While some retired top professional athletes have made a name for themselves off the field or court as disastrous stewards of their fortunes, a small amount of sports stars have enviable business acumen that’s made them millions.
In an interview with ThinkAdvisor, David Meltzer, CEO of Sports 1 Marketing, co-founded with NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, discusses the central business strategies of the likes of superstars Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Michael Jordan, among others.
Meltzer, formerly CEO of Leigh Steinberg Sports and Entertainment (Steinberg inspired the film “Jerry Maguire” with Tom Cruise), has just released a new book, “Game-Time Decision Making: High-Scoring Business Strategies from the Biggest Names in Sports” (McGraw Hill-July 16, 2019), a guide to developing game plans based on superior decision-making techniques.
He argues that achievers in any field can apply these athletes’ successful business strategies because all of them essentially stem from the same three universal elements.
In his book, Meltzer, 51, discusses what he calls “perhaps the most dangerous, most destructive” habit. That would be procrastination.
In the interview, he bluntly provides a remedy: “The Law of GOYA” (It isn’t Goya Foods, by the way).
What’s made this executive and entrepreneur a career success is “not limiting [his] point of entry or specialty” to a particular field, he stresses. Thus, his resume includes stints as an oil-and-gas attorney, CEO of smartphone PC-E Phone, a publisher and executive producer of movies.
He writes freely, however, about a big downer that occurred after he became a multimillionaire: bankruptcy. But he often uses that 2009 experience to teach folks to “do the right things” about their “relationship with money,” he says.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Meltzer, on the phone from his firm’s Irvine, California, office. The business coach and keynote speaker peppered his conversation with other advice too, such as being consistent and persistent in one’s pursuit but to always plan for adjustments.
Here are highlights of our interview:
THINKADVISOR: Are the successful business strategies of pro athletes too specialized for others to use?
DAVID MELTZER: I don’t think so. The three components that make a person successful on the field are the same three that make them successful off the field: skill, knowledge and desire.
You write about “The Law of GOYA.” What’s that?
GOYA stands for “Get Off Your Ass.” Dreaming about what you want is the first step, but then you need to actually take action to get what you want — and then prepare for adjustment using discipline, strategy and awareness to maximize productivity.
Let’s talk about some star athletes’ strategies you discuss in your book. For example, Kevin Durant, the 10-time NBA All-Star whose company invests in 30-plus ventures, according to Forbes. This month, after playing for the Golden State Warriors for three years, he signed with the Brooklyn Nets. His four-year contract is worth as much as $164 million, Forbes says. Is that move part of his business strategy?
Without a doubt, basketball is his business — an activity he gets paid for. So, yes, he’s maximizing how much he gets paid for that activity, which he enjoys and enjoys pursuing. Absolutely this was an economic decision that suits his values.
Tom Brady, the New England Patriots’ quarterback who’s won six Super Bowls — the most in NFL history — talks with coaches “and the offense” to see what adjustments need to be made and how to execute them, you write. Please comment.
Tom Brady is driven by a chip on his shoulder: He was drafted in the sixth round of the  NFL draft. He has a true belief in his potential and that “Tom Brady differentiator” of effective communication, which he uses to consistently and persistently pursue his potential every day.
Next: Kobe Bryant. You write that the 18-time NBA All-Star — who played for the Los Angeles Lakers all of his 20-year career — consults experts when focusing on learning new skills. Did he do that while he was a player?
To expand his career off the court, Kobe utilizes the discipline to be the best that he learned from [basketball] coaches, general managers, owners and others. He has the same strategy of asking for help, looking for mentorship and accelerating what he does by using that situational knowledge.
Your business partner Warren Moon is an NFL Hall of Fame quarterback who played football for 23 seasons. One of his key strengths is the “majesty of calmness” in pressured situations — an ability to get back to center, you write.
He’s my mentor in that area: I nicknamed him Obi-Wan Kenobi [after the “Star Wars” mentor-teacher character]. He has the understanding that by being at center in a calm state whether you win or lose, you’re maximizing your potential by getting out of your own way.
“Winning isn’t always championships,” NBA star Michael Jordan, who played for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards for 15 seasons and is the main owner of the Charlotte Hornets, has said, so you write. What exactly does he mean?
The simple blessing of Michael Jordan is that he not only had extraordinary talent [as a player] but enjoys the pursuit of his potential. For him, it wasn’t connecting his emotional success to an outcome of winning or losing but enjoying the pursuit of his best, which led to championships.
Brad Stevens, the Boston Celtics’ head coach, has a great communication style, you write. You call him a “transformative leader” and a “transformative listener.” Please elaborate.
Communication is one of the keys to his success. He’s an advocate for being concise and being candid. There are three types of listeners: the Interrupter, who tells you what they want you to know; the Waiter, who’s just waiting for you to finish talking so they can tell you what they think; and the true listener, or Transformative Listener, who people can connect to emotionally. It’s not what we say — it’s what we hear. It’s being more interested than interesting, which is critical to our acceleration and exponential growth.
You write that the late legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” is a foundation everyone would be smart to align with. What does it comprise?
Wooden was a great leader and mentor. He said: “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” At the bottom level of his Pyramid are [the qualities of]: industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation and enthusiasm. Then you get to the next level: self-control, alertness, initiative, intentness, followed by condition, skill and team spirit. The fourth level is poise and confidence, which leads to the Pyramid’s top level: competitive greatness.
The New York Yankees are “a shining example of branding a specific frequency,” you write. How so?
They branded themselves as the winningest organization in sports history. But it’s not only the statistic of winning 27 World Series but allowing people to amplify their brand and perpetuate it so that there’s a collective belief they’re the best. People see that the New York Yankees are willing to do more because they have a brand of success: being the best.
What are you, Dave Meltzer, in pursuit of? Your career shows that you’re unusually versatile. What’s your ultimate goal?
We have a happiness problem in the world. My main purpose — with my books, speeches, TV shows, podcasts [etc.] — is that if I can find a thousand people to empower and they empower another thousand and we multiply that over and over to eventually [total] a billion, I can have a significant impact on the world to make people happy. My main mission is to help empower people to live happier lives so that we don’t have opioid addiction, depression, suicide and all the other obstacles of the disillusioned. They can have the right mindset to make the choice to be happy.
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