Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with George Mumford (@gtmumford), a globally recognized speaker, teacher, and coach. Since 1989, he’s been honing his gentle but groundbreaking mindfulness techniques with people from locker rooms to board rooms, Yale to jail.
While at the University of Massachusetts, where he roomed with future Hall of Famer Julius Erving, injuries forced George out of basketball and eventually into an addiction to pain medication and drugs. With the help of meditation and mindfulness, he got clean and made it his mission to teach and work with others.
Michael Jordan credits George with transforming his on-court leadership, helping the Bulls to six NBA championships. George has also worked with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and countless other NBA players, as well as Olympians, executives, and artists.
George believes everyone has a masterpiece within. His book The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance —both a memoir and an instruction guide—can show you how to access it.
George also teaches The Mindful Athlete Course, which can be found at GeorgeMumford.com.
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
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This interview was transcribed by Rev.com.
Tim Ferriss: Hello, boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss, and welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss Show, where it is my job to interview world-class performers from all different areas. I feel very fortunate today to have not only a world-class performer in his own right, but a world-class performer who has a lot of experience working with world class performers, George Mumford. He is a globally recognized speaker, teacher and coach. Since 1989, he’s been honing his gentle, but groundbreaking mindfulness techniques with people from locker rooms to boardrooms from Yale to jail. While at the University of Massachusetts, where he roomed with future Hall of Famer Julius Erving, injuries forced Mumford out of basketball and eventually into an addiction to pain medication and drugs.
With the help of meditation and mindfulness, he got clean and made it his mission to teach and work with others. Michael Jordan credits George with transforming his on-court leadership, helping the Bulls to six NBA Championships. George has also worked with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and countless other NBA players, as well as Olympians, executives, and artists. George believes everyone has a masterpiece within. His book, The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance, both memoir and the instruction guide can show you how to access it. George also has The Mindful Athlete course, which can be found at GeorgeMumford.com as well as many other resources. You can find him on Instagram at George.Mumford, M-U-M-F-O-R-D, and on Twitter @GTMumford. George, welcome to the show.
George Mumford: Thank you, Tim. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m excited about being here.
Tim Ferriss: Me too. We were introduced by our mutual friend, Jack Kornfield, who has nothing but wonderful things to say. You are a practitioner in more ways than one, so I love digging into the details and the stories. So we’re going to start with a story and then we’ll probably rewind, but I would love to hear about the first time you ever watched Michael Jordan practice. What was that experience like?
George Mumford: The first time I watched Michael Jordan practice, it was amazing because there’s no difference between how he plays and how he practices. So if you see him performing on the court, that’s how he practices. There’s no difference. He’s just playing at a high level, playing to win, but also you can see how he gets better each time he gets on the court. He’s just really locked in and really committed to excellence. So I want to dovetail, because my first encounter with Michael was not in practice, it was when I first went to work with the Bulls. He had retired and even though he was retired, he wasn’t with the team. He actually was hanging around. He was in the locker room. So I asked one of the players, or it might’ve been a coach, to introduce me to him.
Even before I could get close to him, I could feel his aura. I could feel his ability, his level of concentration, his mind focus, his ability. He had this energy and I’m like an empath, so I can feel things. I’m a feeler, but it was so profound even before I even got to meet him, just feeling the energy that exuded from him and his ability to really be the eye of the hurricane in the midst of things. So that was the first fascinating thing I saw about him was just his energy, just walking into the room and meeting him, even though he didn’t have on the basketball uniform, he wasn’t out on the court. He was just in the locker room, just hanging out.
Tim Ferriss: What is it that you felt in your body? What was that experience like?
George Mumford: In meditation circles, we talk about getting into an intense state of concentration or samadhi or calm. So when you’re really concentrated and you’re really locked in, there’s an alert relaxedness. So you’re alert, but there’s a poise there because you’re in the moment, you’re centered and you’re just totally present and that’s what it felt like. It just felt like there was an energy, a calm energy, but also an intense energy. So that’s what it felt like, a combination of intensity and calmness.
Tim Ferriss: Now you can’t trust everything you read, but I was, of course, doing some reading in preparation for this, so please feel free to fact check this. But I read that when you first saw him practicing, you thought to yourself something along the lines of, “There’s no way he can sustain that. This must be someone with bipolar disorder or some type of disorder who’s in a manic stage.” Is there any truth to that?
George Mumford: No, I never said that.
Tim Ferriss: Okay. So —
George Mumford: No, because my thing is, see, I know the difference between high intensity and having an intensity based on a mindset that’s positive and combined. The one thing I did notice about the first practice that you reminded me of was that when I first saw him practice, he looked like a person trying to make the team.
Tim Ferriss: In what respect? He was putting forth the extra effort?
George Mumford: Putting forth extra effort like, “I’ve got to make the team.” Of course, now that I understand why he was that way because what he did was, let’s think about how he related to his experience. We call it strong self-efficacy. It’s like when you master your life experiences. So he got cut from his high school basketball team in the 10th grade, so I think at that time he made a decision he would never get cut from a team again. I saw that in the practice where he was acting like he was trying to make the team. Now, I don’t mean like he has an anxiety and he’s trying to impress people. I’m saying he was proving that he’s the best player on the court. You were getting his best. You were getting at a high level. He wasn’t resting.
He was acting like, “I need to get better. I need to prove a point,” not so much to a point, “but to let people know that there’s no way I’m not making this team,” or, “There’s no way I’m not going to be central to what we’re doing.” So I see it as a positive and I don’t remember saying that because I would say he has high energy. I know other people that have high energy, but his difference of him having high energy, it’s with a purpose and there’s a cat-like quality to it. What I mean by like a cat-like quality, you could see a house cat and they can go from being kind of chill to jump into action with a grace, with an ease, with a ferocity, and with a direction, like a direct assault or whatever. It was like he could pounce on you any minute.
Tim Ferriss: So we’re going to certainly come back to Michael Jordan, who, especially, at that time was effectively treated like a god. This was the man who could walk on water. I’ll add a footnote just for anyone at Vice who’s listening. So this is an article from vice.com, which has a lot of great articles, well-researched articles, but this one may need some factual corrections. So that is The Zen Master’s Zen Master, which is a great headline though, you must admit. That is a very complimentary headline. Let’s roll back the clock because I want to provide a snapshot of you working with, not just athletes at the top of their game, but really at the time, this pantheon of athletes who were worshiped around the world — and there’s a big difference.
There really is a difference, but it wasn’t always that way, far from it. So let’s fact check a separate quote, and you can tell me if this is more on the money. I should say also that the manic quote wasn’t so much a quote; it was an indirect quote. So they didn’t use quotation marks, but they said, “Thought to himself…” and things like that. This is one that I believe is a direct quote and it’s from The Boston Globe. Quote, “I had a security clearance on my badge and track marks on my forearm.” If that is even approximately accurate, could you provide a time and a place for when this was and explain, please?
