Dr. Kevin Elko is a nationally renowned performance consultant and bestselling author, who is well known as the most in-demand and probably the best at what he does in the pro and collegiate sports world. In his latest book, “Believing is Seeing – Ten Steps to a Mindset That Will Transform Your Direction and Your Life”, the forward is written by Nick Saban, probably the best college football coach in history.
As a team performance consultant, Dr. Elko has won a staggering 29 combined Superbowls and/ or National Championships! He has won the title with The Alabama Crimson Tide (5 times with Nick Saban) and also championships with the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, Florida State, LSU, the Miami Hurricanes and many more.
Dr. Elko is an important part of a team’s success as he evaluates and selects players, gives speeches to the team, writes the speeches the coaches give, and he establishes the mantras and themes for the team to focus on for the year. There might not be anybody better at evaluating mindset, teaching leadership, or establishing a culture.
In the business world, Dr. Elko is in high demand with organizations that deal with high levels of stress and difficult circumstance, as he works with people on: how they talk to themselves, how to get the most out of themselves, and how to deal with any adversity they will come across.
Join Chris as he and Kevin have a riveting and powerful conversation discussing Leadership, Culture, Teamwork, Mindset, and the Psychology of how we look at our circumstances, ourselves, and the people around us.
For more on Kevin or to book him to speak: https://www.calentertainment.com/portfoliotype/dr-kevin-elko-2/
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Kevin Elko: The Top Performance Consultant Shares Success Secrets
Joining me is Dr. Kevin Elko, a nationally renowned performance consultant and bestselling author, who’s well-known as the most in-demand and the best at what he does in the pro and collegiate sports worlds. In his latest book, Believing Is Seeing, the foreword was written by Nick Saban, the best college football coach in history. As a team sports psychologist and performance consultant, Kevin has won a staggering 29 combined Super Bowls and/or national championships. He’s won the title with the Alabama Crimson Tide five times with Nick Saban and also with the Dallas Cowboys, the Green Bay Packers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Florida State, LSU, the Miami Hurricanes and many more.
He’s an important part of a team success as he evaluates and selects the players. He gives speeches to the teams. He writes the coach’s speeches. He establishes the mantras for the team to focus on for the year. There might not be anybody better at evaluating mindset, teaching leadership or establishing a culture. He is in high-demand with organizations that deal with high levels of stress and difficult circumstance as he works with people on how they talk to themselves, how they get the most out of themselves and how to deal with any adversity you may come across. Please join me with an incredible man who is truly transformative and healthy for our minds, Dr. Kevin Elko.
Dr. Kevin Elko, thank you for joining me on the show. How are you doing?
I’m good, Chris. It’s great seeing you, old-time friend. I miss you. It’s good to see you again catching up. It’s been wonderful.
Thank you. You too. I always enjoy all the time I get with you. If you’re speaking anywhere near me, I will make sure I am there because you are one of my favorites I’ve ever seen.
I can’t wait for the day I’m out there. You know how good it will feel when I’m out there speaking again. You think you’ll be glad to see me. I’ll be gladder to see you.
You have some more reasons to be coming out to Los Angeles. Hopefully, that will happen even more than ever.
My daughter will be back at UCLA in September 2020, even if they have classes or not. I will be out your way.
Are you from Pennsylvania?
No. You can hear I’m a little bit South. I’m from West Virginia. I’ll pull out my harmonica and start playing for you. That’s what I usually do once I get bored. I’m a little hillbilly. My real name is Phil, not Kevin. Back home, they call me Dr. Phil Billy. I came here to work with the Steelers in the late ‘80s.So what? Now what? Click To Tweet
You never left.
I never left. Once my kids graduate and I got one to go here, I might be coming your way. We’ll see.
You’re a busy man on the East Coast. You worked with the Steelers in the ‘80s, ‘90s. You’ve worked with the Eagles ever since. You went to the Super Bowl with a great coach. I’m sure you’re still friends with him, Andy Reid, who finally won a Super Bowl. I’m sure you knew once he got Mahomes. Could you tell that he was going to win a Super Bowl finally?
He does everything right. He’s a fabulous coach. People love him. They love to play for him. It’s only a matter of time he’s going to win. I’m close to him. As a matter of fact, when his son passed away, I was one of the first people he called to have me sit with him. His son overdosed. He’s a fabulous person and a fabulous coach. The way that he can develop quarterbacks and that the synergy he had with Mahomes, I thought they’d be a good team.
McNabb was a no shabby quarterback either. I’m a Cowboys fan. You know that we had some trouble with McNabb for many years, but you were also with my Cowboys back in the day.
That was the reason why I love being down here. Deion was there, Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman. It was a good time. I love being there. It was a special group.
I was on the phone with Emmitt Smith. We were talking about you. I know you have a quote from him that you’ve been allowed to use. I love that quote. That’s the thing about you that’s so cool is that you have not only succeeded at the highest level but with the highest-level succeeders, winners and great ones of our day in a lot of sports. You’re able to work with them. They all are able to get something from you, which is unbelievable. Andy Reid and Nick Saban, one of the greatest coaches of all time, Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson. You were with Jimmy in Miami before he came to Dallas.
