Intrinsic Drive®

Wise Decisons with Dr. Jim Loehr

March 06, 2024 Phil Wharton - Wharton Health Season 5 Episode 2
Wise Decisons with Dr. Jim Loehr
Intrinsic Drive®
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Intrinsic Drive®
Wise Decisons with Dr. Jim Loehr
Mar 06, 2024 Season 5 Episode 2
Phil Wharton - Wharton Health

Dr. Jim Loehr has authored 19 books including, New York Times bestseller, The Power of Full Engagement, and his recent works, Wise Decisions, and Sapiens Reinvented.

Before embarking on his quest to merge sports psychology, research, and technology, the field of human performance didn’t exist. To fill this industry void, he created and co-founded the first ever Human Performance Institute, where he set the global standard. 

Over a thirty-year span hundreds of world-class performers of sport, business, medicine, and Fortune 500 executives, trained at his state- of- the- art Florida facility. During his tenure at the institute, 400 thousand clients, teams, and organizations learned the practical adaptation of his breakthrough methods. 

From professional tennis, golf, basketball, race car drivers, football, boxing, hockey, and Olympic athletes---to organizations and people seeking to live their best lives. Jim Loehr is the pioneer in the development of training programs designed to integrate the science of energy management to improve productivity and fulfillment in business, sport, medicine, and law enforcement, creating sustainable peak performance. 

Dr. Loehr has been featured in national publications including, The Harvard Business Review, Business Week, Newsweek, Time, and US News and World Report. He has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, The CBS Evening News, and ABC’s Nightline.

This lifelong learner is showing no signs of slowing down after retiring his position as chairman and CEO of the Human Performance Institute. This sport performance trailblazer holds both masters and doctorate degrees in psychology. We are honored to welcome this gracious icon to this episode of Intrinsic Drive®.

Intrinsic Drive® is produced by Ellen Strickler and Phil Wharton and Andrew Hollingworth  is sound editor and engineer.

Photo Credit: Patrick Loehr

Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Jim Loehr has authored 19 books including, New York Times bestseller, The Power of Full Engagement, and his recent works, Wise Decisions, and Sapiens Reinvented.

Before embarking on his quest to merge sports psychology, research, and technology, the field of human performance didn’t exist. To fill this industry void, he created and co-founded the first ever Human Performance Institute, where he set the global standard. 

Over a thirty-year span hundreds of world-class performers of sport, business, medicine, and Fortune 500 executives, trained at his state- of- the- art Florida facility. During his tenure at the institute, 400 thousand clients, teams, and organizations learned the practical adaptation of his breakthrough methods. 

From professional tennis, golf, basketball, race car drivers, football, boxing, hockey, and Olympic athletes---to organizations and people seeking to live their best lives. Jim Loehr is the pioneer in the development of training programs designed to integrate the science of energy management to improve productivity and fulfillment in business, sport, medicine, and law enforcement, creating sustainable peak performance. 

Dr. Loehr has been featured in national publications including, The Harvard Business Review, Business Week, Newsweek, Time, and US News and World Report. He has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, The CBS Evening News, and ABC’s Nightline.

This lifelong learner is showing no signs of slowing down after retiring his position as chairman and CEO of the Human Performance Institute. This sport performance trailblazer holds both masters and doctorate degrees in psychology. We are honored to welcome this gracious icon to this episode of Intrinsic Drive®.

Intrinsic Drive® is produced by Ellen Strickler and Phil Wharton and Andrew Hollingworth  is sound editor and engineer.

Photo Credit: Patrick Loehr

Phil Wharton  (00:00):

A lifetime of training, practice, study hard work through discipline, some achieve excellence, mastery, fulfillment, self-actualization. What can we learn from their beginnings, discoveries, motivations, and falls. How do they dust themselves off and resume their journey? During these interviews, stories and conversations, we reveal their intrinsic drive. Dr. Jim Loehr has authored 19 books, including New York Times bestseller, the Power of Full Engagement, and his recent Release Wise Decisions and Sapiens Reinvented. Upon embarking on his quest to emerge sports, psychology, research and technology, the field of human performance didn't exist To fill this industry void, he created and co-founded the first ever Human Performance Institute where he set the global standard. Over 30 years span hundreds of world-class performance of sport, business medicine, and Fortune 500 executives trained at his state-of-the-art Florida facility. During his tenure at the institute, four hundred thousand clients, teams and organizations learned the practical adaptation of his breakthrough methods from professional tennis, golf, basketball, race, car drivers, football, boxing, hockey, and Olympic athletes to organizations and people seeking to live their best lives.


Jim Loehr is the pioneer in the development of training programs designed to integrate the science of energy management to improve productivity and fulfillment in business, sport, medicine and law enforcement creating sustainable peak performance. Dr. Loehr has been featured in national publications, including the Harvard Business Review Business Week, Newsweek Time, and US News and World Report. He has appeared on NBC's Today show, the CBS Evening News and ABC's Nightline. This lifelong learner is showing no signs of slowing down after retiring his position as chairman and CEO of the Human Performance Institute. This sport performance trailblazer holds both master's and doctorate degrees in psychology. We are honored to welcome this gracious icon to this episode of Intrinsic Drive. Jim, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule and coming on Intrinsic Drive. It's such a pleasure to have you with us.

