When I was injured as a pro athlete I felt I had really lost myself. I felt like my identity was stripped away from me.
I began comparing myself to my past — to what I could have been. I doubted my entire future.
Chances are you’ve been through something similar. Maybe it was the loss of a job. Maybe you lost someone you depended on emotionally.
I eventually came to a realization. I could continue down this self destructive path, feeling like a helpless victim in a cruel world, or I could take my destiny into my own hands.
In the end, I decided to have faith that maybe this happened for a greater cause. I felt like maybe I was meant for something else. Something more important.
On this episode of The School of Greatness, I had the chance to sit down with someone who knows a lot about having to reinvent themselves: Jay Williams.
If you aren’t familiar with Jay Williams, he’s a former NBA pro. He came from a home that was surrounded by abusive relationships. When he was drafted at a young age, he didn’t know how to handle the fame and money.
His ego got in the way, and he ended up in a motorcycle accident and put his career on hold.
After a long recovery and massive amounts of physical therapy, he wound up back on the court only to suffer from injuries again. And again.
He came to the same cross road: either stay a victim and fall into a life of extreme hardship or take it as a sign he was meant for something else.
Today, Jay Williams is a television personality, motivational speaker, and successful businessman.
He says that his life, the parts that he values the most, started after his accident.
Hear all about his inspirational journey and why it’s worth it to believe life happens for a reason, on Episode 632.
Lewis Howes: This is episode number 632 with Jay Williams.
Welcome to The School of Greatness. My name is Lewis Howes, former pro-athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur and 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.
Oprah Winfrey said, “Turn your wounds into your wisdom.” And today we’ve got the incredible Jay Williams on. And I wanted to ask you guys a question: Have you ever had an accident in your life, that seemed like a horrible accident at the time, or something that was tragic at the time, but two years later, five years later, ten years later, you looked back and you realised, “Wow! Some of the greatest things in my life wouldn’t have happened had that accident not happened!”?
I know I’ve had that in my personal life where I got injured playing professional football. I was on my sister’s couch for about a year and a half recovering from surgery, and I was devastated during that time. But the lessons I learned, the person I became, the people I met, the skills that I mastered during that down time of about a year and a half, got me to the place I’m at today. And I would not be here today without that accident, without that injury. And I’m so grateful for it now, looking back.
And that’s what we get to look at in our own life. What are those challenges, those adversities that we go through that seem horrific in the moment, but really are the cornerstone and foundation of our greatness. And when we can start to look at the tragedies as opportunities to grow, to learn, into our fullest potential. That’s where the beauty of life comes from.
And today we’ve got Jay Williams who is going to share more about this process with us, and share some incredible insights. He’s a multi-talented television personality, motivational speaker and businessman. He’s a former basketball player and current college basketball analyst. He played college basketball at Duke University, and professionally with the Chicago Bulls in the NBA. He is also considered one of the most prolific college basketball players of all time and he was the second pick in the 2002 NBA draft.
However, a motorcycle accident in 2003 pivoted his promising NBA career and he is now an ESPN College Basketball Analyst, and the author of the book, Life Is Not An Accident. In today’s interview we talk about what happens to you spiritually when you hit rock bottom. How to see your challenges in a completely new perspective.
Also, why it’s so valuable to create a personal advisory board. And this is something I’ve been hearing a lot lately, something I did a while back, and now I’m going all in on. So, be sure to tune into that part about building a personal advisory board. And also, what most people don’t understand about how fame affects your relationships. That and so much more on this interview.
Before we dive in, shout out to the Fan of the Week! This is from Lisa, who left a review over on iTunes, and says, “This podcast is the lifeblood of my day, morning, noon or night. I keep having “aha” moments and connect with central themes that present themselves in our personal and professional life. Lewis has such an eloquent way of interviewing some of the most inspiring guests. Thanks for continuing to tackle many inner and outer issues, obstacles, and how to find the grit to persevere and find greatness.”
Lisa! Appreciate that review, thank you so much! You are the Fan of the Week! Lisa René, is her last name. So, thank you, again, for that. And, again, if you guys haven’t left a review yet, I’d love to hear how the podcast has impacted your life. Head over to the podcast app on your phone or on iTunes, just type in, “The School of Greatness”, and you can leave a review right there.
Also, I’ve got a free guide that I want to give you today. Now, this guide is called, Crushing The Five Barriers To Growth. You’ll learn how to acquire new customers, increase profits and finally get real visibility into your cashflow. So, if you’re an entrepreneur or a freelancer, if you’ve got a side hustle, you’ve got to make sure you download this.
It’s Netsuite’s guide, it’s called, Crushing The Five Barriers To Growth, and when you go to netsuite.com/greatness you can download the guide, it’s absolutely free. It’s N.E.T.S.U.I.T.E. dot com slash greatness. Now, just so you know what Netsuite is, they are owned by Oracle, it’s the business management software that handles every aspect of your business in an easy-to-use cloud platform. With Netsuite you can save time, money and unneeded headaches by managing sales, finance and accounting, orders, HR instantly, right from your desk or even your phone.
They work with thousands of businesses and they’ve assessed the information and they give it all to you in this free guide. So, make sure to check out Crushing The Five Barriers To Growth, right now at netsuite.com/greatness.
Alright, guys, I’m pumped for this one! Again, your life is not an accident, it’s only setting you up for the real lessons you need to learn and the person you need to become. Let me introduce to you the one and only, Jay Williams!
What would make this the most powerful interview you’ve ever done?
Jay Williams: Ah, what would make this? I don’t know. I’ve sat with Oprah.
Lewis Howes: I know. It’s pretty big.
Jay Williams: She shifts things internally in your body. I feel I’m at this different stage of my life, I am 36 years old. Who knows where time has flown.
Lewis Howes: It’s crazy, right? I just turned 35 a couple of weeks ago.
Jay Williams: Congrats! Congrats!
Lewis Howes: And it makes me think, “Oh, 35, I’m almost 40,” you know? It’s getting closer.
Jay Williams: Do you have to think about it? I sometimes forget what age I am. I’m like, “Am I 36? Or am I 35?” I feel like I’m 24. And it’s just, it’s different, man! I’m getting married on May 3rd, which is so cool, even though a lot of my friends don’t advise marriage, which is interesting, but I watch and I kind of analyse where they are in their lives, and where I am in my life, and I have a child on the way. Knock on wood that everything’s still okay. So, he or she is due October 5th.
I’m in the stage of my life where I’m vulnerable. I heard this great quote that just kind of changed my gear, I think, about four years ago, where there are two types of leaders in life and one leader is seen like an authoritative figure, right? He has a position of power, if that’s politics, or whatever it may be, and that’s the way he leads.
And then there are other leaders who lead through inspiration, right? And, for me, I found one of the best ways for me to truly kind of leverage my purpose, is just by being vulnerable and talking about my journey and what I’ve gone through. And where I am, and the fact that I still have a lot of work to do, but I thrive to be better. And that’s the way I live my life.
Lewis Howes: What’s your biggest vulnerability right now?
Jay Williams: I have no way to protect my family. And I’ve never thought this way before. But, so, my fiancé was… The last five months have been pretty crazy for me. I’ve been up in Bristol every Monday and Tuesday, working, ESPN is located up there. And then I took on this project, I did a co-production deal with LeBron and YouTube Red, where I went into a high school in Newark, New Jersey, a town that’s about thirty minutes from where I was born and raised, and I worked with the basketball team. And it was called, Best Shot.
And it’s really cool, because all of these kids come from different backgrounds and some of these kids don’t have dads, and some of these kids, their mothers are addicted to different drugs, and they’re just trying to find a way out. And using the vehicle of basketball to give them different looks at life, right?
So, if it’s, “Hey, you don’t say the “N”-word, you talk like this,” and, “Heres’ why you don’t say it,” or, “You pull your pants up and you look presentable because you are going to places outside of Newark, New Jersey,” or, “The way I talk is not considered Uncle Tom, or Caucasian, it’s considered “education”.” So influencing more in that direction.
I didn’t know how challenging that was going to be, and how time consuming that was going to be. So, Monday and Tuesday I’m in Bristol and then, Wednesday and Thursday I come home, early Wednesday morning, Wednesday and Thursday I’m working with these kids from Best Shot. And then Friday I leave, and I go to College Basketball GameDay, which I get to my location. Friday, Saturday I work all day, and then Sunday I come home.
