As I’m sure many of you know, I’m pretty big on sports.
I love everything about it. The challenge of the games, the sense of being part of a team, and even the science behind how it works. It’s always fascinated me.
Why is it some people can excel at sports, while others fall short no matter how hard they try?
It’s not just a matter of genes and physical strength. In fact, someone’s natural mind set under pressure also has a lot to do with it.
When you talk to Super Bowl Champions, no matter how much pressure is on them, it’s just a game. If they win or lose, they go home to their families and they know life will go on.
To most of us that kind of pressure would cause us to live in the moment, we’d be stuck in our heads, and end up costing us the big game.
That’s why I’m excited about my interview with our guest today, John Brenkus. John created the uber popular ESPN show Sport Science.
He’s a really inspirational person who’s succeeded in areas many people only dream about. He’s a producer, TV Personality, has his own hit podcast, and is a talented musician in his band Brink of Midnight.
Together we get into the details about what makes certain people so successful – mentally and physically.
Discover all of that and much more, on Episode 562.
Lewis Howes: This is episode number 562, with sports science creator John Brenkus. Welcome to the school of greatness. My name is Lewis Howes, former pro athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur. Each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today, now let the class begin. “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be,” Ralph Waldo Emerson. Welcome to this podcast episode, we’ve got John Brenkus in the house. He has spent the last decade studying and popularizing the unique characteristics of the world’s greatest athletes. He co-created the groundbreaking series Fight Science for the National Geographic Channel. Brenkus is best known as the on-air host, co-creator and executive producer of ESPN’s Emmy Award-winning show Sport Science, appearing in and producing over 15 hundred segments that have been featured on ABC and ESPN’s enormous sports platforms.
He has been featured in coverage of the Super Bowl, Monday night football, the NBA finals, Sunday night baseball, the Masters just to name a few. Through Sport Science Brenkus has appeared before 80 million people annually for the last decade. He’s won six Emmys and he’s written a New York Times bestseller, the Perfection Point. In this episode we talk about why you need to know the source of what you’re hearing to determine if that source is actually valuable. Also why people who are great at what they do that they don’t do it for money. That’s a big one. Also what everyone should be asking themselves every single morning, and why compromising in love is a myth and the best way to get an edge in your sport and in your life. We go deep on a few other topics and go around some different angles that I wasn’t actually expecting. So I hope you actually enjoy this one because it was really powerful for both of us.
But before we dive in I want to give a shoutout to our sponsors, and that is with Zip Recruiter. For all the entrepreneurs on here or solopreneurs or freelancers, if you are looking to hire someone to help you grow and expand your business the only way to grow is by growing your team and finding great candidates. Finding the wrong people on your team will actually set you back. But with Zip Recruiter you can now post your job to 100+ job sites with just one click. Then their powerful technology efficiently matches the right people to your job better than anyone else. That’s why they’re different. Unlike other job sites Zip Recruiter doesn’t depend on candidates finding you, it finds them for you. In fact 80% of employers who post a job on Zip Recruiter get a quality candidate through the site within one day.
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Again, Louishowes.com/man. It’ll take you right to the Audible page. If you’re not a member of Audible you can actually get the book for free when you sign up for a 30 day trial on Audible. Make sure to go to Louishowes.com/man right now, download the book on audio and let me know what you think. We’ve had thousands of people who have already listened to the book on audio, I’d love for you to check it out and let me know what you think as well. Again, Louishowes.com/man. All right guys, let’s get into this one. I’m super-pumped and I hope you are as well. Make sure to share it out with your friends, the show notes are LouisHowes.com/562. Take a screenshot, post it on Instagram, Twitter, let me know that you’re listening right now. Without further ado let me introduce to you the one, the only, John Brenkus.
Welcome back everyone to the School of Greatness Podcast, very excited about our guest, the man John Brenkus in the house.
John Brenkus: How are you?
Lewis Howes: Doing great man. We met a few months back, early in the year at the Super Bowl. I remember seeing you. I can’t remember where, I think it was at the SPM party. I think.
John Brenkus: Some party.
Lewis Howes: It was either there or Media Row.
John Brenkus: Somewhere. I was like, sport science, yes. No, I was a big athlete myself. I’ve always been fascinated with sports and how to get bigger, faster and stronger. Your work has always inspired me because you break down the biomechanics, the science, just everything about how athletes can do what they do. I want to thank you for sharing with so many people first off how it all works.
Lewis Howes: First of all I did it just for you.
John Brenkus: You did it just for me, yes, and the other 80 million people a year that watch, yes. That’s right.
Lewis Howes: What made you curious in the first place to get into that aspect?
John Brenkus: What’s interesting is that unlike you I’m not a great athlete. That’s part of the thing that really fueled my desire to know why are people better athletes than other people? Because there are plenty of professional athletes who are my size. When I was younger I was the fastest thing that Vienna Elementary had ever seen. I hit every school record to do with speed and running and I was the smallest little kid. But as I grew everyone passed me and just kept passing me. It really started my, “Why can’t I get any faster? Why am I not getting any stronger?” Obviously I went through my growth spurt and did the best with what I had, but it wasn’t at the elite level. I grew up in the DC area in Vienna, Virginia, right outside of Washington DC. I was such a rabid sports fan, I had three Super Bowls with the Redskins.
We had the Baltimore Orioles, Kyle Ripkins’ rookie season. We had Washington Bullets winning a world championship. DC was a huge sport center, still is but it had tons of championships and banners when I was growing up. That fueled my interest in sport, my fascination for why are people better than other people was planted early on. Then I started a production company.
Lewis Howes: How old were you at this time?
John Brenkus: I was out of the University of Virginia at that time, so I was 21.
