Niyi Sobo: How to Think Like A Pro Athlete


How to think like a pro athlete: bit.ly/niyisobo

Can programing your day like an NFL pro help you reach your goals?

Niyi Sobo is a former NFL running back for the New Orleans Saints.

After he hung up his cleats, though, he had to create a new career.

Today, his coaching business and popular podcasts teach people how to build mental toughness, dominate under pressure, and have a little fun at the same time.

A husband and father of 5, Niyi takes his family out for hill sprints on Saturday mornings. That’s rock star status.

On this show, you’re about to learn:

  • How to train like an NFL superstar
  • Why his kids love running hill sprints
  • The importance of redefining failure
  • How to be successful when starting a new career
  • And so much more…

NFL Pro Niyi Sobo’s Secrets to Success

Abel: Niyi, I’m really glad you’re here. You’re walking the walk, so thank you for that.

Yo, thanks so much, Abel. It’s great to be on man.

Abel: Your work speaks for itself. You invited me on your show when you were getting started, and it was immediately obvious that you were serious about this.

You weren’t just starting a podcast or building a website because someone said that it was a good idea.

It was clear that you were bringing the spirit and the discipline that you developed from a career at the top of your field, being a pro-athlete.

But I understand that you were actually a walk-on, right? You didn’t start at the top.

Oh no, absolutely not. And before I go into that, I appreciate you saying that. That to me is very validating to hear from you because as you know in this space, there’s a ton of people doing a whole lot of stuff.

It’s becoming easier to sift through a lot of the noise. But I take what I do very seriously.

So much so that I quit my job as a firefighter last year to do what I’m doing full-time and have been able to hit the six-figure mark pretty quickly.

I’m all in. When you say that, that makes me feel good. But yeah, I didn’t start at the top by any means. I was the third out of four boys.

My dad was from Nigeria. He came here when he was 18, and we were a soccer family. All my brothers played soccer, my family played soccer. My dad didn’t even know what football was and when I was in about sixth grade, I got a little chunkier, I hated running, dude. I couldn’t stand running.

I was like, “Man, I don’t want to play soccer anymore. I want to play football.”

And I started in seventh grade, and fell in love with it.

In high school, they didn’t have a football team at my school, so I had to take the bus across the city, about an hour-and-a-half each day after school to go to practice… and then ultimately I walked on to Oregon State.

I wasn’t amazing in high school. I was good and I was on a horrible team, but I was never amazing.

But the thing that I always did, and it’s funny because I played with so many players, at every stage, there were always guys around me who were way better than me. They were supposed to be going to the next level and were supposed to get college scholarships, but it never worked out and it always tripped me out.

I’m like, “These guys are so much better than me. How are they pumping gas while I’m at the college level?”

Now I’m playing pro while the guys I was in college with—these were four and five-star recruits—aren’t.

I just loved the sport and I loved to get better, so I was always evolving. I was always improving and I was very, very curious.

I would ask a lot of questions and I’ve always been self-driven. I’ve always been motivated and I think in part, it’s how my dad raised us. He gave us a lot of freedom and in turn, we developed a lot of trust in ourselves.

I didn’t start at the top. Even when I played professional football for the Saints for a couple of years and even when I got there, I was a rookie free agent, which is the equivalent of being a walk-on.

You’re pretty much like a temp. You know what I mean?

If guys get hurt, you’re in, but you go through the camp process and then as soon as camp’s over, they drop you off.

But I was one of two out of about 18 guys to make the game day roster and then I started my fourth game against the San Francisco 49ers, which was like a dream come true.

How To Appreciate the Struggle

It’s always a struggle. And that word is interesting. I know that words have a profound effect on how we feel. To me, the word struggle doesn’t scare me at all, so you can call it whatever you want.

The grind, the struggle, you know, life. It’s tough, but I love it. I’ve learned to love it because you have to.

And that’s one of the things as an athlete that I learned. If you don’t learn to appreciate and respect the struggle, the pain, good luck.

You know what I mean?

Abel: Yeah.

It’s helped to develop my philosophy a lot.

Abel: You can embrace the pain, you can double down and go deep into the pain, or you can numb yourself to it. And then there’s the in-between.

But how do you navigate that? How do you know you’re doing that right?

Man, that’s a great question, and I think there’s only a small, select few people who can answer that. And you know what I found? Those are the people who actually went through the fire.

It’s like you never really know the balance until you find the balance. And it’s a constant search.

For example, like in a relationship—I know you’re married. The question becomes, as a man when are you vulnerable and when do you show up strong for your wife, right?

