Alan Stein is a speaker and author, after spending over 15 years as a basketball coach. He has coached some of the top players and now brings what he learned from the world of sports to the world of business. The same skills and strategies that help basketball players be the top of their game can help top performers in the corporate world too. Alan believes in the power of doing sports throughout childhood and the traits and qualities they can instill in young people. He is also the author of Raise Your Game: High-Performance Secrets of the Best of the Best. In this episode Alan talks about finding your passion, letting go of what you can’t control and the power of self-awareness.
You grew up playing sports competitively and reached a high level. And you coached for many years. Are you still coaching?
Alan doesn’t coach anymore. Now he can be found on the sidelines watching his 3 children compete. Many of the traits that have helped him in his life have come from doing sports as a young person.
What are some of those traits that you learned from sports that have helped you in business and life?
Passion. Finding something you love and being able to spend time doing it is really important. That was the first lesson sport taught Alan. Learning to be coach-able. Having the discipline to go in and get reps done. All the little things that can add up and can have a profound impact on your performance. Being a good teammate. That when you sign up to a team sport you are a part of something much bigger than yourself.
You mention passion and when I’ve seen you speak, that passion really comes through. You seem to love teaching people and helping them be better.
Alan wants to be a servant leader who fills other people’s buckets. Sport was always just his vehicle to do that. It wasn’t just the sport that gave him so much enjoyment, it was the ability to be around other people and help to make them better with what they were trying to do.
I grew up playing tennis, which is a very individual sport. In your book, you talk a lot about teamwork and I realized that I’ve been on a very individual path with both participating in an individual sport and working for myself.
It has been Alan’s experience that people, especially in sport, tend to gravitate to one or another. He tried to get his kids to experience both so they could see what they liked. Even if you are a solopreuneuer you still work with other people and teamwork traits are important. A family can also be a team. We ebb and flow from one to the other throughout our lives. Sometimes you’re the player, sometimes the coach and sometimes you’re on a team.
Part of being a good teammate is being a good leader.
There are traits that we all should be working on regardless of our specific scenario. The traits of being an effective leader and being an impactful teammate. They have such high utility and can be applied to any area of life, personal or professional. They are important skills and can be reinforced through sport. Alan encourages his children to play different sports so that they can work on those skills. They will learn things through a sport that they won’t learn at school and that is hard to teach as a parent.
What about emotional intelligence?
That is another skillset which can and should be developed through sport. Emotional intelligence is about the ability to be aware of and manage your emotions and the emotions of others. Be able to read other people, know when and what to say and how to show somebody that you care about them. The best leaders and coaches all have very high emotional intelligence.
How do you think you can develop emotional intelligence?
It is a skillset and like any skillset, can be improved with purposeful practice and repetition. Repetitions is the oldest and most effective method of leaning in existence.
I think one of the biggest things that I learned through sports was losing and dealing with those emotions of loss. And getting back up, looking at what I did right or wrong and then going back out there.
Some of that is grit and resilience. But also have some self-compassion for yourself when you do lose, or make a mistake or don’t perform well. Being able to forgive yourself so you can move on but also learning a lesson from it so that you become better moving forward. No matter what happens in life, it is important to find a way to take from it and use it to inch forward. Rather than it being something that makes you regress and move backward. We hold that power. We can’t control what happens but we can control how we move forward. You choose that. If you want to be a high performer you will consistently choose something which serves you and helps you move forward. Alan recognizes that it isn’t always easy to do, but that is what you have to do if you want to be the best you are capable of.
Managing the emotional part really makes the difference for someone who is going to be a high performer. If you let your emotions get the best of you, they will get the best of you.
If you’re sitting in traffic, which nobody enjoys, what are your options? To let your blood pressure rise, get frustrated and honk your horn? Putting yourself in a negative mood just because there are more cars on the road doesn’t help you move forward or serve you in any way. Why do we consistently make choices that don’t serve us? You have a choice for how you respond to that. Maybe you make some phone calls or listen to a podcast.
This line really struck me from your book - ‘Control the controllables.’ You have a choice to be able to have control over the things you can control. You can’t control the traffic but you can control the thought pathways that you choose to go down and how you choose to respond.
