Awakin Calls » Graham Betchart » Transcript
Graham Betchart: Improving "Next Play Speed" & Playing Present
Guest: Graham Betchart
Host: Joe Houska
Moderator: Rahul Brown
Joe: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening. My name is Joe and I'm really excited to be your host for our weekly global Awakin call. Welcome and thank you for joining us. The purpose of these calls is to share stories that help plant seeds for a more compassionate society while fostering our own inner transformation.
We do this by holding collective conversations with guest speakers from all walks of life who inspire us to live in a more service-oriented way. And behind each of these calls is an entire team of ServiceSpace volunteers whose invisible work allows us to hold this space. Today our special guest speaker is Graham Betchart.
Our moderator today is Rahul. Rahul Brown is the founder and CEO of Eaternum, a startup seeking to use carbon markets to accelerate the shift to plant based eating. He's a serial entrepreneur with multiple startups in both the social and private space under his belt and an avid volunteer who has been moderating and hosting Awakin calls since their inception. Rahul will now introduce our guest, Graham Betchart, and get the ball rolling on this conversation. Rahul, over to you.
Rahul: Thanks so much, Joe. Well, Graham Betchart is on a mission to normalize mental skills training and make it universally accessible. After a series of personal setbacks which led to a spiral of depression at age 19, he embarked on a personal spiritual journey of healing that exposed him to the ancient wisdom and the inner technology of meditation, visualization, and present moment awareness.
After recovering, he began distilling and repurposing these techniques towards coaching high school basketball, eventually leading to a series of unprecedented championships. Recognizing the possibility that sports could be a vehicle that would expose the masses to the critical importance of mental skills training, he embarked on a master plan of training young talent with his techniques to propel them to the highest levels of the NBA, a task which he has succeeded in with stars like Aaron Gordon, Andrew Wiggins, Ben Simmons, and others. Along the way, Graham has pioneered concepts like "Victory to the Vulnerable", "Next Play Speed" and "Play Present", which is also the title of a book he wrote and incorporated into an app. Along with Aaron Gordon, Graham co-founded "Train the Mind", which is the world's first online mental training gym. Their journey together and mission to reach youth everywhere is featured in an upcoming docu-series called “Moving Minds” that is set to be released in 2021.
We have so much ground to cover and I'm very excited to be speaking with Graham today. Graham, thank you so much for joining us.
Graham: Oh, Rahul, thank you for having me. I am beyond grateful to be here and super humble and ready just to open my heart up and have a great time with you.
Rahul: Wonderful. Graham, I wanted to start with your childhood. You were, of course, born on a commune and raised by a single mother who also became a midwife after the personal inspiration and involvement of Ina May Gaskin. I'd love to hear how that childhood environment has shaped who you are today.
Graham: It's profoundly shaped my life. I didn’t know it at the time but I realized later on in life that it was a little bit unique. I was born in Summertown, Tennessee on a commune called ‘The Farm’, which was founded by Stephen Gaskin and Ina May Gaskin. Ina May is one of the leading midwives in the world. She delivered me -- this is in the late Seventies. My family had moved out of the Bay Area to come to the commune -- to have me, to have a natural childbirth, to work with Ina May and to be a part of spiritual midwifery. So, I came into the world like that.
My first experience in the world was at a commune; at a commune where there's no meat. It's all tofu, it's all soy. It's completely vegetarian. This was my initial imprint into life -- that we share; we give to other people; there's a lot of love. We have natural, innate abilities inside of us which can be helped if there's a natural childbirth which helps us connect deeply. Since I was little, it was imprinted in me to connect deeply and really connect to the present moment -- without even knowing those words. That's how my mom was trying to give birth to me -- by going towards the pain of childbirth and breathing into it. So yeah, that's how I came into this world and it just hugely impacted my life.
Rahul: I imagine that there were a lot of strong women in that environment. I mean, Ina May is legendary, right? And your mother, following in her footsteps was also a powerful container. And, speaking of strong women, I know you've also shared in the past that your wife, in particular, is highly sensitive, deeply intuitive and empathetic. I have this sense that your background, in that commune, allowed you to see that as a strength. But it's actually a kind of strength that the dominant paradigm doesn't consider as strong. You've also pioneered this concept of "victory to the vulnerable". So, could you share a little bit about the connection between vulnerability, strength, and peak performance?
Graham: Absolutely. I always go back to the upbringing of being around these incredibly powerful women. In my mind, I see the power of vulnerability. I experience it. I hear my mom wake up in the middle of the night to go connect with a woman who is about to give birth and coach her through this moment. All of this is so extremely powerful to me.
When I was born, I was born a regular, classic, competitive male. I was just a regular guy who wanted to make the team. I was super competitive as a child. I had tons of energy. The whole time, I'm getting this massive imprint that the real power is in being vulnerable. The real power is not in domination, but elevation -- in enhancing everyone around you, bringing everyone up. So, basically, what I learned to do was flip this thing inside of me where I was good enough at sports -- like to make teams in high school and to play in college. Frankly, most of the people who were born on The Farm, this is just being real, they weren't [good at sports]. I always say this joke: if you look at Ram Dass or these great teachers in this stuff, did they ever make like a high school basketball team? We have to normalize this stuff and bring it.
I would always combine this powerful vulnerability, this powerful strength that I got from my mom, that I got from Ina May. It allowed me to see the power in my wife when I met her when I was 20 and she was 18. I knew right away how powerful she was. It was like I was prying to see her power and to see her intelligence. Her intelligence was from a much deeper space. It was from an intuitive space, a mystical space, which I can only explain as the kind of people who pick up stuff quickly. For example, one of my original teachers, she could hear the vibration of the sun. I thought, that's crazy. Then, as time went on, I realized, oh, you know, she just picks it up quicker. I can experience the sun as warmth and heat. She could experience it as a vibration.
My wife has incredible skills in that place. I really felt always supportive of her when I met her. We were friends for seven or eight years before we even got into a deeper relationship. We always had this connection where I recognized her power and I felt like [it was] my responsibility, being a male, to really help bring this to the world in a way I can as a servant. I saw my mom and Ina May and everyone around me -- these are servant based leaders and the most powerful leadership I have ever seen by far. That just struck me so powerfully as a kid; I couldn't get away from it. And honestly, Rahul, a lot of times I felt pressure from that.
I felt immense pressure knowing what I knew as a child. Go back to the eighties. I am a child born in 78. In 1987, I knew more about dilation than most people ever know about dilation (laughs). I am like, what do I do with this? What do I do with any of them? My mom is telling me, ‘do what you love in your life; do what you want in your life.’ She is talking to me like a tough dad who would say, ‘make sure you play sports’ but she is telling me to do what I love. I had this immense pressure to follow what I love. I had all these people around me who were doing what they loved. Then, as I go into the world, I see people not doing what they love as much, especially men. So, I felt a lot of pressure knowing that elevation was stronger than domination. I knew that on a deep level but when I go out into the world, everyone is talking about dominating; being number one; making sure your success is based on other people not being as successful as you. That was the exact opposite of how I was taught.
I had to deal with that pressure of knowing this stuff that Ina May, my mom, and all these powerful women around me were teaching. It was just so much more powerful than what I was learning from the men at the time. Honestly, it was just remarkably different. It’s still with me to this day. I am still kind of like, ‘oh my god!’ I am getting past the point of ‘why me’; ‘why did I get all this’; to ‘just keep serving, Graham.’ ‘For whatever reason they gave it to you, use all of your skill and power just to serve and give cause everyone needs access to this.’
