When life’s latest challenge throws you off-track, quickly finding your footing can feel impossible— but it doesn’t need to be.
Sometimes I jump on a podcast recording and feel like I’ve connected with a long-lost friend. A kindred soul. Niyi Sobo is one of those people.
He gets the mindset work that’s required to succeed in sports and life. He’s an avid reader. And he’s genuinely passionate about his work. You can’t help but to become absorbed into what he’s saying. You know it’s coming from his soul and is based in both real-life application and years of learning.
Niyi is a former NFL running back and Portland State alum who helps high-performance athletes build supreme confidence and dominate the field under pressure. He built the “I’m Not You” philosophy system to answer the question of how people could build the habits, mindset, and systems athletes need to consistently lead to success, no matter what the odds are.
“I’m Not You” is comprised of the methods he has created over several years, through thousands of athletes and executives he’s coached, hundreds and hundreds of podcast episodes recorded, and his own years of experience in the field.
Niyi joins me in this episode of the Success Through Failure podcast to share the thinking behind “I’m Not You”, his own challenging life journey, and how he built his career from humble roots into the multi-channel creative that he is today. Don’t miss it!
If you don’t have time to listen to the entire episode or if you hear something that you like but don’t have time to write it down, be sure to grab your free copy of the Action Plan from this episode— as well as get access to action plans from EVERY episode— at JimHarshawJr.com/Action.
[00:00] Niyi: Confidence really starts here today. Gone are the days where we can sit up here and act like, "Oh, I'm just not confident and natural." Nah, gone are the days of that as well. That's a lame excuse. There are too many things that you can do today to build an edge, too many tools at your disposal.
[00:20] Jim: Welcome to another episode of Success Through Failure, the show for successful people, and for those who want to become successful. The only show that reveals the true nature of success. This is your host, Jim Harshaw Jr. And today I bring you Niyi Sobo.
[00:40] Jim: If that name rings a bell, you are a long-time listener. [Back] then, Niyi was on the podcast in episode 59 - that's like 6 years ago. And I had to have this guy back. We've been disconnected for a long time, kind of followed him from a distance and whatnot. And he reached out and we've kind of been back in communication again. When you listen to this episode, I hope you're not driving or doing anything dangerous right now. You may even want to be sitting down and doing something that's not dangerous because you are going to be so fired up listening to this episode. He takes away all your excuses. It was so much fun talking to him again. If you're driving, put it on cruise control because your accelerator is just going to, like, mash the pedal to the floor, and you're going to get a speeding ticket and you're going to send it to me and blame me.
[01:25] Jim: So don't do that. He was a college football player, played in the NFL. This guy's ideas, coaching, and teaching on mindset [are as] good as anybody I've ever had on the podcast. He's been motivating, exciting to have on the podcast, and anybody I have had on before. He's got a philosophy called "I’m Not You." And when you first read that, you're like, what does that mean? He breaks this down. Actually, it's the very first question I asked him, "What is the 'I’m Not You' philosophy?" and it's so good. It's so good. You're going to want to adopt this into your life too. And at the very end, I asked him, I mean, first of all, this guy's a voracious reader.
[02:03] Jim: He reads so many books, it's ridiculous. But I asked him what his top three favorite books [are]. And you've probably not heard of all three of these. For me, I've heard of one of them, the second one, but the first and the third one, and actually the third one that he recommended as his number one favorite, I've never heard of it. It's absolutely incredible. So check out my interview with Niyi. Make sure you listen to the end and get these three books. Of course, we'll have those in the action plan as well.
[02:29] Jim: If you have friends who are former athletes who like this kind of stuff, they like the motivation, but also the concrete action items, the things that you can do to act upon this type of stuff, if they're a former athlete - maybe they're a weekend warrior right now - make sure you forward this episode to them, let them know about the episode here of Success Through Failure with Niyi Sobo. All right, let's get into it. Round two with Niyi Sobo.
[02:55] Jim: What is the "I’m Not You" philosophy?
[02:59] Niyi: Well, it really started early. You know what I mean? I was the third of four boys. My pops came to America when he was 18 from Nigeria. So I was technically the middle child. I was very different than all of my brothers. It was four boys, all of them extroverted. Super extroverted. I was introverted. All of us played soccer up until sixth grade. For me, I just realized I didn't like soccer, you know what I mean? And I was a lot more physical. I was bigger than my brothers. And I was on a soccer field, man, just bullying kids, you know what I'm saying? It was like, yo, I need to get on the football field. So I started playing football. I was kind of like the outcast or the … what do they call it?
[03:36] Niyi: The black swan or whatever, the outsider. And at least that's how I felt and I gave my dad a lot of problems. My pops very much valued education and behaving in the correct way, in public forums, and let's just say I wasn't living up to his standards, started around middle school. So I struggled to fit in and I wanted to fit in, but it was almost like I think I was like a freshman in high school, man. And my dad gave me some real harsh realities that, looking back, he probably shouldn't have given to me in that style. But I just realized, man, I wasn't gonna be able to win this game of trying to please my pops, you know what I mean? And I realized like, I'm not going to try to play this game anymore.
