Lesson in Sport.

For this week’s podcast guest, almost every relationship, opportunity, and experience can be tied back to the sport of basketball. He now uses lessons from his own experiences and from some of the all-time greats to teach and lead others to success.

The standards that you set play a massive role in your future.

Alan SteinKeynote speaker and author of "Raise Your Game"

Transcription

[Transcription] Alan Stein Jr. Shares What NBA Superstars Taught Him About Business and Life

 

Speaker 1:                                          

   Before we jump into the convo Mickey and Alan recently had in this week’s episode, I want to extend an invite to our listeners for our upcoming 4Ds on Thursday, August 19th. Have you ever wanted Gary Vaynerchuk’s advice on your business? Now’s your chance. Book a seat for our August 19th Virtual 4D session, where you, Gary V., and top VaynerX executives discuss how to unlock explosive [00:00:30] growth for your business. 4Ds, also known as digital, discovery, and deep dive, is for entrepreneurs, marketers, and leaders. We’ll dissect the current state of social and digital marketing and how to harness it to strengthen your career in business. We’d love you to join us on August 19th. For more info, send us a note at 4DS@vaynermedia.com. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                 

      [00:01:00] Hi, I’m Katie Hankinson.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                        

  And I’m Mickey Cloud.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                   

    Welcome to Building While Flying, a Sasha Group podcast where we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenges, stay resilient, and navigate ever changing skies.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                         

 Well, Alan. Welcome to Building While Flying. Thanks so much for being our guest today.

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                       

Oh, absolutely. My pleasure. This will be a lot of fun.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                       

   Awesome. So Alan Stein, Jr. teaches proven strategies to improve [00:01:30] organizational performance, create effective leadership, increased team cohesion and collaboration, and develop winning mindsets, rituals, and routines. Alan spent 15 years as a basketball performance coach, working with NBA superstars like Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant, many others. And the strategies from Alan’s book Raise Your Game: High-Performance Secrets from the Best of the Best are implemented by corporate teams and sports teams around the country. So, Alan. First thing I’ll say is, I’m a huge basketball fan. So we can start there. You said basketball was kind of your [00:02:00] first passion from five years old, and I’m just curious. I was very same way. So curious if you can remember like a specific childhood memory where you just kind of fell in love with the game.

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                    

   Well, so I’m 45 years old. So at the time I was first introduced to basketball was kind of right on that cusp of the emergence of Michael Jordan, which, I think, as most in my age bracket can attest to, just really changed everything. I vividly remembered my parents signing me up for my first recreation team [00:02:30] in kindergarten, and I’ve never looked back. I mean, it’s amazing to me that, four decades later, I mean, basketball is still a major staple in my life. And not even just as a fan. I can almost drop the breadcrumbs, and almost every relationship, opportunity, experience that I’ve had is within a few degrees of the game of basketball. So I’ll forever be indebted to the game, and that’s why I always feel compelled to give back and to help coaches and help players in addition to my [00:03:00] current corporate work.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                        

  Yeah. Awesome. So I read you were on basketball scholarship at Elon, but as a quick aside, I did like 10, 15 minutes of googling last night, and your college stats aren’t anywhere on the internet. I like went to Elon’s site. The stats only go back to 2011-12. The rosters only go back 2003. So I guess my first question I need to know, what was your role on the team at Elon? What kind of basketball player were you? Were you a combo guard, Flint guard, wing? I’m curious to know kind of that.

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                      

 Well, I can already let you know [00:03:30] that had you been able to find the stats, there weren’t many stats of mine. You would not have found me in the minutes played section, and you certainly wouldn’t have found many in the points, rebounds, or assists component. Yeah. I had an absolute blast at Elon and loved my experience there, but the basketball portion of it really… Boy, I mean, it’s one of the things that sparked a true evolution and growth in myself as I look back on it. So I was [00:04:00] the point guard, to answer your question. I was a pretty good public school player here in the suburbs of Washington D.C., and then went down to Elon and actually had a little bit of immediate success as a freshman. Coach had brought in several freshmen that were in my class, and many of us got pretty decent playing time that first year. But then I got bit by the complacency bug, and I started to feel like I didn’t need to put in the work that had gotten me to that position in the first place.

    And my sophomore year, [00:04:30] I found my minutes started to decline heavily. And here I am, at this fork in the road, and really had two paths to take. One, could say, “You know what? I’m going to get back in the gym. I’m going to put in time during the unseen hours, and I’m going to earn more minutes and earn a starting position,” or I can take the path with which I took, which was to have a bad attitude and to blame, complain, and make excuses and basically deflect responsibility to everyone except myself. [00:05:00] That was basically how I carried out in the next couple of years. I never really got any meaningful minutes after that. I can say it with a smile now because I’ve given myself some grace, and I realized that that was my journey and that’s where I was at that time.

