George Mumford, Mindfulness Coach to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, on Awareness, Compassionate Action, the Dizziness of Freedom, and More (#509) | The Tim Ferriss Show

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Key Takeaways

  • People think the practice of mindfulness is just about sitting still
    • A big part of it is cultivating wisdom and integrity
    • It is also about developing a sense of compassion for yourself and others
  • “Spiritual truth is spiritual truth, whether it comes from the Bible or the Quran or the Kabbalah” George Mumford
  • George presented mindfulness to the Bulls as training to become a Spiritual Warrior
  • “Sometimes you gotta move your way into stillness” George Mumford
    • Some people don’t like standing still, they can start with walking meditation, yoga, or tai-chi
  • You got where you are with your current habits
    • To continue evolving beyond where you are you need to develop new habits and let go of old ones
    • When you change a habit you experience uncertainty or discomfort
    • If you’re looking to grow you have to be willing to be uncomfortable
  • “That which hinders your task is your task” Proverb
    • Instead of fighting distractions in meditation, turn towards them
  • Incremental improvement is great, but it can become a trap
    • You just look for minor improvements instead of looking to break out
    • To have a breakthrough, you need a big, ambitious vision

Key Books Mentioned

Intro

  • George Mumford (@gtmumford) is a world-recognized mindfulness teacher and coach. He worked with countless professional athletes, including Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant
  • Host: Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)
  • In this chat, George Mumford shares his story of becoming the mindfulness coach for some of the most successful NBA teams, his approach to meditation, and much more on personal and spiritual growth

George’s Personal Turnaround

  • Starting with pain medications as a basketball player, George gradually became addicted to heroin and alcohol
    • After hitting rock-bottom, he realized he couldn’t continue with his addiction
  • Once out of the Detox program, he joined an experimental program that introduced him to mindfulness and body-mind practices (yoga, tai-chi)

How George Brought Mindfulness to the NBA

  • Phil Jackson and George were both leading different programs helping prisoners
    • Phil brought George to the Bulls in 1993 to help the team deal with the “stress of success”
  • “The context is more important than the content” George Mumford
    • George’s experience teaching mindfulness in a variety of context was crucial to help his teachings get accepted by the team
  • People think the practice of mindfulness is just about sitting still
    • A big part of it is cultivating wisdom and integrity
    • It is also about developing a sense of compassion for yourself and others
  • George presented mindfulness to the Bulls as training to become a Spiritual Warrior
    • A way to get in the zone more easily
  • Helping players deal with the distractions of fame
    • Becoming fully present, you understand how your actions and thoughts affect your energy and mood
      • Learning to not get affected by media and external circumstances
  • Creating rituals to get in the zone
    • There’s no such thing as multitasking
    • When you’re preparing for the game you shouldn’t get distracted by other activities
  • You got where you are with your current habits
    • To continue evolving beyond where you are you need to develop new habits and let go of old ones

The Importance of Meeting People Where They Are

  • How did George approach so many different and strong personalities?
    • Many people had tried to get Kobe to meditate but failed
      • Working with George, meditation became a key component of Kobe’s preparation
    • Michael Jordan, Kobe, and Shaq all agreed on the effectiveness of George’s teachings
  • George lets the wisdom of mindfulness dictates what he does
  • He spent lots of time just observing players
    • To better understand them
      • Some people are auditory, some visual, and some kinesthetic
    • To find the best moment to approach them
  • That way, he could figure out how to connect with them and what approach made sense
  • Some people don’t like standing still, they can start with walking meditation or tai-chi
    • “Sometimes you gotta move your way into stillness” George Mumford
  • Great spiritual teachers all spoke in parables, using the language of the person they are talking to

The Dizziness of Freedom

  • The Dizziness of Freedom is an idea by philosopher Søren Kierkegaard
    • If one side of the coin is freedom, the other is anxiety or uncertainty
    • Freedom involves more choices, thus uncertainty
      • We have to embrace uncertainty, it’s part of life
  • When you change a habit you experience uncertainty or discomfort
    • If you’re looking to grow you have to be willing to be uncomfortable
  • When you see that going through discomfort brings growth, peace, and confidence you are not scared of it anymore
    • You get comfortable with being uncomfortable
    • You start seeing difficulties as challenges that make you grow

Breakthrough vs. the Improvement Trap

  • Incremental improvement is great, but it can become a trap
    • You may start to just seek minor improvements instead of looking to break out
  • A breakthrough is a paradigm shift that changes you completely
  • The main difference between the two is your vision
    • The improvement trap keeps you playing small 
      • It keeps you comfortable
    • To have a breakthrough, you need a big, ambitious vision

How The Four A’s Can Help in Meditation

  • “That which hinders your task is your task” Proverb
    • Instead of fighting distractions in meditation, turn towards them
  • Awareness (mindfulness)
    • Being aware of the present moment
    • E.g. You notice a song is stuck in you’re mind
  • Acceptance
    • Whatever happens, can we just say Yes to it? Accept it?
      • Once you accept it, you can do something about it
    • E.g. You accept that the song is there, you don’t fight it
  • (Compassionate) Action
    • Can I make the song the object of my attention?
    • What happens when I do that?
  • Assessment
    • What worked, what didn’t? What can I change next time?
    • Then go back to awareness

George’s Book Recommendations

Additional Notes

  • “There’s no meaning in the Universe other than what you give it” George Mumford
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Notes By Giorgio Parlato

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