No. I was there with Butch Davis and Larry Coker when we won it.
Larry Coker is another great coach. When Jimmy came to Dallas, how did Jimmy Johnson find out about you because you were there with him from the beginning?
It wasn’t Jimmy who found out. It was Jerry Jones. What happens is Steelers play with the Cowboys. We played in a game. In the game, our quarterback, Neil O’Donnell, from two interceptions they picked off. Afterwards, Jerry called the Steelers, this was before salary cap that was going on. He goes, “I’ve got a lot more money in this team that you’ve got in your team.” They go, “What’s the difference? Kevin is up on the selection process.” We had a selection process, a selection test. We’re starting to do some off fields now as the great ones have a way they see themselves. We looked at the whole concept of self-concept, how they see themselves. Even the resiliency, I have signs on my wall.
One is, “I was born for the storm. The calm doesn’t suit me.” We got into self-concept with the Steelers the way that they viewed themselves. Jerry got fascinated by it all. He was the one that reached out. I then went from Pittsburgh down there to help them. It was an interesting time and group of people on how they did things. It came off of my self-concept work with the Steelers in so far as Pittsburgh had the smallest budget during that time. They had the second-best record behind the 49ers. It was how do people have a concept of how they view themselves what we got into.
The concept of how the Cowboys viewed themselves changed almost overnight with Jerry Jones purchasing them, unfortunately firing the legendary coach, Tom Landry, who was there forever and broke everybody’s heart. Jimmy Johnson was a winner. They had a friendship and a kinship for many years before that and brought you in ’89. Within a few years, they were in the playoffs and won the Super Bowl in ’93.
When you go in with teams, watching the different things that people do. When they come in, they teach culture. That’s the big thing, Chris. Even CAL Entertainment has a culture. A culture means there’s a set way that we think we do things. The great ones have a set way they think and they do things. That’s the big thing with Nick Saban in Alabama. There’s always a culture. Here’s what you teach. It means the way that we think. The big thing that I try to emphasize in my books, in my talks and everything, is winning teams have their own language, the only way they speak.
You go and you try to develop that language like in Alabama, “So what, now what?” In Alabama, you’ve got this phrase “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” You know how women say that diamonds are girls’ best friend? I liked them too. What you get into is the language. In my latest book, Believing Is Seeing, Saban wrote the first chapter. It’s the language of winning. Anything that you get in there, that’s what they’re going after, Chris.
What did you say was one of the monikers down there in Alabama?
It’s “So what, now what?” There’s a lot of research about the relationship between resiliency. Resiliency is your ability to come back. They’re looking at the facts. One time they’re talking about grit. You and I are good friends with Jon Dornbush. Jon talked about his coming up, the father killing his mother, then thought his career was going, had an aneurysm, the heart was about to explode, and had to recreate his career. Resiliency is my ability to come back. There’s a proverb, “When I fall, who I become will catch me.” It’s an old Jewish proverb. I can come back stronger, but what you want to do is look at the factors.
When you look at all the research out, the skill of resiliency coming back, especially in this thing with COVID and all the things we have going on is the factor. It’s a couple of things, my identity, how I see me. The second one is this language. The phrase that I’ve been using everywhere, I should get you to trademark it for me is, “So what, now what?” This phrase, “Neurons that fire together, wire together,” what does that mean? Your brain is made up of a zillion different neurons that carry messages.
I’m on a cruise with my sister, her two kids and my son. It was in 2019. Her son goes 5,000 times a day on the cruise, “For sure.” “I’ll play basketball for sure. I want to get some ice cream for sure.” I already lost my mind. For two weeks after that cruise, I’m walking around going, “For sure.” What we do is we want to blame things on the past. We want to blame things for who we are now. It’s the way we decided to think and speak yesterday. Our brains grew easily. The problem we have is our brains are not wired for happy. Our brains aren’t wired for success.
Your brain is wired for survival. It’s still going all the time for something to look to survive. We’re looking for danger. We’re bumper for bad. If we’re on purpose to pick up things, language, vision, our brains will stay programmed for the bad. This phrase, “So what, now what?” the first part of it, we need to get our minds quiet, no mental clutter. If I can’t do something about it, so what? There are a lot of things I like about getting older. I don’t like that you could sneeze and pull a muscle. I like what Billy Chris said, the comedian, “I don’t like to go to the bathroom knowing the light is in Morse code.” Do you know what I love about getting older, Chris?
Stupid stuff doesn’t matter anymore. They carried me out of this house in an ambulance years ago on June 5th. They took me to Cleveland Clinic. After that happens to you, stuff doesn’t matter anymore. Stuff used to make you lose your mind. As you get older and you go through more, success to me is not adding on. It’s getting rid of and learning what not to pay attention to, so what? The next phrase “now what,” COVID came. “I’m Chris Lee. My speakers were canceled. Now what? I better get out there and get some virtual bookings. Now what? I better go this out. I better try some other things. Now what?” “So what, now what” is a phrase that we use often. It’s my first chapter that Saban wrote. He wrote the chapter called So What, Now What.