[04:18] Niyi: So I made an informal decision to kind of do my own thing. And so I went rogue, if you will, but not in a negative way. I really just dove into football. I loved football so much, but that was when I created this "me against the world" kind of attitude that we find suits a lot of competitors, but definitely has some side effects if you will. But I developed that and it suited me. You know what I mean? Like I went hard with football. Walked on to Oregon State, so was kind of on the bottom of the totem pole, if you will, but just was always improving, always getting better, super ambitious, always had goals. When I was in high school, I had the goal of playing in the NFL and the path wasn't really clear, but I wanted that. And then transferred to Portland State. Ultimately, I was able to make my dreams a reality, playing in the league in New Orleans for a few years, and that got cut short due to injury. So long story short, man, I'm back in Portland where I grew up and really struggling, man. I'm working at this factory while still trying to get back in the NFL, but my money's dwindling down. And I'm trying to figure out what's next, man.
[05:22] Niyi: And that's when "I'm Not You" was born, but it was born really from … I remember I was going on a run and I heard a rap song from Clipse called "I'm Not You." And he was just talking about how all these rappers talk about a certain lifestyle, but he's really about that lifestyle. And it just stuck with me and it really resonated with me. And I realized that "I'm Not You" mentality, meaning that idea that most people do this, most people are afraid of failure. Most people run from it. Most people set safe and manageable goals. Most people don't clarify what they really want to go after, but I do. When I was in college, I was trying to get into the league. One of my favorite coaches actually kind of just told me I should just give it up, and just focus on being a father because I have two sons at that time and I'm just in my head thinking like, "But nah, like I'm Not You." That's always been my mentality.
[06:12] Niyi: Again, it's me against the world mentality, and that turned out to me - I started training athletes and started teaching them this mindset. And this was before it was the "I'm Not You" philosophy, but then through that, I realized [that] these athletes, I didn't really love training, but I loved impacting these athletes in a positive way. And I realized they needed more of the mental aspect. And so I started thinking, what if I can create a business around purely mental training, right? And at the time it wasn't really a ton of people doing that. This is early 2010s and things like that. That's when "I'm Not You" was born, man.
[06:45] Niyi: So "I'm Not You" was really a lifestyle. It's focused around the shared vision that a lot of competitors have, which is to be supremely confident, fearless, and dominating under pressure, which is the most important as an athlete. Anybody can be … [we] used to call them workout warriors, the guys who do well in the gym, but when it comes time to play, they can't bring it.
[07:04] Niyi: It's really about being able to perform under pressure. And there are certain premises that the "I'm Not You" philosophy is built around and it's a certain number of traits I call the "I'm Not You" bloodline, right? A few of them being number one, God-like purpose: making sure you understand the purpose behind your sport, which is really clear. Another one, war room strategy: making sure that you have a great strategy by which to accomplish a goal, being very deliberate and purposeful. 'Cause it's one thing to have a purpose, but it's another thing to actually have a game plan for how you go about mastering your sport. Then of course, bulletproof discipline, what I call the death ground mentality, which is the ability and the willingness to put yourself in high-pressure situations before your sport asks you to, right?
[07:45] Niyi: So these are a few. But I created this philosophy and then a system was born out of it called "Killer Instinct," which is a powerful system that I teach athletes. I've been teaching athletes for over 10 years now that teaches them the mindset, the habits, and the systems that they need to really dominate at a high level and get the most out of themselves and their potential.
[08:04] Jim: I want to key on something that you said a few minutes ago and put this in the context for my listeners who, a lot of them were athletes at some point in their lives. Maybe not now - they're in their mid-career and trying to figure out their next level and how to develop discipline and identify that purpose and have that killer instinct. You said when you were in high school, you wanted to play in the NFL, but you couldn't see how. So many people want something, but they don't see how they can get there. Like, how do you get from where you're at - kid playing in high school to walking onto Oregon State - and just hoping to get a shot to play in the NFL, like you did it! But, how do you go as a high school athlete to have that? Like, I don't even know how I'm going to get there. Like, I want that thing and you freaking did it! You got it! You got there! You played in the NFL. For most of the listeners, there's this disconnect from, I want that thing. I don't see how I get from here to there. So I'm only going to set goals for what I can see, steps 1 through 10 from getting from where I'm at to where I want to go. And if I can't see steps 10 through 20, then I'm not even going to pursue that goal. How do you make that shift? How do you do that? Tell us about that.
[09:17] Niyi: No, obviously when I was young, I wasn't consciously thinking of this. But when you break it down, it really starts from a certain premise. So someone who doesn’t set a goal, or should I say want something, but then doesn’t go after it because they can’t see the path. They're almost assuming that the way to reach a goal is to know exactly how the path is going to look. And that's just not how it works. And there's no better way that I can say that. And all we have to do is look and reflect on any stage of our lives and realize that just with being born, we become immersed in uncertainty. Everything is uncertain. There's nothing that's guaranteed. All we really have is the present moment. Now, what we can do is use the power of our minds to create a picture of something of what we want. And then when we create that clarity of that picture, then it creates the requisite motivation. Energy, whatever you call it. There's things that happen that we can't explain; people that come into our lives.
