Full Interview with Drew Hanlen and Ben Newman
Ben Newman: Welcome back to another episode of The BURN. I know I almost say this every single time because I enjoy this so much, and it’s an incredible opportunity for me to spend time with individuals that have meant so much in my life, influenced me in my life, but today is incredibly special, and there’s a couple reasons why.
Before we get there, I want to start with a question. Have you been challenging yourself to think big enough? Have you been connecting enough to your BURN which will lead to the action that’s going to cause you to have your dreams come true in your life?
Now, as I share some of the things about Drew, you’re going to realize that Drew Drew Hanlen is one of the biggest thinkers I’ve ever been around. I know this is going to make him uncomfortable, because he’s a humble dude, but I’m just going to go here and talk about Drew for a little bit. He’s one of the biggest thinkers that I’ve ever been around. One of the things that’s really cool about this episode, we wouldn’t be having this episode, filming it right now, being with you right now if it wasn’t for Drew.
You see, one of the things I’ve always believed is surround yourself with people who help you think bigger and help cause you to take action. The BURN was actually created in April, sitting in a hotel lobby in L.A. when I went to go see my guy Drew. We were sitting there just chatting, and we were talking about his show, “The Unseen Hours” — which if you haven’t checked it out, you better go check out “The Unseen Hours” — and “The Unseen Hours” has just been an incredible way for him to go behind the scenes — and we’re going to talk about that mentality later — with the players that he works with in the NBA as one of the top, if not the top, NBA skills trainer in the world today and maybe ever.
So, I want you guys to think about something. Drew shares with me an opportunity to create a series called The BURN. Now, I was talking about The BURN, because what if that turned into a series? He kind of challenged me. I had to choose to take action. So, I want you to think about an area in your life where maybe you’ve been pushed, maybe you’ve been challenged, maybe he’s going to cause you to think a little bit bigger, and I want you to think about it, and I want you to take action. That’s the challenge. Are you willing to take action on maybe something you hear right now?
Now, the reason why I know this may happen, and why I say Drew’s one of the biggest thinkers that I’ve ever been around, is because Drew just turned 30. Now, I know I don’t do tons and tons of resume stuff, but it’s the story that inspires me. At 17 years old, Webster Groves High School here in St. Louis, Missouri, Drew started training individuals in the game of basketball, actually wrote his first basketball skills training book that he sold out of his trunk at 17 years old.
He then goes on, after winning a state championship at Webster Groves, goes to Belmont University. An improbable run, believing in his teammates, him taking all of his expertise, his hard work ethic, his belief, doing the little things that make a difference — stopped eating sugar when he was 10 years old, even birthday cake, no alcohol — see, all the details that some people are unwilling to do it. Goes to Belmont, NCAA tournament run.
Check this out. You talk about vision and your belief system, he had players on his team saying, “Drew, why do you spend this time training people for basketball? What are you doing?” And Drew would look at his teammates and say, “I’m going to be the top skills trainer in the world one day. I’ll be training all the top NBA players.” Fast forward to today, where we sit right now, there’ll probably be four All-Stars from the individuals that he coaches just this year, 25 of the top 50 players on the roster of individuals that Drew works with.
So, when I say, “an opportunity to think big”, I think Drew is going to help you stretch your thinking. Seventeen years old, basketball training book, now recognized as the top NBA skills trainer in the world, from the courses to traveling the world to speak. He’s getting ready to go on a three-month tour all over the world to do basketball training and speaking, and now recognized as one of the top corporate speakers in the world because his methodology in sports when applied to business is now driving big-time results in the business world.
So, I know that’s uncomfortable for you because you’re a humble dude, and if I didn’t say that stuff, you’re not going to say it about yourself. But, my friend Drew Drew Hanlen, such an influence you’ve had on my life. Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us and to talk about your BURN.
Drew Hanlen: Yeah, no doubt. It’s fun. Like you already mentioned, how it all started, it was cool for me, but like you, I like to always challenge people. My big thing is, if I can impact somebody to do something great in their lives, then it’s a win in my life as well, and I think that it’s something that was instilled in me. My grandma was one of those people that dedicated her whole life to giving back to others, primarily in Haiti, and I saw her charitable work.
