121: Raise Your Game – High Performance Secrets from the Sports World with Alan Stein, Jr.

Ep121 Alan Stein Jr High Performance Sports TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay

No two professions seem quite so different from each other as sports and business leadership. Author and coach Alan Stein, Jr., however, is bridging the gap between these two worlds by bringing high performance secrets from the sports arena into the corporate world. A long time performance coach in basketball and in business, Alan believes that leaders in the business world could learn a great deal from common practices in world class sports. In this exciting episode of The TalentGrow Show, learn how to lead like a world class athlete as Halelly and Alan discuss key similarities between top performers in sports and in business, a three step technique to close your performance gap, and actionable advice for changing negative habits or behaviors. Plus, listen to discover the thought provoking results of a research study that will boost your confidence in your ability to take control of your behavior! Don’t miss this episode, and remember to share it with others, too!

ABOUT ALAN STEIN:

Alan Stein, Jr. is a performance coach, consultant, speaker and author. He spent 15 years working with the highest performing basketball players on the planet. Alan delivers high-energy keynotes and interactive workshops to improve performance, cohesion and accountability. He inspires and empowers everyone he works with to take immediate action and improve mindset, habits and productivity. In other words, Alan teaches how to utilize the same strategies in business that elite athletes use to perform at a world-class level.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • Alan talks about his leap from the sports world to the corporate world (3:55)

  • Key similarities and differences between top performers in sports and in business (5:51)

  • Alan discusses what he calls the “gold” of leadership: the skill of active listening (8:49)

  • Something that’s a given for elite basketball players, and that those in the business world would benefit from as well (9:32)

  • Halelly and Alan talk about a few practices that work or are acceptable in the sports world but wouldn’t be appropriate in the business world (10:27)

  • The importance of closing the performance gap, using an example from health and fitness (12:52)

  • The top reason why we all tend to have performance-gaps (15:50)

  • A thought-provoking statistic about our day-to-day lives from Duke University (16:48)

  • A three step process to close your performance gap (18:43)

  • Alan shares a surprising research study about our ability to change our behaviors, leading into a very actionable tip (20:23)

  • A simple technique Alan uses to help him change his behaviors (21:00)

  • Halelly and Alan discuss Jerry Seinfeld’s technique: “Don’t Break the Chain” (24:30)

  • The importance of accountability, and how to use it as a motivator (25:53)

  • What’s new and exciting on Alan’s horizon? (28:15)

  • One specific action you can take to upgrade your leadership skills (29:09)

RESOURCES:

Transcript:

Episode 121 Alan Stein

TEASER CLIP: Alan: The most basic way to improve our performance is to close what’s called a performance gap. A performance gap is the difference between what we know and what we actually do. The difference between the things we know we’re supposed to do everyday and the things that we actually do everyday, and every single human being on the planet – myself included – has a series of performance gaps. I found that the highest achievers and the highest performers and the most influential leaders have found ways to mitigate or eliminate the performance gaps in the most important areas. I say that because I’m a huge advocate of continual growth and continual learning. I’m a veracious reader, I devour podcasts such as yours, I believe we should all be learning new stuff and subject ourselves to new stuff, but in all reality, if I didn’t learn another thing for the next year, if I simply did everything that I already know, my performance would skyrocket, because everybody has those gaps.

[MUSIC] Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Welcome back TalentGrowers. This week we have a special treat, an episode that brings us a bridge between the world of sports and the world of business. My guest, Alan Stein, who has a very interesting career change from being a sports coach to a business performance coach, shares some very actionable advice and ideas that you can implement right away to make your performance at work better and of course that of your team, and how to change your habits.

I’m going to read to you a brand new review that I’ve received that I love, because you know I love great reviews and I’ll tell you exactly what it is and why I would love for you to consider leaving a review for the TalentGrow Show as soon as we finish this episode, so stick around. In the meantime, here we go. Alan Stein, on the TalentGrow Show.