      But what it does now and has really helped to my career is it’s given me a tremendous amount of empathy and compassion that, especially when I was in the basketball training space and I’d be working with a young person who was going [00:05:30] through a similar struggle, I could have a heart-to-heart with them and say, “Look, you’re going to have a fork in the road, and you’re going to get to choose. And while I don’t live a life through regret, I think everything happens to kind of help us evolve into who we’ve become, but that’s not the route that I should have chosen or would have chosen if I could do it again, and I would highly recommend that you choose a different path.” But yeah. Looking back on it, I mean, it really was an eye-opening experience, and it’s helped shape my perspective now [00:06:00] because everything I preach today is the exact opposite of how I approached it when I was a 19-year-old knucklehead.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                 

         Well, I’m sure that experience helped tremendously in that perspective. And the ability to kind of give yourself grace, like you said, certainly helps as you were kind of building your strength and conditioning basketball performance coaching business. So I guess before we dive in kind of the corporate speaking side, I want to touch on, I guess, what were some of the challenges, and how did you even [00:06:30] get started in that business? And then what were some of the challenges in building that business?

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                  

     Well, if you’re familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, where he kind of talks about timing and how important timing is to your pursuits and to your eventual success and achievement… And I know that played a major role for me because as I’m going through college in the mid-to-late nineties, there were very few people doing basketball-specific performance training or strength and conditioning. You know, it had kind of cracked the football circles, [00:07:00] and most football athletes were lifting weights and running and doing plyometrics, but basketball really wasn’t doing much of that. And I knew that for myself, I was so intrigued by that. Like most players about my size and my age and so forth, I always had the goal of dunking the basketball. So I was always fascinated with plyometrics and strength training routines and anything that could help me improve my explosiveness.

       And I also recognized, in the game of basketball, how important your conditioning [00:07:30] and fitness level is. I always viewed that as a controllable factor. To me, even through high school, to show up on day one for tryouts or day one of practice and not be in the best shape possible was simply unacceptable because that was something I had control over. So the seed was planted in high school, and then through college, I started devouring any resource I could about basketball-specific strength and conditioning. And then when I graduated, I figured, “What could be better [00:08:00] than combining my original love of basketball with my new found love of strength and conditioning” and basically said, “I want to be a basketball strength and conditioning coach.” And the reason I brought up the Malcolm Gladwell angle is, at that time, since there were so few people doing it, I didn’t have a lot of competition.

 Like I was able to work my way into working at Montrose Christian, where Kevin Durant graduated from, and eventually to DeMatha, which has had a whole litany of NBA players. I was able to talk to Nike, and they put me on [00:08:30] their speaking circuit to go around talking to coaches. I was able to talk my way into the Nike Skills Academies, which is where I first met Kobe and LeBron and those guys. And that’s just because there weren’t other people asking to do those things. So I very much can appreciate that the timing of my interests certainly helped. Because now, to have someone try to work the Nike Skills Academies… I mean, you’re getting put on a desk full of resumes that’s probably 200 deep. So that really played [00:09:00] a major role, kind of the timing of everything. So for that, I’m incredibly grateful.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                 

         Yeah. And so, I do want to talk about, I guess, the transition then from kind of the basketball performance strength and conditioning training that you were doing to now, the corporate training and kind of the speaking that you do a little bit. So I guess now, you mentioned you kind of focused more on maximizing production for corporate clients versus basketball players, but when did that transition start to kind of plant in your mind, and then how did you make it a reality?

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                     

  Well, the original [00:09:30] seed was actually planted probably 15 years ago. I was working the NBA Players Association’s Top 100 Camp. The NBA Players Association would take former and retired players, and they built a camp to kind of mentor and pour in to the top 100 high school players every single year. I went to work at camp as the performance coach. Once again, another opportunity I could kind of work my way into. And they brought in a speaker named Walter Bond, who’s still a speaker [00:10:00] today and actually does a tremendous amount of corporate work. And here he is talking to this group of high school kids and coaches, and in 45 minutes, he’s telling us this story, and he just took us on a journey. He had us laughing, he had us crying, he had us thinking. He was funny, he was charming, but he really gave us some impactful life lessons.

