Episode 14
Tim Tebow, philanthropist and former NFL quarterbackA beginner’s mindset and painting a vision can help you lead teams to success.

Former NFL and college football player Tim Tebow talks about what it takes to build — and lead — a team well. It has everything to do with mission, vision and values — both for yourself and your team.

Tim Tebow, philanthropist and former NFL quarterback knows a thing or two about being a part of winning teams. He currently leads his team at the Tim Tebow Foundation using skills he’s learned from his favorite coaches and the game of life.

As an entrepreneur, one of those skills he values highly is the ability to create and communicate a vision of success. In this episode, we’ll hear about the time Tim transferred schools to play for a coach who painted a shared vision of success even in the face of certain defeat. Spoiler alert— they won. Follow along as Tim shares why a vision is key to building the bonds necessary to succeed, how a beginner’s mindset will always make your performance — and your team’s — better, and why you should welcome the gift of feedback.

This is part two of our full interview with Tim Tebow. Check out part one of the interview if you’d like to catch up before jumping in to this episode.

  1. Build better teams by painting a vision and common goals
  2. Stay positive and keep making personal goals to weather low and high points of life
  3. Always stay a white belt
  4. ’Our mission is to fight for people that can’t fight for themselves’
  5. Choose leaders with a strong personal mission, drive
  6. Build teams that can dream — and have one foot on the ground
  7. It’s OK to disagree — challenging ideas sharpens them
  8. Desire to be better, not right
  9. Rapid-fire questions with Tim Tebow

Build better teams by painting a vision and common goals

Chris Allen: I just had, this is a wild thought, right? But if a bond of a team and the unity that can happen and all that kind of stuff — the bond of a team is built on trust. It’s built on relationship, confidence, boldness, all those kinds of things.

Tim Tebow: Common goal.

Chris: Common goal. There’s a multiplier in the bond.

Tim: Yes.

Chris: That is the thing that I think that if you are an entrepreneur or you’re leading a business, you’re leading a team, you’re leading a cause. I will say that probably everyone knows that there’s a multiplier in that bond, but building it, I don’t think everybody knows how to build that.

Tim: Oh, I think very few. I think it’s hard.

Chris: What in your mind is... You’ve been a part of a lot of things like that? I live in Denver, and I was not a Broncos fan until I saw you play, and I was like, “OK, this dude knows how to rally a team.” It’s like what are some of the things that are like, you build a team. I love the respect credits, like getting people, it was an invitation to respect you. It was like, I’m going to earn it and there are those things. What are some of the other things that really crystallize a bond?

Tim: Vision and belief would be the next two things, I would say. It is a vision that someone paints, a leader paints, but everybody buys into that vision. Everybody sees that vision and how that vision if we get from where we’re at to where we’re going, how the team wins, but also everybody else wins. There’s got to be a vision. There’s got to be something where we’re at that why should I buy in? Why do I want to be your friend? Why do I want to come work for you? Why do I want to give off my time away from my family and away from all my other friends? And why do I want to come spend time with you? There’s got to be a vision of something that we’re working towards. There’s got to be something that we’re going to, if we accomplish it, like if we buy in, what do we see? Where are we at then?

I think that’s with the best coaches, that’s with the best leaders, best CEOs, they do it as a group with the whole macro, but they also do it in the micro with each individual. “Hey, if you buy in, this is where you’re at. This is your salary. This is how you’re measuring up on all of them. Well, you will be here in salary, but you’ll also be here in your skill set. You’ll be here at every different level, whatever that job is.” Yet they paint a picture of how the whole company is going to be better and how they’re individually going to be better. I think that vision is so important. It’s important for the inspiration, it’s important for quality of work, but it’s important for how they also buy in as a whole.

Tim: It is just so important that people paint a vision. I think one of the best people I've ever been around was my high school coach at doing that, painting a vision of what we could be. This is a team that when I left, I left one school and went to this school just to play for him and literally I left the state championship team to play for this coach and literally the cover of the papers was literally “from a champion to a joke.” They had two wins the year before I got there. Never won a state championship, been over a decade since they've been to the playoffs. We get there... And why I decided to go play for him, I could have gone play a lot of places, but I sat down and met with him and he told me what our core value is: “It's to play with character strength and honor.”

He said, “As coaches, it's going to be our job to love you, and it's going to be your job to love one another.” I'm sitting there in this meeting with him, myself, and my dad and I'm like, “What? This coach is awesome.” Then he goes through his offensive playbook, and he said, “This is our vision. This is our dream. You can do this, you can accomplish this, and you can be the best player in the state of Florida in this offense with what we're going to do.” He would go through, and he would say, “After every single touchdown, when we're kicking off, we're going to hold up our hand, and you see that? That's four fingers and a thumb. It stands for five, and we're going to say ‘Mo, Mo, Mo.’ And what it's going to mean to everyone that says it and everyone that hears it, is that we have the momentum. Within five minutes, we're going to score again.”

Tim: So we can keep the momentum. I’m sitting there in this chair, thinking this guy is so freaking awesome, I want to go play for you. I left the state championship team to go to what other people would say is a joke to play for him because the vision he showed me that day, it was a 100% accurate and true in that first year, literally we were such a joke in other people’s eyes that every single one of our away games, we were that team’s homecoming, everyone. Five road games, all five we were their homecoming. They usually pick the... guys If you don’t know sports, they pick the worst team for the homecoming, so they thought we were the worst team.

Chris: You upset them a few times, yeah?

Tim: A few times, we still weren’t good. We were literally walking into classes saying, “Hey, if you like sports at all, would you please come try out for the football team?” And I don’t even go to school. I’m homeschooled, but we’re going into classes saying, “Would you please come try out for the football team to be a part of it?” And we’re getting more kids to buy in and the basketball players and the baseball players and the weightlifters and lacrosse. Come, maybe you could be a defensive end. You’re fast, be a DB, whatever, just come buy in. That first year we went five and five. The next year, my junior year, we went 11 and two, lost into the third round of the playoffs at a heartbreaker to a rival that we could still go over the end of that. I think we got robbed.