Welcome back TalentGrowers. Today we have the opportunity to think about a topic we don’t usually talk about here on the TalentGrow Show and that’s sports and how there are things we can take from the world of sports into the world of business. Our guest today is Alan Stein Jr. He’s a coach, speaker and author with expertise in improving organizational performance, cohesion and accountability. He spent over 15 years working with the highest-performing basketball players on the planet including NBA superstar Kevin Durant and now he travels the world teaching organizations how to utilize the same strategies in business that elite athletes use to perform at a world class level. Alan, welcome to the TalentGrow Show.

Alan: Hey, thank you so much! I’m excited to be here.

Halelly: I’m glad that you are here too, and before we get into all of that very interesting stuff, let’s help our listeners get a sense of who you are and your professional journey very briefly. Where did you start and how did you end up where you are today?

Alan: Basketball was my first identifiable passion. I fell in love with the game around 5 or 6 years old, and matriculated all the way up, played in high school and played in college, and knew that I wanted to make my living and leave my mark in the game. I became a basketball performance coach, which is basically a strength and conditioning coach, a fitness coach. I helped players improve their athleticism, their mind/body connection on the court and helped bulletproof their bodies to be resilient against injury. I did that mostly at the youth and high school level for almost 20 years. I was able to work with some really high-level youth and high school players which led me to some contractual work with Nike and Jordan brand and USA Basketball, which then allowed me to observe the best players on the planet –Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Steph Curry. About two years ago, I decided to make the leap from that sports arena into the corporate world and as you mentioned in my bio, I now share with businesses and organizations how to utilize the same mindsets and disciplines and rituals and routines that elite basketball players use, and show folks how they can apply those to their work, their business and their ability to lead others.

Halelly: Very interesting. One of the things listeners know, TalentGrowers know, is that I’m always interested in people who make pivots in their career or have side hustles that they develop into a professional pursuit, so you made a very big change I guess in your career path, into a different arena to share your insights. I’m curious if you have a short version of a story of what led you to do that and what have you learned from that change?

Alan: I was just ready for a professional challenge. In all honesty, the stuff that I share and teach hasn’t changed near as much as simply the audience did. So I really took the same message and principles and core beliefs that I had and I’m now aiming them at what I call the corporate world – doing air quotes here on an audio podcast – as opposed to being in a gym working with youth and high school players and coaches. I’ve always been enamored with and fascinated by the tenants of effective leadership and influence and impact, how to create team cohesion, how to build winning cultures, the best ways to hold each other accountable to high standards. That stuff has been something that has fascinated me for years and years, so instead of just trying to apply that in the basketball space, I was just ready to do something different and apply that to the corporate world. It was neat because I had started to build up some nice credibility in the basketball space, but it’s very refreshing and invigorating coming into a new arena where I have to rebuild that brand awareness and I have to establish credibility and earn my name and that’s something that excites me instead of paralyzes me.

Halelly: It is a challenge and so kudos to you. I know you wrote a book called Raise Your Game, so congratulations on that. In it, you say that you examine the routines and rituals of world-class performers, both in sports and business, and principles needed to elevate productivity and success. So I’d love for you to share some of the key similarities and differences as you see them between the top performance in the sports world and in the business world.

Alan: I had a blast writing the book, and since most of my background came from the basketball side and I got to see and experience most of that firsthand, I really enjoyed all of the interviews I conducted and all of the research I did on the business side, to learn what the top businesses and organizations are doing, and was just mesmerized by how much transfer there was going back and forth. I think it’s fairly commonplace for businesses to kind of look to coaches in the sport world and get them to come in as speakers and learn what they do to help win championships, but I tell you what, what I’ve been telling a lot of my former players and coaches, they need to be learning from the business world. They need to be listening to business podcasts and reading business books and finding out what the best-run organizations in the world do to build their winning culture and apply that on the sports side. I’d always looked at it as kind of being a one-way street, but now after writing this book, I realize it’s more of an ever-flowing circle, where each group can learn from each other.