There’s a little town called Enterprise, Alabama. They’re growing cotton and the boll weevil wipes them out. There’s a brand-new crop called the peanut. They planted and became wealthy from the peanut. In the middle of Enterprise is a big statue of a boll weevil. It goes, “Thank you, Mr. Boll Weevil, for the role you played in our prosperity.” You take that phrase and you’ve developed language. I hope you get every speaker out that you can get, but the fact of the matter is until you start speaking a language and the whole place speaks it, you don’t have culture. You don’t have it. When the Eagles want it, when you go to Alabama and they want it for the state, Miami wants it, it’s the language. You go in, develop it and speak it. It will change the whole place. That’s the key.Greatness comes down to ownership. It happens when we pay attention to choices, not feelings. Click To Tweet
You’re good at getting that message defined. It’s not like you bring the same message wherever you go. You have a way of finding out what kind of people you’re working with, dealing with. You get to say and remind them of the things that matter to them in their circumstance. I know when planes have crashed, you’ve been there to console the families. I think one of the head legislator, the people in government, called you in because they knew you were the right guy. When Andy Reid lost his son, you were one of the first people he called. When a women’s basketball team in the South had a player who died or a coach who died, you’re the guy who knows what to say. How do you know what to say? Is it the same mindset? You’re on the spot and pick it out. Do you have to take time to figure out what it is you’re going to be thinking of and what you’re going to be saying or is it instinctual to you?
Let me answer in two ways. Learned behavior becomes instinct. When you’ve done something over and over, in some ways, you get instincts from living and you get instincts from paying attention. Even when you’ve called me hurting, it’s connection. We don’t know how to connect anymore. I’m working with a pharmaceutical company. We’re doing virtual live training. The last one I did was on the ability to connect. Here’s what connection is. I see you as a person. It’s listed self-talk phrase, “Be where your feet are.” It’s going to be with somebody, sit and understand where you are. You have to understand something about grieving. Did you know love has a price? I know you lost your mom. Love has a price. You know the prices of love? Grief, it’s a broken heart.
A friend of mine lost her son to COVID, a young man in New York City. You sit with them. The thing you want to do when somebody’s hurting is heal them. No. It’s something bigger than you heal them. You want to sit with them. You want to be a friend to them. You want to be able to connect. What you do is give them permission to start grieving. There’s something powerful in healing championships, companies, United States of America and connection. I see you as somebody. When you go in, the plane crash that you’re talking about, I’m going up an escalator. It’s USAir. The plane goes down. There’s me, a psychologist, and two priests, and a USAir official goes, “No survivors.” There are 50 people up there waiting for their loved ones to come off of that plane. They’re not coming. You work with the people who will make the announcement.
There’s a guy at the bar. He keeps on screaming at one of the priests. “Father, did my wife make it?” The priest kept looking at his shoes. He knew. Finally, the USAir official came in and made an announcement. “No survivors.” The guy came up to the bar and said to everybody, “I’m tearing him apart.” I’m holding him back. He’s breaking out in this whole room. I’m screaming to the priest, “Get the USAir official out of the room.” There’s no pressure I’m on. I look back. I thought he’d be driving me to get to the official. There’s a woman in a different direction. She’s screaming and crying because she realized her husband didn’t make it. He went down over to her. He fell down and held her. Do you understand what happened? I had dangling in thin air.
He knew what he needed. He gave it. I’ve never seen him again. I bet he’s okay. To your answer, it’s all connection. You go in. What we’re finding is there’s a big relationship between connection in sales. In our motto with the Eagles, “Any individual can make a difference. A team could make a miracle.” When you come together, when you teach people to be connectors, miracles happen. You’re trying to go in first and connect. Where are they? What are they feeling? Let me be a great listener and understand what’s going on. That’s what you do when you go in.
First of all, you keep on holding up these championships and Super Bowl rings. How many Super Bowl and championship rings do you have down there?
I’ve got them all sitting right here. I’ve got 29.
I know you were also there with Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy. I’m a Cowboys fan. Mike McCarthy is the new head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Was that a great hire for the Cowboys to make the best one they can make?
I think it’s fabulous. I knew him years ago. He’s from where I live. I knew him from New Orleans Saints. He’s a fabulous teacher. I love one of the things he did. He has a standing day with Aaron Rodgers, every Friday connection. I loved how he went into the Super Bowl in a relaxed state. The night before the Super Bowl, one of the Packers got on the piano and was playing Get on the Jesus Train. I’m getting ready to speak to the team. People dance around. Aaron Rogers danced around. It looks like Steve Martin, The Jerk. I’m watching everybody dance around. I hit Mike McCarthy. I punched the juice and one soup. “Look how we lose.”
You won the Super Bowl the night before.
One of the things we decided to do is we measure everybody for their rings before. The energy was so good. The title of the talk was Let’s Do Something That Will Outlive Us. It was a lot of fun to do. It was a lot of energy in the room. He’s fabulous. I love Mike. I have respect for the Cowboys organization. I think he’d wind down there good. I love the way he develops relationships with different people. He’s a great teacher. With who they’ve gotten off deck, that relationship will flourish.
We’ll see what happens with that. Otherwise, if Aaron gets any unhappier in Green Bay, Jerry will be coming.
I don’t know anything about all that, but I think Aaron Rodgers is special.
