The Burn with Ben Newman: Episode 25 with Alan Stein Jr.

Alan Stein Jr. Interview with Ben Newman The Burn

Full Interview with Alan Stein Jr. and Ben Newman

Alan Stein Jr.: I actually think fear keeps us sharp.  Being scared is what paralyzes us.  So, I do my best not to even let fear creep over into just being scared and paralyzed, but knowing that that fear is healthy.

Ben Newman: Welcome back to another episode of The Burn.  Now, this one is really, really cool, because I got my buddy Alan Stein Jr. Stein.  He just flew in today.  We get an opportunity for us to spend time together.  We may have to have some special videos for you guys of just some conversations we were having, because that iron sharpens iron, you guys know that I believe in that mentality.  And you talk about iron sharpening iron.  Alan Stein Jr. is a man who spent 15 years as one of the top performance coaches in the world on the athletic side in the world of basketball.  Some of these guys maybe you’ve heard of, you know, doing training with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, just, you know, some guys who occasionally saw the hardwood.  And he not only became passionate about the game of basketball, but really became passionate about the opportunity to be the best he could be in all areas of his life, raising three beautiful children, twins that are 9, and 7-year-old daughter, right?  So, it was all areas of life.  It was about bAlan Stein Jr.ce.  And he probably didn’t know that I was gonna mention this in introducing him, but that’s one of the reason why I think we get along so well, is because it’s not just, hey, look at these great stages I was able to stand on, or the hardwood; it’s the bAlan Stein Jr.ce that he has in his life.  It’s slowing down.  It’s the concept of being where your feet are, and then now taking that into the corporate world.

He is one of the most sought after speakers now, which I’ve got to make a comment about that, because it’s unfair.  I’ve been pounding away at this for almost 14 years, and he’s just going like through the roof.  But he came out with a book called Raise Your Game.  A lot of you have seen — I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year.  It was one of the first books of the year that I read, because you sent me a copy, and I absolutely loved it.  I actually recommended it to Alabama Football, and Alan Stein Jr. ended up sending it to the Alabama Football Program coaching staff, so it is making its way around the world.  And as you’ll see, when you pick up the book, right — I’m not gonna talk a lot about the book.  We’re gonna talk about his burn.  But definitely pick it up, because one of the things that is so consistent in the conversations Alan Stein Jr. and I have, it’s daily disciplines, it’s habits, it’s the little things that’ll cause you to be successful.

And I couldn’t be any more excited to have you on.  We’ve been talking about doing something like this in person.  We’ve had some in person interactions, but to do this and really get to spend this much time together is awesome.  And what I would really love to hear is from a standpoint of when you hear me say the burn, and all these episodes that we’ve now done hearing people’s underlying white-hot reason why they do things, which then lights that purpose and why on fire.

Alan Stein Jr.: For sure.

Ben Newman: Here’s what I want people to hear, how in the world do you go so fast from being one of the top performance coaches the world, and say, you know what, I want to get into the corporate space?  What is that burn that caused you to be just intentional in the daily habits to do this corporately as you did when you were in the sports world?

Alan Stein Jr.: Well, as you know, these things have such high utility, so I can take everything that I learned through the game of basketball and everything that it took to get to the top of basketball, from a training standpoint, and then apply that to the corporate speaking.  And, of course, with the learning curve, you know, it took me three times as long to build my basketball business, because I had to learn a lot of things the hard way.  And thankfully, I’ve been very blessed that even though I make tons of mistakes, I don’t often make them twice, so I was able to learn from a lot of the mistakes I made in basketball training and not step on those landmines in the corporate world.

And then, of course, you know, people like yourself that have knocked down doors, and created opportunities, and mentored, and helped show me the way.  You know, I don’t think any of us get anywhere by ourselves.  So, your learning curve of what it took in 14 years, you’ve been kind enough to pay that forward and share some things with me that, again, allowed, me to sidestep some pitfalls, which will then make it happen quicker.  And like yourself, now I’m a big believer in paying that forward to others.  So, whether it’s a young and up and coming strength and conditioning coach or someone that also wants to be a corporate speaker, you know, I do my best to go out of my way to share things with them, so that they can get there even faster than I have.  And I know you’re big into quotes, into sayings, and —

Ben Newman: Yeah.

Alan Stein Jr.: — one that I think epitomizes the coaching world is that a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.  And it’s not a cutthroat industry, you know?  You lighting my candle doesn’t take anything away from yours.  In fact, I think it makes yours shine brighter when you help someone like myself, and then I go and do the same thing for others.  So, that part’s been — it’s been fun, and it’s kind of like a Rubik’s cube to figure out.  All right, what lessons can I pull from the game of basketball and how can I apply them to my life now?  And the reason I love it is I try to see how those apply in business, in speaking, in parenting, in social media.  I mean, any areas of my life that I want to have high performance, I can draw on these lessons from people that I’ve learned.