For me it was like, okay, obviously there’s a ton of people out there that really need other people to really help them and inspire them and uplift them, but there’s also so many people that don’t necessarily maybe need it, but they want that help to get to the next level in their personal lives, whether it’s on the basketball court, in the classroom, in the business world, or just somebody that needs a helping hand to live a happier life or a better version of what they’re currently doing.
So, I love talking always with you, just because you uplift so many other people, and that’s something that we have in common is we both love to not better people, but help them better themselves. I think that’s the gift that’s truly special is not giving somebody a fish, teaching them how to fish, but taking that to the next level of actually impacting someone’s lives and changing someone’s lives, planting seeds where they get to be the one that actually flowers and tends to them, and then they reap the benefit when it comes time to enjoy that flower that they’ve taken care of.
Ben Newman: So, I think this is really interesting hearing this part from you, because we’ve never talked about your grandma before. So, is that where the work ethic started? And then, I know your father has had one of the coolest meat companies. You talk about people who have survived when bigger companies have come in; your father’s reputation here in St. Louis in second to none, and your mother’s work ethic and her being an athlete and all these things, so you’ve had all these examples.
But then what I love is you challenge me, but there’s a way you go about doing it where you’re almost looking like, “How am I not going to take action when he’s doing this?” So, was it that example that fueled the BURN in you to do it for yourself, but then to enable you to want to go coach others?
Drew Hanlen: Yeah, I think so. I think that if you look at how I was raised, you start with my grandma. My grandma used to always say, “You’ll never have everything you want, but you’ll always have more than you need.” What that meant was, hey, listen, there’s always things that you’re going to want. You’re going to want that better car. You’re going to want a bigger house. You’re going to want better clothes, etc., but just know that while you’re seeking those things and while you’re trying to obtain those things, you always have more than you need. You have more clothes than you need. You have a better car than you really need, because you really need to get Point A to Point B. You have a house that’s sheltering you. That’s all you really need. You don’t need the extra rooms, the extra whatever. So, when you live a life where you’re counting your blessings instead of stressing over the things that you don’t have, that changes your mentality to a happy state.
Then, you look at the things that I was around. So, my dad runs Drew Hanlen’s Meat Shop, which his grandfather started — my great-grandpa — and my dad never intended to do that. He intended to actually be a veterinarian. When my great grandpa passed away, my dad went to help his dad, my grandpa, out, so that’s where I get the loyalty from, the hard work, the day to day. The company’s built on handshakes. There’s no such thing as contractual obligations. It’s, “I looked you in your eyes and we shook hands, and you said you were going to do something, and I said I was going to do something.” You look at how I am with my clients. It’s all based on relationships and trust and loyalty, and I get that directly from my dad.
And then from my mom, she was there day to day with us. She was a stay-at-home mom, but was always doing little side gigs all the time. Now, she does really, really well on eBay. She was just making us do lemonade stands, and we were cutting grass, and we were shoveling snow, and if we wanted candy from Ben Franklin Candy Store back in the day, we had to go out and do something. So, she was the one that instilled, if you want something, you gotta understand what the process is to get it, and then it’s up to you to do that process if you really want that.
So, for all of us, my sisters and I, we all wanted scholarships, and so she said, “Hey, there’s two ways to go about that, academic scholarship or athletic scholarship. Now, you can pursue both, because obviously they help if you’re a good athlete if you’re also good academically.” That’s why we were waking up at 5:59 a.m. and working, and it was never something that they forced us to do anything. It was never my dad saying, “Listen, you have to do this,” or my mom saying, “You have to do this,” it was more so of, “Hey, do you really want what you’re saying that you want?”
There might be days when my alarm didn’t go off at 4:59, and my mom would walk in there at 5:05 a.m. and say, “Hey, do you want to be the best in the area, or are you cool with sleeping in today?” My alarm, ever since I was little, ever since iPhone came out, has always read, “Sleep or success — you choose.” And when you wake up and you see that ‘sleep versus success, you choose’, it’s hard to press the snooze button. You know what I mean? I’m not going to choose the sleep over success.
So, I think there are a ton of influences around me, but I also think that a lot of people have challenged me or have just asked me, “What do you really want?” From there, it’s an easy answer of what you want, but then the harder part is, okay, now, what is it going to take to get what you want, and are you willing to do everything that it takes. Fortunately for me, I’ve been blessed to have a bunch of people in my life that have challenged me and supported me in pushing me and pulling me and tugging me when I needed those extra nudges to think bigger, do more, and achieve the ultimate happiness that I was after.