Lewis Howes: For the week.
Jay Williams: Yeah, exactly, I’ve been gone for the week, and then my future wife is looking at me like, “Hey, that’s cool, but I watch you give everybody else energy on TV and I watch you with these kids. I’m deserving, if anybody, of your energy as well.” So then, how do you give her energy and how do you do things for her, because she gets one day a week. Thank you so much Nikki Bonacorsi, I love you for being patient with me.
And the next week it was repeat, and the next week it was repeat.
Lewis Howes: And month after month.
Jay Williams: Month after month, and then we find out, January, that she’s pregnant and about a month and a half later, and that’s right about before March Madness, she takes a really bad fall. She was coming, we got this brownstone, and she was coming down these stairs and she got these really nice slippers from Morocco, because she’s Lebanese and she was excited about her trip, and she’s coming down the stairs and she slipped, because it was a wood bottom on the shoes and we have wooden floors and she just flipped and fell on her back and fell all the way down the stairs.
And called me and was just hysterical, just really sad, like crying. And she hasn’t had a lot of injuries, but she’s a really tough cookie and she was worried about the baby and I felt so helpless. You know, and I’m two and a half hours away and I was like, “Okay, I’m coming home,” and she’s like, “Don’t come home.” I’m like, “Do you need to see your doctor?”
And it’s the first time I’ve ever felt that gut-wrenching, helpless feeling that I have my wife, that I would do anything for, I would give my life for, and I have my unborn child, which I hope is okay, how do I protect them? I can’t protect them. I can try, I can try, but she still needs to go out into the world and she has a job and she’s going to do things and I had to put my faith in something way bigger than myself and just pray and hope that everything’s going to be okay. So, I think, that’s the challenge as I move forward in this next phase of my life.
Lewis Howes: I can’t imagine being a father and just knowing your kid’s out there doing something, and you can’t do anything about it.
Jay Williams: Yeah, and you know, my mom always said this to me, “You’ll never know until you have one.
Lewis Howes: Now you know…
Jay Williams: I haven’t even had one yet, and I’m like, “Oh my goodness!” But, yeah, I guess I have a little bit more angst than I’ve had before, because I have to worry about more than just me. But it’s cool, though.
Lewis Howes: But it’s still a beautiful experience, right?
Jay Williams: Yeah, exactly, and it’s cool though, it’s a feeling that I embrace, because it’s a feeling of parenthood.
Lewis Howes: If there was only one lesson that you could teach your child, soon to be child, if you could only teach them one lesson, what would that lesson be, do you think?
Jay Williams: I think I would work on being consciously aware. I don’t know if that’s a lesson that I can just teach, I think that’s more by my actions and it’s more by having conversations with him about things that he or she sees in the word, and about why people do the things that they do, and trying to help he or she understand that people make mistakes, but I truly believe that the people, there are some people who make mistakes and then put their head down and act like the mistake never happened.
A good analogy, there’s certain people in life that drive in the dark without their headlights on, and it’s a choice, they choose to drive in the dark without their headlights on, because everybody has the ability to turn your headlights on. You can see what’s in front of you if you choose to see, but I know so many people that come from the perspective of, “Well, that happened and I got to get over it, so I keep myself busy and I don’t take time to assess what currently just happened and how do I grow from that?” It’s kind of like, “Let me just suppress it, push it onto the back burner, move on.”
And I think that would be the best trait. I think I learned that when I was around 30 years old, when I had to write my book, and it forced me to actually think through why I did things. Because I went through a series of steps to get to where I’m at now, you know?
Lewis Howes: Is there anything you’re still suppressing? Or you haven’t fully…
Jay Williams: I think, at times, yeah. Like I said, I’m a work in progress, I have…
Lewis Howes: You’re not perfect, Jay?
Jay Williams: Of course not. I still have issues with my father. It was an adjustment for me, you know, we were talking about Scooter before, and every relationship has it’s own issues. But one of the things I’ve always appreciated about Irv and about Scott, is that they’ve always had conversations about finances and conversations about worldly things.
Now, I am very much appreciative of my father. My father paid for me to go to a private school, he took a train every morning, 5am from New Jersey to New York, worked countless hours, had to travel, worked for AMX for over twenty years and then AT&T for ten plus, but we never had those types of conversations.
So, when I got drafted and all of a sudden somebody says, “Here’s several million dollars,” we’ve never had any of that type of training, as a family unit. We never even learned that language how to communicate to each other, with money.
Lewis Howes: Well, that’s probably 99% of people, too. And almost every athlete, probably.
Jay Williams: Yeah. Yes, 100%. And, it’s also funny, because, from a business perspective, all of a sudden you get all these accolades and you get this attention, and then a plethora of people just want to come into your life, because they want to be associated with you business wise, and it was hard to decipher, at that juncture, when you’re 19, “Well, who wants to be in business for what I have, or who wants to be in business with me. With Jason.”
And so there was an emotional connection that I brought into that, that we all brought into the equation, so the conversation didn’t become, “Hey, who is the most fiscally conservative? Who is going to get the best deals? Who has the best negotiation power or leverage?” It became, “Who do we feel most comfortable with?”
And it was, I’m not saying it didn’t work out, but those were the little things that, you know, when I’m with some of my other friends that I grew up with and that you start to realise how they go about negotiating and how they make some of their different business decisions. And, for us, my dad was the CEO of my company. So, my dad had beaten up my mom, growing up, there were some drinking issues.
Lewis Howes: Did you witness this, or is it just, you sensed it?
Jay Williams: Yeah. Multiple times, multiple times. I really couldn’t do anything about it, even though I tried, but obviously the connection between my mother and I became exponentially different. And more in tune with each other.
Lewis Howes: You could sense her energy more, yeah.
Jay Williams: 100% and I could sense her being uneasy, or I could sense when she would get frustrated and she would lack the language to communicate to my father about what she was feeling and I could see how my dad would respond to that lack of language, and just watch all these emotional triggers that kicked off.
So, for me, it was this power play between him and I, because he was the alpha male, but yet, think about that role reversal. So, at nineteen, I get all this money and all of a sudden my parents are the CEO and the CMO of my company.
Lewis Howes: They’re working for you, now.
Jay Williams: They’re working for me. I’m the chairman. So, my dad’s been dictating to me, from an alpha male perspective, about what I’m supposed to do, my entire life. But now, all of a sudden, the power is in my hand, so I’m like, “I don’t want to do that,” or, “I want to do this.”
Lewis Howes: How did he handle that?
Jay Williams: It was an arduous task. We’ll leave it at that, because we [butted heads] and my father had way more experience than I did and there were certain things where I delegated that responsibility to him, but at the same time, I’m nineteen, twenty years old. I’m a kid. I have no idea what I’m doing? I’m trying to navigate this space.
Lewis Howes: You’re trying to play ball to the best of your ability, you’re trying to just live your life.
Jay Williams: Yeah, yeah, and you know, the lifestyle, you get caught into it, I mean, I had a girlfriend, but I went to an all boys Catholic high school, okay? My varsity jacket had, everybody had to get a different nickname on their varsity jacket, mine said, “Jay Man”, because I allowed my mom to give me my own nickname, right? Are you kidding me?
So I come from that, to all of a sudden the real world where I’m getting attention and I have status and I have money. That’s difficult for anyone to navigate, even if you’re in your thirties, forties, let alone when you’re nineteen, twenty. So, that forced us to butt heads a lot.
Lewis Howes: So you’re still working on the relationship with your father today, and you feel like you haven’t fully let it go or moved past it?
Jay Williams: I feel like I’ve let it go, but it never really goes. It always stays and it’s my job, psychologically, to push through it, so I work on that, I’m aware of that. I think having a baby has created another avenue for my father and I to communicate differently, so now I can ask him a lot more questions about, “When you were having me,” or you know, “How many times did you see the doctor with mom?” or, “Did you go the route multiple times to the hospital?”
I can ask those type of questions which allows the dialogue to be different, so we don’t focus so much on the past, we try to focus more on the present or the future, which has been extremely rewarding for me. It’s been rewarding.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, that’s great.