Rahul: You know, it occurs to me in hearing your answer that there is this concept of hyper-masculinity, which happens to be the image of masculinity that most of society is taught around what it means to be masculine. And yet, the path that you were born into is much more of a balanced masculine, where there's this recognition that, at a fundamental level, we are all kind of about 50-50 of each gender, right? Like, you might be 51% male, and that's what makes you physically male. But at a deeper level, there are these qualities that are considered feminine, that we need to also embody as part of being a full man. You got that at a very intuitive level. But the part that I am curious about is whether there was a phase of teenage rebellion that occurred for you where the clash between the dominant paradigm of masculinity and what you understood from Ina May and your mother sort of were still reconciling in the way that you were acting in the world?
Graham: Oh god, absolutely. That was always the dichotomy; the challenge I had to deal with. I was a 15-year-old male when my mom and everyone around me were like, ‘be with women when you love them and only if you love them.’ Me and my hormones are like, ‘I don't care about what you are saying, I am not experiencing that at all.’ So, I always felt this immense pressure that I was getting really good advice and I was challenged with doing that. It's learning the discipline to do that. I was a child, I was a kid. I was just learning what feelings and emotions are; wanting to be more free. And there they were, implanting these steep, deep seeds inside of me like, ‘do what you love in life and be with who you love.’
That was always challenging for me. What 14 year old is in some deep, long-lasting, loving relationship that lasts forever? A 14-year-old is trying to figure out life, trying to deal with hormones, and trying to figure out how to do all this stuff. So, I always felt immense tension with that -- on how I do it because I was aware of everything that my mom and everything they were teaching me. I was also aware of what society was, the anxiety from society, the pressure to be dominant, the pressure to be number one, the pressure to be like the best at sports or whatever it was that I was going through. I would always have this tension inside of me.
What I learned to do with that tension was try to use it to my advantage. It was there. I was going to deal with tension. It felt like all the stuff that my mom had taught wasn't quite here in the world yet. Yet, I knew how to operate with it. I knew how to use it. So, it's almost like I had to hide a little bit from the classic masculine domination and just live this feminine divine, if you will, where I understood these feminine principles. I was a male living a male experience but I understood how to do this feminine divine. I was always tense with that, like, how do I do this? Am I supposed to fit into the classic masculine world or can I actually bring forward what I am aware of here? Because what I am aware of, it's working, but it's kind of hard to talk to it amongst your friends. I mean, how many 15-year-olds are talking about childbirth or something like that with their friends? So I felt lonely a lot, Rahul. I felt isolated even though I was fitting in. I always knew I had this information in me that I had to deal with it; knowing it. I have had people tell me like, ‘oh, you're so lucky you knew it.’ And I was like, man, ‘if you were in my shoes for a little bit, it was immense pressure to be aware of that stuff and feel like I am supposed to bring this to the world; that if I don't, who's going to; this is my role.’
Rahul: Right and yet you were good at sports. You were, from the outside, fitting that image of a dominant male because of how good you were at sports. I know that you went pretty far but that sort of hit some bumps along the way. Can you share a little bit about what happened in the sophomore year of school and what that led to?
Graham: Yeah, so like you were saying I played a bunch of sports in high school -- baseball, football, basketball. I was pretty classic in that I can make the teams and be part of all that. Then I went to college and I played basketball in college. I went to a junior college in Santa Cruz called Cabrio. As the season was winding down, the season finished up in a really rough year. It just seemed like right in the springtime of 1997, everything started to collapse in my life that made up who I was or who I thought I was.
It was the first time in my life that I got hurt playing basketball. I severely injured my ankle and had to deal with that. It was a severe injury -- crutches, a brace, eight to nine weeks of dealing with it. As that started, everything just started to collapse in my life. I remember this overwhelming anxiety catching up to me and this anxiety of like, ‘what am I doing, why am I doing this?’ I felt like I am just running and running and running and running in life. I think a lot of that started when I was young and it might have come from society or wherever it came from -- this idea that we always have to move and we always have to do what's next. We always have to be striving for the future. I just remember this collapsed inside of me that I cannot hold this up anymore. I don't have this. I don't have it to make it in this world and keep up this hyper success of GPA and get 4.0 and make sure you go to this school. It just all came crashing down on me. I remember thinking to myself, I can't do it anymore.
At that time, it was all payphones and I remember going to a payphone and I called my mom and, I was like, “I need help. I am not feeling right. Something's just off. I need help.” I remember she said a sentence to me that I will never forget. She said, “did you know that you can rewire your brain?” (laughs) I was like, “no”; but I heard hope. I was like, "I don't know what it is that you just said. I have no idea but I am with it. Whatever you just said I am with it." She said, "I have someone for you. Her name is Jocelyn and I want you to meet her."
And then it started. That catalyst for me being 19 years old; lost; away from home; injured in basketball; my girlfriend had broken up with me; my mom was back home; my mom was transitioning to starting her own business and doing her own thing; I didn't even really have a room back home anymore. Everything was just gone for me. But what opened up, right, this massive opening occurred to me that I got a chance to rewire my brain. Nothing was there and it felt so anxious. I thought, ‘what do I have to lose?’ Let's go do it, you know.
Rahul: How did your mom know Jocelyn?
Graham: You know, just through family and friends. I think she had done a little bit of work with her previously, introduced through a friend. So, she knew her and I just got introduced and had met her. Jocelyn had started the San Francisco Healing Center in San Francisco. And, here we go. My mom was like, ‘you can meet her, you can come check her out. When you come home for a weekend from Santa Cruz, just come meet her. This is the time to do it.’ I just said, ‘okay.’ You know, I had no idea what that meant. I didn't know anything. I just said, ‘okay.’ The next thing I knew, I found myself going to Jocelyn's house. The next couple of weekends, I find myself coming to San Francisco super low and showing up in her house. And, we started working. I had no idea what was gonna happen after that when I went in there. I just knew I needed to get better. I wasn't doing well. I needed to get out of a hole, you know?
Rahul: Can you share a bit about what it was like to train and work with Jocelyn?
Graham: Yeah, absolutely. So, I remember going into her house for the first time at San Francisco Healing Center. The first thing I noticed was a smell -- now, I recognize that it was health. At the time, I didn't know what that was but there was a smell in there of clean. Not clean like Lysol clean. I don't even know how to explain it but it was clean. And, we go into her room where she does her work. I remember looking around and she had all these pictures on the wall of famous people that I had seen before but didn't know much about. For example, a picture of Jesus; a picture of famous deities -- famous one, I didn't know their names -- but like her teacher, her teacher's teacher, all these people were up there. I just noticed it, like what is this? This is not like a hospital or a doctor's office. This was a different place. So, I go and I sit down. And I'm a wreck. In my mind, I'm like, ‘I'm struggling in life. I'm lost. I've all this stuff going on. Can't believe it. She's just going to think I'm a disaster.’ And I remember looking her in the eyes and saying all this stuff that I don't know how I'm going to make it in life. I'm a bad person. I don't understand any of it.
Then as she looked at me, she looked at me with more compassion and more connection than I've ever felt in my life. In that moment, as she looked at me, I knew that she knew a whole lot. What I mean by that, as I was like, ‘man, she is so aware that everything I'm saying is so off. I'm not even close to being in reality here.’ She just smiled and looked at me with love. I knew right away in that moment, whatever she knows I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to figure that out too because she knows something. Then she said, “close your eyes, Graham.” I said, “okay.” She said, “take a breath.” And then I just started breathing. She didn't say we were going to meditate. She just said, “close your eyes, start breathing, start breathing.” And then she says, “I want you to imagine yourself as a child.” Then right away I see myself as a child. Then she's having me imagine loving myself as a child, telling myself, “I love Graham unconditionally”, bringing him whole into me and bringing him into the present moment and bringing all of me, even parts of me that I left behind with stress or maybe when my parents got divorced. I kind of just abandoned myself in that moment to survive. So, she's helping me bring all this stuff up as a visualization. I'm imagining myself as a child coming together. We did a visualization. I come out of it. She hands me a piece of paper and a pencil and she goes, “write down 'I love myself unconditionally' 10 times.” I said, “okay.” So I write down, ‘I love myself unconditionally.’ The first time, I'm kind of like, ‘this is corny.’ And by the 10th time, I'm crying -- going, ‘I do love myself unconditionally.’ And that was our first workout. That was our first training. When I start crying, she just hands you a box of Kleenex. There you go, cool. So I used the Kleenex to wipe my eyes; like no big deal to cry. And I go, wow. And, I leave. And I go, I have no idea what that was, but I'm going to keep doing that. I'm going to get better because I already feel a little better. So, that was my first experience with her. This is 1997 in the spring.