Next year, my senior year, we won the first-ever state championship, and it was not done because we were the best team. I totally believe that it was done because Coach Howard painted a vision. People believed in him, in the vision, and because of that as a team, as a whole, as a group, we bought in so much that we were willing to play harder, to go further, to do whatever we could. We won the state championship, and we upset a two-time defending state champion.

A few years ago, Coach Howard passed away. He was coaching at Southern Oregon. I instantly dropped everything that I was doing and said, “I’m sorry, we got to cancel these things. I’m just so sorry.” I’m not someone that likes to renege on my word, matters too much, but I just... this is... “I’m sorry we have to. My school coach passed away and I got to go.” I loved him so much that when I won the Heisman, Coach Howard had to be there.

Chris: That’s amazing.

Tim: He passes away, and I fly to Southern Oregon, which is about as far across the country as you can get. I was blown away. I walk into the stadium where they’re having his celebration of his life and it was crazy. You know why? Because there’s probably 10,000 of his former players. Honestly, maybe a few more than 10,000. It’s a PAC stadium. And yes, he has his loved ones and his friends, but the majority of this stadium were his players that loved him.

And from all over the country, of all the places that he’s coached, they all flew to Southern Oregon to celebrate Coach Howard.

Chris: That is remarkable.

Tim: And it was like, and I just thought ... I got the chance to speak at it. And I remember wanting to tell everybody, “One day at my funeral, I hope it’s like Coach Howard’s.”

Tim: Of all the lives that were impacted.

Chris: Yes.

Tim: And he did so much of that by painting a vision for young athletes. Getting them to believe in it, but then also believe in themselves. And he helped so many young athletes not just have success on the football field, but then go on to have so much more success in life because those same qualities of character, strength and honor didn’t just represent themselves on a football field. And now it wasn’t—

Chris: They started to show up in their life.

Tim: In everything they did… And they were like, “Oh my gosh, he did this because his first priority was to love us. And then it was for us to love each other.” Like what football coach starts out a team meeting with, “It is our job to love you. And it’s your job to love one another”?

Chris: That does not sound like football speech.

Tim: It doesn’t, right? But that’s why there’s all of those athletes that showed up, in my opinion. A lot of reasons, but a big one is they showed up because Coach Howard loved them.

Chris: It’s a real impact.

Tim: For me it was a huge impact.

Stay positive and keep making personal goals to weather low and high points of life

Chris: Well, you know, it’s like — I think a lot of people’s purpose gets refined and Coach Howard had a purpose, right? And a lot of the purpose in someone’s life gets refined by challenges, setbacks. You talked earlier about the valleys.

Tim: Yeah.

Chris: What was a valley for you, right, were maybe after your championships, right? What was a valley for you that you’re like, “OK, this is ...” And you knew that this was refining you?

Tim: I don’t know if always I felt like it was refining me. I felt like…

Chris: Only upon reflection?

Tim: Yeah. I mean, I’d say one that was very public was just after the awesome run with Denver and then get traded to the Jets kind of suddenly. Didn’t see that coming.

Chris: Yeah.

Tim: And then to not have the chance to do much that year and be a really hard year. And then the next year get cut by the Patriots. I think that run was very discouraging.

Chris: Yeah.

Tim: And then it’s interesting. The perspective matters so much. Like one of those years I was voted one of the most popular athletes in America and I was also cut. So it’s like a paradox.

Chris: What perspective do you have?

Tim: Yeah. Who am I? Who am I in the middle of that? And on one hand, you’re thinking it was going so good. We were on this run. We were one of four. We made it to the playoffs.

And the next thing you’re like no one’s giving me a chance to do what I want to do or I felt like I was supposed to do, you know? And then you’re also like, God, I thought we were doing this. I thought we were going to—

Chris: I thought we had a thing, dude.

Tim: Yeah.

Chris: I think one of the salient points there for me was not letting your circumstances shape your paradigm or how you look at or shape your perspective.

Tim: Yeah.

Chris: Right? Because if you do that, it’s likely to derail you. But if you have a different perspective, if you’ve got a vision, if you believe in something, the likelihood of you being able to arrive out of it because of your perspective. It’s like happiness is a choice.

Tim: Yeah.

Chris: Joy is a choice. These are all choices that you make. Or if you let your circumstances dictate, if you’re going through something hard and you’re like it’s really hard right now. I’m going to let it be hard.

Tim: Well, it’s also is the glass half full or is it half empty? We were literally just talking about a study that came out that speaks directly to this, and its multiple studies. One was done in 2019. And one just was just concluded, I think, in April. And both of these studies referred to optimism, and their conclusion is that if you’re optimistic, you live 4.4 years longer in your life.

Chris: That’s incredible.

Tim: It’s incredible.

Chris: Yeah.

Tim: It’s incredible. Like that science is backing up our mindset. If we choose to see it as half full, if we choose to be optimistic, we might live longer? Wait a second. Our brains are pretty powerful. That’s two different studies that you can find. That one just released and the other one is based in 2019 that’s fascinating.

Chris: 4.4 years longer? That’s pretty amazing. I wonder what is something ... I want to go back to college football for just a second. Is it weird to have people say you’re the best college football player of all time? Is that weird for you?

Tim: I don’t know. I just try to probably keep going. I don’t try to think about it either way, you know?

Chris: What’s the thing that is spoken about you or said about you, that you’re like, “OK, that’s a part of the legacy I’m going after”? What are some of the things that you hear or said about you that you’re like, “OK, that’s some proof that I’m moving in the right direction,” or some evidence?

I know you don’t like to talk about yourself very much, but it is one of the things, because there are things that people say they’re like, “Best college football player of all time.”

Tim: It’s humbling. For anybody to ever bring that up is super humbling and would be grateful to be mentioned with so many people. But I’m trying to answer your question, and I think that ... so it’s pretty cool. When you win the Heisman, they say to you ... they said to us a bunch of times throughout the week leading up to it, “Hey, whoever wins a Heisman out of the four of us finalists, you will forever be known as Heisman trophy winner. It’s how you’ll be introduced. It’s how you’ll be remembered.”