Ben Newman: So, I love the fact that you took action, right, in order to get the results that you’re getting.  And I say this very humbly, but, you know, I have people who reach out, right, and they’ll email some questions and things like that.  And I’ll always give —  I’ll always respond —

Alan Stein Jr.: I know you do.

Ben Newman: — whether it’s a phone call or whether it’s an email, but what I love about — I mean, you just went after it and got it.  And I know that, you know, Jon Gordon has been there for you and so many individuals, and I think that’s so unique that there’s so many people who have a burn and a, gosh, I want to go make something happen, but then they get scared.  There’s the fears, the doubts, the uncertainties, past pain, right, past rejection.

Alan Stein Jr.: Of course.

Ben Newman: So, they have this big dream, but then they’re held back.  So, I know that there’s fears, doubts, and uncertainties.  You make a leap from a wildly —

Alan Stein Jr.: Of course.

Ben Newman: — successful to now.  How often have you had to connect to that burn, and how do you really silence those fears, and doubts, and uncertainties, ‘cause it’s unique?  I mean, ‘cause you didn’t take a little bit of action, you’ve taken massive action.

Alan Stein Jr.: It was a massive leap, and, you know, one of the things I think that made it easier was, you know, I was a commission based self-employed business owner in the basketball space, and so then all I was doing was replicating that on the speaking space.  I think it would have been a much harder leap had I worked a corporate job for 20 years and a salary working from 9 to 5, and then going out on my own.  I probably would have been much more fearful then.  But I didn’t really see it as anything other than just changing my audience.  Instead of being in a gym talking to players and coaches, now I’ll just be in board rooms and on stages talking to people in suits.  So, I didn’t look at it as that big of a difference.

I also believe there’s a difference in fear and being scared.  I actually think fear keeps us sharp.  Being scared is what paralyzes us.  So, I do my best not to ever let fear creep over into just being scared and paralyzed, but knowing that that fear is healthy.  You know, if — right now, in your beautiful backyard, if I were to set up a tightrope from this gazebo to your house and asked you to walk across it, the fear is what’s gonna keep you on the tightrope, because that’s what’s gonna keep you dialed in and focused.  If you weren’t of falling and you just went willy-nilly across that tightrope, you’d fall off and probably to your demise.  But the fear is what keeps you dialed in and keeps you sharp.  And even now with speaking engagements, I don’t use the word fear, but I get a very healthy excitement.  I still get the butterflies before every speaking engagement, and I’m really prepared for those. This isn’t a fear of they’re not gonna like me or fear of I’m not prepared; it’s I want to do the best I can to serve these people, and I want this to hit the mark.  And I still get those butterflies.  So, I try to find ways to use these fears and insecurities, which I’m riddled with just like everyone else, and have the awareness to know, how can I use those to still move forward?  And thankfully, things are lining up, but, you know, experience is what helps us get over those things, and the only way you get experience is by cutting through the fear and actually giving these things a try.

And know that all this stuff and you and I talk about, one of the things I mention all the time is there’s a difference between basic and easy.  Most of the things that we tell folks are very basic and principle, but they’re not easy to do.  I mean, I know what your morning routine is, how early you get up, and how you spend the first portion of your day.  It’s very basic.  Like, my children could understand what you do every morning, but anyone that’s tried it will tell you that what you do every morning is not easy.

Ben Newman:             Right.

Alan Stein Jr.: ‘Cause if it was easy everyone else would be doing it.  So, I think it’s important for all of us to have the humility to acknowledge that the fundamentals will work if you’re willing to do them.  That’s why I’ve been so fascinated with everything you’ve done at Alabama.  You know, Coach Saban is one of the kings of mastering the fundamentals and basics and doing these rights every day, and all of the sudden it just adds up and, you know, you see your performance shoot through roof.

Ben Newman: Well, you know, Coach Saban always — and I appreciate you saying those things.  And Coach Saban always says, you know, the way you do one thing is the way you do everything.  And I think sometimes people think to raise your game, it’s some magic pill, like, Alan Stein Jr., I’m so glad you came from working with the highest performers ever in the world of basketball to now the corporate world, because you can give use those magic pills.

Alan Stein Jr.: Yeah.

Ben Newman: And it really is those daily disciplines and habits.  So, what I’d love for you to speak to when it comes to raising your game, for the person listening right now, who their — they know what the basic is, right, but they’re choosing to not do it every single day.

