Tim Tebow, philanthropist and former NFL quarterback
Embracing the grind to lead by example builds trust, relationships and teams
Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow believes deep-rooted respect is earned little by little. Whether on the gridiron or in an office, leaders can build relationships through “the grind” — small, everyday actions that build trust. Accepting the grind and leading by example can give teams the trust they need to execute when the game clock is dwindling or a project goes downhill.
You may know Tim Tebow from his years as a quarterback at the University of Florida and his time in the NFL. He would be the first to tell you that’s only a small part of the legacy he’s building.
Tim sits down with the Entrepreneur’s Studio to share the inspiration behind the Tim Tebow Foundation, his foundation that combats human trafficking, empowers special needs youth, and brings hope to young people. Tim also shares how he found his leadership edge in college by embracing “the grind” to set an example and build trust among his teammates. These hard-won gridiron lessons can help any leader or business owner build relationships and teams that can rise to the occasion when challenges appear.
This is part 1 of 2 from our conversation with Tim Tebow. To be the first to be alerted when we drop the conclusion of this conversation, be sure to visit theentrepreneurs.studio and SUBSCRIBE for notifications and other exclusive content from The Entrepreneur’s Studio
Below is an edited transcript of the conversation. In the episode, you’ll hear:
Tim Tebow: Well, thank you for having me.
Chris Allen: Yeah. Yeah. Good to be here with you and talking with you. There are a lot of podcasts that talk to entrepreneurs. I’d say where this one’s a little bit different is we want to talk to people and listen to people who have achieved uncommon success. I’d say you fit that, right? Uncommon success doing remarkable things. But I’d really like to figure out where a lot of that stuff comes from, and you don’t really achieve uncommon success unless you’ve got a driver, a purpose, you’ve got something going on inside.
Tim: And also probably if you don’t have a lot of failures along the way.
Chris: We’ll talk about that. I’m familiar.
Defining ‘purpose’ and how it can change with time
Chris: So talk to me about — what would you say is your purpose? And then let’s talk about how you discovered your purpose.
Tim: Oh, I think you have so many different purposes, right? I don’t think that there’s just one thing. I think you can think about it in a macro and in the micro. In the macro, I think for me, it’s to love God and love people as best I can in as many ways as I can, in as many places I can, through as many ventures and avenues and foundations and speaking and podcasts and businesses and sports and every way that you get a chance to do that. I think there are so many venues for that, but I also think there are other opportunities that I think you could also say is, you know, your purpose in seasons and times in your life. Right? And I think, you know, sports has been an opportunity for me.
Business has been an opportunity. Speaking has been an opportunity. You know, growing up on the mission field is an opportunity. All those, I think, are part of my purpose and a part of the plan that I think God has for my life that have continued to learn in every single one of those moments in every single one of those seasons. And so when you look at someone’s purpose, I don’t think you can just say, “Hey, it is just this one thing.” I think when you step back, and you look at the micro or at the macro? Sure. But I think there are seasons and times in your life where, you know, you might be in this place in college or in this place in high school or you’re just graduating, and you’re trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do. And I think what happens in that moment is so many people get stuck because they think, “Oh, well, well, my purpose is to start a business, or my purpose is to make it to the NFL, or my purpose is to do X, Y or Z.”
And so they’re so focused on that destination of what they think their purpose is of this end-of-the-journey destination rather than to be present in the moment while I still can understand that this is my end goal. For example, let’s say you’re someone that wants to be a missionary. You feel called to do that. Well, I failed at this many times. That mission doesn’t start when I land in that third-world country, and I forget all the people I was on the plane with. I forget all the people that I was in the Uber or the taxis or all the people that I get to see day-to-day. So many times when we try to live a purpose- or a mission-driven life, we get so focused on “This is my mission.” And we forget that there’s so many people we come in contact with that are also part of that mission. You know, and, and just when I know, “OK, this is what I want to do.” I can’t pass up all the opportunities until I get to that place.
Chris: I love that. Framing it as a lesson: that there are lifetimes, seasons, and moments. And one of the things that I really struggled with is I thought my calling was this lifetime full of helping others do what they were called to do. And then I realized that there were seasons that would change. And then one of the things that helped me, and this is one of the things I’d love to hear from you, are some of the discoveries of the moments along the way. Because one of the things that I started to live for in the journey is the moments. There were these purpose moments that I was like, “That’s supposed to happen.”
And what was an early moment for you that started off at the origin story of your purpose? What was a moment for you where you were like, “OK, that was supposed to happen.”
Tim: A couple of things with that first: You use the word “calling” multiple times. And I love it, but I think we throw it around all the time and we don’t necessarily always understand what it means. So in Greek, what calling means is “an urgent and divine invitation to accept responsibility for a particular task.” And I think it’s important that we …
Chris: Say it again.
Finding his calling in the Philippines
Tim: “Urgent and divine invitation to accept responsibility for a particular task.” And for me, that first big moment where I felt like my life was wrecked in a good way because I knew I was being asked or called to accept responsibility for a particular task was when I was 15 years old. And I was in the jungles of the Philippines. The Philippines is made up of thousands of islands, and we had the opportunity on this trip.
So I was born there and lived there for the first five years of my life. And we went back a bunch, but this was this trip. I was 15. And we’ve been there for about three weeks. And we were in so many places. We were in schools and hospitals and orphanages and clinics and doing so many amazing things. But we travel one day to a super remote island because it’s made up of over 7,000 islands and they’re not necessarily super close to each other. So we’re in the middle of nowhere, and we get to this island, we have to hike up to where there are Jeeps, and we get in a Jeep. And we drive to the top of the mountain, and get out. We’re walking into this village, and everyone just freaks out. They’re so excited to see us. And why? Was it because they had never had visitors in the history of this village?
