Ep 113: What Elite Athletes Can Teach Us About Teenage Success

Episode Summary

Jeremy Bhandari, author of Trust the Grind, interviewed the world’s most elite athletes to figure out what young people can do to be just as successful in their own pursuits.

Show NotesParenting ScriptsInterview TranscriptGuest Bio

Full Show Notes

You know your teen is capable of more than binging Netflix, but helping teens sort out their own goals and motivate them to take action is hard work! Kids these days encounter distractions at every turn, and are constantly bombarded with images and videos of others who are better dancers, athletes, make-up artists, singers, comedians, (etc!) than your teen.  Teens might feel like it’s no use even trying to catch up with the top talent today.

Although it may seem impossible to empower a teen that just doesn’t want to try, today, we’re speaking with a guest who’s interviewed top athletes to deduce what teens can do to achieve personal success–and what parents can do to help.

I’m sitting down with Jeremy Bhandari, author of Trust the Grind: How World-Class Athletes Got to the Top. As a lifelong sports fanatic, Jeremy decided to talk to some of his favorite athletes to uncover their secrets to success, work ethic, and most importantly, happiness. He learned some seriously powerful lessons about how young people can thrive in any avenue they choose to pursue–and he’s here to share those lessons with you.

In our insightful interview, Jeremy and I talk about how some of sports’ biggest stars achieved their wildest dreams. He explains how your teen can do anything they dream of, so long as they receive encouragement, remain in the right headspace, and are constantly challenged to reach their full potential.

Cheer For Your Kid Until They Reach the Finish Line

As a parent, you want to see your child successful and happy….which is why you might not always support their off-the-wall ambitions. It can be difficult to get behind your kid’s lofty goals  of winning an Oscar or becoming the next president of the United States when you know they might face some disappointment when they fall short.

The truth is, you’re not alone there. Even the parents of world famous athletes have been known to be doubtful of their kid’s dreams. Jeremy and I discuss his interview with Gary Player, one of the world’s most successful golfers, and how parental disapproval almost derailed a legendary career. Gary struggled to get his father’s support when he decided to play golf around the world instead of going to college. Without his father’s help, Gary struggled financially, unable to buy golf clubs to pursue his true passion.

However, Gary’s dad eventually came around, even deciding  to take out a loan himself to finance Gary’s new clubs. To this day, Gary cites his father’s support as a major reason for his success.  Without his parents behind him, Gary may very well have failed to become the brilliant golfer he was destined to become. Jeremy says one of things he found to be consistent among many of the athletes he interviewed was how much they benefited from having supportive parents or adults to cheer them on in their youth.

As Jeremy and I talk further on this idea,  he emphasizes how empowering kids to believe in themselves can be essential to their success as an adult. Whether your teen strives to run Wall Street or sell out Madison Square Garden, they’re not likely to get too far without some support from you. 

In the episode, we dive deeper into the idea of encouragement, and how we can use positive reinforcement to help kids understand how hard work pays off. When it comes to helping your kid get their mind in the right spot, Jeremy has some further advice to bring out the high achiever hiding inside.

Challenging Kids To Be Their Best

Beyond just providing positive reinforcement, Jeremy discusses the importance of challenging your kids to go above and beyond what they believe themselves to be capable of. While praising them can have amazing results, it can also be powerful to remind them that they can always improve, and continue to strive for further greatness. 

Jeremy shares a story from his interview with Andruw Jones, a talented athlete who played major league baseball for 17 seasons. Jones grew up with a father who was constantly challenging him, asking him how many push ups he could do, how high he could jump, or how deep he could dive into the ocean. Jones told Jeremy that constantly being challenged taught him that there was always room to grow, and molded him into someone who continues to shoot for the moon.

Frequently encouraging kids to go above and beyond helps meld their meld to reflect an attitude of perseverance. Athletes work out their muscles to become stronger, faster, and more efficient, but Jeremy talks about how  exercising one’s mind is just as important. If you’re constantly pushing your teen to believe they are capable of greatness, you can help them become the super star they were always meant to be.

