This 15-minute talk is from the 2017 Convocation at my alma mater. It’s a condensed version of longer talks I give, so gives you a good idea of what they are like, too. (Also, the intro gives you a good idea of just how crazy I am.)
Not the only talks I give—more like starting points. And if you’re here because you read something else I wrote and want me to come talk about it, I’m not a robot—I can talk about whatever you want.
Speaking is one of my favorite ways to tell stories.
People have told me that I need to focus more, that I could build a better business by choosing a niche, by aligning myself explicitly with a single category. Sports and the lessons it teaches us and the inspiration it provides. The mind and the brain and the mysteries I can help people unravel. Faith and religion and the ways it can help the world. On and on.
Yeah, I have some expertise in some of those categories because of the things I’ve done and books I’ve written and ideas I’m passionate about exploring.
I am curious in the extreme and never satisfied with whatever is offered to me at face value. Because of that, I’ve gone down deep and obsessive rabbit holes throughout my life. I am always learning. I can’t stop. It’s my addiction.
I’ve always hated labels, though. I’ve especially hated being labeled.
There’s only one category I’ll admit I fit into: stories.
That’s what I do. Whatever the event, whoever the audience, whatever your goals as the event coordinator, I build my talks around stories that are relevant to that event and that audience, and I put it into context of the greater story occurring in the world around it.
I’ve learned a ton the past decade as a journalist. Been through a lot of stories myself. Many of those are on my Stories page. Most of those stories are between 3,000 and 8,000 words long. All of them contain maybe—maybe—five to ten percent of my notebook, of what I learned while researching them.
For a number of reasons, I am a thinker—sometimes an overthinker—and my mind spends a lot of time trying to find takeaways from my assignments that all kinds of audiences would appreciate. Inspiration, lessons about leadership, plain old entertainment, much more—I’m always jotting down these sorts of things in my notebook.
I often share these things in my talks.
I’m a writer because I love great stories. I love how they transport us, thrill us, change us — and sometimes teach us. I love how they show us the world we know in a slightly (or not-so-slightly) different way. And, as you can see in that sample talk up there, I build all my talks around stories.
With every talk, my goal is to help people with my personal greatest passion: to better understand the world we live in, our own minds, and ourselves on the whole — and, ultimately, help all of us understand each other a little more.
All that said, over the past 12 years since I started college and obsessively set out to answer lots of questions I’ve had since childhood, I’ve become convinced that fear is the root of virtually all our problems.
I’ve also become obsessed with understanding it and learning how to beat it.
I know fear well. I thought I’d be a pro athlete and failed, mostly because of what I later learned were panic attacks and chronic anxiety. Why I developed that is a whole other story I’m not telling yet, but that’s given me a perspective on fear and on the world that has taught me a lot about how we can get out of our own way, and stop hurting ourselves — and each other — as we try to build the careers, families, and lives we really want.
I gave baseball a run in college, gave it my all (I don’t really know how to do half-measures), and I failed in fantastic fashion.
That story — you can read it here — became the basis for Head in the Game, and forms the basis for many of my talks.
At 30, my travels have criss-crossed the country many times. I’ve spent countless hours and had long conversations with some of the world’s greatest athletes and coaches and, beyond sports, generally most interesting, hilarious, thoughtful, inspiring people.
Four years ago I was 26 and married and personally, I wasn’t in a great place—and then I learned my wife was pregnant. I set out to learn as much as I could about the mind, because mine felt kind of broken, and I basically worried a ton about my family being doomed by it.
In my research for Head in the Game, I went on a global quest — I’m an extreme person — and tried basically everything short of psychedelic drugs to make my mind better. I had my brain scanned, trained in various meditation practices, learned shocking things about how religion affects our brains, used technology that sent electricity coursing through my skull, learned masterful breathing techniques from sports scientists who have coached Olympic gold medalists, spent hours floating in sensory deprivation chambers — and may or may not have ingested legally questionable substances.
I wanted to understand what the world’s greatest athletes were doing because I hoped it could help me understand my own mind and brain.
I found more than I could have possibly imagined when I began.
It all coalesces into a single story not only about a revolution driving athletes into a new frontier of training, but a story about a revolution for all of us.