Helix, there’s a specific mattress to meet each and every body’s unique comfort needs. Just take their quiz—only two minutes to complete—that matches your body type and sleep preferences to the perfect mattress for you. They have a 10-year warranty, and you get to try it out for a hundred nights, risk-free. They’ll even pick it up from you if you don’t love it. And now, Helix is offering 20% off all mattress orders plus two free pillows at HelixSleep.com/Tim.

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear an episode with an athlete at the top of her game? Have a listen to my conversation with tennis powerhouse Maria Sharapova in which we discuss discipline, rejection, effective self-talk, exercises for injury prevention, the problem with the phrase “work-life balance,” and much more.

#261: Mental Performance, Work-Life Balance, and the Rise to the Top – Maria Sharapova


  • Connect with Jim Loehr:

Website | LinkedIn


  • Jim has worked with hundreds of world-class performers. Who are a few the listener might recognize? [05:42]
  • How Jim’s work influenced me as a high school wrestler, and the context of why I wrote “I LOVE THE 1,000” in my journal during this time — the story of Olympic speed skating champion Dan Jansen. [07:54]
  • Jim’s notes on the real power broker governing our lives: the internal, private voice only we can hear, and what we have to gain by understanding our relationship with that voice. [24:42]
  • How can we better develop an awareness of what our private voice is trying to articulate and reinforce in us so it serves rather than hinders our efforts? [30:17]
  • How might a script that channels encouragement from this private voice be implemented? [36:42]
  • What inspired Jim to write Leading With Character, and what is the intention of the companion journal that accompanies it? [40:42]
  • In six to eight words, describe who you are when you’re most proud of yourself. [47:15]
  • In six to eight words, how would you like your life to be summarized on your tombstone? [51:08]
  • Having worked with countless athletes who could be considered number one in their craft, what consistent life patterns does Jim see among those who have staying power contrasted with those who seek their way to the top via shortcuts? [56:38]
  • Why does Jim believe that practicing kindness is more than just the right thing to do, but a crucial investment in one’s own chance at success? [1:06:34]
  • Documentaries and movies that Jim finds moving. [1:18:02]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:23:10]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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18 Replies to “Dr. Jim Loehr on Mental Toughness, Energy Management, the Power of Journaling, and Olympic Gold Medals (#490)”

  1. Thanks for the fine conversation with Jim Loehr.

    I think in another conversation you two can rewind to the part about Jim noticing his Mom had a really successful life, and she didn’t need to be #1. This could have been a pivot into the love economy that capitalism dismisses, preys upon, expects. AKA women’s work.

    Jim is aware and I think Tim is starting to see gaps in another narrative of the success at all costs leadership being #1 true grit lunacy generates: a society that breaks human relationships into transactions, measures wealth in terms of dollars, seeks status and the quest for more…most of us coaching see the scars from this thought stream routinely across the hearts of people we’re working with on growing awareness, transformation.

    That’s because the story is exhausting. Being a winner in this era of cascading extinctions is exhausting. Capitalism has turned human beings into objects, and all of Mother Earth into resources. We have lost touch with what’s sacred.

    So bring your friend Jim Loehr back and talk about something radical: the difficulty in changing society so that Mom’s work is paid for and valued as much as her son’s work is coaching awareness and helping people see their true nature.

    Create a podcast on grief work making amends to Mother Earth for the carnage this narrow definition of success denies.

    Talk with trees and birds, sing to bees. Measure your success in terms of kindness and generosity. As Jim says begin with yourself and name what you are proud of…but also name the 7 or 8 words you are not proud of so you can weep, stop denying death.

    What would that podcast look like?

    Who knows… but here is a surprising awareness about all human beings when you take away the class warfare and caste status climbing.

    We want meaningful work
    We want restorative leisure
    We want friends and family we love
    And we want this for other people, too.

    Epicurus is key for me.

    Calm mindbody I find meditation and exercise helps
    Inquiry toward suffering thoughts (Loehr’s journal prompts)
    friendship is our super power (not big romantic passions. Steady)

    Epicurus created collectives and shared expenses in a home with friends so they could share expenses and not have their respective necks under an employer’s boot.

    They took time to get to know each other and made time to work. on their art, their craft, and help others.

    Sound refreshing?