George Mumford: Yeah, that was totally accurate because one of first jobs out of college was I was working in what was called, it was a financial management development program and I was working with GTE Sylvania. I don’t even know if that’s what they’re called now, but General Telephone Electronics and then Sylvania Light Bulbs and there was a big company. At the time when I got out of college, I was a functional addict and so I had tracks on my arm. I always wore long sleeve shirts. I couldn’t wear short sleeve shirts.
Tim Ferriss: This was from heroin use?
George Mumford: Yeah. From shooting up, yes. So in those days, when I was getting my security clearance, they literally had FBI agents coming around and interviewing my friends and family going back 10 years. So you have to go through this tremendous process just to get a secret clearance and then there’s top secret. But I had the secret clearance, so I had the clearance, but at the same time I had this hidden life of tracks on my arm, so that’s very accurate. It’s totally accurate and it wasn’t until probably when I got clean in ’84, years after that, there’s no more track marks, but for — yes.
So it was very tenuous because I was concerned about passing physicals because I had to get examined by the doctors and they’d say, “Oh, what’s up with that? What’s that on your arm?” They know what it looks like; that was a process. As a matter of fact, when I used to have to give blood sometimes, they would make a comment like, “Well, you’ve got that ‘all used up’ look on your arms.” So I would just laugh at it, but it was a fair statement, so I had to wear long-sleeved shirts all year round.
Tim Ferriss: At that time, and this might seem like a really silly question because in the introduction and in the bio I read, it mentioned injuries and addiction. But at that point when you had this clearance and you were shooting up, why were you an addict? That’s not to say that it wasn’t natural and understandable. I’m just wondering if it was a by-product of the pain and then you became physically dependent or if there was more to it?
George Mumford: It’s complex, but one of the things I discovered in my days of competing as an athlete, when I got injured, they didn’t have pain medicine, so they would give me [inaudible 13:28] or some kind of pain… because I was always in pain. Part of it was emotional pain. I had a lot of stomach problems or GI issues because of stress. So I noticed that when I was under the influence of these pain meds, that I actually felt good and I could talk to people. Other than that, I was quiet and shy. I let my basketball talk to me. So it impacted me in a certain way and like any addiction, so you do it, you do it. Then you cross that line where you become addicted, you cannot not do it.
Not only does it become something that your body craves, but it becomes part of a lifestyle, part of an identity. I got my first vaccination shot two weeks ago tomorrow. I remember, so she went right into my arm and gave me a vaccination spot, and I realized that it reminded me when I started using drugs, I didn’t start off just going into the vein. I started off what we call skin popping, just like getting the vaccine. They just put it into your system, into the skin.
So it always starts with you, you just get high a little bit and then, it keeps growing. It’s a progressive thing. It’s a progressive disease and it kept progressing and then you start doing other things and then you start doing things in combination and then you’re doing drugs that they’re not even your drugs of choice or drinking things you don’t even drink, but you’re looking to get high. So it’s the emotional pain, but it’s also a way of dealing with reality, so that was my thing. I was under the influence in one way, form, or fashion.
Tim Ferriss: Many addicts don’t make it out or they don’t stop using until they either just continue as a functioning addict until the end of their days or some catastrophe befalls them. What were the deciding moments or elements that helped you to become sober?
George Mumford: I had an incident, I think it was in March, because I went to my first 12 step meeting was with AA on April Fool’s Day, April 1st. So in March I had a strep infection, but I didn’t know that I was sick until I went to the doctors and I had a 104 degree temperature, so I had to go in the hospital. I went in the hospital and then I had an abscess on my arm and they had to treat it and they wouldn’t give me any pain meds because they knew I was addicted to drugs and I was withdrawing or whatever. At that point as people would say, “If you keep this up, you’re going to die.” For some reason it hit me that I was that I just couldn’t do it anymore.
So I got to a spiritual bottom, so I call it, it’s the elevator theory. So you might start off at the penthouse and for some people, they have to go to the sub-level, B2 or B3, whatever it is. But for me, I knew I was up, maybe not at the penthouse, but if I was on the 25th floor, I’m down on the fourth floor and then I’m heading towards the third floor. So I decided to get out because I just couldn’t do it anymore. It was like being in a place where I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it anymore, but I could not, not do it because it was a habit and I was prime. So that was in March when I think started hitting the rock bottom. Then when my friend came by, he took me to an AA meeting on April 1st.
That’s when I saw that there was a way forward. There was a way out. I looked at this person that was like me, but yet, he had sobriety. So I went to the meeting and then I continued to use but I started thinking about ways and then when I went into the detox, I was different. But I think all of that paid dividends, so even though I was around in recovery, going to meetings, but I was still getting high and well, using drugs and alcohol, but mostly, I was doing both, but it was different. Something changed when I shifted, when I went to my first meeting.
But then what happened when I went into the detox, there was a thought process or inner dialogue that said, “The same George that goes in here can’t be the same George that comes out because the same George that goes in, if that George comes out, he’s going to get high. He’s going to keep doing what he’s doing. So you have to be a different person. You have to be a different George.” I don’t know where that came from. It was just the thought that told me that I had to do it differently. I had to be different.
Tim Ferriss: Where were you at the time, geographically?
George Mumford: I was living in Dorchester. Actually, I lived in Mattapan, so I was living in Boston and a lot was happening. I lost my car. I was just barely surviving. I continued to work and everything, but I had some issues. When I did that and the detox is in walking distance from my house, and so after I got out of the detox and walked home, it was the first time I ever saw my house and my street.
Tim Ferriss: First time you ever saw it, meaning the first time you saw it and with clarity —
George Mumford: On black or white terms, where I could really see it and not seeing it through a phase or through a haze or because I lived in fantasy or I was hiding out in plain sight. So I didn’t know that until I noticed that, “Oh, I really see things.” But it was more about me really seeing life and seeing myself for the first time without having the influence of substances or hiding out in my own little inner fantasy world.
Tim Ferriss: How did mindfulness, in any capacity, enter your life?
George Mumford: What happened was — just to give you a little insight, so my spiritual experience or my first mindfulness or meditative experience that I can think of that that was powerful was that day I got out of the detox, and maybe it was the next day, I went to work. When I went to work, it was three weeks out of work, I had all this money waiting for me and the compulsion, obsession to use came upon me. This is the thing. I got triggered and I knew that if I were to go into the restroom and the men’s room and just recite the serenity prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I did that like a mantra, just repeating it totally over and over and the obsession was removed and I had some stabilization. So that was my first experience.