Jim Loehr  (02:31):

Well, thank you, Phil. I'm excited, very excited to be with you, and I'm looking forward to the conversation we're going to have. We have some common roots in the past and I hope we can create some value for your listeners.

Phil Wharton  (02:46):

 Thank you. And I know we will. And let's go to your beginning. We were talking a little bit about that before we started taping. And how about the genesis for you, Jim? When did your journey in all this start for you as an athlete, not just as a coach and sports psychologist, but where does it all begin for you?

Jim Loehr  (03:07):

Well, my father was an extraordinary athlete. He was basically a professional baseball player, and then he got injured in training camp and that was the end of his career. It was quite a blow to him, but he had two sons and we were destined to become great baseball players. He was my coach and I played baseball for nine years. And at that time you didn't know that you could only throw so many pitches without damaging your arm. And by the time I was 14, I don't know how many balls I threw, but I could throw knuckle balls and curve balls and everything else as a young kid because we didn't know that that was not a really good thing to do. And so I was pitching in a very kind of cold, damp day and my arm just went out and I've never been able to, I can't throw to this day. I lost my arm. They called it a dead arm, but it never got better. And so that was quite a blow. My father was quite upset about it and he didn't know anything about all this research now that guides people on how many pitches you should throw in a given period of time. And I went on and I could play basketball


 I became a pretty good basketball player. And then I started picking up tennis. And even though I couldn't throw, I could still serve and do all the things, but I got a late start in tennis. But tennis was probably the biggest part of my life. I'm an avid tennis fan and played tennis, won national championships with my son and father's son and played all over the world in tennis. And I had an instructor. I was at an all boys college called Regis High School, run by the Jesuits. And then it was Regis College, which is now a university, Regis University, which was run by the Jesuit's. And I had an instructor there, was a Jesuit Dr. Harry Hocher, who is a brilliant psychologist and kind of inspired me to start thinking about psychology maybe and go on in an advanced degree. And so I went on and got my master's and doctorate in psychology, became a licensed psychologist in the state of Colorado. And very, very early in my career I was offered a big job as chief psychologist and executive director of a very large community mental health center system to serve the whole central and southern part of Colorado, including the San Luis Valley, which you are familiar with, where Adam State College

Phil Wharton  (06:04):

Alamosa area

Jim Loehr  (06:05):

In that catchment area.

Phil Wharton  (06:07):

Sangre De Cristo Mountains. Yeah.

Jim Loehr  (06:10):

And so I thought that's what I would be doing for the rest of my life. And then I ran into Joe Vigil. Dr. Joe Vigil and we became good friends and he inspired me. He kept asking me the same question and I had no idea how to answer it, but he kept saying, as a psychologist, what can you tell me? So I get more out of my athletes and I go, Joe, I was like a deer in headlights. I go, Joe, I have no idea. I know how to take people who are struggling with mental health issues and help them get better and help healthier, but I have no idea how to take a normal person and make them extraordinary. And he kept saying, well, Loehr you got to look into this.


That's going to be a big field. This was in the seventies. And I go, really? So I did a literature search and I realized there wasn't a heck of a lot there, and I kept looking for people who were doing exciting things and I got more and more involved in that area. And I said, I love doing new things. I love being a pioneer and breaking new ideas. And so I resigned to a 23 member board of directors. They thought I had duly lost my mind, an enormous raise. And I said, no, it has nothing to do with money. I want to go and apply psychology to sport. They thought, what the world is that he obviously can't handle the stress because there was no such thing as sports psychology.

Phil Wharton  (07:47):

There wasn't even a field.

Jim Loehr  (07:49):

Wasn't even a field.


So I moved to Denver, set up a private practice in Denver, right across the street from the University of Denver Sports Science Department. And after about a year and a half, I realized I'm not in the right place. Most of the athletes don't like flying into Denver, the altitude and the cold and all that. So I said, I really don't know anything. I don't know anything about this field. There's nowhere to go here. And so I said, I've got to go learn. So at that time, Jimmy Connors was the most accomplished competitor in tennis, and he was opening up a new tennis center at Sanibel Harbor

Phil Wharton  (08:38):

At Sanibel.

Jim Loehr  (08:38):

 Called Jimmy Connors, United States Tennis Center. And a guy by the name of Bob Davis was looking for someone to run that center. And I called Bob and I said, listen, I'm a sports psychologist and I will come and I'll run your whole facility, but I need to have access to Jimmy because I want to learn. I want to figure out how his brain works. I want to understand what makes him such a tough competitor. I want to have access to him, videos and conversations. So he said, we'll make that happen. So I agreed to do it. I was there for two years. I didn't have that much access to Jimmy, but I took lots of videos and it helped me. But I thought he is not a very good example of how most people are going to become great competitors.

Phil Wharton  (09:29):

That's right, that's right. That's right. Just doing the sport. Just doing sport more and more repetition. And it wasn't really an outside the box or putting together the complimentary things that you do now.

