The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Dr. Jim Loehr on Mental Toughness, Energy Management, the Power of Journaling, and Olympic Gold Medals (#490)

Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Dr. Jim Loehr, a world-renowned performance psychologist and the 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 is also the co-author of 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.

Transcripts may contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!

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

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

DUE TO SOME HEADACHES IN THE PAST, PLEASE NOTE LEGAL CONDITIONS:

Tim Ferriss owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as his right of publicity.

WHAT YOU’RE WELCOME TO DO: You are welcome to share the below transcript (up to 500 words but not more) in media articles (e.g., The New York Times, LA Times, The Guardian), on your personal website, in a non-commercial article or blog post (e.g., Medium), and/or on a personal social media account for non-commercial purposes, provided that you include attribution to “The Tim Ferriss Show” and link back to the tim.blog/podcast URL. For the sake of clarity, media outlets with advertising models are permitted to use excerpts from the transcript per the above.

WHAT IS NOT ALLOWED: No one is authorized to copy any portion of the podcast content or use Tim Ferriss’ name, image or likeness for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books, book summaries or synopses, or on a commercial website or social media site (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that offers or promotes your or another’s products or services. For the sake of clarity, media outlets are permitted to use photos of Tim Ferriss from the media room on tim.blog or (obviously) license photos of Tim Ferriss from Getty Images, etc.

Tim Ferriss: Hello, boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss. Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is always my job to deconstruct world-class performers from all different fields. It is a rare treat when I get to interview someone who also works with world-class experts across many domains, because they’re able to spot patterns and figure out frameworks that I love to then try to emulate and imitate and use in my own life.

My guest today is Dr. Jim Loehr, L O E H R. Jim is a world-renowned performance psychologist and author of 17 books, including his most recent, Leading with Character, which also comes with, and I think this is important, we’ll probably touch on this, the Personal Credo Journal, a companion to Leading with Character. We will no doubt get into journaling quite quickly. He also co-authored the national bestseller, The Power of Full Engagement.

Dr. Loehr has worked with hundreds of world-class performers from the arenas of sport, business, medicine, and law enforcement. This includes Fortune 100 executives, FBI hostage rescue teams, and military special forces. His website is Jim Loehr, Jim-L O E H R.com. You can find him on social media, places like LinkedIn and elsewhere, but I thought we could start simply by welcoming you to the show. Jim, welcome to the show.

Jim Loehr: Thank you, Tim. I’m excited to be with you. I’m hopeful that people can get some value out of our interaction. I love the time we can spend together.

Tim Ferriss: It’s really fun to be having this conversation on the podcast finally. You and I have had quite a bit of interaction prior to this. You were in Tribe of Mentors. You and I have spent time together exploring the game of tennis. And I thought that it might be helpful just for people to visualize your background and some of your clientele. Could you name just a few of the sports clients you have worked with?

Jim Loehr: I’ve learned as much from them as they might’ve learned from me because it’s been an evolutionary journey for me. But I’ve been fortunate to work with over a hundred of the best tennis players in the world, including Jim Courier and Novak Djokovich.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with lots of different women on the women’s tour, like Monica Seles and golfers, Mark O’Meara, all the way up to, you know, players I’m still working with, players on the tour. I’ve worked with just about every sport, Eric Lindros and Mike Richter in hockey, and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini in boxing with his title fight of Hector “Macho” Camacho, and lots of Olympic sports. Worked with Dan Jansen for two years prior to his Olympic sensational victory.

These have all been kind of my teachers. I’ve been very fortunate to be in the lives of so many. And most of these people become friends for the rest of my life because we were involved so deeply and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to be involved in their lives and to learn from them.

Tim Ferriss: Now the long arms, and you do have long arms, the long arms of Jim Loehr with his size 15 shoes. Am I remembering that correctly?

Jim Loehr: You have a good memory. That’s correct! I work with Riley Opelka. He’s a tennis player and he’s almost seven feet. And I don’t know how he’s seven feet, but he has size 15 feet. We have the same size feet and I’m not seven feet. So I have a problem here.

Tim Ferriss: But the long arms of Jim Loehr reach out and touch many people outside of these top performers you named, including for those people who don’t know, it’s a backstory with yours truly and I’m a Hobbit in stature in comparison. But when I was in high school, very briefly I’ll tell this story, and I’m certainly by no stretch a world-class athlete. But I was a wrestler in high school. I transferred schools and I will say from an attribute perspective, very mediocre. My attributes were moldable, but I would not say I had any particular special skill. And I somehow came across, this is effectively pre-internet, Mental Toughness Training for Sports.

Through that book, through having those close to me, my wrestling coach, my teammates, and teachers, and resident advisors produce an inventory for me of my strengths and weaknesses and so on, I was able to have the most successful sports season up to that point and the certainly ever since in any sport, not to say I know a lot of sports. But the impact of that book was really tremendous on me. I ended up getting to the prep nationals and I want to emphasize for everyone that the prep nationals are not the same as the nationals. The real wrestlers go to the non-prep nationals. The prep nationals have polo shirts and kids with a very different set of skill levels.

But nonetheless was able to, in my little pond, get to the prep nationals and end up, I guess, top 10 in the 152 weight class that year. And I attribute a lot of that, certainly to my coach. John Buxton was amazing and many of his athletes would credit him with a lot in their lives, but also Mental Toughness Training for Sports.

So what you do and what you teach, although it is refined with these world-class performers also applies to lowly Hobbits like myself in areas ranging from wrestling to the boardroom, or any other set of domains. And so I’m just giving you a quick set of brags because I know you’re loath to do it yourself. But I want to provide a data point for people who might be listening and wondering how all this would apply if they’re not someone like Monica Seles.

You mentioned a name that I think pairs well with my experience because journaling became a big part of my experience, and in my wrestling workouts, which I recorded, and my weight training workouts that season I wrote at the top: “Love the pain.” Now one could psychoanalyze the hell out of that because wrestling is often a sport of suffering. Learning to out-suffer everyone in all things is not necessarily the path to all things great and pleasant. Nonetheless, that was at the top of my journal, and it did work at the time. I’d like you to unpack for us, please, a journal heading, which is 35:99 and then in all caps, “I LOVE THE 1,000.” Who does this belong to, and tell us about it please?

Jim Loehr: Well, this is a really great friend after having gone through so much together. This is the story of Dan Jansen, I think one of the greatest stories in sports history because it’s such a tribute to his dedication and the power of the human spirit. Dan’s agent came and said, “Listen, would you please work with Dan Jansen? He will be an Olympic champion if we can get him to fully release his talent and skill. He’s had a really terrible situation happen to him and he’s struggling. He may go down as the greatest choker in sports history unless we can get him elevated to another plateau with the challenges that he faces. And would you mind taking Dan on?” So I said, “I know about Dan. I know about his story. I’d love to meet with him.”