Rahul: And, you worked with her for more than two years. What was it like as you moved through that process -- from loving yourself unconditionally, writing it down, and crying to mid stage and then later stages of the process of what she exposed you to.
Graham: As I started to get whole and work through some of the early trauma and anxiety I felt, it became very clear that she was like, “this is a practice ground.” Once I became aware of being present, bringing myself into the present, working on healing and being whole, she was like, “it's an everyday practice.” And so, after she got me out of the hole, I kinda got leveled, got myself leveled, I then started the practice part of it. My work with her was just checking-in with her. It wasn't like we would do it every week or anything like that. It wasn't an exact science. It was just that I would check-in with her. I would go check-in with her, go to her house, get some advice, talk about what was going on. It just became so clear that my work is to practice being present. That's when I started to feel this initial, wait a second, I felt cheated a little bit. If I have to practice this and this is a skill, why am I getting this at 19, in a crisis?
First of all, I'm lucky. But why is this the way I'm being taught this? Why isn't this systematically taught when I'm five? So, then I could function in life and you can deal [with things]. Why am I getting this almost like a miracle? Somehow, my mom knew, somehow I asked for help. Now, Jocelyn is like, “you got to practice being present every day.” It's a discipline. Not every day is perfect. So, I started to get into the practice of it -- of practicing being present and practicing doing the work. It impacted me so strongly that by the time I finished going to Cabrio, I spent the next couple of years at JC still, I stopped playing basketball. I just worked on myself and went to school.
Then, as I transferred to UC Santa Cruz, I realized I still loved basketball. I had worked through a whole bunch of stuff and I was like, ‘Oh, I still love this game.’ Let me walk on and see if I can still play. So I walked on to UC Santa Cruz, I made the team. As I made the team, Rahul, I realized that all this work I had done on healing and self-help had a profound impact on the basketball court. I mean, profound. I wasn't the best player by any means but I had a resiliency from the ability to be present that I don't wanna say was light years ahead of everyone but I just felt like I had something. I was like, man, I am so trained in this. I know about being present. You can't break me. You know, I'll fail, I'll make mistakes, but I'll still be here. So, that was the initial sign of far beyond the healing, this stuff works everywhere else. Now, I'm not talking about the training I've done or the healing. It's still hooey. I still see Jocelyn is like this hippie woman who no one's going to take seriously. So, I can't talk about this stuff but I'm using it, right. I'm using it while I'm playing hoops. And, so the seed was planted that man, this stuff, this is almost like some Jedi stuff or this is some stuff that'll help you play well under pressure, you know? So, it goes from healing, getting whole, to then going into the discipline to maintaining it and then me applying it in basketball and realizing, okay, this stuff helps in a lot of aspects.
Rahul: Right, it sounds like that unlikely success of walking onto a college basketball team led to that first 'aha' moment that this was broadly applicable. Then, I know that you made the choice to start coaching high school basketball at the tail end of that. In that journey of coaching, perhaps because you thought that this was sort of a little out there, but also because of the genuine volition of service behind wanting to share it, like wishing you had it when you were a kid, you practiced gifting your time and your services as well. Both gifting and being in the commercial world are things that you continue to actively do. So, I'm curious, what some of your key ‘aha’ moments were around the path of service and money and the connection between the sacred -- which is what I feel like is what you discovered as the core of what you had received. How does service, money and the sacred connect?
Graham: Well, they do. I think my life has been trying to weave those all together. You know, I was classically raised by, hey, make sure you have a pension, make sure you have a bunch of savings, and we're kind of going to do whatever we have to do to make sure we have that. I would get that from my dad. And, of course, my mom was like, “follow your heart”, “follow your heart”, “follow your heart.” So, you fast forward to when I finish UC Santa Cruz. I'm done. I have a huge realization that this stuff is impactful. I remember my mom asking me this question that really set me free. We're on an airplane together and she goes, “Graham, you got a hundred million dollars in your bank today; what are you doing tomorrow?” I knew right away what I was doing. I was going to go to Mission High School and gift all this stuff that I had learned. It was so in my heart to share this with everyone. As soon as she said that, she was like, “take finance out of the equation; what are you doing?” I said, “I would go serve this every day to 14 and 15 year olds and just teach it to them and give it back. I would do it with so much love.”
And she was like, "go do that tomorrow." Then my head pops up, going like, "wait," you know, "MONEY," [laughs], "how am I going to make a living?" You don't hear people, as a voluntary JV basketball coach, making a ton of money, right? Yeah, that's not the deal. But I said,"just follow your heart; what do you have if you don't have this?" So the next day I go to the Mission High School. I go down there with a resume and I was like, "I'm here to volunteer. This is what I'm here to do." They try to talk me out of it. They're like, "No one actually follows through with volunteering." And I say, "No, I'm going to do it."
And so as I start the journey, I don't exactly know how I'm going to make money or how this is going to work. But I know this well, I know that if I follow my heart and I'm devoted, I'll figure this out because there's nothing more potent than me serving or giving this away. So what I started to do -- and I didn't realize it at the moment -- is I started to work, honestly, like a venture capitalist where I saw things in like a ten-year run; where I was like, "Okay, if I can go serve here for 10 years -- I am 24 years old now (24/25) -- okay, let me get to 35 and give everything I have and just build and build and build, and give and give and give a gift to humans and give to humans and give to humans." And I wanted to see if that would work. I knew I had a window to make that work.
So I would deal with tension every single day of not having money, not knowing how I was going to make money, but knowing that I was serving, doing the most potent thing ever and I was helping, and if I could just stay with it, I could use -- this is when I used all the mental skills -- if I could use all my mental skills to be present, I was actually always okay in the present moment.
It was only when fear would come in. Fear would go, "What about the future? What are you going to do then?" And all of this stuff from my family, everywhere around me, you're getting like, "Hey man, do you have any savings?" Or, "You've gotten involved in a field, sports psychology, that has stigmas against it." And in my mind, I was like, "I've got to stick with this though."
And so I kept telling myself, ‘You're a business person. You're an investor. You're investing in your future by investing in what means something to you now, by investing in your heart.’ So I would deal with this tension every day, Rahul, of going, ‘I don't really have any money. I don't exactly know how this is going to work.’ But something deep inside of me, the pressure from Ida May and my Mom, I was like, ‘yeah, but I have to follow the advice they gave me. I have to do what I love because they wouldn't tell me to do it if it didn't work. I have the ability to do it. I have the ability to actually go out there and do it.’ So I just... here's victory to the vulnerable, right? Every day I'm telling myself, ‘victory to the vulnerable.’ Every day I'm reminding myself, ‘you're not actually going to die; it's just fear in your head.’ It's terrifying, you know?
Rahul: That question that your Mom had asked you around, ‘what would you do now? Imagine you had a hundred million dollars, what would you do? And then taking finances out of the equation, you know, now what would you do?’ That question really helped you find what was at the core of your heart. It's such a potent question in this era of COVID where I think a lot of people have been put in some form of financial dislocation. There's the potential for fear to come in, but if it's approached from another perspective, it can be a great opportunity to almost midwife a new path toward an emergence of following our hearts and allowing our gifts to flourish in the world.