In the episode, Jeremy and I expand on this idea, chatting about how we should encourage teens to associate with friends and teammates who push them to always be improving. We also get into a deeper discussion on how important a teen’s mental landscape is to their ambition and productivity.

Why the Mindset Matters

Almost everyone Jeremy interviewed for his book had something to say about the importance one’s mentality plays in achieving greatness. Whether it’s knowing how to handle anxiety in stressful situations or grappling with discouragement in the aftermath of failure, Jeremy says one’s mindset is the key to staying afloat when the going gets tough.

When your teen is in a tough spot, and thinks that they aren’t capable of passing a math test or winning the talent show, Jeremy suggests reminding them that nothing good comes easy. It’s totally normal to struggle, get knocked down, and come up short. What matters is that teens keep trying. Everyone from Elon Musk to Albert Einstein faced failure before changing the world. No one gets it right all the time, especially when they’re just starting out. 

Jeremy also touches on how easy it is for teenagers to blow situations out of proportion and make mountains out of molehills. Even though they may think that failing their driving test is the end of the world, it can do wonders to simply remind them to stay calm and try again in a few months. By helping them maintain a positive attitude of perseverance, you can keep them on the track to success.

Unfortunately, teens these days are also often sucked into a dangerous mental habit: comparing themselves to others on social media. There’s millions of people online for teens to compare themselves with at any moment, often causing them to feel inferior or incapable.  In the episode, Jeremy and I discuss how we can help teens avoid falling into this harmful trap, and instead empower them to wake up everyday and love themselves.

In the Episode…

Jeremy and I chat about his interviews with a variety of different athletes from a diverse range of disciplines, each one with a unique perspective on life. In addition to the ideas mentioned above, we cover:

  • Why it’s essential for teens to define their goals
  • How eating healthy and exercising can truly change your teen’s life
  • What teens should look for in a friend
  • How we can instill hard work in our teens

It was so much fun to talk to Jeremy this week, and hear the fascinating perspective he’s gained from interviewing so many notable athletes. If you’re interested in reading the book, it’s available now on amazon.com or in Barnes and Noble. Don’t forget to like and subscribe, and happy listening.

Parenting Scripts

Word-for-word examples of what to say to your teen

1. Give your teen a pep-talk before they need it:

“So it’s just understanding when you’re in those circumstances where you feel down, you feel lost, you feel angry, upset, irritated, just to know like, ‘Hey tomorrow, I’m one hit away from making everything better.’”

-Jeremy Bhandari

2. Give you teen this strategy so they can help themselves:

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3. Remind your teen that it’s going to take some effort to achieve their goals:

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4. Help your teen refocus on their goal(s): 

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5. Push your teen to play the role of underdog:

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6. Reassure your teen that they are enough:

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7. When the comparison trap ensnares your teen, try: (1 of 3)

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8. When the comparison trap ensnares your teen, try: (2 of 3)

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9. When the comparison trap ensnares your teen, try: (3 of 3)

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10. Inject a bit of motivation into your teen’s day:

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11. Let your teen know talent and skill take time:

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12. Make sure your teen recognizes the importance of the right mindset: (1 of 2)

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13. Make sure your teen recognizes the importance of the right mindset: (2 of 2)

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14. Push your teen to commit verbally to their goals:

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Complete Interview Transcript

Andy: So talk to me, what got you into doing all this stuff?

Jeremy: Yeah. So I guess a brief overview would be, I started following my graduation from college at UMass, a month after graduating, I actually got offered a job at ESPN as a sports researcher. I had always been heavily invested in sports, super passionate about athletes. All my role models were athletes and whatnot. So I started working there, and as you know, ESPN is heavily centered around numbers and stats and data crunching and how do we tell a tale using numbers and analytics to show that this player is better than this player, this team’s better than this team and so on?