Jay Williams: Because it’s my dad, again, you know? I’m getting my dad, I’m not getting my business partner.
Lewis Howes: He can mentor you as a father.
Jay Williams: Exactly.
Lewis Howes: And soon to be grandfather.
Jay Williams: Yeah! And there’s nothing at stake. Our relationship has found a new dimension, which is, it’s different. Because I think I’ve spent a lot of time around women, growing up, and now, to spend more time with my dad, I’m like, “Oh, okay, here’s how guys see things.”
So, I know how I see things, but here’s how my father sees things, and my father’s a little bit more old school, not that he’s not aware, he’s just old school. We do disagree on one thing, though, and it really drives me crazy. I hate when people say, “I am who I am,” like, “This is who I am,” I’m like, “No, you choose to be this way.”
Lewis Howes: You can evolve and grow.
Jay Williams: Or you can choose to stay exactly the same and be limited in your perspective. So, my dad still will use that line, you know, “I’ve been putting in my time, this is who I am,” but he’s a good man at heart. He just, you know, he has flaws, and we all do.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from him?
Jay Williams: I think, you know, when I got hurt, we were forced to go to a therapy session, because I have to say, I was a little bit lost. And I had associated so much of my identity with what I do, which is a common theme for people. It’s the first question I see so many people ask when involving in a conversation, it’s like, “Oh, what do you do?” It’s like you take that for who you are.
So, I’m on this identity crisis, where I’m on this journey trying to find out who I am without this sport and a lot of pent up frustration about things that had occurred in the past, about things that have happened financially between my father and I, and it was the first time that I tried to address it. And I haven’t always been the most articulate person, when it comes to my emotions. I think that just started over the last six or seven years of my life.
So, I was trying and I was fighting through it, and it was the first time I ever heard my father own his mistakes. Now, I don’t know if he’s done that to my mother, which is a completely different conversation, but he did it with me. And I think, hearing him do that was the first time that I started myself down the road of owning my mistake.
It’s funny, I always give a lot of basketball analogies, because it’s easier for me to understand. It’s like, you know, my freshman year at college I was playing for Coach K at Duke. And I had never played the point guard position, and he always used to rip me in tape sessions, when he would say, “You stick to screens like velcro. Like, seriously. Refuse to be screened, refuse to be screened.” And every day of my freshman year I was like, “I didn’t see the screen coming. My man didn’t call out screen,” or, “He stuck his leg out.” Excuse, excuse, excuse, excuse.
My sophomore year it suddenly clicked for me. I was like, “Why am I always giving excuses? Oh! That’s my way of copping out. That’s my way of saying, ‘Oh, I couldn’t do it,’ or, ‘I couldn’t make it!’ What happens if I were to live my life with no excuses? Okay.” I think I had that on the basketball court, now, that didn’t necessarily translate to my life, but when my dad had said that, I was like, “Oh, okay, so my accident, that’s my fault. That’s not because I was with friends or I felt alone, or my dynamic between my mother and my father and myself changed, or the lifestyle. That’s on me.”
And I think that was the first time I had a real moment with myself. I never had a real, real moment where I sat with myself and I reflected on the series of events that led me to this point in my life when I was twenty-one years old and it was a powerful moment.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. Wow! And for those that don’t know, you were in a motorcycle accident, when you didn’t have a licence, is that right? A motorcycle licence. Was it your bike, you bought it? Or was it a friend’s bike?
Jay Williams: It was my ego’s bike. It was me having money in my pocket and me trying to find some way to express my manhood. It was a black and red Yamaha R6.
Lewis Howes: Fast, huh?
Jay Williams: Yeah. Very fitting, too. Same colours as the Bulls, and it was funny, it almost, it correlated with the way I played. I’m 6’2″, I mean, you’re legit 6’4″, yeah you’re legit. Yeah. It’s a bad habit, I can’t help it, man! I walk in the room, I look at someone like, “Mm-hmm, okay,” because I’m used to being in a world where everybody is so much taller than me. But I’m 6’2″, like amongst common people that’s pretty tall, it’s pretty good, right?
Lewis Howes: Yeah, that’s pretty good.
Jay Williams: I love how you say that in a condescending way. “Yeah, like, it’s pretty decent.”
Lewis Howes: Hey, but you have the back problems the taller you get, the lower back, it’s hard for these to stay strong.
Jay Williams: Very true, very true. Way to build me up, way to build me up. So, for me, the bike was like, “Okay,” that was me as a player. I’m low to the ground, I’m fast, I was able to take corners or angles differently than players who were taller than me, because of my height, and because of my athleticism.
So, riding a bike was that, and it also gave me an adrenaline rush. You know, when you’re twenty years old, I didn’t really know how to properly prioritise my time. I had basketball practice, and then I had free time. And at the time, business wise, really not making any investments, that was my first year, so you’re just letting that accumulate, and your parents are running the business.
So, all that free time led me to things that I shouldn’t have been doing. If that’s jumping on a plane with a friend and going to Vegas and partying because you could, or cheating on your girlfriend, because you’re not used to getting attention from people that have status. Or even if it was just little white lies that you would tell because you didn’t feel the need to tell people the truth. And, also, I felt really alone, because the dynamic I came from in college was so team oriented, it was so family driven, whereas I got to league, it was like…
Lewis Howes: Everybody had their individual lives, right?
Jay Williams: Yeah, and everybody had their own family. So, after practice, nobody’s really hanging out. People go back to their family, you have people vying for contracts around the same age range, so, you know, people would kind of sabotage you sometimes on the court.
Lewis Howes: Really?
Jay Williams: Oh, yeah. It was a different world for me. One that I wasn’t used to.
Lewis Howes: It wasn’t like, all for one, one for all, feeling like we’re all in this together, sacrifice for the team.
Jay Williams: No, you don’t see that today, maybe with, I mean, and I don’t know the inner workings of this, but, prime example, San Antonio Spurs, right? They’ve always been deemed as the family oriented organisation within the league.
Lewis Howes: Well, look at it right now. Kawhi Leonard.
Jay Williams: Yeah. That’s what I’m saying. So, Kawhi Leonard, you have a person that kind of takes on, and I don’t know the whole story, but takes on this role of, “I need to do what’s good for me first,” that’s a trickle down effect. Look how that affects the team and the story lines that follow that narrative. And you start seeing team mates that might say something negative about Kawhi, it just, the dynamic changes.
So, if you have a multitude of people on one team like that, or if you have people that are naturally defiant, or don’t go according to team rules, it leads into itself. So, my bike was a way for me to get away from all that. It was like my, “Whew, I can’t figure this out, I’d just rather ride.” And I had driven bikes before, but it wasn’t about me having my license or me riding bikes, it was about, “I can do this because I can do this.” Like, ego is your worst enemy, right?
That led me to the day where I got into a horrific accident. I was leaving my agent’s house, on my bike. I had put the bike in neutral, I was cruising fine.I revved it the first time, I was in a desolate area, don’t ask me why I was revving my engine, but for some reason I had just got a new muffler and…
Lewis Howes: It’s cool, it’s the ego, it’s masculine.
Jay Williams: It’s that! D. All of the above. And rev it the first time. Second time I rev it louder than the first. Third time I try to rev it louder than the second. In the middle of it the bike goes, ‘click-click’, next thing you know, I’m falling back, because the bike has popped a wheelie.
That old saying of, “Let go and let God,” I wish I would have listened to that in that particular moment, but ego, again, it was my bike, I just bought this bike, I wanted to be able to control my destiny. I don’t want to prove people correct about, all the people that told me the negative aspects of having a bike. So as my momentum is starting to throw me back, I’m trying to hold onto the handlebars to try to lean forward.
As I’m doing that, my momentum is pulling the throttle back even more. The bottom wheel spins out, next thing you know I look up, as my eyesight goes from bottom up, I see the speedometer, I’m going like 70mph, and I see a utility pole and I try to turn the bike at the last second and, just clipped the whole left side of my body.
I end up with my chest on the pavement, as if I’m lying on my stomach, and my legs are on top of each other as if I’m lying on my side, on the grassy knoll area between the kerb and the sidewalk. And I try to tell people all the time, that was the day my life started. That was the day I started the journey of who I am to this point.
Lewis Howes: It made you slow down. It made you be aware and think about your life.
