Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Rich Paul (@RichPaul4), the CEO and founder of KLUTCH Sports Group, the powerhouse agency representing some of the biggest athletes across major professional sports. Paul founded KLUTCH Sports in 2012 in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, where he forged a unique and personal approach to representing top NBA talent—putting athletes first and empowering them to build careers and brands on and off the court.
In 2019, KLUTCH Sports partnered with United Talent Agency (UTA). Paul serves as UTA’s Head of Sports and is an agency partner, and he was appointed to UTA’s board of directors in 2020. In 2019, Paul was named GQ’s “Power Broker of the Year” and dubbed “The King Maker” on the cover of Sports Illustrated. In 2021, TIME recognized KLUTCH Sports on its first-ever list of TIME100 Most Influential Companies, and Variety recently named Paul to their “Variety500” list of the most influential business leaders shaping the global media industry. Paul is also credited with driving the reversal of the so-called “Rich Paul Rule,” which would have banned agents without a college degree from representing NCAA student athletes.
In 2021, Paul and three former Nike executives formed a company called ADOPT, a creative agency focused on sport, wellness, nutrition, tech, and other consumer-facing products. In 2022, Paul joined the board of trustees of LACMA and the boards of directors of Funko and Designer Brands Inc. In 2023, he joined the board of directors of Live Nation. Paul is also a minority partner of the SpringHill Company.
His new book is Lucky Me: A Memoir of Changing the Odds.
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With many episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, or on your favorite podcast platform. Watch the interview on YouTube here.
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: Rich, it is a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you for making the time.
Rich Paul: Thanks for having me, Tim.
Tim Ferriss: And I thought we would begin with something that came up in my research and that is R&J Confectionery. Could you please explain for listeners what R&J Confectionery was?
Rich Paul: R&J Confectionery was, to most people, it was a store which my dad owned and operated. It was a community store, sat on the corner of 125th and Edmonton on the east side of Cleveland in the Glenville area. For me, it was Harvard, Stanford, Penn. That’s what it was for me. It was my curriculum, it was my education. It was where I was molded and built and taught so many different things just through interaction and also what I would say was just being able to observe as well.
Tim Ferriss: Now what types of things were you observing? What age were you when you first started spending time there? Could you just paint a picture for us?
Rich Paul: Yeah, I was very young. I probably first started spending time in the store when I was first able to walk, and so a lot of the customers there watched me grow up. And over time, the neighborhood obviously changed, and so there were great days, fun days, where you were a little kid running around the store helping picking out candy, eating candy, playing with your friends. And then there were days in which you started to see a difference. I started to see my friends’ moms go from this vibrant, beautiful person to strung out on crack.
I saw young men go from playing sports to now interacting and engaging in things as an adult. I saw a lot of violence, but at the same time, it was where you got to observe and see how people moved and people that you looked up to or you thought were cool. And so it was just this combustion of activity throughout the day. And my dad sat as the air traffic control by him owning the store and things of that nature. And so I learned a lot of what to do. I learned a lot of what not to do. I had several influences, both good and bad, several instances in which I was able to probably experience some things and here’s some conversations that at that age you probably shouldn’t. But at the same time, when I look back on it, I’m so glad I was able to because it really put a lot of things in perspective, especially for the seat I sit in now.
Tim Ferriss: On the cover of your book, I believe you are around 14, 13 or 14 years old?
Rich Paul: Yeah, that’s correct.
Tim Ferriss: And I’m curious why you chose that photo or that age for the cover?
Rich Paul: I think that’s the age where in life there’s a fork in the road. And I think for me, and it’s just in my experience, that’s the age in which a lot of my friends started off, started to go down a different road. And that’s the age for us growing up where you actually feel like you are an adult, “I’m going to make this decision,” you’re held accountable for the Muny League football games and the baseball games and things like that for some are not as exciting. Now I want to make money, now I want to stay out all night and just do certain things. And so that was the age when I had several pictures to choose from, but I chose that picture because I think if you think about even now in today’s, especially in my community, across America where I come from and all communities like that, that age is just so important. That’s the age where you start to go down one path or the other. And I started losing a lot of friends around that age.
Tim Ferriss: So let’s hop to the present tense, and we’re going to go back to a lot of things that I want to ask you about, including James Baldwin, who is endlessly interesting and fascinating to me. But I would like to ask you about something I know very little about, and that is the free agency period. So my understanding is that in the frantic period that ensued this past July, you negotiated something along the lines of close to $900 million worth of contracts. And I would love for you just to give us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how you prepare for that and what that type of process looks like once the clock strikes and the game is on. What is that experience like for people who don’t have any familiarity?
Rich Paul: Well, for those who look at it on ESPN or online, it’s like, “Okay, it’s midnight July one, phone lines are open, everybody can get to work.” For me and for us, my team, free agency doesn’t start July one in terms of your preparation. You start prepping beginning of the year probably before the season, summer league. There’s a lot of things that you need to prep for. There’s a lot of posturing, there’s a lot of conversations, information, just watching what other teams do as well as development and giving your guy some insights, as well, so he can position himself better and understand what the team is looking for or whatnot.