But what also happened when I got clean, I had chronic pain. So I had my migraine headaches, which if anybody ever had a migraine headache you know when it gets to a point, it doesn’t matter what they give you. It’s just not enough. I had chronic back pains, which I had since college. I used to sleep on a bed board and I’ve been going to a chiropractor since 1975. So was is that? 46 years? I was going to a chiropractor when it wasn’t viewed like it is today. So I had a lot of pain and so I was dealing with my pain, administering pain medicine, not just physical, but emotional and probably spiritual pain.
Tim Ferriss: So you use the serenity prayer as this grounding mantra that helps you to stabilize. Then, from where does the mindfulness or meditation come?
George Mumford: I had the chronic pain and so at the same time, I was in an HMO back in those days and they had this experimental program. I had a therapist I was working with to help me sort out stuff so I can go into the detox. I was working with him and when I got out, we were talking about strategies and they had this experimental program run out of Beth Israel, run by Dr. Joan Borysenko, who at the time was one of the three psycho-neuro immunologists in the world. That just means mind-body medicine and the endocrine system and that sort of thing. They had this stress management program, so I signed up and I had to pee and spit and they’d take pre and post testing.
What they did was they introduced us to this idea of taking responsibility for ourselves, learning about the mind-body process, but being an active participant with the healthcare that we were getting, whether it was a doctor or whatever. That’s where I learned about meditation and mindfulness and yoga and some of the mind-body practices like tai chi and yoga, obviously. They gave us a syllabus of a bunch of books to read. I don’t know if they had 20, 25 books on that list. I read every one of those books and then I read books that they recommended. I’m 36 years and six months clean and sober and I have averaged over a book a week during that time.
So I just really got into understanding. I wanted to understand how did I get clean and others don’t? What was the motivation? How do I enhance my ability to grow and develop? So I got really stimulated, intellectually stimulated, around that and so that’s how I got into this whole thing of mindfulness. So then I was doing that and that helped with my recovery. I was already in 12 steps. My recovery was pretty good because I was connected to the spirit or I had my concept of God, which worked for me and allowed me to understand that there is a power greater than myself and that all I had to do is basically, there’s a plug in the wall.
All I had to do is plug into the power source and I would be able to do things. Then as a natural outgrowth of that, she suggested that I go to do a retreat at this place in Barre, Mass called Insight Meditation Society. So I did a weekend retreat there and then I was introduced to the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, which is in Cambridge, right in the city. You could go there and do day longs and stuff like that, so that’s how I got into it. Then while I was doing that, my teacher there, Larry Rosenberg, was good friends with Jon Kabat-Zinn. So after three or four years of recovery, I connected with Jon and then I did the mindfulness-based stress reduction. Then I ended up working in the Center for Mindfulness.
At that time, it was called The Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program. I ended up working there for five years. It had a prison project and then we developed a inner city satellite project, but I lived at the meditation center in Cambridge for six years while I was working. Two years where I wasn’t working, while I was just meditating and reading and studying and teaching, going out from the center would get these requests from different outlets. It could be a youth center. It could be a business like AT&T or NYNEX at the time. I would go out and I would teach mindfulness. I would teach meditation at Harvard Business School. So I was doing my training to become a teacher at the same time I was continuing to grow and evolve. Then when I worked at the Center for Mindfulness, it was part of my job is to teach mindfulness-based stress reduction. But really it was more about teaching them the same process I had, about how to go — it’s an inner game and how to take control of your life in the sense of being responsible. And understanding how the mind and body work. And we can relate to our experience in a way that leads to more peace, ease, freedom, compassion.
Tim Ferriss: That’s one hell of a U-turn and self-transformation. And I’m also still thinking about the stacks of books that would represent the number of books you’ve read over that period of time that you mentioned. Were there any books in the beginning that really ignited you or any books that you remember really grabbing your attention. Because you really applied yourself in a very wholehearted way, and I’m wondering what some of the catalysts might’ve been. Were any books particularly impactful or conversations?
George Mumford: One that was on The New York Times bestseller list for like 10 years long or whatever, The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck. But also Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. It was a lot of books. Pain As Motivator. Love Is Letting Go of Fear. And there were a lot of different books, but the Bible was always in there. It’s interesting, I was doing a presentation at Lululemon for about a thousand people a couple of years ago. And they asked me, “Well, what book would I recommend?” And I was thinking about it because there’s tons of books. Depends on where you are and what books work for you. And I said, “The Bible.” And I don’t know where that came from, it just came out of my deep sense. And I said, “Well, that makes sense because there’s one in every hotel room.”
And there’s a lot of stuff in there. And I said, “The acronym that I remember is ASK, A-S-K.” And that is, ask and it shall be given to you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be open to you. So it’s amazing, I went to Sunday school till I was 13, then I stopped going to church. Yet, as I get older, all of those sayings, like there’s even mindfulness in the Bible. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. I started realizing that spiritual truth is spiritual truth. Whether it comes out of the Bible or the Koran or the Kabbalah, it doesn’t matter. Or from the Buddhist teachings, it’s all that wisdom, literature, and philosophy. I’ve read a lot of Martin Buber’s stuff, I and Thou, The Way Of Man. I got really drawn to existentialism when I went back to graduate school. And I studied Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. And what I call the religious existentialists, like Victor Frankl and Martin Buber, and then there’s Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard.
Tim Ferriss: If we look at the entire spectrum of books you’ve read, I’ll try to help narrow them down and then we’ll move into some different lines of questioning. But what books would you say, aside from your own, that you have gifted to other people or recommended the most to other people. Those people could be high level athletes. I’m just wondering if there are a handful of books that you tend to gift the most or recommend the most to other people.
George Mumford: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind used to be one that I would recommend years ago. So it depends on, on the time and who the person is. But I think more recently talking about performance, when I’m working with clients, there’s a book called The Three Laws of Performance. That’s a really good one.
Tim Ferriss: Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan.
George Mumford: So that’s one of the books that I think is powerful. Yeah and then On Becoming a Leader, these are the books that I’ve been reading recently by Warren Bennis. And the thing I like about it, he says, “To become a leader you have to become yourself.” So I’ve been focusing on leadership a little bit more recently. But any of the books that, you know, some of the books about the teachings of the Buddha, or psychology books. I read a lot of Rollo May, The Meaning of Anxiety. Erich Fromm. There’s a bunch of guys, obviously Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, would be a good one. But anyway, it’s really challenging for me to answer that question because it’s fluid.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, totally. It depends on the person involved.
Well, it seems like you’re traveling this path, you’ve gone from competitive athlete then to working and using simultaneously. You become sober. You’re still working, but then the nature of your self-work certainly changes. And you’re developing this ability, cultivating this greater awareness. This ability to observe your own thinking. How did elite sports enter the picture? How did you end up becoming connected to that world?