Jay Williams: It took me through depression, it took me through anger, it took me through addiction to OxyContin, because I had to, I’ve had thirteen plus surgeries, I still have drop foot to this day, it took me to a psychological awakening. When you hit bottom, and even though you’re not alone, you’re surrounding yourself with people that keep you exactly where you want to be. Does that make sense?
Lewis Howes: You can choose to surround yourself with people like that. Or you can choose, what you’ve talked about is, having an advisory board of mentors to lift you out of that, which is what you eventually did.
Jay Williams: Yes, yes.
Lewis Howes: So you stayed with the bottom-of-the-barrel kind of thinking individuals, the drug dealers, the whatever, who kept you down there, but then you made a decision to get out of it, right?
Jay Williams: For a while, yeah. Eventually I pulled myself out of it.
Lewis Howes: After a couple of suicide attempts, and depression.
Jay Williams: Two. Yeah. I mean, I think one of the most humble things that ever happened is, it’s not drop foot or it’s not the fact that I dislocated my knee or that my leg will forever be smaller than my right leg. It’s the fact that I kind of dislocated my pelvis and not being able to know if I would be ever able to be erect again and to have a family, because of those issues. That was the thing that was really daunting, and that’s what sent me into a dark spiral, right?
And that, in conjunction with the fact that I had a recognisable face, and when I was trying to come back, as an athlete, people are used to looking at you with this look of awe. Like, “Oh, you were able to…” I’m sure you meet somebody and they’re like, “I want to accomplish what Lewis Howes has been able to accomplish.” That look, it’s rewarding, it’s fulfilling, it makes you push harder to be better at what you do.
And how that look, for me, changed to a look of sorrow, a look of pity, “Will this guy ever be able to come back?” And I was also judged for the player I was before, not for the player I was becoming, so to live with that daunting task of being reminded of who I was every single day, it kept me in the past with who I was. It didn’t allow me to move forward and think about who I wanted to be now, in this current state.
So after trying to come back and play, it didn’t really work out with the Nets. I’m like 25 now, I’ve been going through physical therapy for two and half, three years.
Lewis Howes: Did you get back on the court for a little bit?
Jay Williams: Yeah, I did. I was able to get back on the court.
Lewis Howes: In the league?
Jay Williams: In the league. I played for the Nets for a short stint, then I got cut, and then I went down to the D League. Well, actually, I got cut, I was going to try to go overseas and play, was working out by myself, dislocated my right ankle, my healthy leg, had to go back down to Durham to do more physical therapy, and then went to the D League, played there, played one game, almost had a triple double, pulled my hamstring off my left leg, it popped off the bone. Yeah, it gets so good. It’s great! I just keeps going deeper and deeper and deeper.
Lewis Howes: The game didn’t want you to play.
Jay Williams: No, it did not. Somebody was saying, “Signs! Pay attention to me!” And then I went back to North Carolina to do more physical therapy and I got a call from my team mate that my coach, Dennis Johnson, that played for the Boston Celtics with Larry Bird and Robert Parish, he was an iconic figure for the Celtics, he was my head coach, and he had prayed with me in the hospital.
Not really big into prayer at that particular time, but, you know, I’d been in hospital so much, he’s like, “I want you to know that you have such a bigger purpose and you’re going to come back and you’re going to play this game way better than you ever played before.” And when you have somebody that kind of leaves that mark on you, that he still believed in me, it filled my tank to fight more to continue to play.
And then, when I came home, I got a call from a team mate that he was playing one on one with, it’s about a week and a half later, when I’d been home, and he passed away from a heart attack. And I was distraught! I was like, “Man, this guy that just prayed with me a week prior.”
Lewis Howes: Seemed healthy.
Jay Williams: Seemed great, was okay. His son was always around, and it was like, “DJ’s just passed away from a heart attack?” And I remember thinking for the first time in my life, “What am I doing? That could have been me, four and a half, five years ago. Why am I chasing this ghost from my past? Is it the money that I feel like I want to be able to get back? Is it the fame or the attention, because I never had that, and I liked it? Was it all the things I could do for my family? Was it all for my ego? Did I truly love the game any more?” And the answer to that last question was, “No.” I didn’t love the game, because I couldn’t play the game the way I saw the game.
Lewis Howes: In your mind. You knew you wanted to make a move, but you couldn’t do it.
Jay Williams: Oh! It’s debilitating, man!
Lewis Howes: It’s the worst. It’s like me playing last weekend against the old guys. We fumbled the ball, and I’m lying there and it’s like, “I used to be able to do this so well!”
Jay Williams: Yeah! And for me, I was like, “You know what? I think I’m going to start trying to work on me.” Now, I still was taking OxyContin every single day, because I had nerve regeneration, I had dislocated my nerve, and yeah, nerve regeneration is like childbirth, it feels like somebody stabbing you every single day, and it can last for a minute, or it can last for five hours.
So, you know, I still had a journey to fight that. But it was the first time I was like, “Okay, I’m going to try to start the process of letting basketball go, and start trying to figure out who Jason Williams is.
Lewis Howes: Wow. That’s amazing. The more I hear from you, the more I realise we have a lot of things in common, with domestic violence, things like that, from our fathers. Also losing our identities, because I played professional football for a little bit.
Jay Williams: I know your story, yeah.
Lewis Howes: About a seaon and a half, got injured and I had to retire, because I was in a cast, recovering for six months. And, for me, it was so hard to let it go. For years afterwards, I kept thinking about trying to come back, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to play at the highest level, and so I didn’t want to play at all if I had to play at a level below.
But every year I’d watch NFL and see, “I practiced with that guy, I played against that guy,” and see them growing, see how much they’re making, and I know you talked about this as well, so you guys get hundred million dollar contracts. Five, ten years after you’ve done and it’s hard to let it go, I think, sometimes. That identity that, “I used to be this basketball player or this football player and now I’m no longer.”
Jay Williams: And, honestly, I don’t know if you did this, but, you know, I guess having that year with that lifestyle, I always found myself in conflicting moments, throughout that journey. If it was seeing a player kiss his wife and kiss his kids and then jump on a plane and then we party until four o’clock in the morning and he’s cheating on this wife and he’s bringing girls home to his hotel and then we’re playing the game and then the next night we go to Toronto and then the same thing happens again.
And then we get off the plane and he kisses his wife and his kids like it never happened. And I’m like, “Oh, man! This is real!” and you almost start seeing how you can live in false realities, right? Like, your perception is warped, across the board, because you have a lot of people on your team that tell you, “Yes.” And a lot of people are afraid to tell you, “No,” because your morals, inevitably, they get pushed.
So, I think, for me, I was really angry, too. Because I was like, “Wait, I didn’t cheat on my wife,” or, “I always tried to show up to practice early,” or, “At every charity event, I tried to be there,” or the kids, there were kids that play drums outside my apartment every morning in Chicago and it was freezing, and I would get per diem money, and like, “What am I going to do with all this per diem money? I’m already making great money.” I would give it to the kids. And you should see their faces. Like, “I’ve done all these different things, why me?”
And I’ll never forget this, man, this is like three or four years after my accident, and I’m in New York City, and I’d just done my second attempt at suicide, I had taken a lot of OxyContin pills and I drank a lot and I was finally in this area where I was starting to develop my board after I woke up, which I don’t think I deserved.
Lewis Howes: Personal advisory board.
Jay Williams: My personal advisory board, because I started thinking, “Every powerful company has a board and it’s the board’s job to meet quarterly, and every CEO I know, his palms are always sweaty, he’s always nervous with the prep that goes into this, because that board’s going to evaluate you, for the first quarter. And it’s their job to take you through where the company was, where the company currently is, and where the company’s going to go.
“And if you’re the guy steering that ship, or the woman steering that ship, you’re responsible. We want to see you own up to that.” So I was like, “Why am I not valuing myself like a company? How can I surround myself with different people in different verticals, that can help me be better?” And my dad really confirmed it.
My dad, he was like, “You know what? I used to hear you always talk about, ‘Why me? Why me?’” and he was like, “Why not you? Maybe your shoulders are broad enough to carry this weight.” And it was the first time I’d ever heard somebody say that. And it just changed me. I still had a lot of work to do, but I started to attack the game with a different blueprint. Because now, things that went wrong, I felt like there was purpose in them going wrong.
