Michael Phelps and Grant Hackett — Two Legends on Competing and Overcoming Adversity | The Tim Ferriss Show

Intro

  • Michael Phelps (T:@MichaelPhelps IG:@m_phelps00) is an American swimmer widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time and is the most successful Olympian ever with 28 medals 
  • Grant Hackett (IG:@grant_hackett) is an Australian swimmer who captained the Australian Olympic swimming team and is the CEO of Generation Life, an Australia-based investment firm
  • Host: Tim Ferris (T:@tferriss IG:@timferriss)

Key Takeways

  • “We would train anywhere from five to seven hours a day, six days a week. I know Michael would do seven days a week. I think he trained like 530, 540 days straight into Beijing.” – Grant Hackett
    • “You have to be doing it better, farther, harder than the guy on the other side of the world” 
    • I treated my body like I was a Ferrari. I treated my body like I’m a high-performance race car because I’m asking it to do so many things. So I was sleeping probably eight to 10 hours a night with a two-hour nap during the day. I was eating eight to 10,000 calories a day. I used to have massages.” – Michael Phelps
  • “For me to be able to do everything I need to do, from playing golf, having enough energy with the kids, and doing everything I need to do personally, I have to recover.” – Michael Phelps
    • “I am stretching probably 45 minutes a day. I’m probably ice tubing once, maybe twice a week. I go to an acupuncturist twice a week. I think LeBron said something about it earlier in the year. He spends a million dollars a year on recovery. And honestly, that just makes sense to me.”
  • “You’re not alone. That’s the one thing I truly, truly want to repeat. You’ll hear me say it a lot of times in this podcast. But you are definitely not alone with your thoughts, your emotions.” Michael Phelps
    • “If you are afraid or you’re scared or nervous, reach out to somebody for help, a trained therapist or a trained doctor. This is just a very uncertain time for everybody in the world.”
  • “If you have a hyper-focus on anything in life, by definition you have to neglect other things. You only have so much attention to slice and dice.” – Tim Ferris
    • Michael focused so much on being the best swimmer in the world early on that he jokes he learned how to communicate at age 30
  • The constant comparison to others that is competition and modern society can blind you to your inner values and worth
    • When one takes the time to truly introspect, sometimes you see that your beliefs and behaviors are a result of others and not your own values 

Book Recommendations

Preparation

  • “I think a lot of it really is just God-given feel and ability. For me, I’m somebody who is really a ‘feel’ swimmer and I was taught the process of it.” – Michael Phelps
    • “I was taught to swim as efficiently as I possibly could at all times. So I think that’s really what allowed me to be able to do the repeats and feel the exact times with the stroke counts or whatever we were trying to do.”
    • “The feel — I think that’s something that only one, two, three, four percent of people, five percent of people in the top of all sports probably really have any idea what we’re talking about”
  • Competition, the process of becoming better, is an end in and of itself to Michael and Grant 
    • “Put the two of us in a pool together training, it’s pretty much like we’re going toe to toe no matter what it is, no matter what stroke it is, just basically trying to rip each other’s head off in just the pure love and competition of what we do” – Michael Phelps
    • “If you have to pull me out of the water after this session and put me in an ambulance, I do not care as long as I get every ounce out of myself. And you’ve got to show up with that attitude every day because that’s how tough the guys are that you’re racing.” – Michael Phelps
  • “We would train anywhere from five to seven hours a day, six days a week. I know Michael would do seven days a week. I think he trained like 530, 540 days straight into Beijing.” – Grant Hackett
    • “You have to be doing it better, farther, harder than the guy on the other side of the world” 
  • Michael, Grant, and many other Olympians are obsessed with data and quantifying their results 
    • At their level, the difference between gold and silver is so minuscule that every half a percentage matters
    • “Literally every single session, every single stroke mattered. For the listeners out there, it was the smallest, finest details you could possibly think about. We had to go through and fine-tune daily.”Michael Phelps
    • “I have all of my stats, blood work, sleep numbers, lactate numbers. Anything you can possibly imagine about health or recovery, I have it logged for the last 15 years, 20 years of my career.” – Michael Phelps
  • Working harder than other people is meaningless if you don’t have anything to show for it
  • “I love training” Michael Phelps
    • “Training, I knew I had to be perfect if I ever wanted to do something that no one had ever done”