George Mumford: When I was working at the medical center, and at that time we had the prison project. Department of Corrections, Massachusetts Department of Corrections prisons. But I also taught at their training facility. I used to work with staff, do to two cycles a year of teaching the staff mindfulness-based stress reduction. So at that time, John used to go to this place called Omega Institute —
Tim Ferriss: John Kabat-Zinn?
George Mumford: John Kabat-Zinn. And he was out there, him and his partner, Saki Santorelli. And then they met — and Phil used to do a program called Beyond Basketball there. So they were there on campus at the same time and they were talking and —
Tim Ferriss: This is Phil Jackson?
George Mumford: Phil Jackson, Phil Jackson. I’m sorry, I’m dropping names.
Tim Ferriss: That’s okay. Which a lot of people would have seen from The Last Dance.
George Mumford: Yes. So at that summer interaction, Phil and his wife at the time, June. They were interested in having somebody come in and work with the Bulls. They had just won three NBA championships in a row. And so they were given a presentation and then they saw me and they said, “Well, who’s this guy and she worked with, she said, “Yeah, this is George Mumford, he went with Dr. J and he does this.” And then he said, “He would be perfect for our team.” And so Phil and I talked and he invited me to training camp in 1993. And in the interim, we talked in July, in the interim Michael Jordan’s father got murdered and Michael retired. When I showed up in Chicago in October in 1993, they were in full blown crisis.
And then I went in and I had to pretty much do an intervention with the team. Talking to them about this process — I talked about being a spiritual warrior, and just like martial arts, you have to train a certain way. And so I talked about martial arts. I studied tai chi for a lot of years. And so I brought Zen into martial arts. That’s what I presented to them, and then being in the zone, being in flow. So that’s how it all started, and then it just took off from there.
Tim Ferriss: So let’s approach this from a bunch of different angles. The first angle I’d love to cover is what Phil believed the team needed or why he felt that it would be well-served by having your skillset or you there. What was it that he hoped to accomplish?
George Mumford: Yes. So Phil, we have a similar philosophy. You may recall when LeBron James entered into the political sphere, they told him to just dribble and shut up. So Phil looks at the whole person as a basketball player with a body, mind, heart, and soul. And so to him, his job is to care for them even beyond basketball. And they had just won three NBA championships. And so they were dealing with the stress of success. What happens when you become successful? Everybody comes at you, they want something. And so he wanted them to be prepared and wanted to support them in their ability to sustain that success and they continued to grow and evolve as people, not just basketball players. And so bringing me in to help them deal with the stress of success, because I was working in a stress reduction clinic, it made a lot of sense.
And yet I had similar backgrounds and I played basketball. I was an athlete and I was around celebrity. Dr. J was Michael Jordan before Michael Jordan. So even when I was in college, being his roommate everywhere he went, it was like, not quite like the Beatles where everybody would come and he just couldn’t go many places because he would draw a crowd. He had a certain level of charisma and stuff. So I had my experience. I had the experience of and I used to go visit him when he played in ABA. So I’ve been around the NBA and that sort of thing. So it made perfect sense for me to go in and to teach them how to deal with the stress of success. That was the initial thing. But of course, when I go on down there, they had an identity crisis as well as an opportunity to grow.
And that’s what I proposed to the team, is a crisis has two meanings. One meaning is danger, which we get, but the other meaning is opportunity. This is an opportunity to look — just like me, it’s an opportunity. My substance abuse wasn’t a curse, it was a blessing. I wouldn’t be who I was if I didn’t experience that. So it’s how do we relate to life in a way where it empowers and inspires us? And so that’s why, when I was down there, that’s why I worked so well with Phil, because if he didn’t have my philosophy. If he had the philosophy of just shut up and dribble, I wouldn’t be able to work with him.
Tim Ferriss: Had Phil tried other approaches to impart, even if this word is appropriate as the objective, mindfulness. Had he tried other things before, or were you just the perfect vehicle in his mind for introducing the players to some of these skills?
George Mumford: Yeah. So I think to answer your question. Yes, that’s what happened. I came in and he realized that it could work, and especially — it’s nothing like baptism by fire.
Okay. How’d you do? Oh, it’s okay. When everything is nice, but what’s going to happen when everybody’s bus on fire, how is he going to — is he going to be able to meet the challenge? Yeah, so I think that Phil used to do sessions with the guys, but it was obvious, and he says it in his books that it made sense for somebody from the outside to come in. And because I could do it in a way where they could listen to me and I had a user-friendly language, I could teach in any domain, that was all of those years going and making house calls. If you were not working in the main centers or the traditional places, but going where people lived, and being able to talk to them in a language they could understand, but yet give them the essence of the teachings.
From time to time, he brought in yoga teachers, he brought in somebody to teach them tai chi. But the thing was, I think a lot of people can have the training in these disciplines, but you have to meet people where they are. And so they would come in and I remember having conversations with this one particular person. And I told her, I said, “They just had two and a half hour practice, you can’t take them through two hours of yoga.” You can’t do it. You have to make it relevant for them and you have to understand that less is more. So it might be better for you to teach them how to stretch and relax a little bit. And then depending on their situation and you can teach them, some people maybe need more standing yoga poses or whatever.
So my whole idea was you’ve got to start with the understanding of what you can do to help the situation. And you’ve got to meet people where they were. So a lot of people, I think, or at least in some cases, they come in not understanding that the context is more important than the content.
Tim Ferriss: That’s a really, really important concept and line to underscore, right? The context is more important than the content. And this insomuch as what that brings to mind for me, is that the tendency, the very understandable impulse, that a lot of people have to copy and paste whatever is working in one place to another place, but that just doesn’t necessarily work. Like you said, if someone’s just come out of a two and a half hour practice and they’re going a hundred percent, they don’t have the slack in the system to do two hours of yoga. And I read that as you noted, one of the things you observed when you first started working with the Chicago Bulls, was that they’re dealing with all types of distractions that you don’t necessarily get exposed to until you’re at a higher level. And that the more successful a person or a team becomes the more distractions there are.
So it actually gets, in some respects, very difficult to continue doing the things that got you to where you are in the first place. So they’re getting requests for tickets from friends and other hangers on, right before some of the most important games. All manners of shiny objects and obstacles and distractions. What were some of the recommendations you made or tools you suggested, anything to these players so they could turn down the volume on some of these distractions?
George Mumford: Yes. The thing is understanding that whatever you’re doing, you’ve got to be fully present to it, and understand what are you doing and what are the consequences? What’s it costing you? How much energy can you allow for this activity versus the next activity? So I would say a lot of things to them.