Ben Newman: When you talk about the work, I know your mindset. People have heard so many quotes, but you literally say it better than I think I’ve ever heard, and it’s right there on your T-shirt, but you came up with the philosophy of the ‘unseen hours’. People talk about the work that’s done when nobody’s watching, but you’ve really developed that and helped instill that in all these NBA players, and you did it yourself. So, tell us a little bit about your mindset of attention to detail, but attention to detail within those unseen hours.
Drew Hanlen: Yeah, so it’s kind of actually random, but it started when I was in eighth grade. I got my first-ever “recruiting letter”. The reason I put the quotations around it is because in eighth grade, they send recruiting letters to everyone that they think could possibly have a chance. So, I got a letter from Jim Les, who was at Bradley University. They had actually done a Sweet Sixteen run, so they were getting some buzz. Basically, any camper that had attended an elite camp got the letter, but at the time, you didn’t care; you felt special. So, I opened up the letter, and the image of it had a quote on it that said, “The image of a champion is someone bent over dripping in sweat at the point of exhaustion when no one is watching.” I thought that was awesome. That is the image of a champion, someone that is literally putting in countless hours of work when no one’s watching, dripping in sweat. They don’t get credit for it, but when the lights are on and when the stands are filled, everyone will see the work that they’re putting in. I hung that over my bed when I was in eighth grade.
Going through shooting a thousand shots every morning, if I didn’t make 850 out of 1000 three’s, I’d redo it at night. I still practiced after school with my team. I still went to the gym to work on my other skills after practice. I was obsessed with getting better, but for me it was my only chance. I was undersized. I was an average athlete. So, I had to outwork everyone else that maybe was born with more capabilities, but what they weren’t born with was that drive and intensity and passion and commitment that I was.
So, I think that a lot of people, when they’re born with disadvantages, they frown on those disadvantages. They look at those as excuses. Instead of saying, “Aw, man, I’m not very tall,” I said, “You know what, I’m quicker than that tall guy.” Instead of saying, “You know what, I’m not as athletic,” “You know what, I was blessed with harder work ethic, so I can outwork that guy, so eventually I can be just as good of an athlete.” I think that so many times people look at what they don’t have instead of focusing on “What is my advantage? What do I have, and what are my capabilities?”, and I think that the comparison game is where a lot of people lose it.
So, now we go back to the ‘unseen hours quote’, so, “The image of a champion is someone bent over dripping in sweat…” So, a lot of people don’t know how I started my training career. What happened was, I wanted a new car. My car that I had at the time had maybe 180,000 miles on it, had a huge dent in the side, but I was so obsessed with it because it got me from my house to the gym, and that’s all I needed to do was Point A to Point B. But the problem is, we ran into it — my birthday’s September 28th — we didn’t know in the winter when it snowed, it wasn’t going to start, so we had to jump start it anytime it got too cold, or it snowed the night before or maybe even rained, so I needed a new car.
So, I looked for a job, and referees are paid 18 dollars an hour, so I was like, I want 18 dollars an hour, because 18 dollars an hour as a high school kid is like a million dollars. That’s like a million-dollar salary. So, I went to the facility, I said, “Hey, I’d love to talk to Matt Brobeck,” who was in charge of the facility. They said, “He’s not in right now.” I said, “Okay, that’s totally fine.” They gave me his card. I email him, I call him, I leave him a voicemail, and I still didn’t get a response.
So, I went back up to the facility, I said, “Hey, listen, I emailed him, I called him, still haven’t heard from him,” and she said, “Listen, I don’t think he’s in his office. I think he just took a lunch break, but you can go check if he’s in his office downstairs.” I walked downstairs, knock on the door, don’t get a response. Me being 16, didn’t really know business etiquette, so I open up his door, check if he’s there. He’s not there. I see a Post-It note, so sure enough, I take one of his Post-It notes and said, “Hey, listen, I know you got my messages. Call me.” Sure enough, Matt finally calls me maybe a half hour later, 15 minutes later, and says, “Hey, listen, why do you want this job so bad?” I explained the car, and he said, “Let’s find some time to meet sometime this week.” I said, “I know you’re at your office right now. I’ll see you soon.” So, I got in my car; luckily, it started at that time.