Chris: No way.
Tim: That’s what they told us. We were the first visitors they’ve ever had. Foreign visitors.
Chris: Are you just with your family, or are you with another group?
Tim: So the team was probably 30, 40 on this mission trip, but we probably only had five or six of us, maybe seven of us that was on this part because we all split up to go to different places. Yeah. And so it’s probably six or seven of us that were together. And we get out of the Jeep, and we’re walking in, and they’re just freaking out so excited in an awesome way, running up to us and hugging us, grabbing our cheeks, holding our hands.
The kids are literally like hanging off of your legs. They’re so excited to have visitors and just so sweet. And the Filipino people are just some of the nicest people in the world in my opinion. I have been fortunate and traveled to a lot of countries. And I don’t know if there’s a nicer group of people in the world. They’re incredible people. And I sort of feel like I am a little bit of a Filipino because I was born there. Until COVID, I was playing on Team Philippines for the US Baseball Classic. And so that was awesome. It’s very near and dear to my heart. But as we’re walking into this village, the reason we’re there is to share our faith. And so we gather all the people in the village, about 1,200 people and I have the opportunity to share my faith and share the good news of the gospel. And as I’m doing it, I see three boys in the back right corner turn and walk away. And I’m kind of like blown away. I don’t understand.
Chris: That’s different than the welcome that you just did.
Tim: It doesn’t make any sense. I’m not exaggerating, row one is standing on my feet, and I can touch row seven. I mean, people are packed. And it kind of hit me, and I don’t know why I saw it, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. When I finished sharing, a lot of people said “Yes” to Jesus that day. And it was awesome, and we finished, and they’re giving us hugs. But I was just like, “Man, I, I don’t know why they left.”
I just wanted to go see if I could see them. They just had a piece of my heart. And I wanted to go see them, so I’m walking around the back of this school, and I don’t see them anywhere. And I’m walking down the dirt road, and I don’t see him. And off of that dirt road, there’s another smaller dirt road. And at the end of that dirt road, probably around 200 yards or so, there’s a little bamboo hut. And I see one of those boys crawl under it. And he sees me, and he comes walking towards me. And so I walk towards him, I meet him halfway, and I try to say hello. He says nothing to me. He just grabs me by two of my fingers like this.
And he pulls me to the bamboo hut, like right over his shoulder, pulling me. And so we get to the hut. He still doesn’t even say anything to me. He just gets on his knees, and he crawls in the bamboo hut. And so I’m standing out there like, I guess I’m going to go in, too. And so I, I get on my knees, and I crawl into this. I mean, the opening is so small, and I crawl into the hut, and I see the other two boys. And one of them is lying on a bamboo cot, and the other one is sitting by his shoulder, holding his hand, rubbing it like this. And at first, it looked like everything was OK. But then I, I looked at the boy laying on the bamboo cot, and you start to kind of scan the room.
And I look over, and I see his feet, and his feet were on backward. And it was the first time that I had ever seen anything like that up close and personal, and it kind of hits you hard, and I’m a little bit emotional, but kind of holding back tears, acting like I’m not stunned a little bit, you know? And so I just get on my knees, and I start talking with these three boys, and we’re having a good conversation sharing why we’re there and, and having a, probably a 10 or so minute conversation. But the whole time, I wanted to ask and almost felt like I had to ask. Why did you leave when everyone is fighting, literally pushing and shoving to get as close to us as possible? And every one of them is coming up to us and getting as many hugs as possible.
And some of our teammates with blonde hair, you know, they couldn’t believe it. They were like pulling the blonde hair; they were so excited. “Why, when all that’s happening, why did you leave?” And Sherwin is the name of the boy with his feet on backward. And he looks at me and, with so much hesitation and trepidation, he says, “Our principal really wanted to impress the Americans. In my whole life, I have been told I’m not impressive.” And now I’m just trying to hold back tears, but I know I’m supposed to see these boys, you know? And, and so I keep talking to them and sharing about the love of God, that how much God loves them and has a plan for their life and how much they matter in their worth, regardless what anybody else says, you know how much God loves them.
And our team comes, and they’ve been looking for me for like 20 minutes now because we’ve got to go to another village. And they find me literally in the middle of nowhere, and they’re like, “Timmy, we’ve got to go.” And I’m like, “No, I’m never leaving!” And, so I stand up and I’m getting ready to walk out of the bamboo hut. And Sherwin looks at me and says, “Timmy, would you carry me?” And I was like, “Dude, of course, you know, why are you even nervous to ask? I got you. Let’s go." You know? And I scoop him up, and right when I pick him up, one of his friends grabs his hand, and the other one grabs one of his feet, and they’re so close. They literally kind of hold onto each other the whole time. And I loved it; it was so cool. And so together, the four of us, we walked out of this bamboo hut together, and our team was there. But then so were all of the Filipinos, and they saw me, and instantly you could hear an audible gasp. And I didn’t put it together at first. I thought, why …
Chris: “He’s carrying the unacceptable one.”