One thing I would say to them is don’t believe the hype. So what does that mean? That means that when you go get interviewed, if they tell you you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, you say, “Thank you,” and you just smile. And if they tell you you’re the biggest choke artist of all time, you just thank them and smile. So it’s more about how they relate with people and just not give energy to that. Just really understand what’s really important — but you’ve got to understand that even though you have your family with you, even though there’s certain things that are going on, you have to create a kind of a cocoon for yourself to be ready to play.
And so your rituals the day of the game. And so I would talk to them about rituals, but it was really more about, there’s no such thing as multitasking. That you just do one thing at a time. So if you have a process where you’re going to write tickets for a certain amount of time, at a certain time during the pre-game thing, then you do that. Then you set that aside. Then you have to have your space and time for your readiness, for you to get ready to play. But I didn’t really get into that. They’d have to ask me about it. Back in those days, it was really different. It was like they had volunteered. Whereas now, the analogy I would use is before it was like laissez-faire, the ones that wanted to do it, fine. The ones that didn’t, that’s fine. But I have the analogy of like now it’s if you have somebody out in the rain, you can at least go out there with an umbrella and ask them if they want to come in. You just meet them where they are and then you can bring them in. But some people, they thrive. I mean, everybody’s different. Some people like quiet, some people want rousing music, it’s different.
Tim Ferriss: Like Dennis Rodman.
George Mumford: Yes, like Dennis Rodman. But it’s really more about teaching them from moment to moment how they are relating to the experience and understanding the quality of mind that they have, the mind state that they have and how to just be in the moment and be clear about what you’re doing and what you’re getting and the willingness to adjust and adapt. Like you said, what gets you here is not going to what — is just what that is. It got you here, but to go beyond that, you have to let go to grow and you’ve got to be willing to develop other habit patterns, other ways of being to go, to continue to evolve and to grow. So it was really more about the inner game and them getting clarity about what they want and who they’re being and how to develop the me. But the we has to be the context in which the me is operating.
Tim Ferriss: Let’s talk about meeting people where they are, because that person in the rain and you might have — not to stretch the metaphor too far, but you might have one person who is doing jumping jacks and smiling, one person who’s huddling in a corner, another person who’s, who knows, drinking out of a puddle. There are so many different personalities. And I was reading a piece in The Boston Globe. And man, I mean, the types of testimonials that you have, the belief that other people ascribe to you is just incredible. And I’ll just read a little piece here. This is from The Boston Globe, a piece in 2015. So this is Kobe Bryant. He’s basically saying — I’m going to paraphrase here.
So he’s saying that many people try to get him to meditate. Kobe Bryant once told an interviewer “But I couldn’t sit still for 20 minutes.” Under the tutelage of Phil Jackson and Mumford, however, meditation became a key to game preparation for Bryant and for his teammate and feud counterpart, Shaquille O’Neal. There weren’t a lot of things that Shaq and Kobe agreed on, says Lazenby, another person in this piece, but they both agreed on the effectiveness of George Mumford. Okay. Now, could you speak to the differences or similarities in teaching, say, Michael Jordan versus Kobe versus Shaquille O’Neal some of the tools in your toolkit? How did you approach those seemingly very different personalities?
George Mumford: Yes. It’s what I call — when I say talk about meeting people where they are, I let the wisdom and the mindfulness dictate what I do. I have to get insight. I have to get a clarity of, “Okay, what’s the context when how do I deal with this person?” One size does not fit all. It has to be a specificity of really getting clear, but also getting clear in my mind, what’s my intention? But at the same time, it’s just going in and just figuring out how to relate to them in a way that makes sense. If you think about the great spiritual teachers like Jesus or Buddha, they talk in parables or if they’re going to talk to carpenters, they’re going to use carpentry examples.
If you’re going to talk to people who are bricklayers or stonemasons, you’re going to use that language to express the essence of what you’re talking about. So when you talk to people about, if you create a vision of possibility, where you say, “Hey, you’re challenged with this or you want to achieve this, you might consider doing this, because this is going to enhance you. And by the way, I did this with this person or I know the elites, they do that. Yeah, I worked with Dr. J.” And I know for a fact there’s certain practices people have, there’s certain ways of being that you can have. Some people are auditory, some people are visual, some people kinesthetic. So I had to meet them in that modality where they can take in information. So a lot of it is connecting with them. I don’t know how else to say it. And then feeling your way through. Just being present with it and relating to them as each individual and understanding what will work for them.
When I first started doing this, I didn’t like standing still. I used to do more walking meditation than sitting or do more tai chi or more yoga. But I talk about sometimes you’ve got to move your way in the stillness.
Tim Ferriss: I like that. That’s great.
George Mumford: And you have stillness and movement. It’s my teacher, my sifu used to talk about there’s movement and stillness and stillness and movement. So you have to understand my modality is more physical. So how do I move myself in the stillness?
Tim Ferriss: Can you give any examples, any specific examples or stories related to working with say Kobe or Shaq? I’m curious to know what this looks like in practice, if any moments or stories or examples come to mind.
George Mumford: It’s interesting because I spent a lot of my time just sitting there observing. Most of it is observing and getting a sense for where people are, and then finding the moment when I can go in and give them a teaching or talk to them about something they’re dealing with. I had a conversation with Kobe early on in my first year I worked with them, when I said to Kobe, “The best way to score is not to try to score,” because I saw that he was trying really hard. And so years ago, when he invited me to go down to Newport Beach and hang out with him, I asked him about that. And he said that he remembered everything I told him.
And he has a photographic memory, but it’s picking the time to really ask him how they’re seeing things or talk to them about, “Okay, I know you want to achieve this, think about this.” And so people, a lot of people think that the practice of mindfulness, the practice of insight, meditation is just sitting and being still is a big part of it is cultivating wisdom and talking about integrity, talking about having your words, and speak to beyond walking your talk, but also understanding how to cultivate a sense of compassion for yourself and others and how to, I guess, love is the way I would talk about it. When you love something, you lay before you make it grow. And so, talking about this heart to heart, just talking about, “Well, if this is what you’re interested in, here’s an application. Here’s a way of thinking or looking at it. And you might consider these things.”
Tim Ferriss: Could you explain what the dizziness of freedom is? I’ve heard you use this phrase before, and it really stuck with me. Could you please explain what this is and how you see it?
George Mumford: Yeah. So freedom is not free, if you will. So the dizziness of freedom is because you’re on a road less traveled, you’re on shaky ground. The ground you’re on is moving to the degree that — and I’ll use it and I’m going back to 1846, Søren Kierkegaard, and he said that one side of the coin is freedom or potential, the heads. The other side is anxiety or uncertainty. So he called it the alarming possibility of being able. So when you grow and you move through something and all of this, Erich Fromm talks about. When you change a behavior or a habit, you have to experience anxiety. You have to experience uncertainty. You have to experience discomfort, because we’re comfortable with where we are.