I got to the facility and I sat down, and I started talking to him, and I explained what my situation was. He said, “Why do you want to be a referee so bad?” again, and I said, “I’ve already told you; I need a new car. Eighteen bucks an hour.” He asked me what credentials I had for a referee. I said none. He said, “Have you taken any courses?” I said no, and he said, “No experience?” “None.” He said, “You have to have experience.” I said, “Listen, I promise you I can do a better job than the refs that are blowing calls during my game.” He said, “I understand, but that’s not good enough. You actually have to have some kind of things to back you up before I can hire you.”
He said, “But, listen, my son doesn’t really pay attention to me. He’s at that age where he would rather listen to somebody else. Why don’t you coach my son’s basketball team?” and I was kind of like, “Okay, that doesn’t really help me out.” He’s like, “I’ll give you 18 bucks an hour,” and so I was like, “Boom.” I retired from being a referee before I ever started, and I was a coach.
When I was coaching them, I cared about the long-term success of those kids that were on the sixth-grade team. I was like, who cares if we win the league at sixth grade? I want to prepare these players so they have a foundation that’ll help them improve, so that eventually if they want to be high school players, or if they want to be college players or professional players, they at least have the foundation so that they can easily grow. So, instead of working on jacking threes, let’s work on getting good mechanics that work for their age, where they’re not physically as strong, so that eventually when they do add strength to their game, they can improve. Let’s work on ‘we can’ development so they don’t have glaring weaknesses so that they have vulnerabilities when they’re out there on the court later in life, etc. We worked on spacing, because coaches love players that know how to play the game, worked on decision making so they could make the proper reads, etc.
Part of the deal with the facility was if I coached, I also got to work out at that facility. So, there were three courts. Court 1 and Court 2 one day, they had a tournament going on, and I was on Court 3, and sure enough I was working my butt off, hands on my knees, dripping in sweat, and I had a parent come over, George Baker. He put his arm around me. He scared me. I literally was kind of shook up. He said, “Listen, I’ve never seen somebody work so hard. Is there any way that I can pay you to work on my son who doesn’t get it? He doesn’t work hard. I want him to see what real hard work is. Is there any way I could pay you 20 bucks to work on my son?” I said, “Boom, I’m a trainer,” a two-dollar pay raise. I was a businessman, you know.
But I fell in love with the process of not only helping the players, but helping them as people, and it is amazing how many times when I started working out players, their parents would say, “Hey, listen, we love what you’re doing for our son as a basketball player, but more importantly we love what you’re instilling in him as a young man.” So, I found myself just obsessed with being able to help people through basketball. I combined two things I love. I love helping people. I love basketball. I put those things together.
The ‘unseen hours’ to me was all about helping players master the work that they do behind the scenes when no one’s watching, where they’re never going to get credit for it, but helping them understand that those hours are going to be seen, and they’re going to get credit, and they’re going to get advances. There’s so many things that come out of those unseen hours, but they have to understand they have to master those unseen hours if they want to take control of their life and take control of where they’re headed, so that’s all it’s been about.
Ben Newman: I know in the corporate world, when you go and do business speaking engagements, it’s really the same thing. It’s the details. We all understand what we need to do, but oftentimes it’s not consistently showing up and driving those behaviors, and it’s the same in the business world. It’s not the work when people see you; it’s the little things in learning what’s going to make you great but following through with the activities when nobody’s watching.
Now, here’s what’s really interesting, and I’d love to finish here, because relationships mean so much to me, and I know relationships mean so much to you. You basically just explained that you planted the seeds to coach these little kids, and you believed in giving them all the tools that they needed in life and in basketball.
When I look at the relationships you’ve built, everybody would want, “Oh, I’d love to work with these NBA stars. Oh, my gosh, that would be amazing!” But what I think is most amazing is the relationships you have with these guys, and it’s almost like every time I hear stories or we talk, you start with the relationship first rather than basketball-related things. They come to you for basketball, but the deep-rooted nature of the relationships.
The other thing I want you to speak to — because if you guys are listening — I know you see this in business, and I see it in business and sports. People think about money. They’re always, “When am I going to make the money? When am I going to make the money?” You are somebody who your whole life, you’ve lived relationships first, money takes care of itself. So, why the relationships? I know that’s part of your BURN. Why does that mean so much to you in a world where more people are focused on results and money?