Jeremy: I was like, “That is beautiful.” Right? “It’s cool.” It’s why we love sports, the numbers, the greatness, the history of it. But I realized there’s so much more to sports athletes and there’s so much more to these men and women’s stories that we can be using as a teaching point.

Jeremy: Something instilled in me was always I want to be of service. I want to inspire. I want to teach people maybe lessons that I wish I had when I was young. So I just really started thinking back and I was like, “Hey, what would Jeremy have wanted when he was like 10, 11, 12-years-old that would have kind of pushed him in the right direction?” Or, “What would he have wanted to hear from some of the athletes that he grew up watching and grew up idolizing and grew up pretending to be on the court?” From there, man, I just kind of took that ideology and just sparked the whole project.

Andy: So I thought there was a lot of great lessons in here about growing up. One thing you talk about was Chipper, Chipper Jones, he’s got something where he talks about it being a parent himself and trying to instill the same lessons that his mother and father taught him. He thinks the most important thing is for them to know that he supports them in whatever they do, “As long as they commit to it and show me that they’re going to work hard at whatever it might be. I try to simply teach them that hard work will always pay off whether or not you get the desired results.”

Jeremy: As you know, it starts out the project. The first thing, in my opinion, if you’re looking to be happy, if you’re looking to be successful, well, let’s start out with what in your mind, you close your eyes, you dream. What is it that you actually aspire to be? Who do you aspire to be like? Where do you want to live? What car? What do you want to accomplish while you’re here?

Jeremy: That’s why I like to introduce the project off with it’s like, “Hey, let’s set goals. Before let’s draw the curtain back. Let’s find out who you are from a personal level, not what will your parents want you to be, not what the teacher says. Who do you personally want when you look in the mirror, what do you see?” So I thought that was so cool to have a legendary Hall of Fame baseball player, like Chipper Jones to talk about goals.

Jeremy: It was just so interesting to kind of get his viewpoint on it because we referenced an interview that he did when he was like 24-years-old. He was asked by the reporter, “What are your upcoming goals for the season?” He said these crazy numbers that like it’s hard to even imagine doing it. Only one person in Braves’ history had ever accomplished. Then two years later he accomplishes what he said.

Jeremy: So the whole idea is set goals as high as humanly possible, you just never know. When you say them out loud it gives you courage. It gives you confidence. People are going to follow up with you on them. So when you’re a parent out there, a kid, like just set a time to really find out what that particular individual wants to do and it’s going to change as you get older.

Jeremy: But aside from the actual setting goal stage, the thing that Chipper didn’t know was he credited his parents with a lot of his success. They saw obviously the baseball talent at a young age and they sent him off to a private school, I think in the 10th grade. This esteemed private school where not only the education was better but the play on the field was increased. So that just gave him another opportunity to better himself, not only in the classroom but on the field.

Jeremy: So to have that support around you is just priceless. It’s very important that you recognize that. It’s great that Chipper notices that and that he’s there now, he’s in that stage of he’s raising kids and now he’s the one who’s saying, “All right, what are they good at? How can I get put them in the right position?” It’s just so great. So parents be supportive and kids be open to when your parents are supporting you because they know a little bit more.

Andy: It seemed like a theme in a lot of these stories that I thought was really cool that there was an adult that was really supportive of the kid and it wasn’t always the parent necessarily, but a lot of times there’s someone there. I think that’s important, powerful.

Andy: Okay. So then you’ve also got a story of this guy, Gary Player, and he’s really amazing golfer. You have a story about when he’s 17-years-old and instead of going to college, he wants to just travel around and play golf. He tells his dad and his dad disagrees but he still goes and buys him a set of golf clubs and actually takes out a loan in order to buy him golf clubs. So I thought that was like a really cool story about believing in your kid and letting them make a choice, even when you think it might be the wrong choice, but still supporting them in it, which is really cool to do.

Jeremy: Yeah. I thought that was interesting as well, where it’s like obviously when you’re 17, there’s a lot more flexibility you have as far as your career path.

Andy: Sure.