Alan Stein Jr.: And that’s the key word.

Ben Newman: So, how important is it for them to connect to that burn, that underlying fire inside of them?  ‘Cause if you know it, it’s one thing, but I believe that you have to understand what’s gonna cause you to do it.

Alan Stein Jr.: Absolutely.  And you have to connect the knowing and the doing.  That’s another thing.  I tell audiences quite humbly, I’m not gonna tell you anything today that you haven’t heard before or that you don’t know intuitively or intellectually.  However, I’m gonna say a lot of stuff that you’re probably not doing.  Just because you know, doesn’t mean that you do.  And that’s what’s called a performance gap, and that is a gap that all of us have in some area of our life, and the key to improving performance is closing that gap, doing the things that we know we’re supposed to do.  You know, like yourself, I’m an avid reader.  I devour podcasts like the burn.  I’m always trying to get new information.  But I’ll even say, using myself as an example, if I didn’t learn another thing for one calendar year, I didn’t input one more nugget in my head for one year, all I did was put into action everything I already know, oh my gosh, my performance would go through the roof.  And I probably have more narrow performance gaps than a lot of other people.  That’s how much all of us as human being leave on the table.  I mean, go through any silo of your life, whether it’s your marriage, whether it’s your children, whether it’s your business, whether it’s your health and fitness, whether it’s your finances, and I guarantee in any of those silos there are little things that you know you’re supposed to do and you just don’t do them.  And I don’t mean you personally.

Ben Newman: Right.

Alan Stein Jr.: I mean us as human beings.  And the key is being able to close those.  And once we start closing those and doing the things that we know we’re supposed to do, then our confidence starts to go up.  And as confidence starts to go up through demonstrated performance, now performance starts to raise.  And that’s where many people derive their self-value, and their self-worth, and their burn, is on how they perform in these areas of their life.  And, you know, I still want to continue to learn new stuff, but I have coaches tell me all the time, you know, I’m looking for a new tool for my toolbox.  I’m like, you’re not even using the tools you have.  Like, all you’re doing is lugging around —

Ben Newman: Right.

Alan Stein Jr.: — a heavier toolbox.  How many hammers do you need?

Ben Newman: Right.

Alan Stein Jr.: You need one and it’ll get the job done, so don’t be so in a hurry to find that new hammer when you’re not even using the one you’re doing.  And one other point, just because I know how close you are to the NFL with all of the guys you work with, inevitably, a team is gonna lose two or three games in a row in the NFL, and the coach will come on in the post game press conference and will say something to the effect of, on Monday, at practice, we’re gonna get back to the basics, which in football, of course, is blocking, and tackling, and throwing, and catching.  And I always laugh, not because I think I’m smarter than an NFL coach; those guys are geniuses.  I laugh because if their solution to the problem is to get back to the basics, then why did you ever leave them in the first place?  You know, that’s why the Nick Sabans, and the Coach K’s, and the Bill Belichick have had such consistent success, because they never leave the basics.

Ben Newman:             Obsessed with the details.

Alan Stein Jr.: A portion of everything they do is based on the fundamentals, and they block off a little bit of time every single day to work on those things, so they never leave them.  So, there’s no getting back to the fundamentals, because we preach the fundamentals, and as you said, the details every day.  And, to me, the key is being able to fall in love with that.  As Kobe once said to me, “Never get bored with the basics.”  So, no matter how good you get, you have to fall in love with the monotony and the routine of things that need to be done every day.  And as I’ve gotten older, I think I have a better appreciation of that.  When I was younger, like many people, I was always chasing the next secret, the next shiny object.  I was trying to figure out what’s a hack or a shortcut that I can raise my game, and I realize that there really aren’t any.

Ben Newman: Well, everything you’re saying, it’s the reason why we get along so well.

Alan Stein Jr.: Absolutely.

Ben Newman: It’s just — it’s that alignment of how we think and the action that we take.  But here’s how I would love to wrap this up for everybody.

Alan Stein Jr.: Sure.

Ben Newman: I really admired sitting, chopping it up this morning with you.

Alan Stein Jr.: That was so fun.

Ben Newman: Hearing you talk about your kids and how the decisions you make for taking this speaking engagement or that speaking — so much of that is in alignment with how important your kids are, which I know is a significant piece of your burn.

Alan Stein Jr.: Absolutely, a huge piece.

Ben Newman: So, wrap it up for us, your mindset on the importance of making decisions that are in alignment with the things that are the most important to you, because I think so many people think in order to have the success you’ve had in your life, well, you just — you don’t see your kids, there’s just —

Alan Stein Jr.: Right.