The backstory is that Dan was one of the greatest speed skaters out of the blocks almost. He’s got an extraordinarily wonderful family and he just seemed like a natural for speed skating. In his second Olympics at Calgary, he was slated to win an Olympic gold medal in the 500-meter. One of the closest people in his life was his sister Jane. She had leukemia. He had no idea that she was in serious trouble and just hours before his race, he got a call saying that his sister Jane had died. I mean, you can’t imagine what a blow this was to him. It was somebody that was so close to him. He would have left in a heartbeat and just left the Olympics and gone to be with her if he thought that was going to happen. But he had no knowledge, no one really knew. And he really thought, “Well, what should I do here?”

He was going to not skate. Then his father said, “What do you think Jane would want you to do?” He thought about it, and he said, “I think she would want me to skate.” So without much preparation at all, this was literally hours before the race, he puts his skates on. He is in tears, and he tries to mobilize himself to just win this race and to get through it somehow. But he’s completely off-center emotionally, and just a few feet into the start Dan Jansen falls. And Dan Jansen rarely falls. He just doesn’t. So he felt a great sense of failure. Not only did he fail in the race, he failed her because he really wanted to do something special for her.

Four days later was the 1,000, which he was supposed to not have any real hope for really succeeding. He thought that about not doing it, but his father and his family said, “Please do this. Do this.” So he specifically dedicated this race to Jane. He put his skates on, mobilized himself over four days. He was leading the entire race, and he had a pretty good margin of success, which would have been unbelievable, and he fell again to the ice and came in last. And thus began the real story of Dan Jansen.

It was about two years before Albertville which he would compete again. And the press was merciless. They kept asking him, “Will you fall again? Have you gotten this death of your sister out of your mind? What’s going to happen?” So he went to Albertville, and again he did not have a good race. Then it was after Albertville, that was four years after Calgary, two years later he would be in Lillehammer. And he didn’t fall, but he slipped in Albertville and he came in 26th in the race on the 1,000-meter. He just was not able to compete at all.

Then we started working together and I had him do lots of things. But as you said, one of the things was that I’m a stickler for training logs. I believe writing and really keeping track of all the critical variables from all the physical issues that are going on, diet, nutrition, exercise, recovery, stress, and then all the emotional issues that are going on, and all the recovery and stress cycles in that. And mentally, and even spiritually, how he’s doing, how he is feeling about his life and about this sport of speed skating and where it fits in.

I have every single log that he made. We monitored 21 variables for two consecutive years. One of the things I had had him put. I asked Dan, “What would you like to finish your career with? What would really be something that would be deeply satisfying?” And he said, “Well, I’d love to just have some kind of an Olympic success. I mean, I’ve had none.” He said, “This is my last Olympic event. I will not skate again. I’d like to have an Olympic victory of some kind. And I would like to if possible break the 36-second barrier,” which was thought at that time to be the barrier. It’s like the four-minute mile for Roger Bannister. It’s something that human beings will never be able to break.

I said, “Okay, I want you in your training logs for the remainder of your time, I want you to write 35:99. And I want you to start believing that that will be possible for Dan Jansen before the end of your career.” And I said, “Now I’m going to ask you to do something else, because I know you’re going to resist this one. I want you to write on the top of your training log ‘I love the 1,000,'” because Dan Jansen did not love the 1,000. He actually felt he was a fast muscle twitch kind of a guy. He was a sprinter. He hated the endurance event. He always got tired. He just did it for training purposes. And I said, “Dan, I’ve watched you skate over and over and over again. And I can tell you, you have such genius. You could win an Olympic gold medal, even in the 1,000. I want you to begin to change your mindset, the story you have around the 1,000, and I believe it can change your life.”

I also knew that the 500 is unforgiving. If you make the slightest mistake in the 500, you’re going to be out. You will not get an Olympic medal and probably end up somewhere deep in the pack. The 1,000 meter is more forgiving, and you can actually have a little hiccup here and there and still win the entire thing.” And Dan resisted. But he said, “I don’t love the 1,000.” “I know you don’t,” I said. But we’re going to recondition the way you think about it and the way you feel about it. And at one point, you’re going to come back and tell me that you actually love the 1,000. And that’s exactly what happened.

Before Lillehammer, he actually broke the 36-second barrier three times. One at, let’s see, what was it? 35:76 it was, which is absolutely mind-boggling to anyone who knew the sport at that time. And he came to me before Lillehammer. He said, “You know, I’m actually starting to like the 1,000. I’m not sure I like the 1,000 better than the 500.” And that just shows you how amazing it is when you start realizing just how much the influence we have over the categories of our thinking and how we feel emotionally. All we have to do is tap in. Make the inputs, and make them regularly, and the brain is so plastic, so flexible, so pliable, it will come around.

And so Lillehammer came and he had, not a fall, but he had a minor slip on the 500. And he did not win a medal. Of course, he was devastated. And I didn’t tell Dan, because I would normally not go to his events, that I flew to Lillehammer and was in the audience. I had to hide because I didn’t want him to see me because I thought it might put a little extra pressure on him. When he lost the 500 I wanted him to know I was there because we had four days to prepare for the final race of his life. I had to fight through security. They tried to prevent me from even getting close to him. And I yelled out to Dan, “Dan, it’s Jim.”

He looks over at me and, you know, he’s very sad. He looks at me, he says, “Oh, my God, let him through.” So I got in. We went down into the bowels of the arena there where he was on his exercise bike. I could tell a million stories about all that as well. But everyone felt badly for Dan because they knew he was the best speed skater. He’d broken all the records, but he didn’t get an Olympic medal.

We had four days, and the mindset that we created, I think, this extraordinary outcome was that Dan Jansen went into that race simply showing the whole world what a gift speedskating had been for him, and all the wonderful joys. He really wanted to show the joy that had been given to him through this sport, and kind of a gratitude for all the sacrifices people had made to give him the opportunity to do this special thing that he loves so much.

So he wasn’t going out just trying to rock a world record or anything else. He went into that race simply trying to show the joy on his face, how much love he had for the sport, and how grateful he was for the opportunity. And lo and behold, Dan Jansen, not only made it extraordinary in terms of a performance. He won an Olympic gold medal. He broke an Olympic record in the same event that two years earlier he had come in 26th in the world. And there were seven people in that race, including Kevin Scott, who had faster times than he had ever had. Kevin Scott was the world record holder at that time.

So I mean, you can imagine the celebration, the joy. I even get a little choked up when I talk about it because I was in tears before the 500. I was in tears completely throughout the whole race because Dan Jansen is one of the people that you get so connected, he’s such a good, solid human being from a great family. And he deserved to win. He deserved to finish that story the way it was finished. It’s a wonderful teaching moment for anyone who gets into that story. It had a profound effect on everyone who knew Dan. It had a profound effect on me, just in the sense that Dan had done everything that we had asked him to do. And he did it with great kind of engagement. He never held back. I felt he deserved it.

So that story is an indelible story. But I’ve had so many stories that are similar, but maybe not exactly the same, that have touched my life and have helped me learn and actually increase my understanding of this remarkable connection between mind and body.

Tim Ferriss: Thank you for telling that story. One of the conversations that I recall we had in Florida when I was doing my, in retrospect, pretty hyper-aggressive six hours a day from zero.