The number of things we have complete control over is actually pretty small. However, there is a significant power in the things we do have control over. These are primarily your effort and your attitude. These are incredibly influential and impactful. Many times it is not easy to make that choice. A lot of stuff happens in life which is challenging to deal with. But we always have that choice.
One quote that gives Alan comfort is - ‘This too shall pass.’ Our moods are important too. When we are in a bad mood we are going to react to things more than if we are in a good mood.
I was talking to a client who hadn’t slept well because she was traveling. And I said to her ‘be gentle with yourself.’ I know that if you haven’t slept the quality of your thoughts are going to be poor. Sometimes you have to ride that wave and be gentle with yourself until that negativity passes.
It takes high self-awareness to be able to recognize that. Many times people identify with their thoughts but really we are separate from our thoughts. We can often see in a friend when they are in a bad mood and give them space. It’s harder to do that with ourselves.
You say something in your books something which I love - ‘self-awareness is one of the highest predictors of performance and the least utilized criteria.’ It is not being taught, it is something we have to seek out on our own, which is something high performers tend to do.
People who are not self-aware, don't know that they are not self-aware. Self-awareness can be looked at different levels. At a surface level, it’s just about knowing who you are, what you stand for and what your goals are. It is also having the courage to look at the darker stuff -what are you scared of, what are your insecurities, what are the things that give you the most shame and guilt. This can be uncomfortable but is crucial to get the full overview of who you are as a human being.
It is important that the way you see yourself is in alignment with the way the rest of the world sees you. This is not about pandering to other people but that you see yourself accurately. An example would be if someone asked you if you were a good listener and you said yes but then they asked 5 friends and they all said no. That would be a lack of self-awareness.
The last level is being able to look at your emotions and understand why you’re feeling that way. When you get frustrated in traffic because someone cut you off, there’s a deeper reason as to why you’re frustrated.
I love how you talk about the unseen hours. With social media, we see so much outward success but we don’t see the unseen hours. What have you seen or observed or practiced yourself in the unseen hours?
Most of what we do is in the unseen hours. When you’re working on your self-awareness, that’s unseen hours. When an athlete is in a gym practicing a move over and over again, that’s unseen hours. The relationship you have with your significant other is heavily predicated on the inside work you do to be the best version of yourself during the unseen hours. Most hours are unseen but they are the ones that dictate how well we do when we are seen.
Sometimes we try to cut corners as we live in a fast-paced world and want everything now. I think it’s actually slowing us down in terms of our performance.
Mastery takes time and it takes a lot of reps. Social media can be great but it encourages us to play the comparison game. We have plenty of opportunities in the unseen hours to get better at anything we put our mind to. We have to be willing to put in the work. If you can find alignment between what you love and what you’re good at then it doesn't always seem like work.
If you don’t have that passion it can be really difficult to put in the work. You are likely to just quit.
Absolutely. That is why you have to find that alignment. Find what you love, find what you’re good at and then find the place where those two things overlap.
I’m curious about your journey. You were in youth sports and coaching for 20 years but you recently made a pivot.
Alan’s passion in the youth sports arena was starting to wane so he decided to make a change. In teaching and coaching, you have to be all in. He decided to make a pivot into the corporate space as a speaker and author. He now has a passion back for what he is doing. The things that you love and what you’re good at will change over time.
Some people might be feeling like they need a change but don’t know what the new thing is. What was your process for going through that? Was it an ‘a ha’ moment or were there lots of little moments which added up to the new direction?
For Alan, it was both. A few years ago he was in Germany speaking at a basketball conference and he realized that it wasn’t exciting him as much as it should. Then a friend asked him to give a keynote at a corporate retreat after somebody had dropped out at the last minute. He was asked to give a speech on leadership and when he stepped offstage he felt alive and invigorated. He knew it was what he wanted to start pursuing. If you don’t know what you want to do, it is worth considering what you would do if you could take a month off from work. What would you do with your time? Whatever it is you would be doing is probably close to what you should be doing.
So I’m curious about the difference between the talk in Germany and the talk at the corporate retreat. Was it the audience? Was it the content?