Jeremy: For the most part, you’re allowed to kind of take chances. I think his dad really recognized that were, “Hey, this kid’s got a dream who am I to deter that, deter this individual from doing what he really wants inside?” It’s just so awesome to have parents see that and not only see it but embrace it from a leadership standpoint to really harp in and hone in on what that person wants to do and being of service, not directing them, but letting that kid kind of pave his own path. Just being there, “Hey, I can do this for you.” Obviously, he bought him clubs and it helped them out a lot, but it’s just cool to see a parent instead of being the one to provide advice to, they’re listening more. I think that-

Andy: Right. “No, you need to do this. No, you’re doing that wrong,”

Jeremy: Right? The more we listen, it doesn’t matter if you’re a kid or parent, the better off. So just hearing people out and letting them express who they are because at the end of the day people are who they are. If they express a certain way about an adoration for golf, an adoration, or whatever sport it is, you’ve got to embrace that. You’ve got to accept that and you’ve got to go with that because that’s just them being exactly who they are. It’s not someone pushing them and in a different way. The more natural we feel with our thoughts or the more naturally we feel with our actions, the better off we’re going to be in life. So it’s just really good to see parents being supportive and being there for their kids.

Andy: Okay. Gary Player also said, “A person’s most valuable assets are their health and time. Regular exercise and a proper diet ensure better health and likely more quality time on this Earth.” Yeah. I thought that was a great point. Just how part of being a good parent or being there for your family is also taking care of your own health at a really high level because that just allows you to be so much more and provide so much more value.

Jeremy: Yeah. I mean, I think it doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete, whatever profession you end up doing it’s like, if you don’t have your mind, right and your body right, you’re not going to be effective, you’re not going to be efficient in whatever you do. So it’s got to be the first thing on your mind. It’s like the foods you’re eating, even the content you’re absorbing or people you’re around, you got to make sure your mind is strong and your body is strong.

Jeremy: Gary Player, he’s still working out like crazy in his eighties. I’m not saying you got to work out. You don’t got to work out every day if that’s not your thing, but if you’re not a gym rat, maybe go for walks, maybe jump rope a little bit, whatever it takes, and whatever you can fit into your personal schedule, but just know that that’s the most important thing is your physical and mental health over everything. No matter what goes on and your reality, if you take care of those two things, you’re going to be in a great position for success.

Andy: Okay. This is awesome also. Deena Kastor is talking about how to handle high-stress scenarios. The number one piece of advice is she says, “Give yourself the advice you would give your friend or sister, tell yourself it’s just a driving test. The worst-case scenario is mom will still have to drop me off at school, or maybe I can have a friend take me.” Then I think it’s so important because especially as a teenager because it’s so easy to just think everything is so important. That I think is profound as her first piece of advice is just what teenagers need to hear so often, “Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay. You got this.”

Jeremy: Yeah, I think that was so cool of Deena. I mean, here’s someone who’s won medals in the Olympics and has marathon records. Then now she’s talking about just, “Hey, simplify stuff.” In our minds, we make it so much bigger than it actually is. If we have a problem, in our minds it’s majority of the time, 10 times worse than the actual reality and especially at the teenage level.

Jeremy: If something happened in school or like a driving test, or you fail your permit and you freak out or you struggle in a particular class, or maybe you’re not fitting in with the right friends you want to, or you’re not getting invited to the weekend parties. Like that happens all the time at that age. Let’s just take it back and realize, is it really that big of a deal?

Jeremy: I really like what she says, it’s just kind of breaking it down to its simplest form is like, “Hey, before you overreact, before you get invested emotionally in something, just peel back the curtain and just take a look, real hard, raw, look at the situation at hand and find out is it really worth stressing over? It’s a really worth crying over. Can I fix it? Is there something I can do? How do I just grow?” Life’s a lot simpler, especially when it comes to times where we would get upset or over-emotional and often just over-reactive towards stuff we really don’t need to be putting energy towards.

Andy: But it’s hard sometimes.