And so by the time you get to July, you pretty much have a decent board. There could be some times you don’t know and there’s teams pop up out of nowhere. But once that hits, now you’re taking meetings with different teams. And if you’re lucky enough to have a guy that has multiple teams, then he’s trying to decide what fits best for him and his family on one end, and then you’re trying to decide a number on the other end with that team. And so it’s pretty hectic. It’s a lot that comes with it. I know it looks easy, but it’s not easy and —
Tim Ferriss: It doesn’t look easy.
Rich Paul: And we were blessed to reach that number. And I’m still in negotiations right now with a couple of guys, and so it never ends.
Tim Ferriss: So when you’re doing the prep and you say when you have a decent board, and again, I apologized before we started recording, but I’m coming in very uneducated with this type of thing. I just don’t have the familiarity. I followed a few sports, but mostly boxing and fight sports. So with that in mind, what does it look like to have a decent board in front of you in terms of what you’ve decided or strategy or anything else? What does that look like?
Rich Paul: When you talk about a decent board, I’m speaking about the options that you may have based upon the players you represent. This year we had a number of players that were sought after by a number of different teams. And so when you have those options, that’s incredible. Any agent will tell you that’s very hard to do. And then it’s just a matter of getting things done in a timely manner. Teams, one thing about it, teams like to be able to move. And so if you are moving your feet slow, they have to jump to somebody else. Very few people, team’s going to wait on, very few people team’s going to wait on. And so when you do have somebody that teams are actually going to wait on, you also have to balance that too because you want to be respectful to them as well and their time. And so I try not to string people along. At the end of the day, you have to give yourself time, but there’s definitely a balance.
Tim Ferriss: So I’d love to get into maybe a story or some specifics of the negotiating process because, by all accounts, you’re considered a master negotiator. And I’ll give one example, maybe if you could speak to this. How did information that you received negotiating for Draymond Green’s contract, which I think was four years, 100 million, inform how you then approached the market for Jerami Grant, which ended up being five years, 160 million? I’m just wondering how things —
Rich Paul: Actually, Jerami’s was done before Draymond’s.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, okay, great. So let’s —
Rich Paul: Jerami’s was done before Draymond’s. But to answer your question, Draymond was in a much different situation than Jerami. Obviously he’s older, he’s been on the team, one team for 11 years at the time. He’s a guy that his stats may not necessarily show his value, but when you plug him somewhere, he brings a tremendous value. He brings a championship experience, a chip. He’s one of the smartest guys on the court every night. And so when you’re negotiating for somebody like Draymond, analytics and all those things don’t really matter.
In Jerami’s case, we had already understood what was happening in Portland and with their star player at that time, but we also kept the conversation, the communication, to understand that they valued Jerami there as well, regardless what was going on with their star player. So that was great to know.
And then there were some other teams around the league that anybody can use a six nine athletic wing like Jerami, versatile, the whole nine. And it was a matter of if he wanted to stay in Portland, despite what may have taken place. And so, he did. And he had other teams with cap space that would actually spend the money. Where Draymond was a little bit different. In order to get to his number, there was very few teams with the cap space to do that. So now you’ve got to look at a sign and trade, which we had a sign and trade lined up. But ultimately Draymond wanted to stay with the Warriors. That’s where he was drafted, that’s where he’s had success. And so at that point, you just have to turn and make the best deal with the team that he was on. So that’s what I was able to do.
Tim Ferriss: I’d like to, and this may be pushing for a tie-in, but I’m curious what type of gambling you were referring to when you were younger. So when you were a kid?
Rich Paul: Yeah, we gambled on everything. If two people had a discrepancy, the next word was bet. And so that was my mentality since I was seven, eight years old. And so my dad taught me how to shoot dice and play cards. And then that led to horseshoes or betting on any sports that you were capable of doing, whether it was racing from end to end or whether you decided to shoot jumpers at the park from the top of the key like you would see on White Men Can’t Jump. We really did that at our park, and I practiced it to the point to where I perfected it to where I could shoot with one hand. And so allowing me to, if I’m betting a guy and I’m going to shoot with one hand, then his bet has to be more than my bet because I’m at a disadvantage, so to speak.
So everything we did, whether it was ping pong, it didn’t matter what it was shooting pool, I didn’t want to play pool unless we were betting. I didn’t want to bowl unless we were betting. And so I just had that mentality growing up that just everything was about a bet. So that’s the type of gambling. That was street gambling prior to me playing in the casino. But I don’t really gamble as much at the casino as I would in the streets. It’s a totally different vibe for me.
Tim Ferriss: So what are some of the things that made you effective in street gambling? And were there any particular games that were your specialty or types of bets? You mentioned the shooting.
Rich Paul: Yeah, shooting dice. I was special. Like Steph Curry has a great three-point shot, I had a great shot. I was the Steph Curry of dice shooting, for sure. But there’s also a confidence. And there was also, for some weird reason, I felt like I can actually talk to the dice, and they could speak to me. It was my pet, everyone has a dog or a teddy bear. The dice was my pet. I would go around and just gamble. I would gamble against anybody. It didn’t matter who it was. I would shoot dice against my grandmother if she had some money and wanted to bet. And that was just my mentality. So it was great. It was good though, but it was dangerous at times. And I think about it all the time sometimes. Just being behind abandoned buildings or in the basement of an abandoned house and you’ve got this money and for things to go the way they went for me, I’m extremely lucky.