It was both. He realized that a good portion of his time in the basketball space was filled with 15-18-year-old teenage boys. They are very narrow in what they like to talk about. It’s mostly basketball and girls. In the corporate space, Andy is around peers who are teaching him as much as he is teaching them. This has invigorated him. The content that people want from him has also changed. As a coach, people wanted to know how to run faster and jump higher, but Andy has always been interested in leadership, teamwork and building a winning culture.
So, how do you jump higher?
One. Strengthen the major muscles in your body. It’s not just the legs that are needed for jumping. You need core strength and even the upper body is involved by providing momentum. If you can produce more force against the ground, it will propel you higher.
Two. Practice jumping. Practice the skill. And practice it in the way you want to use it
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Find what you love. Find what you’re good at and find where those two things intersect.
From a coaching standpoint: Every coach should look in the mirror every morning and say ‘it’s not about me, it’s about them’.
Tell us how we can get in touch with you
Christine Egan is a health and wellness expert. Catherine Egan is a breast cancer survivor. Despite her background in health and wellness, breast cancer woke her up to figuring out what being healthy actually means for her. Now she brings this idea to other women. In this episode, she talks about when working in the marketing division at McDonald's was her dream job, how cancer changed her mindset and running a marathon a year after her cancer diagnosis.
Do you feel like you’re a resilient person?
Christine has never really thought of herself that way. She wants to be thought of as someone who beats to her own drum. She wants her actions are aligned to who she is.
Does that come naturally to you, or do you have to work at it?
She works at it. 2 of her 3 children were born at home. Learning how to have a baby at home rather than in a hospital set her on a different path. She learned everything she could so that she could make an informed decision. When she had her first child she decided she wanted a home birth with a midwife. She started exploring what it meant to have a home birth and what she was and wasn’t willing to do.
Were you into health back then?
She used to work for the McDonald’s corporation in their marketing division. She loved that job and at the time it wasn’t out of alignment with who she was. It was a dream job and she loved it. She did it for 5 years. Then there came a point in her life where she needed a change. She moved from the Midwest back to Long Island and that was when she started to move into the health and wellness space. She became a licensed massage therapist, a certified homebirth instructor and a certified health coach. She now has over 25 years of being in the health and wellness field.
Did you eat McDonald’s when you worked there?
Of course, she did. Part of her job was to go through the drive-through and rate the quality of the service and the food. She wasn’t a big fast food eater but it wasn’t a disconnect for her.
How do you see it now, as a health professional?
It makes her sad now, knowing how inexpensive that food can be. For some people, that’s the only food they can afford and it is so easily available. It takes more of an effort to eat a healthy meal when fast food is so easily accessible. For her and her kids, it is just not part of her lives. It makes her sad to think of people drinking soda on a daily basis or having fast food as a regular part of their diet.
What does your personal diet look like now?
As a family, they eat mostly plants and fruits and use meat as a condiment. They don’t eat meat as a meal or as a major part of their meal. If they do eat meat she knows what farm it comes from. They don’t eat anything from a box.
I’m so blown away by this information I’m learning about you about McDonald's. And how big of a contrast it is. I think we can all have those experiences where early on we are doing something and then we completely outgrow it.
She did what she was supposed to be doing. She graduated and got a great job that took her to New York and then the Midwest and she was happy doing it. Until she wasn’t. This gave her an opportunity to change the direction she was in.
Was there a specific point that was a turning point for you?
No. It was just that opportunities allowed her to leave the midwest and move to Long Island and things came out of that. But there wasn’t a lightbulb moment for her.
How old were you when you got breast cancer?
How long were you on health journey prior to that?
And what was that moment like, when you found out you had cancer?
She had a private health coaching business at that point, helping women in her community get healthier for themselves so they could get healthier for their families. She had information about cancer with her in case the women she was working with needed it, but she didn’t ever expect to be the one who needed it. He dog Zoe was what alerted her to the lump in her breast. She was lying down and her dog clawed at her breast. Alarms went off in her head that said pay attention to what she is doing. She found a lump. She didn’t immediately think it was cancer. She got a mammogram and it was clear. She had pushed to get both a mammogram and a sonogram. The sonogram showed the lump and it became clear she had cancer. She interviewed 9 surgeons to decide which she wanted to go with. She decided to go with surgery to take the lump out.
