Perseverance through adversity is essential to success across all facets of life. Our guest today, Chris Hoke, is no stranger to perseverance and adversity as he spent his entire 11-year NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, going undrafted in 2001 to ultimately helping his team win two NFL championships.
Join host and Partner of Confluence Financial Partners, Greg Weimer, Wealth Manager-RJFS, as he interviews Chris Hoke on how leadership lessons learned on the football field apply to his post-NFL career as a successful entrepreneur. If you’re interested in learning more about the importance of goal-setting, maintaining mental toughness through adversity, or you want to hear some stories from a Steelers great, you won’t want to miss this episode.
Confluence Financial Partners — The Power of Perseverance: Chris Hoke | Episode #9
Greg: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series was turned down by 12 publishing companies. Thomas Edison was called “stupid” and “unteachable.” Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star for lack of creativity. Our guest today, Chris Hoke, went undrafted in 2001. Imagine that.
Greg: Why do I say that’s unbelievable? Cause Chris Hoke went on to play for the Steelers for 11 years. Play in three Super Bowls, win two Super Bowls, have a starting record, 17 wins, and one loss. Candidly, what he’s done since he retired is equally impressive. After the Steelers, Chris has gone on to have a successful business career and also make a wonderful impact on the Pittsburgh community and, at the same time, be a great husband and a great father.
Chris, thank you so much for joining us today. I’m really looking forward to this conversation.
Chris: This is awesome. I’m excited you asked me to be a part of this.
Greg: Oh, that’s so nice of you to say when we spoke, what was it, two weeks ago on the telephone, okay, what can we talk about? And I said, ‘Hey Chris, what do you think?’ And boom, an hour later, this may be the easiest podcast I ever—
Chris: Two high-energy guys! Just couldn’t stop talking, right? It was great.
Greg: Well, we appreciate it. I think the listeners we’re really going to learn from you. And, one of the things I’ve, as I’ve learned more about you and I’m going to tell you when I first met you, I have to tell you this now. Yeah, so years ago, and I wouldn’t expect you to remember, but years ago, I came in to speak to the rookies. And we were in an Italian restaurant, I think, over in like Fox Chapel.
Greg: And I came in to speak with the rookies. And that was your rookie year. That’s how long ago it was. And that’s the first time I met you, and there was something about you. I mean, I remembered you from then. So, I was really looking forward to this and, and following in your career and
Learning more about you, what is really amazing is not only your success but how you have absolutely overcome adversity.
Chris: Oh, man.
Greg: And whether you’re in sports, business, as we’re finding out in the markets, you’ve got to survive adversity. You’ve got to be tough. Why don’t you help our listeners with, what are some of the things you’ve done to get through those difficult moments?
Chris: Listen, life is filled with adversity, right? Everybody’s going to face it. Doesn’t matter how much money you have, how much money you don’t have. It doesn’t matter your circumstance of life. You are going to face adversity, and so it’s how you look at it, how you attack it. And there’s something, Coach Tomlin always said, ‘You’ve got to smile in the face of adversity,’ right? Smile at it and keep going. And the people that are successful, the people that achieve greatness are the ones that power through it and smile all the way.
You think of like Hines Ward, right? Where he would just blow someone up and just smile. That’s, that’s kind of, in my mind, that I see in my mind’s eye, when I think of someone’s smiling in the face of adversity. And in my life—that’s almost the story of my life, Greg is overcoming adversity.
You know, I came to the Pittsburgh Steelers like you referred to. I was an undrafted free agent, right?
Greg: I didn’t realize that. Tell them your signing bonus.
Chris: You see millions and millions of dollars being thrown around the NFL right now. In 2001, the Pittsburgh Steelers called me and signed me to an unrestricted free agent contract. My signing bonus was $2,500.
Chris: After taxes was $1700. I had a smile from ear to ear. I’ve got 1700 bucks, more money I’ve ever had!
Greg: And how many Super Bowls?
Chris: I got two Super Bowls.
Greg: Two Super Bowls and you played in three.
Greg: And I think I heard a stat that is amazing to me. What is your record as a starter?
Chris: Okay, so this is a great stat. So, you know, the majority of my career, I was a role player. So, I played all the games, I was a big contributor, but I started 18 games in my career. And of those 18 games, the Steelers were 17 and 1.
And let me add to that, the one-loss that we had was out in Oakland, right? We held the Oakland Raiders; I want to say to 98 yards total offense. Total offense! And Ben had a fumble recovery returned for touchdown and had an interception for a touchdown. And we lost the game.
Greg: Blame it on Ben.