Tim Ferriss: And if we come back to the free agency period, I’m curious if, for instance, if you were for whatever reason sidelined and you had to coach someone to step in your place to have a lot of the conversations, to do a lot of the planning that you’re talking about, are there any key pieces of advice that you might give them or warnings that you might give them? “Do not do this. I tried this once. It’s a bad idea.” Any advice that you think would be key?
Rich Paul: There’s several things. You’ve got to really watch out for friendly fire. There’s a ton of friendly fire out there. Friendly fire in terms of giving too much information to somebody, and then they share that information, not knowing who they’re sharing it with. And it comes back to it backfires on you.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, bite you in the ass.
Rich Paul: Yeah, that happens a lot. You’ve got to prepare. We’ve seen things happen this year with guys, and it is not necessarily their fault. They wasn’t prepared. You’re going into a meeting with somebody, you have to know pretty much what they’re looking for and being able to try to feel the answer to the test already. Patience, can’t panic, you can’t take any of it personal, it’s not a personal thing. And I always say some people define the business card and some people are defined by their business card, and so I don’t carry a business card. So it puts things in perspective for you. But ultimately, every year I learn something new. I’m a sponge man. I like to be educated. I have a different temperament than most would probably have, and at the end of the day, you’re only going to be as strong as your client. If you have a strong client, they trust you and they are aligned. Then I’ve been in situations where a deal got done in one day, and I’ve been in situations where it took three and a half months and I was fine with either one.
Tim Ferriss: How did you first meet LeBron?
Rich Paul: We met in the airport, Akron County Airport.
Tim Ferriss: And what was the way in which you guys met? Did you go up to him? Did he say something to you?
Rich Paul: I had a Warren Moon Oilers jersey on that kind of caught his attention, and then he asked me about the jersey and that’s what started the conversation. And then that led to us kind of bumping into each other again at the baggage claim. And I gave him my business card because at the time I did have a business card and I was selling our jerseys to a store that he can go to locally in Atlanta. And then when he got back to Ohio, they reached out to me again and then that kind of started the relationship.
Tim Ferriss: How did the relationship evolve from that point?
Rich Paul: I think just when I was young, again, my life had really gave me so many different tools and experiences and so when you’re a young kid like they were, I had all the things. I had the clothes, I had the jewelry, I had the car, I had the know-how, I had the confidence, I had the experience, and we would just talk. But I think the thing that drew us together and closer was our moms. I was able to see him and observe things and have conversations with him where he could be himself and not feel the need to protect himself because I was going through the same thing or I had gone through the same thing. And so that’s what really brought us closer together.
Tim Ferriss: Was the family similarity?
Rich Paul: Yeah, family similarity. Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: I know I’m bouncing around a lot, but that’s sort of the nature of my mind. I’m trying to tease out some of the influences or models that you’ve had. I know you have portraits of a number of different people, and I understand one of those is James Baldwin. And I was wondering if you could just explain what the significance is of James for you or why you’re attracted to him.
Rich Paul: Obviously, I didn’t grow up with him in that space, but just watching old videos and things like that, just what he stood for, how articulate he was, how he saw things and broke it down and the way he did it. I think it’s important to really pay homage to people like that. That room that picture’s in, I have a number of people from entertainers to activists to actors from some of my favorite movies, both mob movies and movies that was created by the John Singleton and Hughes brothers and so on and so forth, as well as just different legends in music and sports. That’s a room of inspiration for me. But James Baldwin in particular, at a time where it wasn’t popular to be as blunt as he was, it wasn’t ideal for someone who looked like him to be as smart and articulate as he was and not just on the surface, but in depth. That moved me and that was somebody that I felt like I wanted to have on my wall.
Tim Ferriss: I encourage everybody who’s listening, if you are not familiar with the name, look up James Baldwin. I mean, so brilliant. So, as you mentioned, articulate and also very good at presenting the messiness of life in a way that wasn’t over-indulgent, but very truthful and bold, like you mentioned. And had a very complicated life himself, like a lot of people. But I’ve collected quotes of his for the last year or two, just an incredible depth of character. So I encourage people to check out James Baldwin, if you haven’t already.
You have been incredibly successful in a world that on some level, at least at points has prioritized or highlighted formal degrees. But how has that lens affected you?
Rich Paul: Well, I finished high school at a very high level. I just didn’t need college. I actually made an attempt to go to college and I actually enjoyed school. I really did, but my life was different and for what I needed to do, I felt like I was prepared. My dad did an unbelievable job in my environment, did an unbelievable job of preparing me, and equipping me with the tools necessary for me to persevere through life. I think society paints the picture that you need a higher education for certain things, and I think that when you go to get a job, they go by what your education status is, which again, for some jobs I understand it, but most kids that graduate college, they’re not working in their field that they got a degree in anyway. So I don’t know how much of a — that actually added —
Tim Ferriss: Indicator, it is. Yeah.
Rich Paul: Yeah. But I always felt prepared, especially for what I do for sure.
Tim Ferriss: So at some point, and again, this is me just looking at some reading in the process of preparing for this, but the NCAA announced a rule at one point that agents could not represent college athletes unless they themselves had a college degree. Now at face value, that seems ridiculous. And then LeBron dubbed on Twitter, this particular regulation, the hashtag, the Rich Paul rule. Why do you think they tried to put this into action, and how did they justify it also?