And so when we grow, the only way that happens is you’ve got to be able to be a little bit uncomfortable. You’ve got to be beyond your comfort zone. You’ve got to have a discomfort zone where you go into and then, because we adapt to things, then you will adapt. So it’s possible you get comfortable with being uncomfortable. So the dizziness of freedom is like, okay, before, when you didn’t have freedom, you did the same thing. You don’t have to think. You don’t have to reflect. You don’t have to take a risk. You don’t have to be vulnerable, but now you’ll be in freedom and you’re going to a different door. You’re trying something else. Then the dizziness of it is you do this thing, when you can do that thing. How you make a choice out of all of these options and you want to have more options, because if you only have two options, on some level, it’s restricting, but on another level is yes, either or.
So when you start understanding that this is — there’s no meaning in the universe other than what you give it or even though you could do this then you can also do that thing, and when you do this thing, you no longer have those things. If I have five choices and I make one, I lose four. So now I’m in here, now I’m worrying about, did I make the right choice? So the uncertainty is a military term they use, VUCA, V-U-C-A. From moment to moment things are volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. So you have to embrace uncertainty, ambiguity. That’s part of the life. This is what life is about. It’s about saying yes and. Yes, it’s frustrating. It’s unpleasant, and I’ll get — it’s okay. This is it. When I grow, this is what comes with it. If I achieve my goals, you look at the positive, but there’s a negative.
The other side is you’re in a rowboat with people. You change, they’ve got to change. They’ve got to move. They don’t want to move. Or they got you in a box and now you’re out of the box. So now they’ve got to see who you are. They’re going to keep you in a box and get mad at you. So for whatever reason, but it always comes down to discomfort, being uncomfortable. The nervous system is wired this way. If it’s pleasant, we approach. If it’s unpleasant, we avoid. And if it’s neither, with indifference, we space out, because the nervous system does so. When you impute meaning onto something, and say, “It’s going to be great. Even though it’s uncomfortable, I know on the other side, this is the only way out.” It’s true.
Then once I commit to that and I have the experience of going through it and then coming to another level of grace, of ease, of peace, then I continue to do that. That’s what I talk about the superpower trust. You need trust, but when you can verify it through insight, through information, through experience, now it goes from confidence to conviction, and then now, you get on a beneficial cycle where things keep getting — the rich get richer, because you know that if you learn and you achieve, it’s going to generate enthusiasm and you’re going to want to learn more. You’re going to want to commit to it, because you know that — and this is what the elites do. They see those things as challenges. “Oh, this is great. This is an opportunity for me to express myself.” So that mindset is the growth mindset, but it’s also pursuing excellence.
Tim Ferriss: Let’s talk about growth and excellence. And I’d love to frame it through a contrast that I’ve read you make, and you’ve written about this. And there are examples of this on georgemumford.com. The or a barrier breakthrough versus the improvement trap. Could you explain for people what these two things are?
George Mumford: Incremental improvement means you’re just improving, but when you have a paradigm shift, then it’s totally different because when you’re improving something, “Okay, I’m going to improve this shot. I’m going to do it.” So that can be a trap. It can be helpful, but it can be a trap because you’re just looking to improve instead of looking to break out. So, as Stephen Covey says, every breakthrough is a break with. So you have to change the paradigm. So you have to change how you see yourself. So if you keep — so Michael Jordan’s, what did he say when he hit the winning shot against Georgetown in the NCAAs? He said I went from Mike Jordan to Michael Jordan. See what I’m saying? So he had a paradigm shift and realized, “Okay, I’m great.” Not, “I’m going to be great” or “I can be great,” “I’m a great player.”
I see myself as Michael Jordan capable of doing everything. So when you have a break out, a breakthrough, it means you’re changing how you see things. And when you change how you see things, then things change. So when you change how you see things, the things you look at change. So the constant improvement is great to have improvement, but a breakout has to do with, so you could be improving and being a little pawn and it’s good for the little pawn. But to really break out, to really go beyond that, it’s you have to just be — have what courageous initiative is like. It’s nice I can hit singles all day on playing baseball, just get a single — instead of single, but you want to be able to not only hit a single, but hit whatever the heck you want, hit home runs, hit whatever. So I would say the vision of possibility is bigger in one versus the other, where it’s keeping you playing small and it’s comfortable versus being big and having a breakout.
Tim Ferriss: Right. Having that complete shift of perspective in — it sounds like particularly as you mentioned in the Mike Jordan to Michael Jordan, it’s a shift in how one views themselves. Are there any other examples that you can think of, things you’ve seen in athletes or others that have really stuck in your mind, that stand out in your memory? Other breakthroughs or breakouts like this that were not over a long period of time, but in an instant or in a single game, in a single practice, maybe over a week or a month you see a real quantum leap in someone you’ve worked with.
George Mumford: One of the athletes I’ve worked with at Boston College, name is Troy Bell. And he’s a point guard. I think he holds the record in BC for most points scored. So Troy as a sophomore, we were playing in the Big East. He got Big East Player of the Year. He was co-player of the year with Murphy from Notre Dame. His junior year, it was kind of okey-doke. Then he came back in the senior year and he won player of the year outright. And as a matter of fact, you saw where his game was going. He was increasing, and then it just took off.
So in January, in the senior year, he just went to a whole other level with his play so much so that Sports Illustrated came and interviewed him. And when they told him, he says, “Well, I work with George. And just a mental game.” Is all of that stuff that we were working on. All of a sudden, it just took off. So in a linear perspective, you say one plus one equals two, but in a non-linear or right brain, if you’re right-handed, one plus one equals six. So you get a jump. So that happened with Troy. The team he was playing on, Boston College Eagles, Al Skinner’s team. One year, he was six and 21, six wins with 21 losses. The next year, the team was 11 and 19. And out of those 19 losses, 12 losses came in a row when they lost in the last possession of the game.
The next year, same team, which — you played 16 games in a league. So Big East, you play 16 games that first year where they were 11 and 19. They won three games and lost 13. The next year, they won 13 games and lost three. So there was 27 and five. So it kept going and then it just took off. I can say the same thing about the Bulls when they won 72 games. They struggled, they go through it, then you take off. So this is what I mean. So it’s like you chip away at it, but because it’s slow motion gets you there quicker or like the tortoise and the hare. You just keep doing what’s in front of you. You stay locked in, you stay enthusiastic, you do what you have to do and then something happens.
It happens a lot of the time. You just break out, you have a breakout because you’re not just improving, you’re looking. And these guys had a vision. So that team that was 27 and five, that year we had what they call a European trip. So we’re in the gym in August before they go. And I’m hanging around, I’m listening. And the guys are saying, “We’ve been getting beat by 40 by all these teams. Any team that comes in here this year, we’re going to beat them by 20.” That’s self-image. That’s a shift in consciousness.