Lewis Howes: You started a production company at 21?
John Brenkus: At 21. That’s a whole long story but I’m fast-forwarding to … We started a production company. My two genuine passions, sport was one, and science was the other one. I just was a science nerd growing up. I didn’t major in science but I specialized in it in my off hours. That was what I did.
Lewis Howes: You were curious about it, you devoured books or you would do whatever right?
John Brenkus: Totally.
Lewis Howes: Test things and experiment.
John Brenkus: 100%. I especially read books that were always counter to each other. I’d want to read one point of view on one thing and then another point of view on another. I’m like, “How can two really smart people have completely opposite sides and write big, long, thick books about it with tons of data to back it up? So how do I try to make sense of that?” I do look at the world with a degree of, you have to consider the source of what you’re hearing in order to understand what you’re being told. I had this interest in sport and with science. We ended up putting it together early on in our production company days in a show called XMA, Extreme Martial Arts for the Discovery Channel.
Lewis Howes: When you were in your early 20s?
John Brenkus: Yeah, I was still in my 20s when we were doing that.
Lewis Howes: This is crazy.
John Brenkus: Then I had developed a specialty in sport TV and science TV, put it all together. XMA went then Fight Science followed that up. That was on National Geographic. Then we created this thing called Sport Science. The premise of Sport Science is if you build the world’s greatest laboratory I believe the greatest athletes will come for free. Everyone thought I was insane, they said, “You’re not going to get these guys to roll out of bed for 50 grand dude. They’re not going to show up.”
Lewis Howes: You’re like, “It’s Field of Dreams stuff baby.”
John Brenkus: It is. Build it and they will come, literally. Not only was it build and they will come of believing that, but we financially had to do it. Fox, we did a license deal with it so they were just licensing the show from us. We were paying a giant percentage of the production cost and I just believed that if you build the greatest facility, people are going to come. Because people who are great at anything that they do, and you know this, don’t do it for the money. The money is just a by-product of achieving greatness in something. You’re truly great and money can be a by-product, but it doesn’t have to be. Athletes specifically, they’re not … Think if they only played the game for the money, they wouldn’t be that good. They just wouldn’t. They have to be playing it because they love doing that, otherwise they’re not going to get up at 5:00 in the morning, they’re not going to train that extra bit that you need, they’re not going to study, they’re not going to do it.
I believe that the best of the best aren’t doing it for money and I’ve been proven correct over the last ten years plus that the greatest athletes in the world come to the lab, we put them to the test, they get to learn something, they get to confirm something, it’s more than just interviewing someone. It’s very interactive in something that people who are great at athletics get something out of it.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Man. Your facility’s only an hour away right?
John Brenkus: Yes, it’s [inaudible 00:10:17].
Lewis Howes: I’ve got to come by some time.
John Brenkus: It’s fun.
Lewis Howes: You’re probably already over it though huh? You’ve been doing it for [crosstalk 00:10:23]?
John Brenkus: Who knows. The thing with Sport Science is that when we started in 2007, we actually sold it in 2006. Sport Science wasn’t really a term, and that’s true. It’s hard to think about it. The iPhone hadn’t been released yet, there was nothing off the shelf that you could buy that really gave you any true biometric data. We were fashioning sensors ourselves-
Lewis Howes: Crazy.
John Brenkus: Trying to figure this out. There’s been this explosion in the field of sport science and I’d like to think that we certainly played a part in being a part of that. Certainly you can’t say you created it but you were a part of it.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, making it more mainstream and accessible and interesting right?
John Brenkus: Exactly.
Lewis Howes: People want to know why more.
John Brenkus: And now it’s exploded and it’s all over the place but I think that certainly for the time that it’s had its run it’s like, “Look, we made a dent in the sport universe.”
Lewis Howes: Yeah, it’s amazing man. Did you always imagine you would be doing something like that?
John Brenkus: The true answer, hosting Sport Science was never in the plan. That was not my goal, that was not even my vision. It was a, “Hey, I want to make this amazing program.” I only ended up hosting it because the gentleman running Fox Sports at the time liked the way that I was presenting the material and said, “Why don’t you host it?” I’m like, “Sure. If we don’t like me then we’ll fire me and-”
Lewis Howes: Find a host.
John Brenkus: Find a host, I don’t care. It turned out that it worked out really well. It was very fortunate that way that it had a great platform be a part of and it’s just positive energy, and that’s what I like to be a part of.
Lewis Howes: What’s been the most enjoyable childhood dream of yours that you’ve been able to make come true from the last decade of doing this, whether it be an athlete you always admired or something you had to test someone on or an experiment that you always were curious about? You were like, “Yes, I was right?”
John Brenkus: My answer, it’s going to be funny. As a child, remember I was born in 71. The athlete of athletes was Bo Jackson.
Lewis Howes: God, he’s such a machine.
John Brenkus: He was a machine.
Lewis Howes: Machine, man. He’s amazing.
John Brenkus: We did a series for Sport Science, it was called the Greatest Athlete Of All Time. We did an analysis, took every athlete in every sport and created this very complicated, it’s called an aggregate ranking metric where we compared each athlete to the other athletes in other sports based on 30 different categories. Then we compare the athletes to every athlete who had come before them and every athlete who came after them. We put it in a category that was called durability. Essentially when we were devising this we were like, “Well that’s the Bo Jackson killer right there, because he’s going to be the lowest ranked and there’s no way that Bo Jackson-
Lewis Howes: Broke his hip and [inaudible 00:13:05].
John Brenkus: Yeah. He didn’t have that long of a career. We literally took about six months to do this analysis. Turns out the greatest athlete of all time is Bo Jackson. Even though he was ranked low in the durability category people don’t realize he did play major league baseball for eight seasons. Jim Brown only played football for ten, so it’s not that short of a career.