Jim Loehr  (09:42):

And then the Nick Bolleitieri Tennis Academy was just about an hour and a half up the road in Bradenton, Florida, and I was working with a lot of Nick's players and he didn't like them driving down there anyway. And he said, why don't you come set your institute up here and I'll give you free range so you have all these 240 kids to do your work and collect all your data. And I said

Phil Wharton  (10:09):


Jim Loehr  (10:10):



So I was there for six years and that was worth two PhD's. I finally, that's where everything I learned happened because I had access and I had all this telemetry. I had kids at all levels all the way to the very highest from Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, Jim Courier, Martin Blackman, David Wheaton, on and on. It was amazing. Probably the most prolific player development in the history of tennis occurred at that time. And I had access to them and I had 'em all wired up all day long, interviewed them and did everything else. And I completely redesigned the whole environment at Bolleitieri's. I quickly realized it really needed to be humanized a little more. It was just a brutal place for young people. And after that, I decided I was ready to do something on my own. And I have a good friend by the name of Dr. Jack Groppel who had his PhD in bioengineering. And we decided to set up the Human Performance Institute and we ended up setting it up in Orlando at a place called Lake Nona. And then we ended up after many, many years where this place was like for me it was heaven because I had all the people I ever wanted to study right there, coming to train there. And we worked with seventeen number ones in the world. We had everything from Army Special Forces, Navy Seals, just about every arena of high performance hostage rescue teams. We had chess champions, we had a Sumo Wrestler come all the way from Japan and spend six months with us and all these people wanted to get better, wanted to win. And I'm a data guy. We collected so much data when you walk in, we draw your blood and we stick you in a BOD Pod and get your lean body mass. And I have still boxes of data that we collected today. Probably some 400,000 people went through the institute.

Phil Wharton  (12:32):


Jim Loehr  (12:34):

And then it was a living laboratory of high performance, and that's where all the insights came. And I really missed that because I love to look at what's happening and check the data. But we ended up selling it to Johnson and Johnson, and I stayed on another six years. And little did I know when I had that conversation with Joe Vigil, that I would end up having that kind of a career. But I was asked just not too recently, tell me one of the best decisions that you've made in your lifetime. When I said it was deciding to apply psychology to human performance because I've been intoxicated. I love it to this day, and I can thank Joe for that. He didn't know what he started.

Phil Wharton  (13:28):

Yeah, it's so amazing. It just spawned this sort of course of discovery for you. And so you are learning through these experiencing and events just from that one initial essential question, what makes these athletes tick? If you could figure that out.

Jim Loehr  (13:43):

What can you tell me to help my athletes do a little better job, get a little more out of what they've got?

Phil Wharton  (13:48):

And so then it's this investigation process from Sanibel to, because when I first met you, I think it was like 1993 or 1994 in New York when you were doing a symposium for Metro Sports, a magazine that was there.

Jim Loehr  (14:00):

Yes. Right. With the Jaffee's.

Phil Wharton  (14:00):

The Jaffee's. And so I think at that point you were still kind of coming out of the Bolleitieri project and then obviously developing your own template that became the Human Performance Institute, which is obviously the gold standard for human performance now.

Jim Loehr  (14:17):

Well, the thing that I'm most proud of out of all of that was that we amassed probably the most amazing faculty that's ever been put together in high performance. We had a former commander of the Navy Seals was an instructor, former commander of the Blue Angels. We had an opportunity to work with the Blue Angels, a former instructor, a lead instructor with the Air Force Academy. We had Dan Jansen who was a gold medalist,

Phil Wharton  (14:49):

Speed skating,

Jim Loehr  (14:50):

In speed skating, and Paul Wiley who was a silver medalist. And you have someone like that who's teaching you about managing stress. I mean, it's like these people know because they've been there, done that and ended up on top. And so I felt so privileged to be able to bring those kinds of individuals together and have them share their wisdom. And then to be able to continue to look for insights that actually were science-based, a science guy. Jack is a science guy, and I have a disdain for fluff if I can't back it up. But I consider myself an applied psychologist. I'm always in the journals, always looking for things, but I don't interpret things the way everybody else does. But I'm always looking for what is the practical application of that understanding or principle. If it doesn't have one, it's probably not that useful.

Phil Wharton  (15:55):

That's right. And that's what those high performers teach us in the moment because obviously if they can't go out there and win the gold or make the team, nothing else is moving. They forget your name. So it's a very real time model of, okay, we've got to investigate this and try. And so you're using the best innovation, but also the investigative process of, and that's speaks to you with the science I think as well, is the art of performance

Jim Loehr  (16:31):

Is brutal, and it's numbers driven. If they're getting better, you have better stats. Your world ranking is dropping. If what you're doing is going in the opposite direction, then there's reason to be concerned that whatever formula you're using, you might have one or two bad months or maybe a year, but if the trend over time is not what it should be, then you're probably operating with the wrong stakes in the ground. And so that was a very interesting journey for me. And now I spend a lot of my time, all the books I've written, I think I've written some 18 books.