Tim: But I didn’t know that at first, but then I realized they weren’t gasping at me. They were gasping that I was carrying him. And what we came to find out is that they believed he was cursed …
Tim: That he was less than, he was insignificant. And they also believed that the more you touched him, the greater chance of being cursed yourself. And so that’s why they, that’s why they couldn’t believe that I was carrying him. And so I’m carrying him, I take a couple of steps, and everyone backs away from me. And I take a couple more steps, and they back away from me. And you’ve got to understand that for so long, they’ve been told that he was born different. So he is different. And that “different” is worse. That “different” is less than. That difference is insignificant. And that difference is cursed by the gods. But for the first time, they’ve just heard the good news of the gospel. God loves every single person. And when Jesus died on the cross, that counted for every person, every person has worth, has value. Every person was created in love, by love, and for love with the God of this universe — and it’s almost like you could see their minds wrestle with it. It’s …
Chris: A counterculture moment happening.
Tim: Wait, wait a second. Is it what we’ve always been told, or does God also love him? And I get about 10 or so steps in, and one of the elders of the village comes walking up to us and puts her hand out and touches Sherwin on the shoulder, which is right by me. I’m carrying him like this, and they touch his shoulder, as to finally say, “You’re welcome here” in front of everybody. And then another one comes up and touches Sherwin’s shoulder as to say, “You’re welcome here.” And then we’re walking by them, and then there’ll still be a few people that would back away, and there’d be another person that would reach out and touch him kind of to say, “Hey, you’re welcome now, you’re welcome now.” And then a few more would back away.
Tim: And so we finally get by everybody and over to the Jeep. We get in the Jeep to leave for the next village that we’re heading to. And I get on my knees, and I pray with these three boys to accept Jesus. And I look at Sherwin and the other two. And I just say, “Guys, I don’t know if I’m ever going to see you again in the Philippines or if you’re ever going to see me in America, but I totally believe one day I’m going to see you in heaven.” And Sherwin looks at me and says, “Kuya Timmy,” which means brother, “I can’t wait to run with you in heaven.”
Chris: Oh, that’s amazing.
Tim: And we never talked about what heaven’s like, we never talked about what your body’s like, literally never came up. You know? And, just how, in my opinion, supernatural, your first thought is, “I can’t wait to run with you in heaven.”
I just thought it was so freaking cool. And now I’m not just holding back tears; it’s like ugly crying. So they’re like, “Timmy, let’s go; you got to get in the Jeep.” And I’m like, “No, I’m never leaving again.” They’re like, “Yes, you are.” And so I give them hugs, and I get in the Jeep, and I drive down the mountain, and I just knew that day. I knew when I drove up the mountain that I loved sports. So freaking driven and competitive. I knew I wanted to try to be the best I could be in it. But man, driving down that mountain, just a whole different perspective of what I was supposed to do, what I was called to do. And I knew, I didn’t know how exactly, but I knew, I knew so clearly that I was called to fight for boys and girls like Sherwin around the world.
Tim: I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what it looked like — I didn’t. There were no epiphanies. I just knew for Sherwin, and for all of these boys and girls that are viewed as less than, as insignificant: It just was that feeling of God putting in my head and my heart, “They’re not throwaways. They’re not throwaways to me. And they better not be a throwaway to you, Timmy.” And I just knew that was; I don’t even think if I saw you right when we were leaving, I don’t even know if I could have verbally explained that to you. It was this …
Chris: Yeah, it made a mark.
Tim: It made such a mark, you know? That for him, every boy and girl like him, that’s what I’m supposed to do.
And that was the really first life-altering moment for me. That was when I knew that I had a purpose beyond some of the things I thought. I didn’t know how I was going to execute it. And that led to so many more things. That led to going back into more orphanages and more places and serving. And then ultimately, that led to my first day out of college, when I was allowed to start the Tim Tebow Foundation. The first thing we did when we wrote the mission statement, all I did was think of Sherwin.
Tim: And it’s OK: Sherwin, and every boy and girl, what situation are they in? And so the mission statement is “To bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.” That was Sherwin. What did Sherwin need? Sherwin needed faith, hope and love. Why? Because he was in his darkest hour of need. And that is our heart. That is our mindset. That’s our heart posture. That’s our calling is for those in their darkest hour of need. What wins? Faith, hope and love, let’s go bring it. That was our mindset. That’s our mission statement. And that was from an interaction with an amazing young boy.
Chris: Well, if you think about it, that it anchored you in a way. It created an undeniable experience that you have never forgotten, it still tugs on you today. So it anchored you in that way and likely changed the trajectory of Sherwin’s life at that moment. And it also helped other people see maybe a different perspective about what it meant to let love and action, right? You didn’t just go ahead, “I’m just going to tell you some stuff that’s right.” You picked him up, and that’s kind of what reverberated the message. I think that that’s one of the things that callings should have reverberations, the waves, the changes, the things that happen, that can happen from those moments. And then when you revisit those moments over and over again or do they happen to you? There’s like a craving for that. I want to do it over and be a part of those things over and over again.
Tim: You know what I would also say that Sherwin had such a big impact, but I would say equally as big; his two friends had a huge impact on me, too. Because could you imagine: if the biggest thing that had ever taken place in your school, your village, your city, your church, whatever it is, would you have been willing to miss that? Because there was someone in need and not just someone that’s a friend, not just someone that the community cares about. But someone that everybody else despises.
Chris: And fears.
Tim: That’s where I was like, “oh my gosh.” You know, and to be honest, the more we got to hear about their story and hear from other people, it was a good chance the only reason Sherwin survived was that they went and found food. And honestly, probably sometimes stole food to keep him alive.
Chris: It’s amazing.