Or things that didn’t go my way, I had to find a silver lining why they didn’t go my way. Maybe that wasn’t meant to be part of my path. And it was one of the most empowering things I’ve ever heard or done, because I just use everything that happens in my life as fuel for where I’m going, instead of being angry or holding resentment for what didn’t occur.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, I think we have a choice for what… You know, things happened, to us, for us, however you want to look at it, and if we hold on to it as a victim, then we’re always going to be held back. But if we look at it like you say, life has no accidents, then it’s a purpose, then something greater can come from it, which is what you’ve been able to do. You’ve been able to inspire so many people through your journey now, and also evolve as a human being. As a man and a human being. I think it’s been a beautiful thing to watch. For the last fifteen years, I guess, since that accident, right?
Jay Williams: Yeah, it’s required me to really dig deep within myself, which is always a work in progress, but it’s rewarding.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, it’s very rewarding.
Jay Williams: There’s power in telling your truth.
Lewis Howes: Absolutely.
Jay Williams: And also recognising that your truth is based upon your experiences, but that doesn’t mean that Jay Williams’ truth is Lewis Howes’ truth. But I love finding that common ground. It’s funny, because my job on TV is to debate. And, you know, you get a chance to see guys like Stephen A. Smith debate.
Lewis Howes: He’s hilarious! He’s so opinionated!
Jay Williams: Oh gosh! He’s so flamboyant sometimes with his delivery. And it’s funny, because I would never say somebody’s wrong. I would never be like, “You’re wrong!” Like, your truth is your truth, now, if you’re willing to find middle ground and maybe let your truth evolve that’s different.
So, for me, I also feel like when I have time to have conversations with people, I mean, obviously I’m talking now because you’re asking me to talk, I don’t usually do a lot of the talking. I usually like to ask questions, because I feel like I can learn something from everybody, man.
Like, I’ve watched a lot of your stuff and seen things you’ve done with Scott, seen things you’ve done on Ellen, seen things you’ve done with a lot of other people, and I always feel like I walk away learning something about myself. From other people’s experiences that I can incorporate into my life.
And so I think, venturing into life with that kind of vision is way different than I used to be before, because I used to be miopic. I used to just focus on what Jason had to focus on, and that was it, now that web has expanded.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, one of the reasons I love this podcast, or just having a platform in general, is just having the opportunity to ask questions. For me, I feel like, if I’m saying anything, speaking, I’m not learning. And I want to grow into the best version of myself and get better every single day. And I know I need to dig deeper into the right questions for different people. That’s how I continue to grow. But if I have you on this show and I’m talking all the time, I’m not learning a thing. You know what I mean?
Jay Williams: Yeah, yeah, I hear you.
Lewis Howes: So I’m glad you have that same perspective.
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I want to go back into the advisory board, because this is the second time it’s come up in the last month, for me, that another really successful guest I had on, his name’s Ed Mylett. I asked him a question, we were having sushi one day, and I asked him a question. I said, “You know, if you were my age again,” he’s a little bit older than me. I go, “What would you really focus on to get to the next level?”
I’m always asking guys and girls who are older and more experienced than me, what they would do if they were me, or in my position, what’s the one thing I could do to get better. He said, “Get a personal advisory board.” And so you’re the second person to bring this up in the last month. It’s just kind of come to the surface.
It’s funny, in my first book I write about having a personal advisory board when I was twenty-five, going through transition. When I got injured, I found a personal advisory board and that’s really what helped me get to the next level. I kind of lost having that. I think, because of the podcast, I have so many mentors. I can call on anyone at any time, and be like, “Hey, can you give me feedback?”
But I really believe that having a group of three to five people that have done things that you want to do, that have gone through similar experiences and were just older and wiser, to have them in your corner is really important. But to create almost like a formal agreement. It doesn’t have to be too formal, but just like and arrangement between each other. Like, “Hey, I’d love to be able to call on you, like, once a quarter and ask for feedback on how I can improve.”
And I think that’s a good lesson and I’m glad you reminded me of this, because it’s something I wanted to get back into, is really having, like, five to six core people in my corner that I can call on. Whether it be for a year or two years period, but just, a board and people could come and go, but always having that kind of core group of people that you’re inspired by. Do you still have that now?
Jay Williams: I do. I have multiple boards, which is really cool.
Lewis Howes: For like, personal life, or business?
Jay Williams: Well, I have a business board, I’m slowly developing a father board, of like, one or two guys that I really just have learned to appreciate with their patience which they have with their kids, and how they push their kids to think.
Lewis, you just did something that I don’t see a lot of people do. In our jobs, we’re constantly interacting with people. And I think my fiancé finally sees this after two and a half years of being together, is that sometimes I’m mentally drained, because this takes a lot out of somebody.
Lewis Howes: It takes a lot.
Jay Williams: Like, I’m emotionally, I’m with you.
Lewis Howes: To be present for an hour takes a lot of energy.
Jay Williams: Yeah. And we’re on this journey. And then to walk away and if I were walking down the street and to have somebody say, “Hey, Jay! I remember blah, blah.” I like to give people my attention, because I also have been pushed to the side by people when I was growing up, and I recognise how powerful that is.
Lewis Howes: But it takes a lot of energy.
Jay Williams: It does. So, one of the things that I recognise that I don’t see a lot of people do that you just said, while you were talking about this is, I don’t find a lot of people who are vulnerable enough to ask for help.
And I’ve also found that the more vulnerable I am with these people on my board, the more willing they are to be 100% all in. Like, I have a guy on my board, named Charlie Grantham and he ran the players’ union when it kind of got established, before Billy Hunter took over. And this year’s been a crazy year for me, right? I just told you about my schedule, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday with the wife.
And we have calls, and sometimes, with my travel schedule, I can’t make the call. He will not let me not speak with him per week. He will not let it happen. Once a week we talk. He will not let it happen. He will call me, I’m like, “Charlie, I’m on the plane, I can’t pick up.”
And then, you know, obviously you land after a three hour plane ride, you have thirty e-mails in the inbox and I have to get something to work and I have another car I need to do for radio, and you just get lost in your day, and like, “I should have called Charlie,” and then sure enough, when I think that, he’s like, “Hey, I’m open for a call. Can you call?”
And so, I have people who are also relentless in their approach to connect with me, which I appreciate. And I have people that I have to be relentless with as well, right? So, I see that. But it holds me to a standard higher than what I hold myself to, at that given time when I first started my board. And I like having high standards.
Lewis Howes: You’re an athlete, you train, you know what it’s like.
Jay Williams: I don’t know any other way to be, and so, we always get put in these compromising positions where you can compromise yourself at times, but, knowing that I’m able to slow down the Matrix of life. It’s like being a point guard.
In my freshman year, the game was happening at 8,000mph, right, because I wasn’t flexing that muscle to think about time and situation, what is Coach K saying? Where is Mike Dunleavy? Is Shane Battier in the right position on the floor? Carlos Boozer hasn’t gone the touch to pass two possessions, Mike just went off for fifteen points in a row. We should probably play to get Mike the ball again. Hey, TV time-out’s coming in four minutes. Right?
Like, my freshman year I couldn’t process all that because I wasn’t flexing that muscle. The more and more I studied, all of a sudden I got to my sophomore year, “Hey, calm down, we still got 24 seconds on the shot clock.”
“Hey, Shane, come here. We got another minute till TV time-out. Take your time, guys, gather your breath. Here’s what the play is.”
And I feel like that’s the same way I think about my life now. I wasn’t used to flexing that muscle, but the more I flexed it, about, “Hey, I have to call my board.”
“Hey, they’re going to ask me piercing questions where I may not know the answer, but it’s my job to go back and sit and think about it. And then go back to them and think through that.”
Or with my wife. She pushes me, she drives me to be better, it just, all of a sudden, the Matrix has slowed down a little. I look forward to when it slows down even more. But it’s a cool experience when you work on that.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. I’m sure Tom Billier would love you talking about the Matrix because I know you’re on his show. He’s a good guy.
Jay Williams: Good old TB, yeah.
Lewis Howes: There’s something about athletes who are great at transitioning from sport to business or just life after and a majority of them seem like they’re not good at it. You’ve been one that has been good at transitioning and building a career and a business and a brand for yourself, but it seems like most of them become shells of themselves and don’t know how to escape their past identity. Why is that? Why are some able to transition, and why does it seem to me like 80/90% are unable to grow past it.