Super cool. I love the Heisman. The award is awesome. The brotherhood is so cool. The whole thing’s awesome. I think it’s one of the coolest awards that you can win in sports.

Chris: Yeah.

Tim: I think it’s really cool. But I started to really think about it and process it, and if at the end of my life, that’s how I’m remembered? Even though it’s so cool, and this isn’t trying to knock the Heisman. I think it’s awesome.

Chris: Yeah, yeah. It’s prestigious.

Tim: If that’s how I’m remembered, I think I missed the mark. Because they’re going to remember something from when I was 19 years old, and I think it’s the paradigm shift of what’s important, what matters, what lasts.

I wanted to be my best in sports. I would strive to be the best, to be my best. Nothing wrong with that. I even believe it’s biblical.

Chris: Yeah.

Tim: But more importantly, it’s do we understand that we can put it in its proper place and context? That it’s just a game. But if we take that job, that game, that occupation gives us that we can transcend it to more.

And if we don’t, did we miss the mark on the opportunity, the chances we had to transcend it? To do more with it? And I think every one of us has that opportunity. Everyone of us has that chance. Right? To do more for our community.

To transcend it for our family, to transcend it for our coworkers, to transcend it for our neighborhood, to transcend it for whatever we believe going back to calling that we have. That urgent and divine invitation to accept responsibility for a particular task.

What is that task that you think you have been called to? Is it your community and the homeless population? Is it the church that you go to? Is it those around the world? What is it? Is it the local school that you can make better? What is it? Are you going to accept responsibility? Are you going to transcend the task? And I feel like what happens is we feel like, no, all I need to transcend it to is to get more of a promotion or praise or platform or money or fame or power.

If we build our company to make $100 million, is it worth it? Now I’m not saying don’t. I’m an entrepreneur. I love building companies. I believe it’s a good thing. I want to make money because there’s a lot of amazing things you can do with it.

But I’m just saying, don’t have that be your end goal. Have that be a means to your goal. Now transcend it. Build your company. Crush it. Go win as many games as possible. All of those things. But don’t let it stop there because then, if it does one day, you’re going to be sitting there with this success and you’re going to say, “What do I do with it now?”

I’ve known so many people that are so fortunate with what they get to do that they’ve gotten to the tip of the top of what they dreamed. And then in those moments on the edge of those couches or in those rooms after that’s happened and they say, “Oh, I got everything I ever wanted. What do I do now?”

Because ultimately, so many times those things that the world tells us is everything isn’t everything. But we can take the platform that we have and we can transcend it into more, into helping hurting people, into helping our coworkers, into helping our community, into making a difference. And now that is a worthy end goal.

Chris: Yeah. Whatever you’re doing, make sure it matters.

Tim: That’s right.

Always stay a white belt

Chris: I think something that there’s an effervescence around you that has been awesome. Right? Just in the time we’ve been able to spend together. Your appreciation for the journey and all of the stops along the way it’s incredible in a lot of ways for me. And I wonder, mentorship matters, being coached, and being coachable really matters.

What are some of the things where you’ve been and where you are now? What are the things that you’re discovering on some of the stops in your journey that you’re sharing with maybe people you’re coaching or people you’re mentoring?

Tim: Yeah. I think it’s such a good point. I love the question. I love coaching, mentoring. More importantly, I want to be coached, and I want to be mentored. But my dad told me this my whole life growing up, “He who walks with wise will be wise, but companions of fools suffer harm. And in a multitude of counselors there is wisdom.”

Guys, we need to surround ourselves with wise counsel, with wisdom, with people that aren’t going to tell us what we want to hear. They’re going to tell us what we need to hear. They’re going to sometimes tell us what we don’t want to hear. That’s important.

One of my favorite words in Hebrews is “musar,” and what does it mean to be musar-driven? Musar means discipline, instruction, correction, or teaching, right? Thirty times Solomon mentions that in Proverbs. Thirty times. Because he wants his sons to understand that it is worthy to try to be coached, taught, have instruction, discipline. That matters.

And I think sometimes we think that it’s a bad thing. We think, “Oh, if I get to a certain level, I don’t need instruction and coaching.” No. I want to be someone that until my last day on Earth that I am having wise counsel speak into me and share with me and coach me and teach me where I always have that mindset.

In martial arts, the white belt is the starting belt. To always have that mentality. That you’re a white belt no matter how long that you’ve been in martial arts. You always have the mentality that I’m showing up every day. I’m learning, I’m coaching, I’m getting better.

And even if the day before you were successful in what you did, don’t wake up the next day and say, “Oh, I was successful at ...” No. Man, that next day, even after a championship, even after you feel like “I was at the top of my game.” I want to be coached because I can get better. But I want to have that mentality not just for sports or jobs or occupations, but in life to always … As a husband, maybe one day as a father, as a friend, as a leader in the foundation as a ... To be a better son to my mom and dad. Every way I want to be musar-driven. Shoot, it’s why my shirt says this.

Chris: Yeah, I was saying like it’s right there.

Tim: Yeah. I think that is so important. And I think being mentored and being a mentor matters. But I think it matters more how you start with the mindset of, “OK. Coaching and teaching, instruction, and discipline’s a good thing. Now I want to receive it.”

Tim: And then, if I have the chance to kindly share that with someone else, then give freely. And don’t give with strings attached of, “Oh, if I give you this knowledge, you better get me back.”

Tim: No, but now pass it on. Pass it on to the next generation. Pass it on to those that are going to replace you one day, you know? And I just think that’s just ... It’s the mindset that I’ve seen my dad live out and it’s something I think I’m far from, but I want to do better at.