Chris: No, I’m just telling you! You can blame who you want. But the reality is, the defense came through. It was obvious to me. Listen, every NFL player, every professional athlete you play the game long enough, you’re going to have an off day. Ben’s had a zillion more great days than off days. That was his off day.
Greg: Well, I think in the season we just completed, we know how important he is to the team.
Greg: Truly incredible. So, so you go from coming in 2,500 bucks, free agent, right? Not drafted. And then you go to winning two Super Bowls. Some, you had to do something in between there that was really important to help you overcome that adversity.
Chris: Yeah. I’ll tell you what Greg. It was a grind. It really was. And I had to be mentally tough.
Greg: Did you ever want to give up?
Chris: Absolutely, I did. But I didn’t.
Greg: Lesson learned, right? I wanted to give up, but I didn’t.
Chris: Absolutely. That’s a Kenny Chesney song, “But I didn’t.”
But let me tell you. So, I was in the first training camp, and it was, I mean, I came into camp, thought I had a great off-season training program, OTA as they call them. We come in, out of 10 defensive linemen on the roster. I’m 10. And luckily, Casey Hampton held out, and he held out of that camp, and it gave me an opportunity to get some more snaps. I was able to prove that I, you know, I got something inside of me.
Chris: And I remember after the first couple of weeks, I still wasn’t getting a lot of snaps. I really wasn’t, even though I had the section one from Casey — I worry about what it would’ve been like if Casey would’ve come to on time!
Chris: Right. So, I remember calling my wife and being in tears, ‘Hun, I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t if I can continue on because I don’t have a chance here. But there was something inside of me said that if you give up now, you’ll regret it the rest of your life. And so, I continued to move forward. Continued to grind. Continued to work. And there were a lot of sleepless nights. I woke up many times, Greg in sweats. Not sweat clothes, sweats, sweating.
Greg: So that’s a good lesson. Whether you’re a young athlete, whether you’re an entrepreneur, whether you’re an investor, whether you’re watching panic in the markets, right? I mean, and it’s not to suggest just because you keep going, the pain stops. It means if you look out five years, you’re going to be okay. But you have to look at the horizon and so many people in times of adversity like you had, right?
Greg: The times of adversity, you shrink your time horizon. Instead of looking out, you looked out and said, someday, I’ll regret this.
Greg: Investors that are long-term, if they act irrationally in the short term, someday they’re going to regret it.
Chris: Impulsively, right?
I heard a stat on Navy Seals. 80% of Navy Seals that ring the bell quit before the physical activity. Not during or after, in the anticipation—
Chris: Absolutely! It’s in the anticipation!
Greg: It’s the anticipation of continued pain.
Chris: Yeah. It’s the fear of that pain, and people fear hypotheticals. People, that’s the problem is, you know, I look at this and I think, man, what if I don’t make the team? How am I gonna go home and talk to my friends? How am I going to go tell people I didn’t? I didn’t make it? Or what if I get into the game on Friday night and the first game’s against the Atlanta Falcons, which it was, my rookie year, and I don’t play well, and I’m embarrassed. It’s all the fear of what could happen.
Greg: What happens if the market keeps going down for three more months? I have no idea what’s gonna happen in the next three months. You didn’t have any idea what was gonna happen with the Falcons. You knew if you continued to work hard, at the end of the season, you’d be happy and someday, two middle-aged guys would look back and say like, Hey, it all worked out. Same with investors when they look at the long term. Another thing you said to me when you joined the team, you were very careful of the players that you spent a lot of time with.
Chris: Sure, sure. You know, one of the things is you surround yourself with greatness. I wanted to surround myself with guys who were been-there-done-that guys. Guys that had been successful in the NFL, so I like to talk to. Back then, it was the Aaron Smith and the Kimo von Oelhoffen, right?
Kimo had been around the NFL for a long time. I roomed with Kimo, and I would talk to him about his techniques. I would ask him what he would look at when he was in his stance, in a certain defense, or how he would react to certain blocks. I tried to be—
Greg: A student
Chris: I wanted to be a student of the game. In order for me to survive in the NFL for 11 years, I had to love every bit of football, not just playing the games. I had to love the preparation. I had to love the practice. I had to love that, you know, anticipation of the game. I had to eat it. I had to sleep it.
Greg: You had to love the process.
Chris: I had to love the process.
Greg: I mean, and that’s true again in business. That’s true. It’s interesting how it is parallel, in that you just have to absolutely love the process.
Chris: You do. And, and you, you sent me in a comment earlier that I want to kind of expound on a little bit. You know, what keeps you going? How can you smile in the face of adversity?