Halelly: What are some of the things that are already pretty similar, and what are the things that are different?

Alan: The number one thing is the basics work. They always have and they always will. If you want to be great in a sport like basketball, you have to master the fundamentals and you can’t ever leave them. That needs to be part of your daily ritual, and when you do something consistently, you don’t have to do it for hours on end. The best players I was around, they would spend 10, 15, 20 minutes a day doing some of the most basic movements, whether it was footwork or offensive moves. But when you make that kind of commitment to do something 10 to 15 minutes, 365 days a year, for your entire career, then those bricks add up. It’s the same thing in the business world. Folks need to look at what are the fundamentals of not only their business, but of their specific role. If you’re a manager and you have a leadership role, what are the fundamentals you need to make sure you master and practice with purpose deliberately in order for you to execute your job? While this sounds very straightforward, I find that a lot of people skip the basics. They want to get enamored with what’s hot and flashy and sexy and they look to skip rungs on the ladder instead of making that commitment to the basics. That was really eye-opening for me to see some of the best players in the world spend time doing drills that middle school-aged kids do, but as I started to talk to the best leaders business, I find that they do the exact same thing. Never getting bored with the basics is crucial.

Halelly: What are some of those, for the business leaders? What are the drills they’re doing? What did you see?

Alan: Number one, regardless of what your role is, but if your goal is to lead more effectively and have more influence and impact, you have to master the skill of active listening. Listening is the gold to leadership, and that may sound a bit counterintuitive, because most people picture a leader as doing the talking, as doing the problem solving, as the one that’s fixing everything and pointing the direction for the team to go, when in fact most of the gold comes through listening. The best business leaders that I’ve been around are tremendous active listeners, but that takes practice. You have to practice the skill of active listening, and it is a skill. But because it’s a skill, it can be improved with purposeful repetition.

Halelly: That’s true. Any other drills that you’ve seen, other than listening?

Alan: There’s going to be a whole series of daily practices, but one of the ones – and this is one I’m excited to share with your listeners – I’ve also found that it’s a given for elite basketball players, they know they need to eat well and they need to hydrate and they need to get sleep and they need to work out and strength train and do all of those things because their job is incredibly physical. But the best business leaders, they fill their own bucket in the same way. They don’t have to be in tip-top physical shape the way an NBA player does, but they realize that the only way they can pour into others and fill other people’s buckets and lead effectively is if their battery is fully charged. They take the time, every single day, to do something to recharge their battery so that they can lead more effectively.

Halelly: I love it. You know, actually we just had one of our recent episodes was with James Garrett, where we talked about ways to recharge your energy, so that’s going to be a nice compliment to this one. I’ll link to it in the show notes. Are there some differences, certain things that don’t really convey from sports to business and vice versa?

Alan: There are some very subtle nuances. In the sports world, especially in the basketball arena, it’s more appropriate, or at least it’s more accepted, for a coach to kind of raise their voice and to yell and scream from a sideline during practice, where I would think that’s rarely acceptable or appropriate to do in the corporate setting or the boardroom.

Halelly: Thankfully yes, less now!

Alan: And same thing as using physical punishment to help enforce standards. If a player is late to practice, it’s acceptable in the basketball world to make them run sprints or to make the entire team run sprints as an act of deterrent. Clearly if you’re late for a meeting today, to send everybody out into the parking lot to run sprints is more than likely not appropriate. But those are just some obvious subtle nuances. I’d say the vast majority, at least on the foundational and macro level, are almost identical between the two.

Halelly: I’m curious though. I don’t play basketball or never have even dreamed of it, are those deterrents that are used, are those effective? I mean, are they effective in motivating people or do they just make people fearful?