Rich Paul: There was really no justification. I think they tried to put it into action to prevent the next Rich Paul because it wasn’t about — as much as it was about me, it wasn’t nothing they could actually do to me, but they could discourage someone else. And it’s no different than, again, you have to have a college degree to become this person. Well, if you look at it and if you do the data, that basically carves out a specific group of people that are going to be given opportunity based upon the completion of a higher education. Because one thing about life, life don’t always afford you to pay attention to higher education, especially when you grew up the way I did in terms of — and I know people had it worse than I did.
So when you talk about just trying to survive and trying to survive the day, the week, the month, younger siblings and lights are off, gas is off, it is just a different dynamic, and it’s unfair in a lot of ways because you basically feel trapped a lot of times. And so I feel like again, that’s just a discouragement and that’s just an excuse to be able to say why you didn’t give somebody an opportunity because they didn’t have this. But I think there’s more people that can actually learn on the job training, unless it’s something like you have to code at Microsoft or Apple or you have to — and even that, there’s geniuses that learn this stuff at home. They’re not learning it from a textbook. And so I just think it’s all bullshit to be honest with you.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I think it seems like people came around on it to, whether they like to or not, end up on the same page. What would you say are any of the best investments you’ve made? And I’ll explain what I mean. Because you have taken a very unorthodox path to get to where you are, but you have studied and you’ve learned and observed like you mentioned, from a very young age. And so for instance, I’ll just give a couple examples. Like Warren Buffett would say one of his best investments, maybe his best investment, was taking a public speaking course, Dale Carnegie, because it amplified everything he was able to do. A lot of people on the podcast have put time into something or energy into something that paid dividends later. What have been some of the best investments of time or energy or money that you’ve put in in terms of something that laid the ground for something that happened later, if that makes any sense?
Rich Paul: For me, it was the dry runs. Getting out on that road, driving to get in front of a family and coming up short. I think it really allows you to decide if this is something you really want to do. And if so, now I have to figure out ways to get better because I didn’t play the money game. When I got into this business, I didn’t play the money game. I didn’t play the cut-your-fee game. I didn’t do any of that. All the stuff that’s still going on now, I didn’t do that. And I was up against the bigger agencies that had the perception, the cache, and they had the alliances within these universities and things like that to help them, give them information, give families the number or give the number of families and then sit up a kid in a room and tell them — don’t tell them not to go somewhere because they don’t want that on them, but they will tell them why they should go here.
So now when you call the coach, they say, “Well, I didn’t tell them not to come with you.” But you didn’t tell them they should either, but you told them they should for this company that you happen to be represented by and stuff like that. And so I had to deal with all those type of things and navigate my way around that, which I did. But that was one of the best investments for sure. And then I think the other thing was just kind of investing in self, knowing that and believing that despite the shortcomings, just stay at it. It’ll turn. And again, in the dice game, we used to have to be able to say, “Can you stand the rain?” A guy is throwing point after point after point and you would have to stand in there and stand the rain and eventually they turn and things go the other way, so I was prepared.
Tim Ferriss: So when you mentioned you weren’t playing the money game, do you mean that you were not cutting your fees as a way to try to make yourself more attractive? Could you say a bit more about that?
Rich Paul: Yeah. Not cutting my fees is a way to make — because people don’t believe in your work practice and your expertise. And then the bigger companies, they’re able to do that because they’re just rolling it all into their annual revenue, so if you’ve got —
Tim Ferriss: Right, the larger machine.
Rich Paul: Yeah, 25 different verticals. Okay, so sports is one of them, and you roll it into it and then they look at it as we’ll charge the higher less, we’ll charge the middle more and we’ll charge the lower the max and they’ll be appreciative to be here because we probably shouldn’t be representing them anyway. And then we’ll roll it all up and at the end of the day, it goes on our books and what’s dead is dead. I have a clear understanding of the business, but when you are on your own, you don’t have that. You can’t do that. And so I was able to get players despite that, and it actually drove them crazy and still does to this day.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I bet it drove them crazy. So what were your selling points? Because the big agencies have all of the stuff that we could probably guess they would use to sell. We’ve got all this coverage, we’ve got all these verticals, we can expand in these following ways, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. What did you find over time as you’re putting in reps and learning, after coming up short and then improving, what were your main selling points that allowed you to get some of those key early folks?
Rich Paul: I think there was a genuineness. They can feel that in the room. There was an actual real care for who they were as individuals and as families. I just thought different — I led with education. I wasn’t selling anything because I found out very early, there’s nothing to sell. You can go in with your PowerPoint, back in the day we put the CD in and show all these other people that the company represented, but the reality was those people were never going to touch those people. Those people don’t actually care about the people that’s in this room. So you’re showing that as if it’s all at one family and it’s not. And so I just really shined a light on that, and the people that gave me an opportunity, I did right by them, which got me the next opportunity.
Tim Ferriss: You said in a GQ interview, which had a great title, “Rich Paul: Power Broker of the Year,” that one of the biggest obstacles for young players in learning how to become a pro or be a pro is establishing infrastructure. What do you mean by infrastructure?
Rich Paul: Most guys, that’s athletes especially, they’ve come from an environment to where everyone along the way has made it about them. And so if you have the mentality that it’s only about me, then you’re not going to value other people and what their capabilities are, what their expertise is. But if you are a walking corporation, we can’t name one corporation that does not have infrastructure. Organization. They have an organizational chart, they have people that do certain things and there’s clarity within that infrastructure, but it comes with the costs.