[10:21] Niyi: You can call the law of attraction, whatever you want to call it. And then we simply make the next move and these next moves, compile them onto one another. And then that unfolds. So it's kind of just understanding that basic premise of life. And there's nothing I'm sure like every religion has some sort of way to explain that in a very profound way. But it's simple. Even from the standpoint of when, let's say you just decide you want to make a grilled cheese sandwich. There's so many things that can happen that can prevent you from making a grilled cheese sandwich. But all that happens is you have an idea in your mind, you imagine eating that grilled cheese sandwich, the crispy outside, the buttery crispy outside, the cheese pulling apart. Maybe you dip it in some tomato soup, whatever. You create a picture of that.
[11:03] Niyi: And then you go about creating your plan to make that happen. And then you might look in the fridge and realize “I have no cheese.” Okay. So what are you going to do? You might need to go to the store. Maybe the store is closed. Maybe you got to ask your neighbor, whatever. There's a lot of different ways by which the outcome can happen. But with something as simple as a grilled cheese, we don't really sit there and be like, “Oh, I can't do it.” We go and make it happen. We do it every day, all the time. We overcome obstacles that we don't see all the time. So the same is true for a big goal or for an ambitious goal. You don't have to know how to do it. If it was as simple as, “Oh, here's the goal. I need the exact recipe down to the gram. And then I'll create that.” then life wouldn't even be fun. And we wouldn't really value big goals. Cause the only reason why we value or call something a big goal is because it's difficult to accomplish. Meaning a lot of hurdles had to be overcome. When we watched the championship-
[11:54] Niyi: -why is the Super Bowl such a big event? Why do we watch all these championships? Because it's the culmination of two teams that have overcome the most obstacles to get there. The ones who didn't make the playoffs, they failed, right? And they didn't overcome the obstacle. But now we got these two teams that overcome all these obstacles, beat all these teams in order to play. And then why do we see grown men crying over getting a ring that they can buy like a hundred of them if they want it. But it represents all of the pain and the adversity that they had to overcome, as well as all of the uncertainty that they had to experience, right? Because that's a hallmark of a champion: how well can you deal with uncertainty?
[12:35] Niyi: Anybody can deal with certainty. That's easy. Anybody can do something when the path is clear, but how much can you create a picture of clarity in your mind to where it's so real in your mind, even when you can't see any evidence of it. In religion, we call this faith. It's like the hallmark of everything, man. So creating that belief is very important, but again, to take it back - not to get super spiritual and everyone, it's just simple understanding a certain basic premise of life, which is that: we can't know exactly how it's going to happen. We can create a good idea, but the best thing we can do is create the idea first in our mind and then start exactly where we are, because at the end of the day, we could dream and think ahead all we want, but we're right here.
[13:18] Niyi: So life is really just a compilation of moments strung together one after another. So the more of these moments we can win, the closer to us that we can win, good things tend to happen. You know what I mean? And again, all you have to do is just look in your own life. Just think of anything that you've accomplished: however small, however big. Whether it's you want a spelling bee when you're in sixth grade, or you got the MVP when you're in second grade, just think of what had to happen. All those little things that happen, good things tend to happen when we create that vision in our minds. And then of course, make a plan. Now there's also the importance of creating a strategy, even though it might not be the right one or the best one.
[13:59] Niyi: Having a strategy is better than having no strategy. So it is important to have a plan, but it all starts with first: Okay, what is it that I'm trying to accomplish? What are the reasons why I'm trying to accomplish this? Whatever the reasons are. They could be selfish, they could be super spiritual, whatever. It doesn't matter because that motivation, or that purpose, creates that motivation, which is that energy, which is that drive. The drive that I had when I was in high school, we didn't have a TV growing up, right? So we were vegetarian and didn't have a TV. My dad was like super strict in that way, discipline. So I didn't even watch football like that. So I didn't even have that many idols. I didn't know how to get better. My football coaches were like science teachers and they did their best. Right. But I was just after, after practice, just making up drills, you know what I'm saying?
[14:42] Niyi: I remember literally after practice, I was just running back and forth, just cutting back and forth. And I was thinking, this got to be helpful in some degree. And again, it was that energy that I had that drive to just get better. And it all was centered around that love for football. And then of course my desire to get to the NFL. Now, when you break down deeper, like the reasons why, it was like a gumbo of things. And a lot of it insecurities that I had around, like wanting to prove myself to my dad and, and a whole lot of things. But it doesn't matter. It was motivation. And another thing that happens as you continue to evolve, is your motivations evolve over time as well, but you have to meet yourself where you're at. So whatever your motivation is right now, a lock into that is good fuel.