Alan: It just depends. There is both. It’s that whole carrot and the stick analogy. Ultimately in this case the coach needs to find what’s most authentic to them and their personality and their leadership style and what resonates most with the players? For me, I’ve always been much more of a reward the behavior you want to see repeated type of person as opposed to scolding and punishing those that do what you don’t want them to do. But I don’t think there’s necessarily a right answer and I’ve found that with most effective coaches, it’s a little bit of both. You want to have firm discipline and hold people accountable, but you need to do so through care and love and by establishing genuine trust.

Halelly: Yes, okay, good. TalentGrowers, are you listening well? This is an exception where it’s not the same – do not do that! All right, so performance lessons. You say that you have a lot of performance lessons that you share. Are there some that people find counterintuitive or surprising or that they resist a lot that are performance lessons from the world of sports to business?

Alan: For sure. Folks resist a lot of things that are actually in their best interest.

Halelly: Of course!

Alan: We often just get in our own way more than anything else. One of the things I’ve found, talk about going back to the basics, the most basic way to improve our performance is to close what’s called a performance gap. A performance gap is the difference between what we know and what we actually do. The difference between the things we know we’re supposed to do everyday and the things that we actually do everyday, and every single human being on the planet – myself included – has a series of performance gaps. I found that the highest achievers and the highest performers and the most influential leaders have found ways to mitigate or eliminate the performance gaps in the most important areas. I say that because I’m a huge advocate of continual growth and continual learning. I’m a veracious reader, I devour podcasts such as yours, I believe we should all be learning new stuff and subject ourselves to new stuff, but in all reality, if I didn’t learn another thing for the next year, if I simply did everything that I already know, my performance would skyrocket, because everybody has those gaps.

One of the best ways, just as a quick visual for your listeners, we can just use let’s say health and fitness as an example. I don’t know any of your listeners personally – or at least I don’t know if I do – but I’m pretty confident if that if I had them all take out their notes right now and write down a list of the healthiest foods that they know of, I’m confident they’d come up with a pretty great list. Many of them would write down the same foods. If I asked your listeners to write down the number of hours of sleep you’re supposed to get every night, they could do that in a split second, and many of them would write down the exact same number. And if I asked them, just to kind of etch out what a weekly workout program should look like, they don’t have to submit it to Men’s Health or Women’s Health, but just how many days per week, how long each session, and what kind of things should you do? I’m confident that they could do that. I’ve never met them and I’m still confident they could do that if they’ve been on planet Earth for any amount of time. But then if I ask them to go back and look at their notes and ask them, are those the foods you eat consistently? Is that the amount of sleep you get consistently? And are those the type of workouts you do consistently? It’s a series of binary questions. It’s either yes or no. And if the answer is yes, they do those things, then that just means when it comes to health and fitness, they have a very narrow performance gap. That’s great. If their answer is no, I don’t say that to make them feel bad and I don’t say that to call them out. I simply want to shine the light of self accountability on the fact that they know what they’re supposed to eat and how much they’re supposed to sleep and what they’re supposed to do for physical fitness, but they’re not doing it. That’s where we have this performance gap.

You can do that with any area of your life. You could do it with your specific role when it comes to leadership in your organization. You could do that in your financial world. You could do it in your relationships. The key is having the humility and the vulnerability to admit and acknowledge these performance gaps and then come up with ways to actually lessen them and narrow them so you can start living to the potential that you’re capable of.

Halelly: This is so true. Have you found that there’s a common list of reasons or top reasons for why we have a performance gap in some things like this? Obviously we can get the information and the knowledge. I often seen this in my industry where I’m working in employee development and leadership development and a lot of times people ask for, “Can we have a workshop on this or can we get more e-learning on that?” And I ask them, “Are you sure that it’s a knowledge problem? Are people just not aware of what they need and they need more training? Or is it a motivation problem or an environmental constraint or something else that’s causing them not to do it?” What do you find is usually the reason?