    Suggestions for next shows:

    Bring Shaman Jim back on to talk about community he lives with in South America and what he sees contrasted to here in the states between people and plants and animals.

    Bring Jim Loehr back on and talk about the world his Mother’s values would create.

    And bring on a fearless leader like angel Kyoda williams to talk about liberating your mind from fear, dear, women’s work and justice. [Moderator: link removed.]

    1. Interesting and thoughtful reply Tim…enjoyed reading and re-reading your reply. My day perhaps is better because of it.

      1. Just seeing this today. Thank you. You know what I find interesting is some part of the win in Georgia for two US D Senators came from canvassing people who might have voted for Trump and talking with them about the care economy– getting adequate health care, caring for elderly, pre school, and linking these needs to the two people who won last night.

        Dems will need to follow through and do something about people who feel faith has been broken, that politics is a game for the rich to work us over.

        But somewhere in this last year, the ground has shifted and we begin to see the outlines of what used to be “women’s work” being valued as much as the profit motive that has people in such a trance state.

    2. I too noticed the admiration Mr. Loehr had for his mother but stated that she hadn’t achieved (sorry can’t quite remember the exact verbiage). This reminded me that you can’t be sure if someone is a success unless you have their definition of success. For example, if Richard Branson wanted to live a quiet life in an English cottage, by his definition he would have failed. I may have heard this very example on your show, Tim.

  2. First time ever, hit repeat and listened to the whole thing again. Great show, great guest, and the thread that pulled together all the pieces for me. Thanks Tim

    On a side note, wandered into the sponsorship page by accident. I felt a sense of pride when I saw your fees and thought to myself, that’s my boy. Keep it up dude.

  3. Totally awesome conversation, I really enjoyed the entire episode, the main point I have taken from this is controlling my inner voice, I am now using the “coaching voice” to be nicer to myself, it has helped in a few situations in just 4 days of home life, I feel it is going to be invaluable when I return t work next week. Such a simple idea, I just love it.

  4. I felt so moved by this podcast early this morning on this first day of 2021 that I replayed it for my 3 kids while we traveled to ski today. One is a college athlete, one is a 17 year old bright creative sensitive soul recovering from an attempt at suicide, and one knucklehead 13 year old boy who doesn’t think anything his mom suggests, could be worth his while. What a great way to spawn discussion with them about the bigger things in life that sometimes they just want to avoid discussing with me! Thank you-

  5. The Stories we tell ourselves make our Reality.
    Good stuff! Thank you much, Dr. Loehr and Tim!

    Hey Tim!
    Would you like to know a very specific, simple and effective technique that Russian military psychologists use to reduce ANXIETY and FEAR?

  6. Hey TIm, great post! Big fan here. Would you be interested in repurposing your youtube videos/podcast episodes for Instagram and Facebook? Would love to do it for you.

  7. I enjoyed this interview, and found it insightful, yet it shocked me that a man as knowledgeable as Dr. Jim Loehr would think of his own mother as a low achiever. Raising children is an enormous achievement, and he’s the product of a lot of hard work on her part.

    Another commenter posted an idea for another episode in which Dr. Loehr talks about the world he thinks his mother’s values would create. I would like to hear more about that too, as well as, his definition of achievement and success and reflection of what a feminist lens could do with his work… in fact, I’d love to listen to the two of you speak with Brene Brown (I found your podcast from your recent guest spot on Dare to Lead).

    As he stated in this show, we strive to be moral people and to have good relationships with each other, and so by that logic, his mother successfully achieved being a kind and good mother and achieved the work and energy of love in the world.

    1. I would love to see Brene and Jim on, too. It would be refreshing to talk about the caring economy and having a Mom on to talk about it with the guys.

  8. Tim,

    Long time lurker – first time poster.

    I truly enjoyed this episode. I had been listening to it on my walk to and from the farmers market and upon my arrival back home stared at the kitchen wall whilst trying to digest everything – as always, you have delivered several insights through an eclectic array of stories. Thank you, it is much appreciated.

    I have been listening to your podcast for an incredibly long time, and without a doubt the insights I have gathered through your thoughtful interviews have helped me become (through many struggles) the human I am today. Not only that, but I have learned an incredible amount from the way you interview folks, a skill I am honing in on in my own job. For this, I cannot thank you enough. Today however, I write to address an omnipresent itch that I cannot scratch myself.