Graham: It's exactly it. They were coaching me to give birth to my life, Rahul. All these women around me were coaching me to give birth to the most potent 'me' that ever existed, and to let all the energy out and to let all the life out and to really be that vibration, right, that higher vibration in the present moment. I think so many of these women, as I looked back, they had seen a lot of men around them become numbed, and kind of turn off their light. And so, my life of following my heart to give birth to my heart and then figuring out how to make money and to let it come into this world. That was the birth. And that was the effort. The labor is to hold my heart and not ever sacrifice it and go for money and just bail, just go cash in.
A super important concept I learned that really, really helped me, and this is something that really set me free as well. I was taught, don't do anything for money, do everything to raise consciousness and let money be a result of that. And once I learned that philosophy, it completely set me free because I started to understand. Of course, we need money in this world, right? Of course. We live in a world where it's an exchange of goods or services. It's how we all operate. But I don't want to have money to be the actual thing. I don't care, like bringing a green piece of paper to me right now, it doesn't do anything to me. I understand the value of money, but like ones and zeros on a screen, it doesn't do anything to me emotionally. It doesn't connect with me on a deep level. But what I do is, I do all this work for love and light and I've learned to let money be a result. That way I can say to them, to the love and light in my heart, that's what I'm doing work for. I'm doing work for love and light and I completely accept that because of that work.
Yes! I want to let in an abundant amount of money. I want to let in tons of money, but I'm not doing it for money and that's how I've been able to protect my heart. And then work on receiving at the same time. So my tension for a long time was, I didn't know how to receive, Rahul. I knew how to follow my heart, but I was so scared to receive because if I received, it would sabotage my heart, and then lose everything? So I kind of started to build these other forms of currency. Like -- relationships are a form of currency. Wisdom is a form of currency. Energy is a form of currency. So I would show up in these places and I'd be like -- the only currency I don't need is money. Let me just get all the other currencies and build from there.
Once I figured out how to bring money in without sabotaging my heart, I'm gonna let all the money come in. My life's work was figuring out how to let money come in without letting it be that money was the thing I was doing, cause that's not what I'm doing. I'm doing love and light, but I need to let money be a result of that. That took a long time to figure it out, but over the last couple of years I figured that out and that has given me the boundaries to stay heart-centered and still let abundant finance come in, but not let the finance cripple my heart.
Rahul: Right, right. That makes sense. Yeah, absolutely. I mean it can often be a kind of a tightrope to walk in the fidelity to the sacred because these things like money, power and fame, often because they're so potent, because they are part of a dominant paradigm, can be majorly destabilizing. Unless we learn that fidelity of the heart that's left -- and it feels like you actually invested deeply in, you had that recognition, and then you invested deeply in staying true to the sacred...
Graham: To tie this into sports a little bit, it's one of the things some of these athletes value the most about me. That I could create that space for them and I knew deep down. But you know, let's face it, for a lot of people going to the NBA, it's a huge drive to make a ton of money and you can make a ton of money super young.
So, go back to Aaron Gordon, someone I've been training since he was 11, 12, 13 years old. I knew in my mind that making a bunch of money wasn't going to fulfill this guy, of course. But when you're talking to a 14 year old, you know, he doesn't know that yet. So, you just wait for that moment, right? You keep planting all these seeds, you keep doing all this work. You keep being right by their side. And -- you know, the day after he signed his $85 million deal, right? He called me the day after he signed the $85 million deal. He's 22 years old. He's got enough money for generations and he's crying -- he's crying to me, you know, and he's sitting there going, "I can't believe this, I thought this was going to be the thing that fulfilled everything in me." And I was like, yeah, “how about that? Huh? What a hollow moment.”
We're not saying cash isn't great, we're not saying that. Cash is great. It's great to have a home and be able to do all those... but it didn't fulfill anything inside of him. It didn't do anything to make him feel that love and light. It didn't do any of that. So, that awareness point, in that moment when this is what we realize, you have a whole bunch of capital but you don't have a whole bunch of consciousness. What you were looking for was consciousness but you didn't know that. So, right after that moment, usually there is that opportunity for people to go, okay, now I really know about being present. It's great to have money, but I need to be fulfilled. I need to have a different feeling, you know?
Rahul: Right. I mean, I can very much relate to that story from my own personal narrative.
Rahul: There are a ton of people right now who are struggling with these new challenges that COVID has imposed on our world. And I know that present moment awareness, all the stuff that you're teaching, is hugely practical for what everyone is going through right now. Can you share a bit around these concepts? Like next place, what are these and how can we apply these principles to what's happening in all of our lives right now?
Graham: Beautiful. Well, for me, the way I became of mental skills is that I became aware of them. And once you're aware, you activate the abilities you have inside of you. So, all of this is already here inside of us. It's just activating it. Once you activate it, it's a practice level, right? It's about repetition. And repetition retains your realizations. So, these are just a practice. Then, once you start to have an experience, your experience evolves your enlightenment. So, we have awareness, reps, and experiences. Essentially what we want to do is become aware that the present is the place to be because life exists right now.
So a real practical thing is ...If we look around right now, like I'm on a phone here talking to you, we're okay right now. And we are in a moment right now where the future is very unknown. There's so much uncertainty. Frankly, that's always how it's been. But people have been living with, some sort of comfort, whatever made them feel comfortable. Whatever it could be. And now we come into this moment and it's really an uncomfortable moment. The future is unknown.
So I think right off the bat, it's embracing a philosophy of dancing with the unknown, right? But you look at this as an opportunity so you put a perspective on this that this is a doorway. This is an opening. This is actually something that's quite cool to be here because an opening of consciousness on this level doesn't come around that often. So, right off the bat, I would put a perspective on it that there is something here for me to gain something here for me to grow with, in a way for me to evolve. So once I have that, I know this is actually a way for me to expand.
Now I have to have a philosophy around how I feel. Expansion feels uncomfortable. Growth feels uncomfortable. So, we embrace the philosophy of ‘victory goes to the vulnerable.’ We go, you know what, this is a vulnerable moment right now but I'm going to embrace this. I'm going to work on updating some of my technology, my language, with how I talked to myself. I'm going to tell myself ‘victory goes to the vulnerable.’ I'm gonna embrace this moment. I'm actually going to realize this vulnerability is a great way to gain some strengths. So, I know that I'm embracing it and then I'm going to take care of myself physically. This is a really big one. Go exercise, go get into your body, when you're feeling all these feelings, this anxiety, this worry, all this stuff. Don't kid yourself at all. Go get into your body. Go move into your body.
Yoga is a great practice. Anything working out is a great practice. The original design of yoga is not about flexibility and all that. It was to get you to a higher state of consciousness after you're doing physical movements because you're in a much better place. I would want everyone to have a practice today where they do something to get into their body. Once you get into your body, that's going to harmonize your emotions a little bit. You're gonna feel a little better now. You have that discipline to be in the present moment and actually be here during this time a little more. That's a practice that I work on every day. I put perspective on it. I go exercise or harmonize my emotions. I work on the discipline of being here because all we have is right now. We don't even know what's going to happen tomorrow. What was going on yesterday, doesn't even exist. A lot of the reality that we thought we knew doesn't even exist anymore. This is that time to really wake up, to being present, to getting yourself in the moment, to being grateful for being here.
You can do a practice that I call MVP. You can do a little meditation, a little visualizing, and say some positive affirmations to yourself. But to me, this isn't like doing a technique to get through this. This is like, do you see what's going on? Do you see that we have an opportunity to grow? Do you see that? Can you welcome in this vulnerable time, embrace it, get into your body, the place to be in the present moment. We go through this and grow because we're for sure going to come out of this. But I want people to come out of this evolved, more present than ever, more conscious than ever. More aware of their deep, innate abilities. They are crying at us to wake it up, to come out.