And so most athletes don’t want to do what? They don’t want to pay anybody to do anything because along the way, everyone has did things for them for free, but it wasn’t really for free. It was to be able to be standing there next to them at a time where there was actually something to gain. So I’ll sacrifice this now when you’re an amateur to be able to stand next to you to get some crumbs or whatever the case when you become a pro. And whatever their aspirations were, if it was to hang out, the girls, to travel, whatever it is, the money, whatever it was, but you see what they did. Basically, you created something that ultimately became your own demise because up front you taught them wrong.
You taught them, “I’m doing this out of love. I’m going to pick you up, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that.” All to turn it around on them when they start making money and say, “Remember when I did this or I did that?” Well, that’s not fair to the player, and it’s also not fair to yourself. What the conversation should be like is, “Look, I understand you don’t have the ability to pay for anything, and if you’re a parent, I’m doing it out of love. I love you. You’re my kid.” But if you’re somebody else, just be honest with it. “Hey, look, I’m going to do all I can to help you get to where you need to go. Once you get there, if there’s an opportunity for me, then I’m going to do all I can to position myself to where if you give me that opportunity, I can then be of value to you.” Very simple.
Tim Ferriss: When free isn’t free, right, it’s an unclear prepayment for things to come later, that’s when it seems like things can get extremely messy. How do you help them when they, say, sign with you, or even just start to develop a relationship with you, to take the first steps for building out infrastructure? What are some of the first steps that you might recommend?
Rich Paul: I would say checks and balances. Really getting the proper financial team in place, and that’s everybody from a CPA to the guy who manages your investment portfolio or the company that manages your investment portfolio. Really having somebody monitor that because that’s a very fragile thing there. But at the same time, deciding what it is that you want. I like to live a certain way now that I understand better on how to live. And so if you are a single man with no family, do you really need a 20,000 square foot home? Probably not. You’re not going to be home half the time. Do you really need to fly private? Probably not. So there’s different ways to go about it, but what’s most important? Should you hire a chef? Yes, you should. Should you take a shortcut on that? No, you shouldn’t. Do you know the difference between a chef and a cook? You should find that out because this is very important.
Your chef should then go and sit with your nutritionist on your team and figure out. You should do all the testing, everything you need, because your body ultimately is the engine that keeps you running. That’s how you make your money.
Tim Ferriss: What are some of the key ingredients for emotional support and stability? I’m just imagining young athletes who are suddenly in the limelight, they have all the temptations, they have a lot of pressure. There must be, and I know a few professional athletes who’ve gone through these periods, periods that are very challenging, and certainly after retirement or the end of their playing years, some very challenging times. What have you seen in terms of the best ways to support that? Could be from your side, it could be other ingredients, player, health on that side of the ledger.
Rich Paul: Yeah. I think nowadays, I think there needs to be someone that players need to talk to and be open-minded to having a therapist to get stuff off their chest because they deal with a lot. They deal with a lot. I think it’s also important for players to not feel entitled to do things. Oftentimes, they feel like they have to take on all of this onus to do something for other people, and that’s not real. Because when it comes down to it, if you ask probably 80 percent of the players that aren’t in the position they used to be in and ask them who can do for them, there’s not going to be many, if any for that matter, and so —
Tim Ferriss: Meaning people who —
Rich Paul: People, yeah —
Tim Ferriss: — are willing to help them?
Rich Paul: Yeah, of course. Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Rich Paul: Then how are they positioning themselves to where when the ball stops, it’s not about just having a ton of money like, “How can I do something else? How can I be perceived, while playing, as someone who can transition and do something else?” There’s this idea that, “Oh, I made a lot of money, I don’t have to do nothing else.” Well, that’s not true because you made a lot of money, but you didn’t diversify your portfolio. Unless your money is making money for you and you live a lifestyle in which your eight percent or your 10 percent or whatever it is return each year is able to pay your bills and your taxes on your home and stuff like that, then you’ve got to go to work. You have to go to work. It’s a big difference when you’ve made $50 million this year and then next year you made nothing. It’s just tough.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. What do you say to the players when they start to take on that onus you were mentioning, right? So people come to them and ask them for things, I’m sure it happens all the time from many different directions, from people they’ve met along the way, from new people. When you see someone who’s about to take on too much or accept that, what does that conversation look like?
Rich Paul: If they come to me with the conversation, it’s very real. I don’t really have a lot of gray in me. It’s pretty black and white. Even though I have a gray Klutch Athletics hoodie, it’s pretty black and white for me because that’s how life is. Life is, there’s no gray in it, man. Outside of the days, 300 of the days in Cleveland, Ohio, that’s great, but there’s no real gray in it, man. I just want them to understand how important it is to get their ducks in a row at their youngest age, because that’s when they make their money at their youngest age. The average person makes their money between the age of 45 and 65. The average athlete makes their money between the age of 19 and 25, maybe 30 if they get that far. It’s so hard. Then learning when to jump off that dream train, right? Yes, I know you thought you was going to be a Hall of Famer. You thought you was going to be an all-NBA guy.
