10 Things I Learned from George Mumford
As I sit in the back of the film room and watch him speak on the big screen via Zoom to the team, I am mesmerized. I have heard George Mumford speak many times, and this is how I always feel. While getting to see George speak is always a treat, today is extra special for me. George, who I hold in high esteem as my friend, mentor, and teacher, was kind enough to accept my invitation to spend some time imparting his wisdom to Coach Shaka Smart's Marquette University Men's Basketball Team, one of the six division one college basketball teams I work with on mental performance skills. It's cool to see someone who taught you teaching people you teach.
George, the author of the ground-breaking book, The Mindful Athlete, is a mindfulness and performance expert who has worked with some of the most well-known athletes and teams around the world. He is best known for this work with some of the all-time greats like Kobe, Michael Jordan, and Phil Jackson's storied Bulls and Lakers teams. It would be an understatement to say that George blazed the trail for mental performance coaches like me. While it is common nowadays to train athletes in mindfulness techniques like meditation, visualization, and conscious breathing, etc., before George's time with Phil Jackson's teams, it was not that common. In fact, it was considered fringe, weird, or esoteric by many. George's success with these teams and famous athletes made coaches and trainers realize the benefits of these practices in terms of enhanced performance and overall wellbeing for their players.
One of George's most impressive skills is his ability to take complicated and/or abstract concepts and break them down into interesting and understandable ways that stick with you. If smiles and head nods are any indication, the Marquette guys are a testament to this. Below is a list of ten (of the many) things that George has imparted to me. Please note that his teachings are great for non-sporting types as well. If interested, I highly encourage you to research his extensive body of work further. Enjoy!
Right Action: George is big believer in the principle of right action. Right action is the idea that you need to always be doing the right thing, even when you don’t feel like doing it.
"No struggle, no swag': This one of George's favorite sayings. I see it as a modern version of Thich Nhat Hahn's "No Mud, No Lotus." This sentiment is simple but profound in reminding us that there are no rewards without hard work and/or suffering along the way.
"I've got my mind on my money and my money on my mind": I have practiced meditation for many years, and I have been taught it by many people. This is the best way I have ever heard it defined. Basically, by saying it this way, George is saying that meditation is about having your mind on one thing at a time. When your attention drifts, bring it back to that one thing. It's that simple. When we aren't distracted, we have more energy.
Be the best version of yourself: George often quotes the great John Wooden, "Poise is being yourself." He also likes to say that we all are our own masterpieces. Once when I was struggling with an issue, he told me, "We just need Greg to be the best version of Greg. Nothing more. Nothing less."
You can't be in growth mode and survival mode at the same time: This may be my favorite nugget of George's wisdom. It's self-explanatory and deep.
Let your life speak: Express yourself through everything you do in your life. This is what you are meant to do. Own it.
Intrinsic/Extrinsic Motivation: What is your locus of control? What drives you? It's important to know who or what influences you and what motivates you.
Follow your bliss: As Jospeh Campbell said, "Follow Your bliss." Once I was conferring with George about a possible career move. One path was a seemingly safe, traditional route. The second path was riskier, but it involved doing what I was passionate about. His advice was, "If you only had six months to love, what would you want to do"?
Comfort or Passion: They don't always come in the same package. Sometimes we must choose.
The Eye of the Hurricane: “Respond from the eye of the hurricane, rather from the chaos of the storm.” The surface winds of hurricanes are chaotic, but the winds are strong enough to deflect away from the center, leaving a calm eye in the storm. If you were to stand on that spot, it would be as if the storm didn’t exist at all. Always try to be in your center, where you are calmer and still.
Greg Graber, the author of Slow Your Roll- Mindfulness for Fast Times, teaches mindfulness and Social & Emotional (SEL) skills to schools, top sports teams, and various organizations around the world. Graber, a frequent keynote speaker, currently serves as the Director of SEL at Lausanne Collegiate School. He may be contacted through his website: www.greggraber.com