I think there’s two things that come to my mind is number one; you have to have foundational principles. You have to stand on something. And if you’re standing on sand, if you’re standing on what other people want you to do, if you’re standing on what other people are telling you to do, you’re going fall, you’re going to quit. You have to have rock-solid foundational principles for you to stay strong in adverse moments. Right?
And number two then is having goals. I mean, goals are huge, right? I heard once that if you don’t write goals down, there’s a thought, and they come and go. They’re fleeting, right? So, right. Have these goals, long-term goals and when you’re going through adversity, when you’re going through
A downturn in the market, stay true to your goals, stay true to your long-term values and goals, and everything’s going to come out on top.
Greg: It’s so true. It’s interesting how people say; I’m a long-term investor. My goal is to invest for 30 years from now for my great-grandchildren. And then it’s like, “Hey, what is going on in the market? Do you think we should get out?” It’s the goals.
And how do you go about setting your goals? How do you go about tracking them? Um, my family will tell you that we have goal days in the Weimer family, and I’m a little bit of a goal nut. So, I put them on a graph. I have five that I’m trying to achieve every quarter. I have daily things I want to do. How do you keep your, how do you set your goals, and then how do you keep them in front of you, and then how do you track them?
Chris: Well, I mean, I’m not as technical as you, I don’t have on a graph or on a spreadsheet or like that, but I’ll tell you I’m old school. But the way I do that, first, I tried to discover my goals. I tried to discover what it is that, what are, what do I want to accomplish? What do I want to do? What am I interested in? Where do I want to go? What do I, where do I want to take my family? So first I’m discovering that, right? And then I try to come up with a plan. How am I gonna achieve those goals? What are the steps I need to take to achieve the goal that I just discovered, this goal that I just set? And then you gotta go ahead and act, act on it, and move forward on your plan.
And during and after you’ve got to reflect, you’ve always got to be in a state of reflection, reflecting, how am I doing? Where am I? Am I acting on the steps that I came up with, the plan, the game plan to ahieve my goals?
Greg: And did you do that when you were in the NFL?
Chris: I always had goals. I always, it was actually two days ago. I found my journals. I kept journals during training camp because I thought, I’m gonna keep it for my kids, now I’m excited I had them. At the start of every training camp on the first page. I had my goals for that year.
Greg: That’s awesome. So, I had read, I don’t know where, I listened to Lou Holtz, say like 116 things he wanted to do. So, what it may have been 120, I don’t remember the number. And so, I thought that sounds like a good idea, and so I did it. So, I wrote down, and I think I came up to 106, 107
Whatever it was. And just recently I found that notebook. Yeah, that’s amazing. Just by writing them down. Yeah, they happen.
Chris: They happen.
Greg: But you have to visualize them. You have to not only think about what they’d look like when you get there; you have to think about what it would feel like when you get there. It’s the feel thing.
Chris: There’s something powerful about sitting there and, and thinking about your goal and then imagining yourself achieving that goal and what that feels like when you achieve that goal.
Greg: If I do or don’t.
Chris: If you do or don’t, but for me, you want to achieve that goal. What I try to do is I, if I want to, you know, get a— I don’t know what it is — I mean, if I want to buy a certain car, I guess, right, or whatever it is, right. That’s the goal. You write it down. You ponder, I think about it. And then you think in the future, what would it feel like when I write that check?
Greg: That’s it.
Chris: Pay for that car. And that feeling, it seeps deep inside you, man. And it does something powerful that catapults you on the path that’s in that goal.
Greg: So, when we are helping people find their goals, cause not everybody is goal-driven like that. So, when we sit down with clients, we have to really help them think about “what they’re all about, is really all about.” And you can just see the change in their body language and their, just when you say like, okay, grandchildren’s education, or like, you know, creating a legacy, or making sure that my family’s able to go on fabulous vacations to create moments together, whatever those things are. And when we really talk about them and then put together a plan around them, at the end of the day, it’s how we help people maximize their life and maximize their legacy, which you and I have talked about.
But some people aren’t, some people aren’t necessarily driven like that. But if you can be like that and you are an extremely intentional guy, if you do behave that way based on certain.
fundamentals, certain foundation, and then you really feel like what you want your life to look at; then, life just doesn’t happen to you.
Chris: Nope. You make it happen.
Greg: You make it happen.
Chris: My dad used to always tell me when I was a kid, he said, there’s three types of people in this world. Have you heard this before?
Chris: So, the first person makes things happen. The second person watches things happen. And the third person says, what the heck just happened?
Greg: Right. Make it happen.
Chris: He’d always tell me, my dad was a very successful businessman in Southern California, and he would always tell me, make things happen.
Greg: Make it happen.