Tim: And honestly, the answer for me when I was there is probably no, I don’t know if I would’ve been willing to do that. But I want to be willing to do that. You know? And if I was in that situation today, I don’t know. But I want to be that person. I want to be those two friends, and what’s so cool about it is the picture that it painted in my brain. Because I also don’t think when I left, I could have verbalized exactly what I was thinking, but the picture that it left in my brain was: Sherwin is hurting. And he’s an outcast, and one of them is right by his side, holding his hand, saying, “I’m with you; it doesn’t matter what I got to miss out on, I’m with you.” And the other one, the reason that he left the hut was that he heard that the Americans were there to share good news. And he thought, “If the news is so good, I’m going to go find one of them and bring them back. So Sherwin can hear the good news.” That’s why he came and saw me and came and grabbed me to bring so that his friend could hear the good news. That’s …
Chris: Wow. Amazing.
Tim: … But that’s how we’re supposed to live for people. Hey, when someone’s hurting, we’re there. “Hey, I’m with you.” Doesn’t matter what else I could be doing. I’m with you. Because you are hurting. And that’s also what compassion looks like — the actual meaning of compassion is to care so much for someone that I’m willing to suffer with them. Not “Oh my gosh. I’m sorry. I hope you feel better.” That’s pity. Compassion is: You are in the suck. I’m going to get in with you. You’re hurting. I’m going to hurt with you, but I’m going to be with you. And, and that’s what was just so staggering to me is one of them was with them. The other said, “OK, you know what? There’s good news. Watch this. I’m going to get someone. I’m bringing them back so my friend can hear it.” Do we love people that much? Do we love people that much? Honestly, we say it all the time. And I don’t know if I do it, but I want to. I want to be those two friends to people.
Chris: It’s so good. Yeah. I call it “being in the foxhole” with somebody. You know, if somebody’s in a firefight, I’m going to get in the foxhole with them. Right? I’m going to help them I’m going to do whatever I can to help them get out. That could be any type of help. And that’s one of the things that drives things like this, even just having these cut types of conversations is find ways to give people the nuggets, to be in the foxhole with them, to be a part of the same community that they’re a part of because the effect, right? It doesn’t necessarily have to be something that people would call a religious moment, right? But there are a lot of people that need a lot of help, right? There’s help for your soul, which is vital and important, right? It’s a key part of your message. And there’s also people that are in a dark moment and actually need to get out of a situation or need advice on whatever situation they’re in.
Chris: Or they need somebody that’s been there before that can go, “Hey, tweak this, push on that. Don’t do this.” Or somebody that’s terrified of doing something, right? You got to have something that you’re willing to share and be in the foxhole and be a part of it with them.
Tim: I totally agree. I think that ultimately goes back to what love really is. And I think so many times we all miss the mark on what the greatest form of love is. And we think that the greatest form of love is a feeling and it’s not. And when the Greeks would talk about love, they had four types of love, but the most admirable form of love was “agape.” And it’s a sacrificial form of love, it’s also how they would refer to God’s love for humanity. And the best definition I’ve ever heard of agape love is to choose the best interest of another person and act on their behalf. That’s what we’re called to do. To choose someone’s best interest and act on their behalf, whether they know it or not. Whether I know them or not, whether we’re best friends or not, whether we have a common bond or not, that doesn’t matter.
I don’t have to be best friends with someone to love them, to choose their best interest, to act on their behalf. And I feel like that is something that is so powerful when we understand and we grasp it. That, wait a second, I don’t have to have an emotional connection to truly love someone. And also what happens is, for some people, we disagree on something, and then it’s like, well, I could never love that person. That’s the absolute opposite. And, you know, what’s cool in scripture is that agape is mentioned I don’t remember 116,17 times something like that, which is the noun. But the verb is mentioned like 143 or something like that. So it’s funny how the noun is mentioned less than the verb.
And maybe, I don’t know, maybe it’s just because we need to know that there’s a difference between knowing about God’s love and showing God’s love. Maybe it’s because knowing it is so important but maybe we should make that transition where I know it, but I’m not just going to know this. I’m going to show this, I’m going to bring it to the world. Because listen guys, I was a homeschool dyslexic and a lefty, but I do know the difference between a noun and a verb. And, you know what, don’t let it just be a person-place-or-a-thing or idea. Let it be the actions that we bring to humanity.
Chris: The stuff we do about it
Tim: Let’s do something about it. And let’s not just do something about it for the people that we really care about. Yes. That’s important. Let’s do that, but let’s do that for a person that we don’t like. Maybe people that we don’t agree with. Maybe people that we have nothing in common with because they’re just as valuable as that love is the people we have everything in common with.
Defining leadership: “Leadership is another form of influence’
Chris: So good. Well, one of the things that I think is awesome about your story is there was a spark that was kind of born, right? There was a discovery; there was something that you couldn’t quite define. And something that tends to come along with that, and maybe as that spark sort of matures or forms is leadership. Because leaders often are the ones that are doing something about it. That doesn’t mean you have to have positional authority to lead, right?
Tim: That’s so true. I think it’s so overrated. Just because you have the title doesn’t mean that people will follow you. They might follow you a little bit because they have to because of your title, but people don’t want to follow titles. They want to follow courage. They want to follow passion. They want to follow a vision. They want to follow someone, that they see something in them that they want in themselves.
Chris: It’s so good. And what was an early leadership discovery for you, right? What was a story where you’re like, wait a second — I’m going to be a person that’s going to do something about it? Whatever I encounter, whatever challenge I face, or if I see others facing challenges, I’m going to do something about it. What was kind of an early one for you, where you’re like leadership really started to form you?