Lewis Howes: How many years in football did he play?
John Brenkus: Three.
Lewis Howes: Three years in football?
John Brenkus: He played three years of football, eight years of baseball. One of the biggest thrills was when we determined it was Bo Jackson, we had Bo Jackson in the lab. Being able to sit down with Bo. It’s funny because we’ve done so many crazy experiments, but being able to sit down with Bo and really pick his brain on how he was able to do the things that he did, that’s a childhood dream. You’re sitting back and you’re watching, that’s Bo knows everything. It was amazing, it was pretty awesome.
Lewis Howes: He’s got a little bit of belly now but yeah.
John Brenkus: I don’t know man. He’s still in shape.
Lewis Howes: Is he getting back in shape? He’s doing the bicycling thing.
John Brenkus: Yeah. He does Bo Bikes [inaudible 00:14:06]. Does everything. He’s still a cyclist-
Lewis Howes: That’s good man.
John Brenkus: He’s still an athlete.
Lewis Howes: Gosh, he was such a machine. That’s cool. Tell me about the most challenging moment you’ve ever faced emotionally.
John Brenkus: Emotionally? I honestly have always been the kind of person who swings one way or another. My wife calls me One Speed. Lizzy met me and right off the bat she was like, “You know you’re just One Speed.” My high happen a lot so I just go bang, bang, “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.” Then when something goes wrong I’m like, “Aaa.” You try to tear your hair out. Because of that it’s hard to pick one moment because I keep pegging. It’s like, what’s the loudest you’ve ever played your guitar? It’s like, I hit 11 a lot and then I’ll just be like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that happened.” Hard to pick just one true moment because I really am … I’m a volatile, emotional guy. But what I would say is one of my greatest accomplishments as a human being is trying to even that out, and trying to have the highs not be too highs and lows not be too lows.
But it’s much easier said than done because the even keel, that middle band is where productivity really happens. But when you get an idea to do something you want to do it and you want to go all out. Then if something from nowhere happens you can’t help but have that pendulum swing. It’s really hard to prevent that having this ultra A-type personality.
Lewis Howes: But you see it with quarterbacks who keep this even keel.
John Brenkus: Eli Manning.
Lewis Howes: Eli, Tom Brady I guess does a pretty good job of it too. You see this right now in the US Open, what’s happening, the tennis players who freak out in between stuff they usually mess up more than the ones who are just like, “Okay, between a miss or a make, they’re just, ‘I got it.’” Think Tiger Woods with golf, even in his heyday he was all over the place. He brought personality to golf. He had just over-the-top reactions in both directions. He was that very aggressive kind of personality. The truth is that the world’s greatest athletes stay in that middle band and I imagine that in many fields, I’ve studied a lot of guys that have gone through the special forces and been SEALS or Rangers or somebody that is the elite of the elite. They’re just unfloppable. Time slows down for them because they’re able to make sense when everything is chaotic. I don’t think that-
John Brenkus: How do we do that?
Lewis Howes: This is my honest opinion. I’m not sure that you can train for … I think you are or are not. I know I would never have been able to make it because I think that I would freak out too much. I think I would go a little too far in one direction or the other. Those guys are just … They’re steady no matter what happens. Gun is pointed in their face, they know, “Well here’s what I need to do.” Most people would freak out. Also on the flip side something amazing happens, calm. [crosstlak 00:17:16]. It’s all good.
John Brenkus: What do you think it is in their makeup? Is it the way they view the world, is it what they believe about themselves or believe about God or not God? What is it you think?
Lewis Howes: I think that what it is, the talent of staying calm under pressure is the singular thing that separates good from great. That being calm under pressure comes from a variety of reasons. It comes mentally, spiritually, emotionally. It just comes from being … When I say being that way Eli Manning, I think he’s just such a great example. I saw an interview with him on David Letterman I’ll never forget where Letterman was jabbing him like, “Why are you so soft-spoken? You just won …” When he won his second Super Bowl. He literally said, “It’s just football.”
John Brenkus: Really?
Lewis Howes: He did. He was like, “It’s just football and we won. But if we hadn’t won would I be different?” He’s like, “It’s just a game, it’s just …” I was like, “That’s such an amazing perspective, and explains a lot.” When the lights are brightest and the heat is the highest how do you behave? He’s like, “Well, it’s hot right now. It’s kind of bright but I’ve got a game to play.”
John Brenkus: But it’s got to mean something to him too to want to put in that much effort and time and sacrifice into trying to be the greatest.
Lewis Howes: Totally.
John Brenkus: So you can’t just say, “Well, it’s just a game and whatever. I’m just going to play good and see how it does.”
Lewis Howes: It obviously has to be-
John Brenkus: I’m assuming that’s how he sounds like.
Lewis Howes: Exactly, you’re doing a good imitation. I’m sure it has to mean something [crosstalk 00:18:58] in order for it to progress but that’s true of anything. I think he’s somebody to really point at. If you remember prior to his first Super Bowl, everyone’s like, “Why is this guy starting?”
John Brenkus: There’s no passion, there’s no …
Lewis Howes: There’s no leadership and he’s not vocal. What is Tom Coughlin doing? Well he just won two Super Bowls pretty close together and he played a big part of it.
John Brenkus: That’s true. How often would you say that you are still studying science today? Are you obsessed with it? Are you constantly curious about science and testing things just outside of sports?
Lewis Howes: All the time. Obviously especially outside of sports. I watched the whole Bill Nye series on Netflix. Did you watch that by any chance?
John Brenkus: Yes.