Jeremy: You know, that’s what makes people human. There’s ups. There’s downs. There’s good. There’s bad. There’s love. There’s hate. So just understanding like you even saying, “It’s hard sometimes,” you understand that it’s going to be difficult at times. So just knowing that, “Hey, when I’m in a situation that I’m not getting the results, I understand what’s happening. I understand that this is part of the game,” so to say.

Jeremy: It’s like, you got to understand that it’s not always going to be free-swinging and whatnot, but just embracing even the doubt, embracing the times because you know, “Hey, I know this is happening to me today. Tomorrow can be even better. It’s only up from here, ” mentality. So it’s just understanding when you’re in those circumstances where you feel down, you feel lost, you feel angry, upset, irritated, just to know like, “Hey tomorrow, I’m one hit away from making everything better.”

Andy: It’s similar to what you heard from Luis Gonzalez. He says one of his biggest piece of advice is, “When you fail, keep going. That’s really it. If you make a promise to yourself that you’ll never give up, you will eventually succeed.”

Jeremy: Yeah. I think the key and especially when it comes to failure, I mean, society puts such a negative tone on the idea of not getting the results you want like the first time around you do something. You know how rare it is to like try something and it immediately works exactly perfect.

Andy: “Hey, it’s working.”

Jeremy: You know what I mean? It’s like society has instilled in us that if you don’t get the results you want, then like, “Oh, you can’t do this anymore. You screwed up.” It’s just the most irrational way of thinking. Where it’s like you said, just keep trying, if you keep going. We referenced in that bat he had against Mariano Rivera, arguably the greatest closer in baseball of all time. The five previous times he faced him, he couldn’t hit it. He got out every time, striking out, barely making contact, like not being able to even see it well.

Jeremy: That doesn’t mean when it’s his time’s up in the order, it doesn’t mean, “Coach, I’m not ready.” It’s like, No, I’ll do the bat just because I failed five times in a row, doesn’t meet the sixth times is going to be the same.” That’s the mentality you need. I think the best way to go about it is just explaining to kids, coming up with thousands of examples, and instilling in them, “Hey,” like I think we referenced Albert Einstein’s failing and all these people like Elon Musk. I mean, there’s so many people that talk about, “Hey, I failed so many times.” Then by the hundredth time or the sixth time, everyone’s going to fail, succeed at different times, but it’s so rare that someone just picks it up right off the bat.

Jeremy: The more we instill in them and just teach other … I mean, it sounds crazy, but the most successful people in the world have failed tremendously and it doesn’t add up. But if you really take a look at their careers, there’s always something that at first it didn’t work for them or maybe they didn’t get recognized. You don’t just get a million followers overnight and whatnot. It’s a gradual step. I think it’s just so important we just, “Hey, let’s take a bunch of examples,” and just constantly, constantly fill their brains with, “Hey, this person failed so many times.” So that way we don’t look at that failure, F word as like this negative form. So it just kind of changing the narrative.

Andy: So there’s also someone you talk about, Ryan Sheckler. He specifically talks about the support from his family as being really, really important, getting him through some really difficult times and instilling this really strong work ethic in him, but he thinks having just a close circle of people with his family and some really lifelong friends and having them around him has been really instrumental in his success. So I wonder if you have any impression of why that was or how we can be more like that as well?

Jeremy: Yeah. I think for any team out there, I mean, if you take Ryan’s example it’s just he found out through his experience that a couple of real ones are better than a bunch of, so to quote, unquote, “Yes men,” you know?

Jeremy: So it’s like the best way to aid teenagers in terms of relationships is just really maybe write down friends and write down who they are and what they mean to you. Right? What does their energy when you’re around them, what does that mean? Is there someone who makes you laugh? Do they lift you up when you’re down? Is it, “Hey, they’re really good at sports and I want to be good at sports”? So I’m going to surround myself with them.” What is it about that particular individual, that teacher, that coach, that friend, whoever, that family member? Just get a piece of paper, write down what that person is and what that means to you. It can be something silly. Like I said, “Hey, they make me laugh. That’s why I want them around me.” You know?