Tim: I think I was very fortunate because I got to see my dad, who I think is a really good leader, my whole life growing up. And I got to watch so many coaches that I had growing up, and I got to see them lead in so many different ways. And leadership comes in all forms, sizes, shapes, backgrounds, tones, and messages. There’s not one. It’s not cookie cutter just because you go to a leadership conference, and they say, “Do it this way,” right? There have been leaders throughout history that have done it in so many different ways. And leadership is not cookie cutter. Leadership is another form of influence. And I think the number one way to lead people is not for them to like you; it’s for them to respect you.
It’s like if I want to lead my team, or I want to lead my business, or I want to lead my church, or I want to lead my school, or I want to lead my friends — they should really like me. Well, what happens is if you form these “likes” with so many people and they like you because of what you have in common, or the video games or you play sports together or whatever, what happens when you disagree, and they don’t like you as much, right? Because “likes” are super fickle; look at social media. They click because, oh, you posted a meme. That’s funny. They like that. What about when you post something that you believe in, that you stand up for? They might not like you. But what happens if you form all these likes, but you don’t have true respect is the likes are going to come and go.
But if you form respect, deep-rooted respect for the other person, that’s not surface level? Well, do we agree? Great. When we don’t agree? Well, I still respect them so much that I’m going to have a conversation. We’re going to dive deeper into a relationship. I had the chance to tell some young student-athletes a couple of days ago: “Are you searching for more likes and followers, or are you searching for more respect from your peers and those that are looking up to you? Because I just believe it’s going to last so much longer.” And honestly, this was something that I went through a lot my freshman year in college. By nature, I’m such a people pleaser. I really am. I want to be friends with people. I want them to like me. I want to be that person that welcomes everybody, that gives everybody a hug.
Chris: You know, does everybody feel a part?
Tim: Me and my mom are very similar. We couldn’t watch movies where people like were overly mean or made fun of themselves. We would cringe. We’d be like, “No, no, no.” But like my dad is so opposite. My dad is so bold, and he could care less what people think, and you just stand up and be so bold. And I was like, I am so opposite of that by my nature. And, I’m so much like my mom in that way where I didn’t want conflict. I just wanted to be friends. And then, my freshman year, I’m just getting crushed in a lot of ways on a national stage. And I just remember going to my dad and saying, “Dad, all these people that are crushing me right now.
Tim: If they got to know me, dad, they would like me. They would.” And my dad’s like, “You know what, Timmy, they would. Do you know why? Because you’re likable. But I got to tell you, son; I don’t think all of them want to like you because they don’t want to get to know you. And you’re going to have to learn how to deal with that. When people don’t want to like you when they don’t want to get to know you.” And I was just stunned a little bit.
Chris: That’s an aha moment.
Tim: It was. And like, wait a second: These people writing these articles, they don’t want to get to know me so they can write more accurately? They don’t want to get to know me? You know, it just whatever, whatever point …
Chris: You got to like the accuracy; they need it to be right, right?
Tim: And whatever it is, you know, for whatever reason they don’t like you for. I was just really taken back. And at the same time, I was reading a book by Winston Churchill at a time in his life when the majority of the world disliked him because the allies thought he was losing the war with his strategy. And obviously, if you’re on the other side, then he was your enemy. So everybody pretty much couldn’t stand him. And he writes, “If you have enemies, good. It means you stood up for something at least once in your life.” And I was like, so puzzled. I was like, how the heck can having enemies be good? It was such a puzzling concept. And really thinking about it, you’re like, “Wait a second. It’s because he was willing to stand for something that so many other people weren’t. He was willing to stand for his convictions.” And in doing that, it turned some people off.
But even in doing that, look at now how people talk about him?
Chris: Oh man. Yeah.
Tim: Now movies come out about him. Now people talk about his leadership, but then? That’s not what they were saying. But it’s also because he lived by his convictions, probably not necessarily by his emotions. And I’m so grateful that we get to live by our convictions, not our emotions. And I believe when we live by our convictions and we, we’re not going to be perfect with that, we’re going to fall and we’re going to mess up with that. But when we try to stand with them and try to stand behind them, what we can do is we can earn people’s respect slowly. Doesn’t come as fast as likes, but it’s also going to be so much more of a stabilizer and long-term relationship builder than likes would be.
And reading that and also setting a few more things, were things that really helped me. I couldn’t necessarily change the way I’m wired, but I could start to change my mindset and my heart posture. Say, OK, I know this is going to come. I know there’s going to be criticism. I know there’s going to be dislikes, but I’m going to make a choice to say that’s not what I’m going for. Today, I’m going to earn people’s respect. I’m going to earn my teammate’s respect. I’m going to earn my coach’s respect. I’m going to try to earn the fans’ respect. I’m going to try to earn the media’s respect. I’m going to try to earn the students’ respect. I’m going to try to earn my teachers’ respect. I’m going to earn, I’m going to work for that. I’m going to work for that. I’m going to work for that.
Whether I show up on day one and they like me because I stand for what they believe in or they dislike me because I stand against what they believe in — either way, it doesn’t matter the starting position. I want to do my best to try to earn their respect. Doesn’t matter where it really started. And so that was a mindset that I had to choose every day because it’s not the way I was wired, and honestly still am wired. But when you choose that over and over again, I do think you start to grow more into that. And so I’m still not like my dad. My dad was and still is one of those guys that is just so bold and so great, it’s incredible, and I’m definitely not there, but I do think getting closer and closer to that.
How to earn respect with “the grind’
Chris: That’s amazing. One of the things that I really enjoy, Brene Brown with “Dare to Lead,” I really love that she says, “Leadership is being able to discover somebody’s potential, or potential in something or somebody, and taking responsibility to help develop it.” That right there, you don’t have to have positional authority, but you can be like Sherwin’s friend … you know what I mean? And they were doing some sort of leadership because they were like, there’s potential, there’s something here. So when you were playing with the Gators, you were a, a leader, right? You could get the whole stadium going. When did that sort of leadership edge start to come up in you?