    In Jim’s closing statements, he says “the impact you’ve had is stunning […] and you’re interested in getting to the nitty gritty of issues”. This is not a point that I would even consider arguing against, as it is something I whole-heartedly agree with; from depression, anxiety, and trauma (and the treatment of such ailments with psychedelics), to the reality of life sex workers; from the benefits of fasting, mushrooms, sleep, and exercise, to overcoming self doubt and being the best person you can be, you have ticked an incredibly diverse amount of boxes… The omnipresent itch I cannot scratch though is that of the absence of a particular issue that in my mind is the most important issue we as a collective society are facing today.

    The evidence is mounting that we are in over our heads, that we are in deep trouble, and that if we don’t start acting immediately, our children and their children will not be able to even attempt to reach self-actualization as they will be stuck fighting for their basic needs, hierarchically speaking. The issue I speak of is climate change and the inherent ecological collapse associated within. I will give you credit, this itch was tickled by your interview with Dr. Jane Goodall, yet this tickle made that itch more intense. I understand that maybe there are political reasons as to why this issue is not broached and could even be considered divisive in your audience which is obviously not ideal, and if this is the case I ask you to challenge the morality of such a stance.

    So much what you do pertains to the overcoming of pain – but what about the pain that our planet is in and the fear associated with our spine of life crumbling to ashes? This is not to say that I feel you should focus on the problems and the doom and gloom, quite the opposite in fact – everyone knows that focussing on the problems is counterproductive and will inevitably sow more inaction through overwhelm. People need to know that there are solutions, that there are people out there who are all-stars, high achievers, all working around the clock to tackle these immense issues. This can provide hope for those who have these fears and instill a sense of purpose that something can in fact be done, and that anyone can and to be frank, should have agency in what the outcome of our planet is.
    Tim, if you’ve read this far, I challenge you to consider expanding the breadth of your interviewees to include some of these all stars and people who have overcome so much and are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. In doing so, you will learn so much, I promise you that. Besides, I know how much you love mycology, nutrient dense food, and grass fed beef – all of which have important roles to play in the future.

    If you’re interested, contact me.

    Warmest of regards,


  9. I almost skipped this interview because the tone didn’t draw me in like other interviews. I was searching for something specific yet thankfully, due to my continued benefit of listening to your interviews and reading your books, I stuck with it. As a Life and Fitness Coach, this may have been one of the most rewarding conversations as of yet. TBD. I am an eleven year cancer patient and fully believed, up until this interview, that time was my greatest asset. Long story short, I’ve shifted that intention to energy. Dr. Loehr makes great points as to why it is energy and not time that is our greatest asset. Time is precious but it is the energy that we bring to the actions or time spent that is truly memorable. Thank you Tim for your efforts in seeking out and extracting information that can benefit the masses.

    Seeking that manufacturing company that you spoke so highly of when starting BrainQuicken?
    Much love

  10. This is an advanced topic at the edge of our human understanding which is what makes it so special and so edge-like because not many people understand it and harness it yet, so those that do use it currently have a massive advantage over those that don’t know about it or ignore it as woo-woo.

    What I’m talking about is the intersection of three different Tim Ferris podcasts with three different people but I believe that they are all talking about the same thing and touching on the very same topic which is not yet well understood by mainstream science but it does work. So why not use it, because it does work, even though we don’t know why or how it works yet, because our science hasn’t researched it enough yet.

    What I’m talking about is these 3 episodes:

    • Scott Adams interview where he talks about using affirmations and that he doesn’t know how it works, but every time he sets an affirmation and writes it down 16 times per day on a piece of paper, until he internalises it, eventually he will achieve it in his life.
    • Matthew McConaughey where he talks about the voice inside your head is the only person who you will never be able to get rid of in your life, so you had better find a way to get along with this guy inside your head and get on good terms with him and make good handshake deals with him so that he will serve you rather than harm you & bring you down.
    • Dr Jim Loehr who has been coaching athletes for decades and noticed that they all have a voice inside their heads and he has been able to run experiments to elicit what that voice in their head talks to them about when they have a setback at their sport such as missing a shot in tennis. Does the voice hate them, tell them that they are shit, or is that voice kind and loving to them and pushing them towards their goals, and towards greatness. Over time, athletes can change that voice to make it kind and helpful and those that do change it will end up performing much better and they won’t have all these mental blockages that stop them from success due to this negative internal voice.