Jim Loehr: I remember your blisters very vividly.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Which I’ll take full credit for. I’m sort of infamous for enjoying, at least in the beginning, going from absolutely zero to something like six hours a day and expecting it not to have severe consequences. But I remember a conversation that we had at one point, and I ended up paraphrasing it and putting it into Tribe of Mentors. I just want to read it and then follow up on it. So here’s the paragraph, and I want you to please feel free to fact check and correct any of this. And I am paraphrasing. “The power broker in your life is the voice that no one hears. (In other words, the voice in your head.) 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.”

Could you speak to that, correct it, add to it in any way? I think this is such an important point. I then want to follow up with a question about how you help the people you work with to improve the tone and content of that private voice. But if you could speak to that in any way that makes sense I’d love to hear it.

Jim Loehr: Absolutely. You just, I believe, kind of uncovered what is one of the great nuggets and something that I did not understand, even from the world of psychological science, and sports psychology, and performance psychology, it was not clearly articulated enough where you could really understand it. But I began, I spent so many years listening to the voices, trying to get inside the heads of players. We had them wear microphones and they were to articulate everything that they said to themselves during a competitive event. And whether it be in golf or tennis or whatever. And as I began to realize what really mattered, in a really significant way was the tone and the content, as you said of the voice no one hears. I came to understand that the ultimate coach for all of us in life is that private voice. And that private voice can be brutal, can actually be a detriment to being the best you can be.

It could detriment to your happiness, to a sense of satisfaction in life. That voice, we don’t even know where for sure it comes from, but we know it begins to form it as early as five years of age. And it comes principally, from the authority figures in your life, the people who had the most influence in your life at that time. We take on their voices, however functional or dysfunctional, because we, in a sense, want to be like them. We want to grow up and be strong or whatever it is, independent like they were. And so we get all these voices in our head, and some of them are, if you had a rough father or if you had a mother who was particularly harsh or doting, or didn’t want you to be involved in anything that you might get hurt. All those voices, it’s not like they are not being somehow laid down in some way, particularly when the themes are consistent.

And what we learned was that the more an individual can understand what that voice is saying to them, what the tone of that voice is. They can begin to look at this and see, “Wait a minute, is this really helping me? Or am I carrying a lot of baggage here? And these are voices. These are not my voices. Even though it seems to be my voice, I’m carrying the voices of a lot of other people.” And if those voices are constructive, it’s fantastic. That’s the greatest thing a parent can do is to kind of help their sons and daughters develop magnificent voices of wisdom that are coaching them all the time with the right stuff. So kind of the rule of thumb that we use, let’s say you’re a competitor, the way you speak to yourself as the way you would speak to someone you deeply cared about during that competitive event, what would you say to them?

And would you ever want the voice that’s coming to you to be projected onto the jumbotron of some great big arena, because you’re proud of the messaging that that voice is giving you? It’s great advice. It may be stern. It may be encouraging. It may be challenging. It may be a lot of things, but you’re proud of it. It’s the best coaching advice you could get from anyone. And that’s why we want to be around great coaches, because we begin to take on their wisdom and that wisdom is imparted to our voice. So I’m always encouraging athletes to develop their voice. Develop that private voice and to make sure that whatever that voice is articulating to them, the advice, the languaging and the tone, is something that that’s how they would coach someone that they cared about, because it’s the best that you have to give. And that sometimes takes years to develop, but it’s awareness. And it is a very tough thing.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. What are some steps if people wanted to experiment with this? Do you have any suggestions for how someone might begin to develop this awareness? Because on one hand, I’m sure there are people who can with the intention to be more aware of self-talk, elicit some degree of change just through that awareness. And then there are, I would imagine many, many people, I think myself included, who have such ingrained habits of thought and have absorbed so many thought patterns and speech patterns from parents and other caretakers and so on that they might kick the shit out of themselves all day until the very end of the night. And they’re like, “Wow, I’ve been a real asshole to myself all day.” And they’re not able to sort of catch the thought, trap it in the amber and work with it in the moment. Do you have any advice for those people?

Jim Loehr: Well, first of all, it’s very normal that everyone has a private voice. Everyone has an inner voice that’s speaking to them. Some more than others. And sometimes that voice is extremely harsh, difficult, challenging. And you say things to yourself, you would never say to any other human being and you would be so embarrassed if it was made public. And then if I were to ask you, “Where does that come from?” You’d say, “Well…” I say, “Is there any of that in anyone in your life?” And they often say, “It’s a lot like my father. That’s the way my father used to talk to me. That’s the way my mother would talk to me.” And they don’t really recognize it’s toxicity until you bring it to their attention and they begin to kind of lay it out very openly.

And so the first step is awareness. Awareness of just start in the morning and every time something happens that isn’t exactly the way you want it to go and maybe it’s your fault. Listen to what kind of coaching advice or what kind of talk that you’re actually — are you scolding? Are you very derogatory? Are you positive in terms, “Hey, let’s get this going. Hey, we all make mistakes. Let’s try to get better. How can I get better in this?” And I ask people to start writing down in their journal periods of time that they can actually reflect on what that was, and it’s often very shocking. And you can begin to see, you’re actually fighting a couple battles. You’re fighting one with yourself, if you’re a competitor. Then you’re fighting the golf course, or you’re fighting your opponent on the other side. You have two battles you have to win.

And there’s somebody inside you that is always scot-free. That has a better judgment, never responsible for any of this, but just literally lays blame on everything that goes on in your life to your stupidity or ignorance, your dumb head. And so that is a form of energy expenditure, I call it, that really is not only wasted energy, but it is actually having an impact. The brain listens to everything you say. The brain hears everything you say. So if you say, “I hate my forehand. I will never have a great forehand in tennis.” There’s something that’s being listened to around that. And it’s very possible that that will become a huge barrier to you and take much longer for you to overcome some of the obstacles. As opposed to, “I’m going to have one of the greatest forehands, or I’m going to be one of the greatest putters in golf history.”

“I’m not that person yet, but believe me, whatever it takes, I’m going to spend the time and energy; I’m going to get there.” And so we start scripting that and I have people keep a journal of how they want to speak to themselves in situations that have given them trouble. They literally script it out. They write it out. So these are the situations that have given me trouble. If you double fault for the fifth time, three in a row. How do you want to speak to yourself? And you write that out and you write it and you read it and you write it and you read it. It becomes your “I love the 1,000.” It becomes 35:99. You began to set a whole new neural pathway for energy to flow, that actually is consistent with maybe the best coaching advice you could get.

And so you begin to get smarter and smarter about the language that actually serves you best. Some really feel very, very adequate when they’re not speaking a lot, when they’re very quiet inside. Others come forth and they have kind of this monologue that they have, and it’s always a very positive monologue. And when things go sour, they know exactly what gear to kick in. But this is what really was quite a shock to me, was that we learned that journaling was probably the best way, scripting how you want to speak to yourself in advance and reading it and going over it again and rewriting it, was the most direct way to get it reignited in your brain in the way you want. So journaling, writing is the most direct function to the executive function of the brain, to thought patterns.