He’s an amazing quarterback and leader. We talked about a lot of these people that you’ve come to know, these incredible coaches who depend on you. I know Nick Saban famously said, “I will not let anybody else talk to my team except for Dr. Kevin Elko.” I saw that great Belichick and Saban documentary on HBO. It’s wonderful where the two greatest coaches alive are best friends. They get together every year and they connect as friends. They learn from each other. Belichick steals some plays and ideas from Saban. Saban steals some things from Belichick and they love it. They’re friends. The worst thing that happened in their careers was he used to have to play each other twice a year but only for two years when Saban was down there in Miami. Were you with Saban in Miami?
He asked me to go out there with him. I was with him at LSU the whole time when he won towards the end. I knew it wasn’t a good fit. He did a good job. I’m been with him the whole time in Alabama.
Let’s talk about these people, these coaches, these players. You, at this point, have 29 championships in the colleges and pro football. There are a couple of other sports thrown in there too. You must know at this point. I have a good sense of intuition about speakers, close customers and clients but you must have a real good idea for who you’re in the room with, who you’re standing with. That’s what we were talking about. The selection process is what the differentiating factor of the Steelers was when Jerry Jones said, “What makes you guys so great?” It was the selection process of the players. I know that incredible story that you told. I don’t know if you still tell it but you should.
It’s one of the best ones I remember. It is the Torry Holt story where you said to him when you were drafting him for the Steelers, “How is it you were able to play with a broken, dislocated shoulder for part of last year?” He said, “No, Coach. It was the whole year. I had a dislocated shoulder. I figured if my mom was able to go to work with cancer, then I’m able to get on the field with a dislocated shoulder the whole season.” You told Bill Cowher at that moment, “We’ve got to take this guy. He’s got that championship mindset,” even though he’s smaller, not as fast, his hands are smaller and all the things that you wanted in a receiver, he doesn’t necessarily have. They trade him to the Rams. He goes on to be one of the greatest receivers in the history of football. That was a long time ago. You must be a master at standing in a room and knowing who you’re in that room with. What I mean by that is you know when somebody is great. What is it? Can you tell what do they have in common? Tell us a little bit about what greatness looks like.
It comes down, one, to ownership. The best predictor, Chris, of the future is the past. We’ve talked about language. It’s this one sentence. The best year you like to view, you take ownership. Everything comes to it. It’s not like I own things like losing my mother. I don’t own that but I own my response to it. When you get inside athletics, what you’ll do is inside. I’m doing this even with companies. When you get in the group, it takes accountability with each other. You’re having a relationship. Not like you’re the warden but it’s a partnership. You’re making people take ownership of the process. When you get inside, if you want to ask me what’s behind all these rings sitting over here, that inside the ownership went to the team.
I don’t work with Steve Kerr, but I love the story. Steve Kerr and the Warriors were playing with Phoenix Suns. He was frustrated with the team. He said to one of the players, I think it was Green, “Here you go, coach the team.” He handed him the clipboard. Kerr sat on the bench and players coached the game. They won by 62 points. When you could put ownership and the close ownership moves to people, the more winning you’re going to have. That line right there saved my life. The best of your life, you take ownership of every problem in your life. It comes down to ownership. You watch somebody like Torry Holt and I tell you that story. “If my mom goes to work with cancer, I could play football.”
He learned a way to talk to himself. He took ownership of his life. He didn’t play the blame game. He didn’t pout. He didn’t get into what’s called self-pity. He said, “Here’s what I have.” We get in the way of ourselves that what turned us around Alabama was a tornado. A tornado came through town in Tuscaloosa and killed over 50 people. Our long snapper name was Carson Tinker. He held his fiancee in the closet and it threw him 200 feet. It killed her and broke his body up. He led us building homes. He let us build a house for other people. When you look at anybody talk about the Kobe Bryant’s that didn’t just saw with Jordan the Last Dance, they take ownership. The champs do of everybody around them.
There’s a difference between a Pro Bowl player and a Super Bowl player. Pro Bowl player, “I’m looking at my own performance.” The Super Bowl player says, “No, I need everybody to be lifted.” Ray Lewis was from Miami. He was there. He used to say, “Match my intensity. Match me.” What’s the difference between the great ones? If Chris and Kevin are together then I come and you go, “Chris, I watched you. You’re a father of these two beautiful twins, this amazing woman.” This is hypothetical. “I watched what you did. You’re a better man than that.” That’s what the champs did.
They can take it. You can take that criticism without getting defensive and insecure, and being able to listen to that other person you respect, and say something to you that might hurt. They might be willing to say it to you because they know you can take it.Always say to yourself, “I believe in a growth mindset,” because whether it’s true or not, you’re going to do so much better. Click To Tweet
You have to coach the teams on the front end on two things. One, separating the hoof and the dude. “Chris, you can do better than that blue blazer. You did green blazer.” I’m teasing. You could say one of two things, “Who I am is wrong. What I did is wrong,” or “I don’t accept that.” I could do one of those two things. We have a big epidemic going on. Do you want me to tell you what it is? It’s offended. It’s a big epidemic. It’s everywhere. People had been offended in the last few years. You can’t look at somebody without them getting offended. When you go in and Kevin Elko works with the team, we start off talking about being coached and learning how not to be offended. Do you know how much energy that sucks from us?