Chris: Don’t let it just happen to you because it won’t happen very often.
Greg: Yeah. So, what rituals do you have? So, you put your goals together, and my guess is you have some, you have some big goals, and I know your morals, and I know the type of person you are and you — that are a great foundation. What type of rituals do you put together in a daily basis to make sure you’re in the right, you’re in the right state to achieve those goals?
Chris: I think it’s always getting up ready for the daily grind. Right?
Greg: And what time you get up?
Chris: I get up at 5:00 a.m. I’m at 5:00 a.m., down in my office. I do some deep thinking, pondering, I study the good word. And then I study other things in the morning.
I get up and get a great workout in. I always got to get that workout, and I don’t feel right during the day, Greg, unless I get that, you know, hour of exercise in the morning. But you can’t do that if you’re waking up at 7:00 a.m. The day’s gonna pass you by. Right. So, you gotta get up at 5:00 a.m. and get those things done. I read something I think two days ago that most billionaires get up at 4:00 a.m.
I’m thinking; I’m starting, I’m starting to play. Do I get up at 4:00 a.m? Dad-gum! I gotta go to bed at like seven. My wife won’t like that with five kids at home. But you know, it’s, it’s um, so the daily grind, it’s getting up and being intentional with your day. I have an appointment—
Greg: Do you have a daily plan? Like, do you have a daily plan where—
Chris: I do. I have a notebook. It’s an old school notebook. Right? So, a spiral notebook, it’s not one of these, like these businessmen notebooks that are like the focus plan or whatever it is. It’s an old spiral notebook. And I was, I’m pondering, I think through my day I write down all the things my to-do list of what I want to do. What I like to do is, I love reading the book and listening to the audiobook of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Greg: Oh yeah, Great one.
Chris: Awesome stuff, right?
Greg: Isn’t that the one that Covey, he said: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
Chris: The main thing. Yeah. And, and so he talks about, you know, things that are important and a priority and things that aren’t important, but a priority. You know, he talks about those different quadrants.
Greg: Urgent versus important.
Chris: Yeah. That’s what it is. Urgency. Yeah. Important.
Greg: Because urgency tends to take over rather than over importance. I’ll tell you; this may help you.
One of the things I do is I put my five goals for the quarter on top of my page every day. And then I
Think about, okay, they’re my five goals I want to have this quarter. And then I think, okay, what’s the one thing and the book, The One Thing, great book, if you haven’t read that one. Oh, it’s a good one. What’s the one thing I need to do today to make the biggest advancement on those goals? And then, what’s the next three, and the next five? So, if I showed you any of my days, I have them color coordinated based on my one thing, my three things, and my five things that I need to get accomplished every day. If I do that. If you total it up, it’s what, nine things?
Greg: So, I could get nine things done. If I get my nine most important — forget about that, if I get my three — forget about that, if I get my one most important thing every day, it’s gonna make a big difference if I do that every day.
Chris: I like that.
Greg: And then, ideally, I’d have more than that.
Greg: But it just may help you. I mean to keep focus on the main thing.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. You know I said I write in a notebook and it’s bound notebook, and I try to follow that every single day cause you know, I’ve seen too many people with, you know, their minds all over the place and they don’t have a plan. To me, a to-do list is a plan of how what, what’s important to you that day.
Chris: I like that, though.
Greg: The One Thing, read the book, it’s a good book, The One Thing.
Chris: I’m going to read it.
Greg: So, father of five, you got a lot of energy. Your focus, how do you transfer that as a dad, to your five children?
Chris: Oh, listen, they’re everything to me. My wife is my best friend. Um, my five kids, everything I do is for them. And it’s important in my life.
Greg: And it just came from, I wished, I wish this was videoed because your whole body changed. I mean, that was just so clear. So, that came from your heart.
Chris: Yup. They’re, they’re everything to me. And, I think, yesterday, you know, so many things are going on in our lives, right? And two nights ago, my 14-year-old daughter, who is just my princess, she says, ‘Hey dad, uh, you know, I have tomorrow off from gymnastics,’ because she’s a level, 10 gymnast.
Chris: And she says, ‘Hey, can you pick me up from school and take me to get a Cherry Limeade from Sonic. And you know, 2:30, right in the middle of the day. And I was like, ‘Oh man, it’s gonna…’ At first, I told her, I said, ‘I mean that’s a tough time for me.’ And when she walked away, I thought, ‘Oh, that was the wrong answer.’ So, I walked over and said, ‘Honey, I’m going to pick you up at 2:30 tomorrow.’ And I picked her up, we went to Sonic up in Wexford and grabbed the Cherry Limeade together. And that night, she came with me with a hug and told me, ‘Thank you for taking me.’ And it’s a special time, you know? And that’s what it’s supposed to be like, right? I mean, we can deal—
Greg: Children will never forget those moments.
