Tim Grover has trained some of the biggest names in basketball: Charles Barkley. Hakeem Olajuwon. Scottie Pippen. Dwayne Wade. Kobe Bryant.
But he may not have helped any of them if not for his most famous client:
Grover worked as Jordan’s personal trainer for 15 years, in which time he helped take the NBA’s greatest player to new physical heights. Jordan and the Chicago Bulls went on to win six championships.
“Michael was always going to be the greatest basketball player ever, whether I worked with him or not,” Grover told me in an interview. “I just helped him stay there a little bit longer.”
Grover didn’t train players like Jordan just how to transform their bodies, but how to sharpen their minds as well. And he did so using many of the principles of emotional intelligence–the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions.
Nowadays, Grover takes the lessons he learned training elite athletes, and teaches entrepreneurs how to apply these to their own businesses. He also just launched a new book, Winning: The Unforgiving Race to Greatness.
I recently spoke with Grover to learn some of the lessons he shares with his clients. Here are four.
Build a great foundation.
When Grover started working with Jordan, the young NBA star had proved susceptible to groin pulls and ankle injuries. So Grover’s initial focus with Jordan was to help him stay healthy.
“I don’t care how fast you are or how high you jump,” Grover told MJ. “None of that matters if you’re constantly getting injured. So let’s address [protecting you against injury] first. The healthier you are, the better you’ll be able to play. We’ll worry about being quicker, stronger, faster, later.”
It was the same when it came to Jordan’s high-flying, gravity-defying moves.
“He never practiced those,” says Grover. “He practiced the fundamentals, because he knew if he mastered the fundamentals, the other moves would come.”
That may sound like good physical advice, but it’s great emotional advice, too.
Don’t be distracted by the end result. Instead, focus on building your foundation, and results will come.
Keep moving forward.
“If you’re standing in the same place, you’re actually losing,” says Grover. “You have to keep moving. As small as your steps may be, you have to keep overcoming those challenges. Keep pushing. Keep moving forward.”
This was Jordan’s philosophy, but Grover says the lesson applies to business clients, too.
“Everyone wants to make suggestions,” says Grover. “But you have to have one individual in your organization or team who makes decisions, not suggestions. People don’t want to be the decision maker, because the decision maker has to answer the hard questions.”
“The decision maker has to actually deal with the consequences of the decision made.”
Remember, leadership isn’t just making big decisions. It’s moving the needle, being a tie-breaker, keeping things moving.
Leadership is decision making, not suggestion making.
The past doesn’t matter.
Grover says working with Jordan definitely opened doors, but once he walked through those doors, he had to prove himself all over again.
“Clients would tell me: ‘I don’t care what you did for Michael. What are you going to do for me?'”
If Grover were arrogant, he might get offended at the question. But he isn’t, and he didn’t. He realized those players were right, and he viewed the question as a personal challenge.
“Once you find the right combination to unlock the secret to winning, the combination is already changing,” says Grover.
So, Grover kept changing, too.
The result: He went on to help some of the biggest names in sports to hit new peaks and achieve major accomplishments.
You too may also have achieved great things in your career.
Guess what? It doesn’t mean anything.
Don’t fall into the trap of reveling in past achievements. Instead, focus on how you can continue reinventing and improving yourself–and how to help your current customer, now.
Learn from the best. But be yourself.
Grover says that there are no true “secrets” to success. The path to winning is out there; it’s just that very few are willing to put in the work.
At the same time, though, becoming successful doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself in the process.
“Too many people start to follow different so-called mentors or leaders on Instagram,” says Grover. “And they think: ‘Well, they did it this way, so I have to do it this way, too.'”
The key, says Grover, is to study what others have done to achieve success, and then make it your own. “Don’t be afraid to add your own ingredients,” says Grover. “It’s all about finding the formula of winning that’s unique to you.”
Kobe Bryant didn’t have to be another Michael Jordan, and you don’t have to be another Steve Jobs or Elon Musk.
But you can study the principles behind what helped make them successful, and then apply them to your business, your way.
“To win, you have to know exactly who you are,” says Grover. “Don’t try to be someone you’re not.”