Is this uncomfortable and vulnerable? You better believe it, man. There's no way to avoid that. So, don't avoid it. We embrace it. We go right towards it. We get in our body. We start to do our work with the mental training a little bit. I'm there with everyone else. I'm with you. That always helps me know we're all doing this together, you know? And, I've been doing this work for over 20 years, Rahul. Am I perfect at it? No way, man. This is a practice. This is about progress. Nobody's perfect at it. So, when you know that you don't have to be perfect at this, you just show up. You do the best you can to be where your feet are, the best you can to be present.
And then, one final thing. This one really has been helping a lot of people. Choose your response in every situation. So right now you can't control 99% of the stuff that's going on outside, right? No way. You can't control if someone next to you is wearing a mask, you can't control if someone next to you is stressed out. You can't control anything. But what we can control is how we respond. If you can take all of your energy and power, make sure you choose your response to these moments right now. When you have a mindful response, meaning you take a breath, you might recognize that you feel a trigger, you feel an initial reaction but if you can pause, it's a technique we call palms down. If you can imagine just putting in front of you, right? You put your palms down. You're kind of going, I'm owning this moment. It's uncomfortable and vulnerable but I'm going to take a breath. I'm going to choose my response. It's a way to empower ourselves with body language. It's a way to choose our response.
I do this all the time with athletes because things go wrong all the time in athletics. It's just how do I respond, right? It's that grace to come back to the present. My palms are down. I'm not a victim. I'm willing to be vulnerable. I know victory goes to the vulnerable.
I'm in this moment, I'm going to breathe. When you put that perspective on, you go, am I in physical danger right now? And if you can say no, you're like, well, then I'm okay. Then, let me work with all this stuff in my mind. Let me use this as a time to really develop my inner skills and practice. Hope that helped a little bit.
That was a while, but I actually see this as a great opportunity, man. Like that's what I see right now.
Rahul: Yeah. I mean, it's beautiful. I think there's a lot of wisdom in what you shared. I'm curious, Graham, how did you make the leap from doing this sort of mental health training for the NBA, into also bringing it to corporations? How did that occur? The leap.
Graham: It was kind of a natural progression for me.
You know, over the last four or five years, I just kept getting phone calls from businesses or companies that would say, "Hey, we know this mental skill stuff has a profound impact.” We know, as leaders, being emotionally intelligent and how we deal with setbacks and the ability to be present mean something. Can you start sharing this with us a little bit?
That seed was planted years ago and it didn't really get to my heart until I started creating businesses. I wrote a book called Play Present. It got acquired by a tech company in San Francisco called Lucid Performance. So that was my first entryway into this entrepreneur world, this business world, this venture capital world. I got to be with all these mutants where we're raising funds. You know, pitch decks and all this stuff. Here I am, you know, I'm just the guy who wrote the book and I'm going to be the voice of the app, but I'm learning all this stuff, right? I'm seeing all this. What I'm noticing is, just like sports, everyone is anxious. This fear permeates everywhere and everyone is just so fearful about the results. They actually are having a hard time in the present. Because once you get into that money world, the business world, people are just obsessed with the bottom line. That's like a sports team, you know, obsessed with winning and losing, which I understand. But being obsessed on results, it's going to sabotage your results. I just started noticing this in business.
When we finished making Lucid and we finished the app, I formed another company with Aaron, like you mentioned, "Train the Mind". As I built "Train the Mind", I took all of my lessons from Lucid and applied it to "Train the Mind". This is what I learned from Lucid. We had been given a few million bucks to make an app. There's an emotional timeline when you get into venture capital. They're like, okay, we need this money back at a certain time. We gotta make our money. So, there is this immense pressure and the pressure was money. And I was like, if our mind is on bottom line dollars, we're not on service. We're not on all the things that are going to get us through all this. We're basically trying to run to the end here and make some money. So, 18 months later, we ran out of money as a company. We're not profitable yet, but we built a great app, it's a great app. Everyone moves on, but we keep the servers going on the app.
As I went on and formed "Train the Mind", what I learned was if we're not in a hurry and we're not running to the end, and we actually walk to win, we have a chance to bring this business to life because what I noticed was when people are just in a hurry, if it doesn't happen right away, they quit. So, as I formed “Train the Mind”, I brought on a staff and I brought people on, it's all purpose driven. In everything we're doing, it's not in a hurry, there's no timeline, there's no end, we didn't take any money on. So, eventually, I just slowed the whole thing down. And as I started to bring this into business, what I found was everyone was responding to this. That when business people slowed down and they stopped hurrying to results, they actually performed way better. They're way more creative. They bring out their best. When you think about a world-class athlete, when they get into the zone, when they get into these special moments, everything slows down.
All I did was I took all of these concepts from sports and I just started to apply them to business. I started to adjust the language to make language that fit into the business world. I find myself now working with a lot of entrepreneurs, working with a lot of founders, a lot of leaders.
I'm writing my new book right now called Walk to Win. It's just like Play Present, but it's a mental skills training book for entrepreneurs. So what I've found is that entrepreneurs, business folks, just like athletes, face immense pressure. I love that pressure and I found it a natural fit to go apply all these skills to that space. It's been a ton of fun. I've been having a blast with it, doing it, finding new ways to train people and train leaders. Aaron Gordon loves it as well.
I'm taking the folks who I've trained in sports, and we're taking all these skills and we're starting to apply it to business. So, someone like Aaron Gordon comes through and goes, ‘hey, I've been doing this mental training; I made a hundred million dollars by the time I'm 25. This stuff has a profound impact on business.’ People listened, right? Someone like that says it, then you kind of look at, ‘hey I've worked with 10 players who have made over a billion dollars.’ And you start wondering like, how did they make it.
So, we just took all these concepts, started applying them to businesses. As I get into the venture capital world and all of this, what we realize is let's go help these companies with mental training. They're just like an athlete. Instead of just hoping they make it and hoping their mind is okay, go train them, go back it up. So, all we do now is, we invest in companies, we invest in what we believe in, and then we go train them. We give them the best chance to be successful. Doesn't mean they're going to make it, nobody knows the results, but we know for doing mental training that we're giving ourselves a hell of a good chance to make it. I'm having a blast in business and transferring these skills to that space.
Joe: Thank you. This is Joe again, and I just want to let you know we're coming up on 10 o'clock and the main reason I'm interrupting is to let our listeners know how they can ask a question. And so, if you're on the phone, ‘*6’ will show me on the switchboard here that you'd like to ask a question. So just press ‘*6.’ You can also email us at email@example.com and if you're online, you can ask an online question, and we've had some questions come in that way as well. So why don't you guys go for a few more minutes and then we'll turn to the questions.
Rahul: Sure. Thanks Joe. You know, Graham, I’m just smiling so brightly from what you shared and the fact that the business world and entrepreneurs in particular are able to access this and that you're moving in that area.
I absolutely love the title, Walk to Win, of your upcoming book. Maybe the last question I'll ask before we switch over to the callers is, like in business, I think the NBA also tends to have big egos. So, I'm curious about what some of the unique challenges are in working with big egos and applying your techniques in spaces where there are really big egos.
Graham: I think one of the skills that really helped me out with this space and you know, in the NBA and billion dollar businesses, the egos are insane. One of the things that really helped me out when I would stay in a place of service is, I'm like, this is heart-centered. I made a decision with myself to not let anything petty affect me. I knew I was going to see a whole bunch of petty stuff, a whole bunch of jealousy, a whole bunch of egos, a whole bunch of all kinds of stuff. And if I just stayed heart-centered, I knew that I would be able to make it.
A lot of the challenge was maybe not necessarily working with the egos of the NBA, it honestly, it was my own ego. Of having to deal with how hard it is to get around an NBA player. Do you know, even if you know them really well, they don't call you back right away. They have a million people reaching them. They're aloof and they're professional athletes. So, that means their body, their body is the number one thing. That's how it should be. So, you might have a meeting set up and right before that meeting, they're like, I'm tired. What do you think they're gonna do? They're gonna take a nap because that's what they have to do because they have to have their body, right? So for me, with the egos, I just learned to never take anything personally, never make it about me, never make it about me.