Alan: The number one reason is discomfort. Usually that discomfort arises because we need to ask them to change. They need to change their certain behavior. In order for them to close that gap, they have to change what they’ve been doing. Clearly if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting. If you don’t like what you’ve been getting, you need to change what you’ve been doing. Most people are incredibly resistant to change. Even the word itself gives most people anxiety. Heart rate starts to elevate, palms start to sweat. People don't like to change and that’s because as human beings, we’re very habitual creatures. I saw a study at Duke University that said almost 45 percent of everything we do during our waking hours is habitual. So almost half of everything we do from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed is on autopilot. It’s a habit.

Halelly: Your brain wants the path of least resistance.

Alan: Exactly. And as soon as we start to throw in some resistance, we means we need to change that behavior that’s become automatic, now there’s friction. Now there’s discomfort and most people have been conditioned to follow our natural DNA that says, “Let’s try to be as comfortable as possible as often as possible. We need to resist and refrain and hide from discomfort.” This is where my experience as a basketball performance coach is really valuable, because in basketball performance, discomfort is not nice to have – it’s a requirement. It’s a necessity. It was my job to take players and teams to the brink of discomfort and to teach them how to be comfortable being uncomfortable so that they could then build their bodies and minds back stronger for the next workout, practice or game. What we’re ultimately asking people to do is make a change, and that change comes with discomfort. That discomfort is the reason that most people try to keep these different behaviors and habits at arms length.

Halelly: This is why having a coach is so valuable, because some people are very good at pushing themselves into that kind of discomfort or doing it consistently, and a lot of us humans, it’s just hard. There’s so much bombarding us all the time. So many to-dos, so many competing priorities, so having someone on your side telling you, “Hey, do this,” or giving you feedback or maybe just pushing you harder is so super helpful.

Alan: Absolutely. One of the things I love about you and your message and your podcast is you like giving people tangible nuggets, things they can actually implement, which is in so much alignment with when I do my speaking engagements and workshops. I don’t want to just be a tap-dancing monkey. I want to give people something they can actually use and I found there’s a three-step process on how anyone can close any performance gap in life.

Halelly: Ooh, dish!

Alan: I want to preface this by saying I know I deliver this in a very matter of fact tone, because what I’m about to share, these three steps are very basic, but they’re not easy. It’s so important for your listeners to know that basic and easy are not synonyms. Just because something is basic doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, being able to stick to the basics consistently is usually incredibly challenging. But here are three steps. Number one, you want to pick one, which I mean pick one habit, one singular behavior that you want to change. Don’t try to change five or six things at once. As human beings we’re not wired for that. We want to have razor-sharp precision. It’s my opinion that’s the reason that most New Years resolutions don’t work is because of the plural part. You wake up on January 1 and say, “I’m going to change these five things and 2019 is going to be the best year of my life,” and statistically, two to three weeks into the new year, most people are not doing most of those things. But if we focus on one, and have razor-sharp precision, we greatly increase the chance that we’re going to be successful. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, which is if you chase two rabbits, they both get away. Just focus on one.

There was actually some research done by a gentleman named John Berardi, who has a company called Precision Nutrition. He did this research study and he found that when the average person tried to change one singular habit, they had an 85-percent chance of being successful. Those are pretty good odds. In the next group, when people tried to change two behaviors simultaneously, the percentage of success dropped down to 35 or 40 percent, for either habit. That’s less than half. And for the third group that tried to change three behaviors, it dropped down to four or five percent.

Halelly: Wow, those are great numbers.

Alan: The reason I bring that up is, I’m willing to bet that anyone listening to this show probably shares a lot of characteristics. They’re ambitious, they’re driven, they’re confident, they’re go-getters. They have high self-worth. So it’s very understandable that they would believe that they could tackle three or four things at once, because they’re probably very good at anything they’ve ever tried. I’m not doubting that they would be able to do that, but I’m saying if we actually look at the numbers and we look at the way we’re wired as human beings, it’s in their best interest to take a deep breath, eat a small piece of humble pie and say, “Yes, I’m only going to focus on one thing.” So number one is pick one.

Halelly: And for how long do you work on it before you should expect to master that and move onto something? For those of us who are like more, more more!