Chris: I’ve told my wife, listen, I can deal with stress outside the home. I can deal with adversity outside the home. As long as our family is strong. And I think that everybody if they have a look deep inside themselves that say the same thing. You know, sometimes we get caught up in what’s going on outside the home. We get caught up in the ways of the world. We get caught up in trying to be rich or trying to be successful in our business. But really, I believe with all my heart, Greg, that the most important work that we can do with individuals, is the work that goes on in our home.
Greg: My guess is if you had a choice: successful entrepreneur, successful football player, all-world dad, all-world dad wins every day of the week.
Chris: 100%. I hate missing my kids’ events. I let very few things get in the way, and if I can help it, I’m there. I mean, I’m at all their rec basketball games or school basketball games or school football games. I mean, I’m at everything. Gymnastics meets soccer games. I’m happiest when I’m at their events.
Greg: That’s awesome. Congratulations on that. That’s inspiring. Um, so you have transitions, right? So, between being a dad, being a football player, now being a successful entrepreneur, how do you transition? Because it is about the transitions, right? So many people, we have transitions in our life. We have chapters to our life. How do you transition from being a football player … to a successful businessperson?
Chris: Oh, man. A lot of the lessons that you learned as a football player can be applied to business, right?
And honestly, there’s a lot of “same as” and you’ve seen that. I mean, a lot of “same as.” In business, for example, we talk about overcoming adversity. There’s nothing like facing adversity in a sporting event, on a football game, in a season and overcoming it and taking that —
And you’re always going to have adversity in business. It’s nothing like working with a team, right? Working with a teammate, working with a unit. You’ve got to do that. In most business settings, you got to work with a team. And, you know, listen, I have a lot of great friends that I played football with. We didn’t always see eye to eye. We had to work through some of our differences, right? We value each other’s differences, and sometimes there was some heated discussions, so we worked through it. But those valuable lessons that we learned working through those things together can serve valuable in business. Right? You talk about how about this one? How about winning a Super Bowl and then trying to come back the next year and stay motivated and working hard, right? And not getting complacent.
How many people in business they have a wonderful sale, right? Or the market tanks like right now, and you infuse a ton of cash, and then a year later, the market goes back at 30,000, and you make several, you know, whatever, millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars. What do you do now? How are you gonna respond? What’s your next move? Right? It’s staying focused on the prize, which is your goals, which is what you set out to do.
Greg: Yeah. It’s hard to break through those plateaus. When you say like you win a Super Bowl. It feels like a peak!
Greg: How do you turn it into a plateau where then you can take it to the next level?
Chris: It’s goals.
Greg: It’s goals, it’s A-number one. Couldn’t agree more: goals. And then you have to take like massive action, like not action, massive action, which comes with behavioral change, which is very, very difficult.
Chris: And here’s what happens. You win a Super Bowl, and your life changes.
Chris: People look at you differently. People treat you differently. How about this one, you start a business and all of a sudden, you’re driving, you’re driving a loaded Beamer, right? Or you’re driving a Tesla? You get this huge 15,000-square-foot home, and you’re living out where you live, in Sewickley, wherever you live, right? And you have these wonderful things, and people treat you differently, right? How do you handle success, right? How do you handle success, because as quickly as you earn that money, it can be lost!
Greg: Right. Ideally, not if they invest with us. But I get your point.
Chris: But this for our listeners, how do you handle success? Is a big deal. It’s a big thing that you have to consider because if you can handle success like a champ, right? Not a chump, a champ. You can; you can achieve even greater heights.
Greg: Yeah. My partner, Jim Wilding, his one son wrestles or wrestled at Virginia Tech, and in their locker room, he tells me, and I won’t get the words right, but “it’s not only how you handle success, but how you perform on your most difficult day is what makes the difference.” So, like what we were talking about before, what defines you is what you do when you do not know when you do not know what to do.
So, the difficult times also define you, right, when you’re down and out, and you’re, you know, you’re calling your spouse and saying ‘I can’t do it anymore. The market’s gone down and I can’t
Take it one more day. I know I have a five-year time horizon, but I want to know what it’s going to be worth tomorrow.’
So, what defines you is those difficult moments, in addition to your success.