Lewis Howes: Most of them or a few of them. I think there was one … I can’t remember. I think there was one about an energy and you were talking about before we got on here about God, energy. As a scientist what is this place? What is this world, universe? Are we even here? Is there an energy force bigger than us that has created us or was it an explosion of particles that came together and light and molecules?
John Brenkus: I love the theory of probability of life existing. If you were to just say, “Okay, the universe exploded and then somehow it magically all came together and therefore life existed.” When you do the odds on hydrogen and oxygen and creating water and all those things having to come together, the margin of error of it actually happening is so far off the meter that it couldn’t, in my opinion, there’s no way it could just happen by chance. There’s some sort of order to the chaos. This is what I think a lot of people can’t wrap their brains around, and I’m a very spiritual guy. Born and raised Catholic and accepting of all religions, all lenses. I believe that we’re all looking at the universe through a different lens but essentially you want to live the same way and get to the same place, we want to be good people. That’s what I believe.
When you think about this and people say, “Well at the beginning of time …” There’s a great philosopher called Paul Davies who wrote a book called Time. He poses-
Lewis Howes: Is there a beginning of time?
John Brenkus: Is there? Do we have to have a beginning of time? That’s the-
Lewis Howes: Is time infinite?
John Brenkus: Right. If it’s infinite, if we say something is infinite it has to be infinite in every direction.
Lewis Howes: Exactly, there is no beginning then.
John Brenkus: There is no beginning and there is no end, it’s just infinite. So it always was. That idea blows our mind.
Lewis Howes: It’s crazy.
John Brenkus: You just can’t even comprehend it. Like you were never born, you just always were. It’s just a crazy idea. The idea that the universe has always existed and there’s always been something to it, and it clearly has evolved but the time idea is one that I think we can point to and say, “There is order in this chaos and we through scientific terms have put labels on what we believe we understand.” Think of the number of things that we have had to change and revise because our understanding is now different.
Lewis Howes: Every week, every day, every year.
John Brenkus: Every, and if you think about-
Lewis Howes: What we prove to be true is always not true. You do this all the time with the body or the formative mile to all these other things, of people breaking PRs every day in every category of sport.
John Brenkus: Science best reflects that the only way that we can move forward is by agreeing on a set of signs and symbols that we refer to as language so that we can communicate and evolve from there. It’s just like saying, “The Earth is flat.” We then say, “It is flat period, it is flat.” Then we say, “Oh, it’s round, but it’s the center of the universe. Oh wait, but now that it’s a globe maybe it’s not the center, maybe it’s going around something else.” We keep evolving and it’s almost like the argument of global warming as an example from a purely scientific standpoint. I feel like we’re arguing something that you can’t win, you can’t win this argument one way or the other because you don’t have your planet that has no people, no cars, no nothing that has existed the exact same way that Earth has.
You don’t have this constant other planet that would be something you could compare it to. So you can’t prove it one way or the other. But what we can prove is that, well the air is worse, the water is dirtier. We can prove that. To me it’s like an anti-pollution argument is something far easier for everybody to get on that train than to say, “Well the whole world is changing.” Because I just don’t think we have enough of a snapshot. I’m not one of these, “Oh, global warming is not real.” I’m just saying it’s really hard to definitively prove it and I’m not sure that that’s even the point. The point is, I don’t want my kids breathing crappy air. I don’t want to drink dirty water. That’s an easy thing for us all to agree on.
Lewis Howes: What is out there in the universe to the farthest … I do this in meditation where I try to take my body outside of Earth and literally take my body as far as I can away from it and see Earth from the farthest point to where I can’t see it anymore, and then I try to go light years further. I’ve never been able to find the end. It just keeps going. How big is this universe?
John Brenkus: I love the stat that there are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the Earth. When you start saying something like that you’re like, “Oh my God. So how big is it? How much bigger is it than what we can even …”
Lewis Howes: Is that stars in the sky that we can see or beyond what we can see?
John Brenkus: That’s stars in the sky that we know of, that we can calculate.
Lewis Howes: That we know of?
John Brenkus: Right, that we know of that we can calculate. But what is the edge of what we know of? It’s impossible to even wrap your brain around it. When you say, I hope everyone takes this in the right fashion. When you say, “Well what exists 100 million light years away? What exists there?” I love to say the narrative of UFOs seems a little Buck Rogers-y to me of, “Oh wow, something from a very far distance flew in a traditionally looking Earth metal vehicle to a point,” not sure that that would be the way that someone from 100 million light years away would actually travel. It seems far more probable to me that there are things as wormholes, there are things as, “Wow, you can get from one end here to another through something that we cannot understand at all.” That would be a more, to me-
Lewis Howes: Probable.
John Brenkus: More probable is that it’s so far beyond our comprehension. I’m certainly not saying that does exist, I’m saying I don’t know what exists. I don’t think there’s any way for us to know because we know so little. It feels like we’re an infant living in a very grown-up universe.
Lewis Howes: What do you think should be he questions every human should be asking themselves more often?
John Brenkus: I think everybody should be asking themselves in the morning, they should be asking themselves, “How can I be my best? What would I consider to be my best today?” I think at the end of the day every human should be asking themselves, “Did I do my best? Did I genuinely do my best?” I feel like the idea of evaluating your own greatness. I use greatness very specifically. Everyone has the ability to be great, but I don’t think they spend enough time harvesting their greatness and trying to figure out, “What am I great at? What can I be great at?” That greatness is one that everybody needs to explore deeper, especially with everything that you’re doing. This is helping. Every little thing helps and I think that’s the one thing that everybody should be asking themselves.
Lewis Howes: What do you think is your greatest gift?