They all represent a breakthrough in thinking that I really thought was significant. I never write a book to for any other reason, but if there is an understanding that I think might be useful for other people, because I've had this unbelievable fortunate opportunity to be inside the world of so many great performers, I'll sit down and write about it. I don't consider myself a great writer, but I feel like I get the concepts and I really want to, if I can contribute the applied side as much as possible, having one foot in the science side, more the academic side, and then one foot in the applied side. And my job is to apply what so many of the great researchers are doing and bring it to some real life practical application. And so that's always been kind of my mission, is to kind of do something with the opportunities I have that so many people haven't had the opportunities and maybe I can bring value because of that.

Phil Wharton  (18:28):

Absolutely. And you're inside that lens of that performance incubator. And I think that that performance incubator just drives that innovation because of your curiosity. Say, Hey, look, we want to help this person live their best story. As you've brought out the storytelling and what always the work with my father and I, we always the team behind your dream, we always felt like we were the guys on the backstage helping with the musculoskeletal piece because there wasn't that when you first came into the sports psychology, there wasn't even a profession in that. It was nothing there. There was nothing there. So it was just go out as the Jimmy Connors in the Jimmy Connors era of, okay, just play harder. Hopefully things don't break down, but invariably you're not looking at all the elements of the misaligned

Jim Loehr  (19:19):

Very complex creatures. The more I learned, the more I really understand. I don't know anything. I mean the integration of all the sciences, the mind and the body

Phil Wharton  (19:29):

And the spirit, this

Jim Loehr  (19:30):

Incredible dynamic that's going on all the time. And the more you know, really realize that it's infinite, that understanding that one has to have. But some of those insights can really help people discover their best selves, really go to another level and do it safely. And that's what I'm always searching for. Another understanding that might move the needle forward and maybe give people another opportunity to get a little better in life, to bring out their best and not do it at a price that for the rest of their life, they're going to really be unable to be that physical or have that much opportunity to enjoy physical activity.

Phil Wharton  (20:15):

That's right. And I love what you said in the Power of Total Engagement about how you learned that wow, people in the corporate arena have a lot more responsibilities, obviously because there's no rest and regeneration phase. It's normal for the high performance athlete. So it's like the expectations are so high and they're not able to get out of that sympathetic nervous system response. They're always in flight or flight, the cortisol levels, all these things. And so I've had a lot of clients and athletes that have gone down to the institute and you've showed them those markers, you've showed them the reasons why and got them totally to rewire and reintegrate the nervous system and all the complexity of all these what we call pillars of health. Going back to that, I think I guess the John Wooden, I always go back to the Pyramid of Success.

Jim Loehr  (21:09):

John was a genius


An absolute genius. And what probably the most significant insight, and it's very embarrassing for me to say it, but the one insight that really still is stunning for me that all the data that we collected, what we realized all we were doing and helping people go to these outer limits of performance was getting them healthier, healthier physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, and health ignites performance. And so there was no trick, there's no secret sauce there, just we just look and try to get people to be healthier, better human beings, more comfortable in their skin, more of a sense of real kind of what I would call self transcendent purpose. They have a bigger purpose in life than winning gold medals. Then emotionally, they're more stable and they really, for the most part, are operating from a very optimistic and positive perspective. Physically. We've improved everything from their oxygen transport system to their

Phil Wharton  (22:21):

Making them more efficient

Jim Loehr  (22:22):

Dietary and their sleep habits and their rest and intervals of rest and relaxation and all that. And the more we got them to become healthier, they just started performing better automatically. So all this stuff that we were doing, and Johnson and Johnson, when we showed the data to all these executives, they go, wow, that puts us in the performance business because we're in the health business. And we realized the Human Performance Institute was in the health business. We were just really trying to get people healthier. So we were looking at all the research on health to really help our athletes go to the next level or our teams from race car drivers to just about professional hockey teams and everything else. So that was a huge insight, but when I think about how long it took to get there, and I mean it's embarrassing, but that's really where we ended up. Yeah, that's probably the number one insight.

Phil Wharton  (23:22):

About 30 years it normally takes for a consciousness change. I think that's about what it took for people to grasp these things. But you came at it, I think, from both ends of the spectrum. And I think that's where the beauty of it is. And I disagree with your writing. I think the writing, it's a very beautiful simplistic sophistication where you are marrying that data and the science with really pragmatic, easy to follow prose. And that's what me and my athletes and the clients that I refer to the books which we do, all of them have seen there's a very usability, like in training, it has to be doable stimulus, right, or else we can't adapt and grow. So it's that doable stimulus of, okay, I can do this now, I can do that now I can do that.

Jim Loehr  (24:15):

I can understand. I can understand this.


That's always, for me, the biggest challenge to take a complicated idea, take something that's rooted deeply in science and put it into a very accessible language so a 10-year-old can understand it and be inspired by it.

Phil Wharton  (24:32):

That's right.

Jim Loehr  (24:33):

 And you look at someone like, well, like Joe Vigil, he had a language that just went right to the heart and soul.