Stress levels. When she was undergoing treatment it she needed to rest to let her body do what it needed to do to get well. This meant saying yes to the things that were really important and no to the things that weren’t. It became really clear to her what was important. Spending time with her family was the most important thing. Which meant watching movies together or making meals together. And not rushing out to karate lessons or dance lessons. Being together as a family, resting and doing simple things together became the priority.
Do you feel you made any decisions about how you would live differently?
She doesn’t stress as much about her kids. Homeschooling her 3 kids was stressful. Were they doing the right thing? Were their kids socializing enough? Christine realized that there comes a moment where you just have to accept the decision that you made and be okay with what happens. And if things change you will figure out what should be done differently. She had this attitude to cancer too.
So you ran a half marathon after 33 radiation treatments. And a full marathon to celebrate your remission. Incredible.
She ran half marathons prior to being diagnosed and kept running during treatment after reading about the importance of exercise during treatment. She wasn’t trying to break PR’s but if she felt good enough, she went for a run.
She had a sign in her house that said: “What would you do if you could not fail?” Her answer to that was always run a marathon. After going through cancer treatment she decided to do a marathon and one year after she was diagnosed she ran the Disney Marathon.
Do you see certain patterns in mental and emotional strength to get through difficult times?
Cancer showed her the urgency to do the things you want to do and stop putting them off. Because there is never going to be a perfect time.
It’s easy to put things off. It’s easy to get caught up in life without pausing to say ‘What is it that I want’ and giving ourselves permission to do what we want right now.
That was the wakeup call of cancer for Christine. She now teaches workshops with people who have finished cancer treatments and she tells them that they can recreate a life for themselves and how do they want that to look. For many people that is so scary. It’s really hard for women to figure out what will bring them joy. Some women will figure out what will make them happy do it for a few weeks and then stop. They will come up with reasons and excuses – my family needed me, I needed to put in more time at work. The whole idea of figuring out the things that bring you joy is that you do those first so that you are a better wife, mother, friend or worker. Those things have to be done first so that you can then do those other things. Sometimes people don’t see the benefits right away and think it’s not working. But it’s like a bank account. We have to give it time to build up and then you get the benefits. When you stop doing those things, you can get a little bit crabbier, you are short with your kids or husband. You start feeling the differences when you let those things go.
I see that with my meditation and yoga practice. I’m much more patient as a mother and a wife. I’m more tuned into my work. People will start doing something that brings them joy, they start to feel good and then they stop. And we need to understand that it’s a cumulative effect
It starts with baby steps. What bite-sized pieces are you willing to do today. When she works with women she gets them to come up with a buffet line of things they know they want to do in the day that makes them feel healthy. If these are the things that make you healthy, what are you willing to do - to do those things? It’s a buffet line because you can pull different things on different days.
My spiritual practice doesn’t look the same every day. Sometimes I need different things. Today I did an at home yoga practice, I don’t always do that.
What made you sign up for this extraordinary event the Everest 29029?
It’s a crazy event that Jesse Itzler puts on where he rents out Stratton Mountain in Vermont. You climb Stratton Mountain 17 times to equal the height of Everest, but you only have 36 hours to do it. She wasn’t expecting it to be as difficult or the terrain so steep. It was gruelingly steep. It was snowing and raining. She was shin deep in mud. She had trained hard with her husband and was using the event to It was a way of celebrating her 50th Birthday and bring cancer free for 8 years.
What was the inner game like for you?
They had trained for it and had a gameplan for how the event would go. They knew how long they had for each ascent and still be able to sleep. The event started at 6 am. Once they had done the 3rd summit and came back down, Christine broke down and cried. She had expected to feel tired by the 10th summit and not the 3rd. She had to make a decision about what it was going to take to get up the mountain. She decided she was going to stop at every aid station and talk to the volunteers. She was going to tell everyone it was her 50th birthday. She was going to make it fun. She decided that for the really steep section she was going to put her headphones in and listen to podcasts. They hiked for 19 hours straight. They wanted 10 summits by midnight and they reached 9 which felt close enough to their goal. In the end, they managed 11 summits which are the height of Kilimanjaro.