Ben Newman: You travel and it’s this great sacrifice, and you just — your kids won’t even know who you are.

Alan Stein Jr.: Right.

Ben Newman:             So, how do you keep yourself so bAlan Stein Jr.ced and present with what’s most important to you, which is those three kids?

Alan Stein Jr.: I have kind of this altruistic vision of the man I want to become, who I want to be, and what’s what type of father do I want to be, what type of business owner, what type of speaker, and I’ve kind of got this vision of who I want to be.  And then, every single decision I make, including what I chose to eat for breakfast this morning, is I want to make decisions that are in alignment to get me closer to being that man, and say, okay, well, do I want to be the type of guy that eats junk food?  I don’t.  I want to be the type of guy that makes healthy, nutritious decisions, because I want to take care of my body.  Now, that doesn’t mean I’m perfect, and it doesn’t mean I won’t choose to eat a burger and fries or some pizza, but I try to make most of my decisions in alignment with that.  And a big portion of that is, is this decision I’m about to make, does this take me closer to being the father I want to be, or does this take me further away from being the father I want to be?  And I’m not saying there’s a right answer.

Ben Newman: Right.

Alan Stein Jr.: And I’m not saying that — what other people choose, I don’t have an ounce of judgment for, but I find that if most decisions that I make in a given day are taking me closer to being the person that I would like to be eventually, then it’s only a matter of time until I become that person.  And, of course, I’ll never actually be that person, because no matter who I am, I’m gonna always strive to be a little bit better.  No matter how good of a father I am, I’m gonna want to be an even better father for my children.  No matter how good of a speaker, I’m gonna want to be an even better speaker.  But I find that life gets really simple when you break things down.  And, of course, you know, I don’t have the relationship that you have with him, but I’ve read and watched a lot of what Coach Saban does, and, you know, he’s the one that says it takes what it takes.  Like, if you want to be a great football player — actually, you don’t have very many decisions to make; you only have a couple.

Ben Newman: That’s right.

Alan Stein Jr.: Now, if you want to be a great football player, you don’t have the decision of whether or not to go out on Friday night, because the decision is made for you.  You don’t, because you need to prepare to play on Saturday.  And I try to view my life in a very similar capacity.  So, when it comes to my children, I do — I make decisions that are based not just on the short term, but also in the long term.  And, you know, my kids know that I love what I do for a living, and because of that, there will be times that I miss a soccer game or a dance recital, because I’m doing something that fills my bucket, I’m doing something that gives me the burn, but then I’m gonna do those things sparingly, because I want to be present and be around them.  And the key is just being open and honest and having a connection with them.  You know, Jack, I’m gonna miss your basketball game this weekend, but it’s because I have an opportunity to go pour into some people that I need be.  But I’ll be at every other game if I can.  And having that type of connection and honesty, I think is vital.  And, you know, as a father, I think one of the best gifts I can give my children is to model for them that I have a strong burn for something that I’m very passionate about, and that that’s one of my sincerest hopes for them, is that they find something they love to do as much as I found what I love to do when they’re older.  And I think modeling is the key to doing that.

Ben Newman: Well, I think people get so excited to hear from a guy like you that’s had the experiences that you’ve had, and now what you’re doing in the corporate world, but I have intentionally paid very close attention to how often you do talk about those kids.

Alan Stein Jr.: Thank you.

Ben Newman: And I pay attention to the posts about your kids.  And those are the ones that move me the most, and I just want you to know how much I appreciate our relationship.  And this is definitely iron sharpens iron.

Alan Stein Jr.: Absolutely.

Ben Newman: I think earlier — I want to clear that up, earlier you tried to make it — no, you —

Alan Stein Jr.: I love it.

Ben Newman: You’re one of those guys who pushes and drives me, because I love when there’s somebody who is hungry to go and make a difference.

Alan Stein Jr.: For sure.

Ben Newman:             And when you surround yourself with people who are hungry to go pour into others, it makes that fire that much brighter for me as well, so —

Alan Stein Jr.: Absolutely.

Ben Newman: — that candle lighting is going on all around.

Alan Stein Jr.: It most certainly is.

Ben Newman: And one challenge for you, the feedback I’ve heard from this book and how much I love the book, I can’t wait for book number two.

Alan Stein Jr.: Absolutely.  It’s already in the works, yeah.

Ben Newman: So, thanks for coming on The Burn.  I appreciate you, brother.

Alan Stein Jr.: Thank you.

Ben Newman: And I really, really appreciate how you approach life, and you’re helping people raise their game, and you’re making a big difference.

Alan Stein Jr.: Likewise.  Thanks, Ben Newman.

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