Because I never made it about me, these NBA players, these good athletes would kind of look at me and go, wow, like you're creating space for us to work. Most people come around a really good athlete and they want something from them. I would go around a really good athlete and just give them all this information I knew, and then I would just leave. And he'll be like, what is this? Like, what is this guy doing? He doesn't even want anything from us. I remember one time Aaron Gordon was like, “Graham, every time you come down here and teach me, it's profound. But how come you don't need anything from me? It's kind of like throwing me off. Everyone needs something from me.” I said, “Aaron, you need what I have. I'm fulfilled. I'm serving. I don't need anything from you. I already have it.”
It was like I was able to crush my own ego in that space which allows the athletes that I'm working with to kind of put their ego aside a little bit. So, I would lead by example that like, ‘hey man, I'm doing this for love.’ I'm not even asking for any money. I'm just giving it and leaving. A lot of them had never seen that before. So, I would try to leave a killing, I mean, starting with killing my own ego.
Then, of course, the challenge is after that I go home and I'm going home, going, yeah, we're not making any money. Sure does feel good to serve, this is all great. But, how am I going to make it in the world? I would never put that on the athletes or who I was working with; that always came home. I always had to deal with that pressure at home. My wife and I would deal with it. We were the ones who dealt with it, but I always gave the athlete space to be the athlete and didn't need anything from them. Over time, that created a huge reputation that they were safe with me.
I get brushed off on all the sides. Someone might say like Zack LeVine. He's a great guy. I was working with him when he was a teenager. I remember texting him seven times. One time, ‘I am going to be at the game. I'm gonna be at the game, let's say hi after the game.’ Just no response whatsoever. I'm at the game. The game's over. I have a family pass. He comes up into the stands after and I'm like, “Zack.” He's like, “oh, Graham, oh man, what are you doing here? It's so great to see you.” And I'm like, “man, I've texted you 10 times.” He's like, “what?” He looks down at his phone and he goes, “hey man, I'm sorry, man. You know how many people are trying to get ahold of me? Like, I'm so sorry man.” And I was like, “don't you worry about that at all.” We hug it up and then we keep it moving. And, so what. Once you have an experience like that, you just have to let that shit go because -- and then he showed me his phone. He has like 75 text messages and you're like, look at what these guys have to deal with every day. You know?
So, you just let that go. You don't make it personal. It's best. Does it sting? Yeah, it stings. Yeah, it hurts. But you just have to work on letting that go. Victory to the vulnerable. And then I get back to serving and just go, ‘hey, I'm here to serve.’ I'm not here for this petty stuff. But that was hard. You have to do that though or else you'll just get caught up in nonsense, you know?
Rahul: Yeah, absolutely. It's so beautiful. I love it. I'm going to turn things over to Joe. I know we have someone who's already in the live queue and I've seen a few questions scroll by on the back end. So, Joe, over to you.
Joe: Thank you. Graham, we've got questions here. And so inspirational, and so -- like every sentence is filled with wisdom here. I'm going to go to someone who had gotten on the queue early. Hattori, are you there?
Kozo: Hey Joe, this is Kozo.
Joe: Oh, Kozo. Good to see you. Good to hear from you.
Graham: Hey, Kozo.
Kozo: Hey Rahul, Hey Graham. Great conversation. I love it. As a former basketball coach and having two sons that are playing sports, it's just, it's just invaluable. It's just beautiful. So, thank you. Graham, I don't know if you've seen the new docu-series The Last Dance, that documentary?
Kozo: Michael Jordan's journey. What so many people notice about that documentary, about that inside look at Michael Jordan was just how fiercely competitive, to the point of punching Steve Kerr at practice. You know, his teammates said openly that he was a jerk but he made us better because he was competitive. And, I'm just wondering, in your method, in your training, is there a way that you can build that mental toughness and build that ability to compete, but, at the same time, sneak compassion in the back door.
Kozo: So, you can create somebody who is as skilled as, or not skilled as, but who is as mentally tough as Michael Jordan, but not be such a jerk.
Graham: First of all, thank you for sharing all this. I'm gonna share a couple of stories with you. It’s such a beautiful point and, yes, I've been watching the docu-series. A couple of really powerful points in that docu-series. When the Bulls were losing to the Detroit Pistons, the Detroit Pistons were called the bad boys. They would foul Michael Jordan really hard, right? They would do all these things to make them angry. And when Michael would respond in anger, the Pistons (I think he means the Bulls) would lose. So, if you notice in the documentary, there was a moment when Scotty Pippin gets pushed into the stands. Everyone's watching Scotty Pippin and Michael goes, “if Scotty can walk away from them right now and let that go, there's nothing they can do to stop us.”
So, Scotty used what I call competitive compassion in that moment. He was able to walk away from the Pistons, get back to his team, right? And, they went on and you can never touch them again. So this idea, this ability of forgiving your opponent, having that compassion -- that was trained to them.
In 2016, I was in Toronto at the All-Star Game with Aaron Gordon. This is when Aaron did the dunk contest when he jumped over the mascot. We were at a party. I remember being with Aaron and all I heard was…He is six-foot nine, broad shoulders. I'm always standing behind him. I’m looking at the center of his back. All of a sudden, I hear him say “Hey, it's Mike.” And in my mind, I know what's about to happen. I'm like, “Oh shit.” He's clearly saying it's Michael Jordan somewhere. I can't see. I just hear Aaron say that. I just got giddy and then Aaron turns to the side and sure enough here's Michael Jordan right in front of us, right? The man. I've never seen him in my life, right? And Aaron starts talking to him. For those that don't know, Michael and the Bulls were taught mindfulness and meditation by a man named George Mumford. George taught Phil Jackson all this stuff. George was a huge influence in my life. So, Aaron's talking to Mike and I'm like, “it's about to happen,” right? I see Aaron pointing at me and he goes, “Mike, this is Graham.” So Mike’s hand comes down to me. It's a massive hand. I put my hand in his hand and we're shaking hands. I say, “Mike, what George Mumford is to you, I am to Aaron Gordon. Thank you.” All of a sudden he stops and he looks me right in the eye and things get real, his hands around mine. He goes, “Graham, George saved my life.” I'm sitting there going, “man, nobody, nobody knows this; nobody.” Everyone thinks he's just this super human god. And here he is in a real moment and he’s saying that his mental coach, this mindfulness expert, George Mumford, like a legend, saved his life. Me and Aaron heard this and we went to the side and we were just giddy. We were like, you know, little school kids going, ‘Oh my god, this just happened.’ And then for the rest of my life, I know that Michael had a willingness to try to balance that ‘punch your teammate in the face’ type deal that is really kind of hard to be around.
He had to blend that with compassion. That was his life's work. He had to blend that. Then who picked it up after him? Kobe Bryant. Kobe Bryant picked it up, and unfortunately, Kobe passed a few months ago. But one of the reasons everyone loved Kobe Bryant so much recently was because you could see this transformation he was making. You could see him going from an angry, angry, competitive person to a loving father of girls. This whole other experience was coming out. His transformation was occurring. Mike started that transformation. I think Kobe was able to take it to a whole new level. But yeah, you can learn competitive compassion. You can learn to combine fierce competitive nature with unbelievable compassion, and it's the greatest combination. Ever.
Kozo: Yeah. But you know what that brings up for me is Steph Curry, right?
Kozo: I mean he's competitive. He’s obviously, you know, MVP, but then at the same time, he's got this strong faith in the Divine, and then he's got this bond with teammates and also his competitors. They all love him.
Graham: He’s the new face, right? I sometimes look at the nineties and it was kind of the angry nineties. That whole generation was angry. Then you see this generation coming up now. Steph’s not about domination. He’s about elevation. You hear Clay Thompson talk about Steph. He worships him, like the way the teammates talk about Steph is different. So it's just a different era. And I think you're seeing some of this elevation come into play as opposed to domination.