Jay Williams: I think, some of the ones that I’ve seen, that have been able to successfully transition out of it, is that they recognise that it is a business, so they try to use their platform to diversify themselves as much as possible, while they have that leverage.
Ray Allen used to talk to me about this all the time, where he would say, “Hey, who are the five most powerful CEO’s in Chicago?” and I’m, “Well, I don’t know, Ray,” like I’m nineteen years old, I wanted to go hang out at the club, you know? And he would be like, “I want you to do some research on it. You get courtside seats for all these different games that you play at. Why don’t you invite a CEO? Because you want to run your own business one day, correct?”
“Oh, okay I am a business, why wouldn’t I surround myself with different business people, right?”
So, I think some athletes get it, but it’s also, it’s challenging, and I go back to this whole thing about, what was the infrastructure in which you were raised?
Lewis Howes: Not taught about money or not taught about what’s after.
Jay Williams: Fame. You’re not taught about fame and I’ll tell you what else fame will do to you. Fame will force you to become extremely introverted, because if you have a lot of friends… Prime example, my own family, middle class family. My dad and mom did okay. My dad was one of ten plus brothers and sisters. What it did to us is, all of a sudden you get money, you have a lot of people within your own family structure that see that as, “We have money.”
Lewis Howes: Entitled. Oprah talks about this.
Jay Williams: “We made it.”
Lewis Howes: I don’t know if you’ve … Oprah had this incredible interview on a podcast, I’ll send it to you, where she said, because she didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and then she all of a sudden became famous and tons of money, and everyone wanted money. And it was never enough. And she would help sometimes.
And she eventually got fed up with everyone asking for money. So she threw a huge dinner celebration and she invited the whole family. Extended cousins, like, nephews and nieces, great aunts and uncles, people she didn’t even know, brought them all there. And she threw the best feast of their life, and she gave cars to people and houses and cash to some people.
She gave whatever she felt that she wanted to give. And she said, “Never ask for money from me again. Because I’m never give it to you, unless I want to. But don’t ask me.” And she said people were still complaining, like, “You only gave me one house, I should have got two!”
“You only gave me a car? That person got this!”
“You only gave me two grand? I should have got ten grand.”
People were still ungrateful. I think it’s a challenge. I didn’t want to cut you off there, but it’s just, like…
Jay Williams: No, no, please, I love that.
Lewis Howes: Going from not having money, to then having it, you said that everyone, like we have it now, everyone feels entitled, right? What was that like, then, for you?
Jay Williams: It was like trying to feed somebody who had an insatiable appetite, just never going to be done. It was weird, too, because there was that, you feel an emotional connection when, and I don’t know how you are with this, but, when you, even when you go out to dinner with friends, you know, you’re with seven or eight friends, and some of my friends have never been to Ruth’s Chris, or some of these really great restaurants.
Lewis Howes: Michael Jordan Steak House.
Jay Williams: Yeah, you know, and when you go, you see people. And, once again, I haven’t always been aware, but I think I always had maybe the gift of being aware, because I would catch onto little things, it would just be fragmented, throughout my journey. And I would see people, and see people’s eyes when they would look at the menu.
And they would say, “Ah! Filet mignon,” or whatever, “The lobster, I want to get the lobster,” and then they look across and you see the price and they’re like, “Hey, $90. I can’t afford that.” So, what does that lead to? “I got it!” Because I want to treat you. And I think that creates a repetitive habit.
That creates a bad direction, because I think what happens is you always become that person, where, wherever you go… and the fame part of it, too. I see athletes go through this all the time. Like, can you imagine Dwayne Wade going through the airport at Miami-Dade? He would be hassled, right?
Lewis Howes: Or LeBron, or Cleveland.
Jay Williams: Or LeBron. Now, that’s at the high end of the spectrum, okay, LeBron or D Wade, but the problem is, you’re talking about people who have, everybody has a ego. Their ego has driven them to get to this point, regardless of whether you call the fifteenth guy on the roster a bum, he’s still part of .001% of the world.
Lewis Howes: He’s making money ….
Jay Williams: Millions of dollars to play a sport that you go, weekend warriors, we fight to play. So there’s ego associated with that, certain guys, it’s always about keeping up with the Joneses. You don’t want to go through the airport if you have to sign autographs, even if you’re a mid-tier guy. So, all of a sudden, that’s $3,000 you’re spending for three first class seats. That easily becomes $40,000 for a one way, on a private jet.
So that lifestyle keeps up. But you’re making absurd money. So, all of a sudden, when that money stops coming in, you’ve had years and years and years of living this lifestyle, you think somebody’s just going to be able to just turn off a flip of a switch just like that and just stop and, all of a sudden, be conservative? No, you continue to live that lifestyle.
So it’s those kinds of principles which makes it difficult for people to reinsert themselves back into society. Especially when they haven’t been around society for that eight, that ten year stint that they’ve been professional athletes.
Lewis Howes: Right, everything’s been taken care of, you’ve been on team busses or private jets.
Jay Williams: “Yes” people. All the way round from your accountants, to your financial advisors, to your agents, because people are all so afraid to lose you as a client. And then if you do run into that person that is strong enough to say, “No, you’re wrong,” hopefully, if you’re lucky enough, if you’re that person that says, “No, you’re wrong,” that they keep you on board, but a lot of times, it’s like, “Okay. I’m wrong? You’re fired.”
Lewis Howes: “See ya!” Yeah.
Jay Williams: Yeah. “You’re fired. I’ll bring somebody else on board who will tell me what I want to hear and will give me the blueprint on how to get where I want to be.” So it’s hard to just turn the corner on something like that, when that’s been your habit.
Lewis Howes: How do you feel like you were able to turn the corner and build the career you’ve had? You know, write the book, and do everything you’ve done, professionally?
Jay Williams: I had a taste of the lifestyle. I didn’t have a long stay.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, you had a year, year and a half, right?
Jay Williams: Yeah, I had a one-night stay at the Four Seasons, I didn’t live there for a week and a half, you know?
Lewis Howes: Right.
Jay Williams: So, for me, I had money, that was still difficult in navigating that space with my father, even after I got hurt, because he remained on the payroll and there were some issues there, that I had to fight through with him.
Lewis Howes: But, you got guarantee money, right? No matter what, no matter injury.
Jay Williams: Guarantee money for my first year, but then my second year, my contract could have been voided by the League, they paid me half in my second year.
Lewis Howes: Because you violated the terms to the agreement.
Jay Williams: Terms to the agreement, yes, which is like a motorcycle, going in a car above 100mph, jet skiiing, sky diving, all that stuff.
Lewis Howes: But they still gave you half? Amazing!
Jay Williams: Oh, yeah. They still gave me half, which is incredible. But still, going through my twenties, I didn’t know who I was. I was lost. I’m trying to come back and play, angry that I did this to myself. I’m trying to figure out what it is I want out of this sport. Why am I so competitive and lost in this sport? What is this sport doing for me.
It was a painful ride, because at the same time I’m trying to be in a relationship. I mean, I got engaged because I felt like I had lost everything in my life and I wanted to hold onto it, I wanted to bring it closer to me. My dad, we had this massive house in North Carolina that my parents rented and I wanted to bring my then fiancé down to live with us, and my dad said, “If you bring her, I’m not taking care of another child.”
My dad leaves, my mom then calls her parents and tries to talk her parents into not letting her come down, but her parents are a bi-racial couple that fought through all the chaos back in the 60’s and 70’s and they’re like, “I can’t tell my daughter who to love.” So then she comes down and she stays with me, and my dad leaves, my mom blames her. We’re all still living together.
You think about all these different dynamics are occurring, while I’m still trying to figure out, I’m barely able to walk! I’m still trying to learn how to walk again, let alone how to run again, or play basketball again.
So, that journey was a great journey, because if I don’t go through all that, I don’t think I ever lose that ego that I had started to become comfortable with since my freshman year, sophomore year, junior year, college. Being a second draft pick. And for anybody that tells you that it doesn’t go to your head, I would vehemently disagree with them. Because it does.