’Our mission is to fight for people that can’t fight for themselves’

Chris: That’s good, man. Well, I think something that has been awesome is we’ve talked about sports, we’ve talked about coaching and mentorship. I know this is the Entrepreneur’s Studio — and one of the things that I really like about your story is how you’ve leaned, in you’ve taken action. There’s things that you’re doing, that are really interesting. Because I want to talk about some of the activities that you’re in, the businesses that you’re in. Talk about being an author and then talk about some of the causes. So I don’t know if a good place to start is the foundation, because you talked about that earlier. I’d love to learn more about that and how you’ve designed the team and the work that you guys do.

Tim: Yeah. It’s honestly, besides my walk with Christ, it’s the most important thing, and telling other people about what Christ did for us. After that, the most important thing in my life is what we’re doing at the foundation, and our mission to bring that faith, hope, love to those people needing brighter day in their darkest hour of need. We’ve been fortunate. God’s opened so many doors that we’re now in over 75 countries around the world and…

Chris: Wow.

Tim: …it’s our goal to fight for those orphans that have been thrown away, to love those kids with special needs who have been viewed as less than, to help provide care for those with long-term or life-threatening medical illnesses, and to be able to rescue and help restore as many people that are being trapped in this horrible world of human trafficking.

And those are our four areas of focus. And we do that through 16 different initiatives, that we have in our over 75 countries around the world. But it’s really under the same, you know, it looks different in different areas. Whether that’s the baby safes that we have in Africa, or it’s the campuses for girls who have been trafficked, or that’s the hospitals that we have, or it’s the Night to Shine worldwide prom night for people with special needs — all these different areas. It goes back to the same fundamental thing: hurting people that need love, that need care, that need hope, that need faith. And that need us to do something about it, right? And it ultimately falls into the same category. That’s why if I sum it up, when I’m talking to people: our mission is to fight for people that can’t fight for themselves.

Chris: Wow.

Tim: And if you are hurting, if you have been viewed as less than, know that there are people that love you and that we want to do anything and everything we can for you. And especially those that think that there’s nobody coming for them. We want them to know that we’re coming for them, that we love them. And anything and everything we can do to get to them, to rescue them, to love them. That’s what we’re going to do.

Choose leaders with a strong personal mission, drive

Chris: So 16 initiatives, they need leaders, right? Somebody’s got to lead those initiatives. That’s right. So give me a story of someone that’s really memorable, this is how we found this leader and this is what they’re doing today.

Tim: I’ve got so many of these. Gosh, where do I even start? Shoot. I’ll start with the president of Tim Tebow Foundation, his name’s Steve Biondo. We looked all over the country and truly all over the world, to a certain extent, of interviewing people. And our first president was amazing, and God called him into his next adventure. And so, we’re looking for a president to take us from phase one as a foundation to phase two. And so we sit down and we interview him. I knew all his background before we sit down and he starts telling me about what he’s called to and his life mission, which is to “Wake up, serve, repeat.” That’s his mission statement for his life.

Chris: Wow, that’s incredible.

Tim: Five minutes in, I don’t say this…

Chris: You’re like, “I’m vibing.”

Tim: …in my head, I’m like, “This is our guy.” So I literally spend the next 10 weeks finding every reason not to hire him. And I couldn’t find one. So, I called him and I said, I tell him that story. I said, “Right when we sat down, I felt like you were the guy. In the last 10 weeks, I’ve been talking to everybody, looking at everything, trying to find why you weren’t the right guy. And I couldn’t find one. So will you please come on board and be our president and lead the team?”

Chris: And he said, “Uh, I decline.” [Laughs]

Tim: So he was actually driving and he pulled over and he got emotional when I was telling him that. And, he’s just super grateful. And so that was just one story of — was he the most qualified in some areas? Yes. In other areas? No. I mean, there there’s so many qualifications you can look at. But you know what, when we were looking at it, it’s like, you know what? He’s been in some cool companies. He was an executive at Family Christian and GAP and some other cool companies. But you, those are good, but there’s a lot of executives. There’s a lot of — but man, when you wake up, what’s going to drive you? When our team — that’s over a hundred people that work with us every day and 23 partners around the world, which also represent hundreds of people — when they wake up, I want your life to remind them of the mission, not of the job, there’s a big difference.

Right? You know and, and he does such a good job because he lives the mission. It’s not a job. It’s a mission for him. It’s a calling, not an occupation. And so that was part of the reason that I thought saw something about our team. The newest person, she’s going to see in your life the mission, not the job. She’s not going to see, “Oh, it’s a nine to five.” She’s going to see, “Oh my goodness, this is the reason he wakes up. Not because his alarm clock goes off, but because there’s people in need.” There’s a difference. The head of our ministry, we call it our serve team, is a lady named Brandi Cook. And so before we started our own wish-granting organization, we did a lot of wishes through Make-A-Wish [Foundation], through Dream On 3, through Dreams Come True. And she was the head of the wishes for Dreams Come True. Great organization, all these organizations love them. Great organization.

Tim: I don’t know if this is a fact, but I think she’s probably done more wishes than almost anybody else alive. I don’t have proof of that, but she’s done thousands of wishes. And she’s so careful and delicate with every single thing for every single wish recipient, everything — their favorite color of their favorite M&M, their everything. It’s not just a moment where it’s just a weekend or just a little bit of time. No, it is inviting them into a family, where we are going to love them for their official wish, but they’re always part of our wish family.

Chris: Oh, that’s incredible.

Tim: And so anyway, she worked for Dreams Come True. She was so delicate, cared so much. And so I spent the next year trying to hire her away. And we finally got her, it was one of my best recruiting jobs.

And now she runs our whole serve team where she — it is so, so awesome — that she can never turn it off. It’s a hard thing. But at 2 a.m., I’ll get texts of, “In Cambodia, in Thailand … in these safe homes — what about if we did this, this and this?” You know, when there’s something we’re trying to think and pray through, she will go nonstop. I know I can always listen to her advice because she always has the heart of the ministry and the heart of the lives we’re trying to serve as her forefront — not pleasing me. Not honestly pleasing anybody else on the team, but it’s the mission. It’s the ministry. It’s those lives. And she’s so valuable.

Chris: Yeah.