[15:25] Jim: Quick interruption! Hey, if you like what you're hearing, be sure to get the notes, quotes, and links in the action plan from this episode. Just go to JimHarshawJr.com/action. That's JimHarshawJr.com/action to get your free copy of the action plan. Now back to the show.
[15:43] Jim: Boy, we could wrap it up right there, Niyi. Holy mackerel. For the listener, go back and hit rewind on that. And listen to that like once a day for the next month, everything that Niyi just said right there. That was incredible. I always tell people that there's a great quote by Steve Jobs that says, we can't connect the dots in our lives, looking forward - only backwards. Like we want to connect the dots looking forward. We want to know that, I've got this bulletproof plan. It's 10 steps from high school football player to NFL. It's 10 steps from full time at my job to going full time in my side hustle, or whatever it is for you, the listener, right? You want to run a marathon, or whatever it might be in your life. But we can't connect the dots looking forward.
[16:24] Jim: So many people get stuck thinking, “I don't know how to do it.” So they don't do anything. So like you said, you've got to have a strategy. There's another great quote. I think it was Eisenhower. He said, planning is essential, but plans are useless. Like you have to do the planning. You have to go with the strategy. You have to create a plan. You have to do the research and set up a plan and then start moving forward. And you won't know until step two or three or four that, “Hey, I got the wrong plan. But you know what? Now I've got a better plan” because here I am three steps in. I actually can see much more from this vantage point than I could see back on step zero. So you just have to move forward. I love what you just shared. Niyi, that was awesome.
[17:08] Niyi: No, absolutely. And to use a football analogy, I was a running back. So you remember Adrian Peterson? I mean, this dude was like, I would argue one of the best running backs I've ever witnessed. You know what I mean? Like the best. I'd put them up there. And something very unique about Adrian Peterson's running style - and anybody who likes football understands this and anyone who plays surely remembers this - if you ran the ball, there's something about when you get the ball, they call it, "Don't tiptoe through the hole." Right. So sometimes you see a running back, and he's kind of tentative, and he's kind of trying to figure out which way to go. But with Adrian Peterson, every time he got the ball, he would line up way farther back because he always hit the hole with such speed and power.
[17:46] Niyi: So he's like eight yards back. And so he just [goes] full steam. And what happens when you hit the hole hard like that aggressively? What tends to happen is the hole will open up, a crease will happen, and he had such great agility and could cut on a dime. So here he is pressing the hole, and you think he's just going to ram himself into a bunch of linemen, right? But nah. Right at the last split second, pow, cut. Now he's taking it to the house for 78 yards. And that's how we have to do it, man. We have to just trust. We gotta hit the hole hard, go with aggression and speed, especially in the beginning. It's almost a great thing in the beginning if you don't know how, because then you could just rely purely on your motivation and then understand the hole will open up.
[18:25] Niyi: Like the hole will open up. And right now, man, and I just got to say this: Look at the age that we live in, man. Just Google alone, the things that you could learn, how quickly you can learn them. Amazon, books are as cheap as ever. You can get a book that will change your whole life for 5 dollars. If you wanted to become a world-class baker, you go online right now, buy "Cook's Illustrated: The Bread Cookbook." I love to cook. I love to bake. And just follow every recipe, and I bet you'd be a world-class baker by the time you're done. $20. You know what I'm saying? Like you got podcasts, you got YouTube. There is no excuse for somebody talking about they don't know how. If you wanted to create your own, whatever business you wanted to create, there's a model online right now, somebody teaching you how to do it. From how to do your own taxes, to this, to that, to legal Zooms and people like, "Well, I don't know how to set up." That's easy. Like that's easy money. So the excuses gotta go. And that's what I love about technology. There are a lot of downsides, of course, as well. But it's like technology is forcing us to evolve.
[19:28] Niyi: Like this is, we gotta evolve. So now when I was in high school, I could make the excuse. I literally didn't really know what to do in order to train. So I just made things up. But now you can't do that in 2023. Like you go online, you can spend $40 and get a full training routine laid out for you. You can do ChatGPT. Now they can create a vegan meal plan for you right now. Let's say you're gluten-free, just say “Hey ChatGPT. Give me a gluten-free meal plan. Make sure it includes 200 grams of protein a day.” You can learn all of these things. Anybody talking about they want to get in shape or like, whatever. Did you just buy this book? It's called "Bigger, Leaner, Stronger" by Michael Matthews. This is a cheat code. Like it's all the keys in this book. So there's no excuse. There's no excuse. Not knowing how is the most lamest excuse you can come up with in 2023. Maybe 10 years ago, you could say that, maybe 15, but no longer. You gotta come up with some new excuses now.
[20:22] Jim: You gotta come up with some new ones. 'Cause these, [we're] blowing them up right now, man. Gosh, that is... You got it, man. It's the truth. So, how does confidence play into this? I mean, I know confidence is a big part of your philosophy. How does confidence affect somebody who maybe has tried before, they failed before, they're not sure how to do it? Do we need confidence? And if so, if it's a key ingredient, how do you build it? If you don't just naturally have it, how do you get it?