“Here I am, Chris. I’m trying to build CAL Entertainment. I’m trying to put blessings out there. I’m trying to feed my family.” If I would walk around offended, do you know how much energy is sucked from you that you can’t do that? That you can’t do your vision? We get mental clutter. What you want to teach them is how to be coached, how to grow. I’d have a deliberate practice. Here is the big problem we’ve got. Most people pay attention to feelings. “I feel like quitting. I feel frustrated. I feel self-pity. I feel offended.”
“I feel bored and angry that I’m being kept at home. I can’t leave my house even though it’s so dangerous for me to do so and go hang out with 100 other people in a crowded space. I feel like I want to do that. I feel like I can’t hang out at home one more minute.”
Greatness happens when we pay attention to choices, not feelings. I am a big fan because I speak constantly. I study speakers. When I used to play ball, I studied ballplayers. If you’re going to study speakers, you have to study Martin Luther King. I got into his style then his content. I went down to the Lorraine Hotel where Martin Luther King was shot. I went to see all of everything that happened in Memphis, Tennessee. I read about it. Martin Luther King was leading a protest in Memphis, Tennessee of the sanitation workers. He didn’t like the way they acted so he was doing it a second time. When he did the second time, when he got shot, that protest did not happen. The protest did happen the next day. Do you know who led it? It was Coretta Scott King, his wife. She could not have felt like it, but she chose to.
You’re listening to people talk. When you’re interviewing, you’re saying, “Tell me about the time.” You’re looking for greatness and you say, “Tell me the time.” You’re listening for a couple of phrases. Here’s one, “I decided.” I’ve got Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles, who’s paying me to find them a quarterback. I go, “Tell me the best game you ever had in your life.” He made over $100 million because he kept saying this word, “we.” He thought I wanted to hear about that game. I didn’t care about the game. I want to hear if he’s going to say I or we. “We came together. We focused. We ran out there. We pray.” He kept saying the word we. I stepped out and saw Jeffrey Lurie in the hallway. I said, “I interviewed six quarterbacks and that one kept saying, we. Go with that one.”
You’re listening for language. There was an article on The Wall Street Journal that says, “Successful people speak different than unsuccessful speakers.” They say the word we, not I. They said the word I decided but I fell. The third thing, they talk about what they do want. They don’t talk about what they don’t want.” You could make an assessment to your question. Make them talk and listen. “We. Are you talking about what you do want? Are you going to talk about I’ve decided? What you’re looking at, you don’t want the philosophies. I want events. Tell me about the time. Tell me about the past.” You’re asking them questions. As you’re asking them questions, you’re listening for, “we, I decided.” You want to hear them talk about what they do want. The big thing is past is the best predictor of the future. I want to hear you talk about your past. I want your philosophies. I want concrete things from your past.
You’re dating somebody who loves new. You’re with them. This person says, “My ex said this about me. My ex said that about me. I loved this.” You go, “Your ex is a jerk. You were with him for about three months. Do you know what you’re thinking? Your ex has some good insight.” Let’s do this proactively. You’re going in. You speak. You’re talking about language. No sports teams had a success, New Zealand All Blacks, nobody. They study Aboriginal Australians on their walkabouts. They sang their destination to existence. Their parents taught them songs of faith. Speaking of words, thinking words and then the coach reinforcing the words in a company, individuals, think the words, speak the words, leadership reinforces the words. That’s how you win. That’s greatness. They have the language.
It’s amazing to know that words that you think or words that you say can make a difference to your own mindset.
In this book, Believing is Seeing, a study came out of Cleveland Clinic. The average person has 70,000 to 90,000 thoughts a day. I don’t know how they figure that out. Eighty percent of those thoughts are negative. Let me tell you why. We aren’t designed for happy, for success. We’re designed to survive. Your mind is always looking for something bad that can happen. That’s why if you make a mistake, you keep thinking about the mistake. That’s why if somebody hurt you, you can think about what they did because your mind is trying to say, “I want that repeated.”
It’s like when you bring the computer home from the store or the baby comes home, that’s how we’re wired. You have to rewire to be a success. You have to rewire to be happy. You have to rewire to go to the next level. What you’re doing is you come in. If you’re crystalline, you’re bringing a speaker. I get it. It’s warm fuzzy. It’s chicken soup for soul. I’m talking to steak and potatoes here. You want to come in and go, “I need more than that. Let me start and get you inspired. Let me get you rewired.” You want to do it by coming in and give them a company. Get in touch with this language. Speak it. Teach it and come together. Let that be your culture. That’s what you’re going after. That’s what leads to all these championships.
You were talking about Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, who were tough leaders, who maybe had some teammates that didn’t like them because they were pushed so hard. There are different styles of leading. There’s the tough leader like Kobe and Michael, but they may be two of the best of all time. The people who are the opposite of that, is that a choice that you make instinctually because that’s who you are, but it can work in two different ways being a tough guy or more of a nice guy? What do you prefer? How do you think that works out or that turns out?