It’s not like you can be crying to your wife all day, but then at the same time, vulnerability brings closeness, togetherness and that’s an important part.

But then there’s sometimes where it’s like, “Yo, your wife needs you to man up. She needs you to say everything’s going to be okay.”

Abel: Yes.

And it’s a struggle. Literally just today I had a little feud with my wife where I felt like it was one of those times to maybe steer her in a different direction, help redirect her thoughts, but at that time what she needed me to do was just listen.

And that’s a tough lesson for guys to learn. Sometimes we’ve got to just listen.

But sometimes you do need to coach her, you do need to redirect her in the right way. Sometimes it’s a tight line from venting and complaining, right?

It’s the same thing with kids. I have 5 kids. So I guess the long answer to your question is I’m searching for that balance.

What I found is that numbing myself to the pain usually means I’m ignoring it. And when I ignore it or don’t discover it and become intimate with it, I don’t really learn as much from it.

And so I’ve become very intimate with my pain, with the struggles. Because when you do that, especially while it’s going on, you learn what beliefs are actually holding you back.

Like if you’ve ever been tight on money, that intense anxiety that comes along with being low on money, you learn a lot about yourself, if you allow it.

But if you try to numb yourself, you go play video games all day or drink beers just to take away the pain, you’ll never really find the lessons there.

So I’ll dive in, I’ll dig into pain. I actually value conflict.

When my kids argue, that’s good, get it out, talk about that. I want to understand why you feel that way towards your sister. And for your sister, why is she so upset at you, let’s talk about it.

Because on the other side of that pain is clarity. There’s a lot of clarity, but you have to sift through it, and that’s tough. It requires courage, but that’s why I do the work that I do now.

On the other side of that pain is clarity. @NiyiSobo Click To Tweet

Abel: And what a weird mix it must be. What do you think the breakdown is in the NFL or on your team, the Saints, while you were there between the people who are truly gifted freak athletes and the guys like you who are scrappy who no one’s going to stop. What’s the breakdown?

I mean obviously everyone at the professional level has some level of talent. But once you get there, once you sift your way through each level to the top, in the NFL, I would honestly say about 90:10.

Abel: Wow.

Ninety being guys who are just dogs, you know what I mean? Who got enough talent to play, but they’re just dogs. They’re tenacious, they’re persistent, they work hard, they do the right things, they’re healthy, they eat the right foods, they avoid injury, there’s some luck involved and some grace.

Then you got about 10% of guys like the Reggie Bushes, right? That are just freaks. The Adrian Petersons of the world and those type of things.

But if you look at a team like the Patriots, I would argue it’s even less on that team. Because you can’t call Tom Brady one of those guys. You can’t call LeGarrette Blount one of those guys, necessarily.

So my point is at that level, even Drew Brees when I was playing there, Drew Brees was the quarterback. Drew Brees is six foot.

You see him, he looks like a regular dude. He does not look like an all-American, but a Hall of Fame quarterback that will go down as one of the greatest to ever do it. So it’s about 90:10. That’s what I would say.

Abel: Wow, I wasn’t expecting that breakdown, but that’s encouraging, that should be encouraging to everybody.

Yes, it is. And I think that, in general, if you look at any arena… Even in this podcasting world, or in the online space—authors, coaches, speakers, etc. Let’s be honest, you got the Tony Robbins, I would call him a freak, right?

Abel: Yeah.

He’s a freak…

Abel: But that’s a compliment.

Right, right, exactly. His levels of energy. But even that, see, he’ll tell you he created that. You see what I’m saying? He built that.

So everyone is blessed with some level of talent, some are blessed with more. Some might have, like you, you’ve got that voice.

Abel: You’ve got a good voice yourself.

And we have to cultivate it, right?

And then people look and say, “Aw man, they’re lucky.” But look at Steph Curry. Stephen Curry is like 6’3.

I was reading the Steph Curry kids book to my son. This dude was small. People laughed at him when he said he was going to go to the NBA. He created who he was.

So I think we can look in example as anywhere and say, “This whole talent thing is overrated.” And there’s actually a book called, “Talent is Overrated.” That’s a great book.

But I truly do believe that you can create, you can build, you can design who you are.

How to think like a pro athlete: bit.ly/niyisobo

You can design who you are. Click To Tweet

And that’s the thing I’m really excited about helping other people do.

Abel: Cool. Bearing that in mind, that breakdown, I watched a documentary a couple years ago about pro-NFL athletes. It’s extremely discouraging, from a financial perspective, because two years after they stop playing ball, about 75% are either broke or bankrupt.