And that’s what if I were to ask you, “What’s the one thing you would do if you wanted to remember something?” You’d say, “Probably, I’d write it down.” And we found in our work, and this is how I like to learn. I love huge datasets. I love just data trends. And what we found was that people are much better writing it down using cursive writing, because there’s something about moving the fingers of your hand that is better than moving the inputs that are going on from striking a keyboard. Answer to your question for me, the most direct way is first awareness, then decide how you want to speak to yourself, then hold yourself accountable and then start doing your writing and try to bring that forth. And it’s not just, and maybe more importantly in sport, but it is in all of life. And once you get that voice, right your happiness, your feeling of satisfaction, you’ve got a great coach in your head, and that will be with you. And that’ll be the only coaching voice you’ll have until your death. And it’s the only one that no one else can hear.

Tim Ferriss: If we zoom in on how to use the script. So let’s just say for the sake of argument, it’s a tennis player and they are going through practice sessions and they do something that often produces a harsh inner critic. So they fault in some way, or they make the same mistake twice in a row. Would they, at that point, simply have the script already memorized and rehearse saying it to themselves in those moments? Would they walk to the sideline and a notebook in which they’ve written this down and read it as a reminder, and then go back out on the court? How have you seen that implemented?

Jim Loehr: Well, it’s interesting that it’s just like a muscle. You don’t know how strong the muscle is until you exceed its limits, until it fails. And sometimes you have what you think is a pretty strong foundation now with your private voice. But in this situation, you felt you were cheated. You felt the person is showing you disrespect. It’s a situation where you’re playing maybe the worst you’ve played that you can remember. And as you see sometimes a professional player, that’s very unusual, they just go over and smash a rocket and they kind of check out. So there’s a situation that when it came, whatever capacity they had was exceeded, and they kind of went over the edge. And now they have to pull themselves back. First of all, they typically feel if it’s in the middle of a match, they typically feel maybe a little relief.

But on the other hand, they feel like they’ve kind of made a fool of themselves unless there’s somebody like Kyrgios, who kind of does it kind of all the time, that’s kind of his standard operating procedure. But then they it really calls on their resiliency to leave that behind. And then they need to go that night and write about what happened and what they would prefer next time they end up in that situation. And again, I keep taking people back to who they really want to be. How do they want to lead themselves? And what’s the image they want to create for others? What for them is the ultimate competitor? So often in tennis, you’ll have Federer, you’ll have Nadal. And you’ll say, “Have you ever seen Nadal do that? Have you ever seen Fed act like that?”

And they go, “No.” And I said, “If that’s your model, how do you think they’re speaking to themselves when something really — has that ever happened to them where they’ve really performed miserably and actually walked off a court, having really left what they consider to be their best performance is somewhere else. It just didn’t happen.” And they always say, “Yes.” Anybody that knows the game and the same with Nadal, but they’ve become remarkable inspirations to people. And if you could get inside their heads, if you start looking at how they’re acting with their physical bodies, you can pretty much guess how they’re coaching themselves. And I do the same thing with CEOs that have catastrophic news or people in business that have, during this pandemic, have had to furlough some of their most important people and what they feel. And I always take them back to the leaders that they most admire.

How would they handle this? How do you show strength and really a sense of perspective and belief in the future for everyone? And you’ve got to show that because a lot of people are watching. And so it’s perspective and it’s hard work, and you’re not going to have a muscle that holds up unless you work the heck out of it. And these muscles of character, muscles of performance, strength like resiliency and focus, they have to be strong because they’re going to be tested and you’re not always passing the test.

Tim Ferriss: Well, let’s talk about Leading With Character. You have this new book and my team very quickly noted that it came with a journal. We’ve been talking about journaling, so we can segue really any way that makes sense. Perhaps you could describe what the intention of the journal is with Leading With Character and then back into why this book and why you decided to put the energy into this book.

Jim Loehr: Okay. So in order to understand the journal and why would you even suggest this? And the journal is very challenging. It’s 10 minutes a day, but it’s going to take you, I just talked to somebody who’s been in their sixth day. It was a very high ranking person who’s been through a lot. He says, “I’ve never been pushed quite like this journal is pushing me.” And I start the whole thing with something that I began writing about in The Power of Full Engagement and other books, but this notion of managing your energy. And I just want to make a couple comments about that. I began to learn that our most important resource as human beings is not time. We were fed a bill of goods when the time management industry said that if you want to be successful, the most important thing you need to do is to carve out time, align it with your deepest values and just devote time to those highest priorities.

And for me, that didn’t work. Because I could watch athletes competing, playing, practicing, and it wasn’t amount of time that they spent, it was the energy they brought to the time they had aligned with what the objective was. And I said, the most precious resource we have is not time but energy. We are vessels of energy. And as long as we have energy, we can have an impact. And I began to realize that every time you invest energy in something, you spawn growth. If you give a lot of energy to sarcasm and cynicism, and scapegoating what’s going on, those ones grow in your life. You can have the largest impatience muscle on the planet. All you have to do, it’s like going into the gym, you have to invest a lot of energy in your bicep. You can have a world-class bicep, but you’ve got to invest energy in that bicep.

And so in that is what I call stress. It’s the vast amount of energy is stress and recovery is the recapturing of that energy. So the journal is a way to expand the energy in the service of something. And for me, the journal is in the service of building the most important character strengths, converting weaknesses into strengths and there are different types of character. One is performance character, which enables you to become an extraordinary high achiever. And that’s things like focus and determination and ambition and discipline and on and on. And then there’s this category of moral and ethical character. And they’re very distinct and one can have one without the other. And we get them all confused. One, you have courage, which is just the courage, maybe the courage to take a shot in the last moment of a game. That’s not moral courage, moral courage is the ability to step up and do something according to what your beliefs are, even though you know there could be a really big cost to you if you do it.

And so these strengths of moral and ethical character in our work and all the data that we collected began to show, and this was a complete surprise to me, showed the greatest impact over time on sustained great performance. And you can be an incredible performer and have virtually very few moral and ethical strengths, you just get there and everywhere in any way you can, you don’t really care about the impact. You can cheat your way, take shortcuts. You walk over dead bodies to get to the top of the mountain. And then there are those that have this amazing capacity to care about others. It’s really your treatment of others. And for me, and I didn’t have this in the early part of my career, even a hint of it towards the understanding, was that your treatment of others is really the gold standard that we always use — and will use — to determine our success as human beings on this planet.

And that journal ends up after 150 days, about 25 hours of hard work determining the priority, you have values, help you to prioritize what you think is important in your life. And to make sure that you’re operating and your energy is invested in ways that reflect that. Your life reflects it. And when you’re going to put together a document, I call it personal credo. And that credo is the most precise articulation, the most reflected and intensive search for what you believe will represent the source code for all of your moral and ethical decisions, your energy investments going forward in life. And something magical happens. We piloted this for 10 years with some of the most extraordinary people, and we kept refining it and working it. And I will tell you, it’s not for the faint of heart, but what it does is it helps you.

We don’t have a source code. Most of us have no idea where our moral and ethical machinery came from. But we’re making moral and ethical decisions sometimes eight to 10 times a day. And we don’t have any idea what we’re referencing. We don’t even know where it came from. Most say that it came from parents. Some say came from their religious teachings. And some say it just seems to show up from life, we don’t know exactly — your peer groups, your culture. So the 10 minutes a day in, the most reflective moments of peace and quiet that you can find in your day, so that you can begin to really get into the essence of what is important in your life? Who do you really want to be in the time you are here? Where do you want to invest your energy? How important is humility, is trustworthiness, is kindness, is compassion? Of deeply caring and loving others, and accepting others, respecting others, of being patient with others? 