You thought you was going to play 15 years in the league, but if you play two or three or five, save your money. Do the things while playing to learn how this business actually operates and start to position yourself to where I can still be around the game in a different form. When you look at guys, and there’s a reason why top coaches aren’t really ex-players or ex-star players, let me say that, ex-star players because they wasn’t allowed to have the ego that most star players have, and so they actually become better coaches. When you look at a Ty Lue, when you look at a guy like Adrian Griffin, who’s getting the opportunity now in Milwaukee, well deserved, overly deserved. When you look at guys like Quin Snyder, who— Quin played ball, he was a good player. He wasn’t John Stockton, right?
Tim Ferriss: Mm-hmm.
Rich Paul: But he’s a hell of a coach, and he’s going to make more money as a coach than he would as a player. Ty Lue has already done it. Darvin Ham’s going to do it. When you really think about this, because I studied this stuff, it’s a guy like Jamahl Mosley. He tried to play ball and played ball a little bit, but whatever. But as a coach, he’s going to be — but he paid his dues, went from development to this to that, and just have the time. Give yourself time and be patient, and do the little things necessary to continue to reposition yourself and it’s going to happen for you. That can be any part of the ecosystem of sport, in any sport for that matter.
Tim Ferriss: So you mentioned ego, and I’d love to focus on this for a second because it seems like LeBron has never been known as someone who’s ego-driven. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, of course, but as someone that talented and that driven, obviously putting in intense amounts of work and dedication, one could imagine a world in which a person like that would be very ego-driven, and certainly there are counter examples. What do you think it is that has led him to be that way, or is he just that way right out of the box?
Rich Paul: I think he’s that way. But also, LeBron’s from Akron, Ohio. If you’ve ever been to Akron, there’s not much there. So there wasn’t these things that allowed him to develop this ego, per se. When you think about his friends, same guys he went to high school with, same guys he go back with now. Yeah, he’s LeBron, but they don’t give a — they still talk crazy to him, and they talk about things and they laugh and joke or whatever and fall out and get back together. That’s just life. Then when you think about his business infrastructure, myself, Maverick, Randy, et cetera, we don’t really care that he’s LeBron, per se. He values our opinion, we value him.
If we have a discrepancy or disagreement or something, we’re not going to hold our tongue because he’s LeBron, and that’s one aspect of it, but that’s not even what’s the most important. The most important thing in all of that, though, is he’s not going to look at it as if he can overpower or just do something for the sake of doing it because he is LeBron. See, it takes two to tango, and that has helped him along the way. We all have disagreements in meetings and so on and so forth, but one thing about him, he’s egoless enough to know when he should listen. That’s just showing people respect and believing in them, and so I think that’s helped him tremendously. Now, we all have ego. Don’t get me wrong, you have to have an ego to have confidence, but you’re not invested in your ego. You’re not leading with the ego. You know when the ego is supposed to come out the room and when it’s not.
When he’s at that—I still call it the Staples Center—he has an ego. He’s LeBron James. That’s his show. That’s his stage. He’s there to perform and put on a great show, sometimes too great of a show if you ask me. I would like him to be a little bit more precise with things, and we debate about that as well.
Tim Ferriss: I’d like to talk about how you think about luck. So the name of your memoir is Lucky Me.
Rich Paul: Mm-hmm.
Tim Ferriss: Why Lucky Me?
Rich Paul: Why Lucky Me? Look, when you think about it, I grew up in my dad’s store. I learned math through playing the numbers and selling beer, wine, cigarettes, et cetera, candy. I was extremely lucky to have that environment. I was extremely lucky to have a dad who believed in me enough to stress education and to teach me things in which that he knew I was going to need to be successful in life; not successful for the moment, but successful for the duration, and success not necessarily meaning from a finance perspective, but just from a humanity perspective, extremely lucky. I was extremely lucky to go through some of the things that I went through to help shape me and mold me to understand life’s challenges and to be able to survive those thunderstorms emotionally and things like that, to get out on the other side.
So in addition to Jay-Z’s Lucky Me being my favorite record, there’s a number of things that I was extremely lucky for. I was able to make it out of an environment to where many didn’t. When I say they didn’t, not because they’re dead or in jail, but because mentally, they just can’t see past what’s in front of them. I’m extremely blessed and lucky to be able to do so to the point to where it’s gotten me this far. At the same time, it’s a little sarcasm to it because look, I didn’t have my mom. I didn’t have many options. My entrepreneurial spirit led me down the road of what some would say was detriment and darkness. At the same time, I was able to persevere through it. So there’s a number of meanings in between it or amongst it, but ultimately, I felt that was the right title.
Tim Ferriss: A great title. Could you say a bit more about the entrepreneurial impulse leading you into darkness, if I heard you correctly? Can you say a bit more about that chapter?
Rich Paul: Growing up, we had very little options. If you had an entrepreneurial spirit, you only could be that entrepreneur through hustles. That hustle could have been everything from selling jerseys to selling drugs, selling candy to selling inner tubes from a bike or everything was a hustle. There was no real jobs. There was no real understanding of corporate America. There was no opportunities and there was no examples, more importantly, to see someone go to work every day, get a raise, get promoted, and then go from being promoted, get promoted again, and then become partner. We didn’t have these examples that I have today.
Tim Ferriss: We flash back because it seems like, at least based on some of the notes I have in front of me, one of the through lines for you, one of the themes is, possibly, “How you do one thing is how you do everything.” I wanted to ask about creasing and ironing your jeans as a kid. Is that something that you did? If so, why did you do that?