So, how do you take this, what you built and obviously the skills and discipline you built that you brought to the podcasting world, the business world. What separates the people who are able to do that from those who self-destruct, or the guys who are still pumping gas, right?

That’s such a great question. First of all, when you’re in the NFL, I don’t know the exact breakdown, most guys are not rich necessarily. It takes some time to become wealthy in the NFL.

Unless you’re a guy who’s getting the multi-million dollar contracts, but even when you get the contracts, they’re not all guaranteed.

But my point is, in the first couple of years, nothing’s guaranteed at all. So, you actually have to play in order to get paid. And so I was never super wealthy, but I definitely made a lot coming out of college that I didn’t necessarily know what to do with.

I was more on the side of ignorant, meaning I wasn’t reckless, I didn’t go spend my money. But I was just ignorant, I didn’t know how to invest. I didn’t know what to do with my money, so it sat there.

Once I was done, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. Spending my money on training and trying to get back to the NFL, but that didn’t work out.

So I would say the things that helped me get some clarity… because that’s what’s missing, is the clarity, right? Because when you’re done, your identity is attached to football and then it’s taken from you.

So if you find yourself trying to create a whole new identity, that’s pretty hard especially if you don’t know what identity to create.

I actually just did an interview with Thomas Williams. He’s a USC linebacker and he played in the NFL for several years. And this was brilliant, I wish I would’ve had his mindset when I got done.

He said when he got done and when he got cut from the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he got into the regular world, all he did is he took his schedule that the NFL gave him—because we’re very regimented as football players, wake up at this time, breakfast, workout, watch film—He literally just transferred that schedule and just crossed out things and just put in different things.

So he’s like, “Alright, I’m still going to wake up, still going to workout, still going to eat breakfast, but instead of watch film, I’m going to read. I’m going to learn.”

“Instead of practice, I’m going to go out there and meet people and introduce myself and my network.” And he was able to make an almost seamless shift.

So when you’re done with football, you have to look at it like you’re not the same guy. Your identity will never be the same.

Your identity is so attached to this thing, you’re going to have a rough time. You need to make that perspective shift and say, “Alright, well let me just take the skills that I’ve got here and just apply them over here.”

I was listening to this Tony Robbins interview a few days ago, and he was talking about how he helped the original Hulk. He had problems speaking and then Tony Robbins came to work with him, he’s like “Listen, just take whatever made you successful as the Hulk, take that same mindset and just shift it and bring it on the stage.”

And sometimes it is that simple.

You and I were talking before. We tend to overcomplicate things. It’s like, “Oh no, what am I going to do now?” And so even if you look at what I’m doing now, it almost makes perfect sense considering my background—I played sports. Now I work with athletes, showing them how to develop confidence and create that killer instinct.

But it wasn’t so simple, in those two to three years post football. As I was going through the fire, trying to figure it out.

If I had someone really with me, walking me through it, I would want someone to simplify that for me and say, “Hey man, you don’t have to necessarily change your identity as much as you think. Why don’t you just take the things that made you great here and just shift the resources over here.”

And it would take some time to tweak it and figure it out. And then I would also, remind myself that there really is no failure. It’s just the matter of figuring it out and tweaking it along the way.

And then also using the mistakes that I made in the past to learn. I think that’s one of the things that prevents people from doing that. And it is hard to watch, and that’s again, one of the reasons why I’m so committed to doing what I’m doing now because I don’t want people going through the same things that I went through.

It can be pretty seamless.

How To Bounce Back from Failure

Abel: That reminds me of something that I worked out recently. At this point, I can create my own schedule. I can say no to things. I can take time for writing.

A lot of people who are getting started in the gig economy or being an entrepreneur and everything in between, ask me about working for themselves. They’re just like, “How do you get anything done working from home?”

Because that’s a big shift, I’m sure, if you go from having a coach and all these teammates who you’re hyper accountable to all the time, to just, alright, now you can do whatever you want.

That’s a very scary thing for us to handle because if you’re always waffling back and forth, you’re like, “Am I doing the right thing right now? Does this matter? Am I wasting my time?”

“Is this the right grind? Because it feels like I’m grinding right now.” How do you sort it all out?

I realized I was happiest when I was a kid or when I was in college. When being social was a part of my life. When recess and gym were built into the day. When we had dedicated times to eat, dedicated times to hang out, dedicated times to read, do theater, do all these things.