I work with Saban. I say here’s to why they don’t like Saban. I go, “Coach, what do you want me to say to Team Nugget?” “How in the blank do I know? If I knew what the blank to say, I would’ve said it.” People love him. I love him. When you get to know him, that’s not quite him but he’s him. I’ve watched his people there, his assistance, not all of them, but some of them are not going to have success because they tried to be a version of Saban. Kobe was being Kobe. Michael Jordan had all these games competing growing up where that’s how they were wired. If you watch their lives, what they’ve done, they’re interesting to me. I had offered minutes.
There was a player who had 36 points against and it’s BJ for his last name. I don’t remember the name. He said to me after the game because Michael was guarding him, “Nice game, Michael.” He told his team, “I’m going to score that many in the first half.” He did. He never said that, I made it up. A lot of the guys on that level almost need to create a Judas, if you will. They need to create somebody they’re going to rise above. That’s fine. They said Larry Bird would get in the paper and see what Magic Johnson did and say, “I’ve got to do better.” That’s something within us evolutionary that some people do.
My point to your question is be who you are. I have people in my life. We did a long talk about things we idolize. We sat around and talked about the things that we idolize that bring no fruit. I have the kind of friends that we challenge each other. I’ve hired this person. He helped me with my books and she’s helping me. I’m friends with her and her husband. We’re best friends. If your personality is Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and you want to have an accountability relationship, that is okay. Be who you are. If you’re Chris Lee, you’re Kevin Elko, you’re crystalline and you have a gentler spirit, you don’t have to manufacture spirit that you’re not.
I sit down with my kids. I sit down with my kid’s friends. My son has a friend who had leukemia, recovered and now he’s underage drinking and driving. He was in my home. My daughter came to me. She was crying about him. I sat down. I’ll leave his name up. When he got diagnosed with leukemia, I was the first one he called. He goes, “I need somebody here who can believe in miracles. Get Mr. Elko in here.” I sat down with him. I go, “When you were in a hospital for five months, I visited you all the time. Clint Hurdle, manager, parents, different Steelers are visiting you. I love you. I’m worried of the decisions you’re making. I’m worried that you’re drinking and driving. I’m worried that the lifestyle you’re doing might even give rise to a relapse of leukemia.”
I didn’t do that Kobe Bryant style. It was a different situation. I’m sure Kobe didn’t talk to his children or young people that way. I think you have to know where you are. Let’s say you’re leading and you’re running Pfizer pharmaceutical. You watched that on Last Dance. You have to go in as a leader at Pfizer and do it like Michael. No, do it like you but make people accountable. There’s a way of doing it that matches you. That was my version of Michael Jordan. Let’s get to your favorite coach, Tom Landry. He said all the time, “I need to make people do the things they don’t want to do so they can have the things they want to have.”
He was not a friendly coach either.
He was somewhat cold, but I think people knew his spirit and his ethics and knew what he was doing. I loved him. I loved his innovation, what he did. He was tough.
Aren’t some people born leaders and born great? I’ve heard some speakers who I like talk about, “You can teach leadership.” Personally, I disagree with that. Everybody has a leader in them. Everybody can be a leader, but I feel like some people want to win and want to succeed more than others. I think some people are better at getting a group to focus on something, visualize something or hear something than others. Don’t you think that part of this is also you were born with it?
I don’t know the answer to that. Were they born to it? I watch my daughter who’s watched me. She seems an awful lot like me. Was she born with it or does she watch me? I even watched some of my words come out of her. That’s a big question. If you look at a lot of the research on what they call fixed mindset or a growth mindset, a lot of words is out there by Carol Dweck, the answer is it’s something we develop. That’s what they’re saying. A lot of people are saying things with research when you have a fixed mindset, “This is who you are. This is what you have.” Even kids that believe that IQ is a growth thing, they do better in school. People who believe that a growth mindset is the reality, they achieve more in life.
I would say to your question, I don’t know the answer, but I would pretend the answer is you could always learn. If you go, “You’re born with it.” I play guitar. When I’m playing the guitar, I can say, “This is all the better you can get.” I’m going to hit a wall. You were born a musician. You weren’t in a wall. If you look at the likes of Whitney Houston, her mother was a gospel singer. She watched her sing. Was she born with it or was it something that’s mirror? If you look at the research of somebody like Carol Dweck, if I hit frustration and I have a set mindset, I’d go, “This is all the better I can get.” I’m quite frustrated with a growth mindset but if I’m frustrated, my mind’s growing. My answer would be always say to yourself, “I believe in a growth mindset.” Whether it’s true or not, you’re going to do much better. “I am what I am.”
It’s the same people who go to happy hour that you talk about.Attitude is not a gene. It's a muscle. Click To Tweet
They can play my offer because they call it happy hour, as opposed to taking ownership to it. I think you have to say, “What are the skills I can do?” Here’s what leadership is. It’s simple. It’s my ability to influence how somebody thinks and acts. That’s leadership, but if I’m influencing you for the benefit of me, that’s manipulation. If I’m influencing you for the benefit of the whole organization, that’s leadership. That’s different. It doesn’t have to be Kobe-esque. It doesn’t have to be Michael Jordan-esque. I could sit down with you and go, “Chris, you have an unbelievable ability to stay resilient and persistent. That’s a gift you have that I’ve seen in a few people.”
