For legendary trainer Tim Grover, who's worked with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Dwyane Wade, there are three kinds of people in the world: “Coolers,” “Closers,” and “Cleaners.” Assuming you're up to the task, Grover highly recommends becoming a Cleaner, which is the ultimate path to success and exceeding even your wildest ambitions. Of course, being a Cleaner is no walk in the park. The approach requires one to attack goals with an unstoppable desire, act decisively upon instinct and embrace rather than deny your dark side. It is intense, exhausting and often alienating. But Grover swears by the results, and his clients' track record is the proof in the pudding.
Grover shares the secrets to becoming a Cleaner in his new book, “Relentless: From Good To Great To Unstoppable.” We spoke at length with Grover last week about his unique approach, Kobe, MJ, and the mindset of ruthlessly competitive athletes. (It should be noted the interview was conducted before Kobe's season ending Achilles injury. For some perspective from Grover on Bryant's situation, check out this column from ESPNLA.com's Ramona Shelburne.)
Kamenetzky Brothers: How would you explain the concept of being a Cleaner?
Tim Grover: A Cleaner is an individual that sets the standards for excellence. It's not just in basketball. It's not just in sports. It's whatever aspect of life you do. Bus driver. Radio host. CEO of a company. They're doing what they do. It's not about the money. It's not about an ego trip. it's about the end result and trying to be and achieving the best results that you can possibly in whatever you decide to do with it.
It's pretty much a one-track mind focused in on one thing and one thing only. You can't be a Cleaner in multiple things. You have to find that one thing, because when you do that, there are a lot of other things that are going to have to take a backseat. A Cleaner is an individual, they know exactly who they are. They're not trying to be somebody that the media's trying to make them. They're not worrying about trying to make friends with different individuals.
They just push themselves when everybody else has stopped. A Cleaner constantly keeps pushing himself, pushing himself, pushing himself, to try to attain that goal that he set for himself.
Kamenetzky Brothers: How difficult is it to turn on and off that mindset?
Tim Grover: It's extremely difficult, because you basically have to be able to control both sides. The more things that you have to control, the harder it is as an individual. But they take that control and use it to put themselves in the zone and when you're in the zone, nothing else really matters. Zone is all about instincts. It's not about how you feel. It's not about how you think. It's completely the opposite. There is no feeling. There is no thinking. When the person goes from one individual to what I call “the zone state,” they're not worrying about anything else at that particular time. They're not even thinking about it.”
Kamenetzky Brothers: The book examines how players react differently to external pressures and obstacles. You mentioned how Gilbert Arenas changed his personality after the gun incident and Tiger Woods publicly apologized after his scandal, and yet both still struggled. Conversely, Kobe blocked out his legal situation in Colorado and played some of the best basketball of his career. Why is he able to do this while others can't?
Tim Grover: Because Kobe and Michael had the ability not to think of external things. When they stepped between the lines, it was like, “This is my safe haven. No one can touch me here. Nothing's gonna happen. All that other stuff, once the whistle is blowing and I step across that line again, it's still gonna be there, so I can't let the other stuff affect me and the end result of what I do. I'm focused in on thing. I play basketball. This is what I do. I can't let that other stuff distract me from doing this.”
It's the ability to shut it all down, not from a physical standpoint, but from a mental standpoint.
Kamenetzky Brothers: You mentioned that commonality between Kobe and Jordan, and Kobe's obviously spent his entire career being compared to him. From your experience, in what ways are they actually different?
Tim Grover: The biggest difference is Kobe wants to know why we're doing certain things. He wants to know the reason for it, why, what's happening, and so forth. Michael said, “Just get it done. I'm playing basketball. This is what I do. This is what you do. I don't need to know. I'm not interested in any of this stuff here. This is why I hired you, so I can stay focused on what I need to do.”
Kobe wants to more of the details. Why am I eating this? Why am I doing this at this particular time? What is going on here? Here's very attuned to this stuff.
But I think the thing they both have in common, and the reason I call them both Cleaners, when a Cleaner screws up, he admits it. He says, “Hey, I screwed up!” I try to tell people, if you mess something up, just say, “Hey, I messed up or I effed up.” That's the end of the conversation. If you try to go into this long thing about explaining things, now you're starting to show a sign of weakness. You just own up to your mistakes.