Then I’m thinking, “What are the things that I really love to do?” It’s all those things. I want to do all of them.

Because I think, that’s what makes you a good human, not doing one thing necessarily, that can be great, too. If you’re virtuoso and that’s your thing, beautiful, but I’m more of a generalist. I like spreading it all out.

And I just thought, what a perfect template, just basically create your perfect school day and fill it up with the stuff that you want to do that you know will help you reach your goals.

Like you said, “I’m still going to work out, I’m going to eat lunch, actually, this doesn’t change much at all except I don’t have games anymore.”

“Create your perfect school day and fill it up with the stuff that you want to do that will help you reach your goals.”

So I can make my own games, and that’s what I realized. When I started up this show, that was when I stopped doing live performances for music and art and that sort of thing—I was doing over 200 show a year.

But when you shift gears and you subtract things and you start to build your day the right way, you can have your cake and eat it, too. And it’s like the diligence, the discipline, is built in.

It’s not hard to wake up and be like, “Okay, I’m going to drink some water, I’m going to go do this workout that’s already picked out.”

It’s programmed in. And with the technology that we have today on our wrist, on our phones, soon in our brains and eyes or whatever, it’s like you can have that accountability to some degree, you can have the built-in social aspect of it and accountability there, even if you’re stuck out in the middle of the woods somewhere.

You can make this stuff work. You just have to be scrappy.

So how do people learn how to be scrappy, like you are?

So that’s the ultimate challenge. It’s easy. And this is why people listening to this podcast, I guarantee you are similar to the people listening to my podcast. The type who listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of books.

The challenge becomes, how do you do the thing and actually take what you’re learning and apply it? That’s what I do.

I feel it takes someone to show it to you first. So that comes in the form of what you just said. Someone listening is going to hear that and say, “Oh, okay cool.”

And then they’re going to say, “Well, how do I know if I’m doing this right?” They still don’t trust themselves all the way and that’s where I feel like a coach comes in, a mentor, a book, something that can shake their world up.

And then I believe it comes with the breakthrough of changing your idea of failure.

I’m telling you, if you’re trying to do this thing “right” you’re going to be in for a rough time because there is no right or wrong way. Like the way you just talked about your day, that’s not right for someone else.

Abel: No, absolutely not.

But that’s your day. You see what I’m saying?

Abel: Right.

And you know it yourself. I think it was Shakespeare, “to thine own self be true.” Be true to yourself.

So why aren’t people true to themselves? A lot of past conditioning, things we’ve been told, and ideas we have about failure.

You need to define what you believe failure is. I used to believe that failure meant, if you try something and it doesn’t work out, then it failed. And so naturally, I don’t like to fail. I’m wired that way.

I don’t know anyone who loves to fail. And so I would avoid things that would maybe lead to failure. And how does that work out for a young entrepreneur? Not very well, right?

Especially when no one knows who you are, you have no idea what you’re doing. And so I very quickly had to come to grips with the fact that I’ve got to define failure.

So for me, failure is if you just give up, if you just tap out. And unfortunately for some people that’s what they’ve done.

As long as I'm in the game, I am winning. @NiyiSobo Click To Tweet

I’m winning today, it doesn’t matter if I try something and it doesn’t work out, because I’m awake, I’m alert, I’m fine, I’m going to evaluate, I’m going to figure, “Okay, I tried this.” I’ll listen to Abel’s Podcast, and I try to do this. This part worked out, this one didn’t work out so well. Same thing with diets.

Figure out what they call your ESS, your Evolutionarily Stable Strategy. Find your thing. Find your recipe, your mix.

You go to a chili cook-off, they got a bunch of different types of chilis, and they’re all good. You got some real spicy, got some with beans, some without beans, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to find yours and that’s where the changing of the idea as a failure is the biggest breakthrough.

And I would say write it out. Write out your definition of failure, and your definition of success. Because if we’re honest with ourselves, failure is a feeling, that’s all it is.

It’s not like anyone slaps failure on your head.

When I felt like a failure after football, there was no one who deemed me a failure. I felt that way because of what I decided that it meant. Right?

When you decide what it means, you can create your own emotions. And the emotions lead to the actions and how you move day-to-day.

If I wake up feeling like a million bucks everyday because I’m winning, even when stuff is not going that great, I’ve rigged the game to win, right?

And I don’t wake up feeling great everyday, like, “Yeah! Let’s do it!” No, it’s quite the opposite. There are many days where I’m frustrated, I’m angry, etc., but to me the goal of life is not happiness, necessarily, or feeling positive all the time. I’m in the game.