Chris: Absolutely, it does. And it does, because, when the going gets tough…you know, and you don’t know how to respond…
Chris: …You just got it, you know, dig deep. And the ones that continue to go and continue to work hard, continue to work, are the ones that are gonna achieve that success. And a wrestler, I mean those guys, man —
Greg: Wrestlers, many of the listeners know, my partner is Jim Wilding, he has a couple boys that are going on to be Navy Seals. One is a Navy Seal; one’s about to be Navy Seal. One is on their way. And when you look at who makes it…
Greg: Number one, well, they have to be a high school athlete, they tend to make it, and wrestlers—
Chris: Well, wrestlers are mentally tough, it’s a grind, absolutely—
Greg: But being mentally tough—
Chris: Oh, it’s, it’s, it’s everything.
Greg: It’s everything.
Chris: Mentally tough, you cannot break under pressure. That’s another thing we talked about, what did I learn as a professional athlete? It’s how to perform under pressure. Right. You know, I think of the difference between the regular season of an NFL season and the postseason of the NFL season. Right. And a regular-season game, there is a lot of pressure and a lot of intensity in the first few series of the game and at the end of the game, right? So, it’s once you get through a few series in
The game, maybe it into the first quarter, things kind of settle down a little bit and you start to play and then it stays like that. And then once you get into the game, if it’s close, that’s when it seems like the intensity picks up, right?
You get in a playoff game. It’s, it never slows down.
Greg: Turn the volume up.
Chris: It is intense. It is. You look at, you think of like a speedometer. It is in the red, the whole game. And you’re trying; you have to be able to think under pressure. Right? And what you’re in, right now, with so much going on with the market and so much uncertainty, and so much volatility. We talked about this before. Those who make their names right now, those who—
Greg: Defining moment. Help clients through this.
Chris: And they can think under pressure,
Greg: We will get through it, help them work through it.
Chris: And we will help them work through it.
Greg: Yeah. And we also talked about the football season and how challenging it is to stay mentally tough. And I don’t know if you remember the conversation we were talking about Ken Nash.
Greg: And how he really helps a lot of players and—
Chris: He’s helped me.
Greg: He helped you get through the season, right? It’s that challenging.
Greg: And the people in our firm, when we’re in down markets like this, every day can feel a little long.
Fortunately, we have great long-term investors. But to get through this, you have to make sure your rituals are good. You’re exercising, you know, you’re staying informed, you’re continuing to learn, you’re continuing to think long-term to get through the adversity.
Greg: So, tell help the video listeners on some of the stuff you’re doing now. What are you, what are you fired up about to do it now?
Chris: So maybe besides investing with Confluence and being a part of their team, and I’m not really part of the team, I’m part of your book, if you will, right? Right now, I’m involved in a couple of land development projects. I got a large land development project going on in South Fayette. Which is a county south of Allegheny County? I’ve got a little small one in Franklin Park. And I really enjoy that, Greg. I really enjoyed doing it; it’s a lot of fun.
Chris: It can be intense at times when you’re working with contractors, and you’re working with different individuals, and the townships are always tough and the boroughs. But I enjoy that. So that, you know, when I—
Greg: How did you learn to do that?
Chris: I grew up in a home, and my dad was a general contractor. So I grew up watching my dad. He was general contractor, but he also did the development, and the building side, the construction site.
Chris: So, I watched that. No, I didn’t get it. And I was that kid that, you know, I’d show up at the job site with my dad at 6:00 a.m. and he’d say, all right, Chris, I want you to go around and put rings on all of the toilets, you know, all around, you know, thing. And then I’d go find the bathtub in the farthest corner of this construction site, right, in the multifamily unit. And I would just fall asleep in the bathtub. Right. And then I’d hear them, the breakfast truck, and I’d come running out. That was me. But I grew up on the site. I grew up in a construction site. And then I had experiences. I started making money in the NFL; I started buying properties and selling properties. And recently I was
Involved in a project a few years ago where I was able to build some farms, some barns, and work through that process. And so, I gained experience over the years and then I
Greg: So, you learned along the way
Chris: I learned along the way. It’s all about learning.
Greg: I think some people make the assumption that you can’t do something until you’re the expert. I have found, and I’ve learned how to put it through words through the strategic coach up in Toronto. He helped me put it in words. But you have to have the courage to make the commitment to build the competency. So, then you have the confidence, there’s a bunch of Cs in there. So, you have to have the courage to make the commitment. You have to make the commitment. Then you have to have the courage to build a competency that will give you the confidence to make the next commitment.
Chris: And it’s how it works, right? You just, you’d learn along the way. I think everybody’s looked, some people look for the perfect time, the perfect opportunity. They wait until they know everything before they go and do what you did. And start a company.
Chris: I heard it. I heard a saying once that, “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to start to be great.”
You don’t have to be great to get started; you get to start to be great.