[20:57] Niyi: Yeah, no, that's a great question man. And I'm not going to sit up here and act like there's some cookie-cutter formula to confidence, or there's just like this one element. In reality, I'm working on a framework right now around confidence because there are so many elements to confidence. For example: there's a certain amount of confidence that comes from winning and getting external validation. So if you don't have that, you're not going to be as confident as somebody who does, right? But to say that that's the only thing, or that's the only way you can build it, is just a lie. There are internal ways we can build confidence. There are external ways that we can build confidence. But let me go with a very simple and easy formula that anyone, any competitor, this is their main bread and butter in terms of how to build the confidence. There's a great quote, [but] it's in "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu.
[21:42] Jim: For the listeners, Niyi and I haven't talked for years since last time, maybe shortly after the last time, we were on each other's podcast, but [he] is a voracious reader. Well, I was talking to him like a month ago or something like that. And he was talking about this book and that book and the other book. And this guy's got books, like you wouldn't believe, man. I mean, this guy takes his own medicine. He wants to yank books off the shelf and tell you about every book he read, but go ahead. Go ahead, Niyi.
[22:08] Niyi: No, definitely, man. I appreciate that. Because Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" - there’s certain books that every competitor needs to have and just reread, and Art of War is one of those things. There's a part in there where he says, "The victorious warrior wins where it's easy to win." So Sun Tzu is kind of dispelling this notion that we have about victorious warriors, is that every one of their defeats is like some glorious defeat. It's like, no. It's actually like they just win where they're supposed to win. They win where it's easy to win. Look at Tom Brady, for example, a lot of games you watch Tom Brady, he just doesn't make mistakes. He just makes the right decision. He knows when to throw the ball away. He doesn't try to create a big win. He knows even when to lose. That's a win, you know what I mean? So it's fundamentals, right?
[22:52] Niyi: Upon that premise, we can say: where is it easy for us to win? Let's say somebody is lacking confidence, an athlete trying to get the scholarship or win the championship, but they're really far from that. Create a game plan, basically [setting] up your day in such a way where it's a series of wins. Literally, it's wins. Like I said, it's basketball right now, basketball season, seven games, right? Best out of seven. Every single game, every team's trying to win. It's that important. So what if for you, wherever you were, you could create the terms of winning? Most people are waiting on external factors to create. They say the only way I could win is if I win this championship. Okay, that's cool. But that's really not a fun way to live because now you're just waiting on things to happen. You are a wrestler and you had this goal of winning the state championship every year, right? That's one event out of the whole year.
[23:50] Niyi: So you mean to tell me you can't win at all until that happens? Now you can really win whenever you want to win, right? So what if you created your day, structured your day? And I challenge anyone to do this. Instead of just looking at your day as a to-do list, it's like, nah, this is 27 games I got today. All the way from waking up on time. That's a win. Did you win or lose? So the key then is putting winning in as much of our control as possible. So focusing on action wins as opposed to outcome wins. You see what I'm saying? So there are a lot of outcome wins that we're not always going to be able to control, but the best way for us to increase our odds of those outcome wins is by winning with the actions, right?
[24:36] Niyi: And there's no better way to understand this than in business. Because sports is a very physical thing. You see what I'm saying? So we actually can kind of feel like we're actually putting pressure on our opponent physically. But in business, man, this is not really like a contact sport physically. You can't make somebody buy your products. You can't make somebody listen to your podcast. This is all you. Like, these are all things that you do. Then you put it out there for people to hear. And then you see the response, right? And then the more you do that, the better you do that, the more attention you pay to those control wins, I call them, that you control. The more of those you accumulate, naturally, the more confidence you’re going to have. So let's just say, for example, waking up on time, and you're keeping track. Seven games. Can you get to seven by the end of the week? If you get to seven and you acknowledge that you went to seven, I promise you, however small it is, you will feel more confident.
[25:35] Niyi: Then on top of that, let's say - for example - you're a wrestler. First of all, do you have a training plan, right? That actually is a series of wins that you need to do, a series of actions you need to accomplish, but framing it as a win. Because now, next thing you know - this wrestler, he's been winning for three days straight going up into his next match. Naturally, you're going to be more confident. Now, does that guarantee you're going to win your match? Not necessarily. But will you have more confidence for sure? That confidence, that intangible, will show up in your swag. And wrestling for sure, you see what I'm saying? You could see it on guys like you could almost watch the swag before it even happens to be like, okay, that guy's out of it or, let's say the guys giving him, working him first round.
[26:20] Niyi: You see how he's looking in the little break before the second round. You're like, yeah, he's done. You know what I'm saying? Like he's done. So all of those things matter. So there's a lot that goes into confidence, right? Right. But if you can simply focus on winning where it's easy to win, cause that's what victorious warriors do. Look at Tom Brady. Look at LeBron James. He just makes less mistakes. He wins where it's easy to win. Where is it easy for a multimillionaire athlete to win? Like everybody likes to, “Oh, no, LeBron spends a million dollars.” Every athlete should be spending a million dollars a year. If you make multiple millions a year, every athlete should! That's easy. That shouldn't even be a big deal. We shouldn't be talking about that. That's obvious.