So that’s just knowledge and awareness that I’m living in this game, that I’m here today. I’m living my dreams, that gives me a lot of fulfillment which I believe is the purpose of life, to be fulfilled.

If you have a good dish, it’s not like that one thing makes it great, it’s a lot of things. There’s a lot of emotions, positive, negative, sweet, sour. I’ve just learned to enjoy that contrast.

But I would tell those people who are trying to figure out what their thing is, change your definition of failure. Change it. Write it down.

Decide what you want to believe. Put it up on your wall, and condition it every day. Read it, write it down, visualize what life would be like if you actually believe this.

There’s plenty of exercises that you can do to strengthen a belief. But that’s at the essence of what I’m so fired up about. Developing beliefs, which as athletes we call mental conditioning.

Develop a belief in what you’re doing. Rewire your thoughts and ideas. Because we know that those are what lead to the emotions, the actions, and ultimately the actions are what get the results.

I’m big on that. That’s where we start.

You’ve got to change your idea of failure. @NiyiSobo Click To Tweet

Abel: I love that. Now you’ve been around people at the top of their game for years and I’m sure some of that rubs off on you.

I’d like to hear some of the misconceptions about people at the top, and also what people at the top know that most people don’t. What they live by that wouldn’t even occur to most people.

I asked that question to a top performance coach and sport psychologist who works with pro athletes in a past show, and he just said it without missing a beat, he’s like, “Breathing, they know how to breathe.”

And I thought that was really good, but what do you got?

Let me first start with some of the misconceptions about those at the top. They are not always motivated, fired up and feeling great.

What they figured out that most people haven’t is that it really doesn’t matter how you feelit doesn’t matter—you’ve got to get it done.

The book ‘Relentless’ by Tim Grover is a great book. This guy trained Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant. When you are relentless, as he calls it, you crave the end result so bad, you’re willing to do whatever it takes.

There are days when you are sore, you can’t walk, it’s 95 degrees out there, the humidity is just through the roof and you don’t feel like playing football. The guys who are great, the Drew Breeses, they go out there regardless.

They do what must be done regardless of how they feel. Because they have what I call “godlike purpose.”

Those who are really great, their ability to do what must be done regardless of how they feel is not magical, it’s not ingrained into them since birth. It’s because they have a really profound, deep purpose in what it is they’re doing.

And I don’t say “godlike purpose” to insinuate that all athletes are trying to change the world or anything.

I always use the example of Muhammad Ali vs Floyd Mayweather, two of the greatest boxers ever, right? Muhammad Ali didn’t even like boxing actually, his purpose was to bring awareness to the inner cities, to the plight of the blacks.

Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather, he doesn’t care about that, he cares about money, he cares about how people are going to remember him, he cares about his family, etc.

It’s not right or wrong, but their purpose is so profound, it’s so deep and it’s real, it runs through their veins. So it gets them to do stuff that other people don’t do.

What needs to be done is not rocket science. You could figure out the process of any one of these.

I was reading Beneath the Surface, Michael Phelps autobiography. You go read it, or Kobe Bryant’s biography called ‘Showboat’, you find out exactly what these guys do.

Kobe Bryant spent 30 minutes exercising his knuckles. That’s not the complicated part. The complicated part is how do you actually do that when you don’t feel like doing it?

And the way you do that is you find your purpose. And so that’s what I would say is the biggest difference, the misconception. Guys are not wired a certain way. They just have a reason behind what they’re doing and they know what it is and they do what must be done regardless.

Abel: Yeah. So now that you’re not really going after pro-ball anymore, what are you training for?

How do you make it worth it to stay in shape? How do you know if you’re wasting too much time on it, not spending enough? How do you calculate all that?

It’s funny, I struggle with that a lot because I still have this football player mentality, where I feel like I have to be lifting all these weights and doing all those things and it’s just not practical.

I got my gym here in my house and I still work out. If I work out five times a week weightlifting, that’s a great week. It’s usually my goal, and it’s hard to get to that.

I’ve struggled to find that same drive and motivation.

Now I’ve got children. The work that I do, there’s a sense of urgency behind that. I quit my job last year as a firefighter. This is not a game to me. I’ve got to make it work.

Abel: That’s why you’re doing what it takes.

Exactly. My energy is of the utmost importance. Because if I’m sluggish, I can’t show up in the way that I need to, and I’ve got clients who depend on me. I have people who listen to my podcast, who depend on me. One of my key beliefs, I have it written on my wall…

The world needs me at my best. @NiyiSobo Click To Tweet

The world needs me at my best—so that means I have to be at my best. That means I must make the effort to be at my best.