John Brenkus: I feel like my greatest gift, and that’s a great question by the way. I think my greatest gift, I’m going to say there are two. I think that I possess an energy that is contagious. When I’m excited I can get people really excited about. I think that that energy is so honest, authentic, true. It’s just real. I’m the worst liar ever because my energy just gives it away. But I also think I’m really good at collaborating. I’m an ultra A-type personality and I have very, very strong opinions. I say, “This is what I think.” A lot of people will be like, “Whoa, all right. I guess he’s not going to change his mind.” But it’s the exact opposite. It’s like, “Is this going to stick to the wall? Does this stick?” I want to know, is it going to stick? I would say that my ability to collaborate is one of my strong qualities.
Lewis Howes: What’s your greatest collaboration?
John Brenkus: Greatest collaboration is certainly with my wife, certainly with Lizzie.
Lewis Howes: You guys met a unique way right?
John Brenkus: We did meet in a unique way. We sat next to each other on a plane, fell instantly in love. Turns out that we live two blocks away from each other on the same street in LA and we met in Denver. When you just run the odds this is where I’m talking about there is an energy in the universe that conspires for us to succeed, there just is. Sometimes life throws you a soft ball and the answer is obvious and sometimes you have to go searching for it. The greatest collaboration is, the energy that Lizzy and I have together is just an unstoppable force. It’s just so real. She balances me out perfectly and I balance her out perfectly. We do, we met in a really interesting way, we’ve had an amazing marriage, we have two beautiful children. Found out ten years into marriage that we both love music and we can make music together and we start our own little band and wrote a Christmas song that ended up charting.
We’ve now started our own podcast, it’s doing great. We’re just constantly collaborating in life. When you talked about the, what’s your highest point or your lowest point? The reason why I say, “You know what, I can’t pick just that one really” is that Lizzy evens everything out.
Lewis Howes: That’s nice.
John Brenkus: Lizzy helps smooth those edges and so that I think is without a doubt.
Lewis Howes: She’s your Eli Manning. I’m just kidding.
John Brenkus: She’s the greatest thing to happen to my life and I almost feel like saying I wasn’t really alive until I met Lizzie.
Lewis Howes: You weren’t really alive until you met her?
John Brenkus: I wasn’t really alive. You hear all kinds of cliches about what love really is and relationships, how relationships work. People love to say a great relationship is one where you can compromise. I’m like, “You know what? That’s a difficult word for me to associate with love.” Because when you love someone you’re willing to do what they want to do, that’s not compromising. That’s loving, that is what loving is is, “I put you before me.” I’m not compromising, I’m just putting you before me because I love you.” When you get two people who are willing to do that it’s amazing how decisions become very clear. Life becomes very clear, what you want to do next becomes very clear.
Lewis Howes: That’s powerful.
John Brenkus: It is.
Lewis Howes: Congrats. That’s amazing. Let’s talk about health really quick and sports for a moment. So many injuries, we were talking about this before. So many injuries happening and obviously so many people are taking steroids and enhancing drugs in sports whether legally or illegally or behind the scenes or whatever. Just a lot of health issues I feel like with athletes. Concussions in football more and more and sports. What are your thoughts about all this stuff in terms of just people’s bodies? Are we able to take on what the audience wants as entertainment to be bigger, faster, stronger, more hits, everything else? Are we going to be able to take on this level of desire from an audience?
John Brenkus: Super complex question. Let’s break it down. First let’s address concussions and when we say, what are we going to do about the concussion? Let’s call it an epidemic going on in football. I say two things. One, I’ll give you that answer of what we should do about it when someone convinces me that we as a society actually care. Because I don’t know why 110 million people are watching the Super Bowl if they’re just appalled at the idea that someone could get a concussion. Why did the Mayweather McGregor fight get so much money, it’s the highest-grossing combat sport event of all time and it was basically two guys fighting in a backyard. There was no belt on the line, it was an exhibition fight. Was anybody raising their hand saying, “Someone might get concussed.” No, I don’t think we as a society actually care about it.
Then saying, “Okay.” If you then convince me we do care why is football being singled out? Skiing, X games, rugby, hockey, the list goes on and you say-
Lewis Howes: Skateboarding, whatever.
John Brenkus: Just whatever.
Lewis Howes: Anything without a helmet.
John Brenkus: Anything, look people suffer concussions in all kinds of sports. I don’t know why we’re only really focused on football. In terms of the, “What are we going to do about the human form exceeding its frame or becoming bigger, faster and stronger?” I think, this is my opinion. So I wrote a book called the Perfection Point and one of the chapters I take on, it’s all about the best a human could possibly do if everything were perfect including taking PEDs. What’s the fastest we could run if you had the perfect specimen, they were juiced-
Lewis Howes: The right formula, the right amount of dosage.
John Brenkus: Exactly, the right elevation, the right track surface, the right equipment, the right tail wind, the right reaction, the perfect everything. What I say is, “Look …” This is coming from a guy, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t have caffeine, I have nothing. I take nothing of any kind.
Lewis Howes: Just food.
John Brenkus: I’m just a food guy. I eat relatively healthy and I just say, “All right, that’s good enough.” But my honest view is if I as a private citizen could walk into a doctor’s office and get something like let’s say HGH. If I can get a prescription for HGH then why can’t an athlete also who’s being paid $100 million do the same thing that I can do? I think our standard needs to be, “These are people too.” We all need to get over this, “Hey, they’re cheating. Hey, they’re whatever.” I feel like, “Look, as long as it’s been scientifically studied, as long as we have an independent third party that’s overseeing this then it’s okay, it’s all all right.” Then people are saying, “Well then you’re not on an even playing field.” There is no such thing as an even playing field. When you say you line up at the 100 yard dash some people lived at elevation, some people had chia seeds and lived off of a more healthy diet. There’s just no level playing field.
