George Mumford, Mindfulness Coach to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, on Awareness, Compassionate Action, the Dizziness of Freedom, and More (#509)
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“When you go get interviewed, if they tell you you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, you say, ‘Thank you,’ and you just smile. And if they tell you you’re the biggest choke artist of all time, you just thank them and smile.”— George Mumford
George Mumford (@gtmumford) is a globally recognized speaker, teacher, and coach. Since 1989, he’s been honing his gentle but groundbreaking mindfulness techniques with people from locker rooms to board rooms, Yale to jail.
While at the University of Massachusetts, where he roomed with future Hall of Famer Julius Erving, injuries forced George out of basketball and eventually into an addiction to pain medication and drugs. With the help of meditation and mindfulness, he got clean and made it his mission to teach and work with others.
Michael Jordan credits George with transforming his on-court leadership, helping the Bulls to six NBA championships. George has also worked with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and countless other NBA players, as well as Olympians, executives, and artists.
George believes everyone has a masterpiece within. His book The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance —both a memoir and an instruction guide—can show you how to access it.
George also teaches The Mindful Athlete Course, which can be found at GeorgeMumford.com.
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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
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Want to hear my first interview with Jack Kornfield who introduced me to George? Listen to this episode, in which we discuss hang gliding, monk training in Thailand, unpleasant mystical experiences, the difference between compassion and empathy, lovingkindness meditation, and more.
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with George Mumford:
- The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance by George Mumford
- The Mindful Athlete Course | George Mumford
- A Seeker’s Guide to Samadhi | Yoga International
- The Zen Master’s Zen Master: How Phil Jackson’s Mindfulness Guru Is Helping The New York Knicks | Vice
- This Mindfulness Teacher Gets Results (Just Ask Kobe) | The Boston Globe
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- With Mindfulness, Life’s in the Moment | Harvard Gazette
- 5 Timeless Truths from the Serenity Prayer That Offer Wisdom in the Modern Age | HuffPost
- Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center | BIDMC of Boston
- Tai Chi: A Gentle Way to Fight Stress | Mayo Clinic
- The Definitive Guide to Yoga for Beginners and Experts | Healthline
- Insight Meditation Society
- Cambridge Insight Meditation Center
- The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Values, and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck
- Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice by Shunryu Suzuki
- Love Is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald G. Jampolsky, MD
- The Bible
- The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism by Daniel C. Matt
- The Qur’an
- I and Thou by Martin Buber
- The Way of Man: According to Hasidic Teaching by Martin Buber
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
- The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life by Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan
- On Becoming a Leader by Warren G. Bennis
- The Meaning of Anxiety by Rollo May
- The Last Dance | Prime Video
- Chicago Bulls | NBA
- Laura Ingraham Told LeBron James to Shut Up and Dribble; He Went to the Hoop | The Two-Way, NPR
- Beatlemania! In 29 Truly Unbelievable Photographs | ATI
- Julius Erving: ‘I’ve Always Felt Powerless’ | Sports Illustrated Vault
- Soren Kierkegaard and The Psychology of Anxiety | Academy of Ideas
- On the Origins of VUCA and How it Affects Decision Making | Indigo Anchor
- Michael Jordan’s Game-Winner vs. Georgetown (1982) | March Madness
- Boston College Athletics
- Troy Bell: Inside College Basketball | Sports Illustrated Vault
- Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals | Wikipedia
- Start Me Up by The Rolling Stones
- The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News
- Dharma Talk | Wikipedia
- The Stress Response | Disease Prevention and Healthy Lifestyles
- George describes how his mind and body reacted on a spiritual level the first time he witnessed Michael Jordan practicing for the very first time. [06:46]
- What most impressed George about the intensity Michael Jordan brought to the court even during an everyday practice session? [09:23]
- George shares what it was like to have “a security clearance on [his] badge and track marks on [his] forearm” as he held down an FBI-scrutinized position while struggling with heroin addiction. [11:52]
- Where did George’s path to addiction begin, and what led to his sobriety? [15:01]
- How did mindfulness enter George’s life, and what helped him remain sober in the interim? [20:58]
- Books that George found particularly useful during this time. [26:45]
- Books that George has recommended and gifted most often. [29:10]
- After becoming sober and cultivating greater awareness, how did George connect with the world of elite sports? [31:49]
- What value did Phil Jackson see in bringing George’s skill set to the Chicago Bulls, and had he tried to impart this value in other ways prior to George’s involvement? [34:20]
- How has George helped the players in his care manage the distractions of constant public scrutiny? [39:12]
- How has George approached helping players who have wildly different personalities and preferences? [43:28]
- Counterintuitive advice from George that Kobe always remembered, and a general formula for remembering that the most direct way to achieve something isn’t always the most efficacious. [46:59]
- What does George mean when he refers to “the dizziness of freedom?” [48:44]
- Barrier breakthrough versus the improvement trap, and the moment “Mike” Jordan became “Michael” Jordan. [52:53]
- George recalls another memorable breakthrough moment. [54:55]
- Advice George Mumford of 2021 would give to the younger George Mumford who was just beginning to work with high-level athletes. [58:37]
- How does George use the four As — awareness, acceptance, action, assessment — in the context of making adjustments to form in order to achieve something? [59:53]
- How George used the four As to teach a class of people who didn’t speak his language, and a friend of his used the four As to rescue a prison class from descending into utter chaos. [1:05:00]
- What is George most excited about these days? [1:09:17]
- George’s ask to the audience and parting thoughts. [1:12:56]
- Julius Erving
- Michael Jordan
- Kobe Bryant
- Shaquille O’Neal
- Jack Kornfield
- Joan Borysenko
- Larry Rosenberg
- Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Scott Peck
- Martin Buber
- Victor Frankl
- Gautama Buddha
- Albert Camus
- Jean-Paul Sartre
- Søren Kierkegaard
- Steve Zaffron
- Dave Logan
- Warren Bennis
- Rollo May
- Erich Fromm
- Saki Santorelli
- Phil Jackson
- James R. Jordan, Sr.
- LeBron James
- The Beatles
- Dennis Rodman
- Roland Lazenby
- Stephen Covey
- Troy Bell
- Troy Murphy
- Al Skinner
- Mick Jagger
- Jimi Hendrix
- Malcolm X
- Bruce Lee
- Bo Lozoff
- Hans Selye