That’s a fact. That was leadership right there. I showed you, “Here’s your gift. I’m giving you permission. You give yourself permission. Be bold and do that.” If I’m going around a company, a guy worked for Johnson & Johnson for years. I went to work with the Jets in 2019. Their owner is the Johnsons. A guy used to go around Johnson & Johnson with stigma DWD, Damn Well Done. He took all day long. It’s great leadership just pointing out somebody’s gift and watching them do the process.
What was that great story about turning things around? It came from leadership. I’m curious about where it came from. I think Alabama had played somebody in 2020. Maybe they had one. In the second time, they were playing them. They were down by a whole bunch. I’m combining two stories together. There was a game where you had gotten destroyed by this team and now, you’re playing a second time in the playoffs. Before the game, you had everybody take a ball out and dedicate it to somebody who changed their life.
What happened is we’re at LSU. They beat Georgia. They beat them by four the first time. They had a loss. The loss came from Florida. They were playing for the SCC championship. If they win this game, they’re going to play Oklahoma for National Championship. They brought out a ball and put number 68 on it. Jaromir Jagr was a hockey player for the Czech Republic who was the number 68 when he played. 1968 was the year of the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia. I work with the famous. I work with Jagr. Saban loved the story. Everybody got to football. They said, “Dedicate it to anybody in this game.” One said, “I dedicate it to my son or my grandmother.” They send the ball before the game started. They play in the second time and beat them by four touchdowns. They had intrinsic motivation, “This is our 68.” We went on to play Oklahoma. It resulted in LSU.
What’s the psychology behind that? Is that something we could do across all areas of our life, dedicate something to envision? You did that with the Green Bay Super Bowl as well. It’s visualizing, “We’re going to win before we win. We’re dedicating it to somebody.” What’s the mindset there?
People are addicted. People believe that there’s a lot of big addiction to external motivation. “Let’s get fired up. Let’s watch the video.” It comes down to what they call intrinsic motivation. What inside of you makes you want to do it. Back to the boy that I was talking about who had leukemia. I sat down and talked with him. He’s a 4.0 student. I go, “What do you want to do with your life?” He goes, “I’m going to be a pediatric oncologist.” That’s what you call, “It’s not that’s what’s inside of me. That’s my internal motivation.” I was not a good high school student. It made me a good teacher, which I was for a while. That was my intrinsic motivation.
When I told you the story about the man inside the room, he never held that other woman. His hurt was his intrinsic motivation. “68, what is it inside of you? What are you looking at as opposed to pulling off the outside?” A lot of time, Saban would talk about Alabama. A lot of players will talk about, “I want their respect.” What about your own self-respect? What about respecting yourself? How about looking at the mirror at the end of the day and think about what you did? What you’ll find a lot of times when you go out and do things to help people, you’ll go out to do things for external rewards. They’re not going to be there, Chris. You’re going to be upset when you see the reward coming in. Self-respect, the job well done, something inside of me that is coming out is what you’re going after.
What you’re doing with teams is we’re playing for each other. It’s that minute you come off and you’ve got to look across the field with your friends in the room of one another and go, “We did a great job. We came together. We helped one another. I did it all.” Intrinsic motivation is what you’re doing best stays true. “What’s inside of me?” If you look at it like World Cup Soccer, there’s an inverse relationship between the size of the country and how successful the team does. The teams that do the best are the smaller countries because they’re thinking, “We’re playing for people back home.” That’s the intrinsic motivation. I’m playing for something inside of me. That’s what the 68 story was about with LSU, Saban and winning the National Championship.
You are somebody who I tell people about all the time. I tell them, “What he does is he gets you to not let the circumstance that you’re in affect who you are or how you feel.” As a nation, as a world for the first time ever, we are in some serious circumstance. What is the mindset for everyone, the business owner, the housewife, the stay-at-home dad, the student, the 9:00 to 5:00 worker of a job that’s an essential job or the person who’s out of work who can’t find a job? What is the mindset that everybody needs to take on as we feel this circumstance all around us?
I’m going to introduce a concept here. It’s called inattentional blindness. You’ve got something that sits back here in your brain and it’s called your reticular activation system. It sits right here. From it comes a phrase inattentional blindness that you’ll hear psychiatrists, psychologists, behavioral people talk about. You see 25,000 things on a day where we’re not locked down. You remember about 10 to 12 at the end of the day. I tell people, “Think about the car you drive the day after you bought that car. Did you see it everywhere?” You see that car everywhere. I tell people, “I bought a BMW. I didn’t know there were 500 on my block. I had a different mind a little bit that I put a CB radio in it.”
What happens is this right here changed when you bought the car. This changed your reticular activation system here and your eyes changed. Here comes the phrase “Casualness causes casualties.” If it’s casual that floats in your brain, what controls this is what you do and what you speak. I was going through the Tampa airport going, “I’m not looking for blessings to come into my life. I want to be a blessing.” That’s my phrase. I want to be a blessing. I see a woman standing at the Southwest counter. She’s screaming. I said, “What’s wrong?” She said, “My daughter was blown up in a Humvee in Afghanistan. They let her fly to St. Vincent Hospital Burn Unit.” I go, “Where’s your suitcase?” “I don’t have one.” “Do you have anything?” She said, “I have a driver’s license.” I said, “That’s all you have? You have me.”