Tim: That makes her so valuable. That’s why she’ll be one of the first people I go to because it’s like, “What do you think?” Because I know that she is so deeply rooted in the mission of it…

Chris: And she’s got the chops, the skills to think through that stuff.

Tim: Absolutely.

Chris: That’s incredible.

Build teams that can dream — and have one foot on the ground

Tim: And I don’t know. So those are a few stories of some of the different people that we brought on board of how called they are to it and how a part of it. And so really for us, though, when starting the foundation, it was OK. We started with the mission statement and now we want to go serve Sherwin, all the boys and girls like him. But how do we do that? So we started at first with orphan care, and then that led into the wish-granting organization. And then that led into our first hospital. And then that led into more special needs care. And then it was the idea of — our president came to me one day, and he said, “Hey, Timmy. So because we serve and we love people with special needs all over the world. What about for our five-year anniversary — what do you think about if we had a prom-like celebration feel for an event?” Because we knew two churches that had something called “Jesus proms,” and they’re really cool. And they said, “Hey, what if we did something like that for our five-year anniversary as a celebration?” And I said, “That’s awesome. I love it.” He said, “OK, cool. Where do you want to have it? Do you want to have it in Florida? Do you want to have it New York, California? Do you want to have it in the Philippines? Do you have it overseas? You know, we’re fortunate to serve in different places. Where do you want to have it?” And I said, “Honestly, I, I think we need to have it everywhere.” And he said, “Now, what are you talking about seriously? Like, we need to pick a location — where do you want to have it?” And I said, ”I think we need to have it everywhere.” And it’s one of those moments that logic was over here, and the principle was over here. And I couldn’t necessarily try to think logically about it. I had to think in the meaning of why we’re doing it. and it wasn’t super logical, but it was the dream. And we have to try. We have to try to dream God dreams. And I said, “Every single boy and girl that has special needs that have never been celebrated, have never been cheered for, have never been loved, have never had anyone say that they’re worthy, that they’re valuable. That they’re special — because that’s all over the world, including here in our backyard.” All over, right here in Oklahoma, in Oklahoma City, all over the place.

These are families that desperately need it. And so I said, “I think we need to try do it everywhere.” And he didn’t really like me that much at first. And, so we sat down with our leadership team and shared the goal and the vision and the dream of “How can we bring this to the world?” And so we worked and we came up with the 48-page manual and goals and different ways to fund it and dream about it and pray about it. And so the first year we were like, “Oh, OK, please.” And we decided that the best way is to partner with churches because, you know, they need to be the ones — if a boy or girl has the best night of their life at Night to Shine and it’s at a church, then maybe they’ll go back the next Sunday.

Tim: And maybe it’ll bring the church together with the community. And there’s a lot of other reasons, but that was a big one for it. And so we decided we were going to partner with churches and we’re like, “Man, we hope we can do it.” And the first year, we had 44 locations in 26 states and three countries. And we were like, “Yes! this is so awesome.” And then I remember flying to North Carolina for the one that we were going to, the first one we were going to attend that night. And I remember pulling up and saying, “Hey, pull to this side, pull aside. I don’t want anybody to know we’re here.” And I get out of the car, and I’m watching it from afar, from probably 50 yards away. And I’m watching all these people celebrate all of the kings and queens — because every single one of them we crown as king or queen of the prom. We tell them we believe the God of this universe looks at them that way every single night of their life.

Chris: Yeah.

Tim: And so watching from afar, I’m just crying, watching all these. And I was like, “I think it’s something special.” And so we walk up and we attend it. We’re part of it, and we’re celebrating. I’m freaking out on the red carpet, cheering so much for everybody. And that night, we really had something special. We were like, “Man, maybe this is going to be special.” So that was year one. Year two, we had 201 locations and in a bunch of countries. And then year three is 375 and then, you know, four-something. And now we’re in over 700 locations in all 50 states and 40 countries around the world.

And hopefully, it’s just the beginning. We want to get to every country around the world. And it’s been so fun being able to have it obviously start here in the US — but when I’m in Paris, or when we’re in Albania, or when we’re in Uganda, or when we’re in Zimbabwe, or all the different places and I can’t speak that language? It’s the exact same event.

Chris: Wow.

Tim: Because the language is not about English or French or wherever we’re at. It is a love language, and it is God’s language, and it is the exact same feel wherever we are around the world. And that’s why I think Night to Shine is so special because it’s every single one of those boys and girls. And I don’t just mean boys and girls because we’ve had kings and queens that are 90 years of age that have come to Night to Shine. And every single one of them to get crowned, to get celebrated, to see their family and their mom crying watching their kids getting celebrated — and a lot of times for the first time in their life. And that was something that — you have goals of why you start something, but then you also realize there was 20 other things that are so cool about it that I had no idea. And I love it because I can’t take credit for it. I can’t even take credit for a Night to Shine. It was his idea, my goal. And it was — we need to bring it everywhere in the world — and we’re still trying to fulfill that and bring it everywhere in the world. And I think what’s cool about that is, going back to the leadership, is we didn’t have it figured out.

And my team, I would say honestly, half of them probably were like — I don’t know if they really agree with me. I do think that they respected my heart for every single one of the lives that we want to serve. And they respected the vision and, even moreso, the principle of what we’re called to do. And so even if they’re like, “We don’t know,” they were still going to step in. I’m so grateful that they believed in the vision that we had — all a little bit different — but all with the same common bond. And then it was, it was so much input and influencer from so many different members of our team. “How should we change it? What should we do? What did you see? What did you see?” And our teams would spread out and go literally all over the world to attend the Night to Shines.

Tim: And they would come back and say, “This one did this, and it was so good. And we could implement this one! And you know what, when we were in Turkey, they did this! And we were in Lebanon, they did this.” And so now we’re implementing and we’re changing the manual every year to get better and better and implement so many different things. And it’s not one person as — someone that’s a leader — it’s literally everyone takes ownership of it. And ultimately, I think it’s, you know, hopefully a God thing, because we’re celebrating who he, we believe, he loves so much.

Chris: Yeah.