    So this is about using affirmations and working on your internal voice to make it kind, helpful, loving, grateful and to make it guide you towards your dreams that you want. It is about changing your internal voice so that it doesn’t put you down. Nobody knows where this voice comes from or why it is there, but it is obviously very important to your life & your performance.

  11. Hi Tim, Dr. Loehr,

    Thanks so much for the information and stories you shared in the podcast. I feel deeply supported and inspired by them.

    I have a (hopefully fruitful) question for the both of you.

    How would you reconcile, on the one hand, the need to express and explore feelings, however dark or negative, with the need to transform them by re-scripting internal narratives? How do I find the right balance of expressing/accepting and re-transforming?

    I have been suffering from intense, debilitating, and chronic, anxiety all my life, from no obvious cause or traumatic event. Some therapists have mused that it might the result of hypersensitivity.

    The single greatest ally I have found in this struggle has been to keep a therapy log, in which I explain how I feel in as much depth and detail as possible whenever anxiety takes a hold of me. However, sometimes I worry that giving “bad” feelings so much attention gives them more energy than they should receive, and that perhaps they reinforce negative beliefs in my head.

    I also deeply believe in positive re-scripting, but sometimes, it seems as though my heart is so full of confusion, guilt and fear that the re-scripting is fruitless, because the dark feelings require tending to, first.

    Therefore here is my question to you: How do I find the right balance of expressing/accepting and re-transforming?

    Thank you for your time. The answer will be sincerely appreciated.

    All my best,
    Marie Laurence

  12. Tim, your conversation with Jim Loehr is one of my favorites. As an executive performance coach, I appreciate the practical value and game changing heuristics that he distilled into your dialogue.

    The highest leverage coaching tools for developing positive neuroplasticity are those that are deceptively simple yet powerful. He gave us some gold:

    * Written affirmations that are straightforward and challenging
    * Self coaching to reframe the voice in our head
    * 6 profound describing words exercise
    * 10 minute daily journaling ritual
    * Shining a light on our hidden scorecard

    Sincere thanks to Dr. Loehr for these valued contributions!

    Robert Adducci

  13. Really enjoyed this chat with Jim Loehr.

    I have one quick question… at the end of your conversation with him, he is talking about how much he loves 30 for 30 on ESPN (so do I), and he mentions that his favorite one is the Andre Agassi doc… However, I have searched and searched on ESPN+ (and the internet in general) for any 30 for 30 doc about Andre Agassi and I cannot seem to find anything. Could he have been referring to a different documentary separate from the 30 for 30 series? If so, what is the specific name of the movie? Your chat with him made me really want to watch this, so any information would be appreciated!

    Thanks so much!

  14. Dear Tim (and Jim),

    I am on day 62 of Jim’s Journal and enjoying the somewhat challenging (understatement) journey that process has been. I’ve journaled (doodled) for several years (something I have you to thank for) and this has added a new dimension and purpose to that part of my day.

    I wanted to write my ‘thank-you letter’ – as part of Jim’s Journal – to you. I have been on something of a wellness journey for five or six years, trying to harmonize diet, sleep, exercise, mindfulness, breath work and all of the other facets of a more meaningful and purposeful life – with a fair amount of success and more importantly, fun along the way. Your podcasts, books and the Five Bullet Friday have been invaluable starting points and resources throughout.

    While I have lost count of the vast array of different things to ‘thank-you’ for, two things do come to mind: One was your recommendation to look at ‘Headspace’, which eventually lead me to ‘Waking Up’ and the best ten minutes of the day, pretty much everyday. The second also gets daily use, but in a different way – in one of the first Five Bullet Friday’s I read, you recommended an egg boiler which, as I say, is now a part of daily life :-).

    Thank you Tim, for all you share.

    I would like to offer two small tokens in return. The first is a recommendation – have Peter Crone on your show. The second is an open invitation to come and scuba dive the Philippines (see domain name in my email in the unlikely event this actually reaches you).

    Thanks again,