Tim Ferriss: Right. And it’s really concrete too. Very specific.
George Mumford: Yeah. And you know what the record was that year? 17 and 0, and they won by 22 1/2 points.
Tim Ferriss: I’d be curious to know, since you’ve tracked yourself and your development over a long period of time, if you look back at the younger George, say, in the first year of working with high-level athletes, is there any advice that you would give him now, just with the benefit of hindsight?
George Mumford: Yes. I would tell him that focus on self — teaching him self observation. Teaching him how to observe the experience in an uncritical way. Where they can start to see, okay, so if I’m shooting free throws, let’s just talk about shooting free throws. That when I go up and I shoot a free throw, I want to be able to observe what happened. “I missed a free throw.” A lot of times people shoot, “Shoot, I missed a free throw!” I want them to be able to say, “Okay, so I’m observing it. So when I shot the free throw, what did I notice that was off? Did I use my feet? Did I keep my elbow in? Did I stick it?” And it’s just a matter of like, ” Okay, so what do I need to change?”
“Okay. I need to stick it next time.” So if you go back to Michael Jordan playing in 1998 against the Utah Jazz, when he was in the fourth quarter, he was shooting shots and they were short. So what adjustment did he make? So when he shot the shot, he stuck it.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Could you explain “sticking it” to people visually? That’s more extension through the wrist —
George Mumford: But it’s really more like sticking it like this. Like follow through. Right? So what he did was he made the adjustment, “My shot is short. So to get it up, I have to get up and stick it.” Right? So, that is the immediate — so you see in real time, he’ll make an adjustment, but how’s that work? So I talk about the Four As, and these have to do with awareness, the kind of awareness that you could just notice, this uncritical — it’s mindfulness.
You just notice like mirror mind, you’re aware of what happened. “Okay. I’m shooting my jump shot and it’s flat.” Then the acceptance of it, that’s the hot challenging part. Because sometimes we say, “Oh man! I just rushed it or whatever.” You’re not taking responsibility for it and saying, ” Yeah, I don’t like it. It sucks. It feels bad.” But once I embrace it and say, ” This is what happened, this is the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” You know that it was short. And then what’s the compassionate action? Compassionate action is what? “Okay, what do I need to do to fix it? I need to stick it. That’s all I need to do is just follow through.” And then the assessment afterwards is so there’s awareness, acceptance, which is the big, challenging thing, action or compassionate action and assessment. What worked? What didn’t work?
And then go back to it. So if you’re practicing, if you’re sitting, you’re practicing meditation, you’re sitting and you notice that you’re sitting, but your mind keeps thinking about — let’s do what happens to a lot of people. I’m listening to a song on the radio. Like let’s say Start Me Up by Mick Jagger or whatever. And you heard it on radio and you’re in your meditation. And then Start Me Up and it keeps going. And the more you try to avoid it, it keeps staying there. So then you go through the sitting and you say, “Well, the whole time, I was struggling with this song. I couldn’t get rid of it.” So the awareness is this song, or it could be a thought pattern or whatever. It could be something we’re worried about. Like somebody’s sick and we’re worried about how their operation went or something like that.
So it’s like, okay, so the intention or the instructions are when you get distracted, just go back to your breath will be with the body. But you spend all the time doing that, but it’s a struggle and it’s hard to do it. So then the awareness of that, then that acceptance. “Yeah, I couldn’t do it,” but then the compassionate action is, “Okay, so George, what do you do?” Here’s what I teach. If this becomes so much of a distraction, instead of fighting it, just turn your attention towards it. And that becomes the object. “What is this?” And by not resisting it, by looking at it, then you know “What is it? What does it feel like? This song, I wonder why? What does it feel like in my body? What is it? Why is the song staying there?” Maybe there’s something about Start Me Up or Jimi Hendrix, who knows? Or The Power of Love, where it could be whatever it is. But then we look at it, but we just notice that it’s just thinking, and we just, instead of resisting it, we turn attention to it. And we open it up, okay, what is this? And you just let it be there the acceptance. And then by doing that, you’ll notice that you’ll calm down. And then, because all you’re doing is taking this instead of being attached to this object, you just take whatever comes up, okay. This is — let’s just go with that knows the song. And you just focus on that and you will still get concentrated because you focus on one thing.
And so that’s where the awareness, the acceptance. But if I’m going through this every day for five days in a row, if it’s not that it’s something else that I’m struggling, I just can’t stay on the object. What I’m going to do is say, I can’t do this. This is not for me. I’m not able to do it. Instead of saying, no. Is just noticing what’s happening. You’re distracted. And it’s instead of fighting, it, just let it become your obstacle of awareness. This is part of the process. And then when you do that, then you’re going to get to this place of calm. Then you can let go. And then you can just come back to wherever you are, but you have to be aware of it. You have to accept it. Yes, it’s happening. I suck as a meditator. That’s all judgment. It’s awareness without being critical or without judgment.
And then — or passionate action is just noticed. Okay, let’s see where the mind takes us. Maybe the mind is telling us something and you focus on that. And then you come back and then you notice that there’s more ease. And so then your assessment of it is what worked? What didn’t work? What did you change? So now you have that ability. So it could be a sound. It could be ache in your body. Now you have the same thing. So you’re aware of your breathing, but there’s this pristine burning, and maybe as anxiety, and you have this tightness in your chest and you’re like this. So instead of avoiding that, you open to it, you focus on that and say, what is this? And can I open it? And can I just breathe and just let it be there?
What’s the sensation? Okay. It’s tightness. But then at some point it’s going to change. It’s going to dissipate because I’m not fighting it. And then I can move on. So, that’s what I mean by the Four As.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I like it. I like the Four As. And the examples that you gave of turning, let’s just say what people might consider a problem into the object makes me think of this. It’s basically a fortune cookie that I was given at one point to carry my wallet or that I ended up carrying my wallet. And it said, ” That which hinders your task is your task.” And I think it’s a very helpful framework, these Four As, especially for beginning meditators, because it’s so easy without that type of perspective, to become very frustrated and to beat yourself up. And it’s very valuable, very valuable approach. So thank you for that. Yeah.
George Mumford: Can I give you an example, a story that illustrates that?
Tim Ferriss: Yes, please. Great.
George Mumford: So I was working in this prison. I don’t have to say it was a prison Norfolk County house of correction actually, the little tidbit is there. That’s what Malcolm X did his time in that prison. I actually saw his jacket, his rugged. So I used to work there. And so I go in there to teach this meditation class or this meditation yoga class, meditation class. And I have all these copious notes. This is when I was really new and I was going to give them a sermon or a lecture, or Dharma talk, whatever you want to call it. It’s going to be awesome. I got all these notes in there and everything. So, and this also goes into what Bruce Lee talks about, “Be like water,” right? So I go in there and then when I get into class, I realized that I’d have 32 students, 28 of them are Spanish speaking only.