The attention that you get for everything you do. If it’s not, like Lonzo Ball, and now his brothers are driving around in Lamborghinis? At that formative stage of your life? How does that not compromise a little bit who you are, who you want to be? You may think you have the right principles in place, but it inevitably changes you. And I was, really, I was secluded, I cut myself off from the rest of the world, because I was embarrassed. If I can’t deal with having a conversation with myself, how can I deal with having a conversation about somebody else about what I did to myself?
So, when you’re alone, I don’t know what happens to you when you’re alone, but all of a sudden I start to over analyse, psychoanalyse, become depressed. I don’t want to go outside, I’m wearing velour sweatpants in the heat of North Carolina in the summer, it’s a 100°, because I don’t want people to see my leg, I have a big contraption around my leg. I’m trying to make love to my fiancé, I can’t. All these different things just beat up your ego.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. And probably your view of masculinity, about yourself, too.
Jay Williams: Exactly, exactly. About, here’s a view on that. So, my fiancé at that time, knows everything that’s going on, but I couldn’t have a conversation with her about everything that’s going on.
Lewis Howes: Why not?
Jay Williams: Because I would just lose it. I would lose it. The one person that you finally feel like you’ve been able to hold onto, that you have this incredible emotional connection with, that you had treated poorly in your past. Alright, so think about the guilt that led up to this. I had cheated on her multiple times. I had lied to her. I had played that game and been caught a couple of times and here she is, still by my side.
And I felt myself changing. But how can I show her that I’m changing when I’m still secluded. I’m only around you. How will things change when I go back into the regular world? Who will I be? What happens if I accumulate success again? Will I revert back to who I was, because I missed that attention and time?
So all these different things are going on. It was embarrassing for me to even have that conversation with somebody that I love so much that I had just hurt. Those were the things that psychologically just broke me, that led to us not working and me channelling all my energy and effort into trying to come back and play, because I had lost that, and I needed to get that back, because that’s who I was, to going to the Nets to getting hurt and going to the D League again. Tearing my hamstring off, to losing my coach, to…
So, I feel like, if I don’t, and I know that’s an extreme, have, you know, who knows what na extreme situation might be for somebody else, mine might just be terra ACL, but if I don’t go through that, I’d never have this awakening, or this position in life where I’m doing what I’m doing now. It never happens. So that inevitably led me to, “This all has to happen for some whatever reason.” Because, if I don’t believe that then I go down…
Lewis Howes: Down that dark path of being a victim. Yeah.
Jay Williams: Yeah. The rest of my life in a dark area, and that’s not the sports mentality I have. I mean, yeah, I made mistakes, man, I turned the ball over three times. I got into a motorcycle accident, I walk with drop foot, I still have times when it’s difficult for me. I own it, and it’s cool, because it makes me feel more empowered, because I’m sharing my vulnerability with everybody and telling you that I’m human, just like you, I just wake up every day and I choose to fight.
Lewis Howes: Mm. My man! I like that! A couple of final questions for you: Is there anything you wish your dad would say to you that he hasn’t said.
Jay Williams: You know, one of the things that scares me, is that, when you live in the city, a lot of my friends are already divorced, and it’s actually one of the things that inspired me to write my book. A really good friend of mine, who was my lawyer, he married his college sweetheart and one day he came home and all of her stuff was just gone. And she left him for a hedge fund guy. It was the first time I realised, “Oh, okay, other people have accidents, too.”
Now, you know, it’s not my job to compare my accidents, because comparison is the thief of joy, but, it’s also, okay, whether it’s your ACL or you lose your wife, or you lose your husband, or somebody passes away or you lose a child, we all have our own accidents. And with my dad, the thing that scares me about my relationship is that I want to be successful at it. And we talk about this all the time.
Like, who are we surrounding ourselves with in order to have a successful marriage? And how do we have open lines of communication? And I don’t think I need anything from my father, I think my father, regardless as to whether he thought he was or not, his life has served as a compass for me in the way I want to live my life. And I have been able to take the positives and the negatives and get to this point.
I’m a sucker for love, man, I’m a sucker for connections, and it’s hard for me to follow through with everybody, but I will be the first to apologise to somebody about, “Hey, my schedule’s just crazy, but you have me, you have all of me. I’m giving you my attention.”
I wish my father would be able to sit down with my mother and they would come to closure. They’re still married, but they’re not married. My dad lives in New Jersey, my mom lives in North Carolina, but they have this incredible love.
When we at first came, and I went through a very volatile relationship, it really opened my eyes to how committed people can be in a very volatile relationship. And how that volatility essentially becomes your norm, and how people, because of the deep love that they have for each other, they just keep rolling with it. And some people don’t address it, or some people’s ego won’t allow them to address it, and they never really come to a conclusion on how to make that work.
I don’t know if my parents have ever come to a conclusion of how to make it work, but I’ve never seen them address it directly with each other and hear each other out. And as I get older, I see my mother and how beautiful of a person she is. And my mother has things, too, just like my dad. But they’ve never been able to hear each other.
Lewis Howes: Have you ever tried to facilitate it?
Jay Williams: I used to, but I don’t think I’ve taken on the burden of that being my job any more. I can’t. It has to be something that they choose to do. A couple of years ago I finally chose, regardless of whether it led to frustration or arguments on their part, I said, “You know what? I’m doing something for me. I would like to have my family around,” in a house that I rented out East, “And I hope you guys can get along, but I want to have my family around. I’m going to do something selfish for me!”
Because I’m always worried about, “How’s my mom going to get along with my dad? How long can they be around each other?” and I’m very conscious of it. And it was the first time where I was like, “You know what? You guys can figure it out.” Well, it didn’t work, but I was still, I was like, “You know what? Okay. It works for me.”
Now that was selfish on my part, but I hope that one day they can come to a point where they can have that with each other. Whether it was the plus ten kids that just lost their lives, I think up in Canada, it was the hockey team.
Lewis Howes: The hockey team, oh my gosh, so sad, man.
Jay Williams: Or if it’s, we had a guy, his name was David, that used to come over to our house once a week, and he was our exterminator. And look, man, I don’t care what, you’re a person, I love people, like, I’m always going to kick it with anybody, doesn’t matter what profession, what job you have. And him and I would always talk about life and whatever else.
And then last week, I get a call from his wife, she leaves a voice mail and she’s trying to find somebody to help them out with payments, and she’s like, “David just passed away from a heart attack.” And my parents are pushing seventy, and I really try to approach my life in this manner, like, who knows what can happen? I mean, we take time for granted, all the time. Like, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” or, “I’ll talk to that person when I see them in person.”
Sometimes it’s powerful to be able to pick up the phone and call somebody, like, “You know what? I didn’t handle this correctly, or I could have handled this better,” or maybe it’s not even saying that, maybe it’s just saying, “How do you think I handled that?” And I may not agree with you, but just me hearing you, can lead to us being in a better place. That’s powerful and I think, I wish my parents, or people I know, would try to do that more. That’s what I wish.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. Yeah, I like that. Yeah. You’re a very competitive, driven person, very passionate about what you do, love people, love your work, love the mission that you’re on in life, you’re about to be married, with a child on the way. And you mentioned before that you have six days a week that’s essentially for your career, your businesses, travelling, and one day a week for family, essentially. Is that accurate?
Jay Williams: Which was a problem, yes. This year, yes, this year was a problem.
Lewis Howes: How are you going to manage this moving forward? With a child on the way, a wife that wants your time, and needs you as well, and also this competitive drive to create more and be more and build more?
Jay Williams: I’ve thought about that a lot and I have made the commitment to myself and to her, that I’m flipping the way it works. So, I am prioritising my wife and my child, they are number one, they will be number one, and everything else needs to fall in line where it may.
Now, I’m extremely lucky, where the woman who I’m going to marry is patient with me, because she’s also ambitious and she wants me to be fulfilled and happy. But, it’s weird, because doing this stuff within sports, it’s cool, it’s a great vehicle to open up doors for conversation.
And I truly feel like my purpose is to help people. If that’s helping people by me telling my story and me being vulnerable with myself on a platform like this, or if it’s sitting with other people and helping them navigate their own space. Now, I don’t think I have any answers, I don’t think, you know, I always become a little bit wary when people are like, “Here’s the blueprint! Here’s how it works!”