Tim: Well, I love that word “edge.” I think it’s so important. I’m going to go back to saying the same thing of respect, but I want to frame it a different way. It doesn’t necessarily mean in all the serious ways or all the ways we take it. It could be in the little moments. And I remember just one example of one of my first weeks. I think it was my first week, my first Friday, I believe, on campus, and we finished a lower body workout that has a name for it that I can’t repeat. And it’s really, really hard.
Chris: That was leg day.
Tim: It was really hard, and so some guys are puking, guys are exhausted, guys are helping each other up off the ground like just exhausted. And so all the staff saying, “All right, now you got to get in the cold tub up to your hips for seven minutes.” And so, I’m new there, and I’m trying to figure my place. But also I have this little bit of goal of, you know, I want to show that I’m a little different and earn people’s respect. And I …
Chris: I got some edge in me.
Tim: I have a little edge, right? And so all these guys, and guys that I’ve looked up to, right? These juniors and seniors, and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m playing with you. Like you’re on the same team.” And they’re all arguing with all the strength staff. They’re like, “No, OK. What about this? What if I get in three minutes….” And there’s negotiating like it’s ever going to work, you know? And so the whole time they’re arguing, I just walk into the cold tub, and I get in up to my neck, and it’s miserable. It’s awful, right? But you just do it. And I try to have a straight face, and I’m just in there sitting there in the deep side of the cold tub, and everyone turns around, and they look at me, “What are you doing? Like what the heck’s wrong with you?”
Chris: The freshman’s up to his neck right now.
Tim: That’s right. But it’s just as silly as that — it starts to put in people’s minds that you’re willing to do something I don’t know if I was willing to do. And willingness is such a cool concept, and when they see that, it sounds stupid, right? It sounds silly. You’re just in the cold tub. That’s not a big deal. It is when you do little things like that all the time they say, “Oh my goodness, you’re willing to do that?” And then, in a workout, you’re willing to not stop. And then when you get hurt, you’re willing to play hurt. And what happens is they start …teammates — and this is true in anything — they watch this, and they pick up on it. And what happens is they then can trust when it gets really hard. We’ve seen you have an edge.
We know in the fourth quarter, you’re not going to flinch when other people do because you didn’t flinch in the cold tub. You didn’t flinch in the leg press. You didn’t flinch on the wall squats. You didn’t flinch when we’re running 40 forties in 105-degree heat, right? And they get to trust that. So in those moments, when it gets really hard, it’s not necessarily all about talent. It’s about the willingness to embrace the grind, embrace the suck, and embrace the hard times. Where it’s like, no, this is actually why we do the hard things. So when it gets hard, that’s our biggest advantage. You know, one of the edges I think we had as a team in Florida is we couldn’t wait for it to be the worst conditions possible. Meaning the hottest, the rainiest, the muddiest, whatever it was … have the game go as long as possible.
Because we know that we’re not going to get better — they’re going to get worse. But we’re going to show up over and over and over again. And when lactic acid starts to kick in, and fatigue and pain start to kick in, what happens is a few people start to flinch and a few start to hesitate. Then a few start to give in a little bit. And if you have a team that doesn’t because you’ve been in those places in different areas, because you work so hard on the mat drills, on the practice field, that you’ve gone through that pain, and that pain has created discipline. And then when you’re on the team, and you win those games, your pain created discipline, their pain created regret. Because after the game, they’re thinking, “Dang, I wish we would’ve trained a little harder.” And we’re thinking. “Yeah. We’re so glad that we trained that hard.” I think that was one of the areas that we really love. But anyways, the kind of got off point.
Chris: That’s a collective mindset, though, right there. Like what I just heard you say was you talked about respect and, and the thing is, is there’s people that take that “I’m going to make you respect me” versus “I’m going to earn your respect.”
Tim: It’s so different. It’s not even close. Like you could make anybody do something!
Tim: I want to work so hard, and I want to treat somebody in such a way, and I want to be kind in such a way. And I want to love in such a way that, you know what? You might start with the hard exterior towards me, but you know what, I’m chipping it away… And I just want the chance to earn that.
Inspire teams with example and an end goal — the work ethic follows
Chris: What I just heard you talk about was I’m going to call it like “respect credits.” You’re like, OK, I’m up to my neck, you know? And everybody’s like, I remember that one. I heard this other story about you and running stairs, and — I don’t know if you remember this exact story. I’m sure you probably remember lots of these stories, but there was this story about you, the whole team, having to run stairs and how you were willing to go faster. And you were like — we said it. What was your statement?
Tim: Which one?
Chris: It’s about talent versus hard work.
Tim: Oh, hard work beats talent. Talent doesn’t work as hard.
Chris: Yeah. I love that. That’s one of my favorites. I repeated it back there. What are some of the other respect credits that you earned on the team that got you to a place where this is the captain, this is the guy leading us?
Tim: I think it was in the little things. I think the big things everybody wants to show up for right? On day one at practice, everyone’s fresh… What about day 15 at training camp? You still show up with the same mindset? You know, Mondays when you’re fresh from the weekend, it’s pretty easy to go in there and “Rah, rah. All right, let’s get it on. Here we go. We’re going to work out.” What about Friday, in the finishing reps, the finishing exercises? And I think that’s where people need to focus so much more — don’t just show up in the big things when everyone’s fresh. Try to have that consistency that no matter the time, the place, the energy, or necessarily the wellness, if I’m feeling like it, you know who’s going to show up… You’re going to get everything out of me. And I think maybe what you’re referring to with the stadiums is when we run stadiums; I would always try to start last because what does it matter if you start first and you win? You started first; you better win.