Tim Ferriss: What I think would be really interesting to people listening is perhaps giving an example of an exercise that you could walk people through that would be reflective of something that you think has a high return on investment or any kind of sort of high leverage exercise or question that if people listening to this, could be anywhere, like you said, they’re locked in. So certainly, I mean, the book fills this in way in great detail, but for those people who want a taste of things, something they could do, maybe they’re out walking their dog for the next 30 minutes and they have the space. Is there something that people could try on and give it a shot?

Jim Loehr: Absolutely. I’ll give you a couple examples, Tim, that had a profound effect on me. And something I was not prepared for what I got. And we did this with thousands of people, so this is how this whole system evolved. So I asked people to just think about who they are when they’re most proud of themselves, when they are at what they would consider to be their very best. And particularly in a stressful circumstance, who they are physically, who they are emotionally, who they are mentally, who they are spiritually. Sometimes you show up and you’re so proud of how you showed up in that very challenging moment and you’re not even sure where it came from, but it happened.

It was not a fantasy, sometimes this actually happens. So I asked them to write down the words, and let’s say we write six words down, sometimes I say eight. I think I do in the book, I say eight, because that’s how our original exercise was. But you write down the six words that would best describe you at your absolute best when you’re most proud. And then when you do that and you reflect on that for a moment, there’ll be things that start to pop up. And so I would give people five minutes, six minutes to do it. And then I would — 

Tim Ferriss: And so just to clarify, so the six to eight words are really just a starting point, and then if things begin to flow, they continue to journal for that five-minute period.

Jim Loehr: Well, all I want, at this point, in this exercise, is just the six words or the eight words that you believe are representative of you when you’re most proud of yourself and often in a stressful circumstance, when you are the best you can be.

Tim Ferriss: Got it.

Jim Loehr: And that’s it, that’s as far as we go at this moment.

Tim Ferriss: Got it.

Jim Loehr: Okay? And then I collect those, or I ask people to read out loud what those words were. And we go around the hall, let’s say there’s 30 people in the group. And when we’re finished, everyone is in the state of shock because they believe that everyone copied from their paper, because everyone came up with the same bloody things almost, it was incredible. And noticeably absent from the list were the things that people often feel like they’re chasing. I feel like I’m at my best when I’m winning, when I’m making a lot of money, when I’m winning titles, when I am finishing a great paper that just got accepted by a peer-reviewed group in some journal, on and on and on. No one ever mentioned those things. They would mention things like when I’m 100 percent there, fully engaged with others, when I’m trustworthy, when I’m compassionate, when I’m kind. And there was no prompting, nothing. But they went almost immediately to this moral and ethical category for determining who they were at their best.

So then we did another exercise that I’d asked your listeners to do the same and it is equally as shocking, and it’s along the same lines. And so, I asked them to down six or eight of the words that they would like inscribed on their tombstone, that if these words actually reflected who they truly were when they were here, these are true. What would you like inscribed most importantly in the highest priority on your tombstone. And this is, you have passed now, but you would like to have these representing who you were when you were here. And so people, five, six, seven minutes, they write them down. And I asked people to read their list. And everyone absolutely freaks out because the list just pretty much the same across the whole room and no one coached anybody about anything.

And again, the words that kept showing up, “Loving father.” And no one said, “I was able to achieve — I made CEO of a Fortune 50 company,” or “I won the Olympic gold medal in my event three times,” none of that, on any level, was present. What they were actually referencing was their connection to other people that was somehow was standard, that was deeply ingrained in the cells of their body. That’s the gold standard of what kind of human being they were. And this is how they want to be remembered. A person of integrity, a person who was honest and loving and caring and humble and brought joy to other people’s lives. Was an optimist or whatever it was, but it had a very different flavor than what you would typically think.

And then we compared who you are at your best and how do you want to be remembered when you’re gone. And they were right there. It was like, something important was being represented. And that is that, and I really came to understand that there is this hidden scorecard in all of us, even though we’re chasing all these extrinsic measures of success. We’re going crazy and we think if I just went one more event, if I win one more gold star, if I win one more competitive victory, I’ll feel really good about myself. But that is not the gold standard of how you’re going to evaluate how your life was lived. And this hidden scorecard, I’ve found so many people who’ve been number one in the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with 17 number ones in the world and get them there.

And I can vividly remember the conversations I’ve had, when they were number one, they have the sense of I still feel like — I don’t feel comfortable in my skin, I need more, I don’t know what it is. This isn’t what I thought it would be, I’m not that happy, I don’t feel that fulfilled. I don’t know how I can be number one, maybe two or three or four times again. And what I began to realize that they were actually measuring themselves on the scorecard, ultimately, that was hidden. A hidden scorecard, and that was their treatment of others. And that there were not scoring high on, even though they climbed to the top, they didn’t have this connection to family, they weren’t loving and kind to maybe their siblings or even their competitors and how they dealt with all these other issues.

Every single day, you’re confronted by some kind of stress associated with a connection with other persons. And they weren’t scoring well on that. And so we began to realize that if we want to grow and have happiness, high performance, fulfillment, we’ve got to work both scorecards. It’s not one to the exclusion of others. And so that became a big part of the journaling was actually, how do we score — how do we build the muscles of moral and ethical character and make sure that I am living a life that is aligned with that, and my energy reflects that more than winning? And that gives you a sense of peace. And actually that enables you to go into competition and feel better about — Dan Jansen realized, and this was a critical point. We had many conversations around this. That even if he didn’t win an Olympic medal, and when he said, “I’m going to skate out of this sense of joy and gratefulness,” he was prepared to leave the sport of speed skating, never to have won an Olympic medal.

Because it was a gift and that could never be taken. He was revered by his competitors, he’s an extraordinarily good person, and he had a sense that I’m going to be okay. And this was a gift, no matter what happens. If I get that, that’s icing on the cake, but I like who I am and I like how I’ve dealt with these things. And so that for me was a critical lesson that I’ve tried to bring into this, Leading With Character book, that really helps to unearth the scorecard that I think we all hold.

Tim Ferriss: You mentioned 17 number ones; you’ve worked with hundreds more. I would be really curious to know what life patterns you see between two groups, if you had to split all of those people into two groups. One is the group that has this alignment and they’re scoring well on the hidden scorecard of how they treat others. And then the other group is still, at least for a period of time, represents massively successful competitors, just kind of by definition, if they’re in that group of 17 or even in the broader group of 100, but who do not score well on the hidden scorecard. Because I’m sure there are people listening who are thinking, “Well, wait a second, but I know about this person in baseball, this person in cycling, this person in fill in the blank sport, and those guys are notorious assholes, and yet they still get these massive endorsement contracts, they seem pretty happy, they’re making a ton of money, they’ve got all the creature comforts in the world. And I guess on some level there’s a waiting for the comeuppance, right, there’s a waiting for the fall because these — 

Jim Loehr: When is the shoe going to finally drop?