[26:54] Niyi: Of course, you should be stretching. Of course, you should be doing yoga. Of course, you should be doing hyperbaric chambers and all of that. You should be trying every stone, leave no stone unturned. If you read Tom Brady's book, all it is everything he can control. Avocado ice cream, this and this and that. Now, a lot of people, they leave those wins alone. You see what I'm saying? They choose not to win where it's easy to win. So Tom Brady's just like, and I love Tom Brady as an example because he's literally the GOAT as well as maybe, arguably, the least athletic quarterback, the least talented quarterback we've ever seen.
[27:39] Jim: Yeah, you ever seen this draft picture? Like he was slumped, body looks soft.
[27:43] Niyi: He’s a GOAT. He looked like he didn't even belong in the league, never mind like amongst the good quarterbacks. But he's just someone who just compiled so many wins. Win after win after win. Again, if you read his book, he literally has his whole offseason mapped out. Now, I'm not saying that's easy to do, right? Because that takes a certain level of discipline. But how is discipline built? When we see a big ass bodybuilder who's yoked up, boom, boom, boom? He didn't get that overnight. That happened slowly over time, rep after rep after rep, day after day after day, set after set after set. But we like to see the outcome be like, "Oh, man, oh, he's on steroids or he's, uh, he must be blessed, you know, genetic?" Nah, he built that from day after day after day. So the only way you could really win is right now. You can't win in the future. You can just win right now, though. So any athlete is like, "What's your plan today?" Athletes, you got to have a plan. Like, what's your plan? What's your game plan? What's your strategy? What is your plan this week?
[28:43] Niyi: I talk about wrestling. My son's a wrestler, and I was so fascinated how many of these wrestlers, they don't even have a plan for what they're going to eat. During the meet! I'm like, "Dog, you're wrestling? Like you're spending maximum energy. And you don't even have a plan for what you're going to eat." So you don't have a plan. So of course, you're not going to be doing anything healthy, you know what I mean? So what are they doing? Going and getting pretzels and nachos. And I'm like, "How's this dude over here eating nachos? It's 2023 and you eat nachos before you got several matches. You losing, and you're losing where you don't got to lose."
[29:22] Niyi: So you're basically forfeiting. How dumb is that? And of course, that's going to lead to a decrease in confidence. So if you could just find a way to clarify all of your wins every day and package them up: lifestyle habit wins, right? Got some sport wins. You can break it down however you want, but it makes everything a game. Cause we're competitors. Who out there likes to lose? Everybody listening to this is a competitor. Naturally, you're built that way. You're always going to be that way. You don't want to lose. So make every single habit a game: waking up on time, drinking your gallon of water before noon, getting your two miles in a day, stretching after practice, watching 10 minutes of wrestling clips before bed. All of these, it's not a lot. You could just watch 10 minutes before bed. What would happen if you did that every single day for three months? Do you understand how much more awareness you would build? And then knowing you're tracking it.
[30:18] Niyi: You can show up against that opponent and be like, "Man, I know for sure. 'Cause I've seen him eating nachos. I know for sure he ain't winning where I've been winning." And that swag, that's what builds up that swag. So confidence really starts here today. Gone are the days where we can sit up here and act like, "Oh, I'm just not confident and natural." Nah, gone are the days of that as well. That's a lame excuse. There’s too many things that you can do today to build an edge, too many tools at your disposal. Meditation, how easy it is to meditate? How many more athletes got to tell you, you need to meditate before you just start doing it? Like you don't even need to know why. Just know that LeBron does it every day. Just know that all your favorite athletes meditate. That's enough to make you say, "All right, I'm going to meditate every day before practice or every day in the morning." But you're not doing that. You're leaving easy wins on the table.
[31:09] Jim: And for the listener: maybe you're not a competitive athlete right now, but what does this look like in your life? Same thing. Is it the meditation, the hydration? I just got done eating lunch before Niyi and I jumped on here. It's a huge bowl of salad with all the good stuff on it. And I used to have a smoothie, which is fine. Yeah. But like the smoothie was, I've come to realize, there's too much sugar in it. I used to crash and not perform as well. Like the second half of the day, I get tired and sluggish. What is that for you? Like you are an athlete as well. Your life, your success, whatever you want in your life, all comes down to your performance. How are you fueling yourself? How are you preparing yourself? How are you preparing not just your body, but your mind to perform at a high level? So you can, like Niyi said, wake up early. Can you get seven wins? Can you, you got 27 things on your to-do list today, starting from waking up? Can you win every one of those games? Or maybe that's every one of those, like a play within the game.