Chris: This is the story.
Tim: But if you start last and you win — now it’s saying to your teammates: I was behind you guys. And I don’t have to say anything, you know? You got lapped. You got passed.
Chris: And, and there would be a tendency for you to make your way to the front somehow, yeah? Or finish first?
Tim: I would try… I would try. But, you know, I do think in the forms of leadership, they’re so different. But I also think one of the common things that is a thread is example and its grind. It’s the hard places, right? And so when you’re willing to give, to try to be an example, and you’re willing to do it in the hard places, right? Not just, “Oh, hey, the new person on the team, you go do this.” No. “Hey, I’m going to show you. You come with me,” right? The difference in the respect that he’s going to have with you. When it’s like, “Oh, hey, all the freshmen, you got to go do this.” But if you’re a senior and you really want those freshmen to buy into the team? “Hey, I know you got to run extra because you’re a freshman. I’m going to run with you. Keep up with me. Let’s go.”
You know you didn’t have to do this, but you chose to do this. You know, in that form of example, not in the easy times. Not in, “I’m going to stand up and give you a speech in front of everybody,” when that’s easy, right? And talk about hard work and all these things. But I’d also say that’s not the goal. So this has been a funny concept that I’ve thought about for years: Why would we say, “Hey, you really need to be a hard worker.” I just never understood that. Why? Why? Hard work is not the goal. It’s not the goal. Hard work is a means to get to your goal. The goal is not to be a hard worker.
The goal is, “Hey, if you want to be the best, if your team wants to be the best, if you want to have a company that can be their best,” right? Well, you know what? As a byproduct, we’re going to be hard workers. Stop inspiring people and trying to use hard work as the goal. That’s not going to inspire anybody. Use the end as the inspiration and hard work, they’re going to buy into it. Hey, listen. You know what? If you’re trying to inspire a football player, I’m not going to say, “Hey, you need to work really hard.” I’m going to say, “Hey, I want you to celebrate in front of a hundred thousand people as the best running back in the country.” Because when they get that vision of what you see in them, of what you believe? And then you tell them, “Because I believe you can do that. I believe that you can be the best running back in the country. I believe on third and four, we’re going to give you the ball, and you’re going to get the first down, and we’re going to win the championship because of how good you are...”
“Now, if you want to get there, if you want to celebrate as that?” I’m painting the picture of all the things they can accomplish. “If you want to get there, if you want to do all those things, well … Hey, this is the road to get there.” And now hard work falls into it. Hard work’s not the goal. And I hear coaches all the time; they use hard work. “Hey, you need to be a hard worker! You need to be tough as possible!” No, you need to care about the end. And when you care about the end, a byproduct is that I’m going to be more disciplined. I’m going to be tougher. I’m going to have a mindset. I’m going to be a hard worker.
And I feel like we inspire people with those hard concepts. It’s hard to try to be tough. It’s hard to try to be a hard worker every day. It’s hard to try to embrace the grind. But the goal, in the end, has to be worth it.
Tim: And when they buy into what the end goal is going to be? All right. I know if we buy in as a team, if we put aside selfish ambition as a team, I know that at the end of the year, we’re all going to celebrate under confetti. Now everybody has that vision, that mindset and they believe it, they buy into it. And OK, maybe I was going to go do this by myself, but now I’m going to go eat with the team. I was going to go do this, but now I’m going to stay on a weekend, and we’re all going to study a little bit extra. You know not because they’re like, “Man, I really want to be a hard worker!” Or “Man, I just really want to show that I’m disciplined.” No, that’s a byproduct because they have their eye on the prize. And I think it’s not only true in sports. It’s true in business. It’s true in life. It’s true in family.
Teams cannot function without trust
Chris: That’s amazing. One of the things that you just demonstrated is how you build relationships to create a tight bond across a team, right? That you gave some examples of how you do that. The earning respect, the being like “I have permission as a senior to not do something, but because I want to strengthen the bond of the team, I’m going to forego that position that I have earned and I’m going to go, I’m going to go help build the bond even tighter.”
Tim: That’s right.
Chris: What were some challenging relationships that were hard to form that bond, and what’d you do to overcome and strengthen a relationship? It could be a teammate, something like that.
Tim: Well, I mean, since we were on it, the first one that popped up was — we had spoken of running stadiums — one day we were, we, our team got in trouble, and we had to run stadiums at 5:55 in the morning. Literally, touch every single step in the swamp.
Chris: Oh my gosh. There are a lot of them.
Tim: There’s a lot. Yeah. 97,000 of them. And I start at the back, and I start, we are all running, and I start passing a few guys. I get beside one of the guys who’s crazy, talented, crazy. And he’s also one of the strongest believers on the team. Faith-based young man, probably I’d say the strongest, most outspoken, more so than me. Very outspoken. And I said his name. I said, “Come on, I need you, you got to go, let’s go, come on, brother. Let’s do this.” And I keep going. Or he says to me, “No, no, God told me to stay back here and run with this guy.” The guy that he’s pointing to is 400 pounds and doesn’t move super fast. Yeah. Great. He’s also a really good athlete, that guy, for four hundred pounds.