Tim Ferriss: Right, and so I’d love for you to speak to how you sort of incorporate people witnessing that in the wider world of sports or business.

Jim Loehr: What you say, Tim, is 100 percent right. I mean, there’s nothing to say that a person who has very few, in fact, let’s say you’re in cycling and you found that if you take performance-enhancing drugs, you can dominate the field, and you don’t have any remorse or any hesitation in doing so. And part of it is we have this incredible moral machinery, which is, “Hey, everybody’s doing it.” You have 101 reasons why it’s okay and we all are fighting this battle — we want to feel as good as we possibly can, we want to feel like a good person. But we also want to take as many shortcuts as we can and win. And so we’re always trying to get that line, how much can I do before I start?

So we start invoking all these very complex and very powerful mechanisms, motivated reasoning, we do all kinds of things that actually enable us to get away with things that, in our sanest moments, if I had an opportunity to sit down with you and actually think it through, if we bust through all these smoke and mirrors, you realize this is not the person you want to be, even though there’s this groupthink, there’s this, what I call the boomerang effect, and even though we have this thing called motivated reasoning, all your reasoning now is, I want to win. And these are the things that are helping me win and I can make money, I’m famous. How the hell is this not working as long as I don’t get caught.

So we’ve learned in psychology, we’ve known it for a very long time, that drive was the single best predictor of success. People who are driven, Angela Duckworth calls it grit, that takes a lot of different forms. Can be persistence, determination, but it means somehow this sport has captured your interest, your passion, and come hell or high water, you’re going to be good. And so what that drive does is it, you just roll over setbacks, roll over injuries. You are not to be denied. And so we find people who have, even though they don’t have a lot of skill and talent, but they have this blue-collar kind of ethos and they’re driven like maniacs and they become extraordinary performers just because they’re driven to. And then you have others who are these, what we call the natural ones, who don’t have to work that hard, but they’re willing to put up with it and they just don’t like failure, they don’t like to fail, so they work hard enough so they don’t fail.

But they don’t have to put in nearly as much work, but drive is the thing that separates them. So I’m lucky enough to have worked with generation after generation of great performers. And I’m now working with the kids of people who I worked with when they were in the prime of their career. And I can and see how their lives are playing out and what happened and what kind of human beings they are. And I didn’t have that perspective when I was in the moment with them when they were very young. But when I see now what’s happened to their lives, what kind of mothers and fathers they’ve become, how are they treating their kids when they’re out in sports now? Do they understand what sport is all about, and the gift that it is to them, or are they these enraged parents driving them, and every time their kids do badly, it’s like a mark on their performance.

And they literally take personally everything that goes on with their kids. So I have this perspective, and then we have all this research to support this understanding that there’s a difference between success and how you define success. If it’s strictly in terms of titles, money, all these intrinsic, extrinsic markers, if that’s how we’re going to define success, you can have a great career and have not that many moral and ethical virtues that define the journey. What you do is very different than how you do it. And so we have people who’ve climbed to the top and often they’re really not that happy.

And they maybe created a lot of dead bodies along the way. And maybe the fans don’t even like them because they can sense maybe their arrogance, the way in which they’re treating others, the way they treat the press, the way they treat coaches, they hire and fire coaches, and just whatever it is. And they attack anyone who gets in the way. And yet they’ve made a lot of money and they have achieved a lot of success. They may even someday get into the hall of fame, but probably not. Well, then there’s this thing we call sustained success. And sustained success means that, and that again, how do we define success? For me, success is the ability to perform at a very high level and to do so in a way, the how, that actually you, makes you feel like a complete human being that you’re proud of what you’ve done and how you’ve done it. And it’s enabled you to be a better mother, a better father, better caring person, a better member of your community.

I think of someone like Arnold Palmer. I think of the legacy that Federer and Nadal are leaving. This is not just a flash in the pan, there are a lot of people that get to a certain level of competency but they have gotten there strictly on the basis of the skills they have, that I call performance skills. They’re very skilled and focus. They have great drive, motivation. They have discipline. They have great resiliency. They’ve learned to just fight like dogs. They have a lot of tough-mindedness. But when it comes to the how they’ve done what they’ve done, there’s something missing and they know it and that’s that hidden scorecard. And so I try to help anyone I’m working with understand how to build both of those up.

And they don’t have to be — you can have — my mother was not a great performer, she never graduated from college. And by any matter of mean, she was not a high performer. But she’s an extraordinarily good person. Had a profound effect on, she was kind, giving, loving, trusting. I mean, she was a model of goodness and she never achieved that much, but she was an extraordinarily happy woman. And then I have people I know who are extraordinarily high achievers in the family, and they have virtually no connection to family members. The only thing they do is maybe provide financial support when people get in trouble, but there’s no connection. And so for me, I’m looking, my mother and my father, my father was a person of unbelievable integrity. He came from a town of 400, very poor family. And he worked a trap line too, to actually get food for his family. And it was a small little town called Defiance, Iowa. 400, I think about 287 people there now.

But somehow his parents gave him integrity and he carried that forward, went on and became an extraordinary baseball player, and he got hurt. And then he worked his way with, he had no money whatsoever, very poor, he worked his way through school and went through engineering school. And when I think about someone, the two greatest gifts I’ve had in my life, were not because my parents were high achievers, but my mom was no achiever except an extraordinary mother. My father became a very high achiever, but he did it in the right way. And he taught all of us, now that I am truly reflecting on those things, the value of integrity, honesty, and gratefulness and balance in one’s life between striving and actually just giving back to others. And striving for your own identity and giving back to others. So I feel very grateful about that, and it has coincided with my research and with all the work that I’ve been able to do over so many years.

Tim Ferriss: Thank you so much for that background. I didn’t actually know the family background, which adds a lot of texture to the sort of the cloth if that makes any sense, in terms of understanding the upbringing and the lens with which you look at a lot of these things also. Very, very helpful. I was thinking, as you were talking also, that how we judge high performers or evaluate them is a bit of a Rorschach test for ourselves also. And the reason this came to mind is I was simultaneously thinking of two things. One was The Last Dance with Michael Jordan, and how some of my friends have said in effect, this shows you exactly what I always suspected, which is you cannot be the best in any sport without being a driven asshole, on some level.

Now, in fairness to Michael Jordan, I did not come out of that thinking that he was an asshole, but it was interesting to me to see some of my driven friends, who in some areas are definitely take no prisoners, win at all costs, who view life through a somewhat mercenary lens. And I’m not saying they’re right or wrong, I’m just saying that’s the lens, looked at The Last Dance as evidence that, that was the truth, that you had to be an asshole. And yet you mentioned a name, Roger Federer. So I do not know Federer well by any stretch of the imagination, got to shake his hand once at a fundraiser that Andy Roddick put on in Austin and a number of people got up to speak about Federer. And it seems like, and again, who knows, but the coverage and discussion, and maybe even legend of Federer is entirely the opposite, it seems. It’s exactly the opposite. So we have this counterpoint, and I guess it just goes to show that there are multiple paths and that there’s so much unseen. We don’t know what the long-term taxes are that you pay necessarily in either of those individual lives for Michael Jordan or Roger Federer. And I think some, maybe those who are watching The Last Dance and saying, “See, I told you so,” is that they perceive that as being easier, more efficient, a better use of energy because you’re not handling the world with kid gloves and having to take into account everyone else’s emotions.