Alan: This is why you and I have so much alignment, because you led me perfectly into number two, which is 66 days. Now, let me preface this with the fact that I know exactly why you ask that question, because when I’m looking to change a behavior, it’s the same thing I ask myself – how long do I have to do this when it’s really uncomfortable before this just becomes a natural part of me? We have to be very careful of that line of thinking, at least I know I do, because ultimately we’re basically asking ourselves, “When do we have to stop putting in the effort to make this happen? When do we have to stop thinking about it?” The answer is never. Because whenever you stop doing it, then it’s no longer going to be a habit. But the research has also shown, to really answer your question, it takes approximately 66 days – give or take – to change the average behavior. Somewhere around that 66-day mark, it’ll be less forceful, less uncomfortable, and it’ll just start to be kind of your rewired way of behaving. I like 66 days for a couple of reasons. One, it’s really easy to remember. It’s kind of a random, arbitrary number. To me, it’s a stretch. That’s not super easy. I’m not telling you that you can have your behavior changed by next Tuesday. But it’s also very doable. I’m not telling you, “Hey, this is not going to change until 2026.” So to me, it’s a nice combination of stretching but doable. I know for me, and each of your listeners has to figure out what works best for them, I’m a very visual guy, and I literally have on my desk in front of me right now, I have a paper calendar. Old school style, from Office Depot, and I use a red sharpie and I put a big X every day that I’ve done what I’m trying to change. I actually have it in front of me right now – I’m on day 37 of something that I’ve implemented in my morning routine. My goal is to not stop until I see 66 Xs in a row.

Halelly: I’m curious, what is it?

Alan: I went to a retreat 37 days ago and there was a morning breathing and stretching and meditation routine that they highly recommended that you use to start your day. I was doing kind of a form of that, but I’m actually following the one they shared. I started it the day after that retreat and I haven’t stopped. And I feel great about it. I literally have this reminder in front of me with these red Xs. I will really be letting myself down if I don’t get a red X tomorrow morning, so I’m committed to doing that. What the research says is, when I have, give or take, 66 red Xs in front of me, then it’ll just become a natural part of what I do. I won’t have to think about it as much. The red Xs will just be the new way that I’m wired.

Halelly: You don’t quit after 66 days, you keep doing it! This is, I think Jerry Seinfeld had the chain method he described.

Alan: Same thing. I love that. Don’t break the chain. A good friend of mine, James Clear, who wrote the best book I’ve ever read on habits, Atomic Habits, he’s amazing. I had dinner with him the other night. He uses the same Jerry Seinfeld, don’t break the chain, but he makes a little switch to it which is never miss twice. Which I like because it gives, it allows you to have some compassion and grace for yourself, and if for some reason tomorrow morning I don’t do my breathing and meditation and stretching, well, then just make sure I don’t miss twice. That’s even more important to get it the next day. I really like that. I will say that anything that has to do with habits, I highly recommend your listeners listen or watch or read some of James’ stuff. He’s kind of my go-to habit guy, and most of the stuff I have, I’ve gotten from him that I share with others.

Halelly: Very cool. His newsletter is actually one of the few I read regularly. I’ve enjoyed his newsletter and blog for years, and I did invite him to come on the TalentGrow Show. We’re talking about how to get him on later in 2019, so be on the lookout for that. I’m excited about it.

Alan: Absolutely. I’ll give him a nudge on my end!

Halelly: Please do, that would be great. He gets asked a lot. He’s super popular. And he’s on a book tour with his book so I know he has so many podcasts. Very good. I think we covered two of the three, so let’s make sure we don’t skip.