And I was just like, “OK,” and keep running. And we finish and gather up the team in the swamp, the stadium. And we break it down; everybody leaves to go to breakfast and go to their classes. And I asked him to stay. And I said, ‘So you mind telling me a little bit of what’s going on?” And he said, “Yeah. So I really felt like God put on my heart, or God told me that I need to stay back and run with him.”
And I said, “OK, well, I can’t tell you what God told you... “
Chris: That’s a difficult one to challenge.
Tim: That’s very difficult. I said, “That’s between you and him. And, I honestly, I want to leave it there, but I got to tell you that also it’s biblical that God put our coaches as authority figures in our life, and they’ve given us instructions. And he also, in scripture, says ‘whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might.’ And you are a player on this team…”
“And I believe that you can be great. And I believe that you can make this team so much better. I believe you have been gifted with some incredible gifts. You are so talented. And I really think you have a really good heart. But when the coaches say ‘Do 10 pull-ups,’ you do seven. When they say, ‘Run 40 yards,’ you run about 32. On the first day of pads, you’re the first one that there’s something going on with your hamstring. Maybe it is, but everybody knows it. And man, if, if you would just switch your mindset to — when they say, “Do pull-ups,” do as many as you can because you’re not counting. When they say ‘We’re sprinting,’ sprint through the line, not to the line, not before the line. Because you’re one of the strongest believers on the team…”
“And I love that. But you also make it a lot harder on our team to influence people for Christ because they know that you’re going to pull up. It is a conversation that they all have. So you want to impact people in so much of a greater way? It’s not just going to be when you invite people to FCA or campus crusade or the worship service. It’s going to be when whatever your hand finds to do, do you do with all your might, because that’s what your character is, right? And now when your words match up with your actions, look at the impact that you’re going to have. And I believe you can do it. I want you to do it. I will do anything to help you do it. But until you make those choices, you won’t play because our whole team is based on trust...”
“When we run a play, whether you’re the guard, tackle, tight end, X, Y, Z, H, it doesn’t matter what position you are: You have a job. And we have to trust one another that every single play that’s called that every single one of us knows what we’re going to do, and we’re going to do it with all of our might, every play. And man, I tell you what, you could be one of the best, but until you’re willing to go all the way until you’re all in? You’re not going to play because we can’t trust you.”
Tim: And that was one of the ways that it was a really hard relationship with me because on the one hand, it’s like, man…
Chris: He’s your brother.
Tim: Yes. And part of me just loved the dude. He’s so nice, so kind!
Chris: But he let up.
Tim: Yeah. And it was super hard.
Chris: You know when people when you’re in the foxhole, in the challenge, in the really difficult places and you got a choice of who you’re going to ask to be in it with you? You got somebody who’s going to follow through and somebody who’s going to let up. Which one are you going to pick? The follow through to somebody who you’re like, I know that that dude would get in there with me and do it.
Tim: Even if that person’s not as talented.
Tim: I’d still choose that person…
Chris: That’s amazing.
Tim: …because that trust makes me better. And I hope someone that they trust me, that I make them better. Right? It builds a comradery. It builds unity and a confidence that it’s like…What does it matter? We’re down seven? Does that matter? Defense about to get a pick, we’re going to go score. It’s such a belief in one another. And I honestly think it was one of the most special things that we had in college was that we were so supportive and it wasn’t offense-defense special teams. It was, we’re a unit, our team. You know, and this is going to sound weird, but the better we were was not necessarily when we executed better.
Tim: It was when the game got scrappier. I remember we’re playing FSU, and one of our best players, one of the most unbelievable athletes I’ve ever been around, a guy named Percy Harvin…
Chris: He could catch a little.
Tim: Ooh, he could run! And so he gets tackled and can’t tell exactly what happens, but he rolls his ankle, slash it looks like death, he turned his ankle on purpose. And their student section is chanting really bad stuff towards him. And their team’s standing over there talking trash, our whole team is like 10 yards on the field. Like…
Chris: It’s our dude.
Tim: Yeah, you know? And so the next play,
Chris: And at that time, FSU had some… it was pretty notorious, right? Like…
Tim: They were a good team.
Chris: their brand, but their brand. Yeah. We won’t say what…
Tim: Let’s just say we have a big rivalry and we don’t really like them too much. And so this is such an intense game. It wasn’t just because we’re trying to beat them at a football game. They, that was our brother, and you take care of him. And so we gathered together, and I told our offense, “It doesn’t matter what they call. This is what we’re doing, coach. This is what we’re doing. We’re running it right at them. And I want all 11 of us to be five yards in the end zone. Don’t push him to the end zone.” I think we’re on five or seven-yard line going in, something like that. “Every one of you have your feet in the end zone. Don’t beat your guy, demolish him.” And what’s cool, you can look at the film. Every dude is in the end zone.
Chris: That’s amazing.
Tim: Every guy is in the end zone. Motivation and inspiration, like playing inspired, it does change you. Our team, after our brother gets hurt and you hear the crowd chant that you hear their trash talk, it played inspired. Now how can you live that way? How can we live with that edge of being inspired? When can we do that where it doesn’t take that moment now? I don’t think you always can. You can’t always live and play at peaks, right? And that’s why you have to try to diminish your valleys as much as possible, emotionally, in every other way. And how can we get back to those moments? What can we do in our life that can inspire us and encourage us? And, you know, and those are the daily devotionals, the meditation, the brotherhood, the talking, the conversations, all of that. But I say that to say: That the next play, it was incredible to see what happened because they weren’t going to let their brother down. When he turns on the TV and he sees the next play, everybody wanted him to be proud of their effort. That’s, that’s pretty cool.
Chris: That is amazing.