What do you think of that? I know I’m monologuing a little bit. I’m thinking out loud, but is it easier to go one way or the other, or is it just a better investment upfront to think about practicing kindness along the way? Because ultimately you will reap what you sow and have to live with yourself 20 years later. I mean, this is all kind of speculation on my part, but I’d love to hear if any of that brain vomit I just imposed on you triggers any thoughts in your mind.

Jim Loehr: You raise a really great issue, and you see contrasting styles. There are, as you said, there are many paths to winning. And Michael Jordan, as you know, Tiger Woods, they were driven from the earliest days. I often think about the kind of resilience that Michael Jordan had when he got cut from his high school basketball team because he didn’t have the right stuff. I’d love to know how the coach felt who cut him from the basketball team because he didn’t have it. And he became one of the, maybe the greatest of all time. But Michael was driven. If you had one thing, he didn’t show the talent early in his career, but he devoted every single cell in his body. He was Mr. Intensity and he didn’t care what barrier was in front of him. And once team members were solidified, he was going to make everyone better because he wanted to win.

He didn’t care about anything unless it helped the team win and for him to be perhaps the greatest ever. So he was an extraordinarily powerful influence on everyone around him in terms of stepping up, giving more energy, giving everything you had. He gave everything he had in practice far more than anyone had ever seen. His teammates were going, what the heck, who does this in practice? And Michael would respond. You win games in practice. If you do it right in practice, the intensity of a game is easy. And then when he gets sick and he’s in the playoffs and he has the flu and he’s not even sure he can get up off the bench, he mobilizes himself. And so the question I have is, what in the heck is driving you?

And I think, I mean, I’ve never had an opportunity to sit down with Michael. I think I’ve read everything about him, but never had the opportunity to have a conversation with him. I think he would say that he was driven from the earliest years to be a winner and he would accept nothing short of that. And he knew that eventually he began to realize that it was his energy and his intensity and his dedication to that mission that actually broke him free and enabled him to do things that no one else could do. And he ignited his talent, energy ignites talent, and we never know how much we have until we actually put ourselves on the line. What would have happened if, during that same period, he had spent some of his energy developing, working on his hidden scorecard in the way he went to the top. Would it have taken away some of the intensity that he would have, that it would accept nothing but total success? Would it have deflated some of that and not enable him to achieve the heights that he would have achieved?

You know, that’s a question I can’t answer. I can only tell you that fulfillment and satisfaction in one’s life comes, I’ve seen it over and over and over again, and I didn’t have this understanding. and this is something I wish I’d known these things when I was much younger in my career, even as a father of three sons, I wish I knew it earlier. But I just know that someone like Roger is another example. I mean, as a junior, no one knew that he was going to grow up to be the most dominant and most extraordinary, one of the most extraordinary players in the history of tennis. And he also was driven, he had a temper, he had to control himself.

But there is a balance and you see it, he’s a family man. He brings his kids on the road. He has twins and you can see the devotion he has to his wife. And he was changing diapers out on the tour. And he’s excited by it. He’s figured it out there is a way to help him and I believe it’s helped him to become a better player even in the later stages of his career. Is he a perfect human being? I’m sure he is not and neither is Michael Jordan. But what I’m looking for is that sense of balance in a person’s life, that they haven’t given it all up and then at some point in their life realized, what the hell was that all about? So I’m the greatest basketball player in the history of the game so far, but I’m empty. I don’t feel like I really, I don’t feel like that was what I was put on planet Earth to do. What the hell did I do here?

And so I think there is an establishment of what your noble purpose is for being here. Mark Twain once said, the two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why. We found that purpose is the single most important element that releases energy. Once you understand that purpose and you develop a sense of what that is, you could say, I’m going to become the most extraordinary basketball player in the history of the game, in the hope that I can inspire others to the beauty of this game and to how one can do this and give back extraordinarily to great causes. When you look at the impact that Roger and his wife have had on Africa, on educating young boys and girls in Africa and all the effort he’s done, the schools. It’s absolutely almost unimaginable. And he has committed that even when he didn’t have these amazing financial resources that he has now, and he will do it until his last breath. And he has friends that have been with him forever. And he has perspective.

I remember a coach that was working with him, told me this story. He said he’d lost in a five-setter and a grand slam and everyone expected him to win. And it was down to the wire. And I won’t say who he was playing against, but he was obviously, it was great, he had this huge party planned afterwards to celebrate this grand slam victory. And everyone was just thinking, well, how was Roger going to take this? And he gave this amazing speech after the loss, so gracious, great perspective. And then his coach came up and said, I suppose we’ll be canceling the party after this because of what happened.

And Roger goes, “What?” He says, “Absolutely not. I want to celebrate. I want to be with my friends. I got to the final; I didn’t win, but what an extraordinary opportunity I had here to really, he pushed me to my limits. I know things I need to learn. I’ll reflect on it, but this is no way, I want to go out and have a great time tonight.” Blew everyone away. And that was why the losses didn’t eat him alive because that was the only thing he was on planet Earth for and that was to win another grand slam title and be the greatest ever.

Tim Ferriss: What a great story. And I just want to say something that people who are tennis wonks and really know all the specs and feeds of the various players will not find this surprising. But certainly as someone who only recognized a handful of names in tennis, and really didn’t know much about tennis, but had heard stories of these seven-foot giants who just serve down upon their opponents, like Goliath shooting a missile launcher at a downward angle. And I expected in my mind, I suppose, Federer to be like some of the descriptions of William Wallace from Braveheart. “He’s eight and a half feet tall and he’s got blah, blah, blah, blah.” I just thought he was going to be this larger than life kind of freak of nature as a human specimen. And it looks like a normal dude. Like you would not pick him out of the crowd at all.

Jim Loehr: And he’s a normal person when you’re with him. I mean, he’s the most normal, he doesn’t have this big, if you’re the great, one of the greatest, if not the greatest ever, you would think he’d be a little arrogant. There’s not an arrogant bone in his body. He’s just a normal guy that says, “Yeah, I’ve been pretty fortunate. I really like what I’ve done. I have this love affair with tennis and I will play it until the end of my life, as long as I can. But I love my family. I love my life. I love being able to help people. And I’m really fortunate.” That’s how he talks, that’s how he thinks.

Tim Ferriss: A question for you. And this may seem like a silly or mundane question, but we were just talking about The Last Dance, which I just thought was spectacularly well done.

Jim Loehr: It was extraordinary.

Tim Ferriss: Seriously, so well done. I mean, the amount of work that goes in — 

Jim Loehr: You get goosebumps multiple times over and over, even though you know the story.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, it’s so good. It’s so, so good. And I came away all the more fascinated by multiple characters, including Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, who I knew next to nothing about aside from the crazy haircuts and everything. What other films, mini-series, books, anything about sports or specific figures or teams in sports, have you found to leave a lasting impression on you besides The Last Dance? I’ll offer one, which is Senna, about Ayrton Senna, which is a phenomenal, phenomenal documentary that had a really big impact on me, actually recommended to me by Joe Gebbia, who is a co-founder of Airbnb, has been on the podcast. Are there any other docs, movies, anything at all that come to mind?