So the awareness, the acceptance, okay. What’s the compassionate action? Okay. I got an interpreter. I got to make this shit real simple. I got to just give them the basic things, breathe in, breathe out, whatever. It’s something about being in the present and what that looks like. And that’s when all of them notes went out the window. And I just be like, ” Well, just, okay, what is here? How can I work with it?” And just — I won’t say surrender. I say, embrace it and then generate the hope. What can I do? How can I still — I have to keep it simple, but I can still — I can just show up and do things. And so that applies. And then we can fast forward to — you like stories, I’ll give you another story —
Tim Ferriss: Well, one second! How did that talk turn out?
George Mumford: It turned out great because they got something and I got something. And I realized that — what it taught me was — especially working in prison. You have no idea what the hell is going to happen. You could be doing a class and then the alarm goes off and everybody gets locked down. So it’s — how did it go? It went great because I gave them what they go here. I met them where they were, but the main thing was, I wasn’t rigid. I wasn’t attached to wanting to force something on them, I just say, okay, they’re not going to be able to hear this. So what can I do? How can I be of service? And so I just went right into it, but I laugh because I said all that population. And it’s like all that preparation and it just kind of goes, and so that’s the same thing.
So whatever happens, can we say yes to it? Can we embrace it and then generate the hope or say, okay, so what can we do? What’s the next play? What can we just — how can we — this is an opportunity for us to figure out what we need to do. And maybe if we don’t know, well, just start with just sitting and just being present with what’s going on. I had a friend of mine, his name is Bo Lozoff. He passed away, but he was doing a thing in prison. And he decided to bring the men and the women together. And when he did that, it was utter chaos. and you know what he did? He sat down and meditated right in the middle of them, and they all got quiet. He had no idea what the hell to do.
So he’s having to sit and think about — see what happens. And they all looked at him and said, “Well, how could he do that?” So you see what I’m saying? And I guarantee if you think about your experience, that even the listeners, if you think about a time when you were able to just say, “Okay, this is what it is, what can I do? How can I relate to it?” That’s what it is. Awareness acceptance. Once you accept it, then you can do something about it. So you’re not in denial, you’re not blaming somebody you’re saying, okay, this is what it is. How can I do about it? So those four As can apply anytime, anywhere.
Tim Ferriss: That’s a great story. What are you most excited about these days? Personally.
George Mumford: Personally, I’m excited about the fact that I get to do what I was put here to do and be a service and just show up. I mean, this journey of discovery where I have no idea what’s going to happen with COVID and all the other things. My job is like I said, to show up and to be myself, which in my case is I want to be loving. I want to be compassionate, but I want to be helpful. So to show and be myself and have fun. It’s like, okay. So I had to be like, “So whatever is coming can I embrace it and create a container to hold it?” And at the same time generate, okay, how can I relate to this in a way that inspires, motivates moves is helpful.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. It is — there’s certainly a world of uncertainty right now. It’s a ripe opportunity for practicing a lot of what you discuss. It’s really highlighted how much is outside of our control.
George Mumford: Yes. But, at the same time Hans Selye, the scientists came up with the stress of life and the stress reaction and all of that is his belief. And it’s also my belief that when the crisis or when there’s a challenge, that’s when our latent abilities express themselves. So it’s like seeing everything. So we notice that how you can predict how somebody does in a job, three things positive, what they call positive genius or optimism and hope. Second thing is social support. And the third thing is seeing a crisis as a challenge. And so when we can do that, now we regenerate, we stimulate this latent ability. So, “Oh, this is great. This is an opportunity to show up and to really be helpful.” So, that’s what I’m excited about is it really doesn’t matter what happens on some level.
What matters is it? Can I create space between stimulus and response and then that space, can I be loving? Can I be compassionate? Can I be wise? Can I make wise choices? And can I live according to what my core values are love, compassion, connection? That sort of thing. And that, no matter what happens, I need to train myself so I can keep showing up. But the good news is because I share, I give away what I have. I get more of it. And if I want to learn something, I teach it.
Tim Ferriss: Well, George, I want to commend you for the work you do in the world. And also the fact that you share what you’ve learned and your story and the tools, not just with the celebrities that are known worldwide, but that you’ve also dedicated a substantial part of your life to at-risk populations, people who are looking for new ways to change and new chapters and transitions into a better way of being. And I just think that’s really a manifestation of love in you. And it’s beautiful to witness that and to know that there are people like you offering that. So I just want to thank you.
George Mumford: Yeah. Thank you. And these people like you, that they give me an opportunity to share my experience, strength and hope. And it’s also wonderful because I know the impact you’ve been having on folks and continue to have. So I want to say ditto to you, but I’m just happy, man. I’m just happy that I can just be here and have this wonderful conversation about how to — how do we live in a solution, not in a problem? And how do we access the fact that we are already perfect whole and complete in terms of being a masterpiece or a divine spark? We just don’t know it or we don’t show it.
Tim Ferriss: I think that is, that is an excellent piece to anchor on. As we come to a close George, is there anything else that you would like to say, any question you’d like to pose to the audience or requests you’d like to make of people listening before we wrap up?
George Mumford: Yes. My wish for everyone is for everyone to really understand they have a masterpiece in how to know ourselves so we can be ourselves so we can express ourselves so we can share ourselves. So the sharing is really important. And just understanding that we have a masterpiece — and I have my book, I have my online course. I have my YouTube channel. And you have all sorts of resources. My hope is that we all understand that we have to take personal responsibility is an inner game. And if we don’t like what we are experiencing, we can change it, but we have to be willing. And also not letting blame with denial, prevent us from taking responsibility and being able to share the focus on the solution. So if we’re going to criticize somebody is one thing to say, I don’t like this. It’s another thing to say it and then gives them an option that’s helpful,
Tim Ferriss: Very different. Worlds of difference. And that goes for criticizing other people or criticizing yourself. It applies in so many ways. George, people can find you at georgemumford.com, certainly on Instagram, we’ll link to all of these things in the show notes as well @george.mumford Twitter @gtmumford. And they can find The Mindful Athlete course, certainly on your website. Your book is a The Mindful Athlete, subtitle, Secrets to Pure Performance. And to everyone listening, we’ll link to everything that we’ve discussed, including the YouTube channel, and so on, in the show notes at tim.blog/podcast, as per always. And George, thank you so much for taking the time.
George Mumford: Thank you. I appreciate you.
Tim Ferriss: And to everybody listening, until next time, thank you for tuning in.
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