Greg: Oh, that’s great. Yep. I get it.
Chris: Right. A lot of people want to wait until they’re competent, they want to wait until they’re great, then they’ll get started. But in order to be great, you have to start.
Greg: So, sort of like when you go to the gym. I find the most difficult thing about the gym is opening the door. Right? I mean, in our gym, we go down like five steps to get into the gym. Those five steps are the hardest exercise I have for the next hour and a half, going down those five steps. And then I don’t understand, you may, how you can go to a gym and go in there, like this evening I’ll go, just because it’s really important to, in all types of markets and days, but times like this, it’s really.
Important to exercise. So, I won’t have much energy going in there. I’ll go in there; I’ll spend energy, I’ll come out with more energy. It makes no sense to me.
Chris: Feel great.
Greg: Right? Yeah. But you gotta start.
Chris: You gotta start, you gotta start to be great. And that’s, that’s the one thing in life is, you just got to have a plan, right? And follow through with that planning to get, get going. Cause you can’t be great unless you get started. You can’t make a basket unless you shoot, right? You can’t hit the ball unless you swing.
Greg: You gotta understand you’re going to have adversity.
Chris: That is part of life. 50% of life is adversity.
Chris: And that’s when you grow the most. That’s when you learn the most. When you go through adverse moments.
Greg: You have to live through difficult markets to enjoy the up markets. If you try to avoid the down markets, I’ve done this now, holy cow, 33 years, I think. 34? 34 years. That’s horrible. So, 34 years. And to get the good long-term results, you have to live through some difficult times.
Chris: John Wooden once said—
Greg: Love, John Wooden.
Chris: It’s the struggle. It’s the test that gives value to the prize. Yeah, the prize is the upmarket, but it’s the struggle, it’s the down market. It’s the test of staying true to your foundational principles and your long-term goals that gives value to that prize.
Greg: So quick Wooden story, I was asked to speak now; this was a long time ago. My son was in fourth grade, so whatever that means, long time ago. And they asked me to speak with, and Coach.
Wooden was speaking also. And I didn’t really know at this conference; I didn’t really know who Coach Wooden was, this was before Google. So, I had to figure it out. And I thought that’s okay. I’m coaching the fourth-grade basketball team at St. Louis de Marillac. Once I learned who he was, I said perfect, so I said to him that day, I said I had lunch with them, I have the privilege of having lunch with him. And so I said to him, I said, Coach Wooden, what is it that you would teach the St. Louis de Marillac, fourth-grade boys? And he said, Greg, teach them to never try to play better than somebody else. And for me, I was expecting “stay low,” defense, you know, whatever. So, I said, help me understand that coach, I don’t really know why you’re telling me that. And here’s through adversity and here’s through difficult times. I just did it because we’re going through a difficult time. You write on the left hand of your — and you’ve probably done this many times — you write down the left hand of your notebook — here are the things I can’t control. On the right-hand side here, market fluctuation, right? Casey Hampton getting hurt, whatever those things are, there’s things you can’t control on the right-hand side.
What are the things I can control? Yeah, listening to the coach, being the first to practice, hanging out with the right people, following good fundamentals, whatever those how many times you call clients to make sure they’re okay. Making sure that your portfolio managers are sound, whatever those things are you can control. And that is the list of what you make your goals from. And if you focus in adversity on things you can control, you will increase your results, and you will reduce your stress a hundred percent. If you focused on the can’t control, you will increase your stress and reduce your results.
Chris: Yeah, because you worry, you stress out, you worry about things, you can’t worry about the weather. And how many people worry about the weather. Tomorrow it’s going to be cold tomorrow. It’s going to be rainy.
Greg: It affects our mood!
Chris: Oh, no! It just brings you down. And then you can’t focus on things that are important, the things that you can control. And so, I love that and make that list. And Steven R Covey talks about that too, in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. And it kind of, he has two circles. You know, these circles, right? But you focus on the things you can control.
Greg: Can. So, so for the listeners, if you’re going through challenging times, what can I control? What can’t I control? And one of the things, in difficult markets, and by the time this comes out, we may
Not be in one, we don’t know, but there will be another one. There always is. It is really important to control the clock in any sport. And when you invest, you have to control the clock. Great coaches control the clock, and great investors control the clock. It is easier if you think in five-year time increments than five days.
Chris: Sure. You better not get on that cruise ship anytime soon.
Greg: The cruise ship?
Chris: Not on the cruise on your—
Greg: Oh, that. Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Here’s why. Nope. Here’s why. Because it’s a plateau. That’s the Super Bowl. So, because for me,
Chris: That’s the secret, that’s the secret right there.