   And it’s crazy. 15 years ago, I can still remember most of the things he said that day. That’s how impactful he was. I remember sitting there in the audience thinking, ” [00:10:30] I want to do that one day.” Like, I don’t want to do that now. I love the basketball training. I love the path I’m on, but man, I want to do that one day. And that’s really where the seed was planted. Then if you fast forward about a decade after I had been in the strength and conditioning space for 15 years, I started to feel burnt out. I started to feel that my passion for on-court training was really starting to dissipate. I had so much respect for the game and so much respect for the players and the coaches [00:11:00] that I worked with. I knew that that’s not something that I can feel comfortable just going through the motions and just mailing it in.

     You know, I really believe that teaching and coaching is something you have to be incredibly passionate about, and you have to be all in with heart, mind, and body. And when I found that I wasn’t, I knew it was time to make a pivot. I knew it was time to do something different, and the stars just aligned. I said, “That seed was planted 10 years ago. This is what I’m going to try next.” And I felt [00:11:30] very confident that all of the lessons in leadership and communication and culture that I had learned were going to be applicable to the corporate world. So I kind of just made the pivot for a very direct pun and said, “I’m going to take my skillsets and try something else in a different world.” I’m very thankful I did that. That was just over four years ago, and it was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made because I love what I do now. It really mixes my previous life with now my current life, and I love [00:12:00] being a keynote speaker.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                     

     And so how do brands and businesses engage with you? Does it matter what size of company it is? Is it typically at a retreat with a workshop? I mean, I’m sure virtual now. I’m curious kind of like what that looks like these days.

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                       

Well, I’ll tell you. One of the things that I love about my work is it’s a wide spectrum. There is a wide variety. I have been on stage in front of some of the biggest brands like American Express and Pepsi, and yet I’ve also done some things with [00:12:30] some small mom and pop shops that most likely none of your listeners have heard of. I’ve done things from a 45-minute keynote in front of thousands on a well lit stage with a huge backdrop, and I’ve done things for six people on a retreat or a small group of sales professionals in a boardroom. I’ve done things as short as 30-to-40 minutes, more of an inspirational keynote, and I’ve done some full day immersive and interactive team trainings. So that’s what I love, the variety. And there are aspects [00:13:00] of each of those groups and aspects of each of those kinds of formats that I really enjoy.

          And I think that’s what’s going to keep this fresh for me is being able to do things that are different. One thing I’ll say, and I even found this in the basketball world, some of my favorite athletes that I’ve ever worked with would be people that no one had ever heard of, but they were so coachable and so hungry and so passionate, and they made immense amount of progress. They were just as enjoyable as [00:13:30] working with a Kevin Durant or a Victor Oladipo. And it’s the same thing in the corporate world. It’s sexy to be able to work with some of the bigger brands and some of the more recognized logos, but I’ve worked with some smaller businesses that have created some just tremendous cultures. They do things the right way, and they make such an impact with the clients and customers they serve, and that brings me a tremendous amount of satisfaction.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                        

  The first 15 years of my career, I was working with Fortune [00:14:00] 500 brands and things like that. And the past two and a half years, I did some work with some smaller-sized businesses as well, but primarily was in that world. And then the past two and a half years, the Sasha Group, we work with entrepreneurs, growth-stage companies, challenger brands in the mid-market. So working with that segment has been incredibly rewarding. Like you said, there are so many amazing companies that are doing awesome things, and it’s about how we can help add to that. Curious, what are maybe the differences and the similarities between preparing [00:14:30] to work out a basketball player versus preparing to do a workshop for a business or a corporate client?

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                      

 The actual framework and guardrails are almost identical. And I’m so glad that you brought that up because preparation is another controllable factor. I always aim to be the most prepared person in the room. I believe that preparation is also a sign of respect, that I can show you that I respect you having done my homework and done my due diligence [00:15:00] to make sure that what I’m about to share is as customized and personalized and individualized as possible. I would take the same approach from a basketball training standpoint. You know, if I was going to take you through a strength and conditioning workout, I would make sure that I know your strengths and your weaknesses and your previous injuries and things that we’d need to work around. I’d need to know your goals and your dreams and your ambitions and what you were trying to get out of this.

     I’d need to learn your personality style and the [00:15:30] way that you communicate best so that I can be most effective in coaching you. And of course, that’s a process. That’s not necessarily something you get right immediately on day one, because it’s an evolving relationship, but that’s all the work that would go into getting to know you as an individual, or if I was working with your entire team, the same thing. And I take that same approach on the corporate side. Whether I’m working with a group of executives or working with the sales team, or working with an entire company from front desk [00:16:00] to CEO, I want to make sure that I’m paying them the same respect and doing my homework. And I actually enjoy that part of it. You know, the pre-work and the preparation, the game planning if you will, is certainly something that I enjoy.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                      

    Well, you just teed up me very well for my next little segment I want to do, because I want to make those connections between basketball and business using your experience. I want to use a little bit of time where I’m going to name a basketball player that you’ve worked with, or that I think you’ve got a connection to, [00:16:30] ask you to tell kind of your most memorable story about that player, quick story or whatever, and then translate maybe the lesson from that story of how it might apply in a business context or a business environment. Is that cool?