Drew Hanlen: I think the biggest thing is it goes back to the quote that I started with, the “We are never going to have everything we want, but we’re always going to have more than we need.” I live in a place where I feel extremely blessed for everything that I’ve been given or earned, because some things were given to me, and some things I’ve earned. I think that’s where it starts from, but impacting people’s lives is something that is the greatest currency to me.
I’ve got multiple clients that have come out now to the public and said, “I was depressed. Now I’m happy.” I’ve had guys that have been on different medication, and now they’re living a life where they feel fulfilled and they’re in a state of happiness. Those are the biggest success stories. Sometimes people will see points per game going up. Sometimes people will see this, but I always say that I care more them as people than players, and I care more about transforming their lives than I do transforming their game.
Now, they go hand in hand. If you transform a player’s life, the basketball takes care of itself, because they’re already really special. But I think that the biggest thing that you can do as a teacher, as a trainer, as a coach, whether it’s basketball, business, or just life in general, is not give them the answers. Help them find the answers. Hold them accountable.
I always use the GPS analogy of these players tell me where they want to go, and my job is to be the GPS. I tell them the most efficient and effective route to get there. If they get off course, it’s my job to reroute them and get them back on course, but they have to drive themselves there.
In the business world, it’s funny, because a lot of times you win somebody over by using something as simple as a diet. So many people say, “Oh, I’ve got this new diet that I’m going to try,” and I say, “Listen, if you want to lose weight, what do you need to do? You need to eat better and work out. You know the answer, so stop buying the diet books. Stop buying these new fads. You gotta put in the work.”
The keys aren’t that. You gotta go into the details. What that means is the first thing you need to do is go into your kitchen and eliminate any snack that you could get your hands on. Take it out. Second thing is, go restock it with all the stuff you want. Now, what happens if your spouse or your loved one wants to keep some of that junky food? That’s great. Put a note card up there that has how many calories on it, so that when you go to reach over, you’re aware, and now you have to make two conscious decisions. One, you have to go to the cabinet and say, “I’m going to snack,” and now, two, you have to go over the hurdle of grabbing that 340-calorie little [snack]. If there’s two defenders in your life and you still go up, you just don’t really want to lose weight. But those are the little details that make a difference.
I think that most people don’t set themselves up for success because they don’t go into the details. They don’t go into the little nuances. I think that whether it’s basketball, business, life, if you have somebody that not only reverse engineers everything that’s going on in your life and rewires mentality, but you always talk about the daily disciplines, set up your daily disciplines to set yourself up for success. Then, you’re going to really have a chance to not only get to where you want to go but take you a little past it.
There’s so many times where players will come to me and say, “I want this,” and I’m very realistic to them and say, “Hey, listen, I can get you there, but not the way you want, not doing the things you’re currently doing, and probably not in the time you want, but if you give me an extra two or three years and if you do an extra X amount of workouts and put in X amount of hours on your own, I can get you even past there.” It’s fun when you’re honest, you’re transparent, you’re all in. There’s two ways I always say that you can make change: You can gradually change, or you can shock the fucking system. For me, I’m all about shocking the system, going all in and actually getting real results that transform lives.
Ben Newman: Now, do you guys see why this guy impacts the hell out of me? I appreciate you probably more than you know, and I’ve always been a big believer to have mentors that you’ll never catch and to have people that you have in your life despite age. There’s people that say, “Oh, 30 years old,” right? Dude, you’ve influenced the hell out of me. I just want it to publicly be known how much I appreciate you, and I appreciate that you challenge me to even start this, because without that challenge, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now. The influence has been great. The feedback’s been great.
I want everybody to go check out “The Unseen Hours”. You talk about millions of views on YouTube. Go follow Drew. I’m telling you guys, the inspiration, the thinking bigger, it’s amazing when you have guys like this in your life that they’re consistently there showing you a different path that you can go on. So, accept this challenge to do something differently, to take action, the little action, the little disciplines that Drew talks about.
We’re also going to have a double episode. We’re coming back for more with Drew, because some of the stories and the mindset that he’s learned from players, we want you to understand that, too, but there’s too much that goes on just with this guy that I knew would be an inspiration before we talk about any players. So, I appreciate you in helping me think bigger to continue to fight the good fight.
Drew Hanlen: Thank you, my man.