Lewis Howes: There are different sizes, there are different shapes, there’s everything. They’re already different.
John Brenkus: Exactly. You’re going to the starting line different. When you say, “Well these drugs we know for a fact make x and they do x,” I’m like, “Well in endurance events as far as I know Viagra is not on a list. But what does Viagra does? It increases circulation and it’s great for endurance events but it’s not on a banned list. So if somebody took Viagra …” People are always saying, “Oh, they’re going to have an embarrassing thing while they’re racing.” It actually works. That’s what people do but is that cheating?
Lewis Howes: Is that what people are doing?
John Brenkus: They are. There are tons of endurance athletes that found out, “Hey, you know what? This actually helps.” There’s all kinds of things that aren’t on a banned list or aren’t on a list to even consider that do give you an edge. To me we just need to embrace the fact that someone’s trying to be great and we obviously with my view, cocaine, LSD, things that we know are bad for you are not scientifically certified and legal and everything else, you don’t do that. But something that is legal under the umbrella, has been studied, we have 20 years of testing behind it, we know that what the side effects are, we know how to supervise it, then I think that that’s okay.
Lewis Howes: It’s challenging because there are so many … Unless you just say, “Okay, all you can do is eat a certain amount of food for a certain amount of time and that’s it,” people are always going to push the boundaries on training, on their sleeping habits, on everything to optimize. That’s like enhancing right?
John Brenkus: It is. People want to have black hats and white hats and I feel like there are a lot of gray hats.
Lewis Howes: A lot of gray hats here.
John Brenkus: A lot of gray hats. It’s all in between those two things.
Lewis Howes: What is it about sports that you love the most?
John Brenkus: I love witnessing greatness. I think it’s the best way for us to visually take in a human being being great. That’s what I think sports represents, that’s why we’re so fascinated at it. We love to watch people do things that we know we can’t do. But somehow we’re connected so it’s pretty magical in that sense. To me it’s very similar to music where you show up to a concert and you’re like, “Make something. Let me experience something.” It’s transcendent of being human and sport in a lot of ways is transcendent of you just being human because you’re like, “Wow, you’re doing things that are seemingly superhuman.”
Lewis Howes: With all of your research and studies I’m sure you’ve come across many unbelievably talented physical specimens of athletes who are just freaks of nature. Some of them have the mental edge and some of them don’t. What do you think it takes for anyone to have that mental edge so they can perform or they have the talent or very little talent and can perform better than the freaks of nature? How do we train for that?
John Brenkus: In terms of having that edge the best way to get an edge is to be honest with yourself as to what your edge is. Each day you can build that edge out a little bit further. It’s testing your limit. It’s what I said before about in the morning, what can I do to be great today? And at night saying, “Did I do my best?” Building that ledge out bit by bit it’s amazing how far you can extend out, what you can actually do. That really is what your edge actually is. Where’s my limit, what is the thing that today if I did this I would say, “I did my best today,” and I could say relative only to myself I was great today. That’s a fine, honest thing to say. Relative to elite athletes I’m not great but to me, relative to me, I did great today. You should be able to say that. I think you build that edge out slowly certainly, and methodically.
That’s one thing that certainly throughout my life I’ve learned that there’s very slow incremental improvements is what builds greatness.
Lewis Howes: What would you say is your biggest fear?
John Brenkus: Without a doubt my biggest fear is the random tragedies are a genuine fear where you go, “Wow.” These things that happen out of nowhere that you can’t control, that you can’t go, that you can’t anticipate are the things that are coming out. Is that a fear? Do I wake up saying, “Oh my God.” No, but if you were to say, “Well what worries me?” It’s, “Is there going to be something crazy that happens, like somebody launches a missile just randomly and I have nothing to do with it, totally out of my control?” That worries me and makes me go, “God, I really hope that something like that doesn’t happen.” I certainly don’t obsess about it but in terms of a fear of height, animals or whatever. I used to be petrified of heights and if you asked me that question 30 years ago, heights, I broke my fear of heights. I was petrified of heights, I actually broke it.
I took a trip with my best friend to the Grand Canyon, had a complete panic attack right on the edge of the Grand Canyon, hiking down to the bottom. Had a total panic attack. By the time I reached the bottom I had broken my fear because I survived. What’s interesting is people say, “God, being scared of heights is such a silly thing to be scared of.” But I say, “No, wait a minute, hold on. If you fall off the edge of the Grand Canyon you’re going to die. It’s a very rational fear.” It’s like fear of spiders is kind of a silly fear because there aren’t that many that will kill you.
Lewis Howes: What’s next for you then? You’ve done so much with your brand, your business. It just seems like everything you put your mind to you make it happen.
John Brenkus: I will continue, I believe, to expand in the field of sport and science. I believe that will happen. I believe that our podcast, Brink of Midnight, along with our band, Brink of Midnight will continue to grow. It’s positive energy and I believe that positive energy begets positive energy. Also started a foundation with Ray Lewis-
Lewis Howes: Really?
John Brenkus: Called Ray of Hope Foundation.
Lewis Howes: Really?
John Brenkus: Rayofhopefoundation.org. It was one of these ideas that again, life presented it to us. I had a very good friend of mine who had stage four glioblastoma brain cancer. He was in his 40s, recently married, just totally tragic story. I called Ray and he was a huge [inaudible 00:41:01]. I just said, “Hey, would you send …” My friend’s name is Ben. I was like, “Could you send Ben just a message of inspiration, just to let him know he’s not alone and that you’re praying for him, you’re thinking about him?” He sent a message right away to Ben. Next day I got a call from a friend who said, “Hey, there’s this kid down in Atlanta and he had this terrible injury. You were really a guy that he looked up to. Can you just send him a message that lets him know that he’s not alone and that you’re there for him?” In both of these stories we had these miraculous recoveries that happened.