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                       

That’s awesome. I love that. This will be fun.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                       

   All right. Awesome. So Kevin Durant.

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                      

 So I had a chance to meet KD after his sophomore year of high school. We’re both products of the DMV, the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area. I watched KD just play in a kind of a scrimmage format for a few minutes, [00:17:00] and a few things were really obvious to me. One, this kid loves the game of basketball. I mean, he was playing with an ear-to-ear smile and just an unbridled sense of enthusiasm. It was clear to me that even at his young age, he was very fundamentally sound. I mean, he had perfect foot work and pristine shooting mechanics. Was a very fluid player. It was obvious to me that he had a very high basketball IQ. He knew how to play the game, and at 15 years old, he had the basketball IQ that would rival [00:17:30] most coaches. But then the easiest things to observe was his lack of strength and power. Kevin has always been rather slight of brain, you know?

 

Mickey Cloud:                                        

  The Slim Reaper.

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                      

 Yes. Exactly. I mean, this might blow many of your listeners minds, but you know, he plays today at 235 pounds, and he still appears as the Slim Reaper. He was 50 pounds lighter when I met him in high school at the exact same height. I mean, imagine trying to shave 50 pounds off of his [00:18:00] frame right now. You don’t think there’d be anything left. So anyway, it was obvious to me that that lack of strength or power could ultimately be the thing that puts a cap on his ceiling and how good he can be. So thankfully I was excited, since that was my area of expertise. So I was able to convince Kevin and convince his mom to let him come in for a workout. I remember I got so excited that this young superstar was coming in for a workout that I think I got a little overzealous, cause I absolutely dropped the hammer [00:18:30] on him.

    I was the hammer and the nails, and within 25 or 30 minutes, Kevin was in a pile on the gym floor. He didn’t say very much during that workout. Kevin’s always been a young man of very few words, and I really couldn’t get a feel for whether or not he liked the workout or not. And I was a little nervous that I had done too much and potentially could scare him away. I remember vividly asking him and saying, “Hey, did you like this workout?” And he said, as serious as can be, ” [00:19:00] No I didn’t, but I know this is what I need to do if I want to make it to the NBA. So when can I see you again, coach?” I remember just being blown away in that moment that this young man had the maturity, had the leadership, and just had the wherewithal and grit to know that he was going to have to make some sacrifices.

  He was going to have to make some changes, and he was going to have to do some things that were going to make him physically uncomfortable, but he knew those were requirements and necessities to get where he wanted to go. That he was willing [00:19:30] to make sure his dreams and his ambitions outweighed the momentary discomfort he was going through. And that’s certainly a lesson I believe anyone can apply when pursuing a goal or pursuing a dream or trying to evolve into the person you believe you can become… Is just know that that’s going to require some change, and that most of the time, change makes us uncomfortable. But if you can weather that discomfort and learn to actually accept and embrace discomfort as part of the process, that’s [00:20:00] what can get you to the other side.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                        

  It makes me think of, we often talk about, you’ve got to put yourself out of business before someone else does, because it means you’ve got to be constantly evolving, constantly reacting to what the market is looking for, where there are white spaces. All those types of things. And it sounds like KD knew that about himself as well.

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                      

 Yeah. Absolutely. Well said.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                       

   Awesome. So what’s a business context lesson that Steph Curry maybe taught to you from a story about him.

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                    

   [00:20:30] So I had a chance to work… Back in 2007, I worked the first-ever Kobe Bryant Skills Academy. At that time, Nike brought it in the top high school and college players from around the country. One of the college counselors happened to be Steph Curry. But if you actually look at the dates of the way things fell, this was Steph Curry before he was the Steph Curry that we’re all aware of. This was before he blew up on the scene at Davidson. Most of the folks at the camp, including myself, really had no idea who this young [00:21:00] man was. I mean, he looked like he was 14 years old. He did not have the physical maturity of the other college counselors. At the time, he was relatively unknown cause he was not a very highly touted high school prospect.