Joe: Thank you so much, Kozo and how beautiful to be both competitive and compassionate.
Graham: Oh, it's a killer. It almost feels like it's not fair to know that because when you have competitive compassion, you cannot be stopped. You won't let something outside of you stop you because you have so much compassion for people outside of you. You don't let it get to you. I never thought of compassion being a killer component, but it is the ultimate killer component that allows you to be the best.
Joe: How paradoxical! I'm going to try to combine some of these questions because we're getting a lot of questions. Do you have any books or coaches including yourself that you can recommend, especially for those of us who might be older and trying to change a lifetime of habits?
Graham: Yeah. Let's see. George Mumford’s book is amazing. It's called The Mindful Athlete. Again, this is who trained Michael and Kobe and Phil Jackson. He talks about mindfulness, concentration, insight, right action and trust. It's just brilliant. I think that's a great book. I wrote a basketball specific book called Play Present. That's another one that'll give you a pathway on how not to defeat yourself. For performance psychology, those are two great ones to start with. If you just embrace, it doesn't matter where you are and your habits, if you just open your mind up and then start practicing, training your mind, you can free it. It doesn't matter where you are, what you've been doing, if you have a will to kind of unlock some of these habits, you absolutely can.
I think George Mumford’s book should be required reading for every human being. That's how I feel about that. It's a good starter place for you. It's very spiritual. He's amazing. Spirituality, all this stuff. He talks quantum physics. I mean, he gets way in there, but it gives you a great framework with where to start, you know?
Joe: Beautiful. Beautiful. And then we've got a question from India, from Amol. When you're going through your day, you may go through ups and downs. What do you do to help stay there?
Graham: You know, I accept the dance of life. As this person said, ‘yeah, you're going to have ups and downs.’ We're living the human experience. I accept that. I accept the human experience. Within that, I really just work on being where my feet are. It is a practice, right? I work on practicing being where I am. The skill is what we call ‘next play speed.’ By that, we mean when you lose your focus, let's say you're somewhere else but the now and it's not the right time to plan or reflect. You remind yourself, you know what, let me just come back to where I am now. Let me come back to where my feet are. You might have to do that a thousand, two thousand times a day, and that's okay. You just keep practicing and you just keep doing that. You set your intention to that. I always realized this, ‘life exists right now.’ That sentence is always true and you can't argue with that. So, if life exists right now, I want to be here with life right now because this is the place to be.
Joe: Let me ask you a follow up question on that. So, let's say someone isn't well-trained to figure out what the next play is and they're having a bad day and they're noticing that. And then they're paying attention to their feet and they're breathing and they're finding themselves relatively present, but they're feeling a little paralyzed because they don't know whether to turn left or right or what the next play is. What do you suggest?
Graham: I would just suggest you sit right in there. You just sit right in that confusion. Just see if you can be quiet for a sec. Just sit for a few minutes. Don't do anything. This is actionless action. This is effortless effort. This is just that moment. Just sit for a sec. Don't just react because things are going on. Just pause for a sec. Just pause.
Joe: So, what you’re saying -- when you're sitting with it -- your next play might be the confusion and the discomfort that you're in, just to pause and….
Graham: Exactly. That's what's happening in the present moment. So, next play just means come back to the present. The play is always in the present. It's just here. Right? I don't know what exactly the play is but we know we gotta be here. We know that. We know if we're not here, we have no chance. So, whatever feelings make you not want to be in the present, you remind yourself, ‘oh, I'm okay.’ Victory to the vulnerable. Let me come back to confusion. Let me just sit here with confusion for a second and be with it. Then confusion can be your greatest teacher and you invite confusion, not knowing, to sit on your lap every day and after a while, confusion and not knowing, help you figure out what to do next.
That can become your awareness point. If you're feeling anxious, sit down and be with anxiousness and be like, ‘hey, what are you doing?’ Start forming a relationship with it. You take your relationship with fear. You learn to just sit there and be with it, and they become some of your greatest teachers, your greatest companions. In fact, sometimes when it goes away, you miss it sometimes, which is -- that one threw me off. You get so comfortable with it being here. Then, one day when it's not, you're like, ‘wait a second.’ Like, ‘where'd you go? You were my friend. You were my doorway to more awareness.’ So you got to welcome it and you gotta be with it. You can't run away from it.
Joe: We've got a lot of questions here, but I want to sneak in one of my own. I was watching a couple of YouTube videos last night and you said something that really surprised me, and maybe you could talk for a moment on it. You said that confidence is not a feeling. Would you mind talking about that?
Graham: Yeah. I think the last question that just came in is super important to tie this question in with confidence is not a feeling. I mentioned that through the days, we have ups and downs. Right? We have all kinds of feelings and the way I was taught confidence as a kid was that it was a feeling like, do you feel confident?
Joe: I was too.
Graham: Right? And so we assume confidence is a good feeling. Like, oh yeah, I feel great. What I realized was you can be extremely uncomfortable and vulnerable and still perform at an extremely high level. So, your confidence to do something doesn't have to be affected by a feeling you have. I can feel super vulnerable before we had this call today, which is how I felt. Does it mean I don't have confidence? No, not at all. Just means that's the feeling that's coming through me right now. I can still be extremely confident with that feeling. So, once you understand that confidence is not a feeling, it's the ability to show up, no matter how you feel. You realize you can be in confidence. You can have confidence all the time. It's really courage in disguise. So, if you're an athlete going, I only play well, when I'm feeling confident, that's going to be like almost never. If you only perform well when you feel well, we're talking like 10, 15, 20 percent of performance. Most of performance is, ‘no, things aren't going my way. I feel uncomfortable. I'm living the human experience. I got all this stuff going on. But, you know what? I can still fully trust my skills. I still have supreme confidence in my skills even though I feel vulnerable. That doesn't change it at all.’
Once someone understands they don't have to feel really good, doesn't that kind of free them? Then you're not stressing out if you don't feel well, then you're like, ‘oh, I'm comfortable being uncomfortable and victory does go to the vulnerable.’ Now, instead of avoiding vulnerability, you're like, ‘I'm fine being vulnerable. It's no big deal.’ Now, you have confidence. Does that make sense? You have real confidence because you can do it no matter how you feel. Confidence isn't, ‘I feel great.’ That's an illusion. That's a con. Confidence, to me, is just a simple willingness to show up. Perhaps we're talking about courage, but I try to frame it as confidence. That is actually what confidence is -- courage in disguise.
Joe: Wow. Courage in disguise. Well, I'm going to turn to, I've got a caller here. I'm making your mic live. Go ahead and ask your question.
Caller: Hi. Graham it’s very beautiful listening to you. Thank you for all this gifting and so much connection and fluidity.
Graham: My pleasure.
Caller: My question -- it's just an observation -- the motivation to earn money, to get power and all that, it's always so huge, so the mind kind of lends itself to stay in there. But when it comes to basic things like I want to change how much water I use, I'll go vegan, I’ll go paperless, I want to use less plastic -- it’s hard to do sometimes.
Graham: I couldn't hear the last thing you said. My apologies. I think you were talking about recycling and all the things we have to deal with. Then I lost you for a second.
Caller: How do you change your habits on a very basic level? Like, if you want to change your habits, you want to go vegan, you want to go paperless, you want to go plastic-less.
Graham: Got it. Okay. If I'm hearing correctly, how do we evolve some of our habits? How do we make some of these changes? Am I hearing you correctly? Is that right?
Caller: Absolutely. Yes.
Graham: Okay. Thank you. First of all, thank you for that question. I think when I hear that question, one of the main things I hear is how uncomfortable it is to change. That we might have an idea that I need to go vegan. I know that's good for me. But then the actual ability to change is uncomfortable.