And I’m smart enough because I read, I read your book, I listen to podcasts. I know what you eat is critical, I know how you exercise and things like that are critical, as well. So I’m always trying to double down on that.

One of my goals is to fall in love with working out. Click To Tweet

I feel like over the past year-and-a-half, I’ve developed a stale, rigid mindset towards exercise and that’s dangerous to me. I want working out to be fun.

You mentioned running hills—I love running hills. I ran hills all the time in college and high school in the league. So why don’t I still run hills? So that’s what I do now, I take my kids out on Saturday mornings, and they run with me and we do push-ups at the top and rep it out.

I like running hills so I’m going to do that.

Abel: Can I ask you, do they think it’s hard yet? Do they think that it’s rough and they don’t want to do it, or is it fun?

I’m glad that you asked that. They don’t complain about it. What I found is that the more sold I am on something, they see that dad is serious.

And not serious as in, “you guys are going to come out and run these hills.” I’m not going to motivate my kids in that way.

But when they see my conviction, they see my passion, they know I love them, and they know that I teach them why things are important.

I don’t even come at them from a health standpoint. I talk to them about discipline. I talk to them about getting what it is they want in life.

You’re going to have to do things that are hard, so I want you to embrace these things. Not only that, those who are highly successful, they also have the ability to make hard things fun.

So look at them in a different way and so they have fun when we go out there.

My five-year-old, she’s running. Kids have energy, man. They love a challenge.

My two-year-old, I put him in his little stroller thing, and I drive him up on the first eight. We usually do like 10-15. And then on the last two, he goes out and he runs and he’s running up there man and he’s trying to do his push-ups and it’s amazing.

My goal is to wire my kids in that way where they look at this stuff like it's fun. Click To Tweet

One of my biggest goals this year is to homeschool my kids starting this fall, and I have this really great idea. It’s actually inspired by Joe De Sena who started the Spartan Race. Really good dude, he was on my podcast.

I was like, “Why don’t I have a Spartan day?” So when I do my curriculum, one day is going to be Spartan Day. My kids are going to wake up at 4:00 AM, we’re going to go run outside in the dark, in the cold. They’re going to have one meal that day, just one meal. They’re going to drink water all day. Just one meal. And that day, the whole theme is going to be about restraint, discipline. You see what I’m saying?

The ability to restrain and not indulge in all of your animalistic desires whether it’s to sleep, or even be in bed. It’s cold outside. Doing push-ups in the garage, it’s got the hard floor and we do the planks.

I work with one of my mentors, Mark Divine. I know you know Mark Divine.

Abel: He’s great. He’s been on the show a couple of times.

Awesome dude, man. When you get around a dude like that, you feel soft. What I’m doing is nothing compared to that.

That’s why if you look here on my wall, I got Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King.

Abel: I love your backdrop.

Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X. These dudes went through real stuff. What I’m going through is nothing.

So I tell my kids, if you’re going to complain about your elbows being a little scraped up, go look at some of these homeless kids out here in downtown Portland.

You complain about running 10 hill sprints. Go look at all these people who are overweight walking the aisles of this grocery store. You want to look like that? Because it starts here, it starts right now.

So they know I’m serious and I believe that my conviction comes through. It just comes down to being sold on what your vision is.

Abel: Yeah. I think that’s such a great way to think about it. I learned everything from the way my parents were in front of me. I was reading their emotions.

Were they psyched about what we were about to do? Because if they weren’t, then there’s no way I want to leave the house. I was such a shy kid, I never wanted to open my mouth, let alone leave the house. And so once you see your parents conquer their fears, it’s amazing.

This is really interesting. My parents joined Toastmasters, which is a group where you learn public speaking. This was years ago. I watched my parents go from being super afraid about ever talking to being the MC for the Center Harbor town band where I played the clarinet and saxophone when I was a little kid.

And I saw my dad talk in front of everyone and I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if I didn’t see things like that.

Dude, that gives me so much encouragement just hearing that.

Honestly, that is so awesome because we’re influenced by our parents. No matter how old we get.

For you to see your parents do that and to have that influence. That’s powerful. I hope people are listening now who are parents and realize what you do really does matter.

That makes me look at everything that I do differently. I’m glad you told me that story.

Abel: Yeah, well, that’s a good point because you can bring it to other parts of your life, too.

Kids don’t have to eat chicken nuggets off the kids menu. We can make the rules again. We have to.