Ben’s cancer has since vanished and is now immeasurable and William, who is the kid that I sent a message to, is having this remarkable recovery. Obviously these videos did not create the recovery but they didn’t hurt and they helped to perpetuate the positive energy. The Foundation is really focusing on people in dire need, and if you are in dire need you can go to Rayofhopefoundation.org, put in a request. We have a roster of celebrities who are willing to send out messages in the blink of an eye to let you know that, hey, you’re not alone and it’s something you can have so that you can watch it over and over and over and to help perpetuate that positive energy.
Lewis Howes: That’s really cool.
John Brenkus: It’s cool. There’s nothing behind it other than positive energy.
Lewis Howes: Do you guys fund it or is it more just like you-
John Brenkus: We’re actually kicking it off in Atlanta in a couple weeks and we’re starting to deliver messages as a charity as of November 1. We’re literally just launching it.
Lewis Howes: Video messages essentially?
John Brenkus: Video messages from celebrities that people care about to just let you know you’re not alone, we’re praying about you, we’re thinking about you.
Lewis Howes: That’s really cool. It’s really cool. I’ve had Ray on here and I’ve been on his show, really inspirational guy obviously.
John Brenkus: Amazing dude.
Lewis Howes: We’ve shot a bunch of videos for him in here actually and helped him out with some stuff. But he’s a powerful human being. Energy is unbelievable. Did you do some stuff with him in Sport Science too or-
John Brenkus: Yeah. That’s how we met. We met through Sport Science and then we just became instant friends. It was like bang, our energy, we just clicked. Have been very good friends for over a decade now.
Lewis Howes: That’s cool.
John Brenkus: It’s great. He’s the guy when people say, “God, of all the people that you’ve met like Ray Lewis, Larry Fitzgerald,” guys like that, they’re just so authentic, positive human beings.
Lewis Howes: Amazing. Rayofhopefoundation.org.
John Brenkus: Yep, Rayofhopefoundation.org.
Lewis Howes: That’s cool. What’s the one thing you want to make sure you create before it’s all up for you?
John Brenkus: The one thing that I’ve created?
Lewis Howes: That you want to make sure you create that you haven’t done.
John Brenkus: That I haven’t done yet. I think that the one thing that I’d want to create is to build on the foundation that I’ve laid. I’m 46 now, I’m very fortunate to have had success in television, I’ve had success in books, we’ve had success with music, we’re having success with podcasts. I want to keep building on that foundation and when I met Lizzie, which is now 14 years ago, almost 15 years ago, she said, “What are you going to be doing five years from now, ten years from now?” I said, “I’m just going to be doing bigger and better versions of what I’m doing today.” This is way before Sport Science and that’s what ended up happening. I’m just going to keep building on that because once you create a foundation you can take a step, and then another step and another one and just going to keep building on that foundation. As vague as that seems it really isn’t.
Because the energy of the universe is going to push you one way or the other. Is it more music, is it more books, is it more sport and science, is it more … I have complete faith that I’ll be shown the way and doors will be opened and I’ll continue to go down that path.
Lewis Howes: That’s cool. What’s something you’re most proud of that most people don’t know?
John Brenkus: I haven’t told a lot of people this but, my friend and I, my best friend, same guy that I went to the Grand Canyon with. We wanted to have a weight gaining competition. I was a total meathead in the gym, I used to lift weights. My size now, I was five eight but I was decline pressing 335 and the guy in the weight room where it’s like, it’s a decent amount of weight for a little dude like me to be doing without any help from anything else. It was fairly natural. I was eating a ton and I got up to 198 and I was five eight and a half and I was 198, but not a good 198.
Lewis Howes: Sloppy.
John Brenkus: Yeah, I was the meathead in the gym 198. I tried to run a mile and I could not run a mile. I was 198. Now, I said to myself, “You know what? In high school I always tried to break the five minute mile,” and I was never able to do it. I ran like a 503 in high school or something like that, it was something above [crosstalk 00:45:50].
Lewis Howes: Running a five minute mile is hard.
John Brenkus: I was 27 years old and I said, “You know what? Enough with the weight gain. I’m at 198. I’m going to cut 50 pounds and break the five minute mile.” Caught up with my old high school track coach and I said, “We’re going to break the five minute mile.” I ended up running a 455 mile.
Lewis Howes: 16 hundred?
John Brenkus: 16 hundred, four laps. 16 hundred.
Lewis Howes: I did the 1500 in the decathlon so I ran like a four … Not a four. I ran like a 506 in the decathlon 1500 and that was hard. So a hundred meters less than you.
John Brenkus: Exactly. I did the 16 hundred so I did four laps and I did it just because. That kicked off my, well you know what? My friend, same friend that I went to the Grand Canyon with, same friend that I gained weight with, he ran a marathon. I was like, “A marathon?” There were like 25,000 people in that, okay. I’m going to do an iron man. What’s an iron man? I decided to do an iron man without knowing what it really was.
Lewis Howes: It’s included in marathon.
John Brenkus: I’m like, “I think it’s hard.” It’s a 2.4 mile open swim, small problem. I don’t know how to swim, like I’ve never-
Lewis Howes: In the ocean.
John Brenkus: I’ve never been swimming in the ocean, I’ve never had to swim. I just knew how to tread water and playtime swim. I didn’t know how to swim. But it was a 112 mile bike. Problem, I didn’t own a bike so I’m like, “Okay, I don’t have a bike.” Then it was a 26.2 mile run and I’d never run more than a five k. I’m like, “Well, this is going to be challenging.” Ended up, again, it’s just my nature. I ended up going to New Zealand and doing New Zealand iron man.