[32:03] Jim: You talk about Tom Brady, who knows when to throw it away or take the sack, and he knows when to make the play and take the risk. Like, are you doing those little things? I mean, Niyi, I think you broke it down so, so concretely for us and for the listeners to take action on this and see that how we can create confidence by doing these things. So let's look at the other side of the coin here: failure. We're listening to a guy right now who - your mindset is just incredible and you fed your mind with the books and everything else that you've done over the years. Have you faced failure? Can you talk about a time when you failed, and how a guy like you handles that? I'm sure it stung. I'm sure it hurt. I'm sure it created whatever thoughts it created in your mind. But can you take us to that moment and can you share with us how a guy like you moves through that and learns from it?
[33:05] Niyi: Yeah, man, failure is obviously - and I don't want to spit out a bunch of clichés, but we all know that failure is part of the game. You're not going to win every time. You're not going to reach every goal. Again, look at your favorite athlete. Tom Brady won seven championships, played 20 years in the league, 13 seasons. He didn't win. And I'm not saying you consider that a failure, but as it relates to that goal, that's a quote unquote, a failure.
[33:26] Jim: And Tom Brady has, I forget how many, I think he had like a half a dozen games where he threw at least four, four picks. Missed the GOAT. Four picks in a game? Gosh, that's a terrible game. Four!
[33:36] Niyi: But I want to share some realities, kind of some unspoken, I feel like realities about failure that hopefully will give people some proper perspective. And I know that when I get this perspective, it makes me feel better because a lot of times, we learn things and we're told things and we watch people. People may listen to you or listen to somebody else that they admire and just think that you're always doing the right things and winning, and that every time you fail, you just get right back up and brush off your shoulders and get back on your dun-dun-dun. It's like, nah, it doesn't work like that. So I'm going to take you back to one of the biggest failures for me, is post-NFL. Like I'm two years in the league, first year, I'm starting as a rookie, free agent. I'm starting against the San Francisco 49ers. I get hit so hard, my shoulder pops out, my knee kind of hyperextends. I have season-ending surgery. Come back the next season, playing against the Miami Dolphins, like this big old D-lineman fell on me, separated my shoulder. So halfway into that season, I'm let go, and that was the year they won the Super Bowl. I had to watch that Super Bowl at home. Do you know how sick to my stomach I was? Like, it was really tough.
[34:44] Niyi: And not only that, I kept trying to get back into the league. I had a couple of tryouts. I had Denver Broncos acting like they were going to bring me. They just didn't hit me back. Like I was ready. I packed in everything, you know what I mean? And I was ready. So, there is this period of time, man, where I drifted, I was lost for a period of time. And I'm not suggesting that that always has to be the case after failure, but I do believe in my own experience, there's a period of time after failure - and the more significant the failure, the more intense that period of time is. I'm not saying it lasts longer necessarily, but there's a period of time. You can call it grieving. You can call it just recovering. It's like when you get knocked out in boxing, man. Like the guys, they take as many of that 10 count as they can, but it's like, yo man, I need some time to catch my breath.
[35:34] Niyi: For me, man, that was a period of time where I was drifting. Like I said, I was working at this factory. I just didn't know what I wanted to do next. And for anyone experiencing that right now, my goal for you is to realize that number one, this is an important part of your process. I'm not suggesting that you need to wallow in self-pity or lay in bed all day. However, you will be wallowing in some pity, but that's an important part of the stage. You will be laid up in the bed for some degree of time. Now, because you're a competitor, you're going to have that voice in your head, kind of that overly critical voice. And I'm not going to tell you to quiet that voice necessarily, but I do want people to understand that there's a period of time where you do have to grieve. You just lost something, you know what I mean? Like you just lost something. And if it was really important to you, it's important for you to give yourself time to grieve and to not beat yourself up for being down. You're already beat up. So just allow yourself to be beat up and allow yourself to kind of get your bearings about you. For some people, that may mean months, or some people may mean weeks. I'm not going to tell you how long that takes. And ultimately you are going to be the one to determine whether or not you're ready to go back to it or not. But at the end of the day, we always got to re-up - and re-up means you just got to set a new goal.
[36:50] Niyi: You know what I'm saying? The faster you set a new goal, the more purposeful that grieving time becomes. And it doesn't turn into this, like you just fell off and you're done, you know what I'm saying? Because if you just failed, the quicker you just say, “Okay, what's my new goal now? Like what's the new goal? What now?” It is always true with my son. Anytime my son is dealing with a loss, I let him grieve. Like I comfort him as much as I feel like he needs to be comforted, but usually he needs some space. And then when I see him kind of dragging it out too long, I'm like, all right, son. So what's next? And now, now it's kind of like a system. Like I told him after the season was over, because he wanted to win the championship. And he fell short of that goal. I asked him, what's a date on a calendar where you can just take a break from wrestling. Where I don't want you to worry about working out, eating right, nothing. If you want to work out, work out. But just a period of time where you have no demands on yourself. And he chose a date. You know what I'm saying? It was like, week and a half, whatever. And by like day five or six, he was ready to get back at it. At which point I asked him, I said, “What's the new goal?”