So talk about that a little bit because I am sure that you’ve been ostracized, friends have attacked you, let you down, you’ve lost friends because you were dedicated to excellence and success. That can be polarizing.

So how do you deal with that and how do you manage the haters?

I was a firefighter for three years. So after I got done playing football I became a firefighter and it was in the beginning, it was in that first year where my philosophy, my vision was starting to crystallize and I was getting very clear about how I wanted to live and what I wanted to do and the moves that I needed to make.

I was already plotting my retirement. Of course I didn’t tell these guys. I had the date in mind, but when you’re a firefighter you live with these guys so you’re immersed in this environment and it’s a powerful environment. They’re macho firefighters.

You don’t want to be that guy. And the way they eat. Horrible. Guys sitting on the couch all day. Watching TV all day. Not exercising. Just the way they approach it was polar opposite of how I wanted to live my life and all these things that I’m reading and learning and being mentored on.

I had to go through the fire, if you will. That means at one point I had to decide. With food, for example, “I’m not going to eat what you guys are eating. I can’t eat that dude.”

I have to go home from work after getting no sleep and then record 8 episodes, and I’ve got 5 kids. I’m not going to be able to last on this stuff.

And so I started making my own meals and saying no to things, and of course guys are talking, starting little rumors.

One of the things they would do is make it seem like I was looking down on them. When I wasn’t. I was just like, “I’m just not eating that. You guys can eat whatever you want.”

Abel: We know that vegetables aren’t cool.

I know that vegetables are not cool when I eat vegetables in public. It’s not about you.

Right! You eat what you eat, but isn’t that funny how people get so insecure because they know what they’re doing is not serving them long term.

And so I went through that, of course. Friends and family as well, when I quit my job, my dad is like, “What are you doing?”

I remember I wrote an email to my family, I was like, “Listen, if you guys don’t have anything to say, that’s good, just don’t say anything to me because I know this is going to be a rough couple months for me. I really don’t know what I’m doing, but I know I need to do this.”

And so yeah, you’re going to deal with that, you’re going to deal with friends just falling off naturally just because you’re just into different stuff now. You’re no longer going to bars and drinking and all those type of things.

You’re taking care of your body, you’re trying to reach a goal, trying to become something, become something significant, add value to the world. And so naturally it happens and it’s been a little easier for me to handle than it has been for my wife, honestly.

My wife has a lot of friends that she grew up with. It’s been tough because women and their friends are different.

It’s more emotional. Whereas guys, we’re more, “Alright, man, peace.”

And it’s not even like I don’t consider them friends anymore, it’s just like we just don’t hang out anymore.

Abel: We’re different creatures, that’s all.

Right.That’s definitely a challenge, but anyone listening and going through that, I would just encourage you and tell you that it is painful naturally because we’re human beings and we’re pack creatures.

We do value the opinions of others and we always will. But the reward of being a leader is so much greater.

And what happens is that a lot of these people will come around, you see what I’m saying? But you have to be patient.

I was reading a Frederick Douglass’ autobiography and check this. This was so chilling when I read it. He said he believes that there were thousands of slaves that would have escaped if it weren’t for the binds they had with their friends.

So they literally opted to be slaves, just because they didn’t want to leave their friends. How powerful is that?

But he actually had the courage to go against that human instinct which is to stay with the people that you love, that you’ve grown up with, that you went through all these things with. To separate himself from it and he became Frederick Douglass.

And he’s now remembered as changing the course of American history.

So I’m not suggesting that you and I are going to change the course of American history, that would be really cool if we did.

However, we don’t want to be like a slave who opts for comfort and safety… as opposed to growth and impact.

I just remind myself of that when anything gets uncomfortable, when I’m in situations where it’s like… We always want things to be safe and comfortable and that’s just human nature, it’s one of the 25 Cognitive Biases.

I was reading Charlie Munger’s book, the ‘Poor Charlie’s Almanac’. And the first one he talked about is that pleasure-pain bias.

We’re always going to be biased to move towards things that feel good and avoid things that are painful.

But if we can just know that about ourselves, not beat ourselves up and just opt for valuing growth like vision.

And I would say control—when you’re a slave to your environment and to your surroundings, you don’t have a lot of control. I like being in control. I like driving the car of my life. I like being in the driver’s seat. That’s just a better feeling.

In time they will come around and maybe some of them won’t, but that’s the price.

Abel: It’s a symptom. It’s a side effect and it’s a clue that maybe you’re on the right path.

If you’re the weird one in the room, and people are coming after you, usually that means they’re paying attention. They’re watching.