Recovery

  • “For me to be able to do everything I need to do, from playing golf, having enough energy with the kids, and doing everything I need to do personally, I have to recover.” – Michael Phelps
    • “I am stretching probably 45 minutes a day. I’m probably ice tubing once, maybe twice a week. I go to an acupuncturist twice a week. I think LeBron said something about it earlier in the year. He spends a million dollars a year on recovery. And honestly, that just makes sense to me.”
    • I treated my body like I was a Ferrari. I treated my body like I’m a high-performance race car because I’m asking it to do so many things. So I was sleeping probably eight to 10 hours a night with a two-hour nap during the day. I was eating eight to 10,000 calories a day. I used to have massages.”
  • Today, the best way I find to fall asleep is just breathing exercises. And just focusing away from everything that kind of matters in your life around work and the things that you’re responsible for that normally keep you awake at night.” – Grant Hackett
    • “Sleep is obviously the ultimate thing to rest the body”
  • “What’s good for one person is not necessarily good for another. But what I know today is if I just did a lot more meditation, a lot more things of slowing down, a lot more mindfulness, those are the sorts of things that would have helped me a lot more throughout my career.” – Grant Hackett
    • “Throughout my whole entire life, I’ve been trying to shave hundredths of a second off my time. And now, for everyday life, I’m trying to slow it down.” – Michael Phelps

Mindset

  • “Thorpe initially said that it would be highly unlikely for Phelps to win eight gold medals at the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing. Phelps used the remarks as motivation and taped the words to his locker during the games. So I just wanted to fact check that. Is that true?” – Tim Ferris
    • “A hundred percent. Without a question.” – Michael Phelps
    • “When I was getting out of bed, I was getting out of bed with a purpose. So then when I got to the pool, that’s where that quote was. Just honestly, if I was kind of having an off day, I’d use that, as Hackey said it, as a little extra fuel.” – Michael Phelps
  • No matter the depths of the heights we reach, we still remain only human 
    • It is said that during Roman triumphs the leading general would have a slave whispering in his ear through the procession, “remember that you are mortal” 

Mental Health

  • “I carry a lot of anger. And a lot of that, I would say, stems from my childhood and some of the things that I experienced. But I also think anger is really, really what did fuel me on those days where I just didn’t want to swim.” – Michael Phelps
    • “As I said, I work out six or seven days a week. I lift weights three days a week, for anywhere 60 to 90 minutes. And then, the other four days, I’m either swimming, riding a stationary bike, or I am on an elliptical. So those are kind of the outlets for me. But it does get scary at times.”
    • “Knowing what I know about depression, knowing what I know about anxiety, mental health, and about myself as well, I know that I can’t approach my life or anything that I do in my life like I did in swimming” 
  • “You’re not alone. That’s the one thing I truly, truly want to repeat. You’ll hear me say it a lot of times in this podcast. But you are definitely not alone with your thoughts, your emotions.” Michael Phelps
    • “If you are afraid or you’re scared or nervous, reach out to somebody for help, a trained therapist or a trained doctor. This is just a very uncertain time for everybody in the world.”
  • “The first time I experienced depression, I’d say it was back in 2004, coming back after all that success. And obviously, you expect it to continue and you get back and it’s good for a week or so. And then, you kind of feel like you fall off the face of the earth.” – Michael Phelps
    • “These were things that I carried for probably 20 years, 15 years. When I really do get into those dark times, I basically isolate myself.”
    • “I pick at scabs or like internal scabs that really hurt. So I almost try to inflict pain, but not literally inflict pain. So it gets bad. And when it does get bad, it really spirals.”

Competition vs Real Life

  • No matter how much Michael and Grant have benefited from their competitiveness, one of the hardest lessons they learned was that you can’t apply it to everything in life
  • “If you have a hyper-focus on anything in life, by definition you have to neglect other things. You only have so much attention to slice and dice.” Tim Ferris
    • “If you’re using compartmentalization as one of the tools for optimizing as a competitor, which every competitor I’ve interviewed on this podcast seems to be very good at, then there’s sort of a price associated with that when it’s applied more broadly speaking”
    • Michael focused so much on being the best swimmer in the world early on that he jokes he learned how to communicate at age 30
  • “We live in a crazy, fast-moving world where there’s always things trying to get our attention so if we can simplify things and focus on what’s important to us, I think it makes our life easier” – Michael Phelps
  • The constant comparison to others that is competition and modern society can blind you to your inner values and worth
    • When one takes the time to truly introspect, sometimes you see that your beliefs and behaviors are a result of others and not your own values 

What Would You Put on a Billboard for Billions to See?

  • “It’s okay to not be okay, and you’re not alone” – Michael Phelps
  • “Be yourself” – Grant Hackett
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