Phil Wharton  (24:41):

That's right. Right to the heart.

Jim Loehr  (24:42):

Pete Carroll, there are some unbelievable coaches who just get into your skin.

Phil Wharton  (24:47):

That's right.

Jim Loehr  (24:48):

And you know it's.

Phil Wharton  (24:52):

Those are the messages, as you said, that are piercing that inner consciousness. They get to you, that subconscious.

Jim Loehr  (24:56):

Hundred percent.

Phil Wharton  (24:59):

And that's when we really make change instead of an external messaging in the world of everybody saying, oh yeah, I'm all about the process. It's the external, it's to quote Dickens, it's like a veneer. It's the outside, but it's not really a deep. And for you, kind of in the drives, Jim, what urged you forward? What were some of the external internal forces and motivations during that time for you and your life moving you forward?

Jim Loehr  (25:27):

 I love to learn. I love to learn. And I'm inspired by people that you go, how could you be inspired? I was very inspired by someone like Fred Rogers. The way in which Fred could communicate to kids was just like, I watched endless videos.

Phil Wharton  (25:45):

Me too.

Jim Loehr  (25:46):

Of how he operated, and I would even show it to corporate audiences to help them understand what full engagement looks like. And so I just love to learn, and I love to look outside the box to try to. I realize that so often the lens through which we see things is very limited. And this is what's the problem in medicine today, is we have all the specialties.

Phil Wharton  (26:13):

Very much so.

Jim Loehr  (26:13):

 And no one sees the whole person.

Phil Wharton  (26:15):

It's not complimentary medicine.

Jim Loehr  (26:16):

You see a liver, you see lungs, you see a torn labrum in your shoulder or a meniscus tear, but there's a whole person in there and it's all integrated. And for me, the most important thing that we did was to try to understand there's a person in there that the person is more important than the athlete, and that let's get the person healthier as a human being, and the athlete will come along if we get them to really understand how magnificently this body and mind have been designed. We can get an appreciation for this. And then to actually recognize that whether you want to be a success in anything, as a father, as a mother, as a leader in business, as a sports hero, whatever it is, it's you that's going to make this happen. And let's make sure that you're in a trajectory that actually is going to help you fulfill all of your expectations in the right way. So a lot of his data led us to the whole dimension of character, who you are as a person, your character. And I'm going, how the heck did Jim Loehr, who writes all these books on

Phil Wharton  (27:34):

Science right.

Jim Loehr  (27:34):

Mental toughness and winning and all this, talking about honesty and integrity.



Phil Wharton  (27:44):

Here's an original one I'm holding up for those that can't see, of course, Mental Toughness Training for Sports, one of my first books of yours, it's a really great book.

Jim Loehr  (27:56):

I had a big laugh the other day. I got a note from Amazon that if I'd like this book that you might like this based on some of your interests. And it was that green book,

Phil Wharton  (28:08):

No way For Sale. And how much do you think it was for sale? How much was it?

Jim Loehr  (28:14):

A hundred dollars.

Phil Wharton  (28:15):

No way. Really. We've kept this my wife

Jim Loehr  (28:17):

 Yeah, it's become a classic.

Phil Wharton  (28:19):

It's my wife's copy.

Jim Loehr  (28:20):

You can't get it. And I said, well, I'm not buying that for $800, I'll tell you that.

Phil Wharton  (28:28):

Well, I'll send you this one if you need an extra copy.

Jim Loehr  (28:31):

No, I've got copies here. It was funny that they said the author an opportunity to buy it.

Phil Wharton  (28:39):

Oh, really? That's hilarious. That's hilarious. Yeah, yeah. No, I love this, Jim, because it seems like from all the data, it's almost like you came back to the pillars of the John Wooden idea and this idea of essential qualities you came to, okay, these are things we can win the day. We may not win the match or the game or the Formula One race, but we can surely win all these essential things of being a great person, competere the idea of we strive together the root of this and we can really get the essences and it just builds and it makes for longevity. This is what.

Jim Loehr  (29:22):

Oh, for sure. Sustainability. That's where it all comes from. Yeah, John Wooden, the thing I guess I most admired about his approach was that he recognized that he could leverage the sport of basketball to help these young men become better beings for the rest of their life.

Phil Wharton  (29:43):

That's right.

Jim Loehr  (29:43):

And that basketball was simply a vehicle. It's a gateway. It's just a gateway. It's a gateway to learning things that might take years and years. It's a crucible that it's a compressed version of life, accelerating the process. And if you really use it properly as a brilliant coach, you can actually create extraordinary human beings and you can win a lot of national championships in the process.

Phil Wharton  (30:10):


Jim Loehr  (30:10):

Which is kind of icing on the cake. He didn't start out winning though, and people had to give him a little bit of time, but what he did was he got under the skin of the athletes and they began to say, John Wooden cares about me as a human being.

Phil Wharton  (30:25):

That's right.

Jim Loehr  (30:25):

He cares about me as a person more than how many points I score, and he cares about me putting my socks on correctly.

Phil Wharton  (30:33):

That's right.