Alan: You’ve got it. So number one was pick one, number two was 66 days, and number three is keep the spotlight on. The spotlight I’m referring to is the spotlight of accountability. This is when you have to have the humility to admit that as basic as number one and number two sound, just doing those will not be easy. We need to recruit our inner circle. We need to recruit our friends, our family, our colleagues, our coworkers. The people that we know want to see us successful, want to see us happy and fulfilled, want to see us thrive, and we need to recruit them to help hold us accountable. I’ve told my inner circle, “Every morning for the first 30 minutes, this is the routine I’m now doing. If you don’t mind, do you mind sending me a text and asking me if I did it? Every time we talk, do you mind asking me how it’s been going?” And so forth. We need to have other people holding us accountable, and we need to do that for a few reasons. One, one emotion that unites all of us as emotions as human beings – assuming we’re not sociopaths – is we don’t like letting other people down. We don’t like disappointing the people we really and truly care about. Anyone that’s in our inner circle that wants to support us, I would feel really awful if you were in my inner circle and I had to tell you that I missed my morning routine this morning. Coming up with a litany of excuses of why that happened. This helps keep us honest, and this is also a support group. Because if I did miss this morning routine, if you were in my inner circle, I would want you to hold me accountable, but I’d also want your compassion and support and say something to the effect of, “Can you do it later this afternoon? I know you missed it this morning, Alan, but maybe you can get it in this afternoon and then pick right up where you left off tomorrow morning.” When we have other people supporting us, there’s a lot less friction and resistance to where we’re trying to go.

If folks narrow down the performance gap they want to change, they pick one singular behavior, they are relentlessly committed to doing it for 66 days and they tell everyone that’s important to them to hold them accountable and keep that spotlight on, they have a really, really solid chance of closing that performance gap and improving that behavior.

Halelly: Awesome. Thank you for that advice. It’s very actionable, just as you said, and I love it. So, we need to wrap up. You’re going to give us another one specific action – because we always end on that note – but what’s new and exciting for you? What new project or discovery has your attention these days?

Alan: The recent book, that’s the most exciting thing. It was about two years in the works, so it was a blast putting it together and writing and researching it, but it’s just as much fun now trying to share the message with others and getting some great feedback, some people that have read it and said that it had a nice impact on them, it’s really a satisfying and fulfilling feeling, which only motivates and drives me to continue to want to put good value out into the world. It’s something I take a lot of pride in. I like to consider myself an energy giver and a bucket filler, and the book is just simply a tool to help fill people’s buckets.

Halelly: We’ll link to it in the show notes and I hope that it does spectacularly well. Many people talk about wanting to write a book and like you said, the performance gap is huge there. Very few people do. So congratulations on that. What’s one specific action that our listeners can take today, tomorrow, this week, to upgrade their own success as leaders or just in general?

Alan: Well, it’s going to piggyback on something we said earlier, about the ability to fill buckets. You said that dovetailed nicely with the other interview which you did. I want your listeners to make a list of the five things – I’m just saying things, like activities – that they know that fills their bucket and recharges them mentally, physically and emotionally. It could be taking a yoga class. It could be going for a long walk with your dog. It could be taking a hot bath and listening to classical music. It could be finding a quiet space in a coffee shop and reading. Find the things that really nourish your soul and fill your bucket and then you need to make time for those things on the bookends of your day. In your morning and evening routine. The first 90 minutes when you wake up or the last 90 minutes before you go to bed, you need to make the time – because you’re never going to find the time – you need to make the time to start integrating those things in to your morning and evening routine. It doesn’t mean you have to do them for hours on end. It doesn’t mean you have to do every single one of them every single week, but you need to make the time.

Just remember you’re doing this in service of others. If you’re in management and you’re in a leadership role, the folks that report to you, you owe it to them to have your bucket full and to have your battery fully charged. When you’re taking time to do that for yourself, you’re doing it in service of others. You will be the best manager or best leader or best you-fill-in-the-blank if you make sure your bucket is full and we have to make the time to do that, if we want to be effective leaders.

Halelly: That’s great advice. I think maybe implicit in what you’re saying is of course it serves you, because I personally have a thing against being sacrificial, so I just want to call that out. I know a lot of people feel badly taking care of themselves and they feel like if they’re just doing something for just themselves that something is wrong with that, and I know Alan, what your intention is, or I think, is to help them see it’s not just for themselves, but it is also for themselves. It’s a win-win.