Jeremy: Or it could be something massive where it’s like, “Hey, they’re really smart in this category and I want to be smart in this department as well. So that’s why I’m going to hang around them, study after school with them, whatnot.” But that’s what it comes down to is, hey just sit down, identify what that person means to you. If you can’t come up with a really clear, positive message, then maybe that person is detrimental to you. I don’t know. Only you know that, only that individual knows what that person brings to the table, but really take that, set aside, it takes what? Five minutes. I mean, come on, and it’d be fun. You write down, you realize things you don’t even know. It’s like, “Oh man, I didn’t even know that this person is in my life because they always lift me up when I’m down. That’s such a good trait. I’m going to tell them that.” It’s all about spreading good.

Jeremy: If you want it to be good, you got to spread good. So that’s a really good, valuable lesson that I learned and I think it’s cool that Ryan touched upon that stuff.

Andy: You’ve got someone named Andrew Jones, and he has this crazy confidence in himself. He says it’s because his dad was always challenging him. He says, “Growing up, he challenged me in a bunch of stuff that kind of built my confidence. He’d asked, ‘How many pushups can you do in a row? How high you can jump? How deep can you dive into the ocean?'”

Andy: I thought that was like a really cool example of kind of pushing your kids and challenging them and how they step up to that. That can really be motivating. There’s something just innately competitive in humans that when someone puts a challenge in front of us we just want to do it. And so, I thought that was really, really cool and smart that his dad did that.

Jeremy: Yeah, I totally agree, man. I think that’s why I was happy to kind of sit under the project around sports because there’s just something about competition that brings the best out of humans in any form. Yeah, in terms of Andrew’s upbringing, I think that’s something that any parent should really look at and embrace, right?

Jeremy: Where it’s like, hey, the first eight to 10 years of a kid’s life really, that’s what shapes their subconscious and that’s what shapes their brain. You only are what your surroundings have given you. So it’s like if you grow up with that whole message of being challenged and trying to reach a goal, and even if it’s saying, “Hey, I bet you can’t swim to the pool … the end and back in a certain amount of time,” or “Hey, can you do 50 jumping jacks or 25 push-ups?” Whatever it is.

Jeremy: If you’re doing that as a kid you’re immediately instilling into that girl or boy, like, “Hey, I’m going to compete. I’m going to try to win. I’m to try to reach this goal no matter what.” It’s like, if you instill that at a young age, as they mature, that’s all they’re going to know is competition. As you know, competition, like I said, brings the best out of people in work, in school, in business, whatever, in sport, of course.

Jeremy: So as he’s ready, as he’s getting to the MLB, that’s all he’s thinking about. Even when he gets down, he knows like, “Hey, I’ve been here. I can do it. I’ve been challenged before in a bunch of different things and I’ve succeeded. It’s no different now just because the lights are brighter. That doesn’t mean I can’t succeed.”

Jeremy: Like I said, it’s simplifying, taking that page back and saying like, “Hey, I remember being challenged by the amount of pushups I could do by my dad. So why is that? So just because this pitcher has challenged me, there’s no difference. It’s the same. It’s just a challenge.” So just understanding, like I said, because if the lights are brighter, there’s more money on the line and whatnot, it doesn’t matter. It’s like you got to have that mentality that you can do anything you put your mind to through mental preparation as well as, of course, physical.

About Jeremy Bhandari

Jeremy Bhandari is the author of Trust the Grind. Jeremy has loved sports since childhood and continued pursuing a passion for all things athletic after graduating from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He took a position at ESPN and began filling his rolodex with people in the sports world–both on an off the field. 

Jeremey signed a contract with Mango Publishing which aided in his effort to bring Trust the Grind to fruition. Trust the Grind is currently the #1 Bestseller on Amazon’s Teen/YA Fitness & Exercise list, and Jeremy hopes its reach will only grow!

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