“Trying to do something that no one’s ever done before, you really have to approach it in every single different way possible than ever has been done before. There is no blueprint for it.”
— Michael Phelps
“Just be you and feel comfortable in that.”
— Grant Hackett
Michael Phelps (@michaelphelps) is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time. He captured 28 medals, including a record-setting 23 gold medals, and set 39 world records over the course of his career. Michael utilized his performance bonus for winning eight gold medals in 2008 to establish the Michael Phelps Foundation, which promotes water safety, healthy living (physical and mental), and the pursuit of dreams. The foundation’s signature program—IM—is a learn-to-swim, healthy living, and goal-setting curriculum based on the principles and tools Michael utilized in his swimming career and is available through the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Special Olympics International. His advocacy for water safety and mental health has earned him the recognition of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (Champion of Youth), American Image Awards (Humanitarian Award), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (Special Recognition Award), the Ruderman Family Foundation (Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion), and PR Week (Health Influencer 50 and 2020 Communicator of the Year), among others.
Michael served as an executive producer and featured talent in the HBO documentary The Weight of Gold, which explores the mental health challenges Olympic athletes often face. In addition, he has published two autobiographies, No Limits: The Will to Succeed and Beneath the Surface, which were New York Times and USA Today bestsellers, and one children’s book, How to Train with a T-Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals.
Grant Hackett (@grant__hackett) represented and captained Australia in swimming at the Olympic Games. He collected a total of 58 medals over the course of his swimming career—with 26 gold at Olympic, Commonwealth, and World Championships levels—along with 16 world records. He remained unbeaten for 11 years in his pet event, the 1500m freestyle. Grant also received prestigious honors such as the Order of Australia, Centenary Medal, and Australian Sports Medal. Grant is a member of the Sports Australia Hall of Fame and International Swimming Hall of Fame.
His qualifications include an executive master of business administration with first-class honors, a diploma of business law, and a diploma of financial services. Grant is the CEO of Generation Life, an Australia-based investment firm managing more than $1.3 billion.
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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…
Want to hear an episode with the man who taught me how to swim in my 30s? Listen to my conversation with Total Immersion Swimming’s Terry Laughlin, in which we discussed how his technique taught me to swim effortlessly in 10 days when every other method had failed, embracing the counterintuitive, drills and exercises for reluctant beginners, and the secret to mastering new skills even in later adulthood.
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with Michael Phelps:
Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
- Connect with Grant Hackett:
- The Weight of Gold | HBO
- Michael Phelps Foundation
- Generation Life
- No Limits: The Will to Succeed by Michael Phelps
- Beneath the Surface: My Story by Michael Phelps
- How to Train with a T. Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals by Michael Phelps, Alan Abrahamson, and Ward Jenkins
- The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
- Fermat’s Last Theorem | Wikipedia
- Total Immersion: How I Learned to Swim Effortlessly in 10 Days and You Can Too | tim.blog
- Swimming at the 2004 Summer Olympics – Men’s 1500 Metre Freestyle | Wikipedia
- Physiology, Lung Capacity | StatPearls
- Is Lactate Testing for Sport Still Relevant Today? | SimpliFaster
- Swimming at the 2016 Summer Olympics – Men’s 200 Metre Butterfly | Wikipedia
- Phelps vs. Hackett: Two All-Time Greats Go At It In Practice | YourSwimLog
- Days of Thunder | Prime Video
- Sydney 2000: 20 Years on Sydney’s Olympic Legacy Brings Comfort and Hope in Turbulent Times | Olympic News
- Swimming at the 2000 Summer Olympics – Men’s 200 Metre Butterfly | Wikipedia
- Swimming: 15-Year-Old Sets World Record | The New York Times
- The Science of Michael Phelps’s Gold Medal-Winning Turn | Vice
- Free Divers Have Long Defied Science – and We Still Don’t Really Understand How They Go So Deep | The Conversation
- Graston Technique in Physical Therapy: How Does It Work? | BetterPT Blog
- 7 Cryotherapy Benefits: How Cryotherapy Can Improve Your Health | Healthline
- ‘LeBron James Spends $1 Million/Year on Just Body and Mind Recovery’: How Lakers Star Remains Injury Free at 35 | The SportsRush
- LeBron James and His Top-Secret Trainer, Mike Mancias | The Tim Ferriss Show
- Tara Brach on Meditation and Overcoming FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) | The Tim Ferriss Show
- Ian Thorpe Happy to Have Been Proved Wrong by Michael Phelps | The Telegraph
- The Last Dance | Netflix
- Michael Phelps Says the Pandemic Has Brought About | CNN
- Michael Phelps: ‘I Am Extremely Thankful That I Did Not Take My Life’ | CNN Health
- Michael Phelps Prepares for Life After 2016 Rio Olympics | ESPN
- The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren
- The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
- Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
- It Takes What It Takes: How to Think Neutrally and Gain Control of Your Life by Trevor Moawad and Andy Staples
- Grant Hackett Opens Up About His Drug Use, Fights With Family, and ‘That Photo’ | Men’s Health, Australia
- How Michael Phelps Helped Turn Grant Hackett’s Life Around | The Sydney Morning Herald
- Talkspace Online Therapy
- The History of the Underwater Dolphin Kick | Swimming World News
- Everything Is Fucked: A Book about Hope by Mark Manson
- Harvard Business Review
- HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Mental Toughness by Harvard Business Review
- Extreme Ownership (How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win) by Jocko Willink
- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
- The Airbus A380 vs. Boeing 747: Which Plane Is Best? | Simple Flying
- Good to Great (6 Book Series) by Jim Collins
- The Juilliard School
- The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have by Mark Nepo
- The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman
- Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality by Anthony De Mello
- Grant starts us off by recounting why his 1,500-meter freestyle race at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens was the most painful of his career — even though he walked away with a gold medal for his trouble. [07:56]
- When it comes to suffering for a race, Michael concurs that he’s been luckier than Grant (though this might be chalked up to preparation). But they both have an obsession with studying — and training to beat — the numbers. Is this common in their corner of athleticism? [14:47]
- How did Michael and Grant come to meet and eventually train together? What did each see in the other as admirable and innovative? [18:59]
- It’s common for Grant and Michael to train 30 to 40 hours per week, and Michael even trained more than 540 days straight to prepare for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. How do they keep from burning out? [26:07]
- What does Michael do to treat his body like a Ferrari and keep it performing at its best, and how does Grant ensure he’s getting optimal sleep? [32:29]
- Why might a competitive swimmer want to avoid hiking regularly? [39:04]
- Far from being thwarted by critical remarks, Michael uses them as fuel to excel even harder. What kind of “fuel” did Ian Thorpe provide for Michael at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing? Did relying on this kind of fuel generate anger, or did it channel it from somewhere it already existed? What is Michael’s relationship with anger now that he’s no longer competing, and how does he manage it — especially during the pandemic? [40:22]
- Michael opens up about the first time he experienced depression and how he came to understand and accept that he needed help. What made this experience particularly scary, and what has he learned about coping with episodes of depression since then? [47:44]
- Books that have helped Michael get in touch with his spiritual side, and how his kids remind him to treasure the simple things in life. [55:50]
- What have the dark times looked like for Grant, and what has he taken away from them? [1:00:54]
- Rules and strategies that have helped Grant nurture his mental health. [1:06:13]
- Does Grant see a therapist regularly? How does he know when it’s time to check in, and what does the format look like? [1:10:06]
- Does Michael check in with a therapist regularly? How does writing down his feelings help him process what he’s going through? [1:17:15]
- Michael talks about his feelings surrounding involvement in <em>The Weight of Gold</em>, an HBO sports documentary exploring the mental health challenges that Olympic athletes often face — and why he’s grateful it came out during the COVID pandemic. [1:22:07]
- Books and resources Grant has found conducive toward maintaining mental health (and Michael chimes in with a few he’s thought of since I asked him). [1:28:22]
- What would Michael and Grant’s billboards say? [1:42:10]
- Parting thoughts. [1:46:55]
- Larsen Jensen
- Bob Bowman
- Keenan Robinson
- Ian Thorpe
- Erik Vendt
- LeBron James
- Michael Jordan
- Nicole Phelps
- Ray Lewis
- Boomer Phelps
- Beckett Phelps
- Maverick Phelps
- Allison Schmitt
- Sharlene Fletcher
- Mark Manson
- Matt Targett
- Martin Seligman
- Tony Schwartz
- Warren Bennis
- Phil Knight
- Warren Buffet
- Jim Collins
- Mark Nepo
- Ryan Holiday
- Trevor Moawad
- John Ram
- Anthony De Mello
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6 Replies to “Michael Phelps and Grant Hackett — Two Legends on Competing, Overcoming Adversity, Must-Read Books, and Much More (#494)”
Great interview. And thanks for linking to one of my articles in the resources (the YourSwimLog article detailing Grant and Phelps training together back in 2003).
I had the opportunity to train with Hackett back in 1999 as he was coming up on the international stage. He spent a week with us in Vancouver. I was no slouch in the water, but training against him (he was putting up 200 freestyle reps in training that would have won gold at our Nationals) was…well… dispiriting.
It was also great to hear a less polished version of Michael Phelps. It’s been fascinating to see how vulnerable he has allowed himself to be in recent years. Great takeaways for young athletes, coaches, and parents.
Outstanding Interview Tim! Thank you!!
Loved how interviewing two people turned out – felt more like being a fly on the wall during a great conversation with vs. a traditional interview (which I like!) Seem to really hit your stride these days – must be some kind of mastery that happens at the 500th podcast!
Amazing interview, on my second listen + reading through the episode links.
I’m always amazed by the following:
Feeling like i’m in the same room as the conversation is taking place, like a fireside chat.
The way you let the ‘leash’ out on the conversation and always skillfully bring in back around (whilst ready with the next follow up question), most answers leave me flumaxed but you always have a follow up question that I just never see coming).
Lastly, I love that you never know what is coming up, the ‘interviews/conversations always surprise, whoever it is i’m always left feeling wow that wasn’t expecting that – this last episode delivered that in spades.
Been a fan of the show since the beginning (and also you books and blogs before that), really appreaciate all the work that goes in to making this happen, please keep it going.
Can’t wait to see what happens for the 500th episode 🙂
Great interview. And thanks for linking to one of my articles in the resources (the YourSwimLog article detailing Grant and Phelps training together back in 2003
I finally got around to listening to these legends of the pool while I was out running snow covered trails.
Thank you for this one, Tim. So much to glean from this episode and so much to share regarding mental health.