Jim Loehr: I love ESPN’s 30 for 30. I adored the one on Andre Agassi. I love the story, the documentary on Ray Mancini’s life. This is food for my soul. I love the inside story because that’s kind of the world I live in. And a lot of the stories I can’t tell, but I have such deep appreciation when the honesty and authenticity of an athlete is out there. I love to be moved. I just love to be moved. And I don’t have one that really is. I mean, there’ve been so many stories on Dan Jansen, so many documentaries and there’s one that it shows him at the end in the final. And I used to play it a lot when I was just hanging around just because it got me up and I literally cry every single time I watch it.

I can’t watch it without going into tears because I was so happy for Dan and so joyous with him in what he had achieved and how he did it. And sometimes I’m a sucker for movies because I get moved. You know, if you were to ask me, what is my favorite movies in some genre, I would say, and probably your audience has no idea what I’m even talking about, but I love the Western genre and I love Lonesome Dove and Return to Lonesome Dove. I literally can watch that 10 times and it moves me every single time. I don’t know what it is about those two shows that move me so powerfully, but I guess I’m kind of, I love great acting and I love Robert Duvall. I think he’s one of the most brilliant actors that brings out such nuances in how people feel. And he became Gus McCrae. 

And Tommy Lee Jones, I remember Robert Duvall saying of all the things that he did in his lifetime, what was the one that he actually was most memorable to him, and he said, “I became Gus McCrae in Lonesome Dove. I became that character.” And it’s exactly what happened. It was unbelievable how he immersed himself in that person and he was indistinguishable from that person. And when I see a documentary on an athlete and I see them really revealing kind of their inner soul in what the demons they had to face like Andre, how he had to face so many issues. And he was able to transcend them and become absolutely an entirely different person, someone that we all so admire. And then he ascended to a height that was much greater. He’d become number one.

And he had all these demons driving him and no fulfillment. And then suddenly he reaches this epiphany about what the purpose of his life was as Mark Twain said, and he devoted his life to something that was really meaningful. And that was to help kids have something that he always wanted to have himself, security, and his education. And so he developed a charter school in all of his fame and all of his tennis legend was devoted to raising money and to making that happen. And in his Hall of Fame induction, he had a couple of the kids who were there and they described what had happened to them because of this school that Andre had funded.

Andre became a different person. He became an extraordinary human being in my judgment and Steffi Graf played a big role in that. But he got his purpose right and he aligned his life with his purpose and he helped so many people in the process and he became a much better competitor. He went to number one in the world again and dominated like he had never dominated before. And it wasn’t just a flash in the pan. Now it was something he could sustain because he was there for the right reason.

Tim Ferriss: I think that is a great place to start to wrap up. And man, Agassi’s story. What a story, just to second that. Holy cow. Yeah. I don’t cry much, but when I do, not to sound like the beer commercial, but it was frequently when reading Open, the autobiography of Andre Agassi.

Jim Loehr: Yeah. What a wonderful book, huh. Absolutely fantastic.

Tim Ferriss: Holy smokes.

Jim Loehr: One of the great reads, I would recommend everyone pick up because the authenticity in that book. And I knew Andre at the Academy. I’ve known him all the years and what a transformation occurred in him. And it was a transformation that should inspire all of us and it is around the notion of purpose.

Tim Ferriss: It really is. That’s such a fantastic example. I’m really happy you brought that up. And Jim, this has been so much fun. I’m glad we were finally able to hop on the podcast to have a conversation like this for more people to listen to than just the two of us. The new book is Leading With Character. You’ve written many, many books. You’ve spent decades doing experiments, looking at the applied research, working with top performers. I’ve spent time with you. You walk the talk. I really appreciate who you are and what you do in the world. People can find you on the website, jim-loehr, L-O-E-H-R.com. We’ll link to the book. We’ll link to everything in the show notes for people. tim.blog/podcast. Is there anything else that you would like to say, any request of the audience, a suggestion to the audience, anything at all that you would like to share in some closing comments or questions before?

Jim Loehr: Well, first of all, I’d just like to thank you for the opportunity to interact with you again. I have great respect for you and what you’ve done and the impact that you’ve had. It’s stunning. I mean, it’s absolutely, you are a top performer and you’re really interested in getting to the nitty-gritty of issues. It’s not just a normal conversation. There’s an authenticity there that I think that’s what draws people to you, which I think is really a terrific thing. And I feel privileged to be involved in that effort that you’re putting forth.

And the other thing I would say to our listeners, I would really appreciate, as you go through the material and if you can stay with the journaling, I’d love to have feedback. I love data. I’d love for you to tell me the impact that this has had, how reading the book, what kind of impact, but more importantly, what was the impact of the journaling, and did you get the notion that now you have, it doesn’t make moral and ethical life any simpler, but you have much more confidence that the decision that you’ve made is going to be more aligned with who you really want to be through thick and thin. And I would just love to have that request that I’d love to have any feedback that you have around this, because I spent the last decade of my life putting that together, researching it. And I just, I’d love to have feedback. So if that’s something they can do, I’d love it.

Tim Ferriss: What is the best way for them to provide feedback without blowing your privacy on this rather public forum? Is it leaving blog comments on the blog posts that will be associated with this podcast episode? Is it leaving comments for you on LinkedIn? Is there a particular channel?

Jim Loehr: They can do it on LinkedIn. They can go ahead on my website and indicate that they have an interest in, or just do that. They can actually put comments on the LinkedIn and if they have an interest, we’ll definitely get connected. So there are a variety of ways to do it, and I want to make it as easy as possible.

Tim Ferriss: Okay. Well, I will not be giving any Google Maps, satellite views of your house to this audience, but those who are motivated, those who are impacted and I’m sure there will be more than a few, can find you at jim-loehr.com and also on LinkedIn very easily. And I’ll include all of those in the show notes. Also, thank you, Jim, for the very kind words, I really appreciate you saying what you did and I hope we get to spend some time in person again.

Jim Loehr: I’d love to. Yeah. And I wish you continued success and just keep far north or south of that COVID.

Tim Ferriss: I’ll try to keep ahead of it. It’s these short legs, I got to really maintain a high RPM. So I’m jealous of your size fifteens, even though you’re not seven feet tall, you are taller than I am.

Jim Loehr: Big feet are not exactly a gift. They’re kind of a curse.

Tim Ferriss: So we’ll cover that in round two. So, to be continued. Jim, thank you again for the time.

Jim Loehr: Thank you very much. It’s been a real pleasure, a real pleasure.

Tim Ferriss: Absolutely, on this side as well. And to everybody listening, until next time, do exactly what Jim gave as the answer for what he would put on a billboard that billions might see, metaphorically speaking. That is, practice kindness. That is one of the messages I think of — 

Jim Loehr: Absolutely.

Tim Ferriss: — what we’ve been talking about. That is a through-line. And until next time, thank you for listening.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 600 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.

Leave a Reply

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)