                                                      

 He was playing at Davidson, which, of course, is a brilliant mid-major program. But it wasn’t the Dukes and the Kentuckys and the Carolinas that had the other players at this camp. So he was basically unknown. I mean, really all any of us knew was that his dad played in the NBA, and we figured [00:21:30] that was probably what got him the nod to come to the camp. But just being around him for a few moments, it became obvious to every one of us that there was something about this kid that was special. Something palpable and unique. The most impressive of these traits was, at the end of the first workout, he tapped me on the shoulder, cause we hadn’t even been formally introduced at that time, and he said, “Coach, will you rebound for me because I don’t leave the gym until I swish five free throws in a row.”

 

Mickey Cloud:                                   

       Yep.

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                    

   I mean, swish five free [00:22:00] throws in a row. If any of your listeners have never shot a basketball themselves, let me just tell you. That is an incredibly high standard. I mean, a swish by definition is a perfect shot. It doesn’t touch the rim. It doesn’t touch the backboard. It gets its name from the sound it makes by going nothing but net. And he wasn’t going to leave until he swished five in a row. Which means he could swish four in a row, he could hit a little bit of the rim on the fifth one, it would still go in, he’d still be mathematically perfect, be five for five, but that wasn’t good enough for him. He’d start over. And if memory [00:22:30] serves me, I don’t think it ever took him longer than 12 or 15 minutes to swish five in a row. It’s my firm belief that whenever he decides to hang it up, he’ll go down in history as the greatest shooter that the game has ever seen.

   And it’s not by accident. It’s not by luck. And it’s not even because his dad played in the NBA. Because he’s willing to hold himself to an unparalleled standard, and that’s really the message that I want everyone to understand. Regardless of your vocation, regardless of your age or what you [00:23:00] do, the standards that you set play a massive role in your future. If you want to improve your performance, you want to improve your output, you want to improve your results, the very first step is to raise your standards of excellence and then live up to them every single day.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                      

    Love that. All right. The last one I’ll ask about is, of course, Kobe. The late, great Kobe Bryant.

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                      

 Most certainly. This is one of my favorite stories to tell, and it’s kind of the signature story that I open up most of my programs with. I had just mentioned previously [00:23:30] in the Steph story about working the first-ever Kobe Bryant Skills Academy in 2007, and this was the first time I had a chance to meet Kobe. And of course, as we’ve covered, having grown up in the basketball world, I’d always heard this urban legend of how insanely intense his individual workouts were. He used to call them blackouts instead of workouts because of how hard he would go. So as not only a basketball fan, but as someone that was living and breathing strength, conditioning, and training and working out, I mean, I [00:24:00] was dying to see one of his workouts, and something gave me the confidence to just go up to him and ask if I could watch one. He was so gracious and so welcoming and open and said, “Yeah, man. That’s no problem. I’m going tomorrow at four.”

                                                       This was the day before camp started, and I got a little bit confused because I had just gotten done looking through the camp schedule, which clearly said that the first workout with the players was going to be that following day at 3:30. I think Kobe recognized the confused look on my face and clarified that with, “Yeah, I’m talking about 4: [00:24:30] 00 AM.”

               There’s not a reason in the world that I could give Kobe on why I couldn’t be somewhere at four in the morning, so I’d committed myself to being there. I figured if I was going to be there anyway, this was a chance to impress Kobe and really show him how serious of a trainer I was. So I came up with the plan to beat him to the gym. I set my alarm for 3:00 AM. The alarm goes off, I jump up, I get myself dressed. I hop in a cab, and I head right to the gym. When I arrive, it’s 3:30 in the morning, so of course it’s [00:25:00] pitch black outside. And yet the moment I step out of the cab, I could see that the gym light was already on. Even from the parking lot, 20 yards away, I could hear a ball bouncing and sneakers squeaking.

     I walked in the side door. Kobe was already in a full sweat. He was going through an intense warm-up before his official workout with his trainer started at four. Well, out of professional courtesy, I didn’t say anything to him and I didn’t say anything to his trainer. I just sat down to watch. For the first 45 [00:25:30] minutes, I was shocked. For the first 45 minutes, I watched the best player in the world do the most basic footwork and offensive moves. Kobe was doing stuff that I had routinely taught to middle school aged players. Now this is Kobe. So the Black Mamba, let’s not get it twisted. He was doing everything in an unparalleled level of intensity, and he was doing everything with surgical precision, but the stuff he was actually doing was incredibly basic. After that, his workout lasted a couple more hours.