Rich Paul: My sister taught me how to iron my jeans first and foremost. Then once she taught me, it made me feel like I was an adult at a very young age. Then I started to decide that there’s the detail in it and ironing my jeans the way I did and having the creases line up, and then I perfected that. Then from there, I realized that, “Oh, I can iron really good.” So I started to advertise my ability to iron. So when I would go to my uncle’s house or somebody’s house and they’re getting dressed to get ready to go to the bar or the club, and they can’t do two things at once. So I say, “Hey, I’ll iron your clothes for you, and there’s going to be a charge for that.” I made money ironing clothes with no problem. I think that the detail of it and my preciseness of it allowed them to trust me more. The more they trusted me, the more I can charge.
So now ironing jeans is one thing, but if I’m ironing silk pants or a silk shirt and I knew how to adjust the iron to wool and linen and so on and so forth, and I built a good business, and I made money every which way like that. But then me understanding that and willing and wanting to align those creases properly and take my time to do it and prepare as such with the iron and the water and light starch and things like that, that quote that you made, “How you do one thing is how you do everything,” that’s at its foundation and your approach to it. Because whatever arena you’re in, just your approach to that, that detail, staying that detail-oriented will allow you to progress. So that’s what that meant.
Tim Ferriss: Usually, I wouldn’t ask about something in the background, but I have to ask, what is the polar bear statue in the background behind you? Looks like a polar bear.
Rich Paul: Oh, oh, oh, oh, yeah, that’s just interior design.
Tim Ferriss: Okay. I have a thing for polar bears, that’s why I was asking.
Rich Paul: Yeah, but that’s an Ernie Barnes behind me, that picture.
Tim Ferriss: Okay.
Rich Paul: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: So can you tell me more about the Ernie Barnes piece? You seem like somebody who chooses things. I imagine these things aren’t just thrown in your house.
Rich Paul: Oh, no. No, they’re placed properly. Ernie Barnes is a well-known Black artist. He’s most known for the cover of Marvin Gaye’s album and —
Tim Ferriss: I recognize the style. I’ve never seen that piece, but I recognize the style.
Rich Paul: The picture at the end of Good Times, that painting is called “The Sugar Shack.” Eddie Murphy actually owns the original one from my understanding, and I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase this piece. This is called “The Runway.” So growing up, I watched Good Times a lot, didn’t know anything about art, saw that picture the whole time. Then as I got more into art, I started to learn different artists, and Ernie Barnes was somebody I wanted to make sure I had in my collection.
Tim Ferriss: What is player empowerment? What does that mean?
Rich Paul: Player empowerment, I know that people use this a lot, but it’s really player choice. I think that oftentimes people say as player empowerment, you get confused with like, “Oh, a player can just do whatever they want.” No, that’s not the case. I think player empowerment comes through the lens of education, understanding that you do have a choice, flexibility, and just having a mindset that “I don’t necessarily have to play my career or put my career on the same track as somebody else’s because that’s what the media or anybody around my game would expect me to do.”
And the example of that is Reggie Miller was a great player. He spent his whole time with the Indiana Pacers. Dirk Nowitzki was a great player. He spent his whole time with the Mavericks. Kobe was a great player, he spent his whole time with the Lakers. But LeBron and KD are great players. They’ve been on several teams. That doesn’t make them any lesser than a legend or icon as those other guys that just named. But because these people get on these media platforms and try to create a narrative of what’s right and what’s wrong and how something should go versus how it shouldn’t. No, everybody’s career and their journey is their journey.
But I think it’s a misconception with player empowerment because it’s not like they can write their own checks or their own teams. So it’s only so much power within that empowerment. But I think the empowerment is for players to give, to empower other players to do as you feel necessary within the lines of your professional positioning and obviously your contract, but don’t feel the need to have your journey look like someone else’s.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, self-authoring with choice and educated choice, like you mentioned. Who were the most important influences in developing your confidence?
Rich Paul: Again, going back to my dad, first and foremost. My brother, who even to this day, when I called my brother about something, he’s like — and I’ll be talking to him like, “Bro, I’m thinking about doing this and what do you think? I think it may work.” He’s like, “Bro, it’s going to work. I’ve been telling you this since you was a kid. It’s going to work. Don’t even worry about it.” This is his exact conversation. But outside of family, I’ve had a lot of people that instilled confidence in me. My Uncle Warren when I played mini football, they would put the confidence in you. You may not like the words, but you know that they instill the confidence in you.
Tim Ferriss: What kind of things might he say? How did he do that?
Rich Paul: Who? My brother and my Uncle Warren?
Tim Ferriss: Your uncle. Yeah.
Rich Paul: I mean, I played quarterback when I was a Muny League football player, or if I switched to receiver or safety. He would just, “You know what you’re supposed to do, you know how to do it. We worked on it. You know what we practice on, you can do it.” And that was the mentality. We had the expectation of when Belichick was leading the Patriots, when the Patriots were, if they didn’t want to go to the Super Bowl, it was a failed season.
That was our mini league team. If we did not go to the city championship, something was wrong. And so you go into practice with that understanding and that mentality and that expectation on you, that’s what it was. And even when I was young, gambling, shooting dice, my dad would instill that confidence in me. I’ve had some unbelievable comeback. You think the Cavs came back from 3-1, you don’t know what it’s like to have a hundred dollars and you down to your last dollar and you’re 11 years old and you’ve got $1 left, and you turn that dollar into 200, you roar all the way back. It’s the —
Tim Ferriss: Redemption trail.