What is the lesson that you learned?
That it’s not all or nothing. Even though she hadn’t reached her goal she still achieved. It was something really cool thing that she wanted to do. She now intends to do the event again.
Did you feel high afterward?
She was happy with what she did. She hiked for 18 hours straight and was really proud of that.
Why redefining healthy? Where did that come from?
Redefining healthy was all about helping women post-cancer. She is teaching people how to tap into what is it that makes you feel healthy. Christine was able to feel healthy even though she had cancer. She needed to redefine what healthy meant.
Do you feel like that’s your purpose?
She feels like working with women post-cancer is an important part of her life’s mission.
Do you find that people can go on the way or the other? That after cancer they can either be more confined or more willing?
People run the gamut. She doesn’t take it personally and just shares her knowledge and research. Some women are ready to do the hard work and some aren’t and that’s okay.
What’s an action step or piece of advice you might have for how to take charge of your health?
Drink more water. It’s as simple as that. And eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods. There’s no one specific diet that helps cancer. We don’t need to complicate it. We just need to eat more fruit and veg. Do more of the things which light you up and less of the things that don’t.
The stories we tell ourselves are important and we can choose what those stories are. Christine experienced this with both cancer and Everest 29019. She could have told herself negative stories about what was happening, but she chose not to.
Were you always like that or did cancer change your attitude?
It was cancer. Or more specifically it was the blood clot after she survived cancer which she thought was going to kill her.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Do your best and forget the rest
Tell us how we can get in touch with you
Her Website: www.redefining-healthy.com
The Healthy Girl's Guide to Breast Cancer by Christine Egan
Living with the Monks: What Turning Off My Phone Taught Me about Happiness, Gratitude, and Focus by Jesse Itzler
Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet by Jesse Itzler
Elicia created the Core Emotional Healing® process as the culmination of 10 years of intensive training, personal healing, and empathic intuitive gifts. Based on her personal and professional experience, she developed a guided step-by-step process to address the emotional root cause of symptoms and suffering.
Elicia provides insightful, direct, compassionate guidance to inspire and support others to be responsible for how they feel, ask for what they want, and to set healthy boundaries. She helps others feel safe and supported so they are empowered to freely express their true selves.
She is the author of the ebook Detox 101 and coauthor of the books, One Crazy Broccoli and What’s Left to Eat. Her new book, Your Symptoms Are A Gift, to be released in 2019, is an inspirational guide to help readers realize the emotional connection to their symptoms. The book details the Core Emotional Healing® process to help anyone heal from physical, emotional, and relationship challenges.
Along with her husband, Psychologist Doug Miller, PhD, Elicia offers Core Emotional Experiential Therapy Private Healing Immersion for individuals and couples in Costa Rica.
Tell us about the work that you do and how you started on that journey.
Elicia grew up with a rageaholic father who controlled all of the emotions in the household. Elicia knew what was happening was wrong but when she would try to stand up to him, she would be shamed by her mother for doing so. Elicia coped by numbing herself through drinking, drugs, and sex. She had a lifetime of repression and shaming of her emotions.
When she was 38 she had been healing herself for 8 years using every healing modality she could find. She realized that the pain she had been feeling was connected to her childhood. She knew she needed to take care of her emotional needs from the past and the present. And then everything went away. Her addictions, eating disorders and relationship patterns. She found a deeper connection to herself to take care of herself on an emotional level.
There were several years where you were struggling with addiction. It sounds like there was a point where you shifted from drugs and drinking to detoxing and spirituality. When did that shift happen?
Elicia left an abusive marriage after 3 months when she was 30. That was when she decided to stop living an unconscious life. She asked herself - ‘what made her choose him?’ An experiential therapy course helped wake her up. She realized she could take care of herself and make decisions for herself. She didn’t need somebody else to do that. She started taking lots of courses and connected with helping people in that way. She left her corporate sales job and became a journaling coordinator. She started creating after telling herself she wasn’t creative all her life. She started to feel real happiness. From this deeper connection within herself, she stopped partying and going out. It didn’t stay that way though, things came up which threw her back into her old coping ways.