   [00:26:00] And when it was over, once again, I didn’t say anything to him, and I didn’t say anything to his trainer, but my curiosity kept nipping away at me and eventually he got the best of me. So later that day at camp, I went up to him again and just asked them point blank. I said, “Kobe, you’re the best player in the world. Why are you doing such basic drills?” And he smiled and said with a slight wink, but he said with all seriousness, “Why do you think I’m the best player in the world? Cause I never get bored with the basics.” And that just [00:26:30] absolutely blew me away. I mean, I realize to many of your listeners now that that may sound obvious, but to me in that moment, it was a life-changing moment because it’s when I realized that just because something is basic, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

      People often use those words as synonyms. They use them interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing. Just because something is basic in premise does not mean that it’s easy to execute or easy to do. This concept of no matter how accomplished you become [00:27:00] or how high of a performer you are, you can never leave the basics and never leave the fundamentals. Any high performer that I’ve studied or had a chance to observe closely basically takes that to heart. They recognize that the fundamentals are the foundation to which the rest of the house is built. That’s a good cornerstone core value I have, and everything that I present to the corporate groups is, “Make sure you’ve got great clarity on the fundamentals that are required for you to be successful, [00:27:30] and make sure everyone on your team is committed to those during the unseen hours. And don’t ever leave them. That’s going to be the foundation to which your success is built.”

 

Mickey Cloud:                                   

       Love that. All right, we’ll leave you with this last one. You know, we call the podcast Building While Flying because it’s a great analogy for entrepreneurs. It speaks to the nimbleness, the flexibility, the foresight you kind of need to operate in business, but also because pilots are renowned for their in-flight checklists and their training that kind of keeps them calm under pressure. So I guess, when your back’s against the wall and you’ve got to make a tough decision [00:28:00] for your business, what’s your internal checklist or process look like?

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                     

  I heard from a coach, and this was many, many years ago, and he said, “You want to learn to make high-pressure decisions during times of low pressure. You want to make high-pressure decisions during times where emotions are actually running low.” What he was referring to was, many of the decisions that him and his staff would make for the team for the upcoming season were done during the off-season, when you don’t [00:28:30] even have any games to play. He would basically say, “We want to go through so many different scenarios and what ifs, that when these things actually happen during the season, whether it’s what inbounds play to run when there’s two seconds left and we’re down three and we have the ball, to how will we approach something if our best player gets injured during the first month of the season,” they wanted to try to answer as many of those questions in advance as possible.

 And that always stuck with me. You know, I know an example for me right now. I’ll give you a personal [00:29:00] example, and then I can also translate it to business. As a speaker… I know I’ve been somewhat grounded for the last 16 months and doing almost everything virtually because of the pandemic, but I know the world is starting to open up, and I’m getting a ton of inquiries and interest in bookings for the Fall. And when I travel, I have a speaker’s checklist. Everything from what I need to bring for my attire that I’ll be wearing, to every single cord I’ll need for my laptop, to extra batteries, to everything that I need. I have a standard [00:29:30] checklist. Now, I’ve been doing this long enough that I pretty much know what to pack and what to bring, but I don’t ever want to leave it to the chance, you know?

          Before I go through a routine of packing my stuff the night before I leave, I want to go through item by item and make sure that I haven’t forgotten a thing. I have the same approach to… I have a pregame routine two hours before I’m going to take the stage, of exactly what I’m going to eat, what I’m going to do to get myself in the proper physical, mental, and emotional state. And [00:30:00] I have this routine that I’ve honed over time, and I don’t deviate from that. I don’t say, “Hey, I’m going to be speaking to this one engagement, and boy, I’m feeling great, so I’m just going to wing it.” No. I stick to this script and I stick to this checklist if you will every single time. And I’m a huge believer in structure because structure will lead to consistency.

And I believe consistency is one of the most important traits of high performers. Hopefully anyone listening to this can start to translate that message to your [00:30:30] own business. If you’re a sales professional and you’re going to have a first-time sales meeting with a potential client or a customer, you should have a checklist of things that you’ve done to prepare for that. If you’ve done your due diligence to study their business and their website and what the problem is that they need solved and how your product or service might be the best fit. Have you done any research on them personally, to find out potentially some common areas of interest? Have you done everything on your end to make sure that you [00:31:00] are bringing everything to that sales meeting that will allow you to be fully prepared?

  You know, that’s one example. Another would be if you’re an executive and you run a weekly meeting for your team. Do you go into that meeting with somewhat of a practice plan? An item by item, minute by minute, so that you’re so respectful of your team’s time. I believe there’s so much time that is wasted in staff meetings because people are kind of winging it or you let people go off on tangents, when, if you’d be a little bit more concise and organized, those [00:31:30] meetings would be so much more impactful. And then instead of your team dreading those meetings, cause they see it as a time suck, they’re actually excited to go to those meetings. There’s two ways right there that folks in the business world can use some type of checklist or structure to make sure that they’re as efficient and as effective as possible.