[37:55] Niyi: What's your goal now? Like, cause now it's about you going to college. What do you want to accomplish in this next stage of your career? And that helps give that period of time, some meaning. So failure is inevitable. It's going to happen way more often than you'd like for it to happen. But you could start - and again, anyone could look back at all of their failures in life and just reflect on the process, and you'll find like with any failure, there's always that little period of time where you, whether it's a breakup … and again, how long it lasts is very well determined by how quickly you can re-up. And if you could also, like I mentioned before, display more compassion and understanding and self-love. And it's something that comes difficult for a lot of competitors - because part of competing is putting pressure on yourself and we got to get the most out of ourselves. But one of the things that I've learned at this stage of my life is the value of just allowing yourself to grieve. It doesn't mean you have to tell yourself everything's okay. Or even talk to yourself a lot. Just allow yourself to go through your process. Trust that whatever feelings you're going through now, they won't last forever. And I know that's hard, especially if you're dealing with the failure that you've never dealt with before, but I will tell you: you will get through it.
[39:15] Niyi: It is important to allow yourself to feel those feelings. And then also, just set a new goal as quickly as possible. And then just start again. Life is going to be a series of games, if you will. If you want to look at life as a seven-game series or an entire season, or whatever, however analogy you want to use, there's always going to be another game. So just learn whatever you can, feel whatever you need to feel, and then re-up - re-up, re-up, re-up. Create a new strategy. And then you will then learn the things, take the things that you learn, and apply them to the next one. That's what evolution is about.
[39:51] Jim: Niyi, there's so, so much good stuff here that you've shared. As we wrap up, what's an action item that the listener can take, let's say in the next 24 to 48 hours, just [to] start applying what you've taught here today?
[40:01] Niyi: Yeah. So here's what I would say: create what I call your target practice plan, right? And that's basically your series of control wins, Monday through Sunday. A recurring game plan. So whatever your game is, whatever your sport is, whether it's business, whatever: identify what all the things that are in your control that you can do that you know that contribute to the outcomes that you want to accomplish. So as an entrepreneur, you mentioned eating that big salad. That is one because that affects your energy, right? And you need your energy. So it doesn't have to be all just related specifically to that. Create your target practice plan - a series of action wins, Monday through Sunday, and start keeping track and start winning where it's easy to win. And then when you start noticing the things that you're not winning - the losses - then every week, take some step back, say, “Okay, I noticed that I'm really struggling with eating the salad on Wednesdays and Thursdays.” Okay, problem solved, right?
[40:56] Niyi: Ray Dalio talks about that in his book, "Principles." Okay, what's the issue? Not eating it on Wednesday and Thursday. Why? Root cause, and then what do I need to do about it? It's really simple, right? You do that. We're talking about the makings of an unstoppable career, and that's no exaggeration. If you can do that consistently, if you can have your game plan laid out, if you can problem-solve consistently and win where it's easy to win, I will put my money on you in whatever sports you're in. You know what I mean? I will do that. The more consistently you can do that. So believe that, do that. You don't need no fancy system. Just get a basic spreadsheet, lay it out, and get to work, man. It's about that work.
[41:40] Jim: I'm going to put you on the spot for one last quick question: top three books? I know you're a voracious reader. You could probably recommend 20 off the top of your head. Do you got a top, I don't know, two or three?
[41:48] Niyi: All right. So for the competitor, I'll just put together a nice little three book bundle for the ultra-competitor. "Hagakure: The Way of the Samurai." Like it's the samurai's code. Hagakure, just powerful, man. I'm talking ancient samurai wisdom right here. The way of life, the way that samurais lived and their philosophy towards life. So much parallels to the high-performance athlete. So "Hagakure." "33 Strategies of War" by Robert Greene, for sure. And "Slaying the Dragon" by Michael Johnson, probably one of the best books written by an athlete, super duper practical - changed and altered my mindset towards failure. All your listeners got to read this book, "Slaying the Dragon" by Michael Johnson. He dealt with big-time failure in the Olympics and he details precisely what he did in response to those failures, how he reframed it, basically his game plan, how he approaches this sport. And it's so practical, so powerful, very well written. Those three books, it’ll change any athlete's life.
[42:54] Jim: Niyi, love it. Thanks, man. Great seeing you again.
[42:57] Niyi: Absolutely, man. Thanks for having me.
[43:00] Jim: Thanks for listening. If you want to apply these principles into your life, let's talk. You can see the limited spaces that are open on my calendar at jimharshawjr.com/apply, where you can sign up for a free one-time coaching call directly with me. And don't forget to grab your action plan. Just go to jimharshawjr.com/action. And lastly, iTunes tends to suggest podcasts with more ratings and reviews more often. You would totally make my day if you give me a rating and review. Those go a long way in helping me grow the podcast audience. Just open up your podcast app - if you have an iPhone, do a search for "Success Through Failure," select it, and then scroll the whole way to the bottom where you can leave the podcast a rating and a review. Now, I hope this isn't just another podcast episode for you. I hope you take action on what you learned here today. Good luck and thanks for listening.
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