Tim: And so that’s one of our, that’s a cool initiative that I love. That’s honestly, probably my favorite night of the year.

It’s OK to disagree — challenging ideas sharpens them

Chris: You know, one of the things that you just talked about was this idea of people respecting the idea, or not everybody agreeing and stuff like that. Something that we talk about here a lot is there’s a difference between alignment and agreement.

Tim: Yeah.

Chris: When a team can be aligned, that means that we’re moving in the same direction; agreement as all those little things along the way. That’s where a lot of beautiful and incredible and maybe impact-making things die is because like we’re waiting for agreement first.

Tim: Yeah.

Chris: And the alignment is the thing that keeps it driving forward.

Tim: That’s right.

Chris: And then it’s like, OK, well I may not agree with everything. “The ’everywhere’ thing, man? I don’t know, Tim, everywhere?’” And it’s like, “Well, are you everywhere?” “Well, 700, you know, locations is, I think some could describe that it’s to happen in the same place. Same time. That’s almost everywhere.” But like I think alignment and agreement are different things. And that’s one of the things people should be able to — consensus is important — but I think people should be able to have space to disagree but still be aligned.

Tim: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s why I want every single person that’s on our team. And I tell our team this all the time: “If you have thoughts, if you have ideas, if you have reasons, please come, please.” I want someone on our team, and maybe it’s the newest person, to have the next world-changing idea. And I want you to feel the ownership of that. Now when you do it, be ready to be questioned, though, in a good way. And every time I say something, I want to be questioned, and maybe “devil’s advocate” is the wrong term, but that’s what we mean. Because you know what, when that happens, we bring out the best in everyone because usually, that idea doesn’t start with the first pitch. It starts when everybody has had a chance to digest it. And that’s where it, the “spark” as your phrase used earlier, but what it led, it, it grew, and it grew, and it grew to something special because everybody had input and saw something different and they’re able to poke it a little bit.

Chris: Totally.

Tim: And now they’ve built something that was really tested under fire. And when we talk about iron sharpening iron, I think that’s what it looks like biblically. And I think what a lot of people think it looks like is a pillow hitting pillow. “Oh, you know, we’re going to sharpen irons. I’m going to, you know, toss pillows.” No! Iron sharpening iron is in the heat is in battle. It’s when two swords are colliding. Right? And they’re crashing into each other.

Chris: Yes.

Tim: And then they’re sharpened a little bit and then held under fire. Not just, “Oh, I’m going to hit some pillows and yeah, help you feel real good.” No! It’s “Hey, when I bring something, I want you to question it, bring, look, take the other side, take this — because you are making me better. You’re making me think through it. You’re making me learn how to process it or say it even better, and you’re poking holes.” And I want that. I not only want that, I try to demand it and relish in it. I want everyone on our team to learn how to present something, defend it. And then when we finish, wow, now we have something that might hold up under fire a little bit more.

Chris: That’s good.

Desire to be better, not right

Tim: But it also takes people that are willing to say, “You know what, oh, you founded it, but I’m going to tell you why your reasons suck.” And I want it. And I love it. And we actually had one lady that — COVID-19 had hit and we were talking about Night to Shine and what, what do we do? How can we do this? How can we figure out a way to still celebrate people and keep them safe in the middle of COVID, especially so many vulnerable people, right?

Chris: Yes.

Tim: And, and she was pretty new to our team and she has a grown son with special needs. So she’s lived this her whole life. And we’re in a meeting and we’re talking for, I don’t know, 20, 30 minutes at least. And then she speaks: and it was awesome. And she steps up and she just crushes it. And after the meeting, I pull her to the side and I say, “Thank you, because you made us better today.” Like third day, maybe, on our team, “You made us better. You made me better. You made our team better. More importantly, you let us help more kids today. Love more kids. Care for more kids in a safer, better way, because you are willing to share. Please don’t ever not share in another meeting because you can and will continue to make us better. Don’t ever be afraid to share. Thank you for doing that because if you wouldn’t have, we would not be as good as we are now just because you were willing to share.”

And that was, you know, and, and I tried to share, and I also shared that in front of the team, because I wanted them to all feel empowered, to be able to do that. Yeah. You know, and she really did. And she’s, she’s taken off and done such a good job for us, but because she was willing to share and because she was willing to share why a thought that I had wasn’t right. And I loved it. I was like, “Yes! You crushed what I had to say. Thank you. Do it again.” Why? Because then I get better. I don’t want to be right. I want to be better.

Chris: Oh, that’s good.

Tim: You know? And, you know, gosh — I don’t want to surround myself with the team where I feel like I’m going to be the one that comes in with the best ideas. I want to come in and I want everyone to just slaughter mine, you know? Because then I’m getting better every day — and that’s a table I want to sit around.

Chris: One of the things that I like about what you just said was — she challenged you, right? Shot the ideas down, gave credible reasons as to why, but you still threaded that to the vision, right? You were like, “Hey, I just want to let you know, what you did may have felt, you know, counterproductive. But it was so productive.”

Tim: It was so productive.

Chris: It moved us toward the vision, not away from it.

Tim: It had nothing to do with “against the vision.” The vision was lives, was care, was help, was worth, was value. It was how we do that. And I, so it was, you know, I’m presenting in a way or “Hey, what do we think of this, this and this.” And when she shares, she’s so willing to say, “Well, this, this and this. These are the downsides. Look, did you see this?” “No, I didn’t. Wow. That’s awesome. Thank you.” And I’m just getting more pumped the whole time. Let’s go, you know? And it was so helpful, and I relished that. Like I love that. I’m grateful because now when we leave that meeting, I know that I’m better. I understand more. I see a different perspective. I see a different vantage point. I see more reasons. And I also think everybody else there on our team could see it as well, right? The mission didn’t change, but how we’re going to execute it got better. That’s why it’s a productive meeting.

Chris: I think that’s incredible. And that is something that every team needs to embrace. The biggest personality in the room shouldn’t always win.

Tim: That’s right.

Chris: The biggest title in the room shouldn’t always win.

Tim: That is so right.