Jim Loehr  (30:34):

And he may get extremely upset. And why? Because putting your socks on correctly, if you don't do that, may compromise your ability to be healthy, and you end up with a blister on your feet and you never had, it was because you were sloppy, putting your socks on. And so for me, I've always tried to build this bridge of understanding that all sports and parents, most importantly, but coaches as well, should see the opportunity of sport first and foremost as a learning environment. Not to necessarily teach sport, but to teach people how to be better human beings, stronger, more resilient, manage setbacks, better manage energy. I mean, manage injuries to learn how to focus, learn how to be disciplined, learn how to set goals, and to recalibrate when you don't meet them. And to maintain a humility about it all and to learn how to visualize, learn how to mentally prepare for things. All of these things that I could go on for hours just on that, but so many coaches are only about the end result. For me, the end result is really not the exciting thing. The end result is actually quite accidental in a sense, in terms of what we might pay attention to. What really is important is who you became in the chase.

Phil Wharton  (32:04):

Yes. The pursuit.

Jim Loehr  (32:05):

You got to chase something. And as a parent, I want my kids involved in something. They got to chase something. And more important than the chase is who you became in the process of chasing the scholarship in tennis or basketball or football, because it's the person inside that actually is going to actually determine the trajectory of success or failure. It's not going to be whether you were on a championship team and for the rest of your life, you bemoan the fact that you're not on, you don't have that fantastic spike in adrenaline to give your life some meaning. I want you to understand that was simply a vehicle for understanding how your body works and your mind works.

Phil Wharton  (32:51):

That's right.

Jim Loehr  (32:52):

And the more we do that, everybody becomes a winner in some way. And I definitely am not for the wussification of youth. I love to push people. I push people hard. I don't work with Navy Seals and all these other tough operators and just sit back and hope they are all going to be happy. That is not my approach, and I don't think it should be the approach.

Phil Wharton  (33:15):

And that's the positive aspects of stress where you've got to stress in the right way. Without that, there can be no growth. It was like when I had the opportunity to go train in Kenya, it was like, okay, I'm there. And I was there living with Moses Tanui, who won Boston twice and was World Champion. And it was hard. And every week I'd look at my ticket and say, you know what? I'm a 2 23 marathoner. I'm running against the slowest guy here is 2:08, I'm not good enough. And I had to make it through that suspension of disbelief and go from eight minutes behind on a regular run to now I'm only 45 seconds behind. And I came back a totally changed person and okay, sure times are faster training better, but that's not the real gift. The real gift is all these experiences become, made me a better person, made me more compassionate and more kind and more giving and all these things that, so for you. that's

Jim Loehr  (34:15):

That's the gift of sport.

Phil Wharton  (34:16):

That's the gift of sport. It just keeps, and for you, sir, going to the fall or speed bumps in the road. Jim, what about lowest moments in your career or life overall? Was there a major inciting moment or event for you in this?

Jim Loehr  (34:31):

Well, it was because there was no one who had ever done this before. So I had to go out and raise money and investors go well, show me an example of what the heck you're talking about. And everyone I talked to almost without exception, said, this is a boondoggle. It's never going to work. There's no such thing. And the only one that exists is the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, which is a multidisciplinary approach the way we wanted to do it, but non-for-profit. And they're always struggling for funds.

Phil Wharton  (35:09):

 And funding, right.

Jim Loehr  (35:10):

Funding. But I worked with a young player who just went crazy with the training and loved it. And his father was quite wealthy, and his father was a very, very astute investor. And he said, this is a boondoggle. The only reason I'm doing this because my wife and my son love what you're doing, and I just want to make them happy, but I know I'm going to lose the money that I'm investing in you. I just have one thing that I'm going to ask you and that is never come back and ask me for more money.

Phil Wharton  (35:53):

There you go. A onetime angel investment then. Got it, got it.

Jim Loehr  (35:57):

So I said, that's fine. I'm going to make you two promises. I said, I will promise never to come back, and I'm going to hand you a check that you will not believe that will represent probably one of the greatest investments you've ever made. And he smiled at me and he said, I'll probably have a heart attack if that happens.

Phil Wharton  (36:19):

That's amazing. That's amazing.

Jim Loehr  (36:21):

And so we sold it to Johnson and Johnson. We were very, very successful financially in every way. Every metric you want to use was successful. And I delivered personally a check to him, and he almost had a heart attack.

Phil Wharton  (36:40):

I love it. I love it.

Jim Loehr  (36:41):

And I mean, it changed his perception of what is a good investment and not, but that was a tough time. I really had to have a lot of belief in what I was doing and what Jack and I were doing. We had some very tough moments. We had a big staff. We had a huge, I think at one point, just in the beginning, our expenses were running about $600,000 a month.

Phil Wharton  (37:15):

Oh, a month. Oh wow.

Jim Loehr  (37:16):

A month.


And that was just to break even. And when you think about that, and I never took a business class, I never was involved in business. Jack didn't have anything in business. Basically sports scientists. Yes,

Phil Wharton  (37:33):

Yes. I know.