Rich Paul: For sure. It’s an unbelievable feeling to do that. And I had plenty of nights like that, whether it was on the basketball court or whether it was at the dice game, and I think about those moments all the time. Those were some fun times, man. It really was.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Yeah. Formative times. Yeah. Why do a book? There’s so much involved. You have to prioritize it, you have to promote it. Why do a book? What does it mean to you and what do you hope it will do in terms of impact for people who read it?
Rich Paul: I think a book brings a seriousness to it. Instead of just doing a visual. I think when people really sit down and read a book, you can really dive into its chapters and read it again and go back. And so the book form was important. The timing of it was important. You look at the state of the world. How our youth sees the world today, the different perceptions that people may feel like they have without being able to have someone hear them. I wanted to write a book to where I shared my experiences, I shared my journey, but also wanting to let people know that you’re being heard, and not only are you being heard, you can be in a different place as long as you stay in the moment.
I know it may seem dark and gray and bleak and challenging, but you tend to think that everyone’s paying attention to you and what you’ve got going on. And so you get discouraged, but in reality, they’re not. Everyone has their own problems. Just get through yours.
Tim Ferriss: Totally.
Rich Paul: Get through them, continue to push, continue to persevere, and you can end up in a different spot. I wanted to give kids that example and just people in general. Regardless of race, regardless of gender, I just wanted to give you that example. And it was the right time for me because I’m at a place to where I’m honestly comfortable enough, and I feel like I’ve accomplished enough to allow people in because today people want to be Rich Paul. They want to be a better version, and they want to do the things that I do. They want to be an agent because of me. Once I got to that point, I wanted to help them understand who I really am and why I do the things I do. Because it’s very misleading to say, “Oh, this guy became a top agent. He’d done $4 billion in contracts and he didn’t go to college.” Well, that could —
Tim Ferriss: There’s more to it.
Rich Paul: Yeah, that could leave a kid like he playing Mortal Kombat, it’s like just sitting there like dizzy. I wanted to give them an example and an understanding and paint a picture through storytelling that they see themselves in that same mirror and like, “Damn, I don’t have to go out here and rob somebody. I don’t have to go out here and kill somebody. I don’t have to go out here and feel like I’m not being heard. He had the same problems I did. Wow. I see myself in that.” And here’s an example that I see every day. I can see him, I can touch them, whatever. I’m accessible to people. I like to talk to people when they see me out in the street and it’s like, wow.
So that was encouraging for me. What I didn’t want to do is write a puff piece. And that’s what I said to my team. I said, “If I do a book, it will not be a puff piece. I don’t want to write a book on, ‘Look what I did. Look how much money I made.’ I don’t need to do that.” That could be the second book. That can’t be the first book. The first book, people need to know who I am at my core, what I’ve been through. And it was therapeutic for me, and I’m glad I did it. It was something that I’m proud of. And hopefully when people read the book, they feel inspired by it.
Tim Ferriss: And the subtitle is great also. I mean, I love everything about it. I mean, Lucky Me: A Memoir of Changing the Odds, and certainly you’ve demonstrated that. And just a few closing questions for you. The first is, if you could put anything on a billboard, this is metaphorically speaking, just to get a message out to billions of people. Could be an image, could be a quote, could be a word, could be something that’s inspired you, anything at all. What might you put on that billboard? Do you have any ideas?
Rich Paul: I would put, “Kindness never hurts. Love is never wasted. Unity starts with you. Trust makes it possible. Community is a mentality, and honesty keeps it real.” And I think you need all those things to change the way people are living today for the better. You need all those things to help uplift somebody. You need all those things to unite and elaborate, and you need all those things to be Klutch.
Tim Ferriss: Rich, I’ve really enjoyed spending time with you. People can find you on Instagram @RichPaul, Twitter @RichPaul4, the number four, and certainly they can find the new book Lucky Me: A Memoir of Changing the Odds, everywhere fine books are sold. Is there anything else you’d like to say or anything you’d like to ask of my audience? Anything at all you’d like to add before we wind up?
Rich Paul: I want to thank you for having me on. I know you’re not into sports like that, but obviously I’m doing something right to get your attention, so I’m happy for that.
And to the audience, you don’t have to be in sports, don’t feel like I have to be in sports to read this book. You don’t even have to know how to spell sports per se. And I think that it’s important to really care about what other people are going through despite what society teaches us. I think it’s important to really dive into other people’s experiences because it allows you to try to have a better perspective and a better understanding of people. I’m glad to have matured to the point to where I can honestly say that, because I grew up in an environment where we didn’t care about nothing at all.
Tim Ferriss: Well, Rich, I can barely spell sports, but I can spell human, and your story is intensely human. I think it will resonate with a lot of readers and it’s a hero’s journey of changing the odds. I’m very excited to see what it’ll do in the world. Lucky Me: A Memoir of Changing the Odds is the book, everyone. Please check it out. And thank you so much for taking the time, Rich.
Rich Paul: Thanks, Tim, I appreciate it.
Tim Ferriss: This has been a lot of fun. And to everybody listening, we’ll include links in the show notes as usual to everything at tim.blog/podcast. Until next time, be just a bit kinder than is necessary to others and to yourself, and thanks for tuning in.
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.