Chris: The owner of the company shouldn’t always win.

Tim: That’s right. The loudest shouldn’t win.

Chris: So true. I’ve been that before and that’s not really helpful, you know? And that’s why I think welcoming the challenging is really, really important. An idea that came to me when you were talking about ironing sharpening, I love the pillows thing, beause I’m going to use that. I was like pillow versus pillow, but there’s…

Tim: It’s almost like how we think that a lot of times?

Chris: Yeah. Because it’s like — especially people pleasing. It’s like it is, “Oh, man ah…”

Tim: You’re like, “Oh well I want to, I’m going to make you better. So I’m just going to…” Yeah. No. Sometimes what I need is not a pillow. I need you to be a rock.

Chris: Yeah.

Tim: You know? I need you to be firm with me. I need you — don’t fake encourage me. Don’t have fake compassion. Don’t have fake love for me. Tell me the hard thing in a way that I can try to understand it. And that doesn’t mean — sometimes when you do that with someone, they might not take it the right way. It’s OK. You still presented — you try to bring truth in love to both of them, right?

Chris: Yeah.

Tim: But it’s really not love, and it’s not truth if we don’t ever actually get to the root of it, the real message? It’s not the most loving thing you can do.

Chris: Yes.

Tim: And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made that mistake. Because I thought, “No, no, I’m doing good. No, you’re not.”

Chris: Yeah. You’re not helping…

Tim: You’re not helping

Chris: …as much as you could.

Tim: Yeah, that’s right.

Chris: It’s like, a lot of people need to be able to have the courage to submit their vision, their idea, their whatever, to the sort of crucible of feedback.

Tim: Yes.

Chris: You know?

Tim: Everyone gets better.

Chris: Everyone gets better. And then ultimately, what happens is the vision or what you thought, right? It will likely shift a little bit when you’ve allowed the feedback to come. And it’s often better…

Tim: Absolutely.

Chris: …when people have leaned in on it.

Tim: Going back to what we talked about earlier, walking with wise men, a multitude of counselors. Now you actually give them a chance to give feedback. And now that feedback it’s taken, it’s mixed with everything. And now the result of that’s going to be better if you’ve surrounded yourself with wise counsel, with people that are at the table that are actually going to tell the truth and use their experiences and their love and their care to mix in and not people please? Man, that result almost all the time’s going to be better.

Chris: Oh, it’s so true. So good. Well, I’d say what you’re doing in the nonprofit space, I think, is powerful. I think there are a lot of lessons and parallels that can be in the for-profit space. But one of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about our conversation is that Tim Tebow is a pretty rockstar recruiter.

Tim: I don’t know about that.

Chris: He’s like, “I know how to build teams,” which is pretty awesome.

Rapid-fire questions with Tim Tebow

Chris: I have so many more questions, but I do want to get to some rapid-fire questions.

Tim: Let’s do it.

Chris: Can we do it?

Tim: Of course.

Chris: OK. Now a second ago, when we were talking about this, I was like, “Oh, the first one’s going to be really good.” I don’t know if it’s going to be good — it’s just inquiring minds want to know.

Tim: OK.

Chris: You ready?

Tim: Absolutely.

Chris: What’s Wikipedia got wrong about Tim Tebow?

Tim: No idea.

Chris: We had a pool of, would he say, “I don’t know,” or this or that you haven’t read about?

Tim: No, but what a waste of time it would be if I did.

Chris: That’s hilarious. You’re like, “No, it really would be a waste of time.”

Tim: It really would be. Yeah. That’s also so important that —

Chris: So your mom wasn’t in a coma when you were born?

Tim: No. My mom had a lot of issues with her pregnancy with me. I mean, but dysentery, placenta, not being attached, so many different things — but not when I was born. She was not in a coma.

Chris: We were like, “I don’t know if that one’s right.” Yeah. What’s your favorite holiday?

Tim: Christmas, easy.

Chris: Why is that?

Tim: Well, it’s because when the rescue mission started, Jesus came down to this Earth for us, and it’s a good news of great joy, which should be for all the people.

Chris: Yeah.

Tim: And I just, I love it. And I love that we get to exchange gifts as a representation of the greatest gift of all time. We need to remember that when we give presents, we get to give, because he first gave us.

Chris: I figured you would say something along those lines. Because the next question is divergent from that?

Tim: Yeah.

Chris: Is “Die Hard” a Christmas movie?

Tim: Yes. Do you watch around Christmas time? Is it always on TNT or something? Yes. Is it a good movie? Yes.

Chris: It’s there for Christmas. OK. We settled that one.

Tim: I mean, is “Elf” a Christmas movie? Yeah. Yes.

Chris: Do you watch it in the springtime?

Tim: Yes. Yes. Is it because it’s funny? Yes that’s OK. This is true. I also would watch “Home Alone” as well.

Chris: Yeah. I, I agree with that. It’s definitely a year-round thing for us as well. Uh, what’s your favorite board game?

Tim: Probably have to go with “Settlers of Cataan.”

Chris: OK.

Tim: Have you played it?

Chris: Yeah

Tim: It’s pretty good. It’s a good strategy game.

Chris: OK. You like the strategy?

Tim: Yes. Oh yeah. My issue with it, though, it’s hard to play in under an hour. So you kind of have to set aside time for it.

Chris: OK.

Tim: And it’s not one of those that you’re just kind of — you got to lock-in, which I love about it.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah.

Tim: But my wife says that we seriously play that a little too serious.

Chris: Oh, OK.

Tim: My wife says that we might need counseling when we finish. Like, it’s one of those that sometimes doesn’t bring out the best in everyone. You know?

Chris: Yeah. You’re like, man. I still have work to do.

Tim: For sure. I don’t know that I necessarily brought a whole lot of faith, hope and love into this, you know? So, I might have brought drive, competitiveness, and a different mission.

Chris: There’s a simpler and shorter game that we play at my house. That’s “UNO Attack,” and the same type of personal work is required for everyone after. yeah. So good.