Jim Loehr  (37:34):

Trying to figure out how to build a business. But we made it. We never were late on a single payment. We never had to lay off staff, even through the really tough times when 2007, 2008, we made it through, but we had our hard moments. But I just believe so much that what we were doing is something of value and we'll figure out how to, but I had to travel the world. I had to go everywhere. I had to do whatever I could. And I have a lot of scars on the frame because it's like the number of miles, millions and millions of miles I had to travel to recruit and to

Phil Wharton  (38:17):

Bring awareness to the idea

Jim Loehr  (38:19):

To bring awareness and to do presentations and do programs all over the world. And I was in literally every country of the world doing programs. But there were tough moments, but I believed that somehow it would work. And if it didn't work, I still believe we made a huge difference in the lives of so many people.

Phil Wharton  (38:40):

Incredible impact. And these things are very apparent when you read through the tenets and doctrines of Wise Decisions. The book I'm holding up now, which is your current book that just was released in December 2022, and Jim, if we had a sort of a rollback we do on the show, if you had the opportunity, what would you redo or do differently, if anything in your life?

Jim Loehr  (39:03):

Boy, that's a good one. I ended up getting a divorce when I was relatively young, and it was because I was traveling all over and I just wasn't, couldn't be there in the way I should have been. I regret that I never remarried. And so I've been single and I said, I will stop. I mean, I would like to get reconnected with someone, but I'm not going to do it until I stop traveling. And I never stopped traveling

Phil Wharton  (39:41):

Still. Yeah. You're out there transcending the brand and bringing this message.

Jim Loehr  (39:46):

That was kind of one of maybe the biggest low point in my life. And then I would say doing something different, I probably would've figured out. I traveled with my son, three sons, and I traveled with them, and one of them became a professional tennis player.

Phil Wharton  (40:06):

Oh, fantastic.

Jim Loehr  (40:06):

I would like to have spent more time with them and less time on airplanes, or I did take them with me a lot.

Phil Wharton  (40:12):

That's Good. That's so good.

Jim Loehr  (40:13):

 They're still the most important people in my life by far. And I'm so proud of them. Those are my greatest gifts and my greatest teachers, my three sons. But as far as, there were a few people that I misjudged in terms of what their character was, and I brought them into the business and they turned out to be maybe very capable, but there was flaws in their character that really hurt other people and hurt the business.

Phil Wharton  (40:46):

That kind of came out later.

Jim Loehr  (40:47):

But those are very hard to really know.

Phil Wharton  (40:50):

That's very hard to vet.

Jim Loehr  (40:51):

I think most of our business decisions were pretty good, but we had to learn along the way. We didn't have an example to follow. So I felt considering all that we were up against, we made a lot of fairly good decisions. And most of them I probably would've made if I were in the same situation again, given the circumstances.

Phil Wharton  (41:12):

Absolutely. And if we look on the anvil, is there an event or decision, I mean we've talked through quite a bit of them, but one particular decision that forged you, a defining moment that shaped your destiny? Was it the Vigil moment asking you that question? How can we make the athletes better? Were there others that sort of come to mind in the forefront?

Jim Loehr  (41:34):

Well, as a student, I was in an all male Jesuit high school and college. The Jesuits were tough as nails. There was no joy in the learning. There was nothing. It was all discipline. They could all speak five languages. We had to take Latin and Greek, and it was all tests and JUG's, which was you had to send in if you didn't do well. And it was just, I have the ability to, I love science, I love chemistry and physics and math, but I just felt like this is just not fun. I wanted to do something else with my life, and it was really kind of stuck. But there was one person who really ignited me, who believed in me and actually saw something in me that I really needed at the time. And it was a coach, and he was my basketball coach, and his name was Coach Guy Gibbs. And he just recently passed about two months ago.

Phil Wharton  (42:42):

Sorry to hear that.

Jim Loehr  (42:43):

And on all my books, I mentioned him, he was, as coaches, we often don't have any sense of the power we have over people's lives. And he stepped up and said, Jim, you can be a great basketball player and I'm going to build a team around you. And he said, I really, I'm going to lean on you. I want you to lead, and I'm going to be tough as hell on you, but I see something in you. And boy, I will tell you what, I just kind of blossomed like a flower in spring that didn't even know it had petals. And so he was a pivotal part in my life. And then I got involved with some people who have a love of learning. You got to love to learn. And then it's so interesting. I hated learning in high school and most of college. And now it's my most exciting thing. I'm reading books that I would never have read and studying, going back, and I have a whole thing on chem reading a whole bunch of chemistry books again. And at that time, it was simply, I hated it. Now I adore it.

Phil Wharton  (43:54):

Yeah, yeah. Beautiful mind. It's like getting that myelin.

Jim Loehr  (43:57):

How life is going to, what trail you're going to follow. But thank God for Guy Gibbs. He was an amazing human being. And I always think about that when I'm working with athletes. I'm thinking maybe I could be for some of these young athletes, what Guy Gibbs was for me and what John Wooden was for a multitude of players that were on his teams.