You mentioned that you had all these symptoms in your life but were then able to get to the root cause. How do people access the root cause in their lives?
It’s not just healing and going back and feeling these repressed emotions. It also working from your experience. What did you believe about yourself? What did you do to protect these wounds and feel love? We live from this false sense of self that formed from the core wounds. Addressing the core wounds can help shift everything but we need to be aware of what we really need and what we do to get our needs met. But some of the ways we get these needs met are preventing us from living life fully.
Let’s use the example of your story. You had a dominant, controlling father and knew this from a young age. Often we can see that somebody mistreated us but what is the actual wound?
There are many wounds. We struggle with the emotional disconnection from our vulnerable self. We don’t process our feelings and take care of them. The disconnect is what causes the problem. We have to reconnect to the vulnerable part of ourselves. Elicia calls this our wounded inner child.
If somebody is listening to this and wondering about their wounded child is, what’s a question they could start with?
The wounded inner child is a part of ourselves that we all carry. It is the wounds we are trying to compensate for. It is the part of ourselves that doesn’t feel good enough or needs to be right or always feels sad. It gets triggered. Or wants to find a way to feel better instead of feeling what it is feeling. The wounded inner child is the part of you that needs you to go into these feelings and take care of them. It is underneath all of the adaptations we form to cope with the world. Things like people pleasing or perfectionism.
Is there a specific question that can help access the hurt or the wound?
Triggers can be a way into the wounded inner child. How do I feel? When did I first feel that way? A trigger is when you feel disproportionately angry or sad or you withdraw from what just happened. Ask yourself - ‘When did I feel that way as a child?’
What’s your relationship with your dad like now?
Elicia has managed to heal her relationship with her father. It took until she was 38 and she had to stop talking to him completely. After her father divorced her mother he went to therapy and did a lot of healing himself. He has become a more loving and supportive person. Elicia has also worked out what she needs and where she can get it from, so she is no longer looking to her father to give her that.
Can you tell me a bit more about experiential therapy?
Experiential therapy is more of an active process than talk therapy. It uses other people to act out roles and situations. Someone might act as a parent and this helps draw the true feelings out of you. It can help bypass our defenses. Elicia and her husband developed a process called Core Emotional Experiential Therapy which uses over 100 objects to work someone through this process. They use the objects to lay out relationships which can bypass defenses and bring out the subconscious.
Sometimes we can get caught up on this never-ending ‘fix-it’ mentality. Do you think this could be another part of the wounded child?
There are a few things that could be going on. Never feeling good enough comes from toxic shame and can drive people to continuously want to improve themselves. Reading self-help books can be a way of bypassing what is really needed which is emotional healing. Books can support the process, but focusing on them can be about bypassing the emotions.
There are a lot of layers to this.
The process is about reconnecting to your emotions and wounds, and then learning how to take care of yourself. Then when you do that you can handle more things. Then more things come up but you know how to work with them on an ongoing basis.
What does it really mean to be self-aware?
You are the observer of yourself. You notice when you are in a pattern. You notice when you don’t feel good. You notice that something keeps happening. To be self-aware is to continue to seek help when you are in some kind of pattern or are triggered by something. The more we heal our emotional wounds the more we integrate our true self. From that place, we are really able to be our true selves.
It’s funny how we think we can know ourselves. We think ‘I am not a creative person’ and then realize that we are that way. It’s a huge shift in identity.
Elicia used to say that she wasn’t a writer. This comes from wounding. Now she writes all the time. But as a child what she had to say was dismissed, especially by her mother. Her true and authentic voice got blocked. And the protection of that was to say - ‘I’m not a good writer.’ Once she healed herself she was able to write and connect to her creative authentic voice.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Just keep writing.
Do you feel that because you have done so much work, the depth of beauty, joy, and peace has expanded?
Absolutely. When she had really connected and healed with her inner child, Elicia started singing and making up songs. That is a part of her natural expression which came out as a joyful playfulness.
Tell me how we can get in touch with you.
Healing The Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families by Charles L. Whitfield M.D.
The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You by Karla McLaren