You're gonna have to stop doing some things you're doing and adjust to new things you're doing. So what's really important in that moment, for me, is you're willing to embrace being uncomfortable because the change is being uncomfortable. You're going to have to work on coaching yourself through that moment. There's no quick fix. There's no overnight success. The concept of ‘victory goes to the vulnerable’ and those who are comfortable being uncomfortable. Those are powerful philosophies to guide you as you let go of what was comfortable to you.
Like say you know, being a vegan is the thing to do, but how you're eating now is very comfortable. You're going to have to be willing to be uncomfortable, and then, as you go into that uncomfortable space, you have to shift, you have to update your old instincts that are saying, ‘I don't want to be uncomfortable. I don't want to be vulnerable. I don't want to do that.’ You have to be willing to go into that space and be willing to open up to that as you form a new habit.
I think really important here is your drive, like what's motivating you to do this? For me, the motivation -- that’s the most powerful -- is a sense of service towards your own spirituality. So for your own growth in life, this is important, right? This is super important. So if your motivation is, ‘I need to grow.’ This is so important to me. The motivation can't be just to eat vegan. It has to be something deeper than that -- that allows you to stick with this change. I've found if you could tap into service, a level of service when things go wrong, which they're going to go wrong, service never stops, right? You go, ‘it doesn't matter; I’m still gonna serve.’
Keep going because this is my place of service. Service is what's allowed me to be as resilient as I am, to stick with making these habits is serving, being in that place of service. I hope that helps a little bit.
Caller: Thank you.
Graham: All right. Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you.
Joe: I’ve got another question. By the way, I recommend your YouTube videos. They were just packed full of amazing ideas. One of the things you said that you tell your players, one of the first things they need to do is know who they are.
Joe: What do you tell people to get them in touch with who they are and to get them started on finding who they are?
Graham: Well, with athletes, I'll start with the obvious one. So, let's just say someone who's playing basketball. A lot of times someone who chooses to play basketball can be taller, right? When they're young, someone comes up to them and goes, ‘Hey, are you a basketball player?’ And then they say, ‘yeah’, and then there it is. Right off the bat, they're identifying as a basketball player. So, the big thing to become aware of is when you make this separation that “I am a human being who's choosing to play basketball.
Basketball is not who I am. It's what I do. That is a huge differentiation and that unlocks so much potential and so much confidence in someone because what happens is they stop fearing failure as much. Because if they know this is not who I am, this is what I do, then it gives me more space to fail, make mistakes, not be perfect. I'm a human being and human beings feel feelings. Human beings have emotions. Basketball is simply what I do. I'm also going to play the violin. I also do school. I also have all these other things. So if you can make that differentiation that I'm a human choosing to do something, it unlocks you.
Once you get to the human place, you’re okay, I'm living the human experience. You go, well, what's powering my human experience? Then you get even deeper and you can start to identify as an energy being or a spiritual being. The ultimate process is I'm a spiritual being living the human experience, choosing to bounce an orange ball and throw it through an orange cylinder. I say it like that just to make it comical. So, a professional athlete doesn't take themselves too serious. They go, ‘oh yeah, just a little orange ball.’ We put meanings on it, but on a deep level, there's energy that's powering my human body.
If I can operate from an energy level, which means, of course, I'm going to get vulnerable; of course, I'm going to be uncomfortable. That makes my energy so much more potent than when I'm living the human experience and I have this potent energy. Man, that's great. With all that potent energy, I'm going to choose to go play basketball, right? Once you understand that, that just frees you so much more. Then you start working energy every day instead of worrying about basketball. You're like, if I get my energy right, basketball is going to take care of itself. Easy.
Joe: Now, not all of us had a Jocelyn, the hippie helper when we were 19.
Graham: That's right. (laughs)
Joe: And you tell somebody that your energy is driving you. What? Get in touch with your energy? And some people might look at you like you're crazy, but how can, you know? I have a feeling for what you're saying, but how do you describe to someone who's never been there and tapped into that. How can you explain what's driving them? What's the energy inside them, you know?
Graham: Well, first of all, I start with my own energy, right? I'm living it. So when I speak to people, they feel it. They can feel it when they talk to me. They can feel it coming through, and at this point, if they're still caught up in it, you know, if you're like, ‘oh, energy is not a thing.’ I'm like, well, you know, I helped ten players make a billion dollars. Right? So, the ROI is so substantial at this point, there's really not much you can say because if your concern is results, outcomes and all that, and you think this is like some hippie stuff at this point, this gets you the best results and outcomes ever.
So, at this point, I don't get much objection. Now compared to like 15, 16 years ago what I find is most people realize this is a thing and if I'm not doing my inner work, then, man, that's, that's not good. So, it's a lot different than it was 15 years ago. But, I think most people know on some level, on an intuitive level that they need to do some of this work inside.
I think one of the things I can provide is a safe way for them to do it because I can come off sometimes very masculine or I can come off powerful sometimes. So, what I've noticed is people around me go, ‘okay, cool.’ I finally found a way to do it. This doesn’t make me feel like I'm not a man or something like that, you know?
So, I tend to feel like that's my role in this world -- is to be that person. To help people come into the space. And, now that folks like Aaron Gordon are doing it and they're going to make a movie about this. And, you know, I mean, that's what we see in business. The more stories we share, we're just going to attract people to do this work because they know it's not some hooey hippie stuff, even though the hippies were doing it. This is badass stuff. It’s kicking butt in business and sports, and if you look closely, the super successful people are doing this stuff.
Joe: Uh-huh. I'm going to try to sneak in one more question and ask that you keep the answer short because we are coming toward the end. Another question from India and I'm just going to read it to you. “When you say go inside your body, what do you mean by this? How do we go inside the body or do you mean go inside the mind as in meditation?”
Graham: Yup. I literally mean get in your body. So, for example, after we get off this call, I'm going right to my exercise. I'm going to go exercise, and that brings all of my faculties into my body. Notice when you take a walk, you start to get more present, right? So, get into your body. We all have a body. Right now, everyone look down, check their body out. You got to make sure your energy is here. You gotta make sure your intention is here; that everything about you is inside of this body that you're in right now, because this is the place to be. So, yes, meditation can help with that. Exercise can help with that. There are all these things, but recognizing that your body is the place to be, right? This is the place to be. And when you accompany the power in your body, it's, I mean, that's the place to be.
Joe: Beautiful. Beautiful. So, Graham Betchart, it has been so nice. We're going to wrap up here soon. And, once again, he's got great YouTube videos. He's got his book Play Present and what is your website?
Graham: You can just go to www.grahambetchart.com. It says everything I'm doing and all this stuff we got going on.
Joe: Easy enough. There were so many pieces here but one of the pieces I just loved hearing you say is that as we're going through our day, we will have moments where we're present and to dance the unknown and take that as an opportunity and feel the vulnerability of knowing that we're having this little window of openness and embrace it and to take care of it physically. So, we're going to, have one minute of collective silence and then, Rahul will join us to say goodbye. So one minute right now.
Thank you very much, Graham, Rahul.
Joe: Once again, we are, here is the largest ServiceSpace community. And I'm just want to just thank you for being with us and, and I forgot to ask how we can serve you.
Graham: You just did, man. It's amazing just being able to share and spread this. This is amazing for me. I can't believe the time is already up. That's how I know we were super present. It does not feel like 90 minutes. The time just went by. So, I am so grateful for this and thank you guys for asking these questions and really getting into this. This was the most rich, nuanced interview I've ever done with anyone, and I'm so grateful for that. Thank you.
Rahul: Thank you. Thank you, Graham. My heart was so open after listening to your practice and your wisdom. And Joe, you had wonderful questions. This is a wonderful call.
Joe: Okay, until our next Awakin call. Goodbye everyone.
Many voices: Take care. Thank you. Thank you.
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