 

Mickey Cloud:                             

             Well, Alan, thanks so much for joining us today. It was really great to hear some of your perspectives, your stories. This was really awesome. Thank you.

 

Alan Stein, Jr.:                                   

    Oh, absolutely. My pleasure. Thank you guys.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                 

      [00:32:00] Well, now that we’ve finished that thoroughly interesting interview, we’re getting ready to land. But before we do, Mickey and I caught up on some of the themes and topics that stuck out to us.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                       

   Yes. We liken this to the postgame show, where we break down the key lessons we all can benefit from, including us here at the Sasha Group. Here is the Sasha Sidebar.

     All right, well, we have a special guest on the Sasha sidebar today. Joining me is [00:32:30] Cal Millien from our team. He’s a senior account executive and has been helping out with a podcast and the promotion of the podcast. He’s a big basketball fan, shares that with me, and Katie’s traveling right now, so we thought we’d bring Cal in for the Sidebar panel. Cal, welcome to the conversation.

 

Cal Millien:                                        

   Hey, thank you for having me. I am honored. Mickey, let me tell you. You’re nice at this.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                    

      Well, Alan has some pretty awesome stories, and you can tell when he gets rolling into them, he’s just like storyteller [00:33:00] mode. So he was an awesome guest.

 

Cal Millien:                                          

 Yeah. I just tapped in, and I mentioned earlier, what a great episode. I feel like Alan did such a good job bringing us into kind of the world that he’s seen over the last couple of years. His transition from a coach, and then also now as professional speaker. What a resume, but also what amazing stories are included in that resume, so that was fun to deep dive into it. What’d you think?

 

Mickey Cloud:                                        

  Yeah. [00:33:30] Understanding he talked about, when I first asked about kind of getting into strength and conditioning as a profession, he just mentioned like, “Hey, I kind of got lucky in the timing of it.” And that’s something that I, looking back on it, it’s like, yeah, there weren’t… When I was coming up in high school, in the 90s, 2000s, there were not strength and conditioning coaches. Like players didn’t have individual strength and conditioning coaches. I played high school basketball or I was on the team with the guy who played the NBA, Anthony [00:34:00] Morrow. Like, Anthony didn’t have his own strength and conditioning coach back then. But by the mid-late 2000s, like 2010s, programs like Montrose Christian and DeMatha and stuff like that had… It makes sense that someone like Alan was on the staff and that that’s what attracts someone like Kevin Durant to that program.

 

Cal Millien:                                          

 Yeah, absolutely. I felt like that was something that really stuck with me. I feel like there was a little bit of a… [00:34:30] Like I can’t imagine a time where that wasn’t a thing growing up in high school. I graduated in 2012, and I went to an all-boys basketball high school in New Jersey called Seton Hall Prep. If you were on a team, you weren’t just going to practice. After practice, you were going to your coach in your town, and you were putting in additional hours. So to imagine a day where strength and conditioning wasn’t part of the program, it’s kind of hard to imagine. [00:35:00] But Alan definitely came up at a good time and has caught a lot of good talent along the way.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                      

    Yeah. So we’ve kind of talked about some of his highlights in terms of KD and stuff and Kobe. Who was the player that you had the most fun listening to Alan story about, or maybe the business connection that hit home for you the most?

 

Cal Millien:                                         

  Yeah. Let me say, he did just a sensational job of just making it very apparent what that crossover application was through the narratives of all those different players. For me, [00:35:30] personally, big, big, big, big Kobe guy. I love Kobe. You know, Dwayne Wade is my favorite player of all time, but Kobe is… I think there’s just a ton of admiration I have for him. If you look at my screen, Mickey, you’ll see, he’s like the back.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                     

     Oh there he is.

 

Cal Millien:                                         

  So I thought that was really cool. Everyone talks about stories about Kobe, his work ethic, and his insane [00:36:00] Mamba mentality, but to hear an Alan take you through that was really sensational. Saying he was going to get to the gym at 4:00 AM and Kobe [inaudible 00:36:09], right? I think the crossover application about never getting bored with the basics. He said, “The basics are often equivalent to being boring or stale, but the reality is, just nailing the basics doesn’t have to be boring.” And I think you heard that in the Kobe narrative.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                        

  And it’s not easy. [00:36:30] Just because it’s basic, doesn’t make it easy. I love Kobe’s response of, “Why do you think I’m the best player in the world?” I was like such a great [inaudible 00:36:41] moment.