Greg: I don’t have that.
Chris: But that’s what you want, and so you see it every single day.
Greg: I don’t even know if I want it, I just want to know there’s another level.
Chris: It’s the secret. You’ve read the book, The Secret.
Greg: I did. Oh, that’s right, I did.
Chris: Absolutely. You put, you put it in your dream board, and every day you look at it.
Chris: Because at the end of the day, when you look at it again, you will have taken one step closer to that dream, to that goal.
Greg: You can feel successful.
Greg: You can feel successful. But I think I want to, I want that, every day to look at, to remember that I could do better. I don’t want that boat, by the way. Seems horrible.
Chris: Listen, I feel like I’m the most motivated guy, but being around you, I’m going to go home and write all these notes. I’m going to go home and write my journal. Greg said this isn’t this; I gotta have two columns. I gotta have things I can’t control, things I can’t control. I gotta go home. I gotta read The One Thing.
Greg: My guess is you’re so far on the right side of things you can’t, or you can control. You’re a can control guy.
Chris: Yeah, but unless we check ourselves a lot, we can get ourselves caught up in worrying about the things you can’t control.
Greg: 100% and the thing I like about you, when the conversation’s over with you, just like we had the other day on the phone, you’re one of those people, and it’s really a gift, it’s a unique ability. You’re one of those people that, at the end of the conversation, you are more inspired, you feel better than you did when the conversation started.
Chris: 100% and I try to do that, and that’s what I’m trying to when I’m talking to you, even though it’s as a conversation, I’m trying to say, what can I learn from Greg? He’s successful. I’m looking at the way you dress. I’m looking at what you have there.
Greg: Sears. If you want it, just go to Sears.
Chris: That’s a custom shirt. But I’m looking at, I said, okay, what you know, that’s what it’s all about.
You’ve got to have those visions in your mind of where you go. And what you want to do. And then you talk about those steps about how to get there, but you gotta have a vision of where you want to go.
Greg: I watched, speaking of learning, I, I remember when JP Morgan had a problem. Jamie Dimon was in front of Congress. And I watched him answer questions and, at the same time, watch his stock go up for four points. And I’m thinking, ‘How can he be telling Congress how they lost $2 billion?’ And
Because he was straight with people. He was candid. He answered, answered honestly, and I just watched how he answered questions. I really, you can learn from everyone. Everyone.
Chris: I’m like a sponge.
Greg: Me too. You know what I’d like to know? Who through your time at the Steelers, what coach, and/or what other player did you find to be a great mentor, and what is the lesson you learned from them?
Chris: I’ll tell you who I was really close to had a huge impact on me. He’s still with the Steelers. He’s the assistant head coach now, but he was the D line coach, the defensive line coach for the Steelers for 25-ish years. John Mitchell, now, John Mitchell, is a man from Mobile, Alabama. He grew up in the civil rights era and um, he grew up in a very humble, modest home. Went to Alabama, was the first black captain, first black All-American for Bear Bryant, and just broke a lot of barriers. Man, he’s a great man. And um, I played for him for 11 years, and he was my position coach, and he and I became very close. He’s like a second father to me. Still talk to him now. And a very wise man and you know, he and I became really close and throughout my time with the Steelers. And there were some times during practice where they would have like special teams, kickoff team and I wasn’t on kickoff. So, I’d step next to him, and we would talk about life. We talk about what’s going on. I talked to him about social issues, like whatever issues were going on. Because he has such a great mind. He was super wise. He had seen so much in his life, and so I love to see, hear his perspective, and learn from him.
So, if you asked me who had a huge impact on me, not only did he teach me the game of football, he taught me how to play with great fundamentals, tell me how to play with a great technique, he taught me how to be better at overcoming adversity, but he also taught me how to be a better man. He taught me how he had to see the world through a different lens, and for that, I’ll be eternally grateful to him.
Greg: That’s wonderful. It’s interesting, whether it’s a teacher, a coach, the great ones, they’re bigger than the game, right? I mean they’re bigger—
Chris: Transcends the game.
Greg: Coach Wooden use to be asked, you know if he had a successful season. And he used to say; I don’t know, I’ll tell you in 30 years because it wasn’t about the wins and losses. It was like what he did to those young men and how they grew up to be responsible adults. Right. I had a great teacher. I wish I would have told him along the way. I had a teacher in high school that taught me calculus, and I don’t know if that had anything to do with calculus. He helped me believe in myself, and I remember that. So, you know, for teachers, for coaches, for friends, helping people believe in themselves and being bigger than the game. That’s a great lesson.
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This session was recorded on March 12, 2020.
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