Phil Wharton  (44:21):

Yes. That's so beautiful. And Jim, in your journey, what's most important to you now? What does the road ahead look like for you and what's next?

Jim Loehr  (44:34):

All I know is I'm going to continue to learn and write until I'm writing another book.

Phil Wharton  (44:39):

That's great. That's great. Looking forward to that one.

Jim Loehr  (44:42):

Which it's called Sapiens Reinvented. It's saving the species from a fatal flaw. That's the tenative title. It's about we come into the world and I'm always kind of stunned at how many people get off track and end up in places that are just tragic, and why are we as a species, we got flaws. And so I go into what some of those flaws are that I've learned and things that I've learned about it. But I will continue to push the envelope. I'm not nearly as active physically, but I like to keep my brain going. And I feel as long as my health allows me, I'm going to continue to push the envelope and hope what I learn might be of value to others. That's all I care about really. And I live a pretty simple life now that I'm doing all the books, all the podcasts and everything for Wise Decisions. I have a wild schedule, and it's pretty, it's just craziest schedule I've ever had. But I think there is some value in that book. And I think we've got some great, great reviews and people have said it's really been life changing. So if I can continue that, that's what gets me fired up and gets me up in the morning and going, period.

Phil Wharton  (46:09):

Yeah, exactly. It's an alignment with your life mission. I think that's what makes it your purpose. If we look back sort of in the slipstream of your life, Jim, any parting gyms of advice you'd like to leave with us on Intrinsic Drive today?

Jim Loehr  (46:25):

Oh, that's really an interesting question. I would say that we don't really understand the choices that we often have before us, and the most precious resource we have is our energy. When you're out of energy, life is gone. It's not how much time you have, it's the energy you bring to the time you have aligned with the things that matter most. So I'm always pushing people to try to define what matters at the highest level for you, and to try to figure out this very important quote that this notion that the two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you found out why. And Cherokee wisdom proverb that may you live long enough to know your purpose.

Phil Wharton  (47:32):

To know your purpose. That's right.

Jim Loehr  (47:33):

Right. And the idea that life is just not haphazard. You have to devote your life to something. And if you give it just to yourself in kind of a narcissistic pursuit of money, fame, and whatever, there's nothing there. And I've seen this over and over and over again. So to discover a purpose and to keep working that purpose until your death, and maybe for me, the most powerful exercise that I've had people do, and I've done this with thousands of people, is to take them to the end of their life. I call it the tombstone exercise.

Phil Wharton  (48:08):

No, I love that. In the book. I love that. Yeah, that paradigm.

Jim Loehr  (48:12):

And actually, as Stephen Covey once said, he's a hundred percent right. Begin with the end in mind, end in mind. And so what would you like to have inscribed on your tombstone that really represented the truth about who you really were when you were here? If you actually could make that happen, what would it be? So you can write six words or a couple of sentences, and you actually get to choose what's on that tombstone. But those choices, if they're going to be real, are really hard to get. You're going to have to work really hard every day to make those reality for you. So that could be on your tombstone and reflect the truth. So you work backwards, and let's say you want to be a person of great integrity or honesty or compassion or an inspiration to others, or an extraordinary mother, extraordinary father, an extraordinary coach, and be an inspiration to like Joe, like

Phil Wharton  (49:14):

Dr. Vigil. Yeah

Jim Loehr  (49:15):

 Joe Vigil was for me, or Guy Gibbs was for me, that requires a focusing of your energy, and that's what purpose does. What can I do today to make sure that whatever, if this were my last day, that I'm going to get closer to what I would like to be represented on my tombstone. I call that getting home and we're all wanting to get home. And getting home is just ending up at the end of your life where you want it to end up. And it's not going to probably happen by chance. You're going to have to make that happen. And if you have a purpose clearly in mind, that probably is way beyond your own, notice that what you put on that tombstone has very little to do with you. It has more to do with your connection, your treatment, your ability to influence other people. And that is really the biggest takeaway I think I've had in my life. And if that is a gift that I can give to others, because it certainly had a huge impact on my life.

Phil Wharton  (50:25):

It was as a man of data, you've lived in a truth and you've come to a beautiful understanding of energy, but also a practical application. So I think you've been able to balance these two forces. So I'm so appreciative that you've been able to share that and convey that to us in these 18 books. And I'm just wishing you all the success and joy in your own process as you continue to.

Jim Loehr  (50:58):

Well, you were an amazing athlete in your own right, Phil, and you've obviously, you're giving back all the time. So I want to say thank you for all the contributions you've made to sport, and to the understanding of what sport and coaching should be all about. And I appreciate the opportunity. I love this interaction. Your questions were very original.

Phil Wharton  (51:18):

Thank you.

Jim Loehr  (51:19):

And you've done your homework, so thank you for the time that we've been able to spend together.

Phil Wharton  (51:26):

No, I value it so much. And thank you, Jim, for coming on the show. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate you opting in, subscribing and reviewing us for thumbing us up and following us on socials liking us. We like you, drop us a note. Tell us what stories move you for books, videos, resources, and more information. Visit us at, and be sure to join us for the next episode of Intrinsic Drive®.