Because everybody has their own individualistic blueprint, but if you’re able to work with somebody and talk through what that blueprint may be, or talk through how you plan on navigating that, or, “Here’s some of the potholes in that journey and how do you deal with it,” then essentially you’re creating that board. And I think for a lot of athletes, or a lot of people, we’re all athletes in our own way. In particular, and I really appreciate you doing this too, about sharing emotion.
From the time I’ve been a little boy, when we fall down, we don’t cry, or even when things happen to you psychologically on the court. You get frustrated at the play, we don’t show weakness, and you cry after you lose. You don’t cry, you pick up, you go. And I think now, there’s a different time happening within our world, man, and I see you preaching it, I try to preach it on my side, to be consciously aware of your emotion, and it’s okay to articulate, or convey your emotion, and you should be able to convey your emotion, without somebody reciprocating anger.
Like, somebody should be able to say, “Okay, I understand how you feel. I never thought about it that way. I hear you. Have you thought about this.” I think there’s a… I’m trying to create more of those moments within what I do business wise and how I build out content wise. I think that’s the direction I want to go.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, that’s great! This is called, The Three Truths. It’s a question I ask at the end.
Jay Williams: Okay, I’ve never seen this. No, I’ve never seen this.
Lewis Howes: Three truths, so imagine it’s the last day for you, many years from now, you achieve everything you want. You have the family you want, the career, the businesses, you make an impact on the world the way you want to. Everything you want to do, it happens. But it’s the last day, and you get to choose the day, it could be seventy, a hundred, a hundred and fifty, whatever age you’re able to be.
But for whatever reason, you have to take everything with you. Everything you’ve created. Your books, your work, the videos that are out there about your message, it’s all got to go with you when you go.
But you have a piece of paper and a pen to write down the three things that you know to be true about all your experiences in life, that you’d share with the world. These could be, essentially, your lessons for the world to remember you by.
Jay Williams: Oh, wow. You’re really going deep!
Lewis Howes: What would you say that you would write down on this piece of paper. It’s the only thing people will remember you by as your Three Truths.
Jay Williams: In no particular order?
Lewis Howes: No order.
Jay Williams: I would say number one would be love, man. I have a deep place in my soul where I love really, really hard. And I understand that people will make mistakes and I still love them. I think think that’s really important. I love to love and I also love to feel love. I think it’s a very special mystical thing that we have a chance to have.
And I’d probably say number two would be, I tried to do it the right way. Like, I strived for something bigger than myself. And I think I owe that to Coach K, and I understand that I’m a work in progress, but I think, how can I work on me? How can I work on myself in my relationship with my wife? How can I work on my relationship with my child? How can I work on my relationship with my parents, my friends, my job?
I think that’s important to me, because I think that’s what drives me. And it’s not about all the ancillary stuff will come, as long as you try to do right by yourself. You try to do right by you, right? Which I don’t think a lot of people… I think people try to do right by other people, but if you do right by yourself, you will inevitably do right by other people. So I’d probably say that’s two.
Oh, this is hard! And I think the last will probably be, I don’t know. Maybe just the ability to… I think this is with my job, and this is what I’m trying to do in this next phase, to help people get outside themselves. Help people get out of their own way. I was in my own way for a long time and I still have moments where I get in my own way, but I think, recognising that I get in my own way forces me to knock that wall down.
Being around people and talking to people every day, I feel like that’s really why I was left here, man. I feel like that’s a big part of my purpose. And everything that has occurred between my accident, between my first relationship with my fiancé not working out, to falling in love with somebody else, very hard, again, but being lost in that, but still sending her love and positivity to this day, and wanting her to do well, but recognising that wasn’t the right fit for me, to finding my fiancé now.
And I have a lot of friends who joke about, “Oh, Jay, you wwere all over the map,” and, “You did this, and you did that!” And it’s like, “You know what? I was, and that has all led me to this point right now, where I feel like, because of all that, because of those ups and downs and the laughs and the pain, and the joy and the sadness, it’s given me perspective.
And I hope I am blessed to continue to get more perspective, but helping other people gain perspective, through my perspective. And learning from them is, I know that I will prioritise and that it’ll be my wife and my child, but I feel like that really, I feel like that’s why I’m here, man.
Lewis Howes: That’s great. I like those. Those are great man.
Jay Williams: I hope so.
Lewis Howes: I want to acknowledge you for a moment, Jay, for your ability to come back. I think it’s harder because you were even that much bigger of a draft pick, and bigger attention on you, it’s harder for someone like that to come back, than someone who didn’t have the attention, or didn’t have the limelight like you did.
You had much more to lose, and you still came back. Not only great in business, and financially and the success, but as a human being and as a man. So, I acknowledge you for becoming a better man and coming back out of that accident and this whole journey you’ve had.
And I know you’re going to be an incredible father for your child. A very lucky child with a father who has awareness, perspective and goodness in your heart. So I’m very excited about that child’s life.
Before I ask the final question, I want to make sure everyone goes and gets the book, Life Is Not An Accident, make sure you go pick it up, you can get it anywhere.
Jay Williams: It came out six years ago. Crazy to think how time flies.
Lewis Howes: But it’s powerful.
Jay Williams: Yeah.
Lewis Howes: And where can we connect with you online, or how can we support you right now?
Jay Williams: Well, I’m in a process of trying to get everything aligned right now. I think I’ve been a little bit all over the map the last couple of years as far as just my online presence and, you know, so I’m @realjaywilliams on Twitter and Instagram. Going to try to create a YouTube channel this summer and start focussing on that, which I’ll have to pick your brain on.
Lewis Howes: It’s a journey, man, it’s a journey.
Jay Williams: I’ll have a lot of conversations with you about that. No, I just thrive to try to become the Oprah of the sports world, man. That’s the game play.
Lewis Howes: I like it. That’s good. And people can watch you on ESPN during College Basketball?
Jay Williams: I mean, I’ll be on a variety of shows, I’ll be on Get Up! a lot, which we just opened a South Street seaport here, ESPN, New York, so I’ll be on that.
Lewis Howes: That’s a new show, right? Get Up!
Jay Williams: It’s a new show, yeah.
Lewis Howes: Who’s that with? Mike and Jalen?
Jay Williams: It’s with Mike Greenberg, Jalen Rose and Michelle Beadle. I’ll take somewhat of a role in that, and, yeah, got some big things on the horizon. I got Best Shot, which is coming out in June, which will be cool. Me working with these kids and trying to push them.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, with LeBron, who’s excecutive producer on that?
Jay Williams: Yeah, LeBron, who’s executive producer. Yeah, man, I’m coming! The train isn’t moving at warp speed, but it’s coming!
Lewis Howes: It’s moving!
Jay Williams: It’s moving! That’s all you can ask for.
Lewis Howes: But if they follow you on Twitter, Instagram, they’ll be able to see all this stuff coming out?
Jay Williams: Yes. For sure.
Lewis Howes: Okay, cool. Final question is: What’s your definition of greatness?
Jay Williams: What’s my definition of greatness? So I wouldn’t equate greatness with financial success at all. I always find that interesting when people say, “Well, you’re financially successful.” Well, I don’t deem that as success, I deem the way I live my life, that’s greatness. Like, if I can thrive for greatness by saying what I’m going to do and doing it, being there for the people I love. Being a good husband, being a good father.
Now, I know those are all road maps that sometimes could have potholes, but I don’t think it’s just the word, greatness, I think it’s two words added to greatness, and that’s, thrive for greatness. And if you can have that approach on a daily basis, then if I fall, an ounce or two ounces below it, I will be in good company.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, of course, awesome. Jay, thanks so much.
Jay Williams: I appreciate it. Thanks, man.
Lewis Howes: Appreciate it.
I hope you enjoyed this episode, my friends, lewishowes.com/632 is the link for the show notes. All the stuff we covered for today’s episode. Also, where you can learn more about Jay, over there. You can share out his quotables, his tweets, all those things. And share with a friend!
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My mission is to bring you the most inspiring people that really elevate the way you think, the way you live, the way you act, the way you think about yourself, and the way you think about the world around you. And I know Jay has been one of the most inspiring people to do that for so many people out there, with his message, his story, and how he’s overcome so much to get to where he’s at. So, again, share the love out, lewishowes.com/632.
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