We got her from Tampa to her daughter. I called her, I said, “Rovetta, how’s your daughter?” She said, “She squeezed my hand. I think she’s going to make it.” I sat with a girlfriend and she passed away right before her parents came in. That woman was at the airport a lot of times, but that day I saw her because I was speaking it and I was feeding it to me. I bet it and I saw it. Let’s say, you’re going to in this environment and you’re not deliberately feeding you I want to be a blessing. There’s opportunity. Live in vision, don’t live in a circumstance. You’re not feeding you that. You’re casually letting fed to you what’s in the social media, the television, the papers, the world.
If that’s what you’re feeding you, guess what you’re seeing? No opportunity, no blessings, gloom. We’re going to hell in a handbasket. This will never be over. Don’t know when. That’s what’s coming. If you don’t take command of it, you’re never going to see the job. You’re not going to see opportunity. You’ll never see a speaking engagement. You’ll never see an opportunity to raise somebody up if you don’t take command and start feeding it to you. When you feed it, you see it. That’s the problem with what’s going on because what’s being fed so much is doom, boom, the abyss. That’s what you’re going to see. It’s still there. Opportunities are still there. Blessings are still there, even more so.
Let’s do it this way. For 30 years, Italy had pestilence, bloodshed, terror. They gave us Michael Angelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. For 500 years, Switzerland had peace and prosperity. They gave us the cuckoo clock. You can come out of this stronger. You can come out of it finding blessings if you say to yourself, “I’m not going to go through it. I’m going to grow through it. I’m not going to go for it. I’m going to grow forward.” Mindset is everything that control drives. That’s the problem.
It’s also the solution. Say that thing that you said in the airport one more time.
I’m not looking for blessings to come into my life. I’m looking to be a blessing in somebody’s life. I want to raise somebody. I saw her because I was speaking that I saw her. When you speak it, back to the language you started with, you start seeing it.
It’s healthy for us to feed ourselves with what you say and what you think about. That’s why I always want to see you. There’s this one video of you where you give a speech right to the camera that I love that’s about an hour long. I have to watch that every year, at least once. You’ve got to remind yourself because you get sucked into the news and social media. You get sucked into what your friends and family is saying, which so much of it is negative, fear and worry. It’s good to also be the light in your community, your company or your family and remind people to turn that off and to think of things the other way. With every single thing that happens to you, isn’t it a choice how I’m going to look at it? It’s a choice.
I heard it before but I heard a different one with what you said for the first time. I like how you said that. You have to redo your mind. Attitude is not a gene. It’s a muscle. That was cool. I think that you have to go back and re-choose. I’m going to choose it again. Power comes from, “I’m going to make this trip. I don’t feel like forgiving. I’m going to choose to do it. I don’t feel like leading, but I’m going to choose to do it. I don’t feel like going forward but I want to choose to do it.” You can’t let your feelings govern. Feelings are important, but don’t let them govern you. It is a choice.
Kevin, all I can say to you is I wish we could sit here, break bread and talk because it would be fun. We would talk about sports, mindset, winning, greatness, being a champion, learning, growing, loving. One of the other things I remember you saying is whatever you give away comes back to you. It’s so evident with a lot of the stories that you tell and that we’ve heard. This was something I think I needed. I hope everybody reading felt like they needed and that their companies could need or their families need. It’s righteous. It’s healthy for the mind and for the soul too. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I was so excited that you said yes, that you were available and that we could do it as soon as we did. You were one of the first ones I did. All the pleasure was mine. Thank you so much, sir.
Thank you. I believe in you. I believe in what you do. I believe you make a huge difference. Thanks for making me part of what you do as well. You’re out there blessing people and starting people to get to remind them. Make them part of what you do.
Thank you, Kevin. I will talk to you soon. Have a wonderful day. Peace and love.
About Dr. Kevin Elko
Dr. Kevin Elko is a nationally renowned performance consultant and bestselling author, who is well known as the most in-demand and probably the best at what he does in the pro and collegiate sports world. In his latest book, “Believing is Seeing – Ten Steps to a Mindset That Will Transform Your Direction and Your Life”, the forward is written by Steve Saban, probably the best college football coach in history.
As a team performance consultant, Dr. Elko has won a staggering 29 combined Superbowls and/ or National Championships! He has won the title with The Alabama Crimson Tide (5 times with Nick Saban) and also championships with the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, Florida State, LSU, the Miami Hurricanes and many more.
Dr. Elko is an important part of a team’s success as he evaluates and selects players, gives speeches to the team, writes the speeches the coaches give, and he establishes the mantras and themes for the team to focus on for the year. There might not be anybody better at evaluating mindset, teaching leadership or focus, or establishing a culture.
In the business world, Dr. Elko is in high demand with organizations that deal with high levels of stress and difficult/ turbulent circumstances, as he works with people on: how they talk to themselves, how to get the most out of themselves, and how to deal with any adversity they will come across.
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