Tim: Well, what draft pick — do you follow the draft? Do you have a person you’re keeping an eye on the show?

Tim: For next year’s draft?

Chris: Yeah. Yeah.

Tim: You know, people are going to think I’m biased, but someone that’s so gifted is the quarterback of Florida, Anthony Richardson.

Chris: Oh yeah.

Tim: If he can stay healthy, he has a chance to be very special.

Chris: It’s so good. All right. So if Tim Tebow’s life was a Broadway musical, who would you have to play Tim Tebow?

Tim: Hugh Jackman. The dude can do it all. Are you kidding me?

Chris: He really can.

Tim: I mean, he’s awesome as Wolverine, but then he can also be like, what? You want a musical. Sure. I got you.

Chris: Oh man.

Tim: You know, I mean, it’s awesome. He’s a stud.

Chris: That was a quick answer. Have you thought about that before?

Tim: Yeah, actually, probably because I was asked if in a movie who would you want to play? And I said him, similar concept.

Chris: Yeah. You know, he works out some, too, you know? So, what’s the last music that you either streamed or downloaded?

Tim: Mmmm. I’ll give a shout-out to him, Corey Kent, who’s from Oklahoma, up-and-coming country artist, just had a new album come out.

Chris: Anyway, what’s your favorite podcast?

Tim: I would say the, the Luskos, probably.

Chris: OK. Well, what, tell us about the Tebow pack.

Tim: Oh, they’re awesome. That’s me and my wife and our dogs, by the way. And we have a Burnese mountain dog, a golden retriever and a dalmatian and it’s Chunk, Kobe and Paris are their names. The Burnese, because when we saw him, we were like, “That’s a Chunk.” And I love the “Goonies,” where it’s, you know, Chunk, you know, “Hey you guys.”

Chris: Yeah. That is the best.

Tim: Yeah. And then, Kobe is the golden retriever, and so, Kobe Bryant. And then the dalmatian is just this beautiful little girl, that’s a little crazy, but she’s so sweet. And her name is Paris, and we got married at a venue in South Africa called La Paris. Oh. And so, they’ll have meaning.

Chris: It was reminiscent.

Tim: And they’re all — one of them was born on our wedding day, and one the next day, and then one two days after that. So let’s go.

Chris: OK. That was a story, because somebody put that one in there and I was like, “OK, he’s going to talk about his dogs.” That was a very, very incredible story about your Tebow pack.

Tim: True story. They’re awesome. We treat them like people too.

Chris: Yeah? Do they wear clothes?

Tim: For Christmas they do.

Chris: Yeah?

Tim: We got them outfits for Christmas. Chunk sleeps in bed with us every night.

Chris: How did he get that privilege?

Tim: Oh, because he’s Debbie’s favorite.

Chris: OK.

Tim: I know. Don’t tell her I said that, but it’s not even close. He’s by far her favorite. And so, because he’s her favorite? I got to show more love to Paris and Kobe.

Chris: Yeah. You got to say it.

Tim: I have to, you know?

Tim: And yeah, we, I mean, it’s a joke. Like when we’re gone, we miss them more than we miss like almost anybody else. They’re amazing.

Chris: Well, what is one thing that, there’s a lot of people that cheer for you, OK, you know, a lot of fans. What is something that you would want to say to them?

Tim: I would just say “Thank you for your support. Thank you for the prayers, the belief over the years. But I’d say probably, more importantly, is thank you for so many of them for trusting me and what I’ve been called to — the fight to help people in their darkest hour of need. And even when we were starting it, so many people believed in us and supported us before we could show “This is what we’ve done,” from day one when we started. And I think that’s probably what has meant so much to me.

Chris: Good. Well, if you could say one thing to all the kids in the world who are facing hardships, what would it be? They’re in the middle of the hardship. What do you say to them?

Tim: I, I would say I, I can’t even imagine what you’re going through, and I’m sorry for all the hard times and the adversity and the hardship. But I want you to know that you are loved so much by the God of this universe — when he created you, he created you one of one, you are one of one. You were created in love, by love, and for love. And when he created you, he did not make a mistake. He’s never had an “oops moment,” and you’re not an “oops.” You were fearfully and wonderfully made. Fearfully just means awesome and unique, and wonderfully means unique and set apart. And you are awesome. You are unique, and you were set apart. You are one of one, and I want you to know how awesome you are. How special you are. You are so incredible, and you might not have had enough people that have told you that. You might not have even seen that, you might not even believe that, but you are. And I hope that you realize that in your life, about your life, how special you are, that you are special enough for the God of this universe to give his one and only son for you. That makes you pretty incredible.

Chris: So good. I was like, “I wonder what he’s going to say to that one?” I like that one a lot. What’s, name an entrepreneur that inspires you and why?

Tim: Oh gosh. You know what I would say? One of the companies I’m so grateful to be associated with is a company called Clean Juice.

Chris: OK.

Tim: And their founders, Landon and Kat Eckles. They’re amazing. It’s a company based out of North Carolina. And they started Clean Juice with the goal to be super healthy, and to get crap out of the way so that people could be healthier. And I love it. They give so much to charity, and in the Quarters for Kids project they have. And so much of what they make they give to help other people. And I was like, “We’ve got to find a way to work together.” And so now we’re partnered, and you know, I’m part of it, but also get the chance to support in a lot of different ways. And I love that their vision started with a goal to make people healthier, and then it continued to grow. And now they’ve got well over a hundred stores around the country and…

Chris: Wow.

Tim: …making people healthier and being successful at the same time. So I would say that they’re successful and significant at the same time.

Chris: Oh, I like that. “Successful and significant.” Well, it’s been a true honor to sit down and talk with you really. I really appreciate you coming out. What’s next for Tim Tebow?

Tim: You know, working on a lot of different projects all over the place. But first and foremost, it’s what we’ve talked about. We’ve got a lot of countries to get to, and we’re hard at work for it.

Chris: It’s good, man. Thanks for coming.

Tim: Appreciate you man. That was fun. Thank you.

Chris: Absolutely. Absolutely.


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