I experienced the same thing. I think I wrote about it in my book where at the beginning, I knew it wasn’t cool to do what I was doing. At the beginning when I was hanging out with my friends and I got ripped on a lot.

Over the course of the next few weeks and months, after I had Brad Pitt’s body or looked like the Wolverine with my shirt off, and they were still looking a little tubby, they’re like, “So, what are you doing again?”

If you’re a little bit ahead of the pack, you’re going to take the heat before anyone else does and sometimes you have to fall on the sword a little bit. And that’s why it’s good to not take any of this too seriously. And when other people make it personal to remind them that it’s not.

I hear you, man.

Where to Find Niyi Sobo

Abel: Easier said than done. But it’s a challenge. So, we’re coming up on time, we could talk all day man, but thank you so much. Could you tell folks a little bit more about your podcast and some of the projects that you’re working on?

Absolutely. I have 2 podcasts. It started with the Sports Motivation podcast and I wanted to create a platform for people to learn about the mindset and the strategies that it takes to dominate their sport or their industry.

There are a lot of people who listen to the podcasts outside of athletes. These principles can be applied to anything. There’s a lot of teaching involved. I’m breaking it down.

I used to hate how people would always say, “Oh, you just have to be confident, you’ve got to have mental toughness.” And nobody ever teaches you how to do it.

And so I’ve been creating and developing these systems and taking the knowledge I’ve accumulated from all these books.

I believe if you’re someone who aspires to be a high performer, then you would be, please forgive me if this sounds arrogant, you would be an idiot if you don’t listen to my podcast.

That’s not me over selling or anything, that’s just straight up. Because what I found is there’s not really things out there for high performers that actually show them how to do this stuff.

Abel: Yeah. I’ll say, I’ve heard a lot of sales pitches on this show and you’re not the type of guy at all, but that was awesome.

I appreciate it, but look, that’s just how I believe.

Then I have the Get Ya Mind Right podcast. And I’ve got to say it’s what I enjoy creating the most. It’s literally 4 to 5 minutes of just hard-hitting, edgy, motivational content over dope beats. And I’m just hitting hard and it’s fun.

I love hip hop. I don’t rap, but I’m just coming at it from a different angle. You’re going to love it. You throw it on when you go to the gym. Everyone tells me they listen to it in the morning to get fired up.

So, those 2 podcasts—Get Ya Mind Right podcast and the Sports Motivation podcast. I have a ton of fun doing it and I also coach high performers.

I also have this new eight habits of the dominant athletes video series which you can check out on my website. The free concept that I give away is very valuable and people get a lot from it without spending a dime. So, definitely check me out.

Abel: Right on. Well, there are very few podcasts that I personally enjoy listening to and especially when you combine your spoken words just riffing over those beats.

If you’ve got three minutes to kill. Here’s how I look at it. All of these big TV networks, all of the major media and all this stuff that’s in our face all the time, you can ignore it. People can choose to access your podcast and listen to stuff that’s going to get them better instead of brainwashed.

Like I was talking about before, you program your day which is what I do.

I’m subjected to things all the time that I don’t want to listen to, but when I can throw my earbuds in, my headphones on or when I’m at home, I am very intentionally choosing to listen to people like you who are chasing after truth, who are chasing after knowledge and doing it for no reason but to improve humanity and the situation that we’re in.

Because clearly the world needs help in whatever way you want to define that.

And so there’s a lot of urgency and I really appreciate people who are doing the work right now and you’ve been busy since you had me on the podcast the first time.  

I’m very impressed with what you’ve put out there already and I can’t wait to see what you do next.

So if you guys haven’t listened to Niyi’s podcast and checked out his work, check it out because he is going places.

So, thanks so much for coming on the show man. Keep in touch.

No doubt, I appreciate you having me on bro.

Before You Go

I get it. Eating a cucumber in public is not cool.

We are thrashed with the social pressure to eat junk, from our friends and family, our co-workers. TV. Billboards. The bus-stop bench. Junk-food is out to get us.

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How you take on your life—stress, meals, relationships, etc.—is highly swayed by your community.

That’s right.

Right now you can join the Fat-Burning Tribe for just $1.00 (usually $27)… that’s less than the cost of a small fries.

Are you up for the challenge? Join here: bit.ly/2hMdHzp

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2 comments:

    • Embracing the struggle and not relying on motivation. I know this already, but when you’re trying to change a lifetime of habits, it helps so much to hear it from people who are doing it and to be reminded of why.

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