Alan: You nailed that perfectly. It’s in service of others. I think lots of times our society gets selfishness and unselfishness confused. If you’re taking time to refill your battery, then you’re doing that so you can pour more into other people. You can’t pour anything out of an empty cup, so if you’re running on fumes and you haven’t been getting sleep and you haven’t been eating well and you haven’t done the things that light you up, then there’s no way that you can lead most effectively and there’s no way you can pour into others. To put a bowtie on it, if you look at the basketball world, even if your listeners don’t like, watch or know much about basketball, I’m sure they’ve heard of LeBron James. Well, if LeBron James shows up to the Lakers practice and he hasn’t gotten any sleep and he didn’t eat anything and he isn’t stretched out, this checklist, then he’s actually hurting the team’s chance of being successful. That’s actually an act of selfishness. Because he didn’t fill his own bucket and best prepare himself to contribute to the team during practice, that is an act of selfishness. It’s actually the reverse of what most people think. Again, I’m not saying you have to take two to three hours a day to pour into yourself. I just told you that my morning routine is 30 minutes long from start to finish. From breath work to movement work and stretching, and then I do some meditation and then a cold shower. It is 30 minutes and if anyone is thinking, “I don’t have time for that,” then get up 30 minutes earlier. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier as well so you’re not sacrificing sleep. I’ve found since implementing that, not only has my performance gone up, but my mood, my outlook, my ability to take on change and adversity, everything is greatly improved by starting my day in something I can control as opposed to just waking up and start looking at my phone and checking emails and half eating breakfast and shaving on the way to work. That’s how most people start their day. Take control back. Invest in yourself so you can then pour that into others.

Halelly: Very nice. And a complimentary episode, if you want to think more about this idea of selfishness, we discussed it in episode 99, Selfish for Success with Dr. Steve Orma. That entire episode is about this topic, so that could be a nice compliment. Alan, it’s been fun talking with you and I bet people are going to want to follow up, learn more from and about you. Where can they do that best?

Alan: it’s been a joy talking with you as well! If anyone is interested in the book, you can just go to RaiseYourGameBook.com. Anyone interested in any of the other stuff I have going on, you can just go to AlanSteinJr.com. I’m just @AlanSteinJr on Instagram, on LinkedIn, any of the major social platforms.

Halelly: Awesome. Thanks for stopping by on the TalentGrow Show. We appreciate you.

Alan: Thank you!

Halelly: So there you have it, TalentGrowers. I hope you enjoyed Alan’s positive and motivating energy. I like his style and I like his ideas and they definitely make sense and are actionable. Of course, if you don’t take action, they’re not going to be as meaningful as if you do. I hope and encourage you to do so.

Earlier I promised I’d read a brand new review I received on Apple Podcasts, also known as iTunes to many people, and the reason reviews are so helpful is a lot of times people do searches based on keywords or maybe they are listening to another podcast and that podcast’s app or Apple Podcasts serves them my show as a suggested other show to listen to, and just like any other product or service, when we look at something we’ve never heard of we think, is this any good? What do other people say? That’s where the reviews are super helpful. If you’ve been enjoying the show at all and care to give me a token of your appreciation, then spending four minutes writing a one or two sentence review will be all that I can possibly ask. I will be so very grateful to you.

This one came from Rob Flitton and he says, “Halelly Azulay is not only the best interview in the business podcast segment, but is so well-prepared and a woman who walks the talk, constantly out on the prowl for new ideas. Keep it up.” Thank you Rob, I appreciate you. Thanks for the nice words and thanks for taking the time to leave a review for the TalentGrow Show. I appreciate it.

TalentGrowers, this is it for another episode. I hope that you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your feedback. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow, and this has been the TalentGrow Show. Until the next time, make today great.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.


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