 

Cal Millien:                                         

  What I would pay to have been in that gym. [crosstalk 00:36:45]. You’re trying to play it, you know, give Kobe his space, but that’s got to be an amazing-

 

Mickey Cloud:                                        

  He had such a legendary work ethic. But you hear that and you’re like, what does that actually mean, you know? This is like real, real life [00:37:00] story of, “Yeah. He’s hosting a camp, but then getting up at 3:00 AM and at the gym at 3:00 AM to do a workout for three hours before starting his day at camp.” That’s totally next level.

                And then, you know, I’m from Charlotte. So Steph Curry… When he was talking about how this was before Steph had kind of blown up at Davidson, like he was basically unknown, that’s the Steph we played in high school. So Steph went to a rival high school of mine. Anthony was on my team. We won back-to-back state [00:37:30] championships with Anthony. Anthony was a better player in high school than Steph. Obviously that changed. Anthony had a great NBA career.

       Steph’s got an all-time NBA career though. Whether it’s Steph’s “I’m going to have to swish five in a row before I leave the court” like set high standards and then make sure you live up to them… It’s another thing where Steph is literally, he’s not the most… [00:38:00] Physically, he’s not LeBron. Physical gifts, you know, that kind of thing. But he’s got clearly just such a high mastery of shooting and ball handling and it’s because of the work he puts in.

 

Cal Millien:                                          

 Yeah. I think Alan said it best. It’s an unparalleled standard, right? It’s just like, “I’m a nail five free throws in a row and then I can go” and you see in his career how that’s manifested. [crosstalk 00:38:26].

 

Mickey Cloud:                                     

     That was always a thing when I was growing up. It was like, you can’t leave the gym on a miss. You always got to make [00:38:30] like a certain number of free throws in a row. But I definitely wasn’t swishing five free throws in a row before I left.

 

Cal Millien:                                        

   Right. And a swish is a different [inaudible 00:38:41] off the glass. It’s pure perfection. So, that was awesome.

 

Mickey Cloud:                                      

    Awesome. Well, thanks Cal for chopping it up with me at the end here, the Sasha Sidebar. Hope we’ll see everyone in the next flight soon.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                  

     Thanks for joining us for Building While Flying today. [00:39:00] I hope you learned as much as we did. We’ll meet you right back here next time for another flight.

 

Mickey Cloud:    

   If you’d like to hear more about how business owners and brands are navigating these times, tune into the next episode. And if you’re so kind, please rate and review us. Plus, we’d love feedback, so let us know what you think, what you’d like us to dig into next on Building While Flying across brands, businesses, marketing, and more.

 

Katie Hankinson:                                     

  This podcast is produced by the team@mustamplify.com. Original music by Folsom Street Music Group.

Welcome to Building While Flying!

This weekly podcast is brought to you by Sasha Group. We’re the consultancy meets agency arm of the VaynerX family of companies. We help ambitious companies build strong brands that flex with the times through strategy, branding media and marketing.

In ever-changing times, businesses and brands have to shift and adapt. And across all sectors, there is an air of experimentation. Business owners are trying new things out in the wild;  building the plane while flying.

Our pilots, Katie Hankinson and Mickey Cloud, will be talking to a diverse range of business leaders and founders. They’ll explore how these guests tackle various challenges while staying resilient and committed to growth. Through these real-life examples of strategies put into practice, we hope to inspire you to experiment and develop your own strategies as we all navigate these uncertain times together.

Alan Stein, Jr. found the intersection between his biggest passions: basketball and helping others be successful.

 

As a basketball performance coach for 15 years, he worked with high-performing athletes to help them reach their highest potential. Now, as a keynote speaker and workshop leader, he applies many of the same principles to the corporate and business world. He teaches proven strategies to improve organizational performance, create effective leadership, increase team cohesion and collaboration, and develop winning mindsets, rituals, and routines.

 

This week, Alan joins Mickey to dive into each step of his career: from his college basketball days at Elon University, to coaching at Kobe Bryant’s academy, to mentoring teams at Fortune 500 companies across the country. Alan shares some of the biggest lessons he’s learned from the biggest names in the NBA: like Kobe’s dedication to the basics, and Steph Curry’s desire for excellence. He also shares how he’s carried experiences from one career to the next, and how his college basketball days shaped his career and life more than he could have imagined.

Other in-flight topics:

  • Lessons learned from playing college basketball 
  • Giving yourself grace
  • The importance of preparation
  • Taking skills and lessons from one career to the next
  • Lessons learned from NBA superstars
  • His “speaker’s checklist”
  • …and more!

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Los Angeles, CA