Lewis Howes: It’s got to be amazing.
John Brenkus: It was pretty fun. It’s pretty fun.
Lewis Howes: New Zealand, I’ve been there before. It’s beautiful man, unbelievable. That’s cool. Anything else we should know about you that most people don’t ask that you wish they would?
John Brenkus: I genuinely look at the world with an intent of making it better. One thing that I am almost use the word obsessed with is picking up trash. When I’m walking somewhere and I see a piece of trash on the ground I pick it up. It’s not my trash but someone’s going to have to pick it up. If I pick it up then the next person behind me isn’t going to have to see it and experience it so I want to make it a better place. That small little example I try to do in every facet of life. I want to make life better for people, I want to clear the way, I want to break new ground, I want to help people. That genuinely is what motivates me.
Lewis Howes: That’s cool, I love it.
John Brenkus: So there you go.
Lewis Howes: This is one of the last few questions. This is called the Three Truce. If this was the last day for you many years from now, you’ve achieved everything you wanted to, done all the music, movies, TV, anything at all that came up, you conquered it, mastered it, were the best at it. But for whatever reason everything you’ve ever created was erased and you got a piece of paper and a pen and these are your final moments and you got to write down three things you know to be true about everything you’ve experienced in your life that you want to share with the world and that’s all they would have. What would be your three truths?
John Brenkus: I would say there is a God (energy in the universe). I loved my family and three, I started living when I met my wife. Those would be the three things that I would write.
Lewis Howes: That’s pretty powerful.
John Brenkus: Those are truths that I can say that for an absolute fact. I have a ridiculously strong relationship with my family, love them beyond anything. Lizzy was that point in my life where all right, now it’s game on. I was 31 when I met her, it felt like 31 years of trial and error to get to a point where, “Now I can start living. Now I get it.”
Lewis Howes: That’s cool, wow.
John Brenkus: Those are three true things. Sport Science wouldn’t even make the list because it’s just to me a reflection of trying and you try to succeed and you did succeed. But I’ve done that on a lot of levels and a lot of different things but I think that love of all different kinds of love of obviously God, of family, of work, of just yourself, that creates joy in your life.
Lewis Howes: Amazing. I want to acknowledge you John for a moment for your positive, infectious energy and your ability to make this place better. I think there’s a lot of people who are struggling who don’t have that energy and who are feeling down all the time. For you to be this positive, powerful force to interrupt people’s excuses, conversations, uncertainties, to give them clarity through your constant research and simplified showcases of information, it’s making the world better. I want to acknowledge you for all you’re doing man.
John Brenkus: I cannot thank you enough for having me on and I’m glad that we met, I’m glad that this all came [crosstalk 00:50:48].
Lewis Howes: We made it happen. One final question before I ask it, where can we connect with you, the podcast, the book, your site, everything.
John Brenkus: You can find me at Johnbrenkus.com. You can find everything about Brink of Midnight which is not only our podcast but also the music that we do, that Lizzy and I do. That’s Brinkofmidnight.com. You can find me on socials @Johnbrenkus_ on Twitter and @Brinkofmidnight across all socials.
Lewis Howes: Awesome. Final question, what’s your definition of greatness?
John Brenkus: My definition of greatness is truly doing your best relative to the thing that you are comparing it to. That is what great is. If you are comparing when you say what is great, I could be great but relative to somebody else I’m not great. You have to make sure that you’re comparing it to the right thing. If I did my absolute best relative to myself then I was great today. I feel like people need to embrace and people are very hesitant to say, “You know what, that was great today.” You’re great relative to yourself, you should be happy with that. You should really be happy.
Lewis Howes: John, thanks so much man. Appreciate it.
John Brenkus: Thank you. God bless.
Lewis Howes: There you have it my friends. I hope you enjoyed this one with the legendary John Brenkus who has just transformed the sport science world and has done some amazing things through taking his passion, his love and building an Emmy-award winning show around it, doing the thing that he always wanted to do which is sports and TV. Love what he was able to do to bring this together, powerful example of how to bring an idea to life as an entrepreneur and make it a full-time thing for you. Again, check out the full video, full show notes and all the information we talked about in this podcast and all of the transcript as well from this podcast, you can go check it out, download it, see everything at Lewishowes.com/562. That’s right, we’ve got the transcripts as well. A big thank you to our sponsor, Zip Recruiter.
Again, if you’re an entrepreneur guys and you’re looking for quality people to hire don’t just Tweet it out or message it out online and deal with managing tons of resumes and things like that. You’ve got to get a qualified person because there’s nothing worse than hiring the wrong person and stressing out and struggling for months and months trying to train that person up when you ultimately have to let them go. So make sure you get the right person and go to Ziprecruiter.com/greatness because you can post your job right now for free. Again go to Ziprecruiter.com/greatness right now and start posting your jobs for free. Again, make sure to pick up a copy of The Mask of Masculinity over on Audible. You can get that at Lewishowes.com/man. Again, download it. If you’re already an Audible member then make sure that this is the one you listen to this month.
You get some credits, you can get a book this month. Get the Mask of Masculinity. If you’re not an Audible member you can actually get the book for free, that’s right. If you subscribe to Audible there’s a 30 day trial period where you can get a book. Make sure to subscribe, join Audible and you can listen to the book for free when you do the 30 day trial period over on Audible. Check it out, Lewshowes.com/man. Again Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” Decide to be someone meaningful, important, inspiring today. Take one step closer to your dreams today. Make someone else smile today. Lift others up today. Become the person you decide to be. And as always you know what time it is, it’s time to go out there and do something great.