Determination is key. Embrace your losses as an opportunity to learn and grow. Transform every step forward into wins and lessons. You can expect to take some hits along the way, but with a sharp and positive mind, your determination is the motivation that will keep you moving towards success.
As a part of our series about the work ethic lessons we can learn from professional athletes, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Crawford, co-founder & U.S. president of Avocado. He started his career as an All-American in High School and a University of Kentucky star. Drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2008, Joe found himself playing for the Beijing Ducks in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).
Since entering the business world, Joe has been an intersection of cool, street culture in his hometown Detroit, working with developing seller relationships for Stock X and having his own (or being an investor in) successful culturally impactful ventures.
During his long career as a high-performing athlete, Joe saw first-hand the results of hard work for talented performers, brands and creatives, alongside the many ways they suffer without control of their brand IP (intellectual property), opportunities or own platform. In bringing Avocado to market, Joe aims to help the whole eco-system control the opportunities that come from their dedication, with a platform they can own to monetize their value.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Pleasure to spend the time with you here. I grew up around the inner city of Detroit, Michigan. I am the eldest of three brothers in a family that was always very sports-oriented. Our parents loved basketball; they used the game to teach us the value of hard work and keep us off the streets and out of trouble. We all focused on getting good grades so we could keep achieving on the court. I guess you could say it worked out as two out of three of us got drafted to the NBA.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high-level professional athlete?
My parents were my greatest inspiration. They were both big basketball fans, so it was one of the ways they showed us love. Learning the game was the most important thing for me because my parents were my best friends. We always wanted to impress them and would take every opportunity for deeper connections with them. In terms of players, Michael Jordan was my inspiration. The power and skill in the way he played the game, his style, and his relentless drive to win. He was a game-changer. Lastly, perhaps more than anything else, my environment inspired me. From where I was, the dream to one day achieve greatness made me focus even harder to keep getting better, and in turn, it kept me out of situations that other people can fall victim to.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
My family was everything to me. My parents and my brothers played a massive role in my life. We all stayed together and kept on track. When one of us fell off, we held each other together until we were out the other side, stronger and wiser than before.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Back when I went to Renaissance High School in Detroit, I was under a whole new kind of pressure in a new environment. One memorable mistake happened there — up against the pressure to achieve both on and off the court, I went on the teacher’s computer and changed my grade.
Maybe I could have got away with it if I did not make my grade so high that nobody believed it. I knew I had to turn myself in and almost lost a lot, but the principal and others around me understood the pressure I was going through. Sure, I got suspended, but I got to stay where I was and took home a valuable lesson.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As an athlete, you often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
I am not going to lie; it does not come quick. You need to keep working hard every single day to stay in that zone. With that said, I think there are three things you can do to optimize your mind for peak performance. First, you need to visualize success and really get clear on what success looks like and feels like for you. Spend some time every day visualizing that space. See it in your mind and feel what it’s like to be there, and that will give you an anchor. Second, you should practice meditation for peace. There are many different pathways inside yourself. Some are as simple as breathing and focusing your mind or finding a practice that works for you and your beliefs. Just keep working at it. It doesn’t take much, but it gives you a lot. Lastly, always remember to have fun. Life is a game, so keep honing your skills, playing with integrity and enjoying every moment you’ve got on the court.
Can you tell us the story of your transition from a professional athlete to a successful businessperson?
It was a tough transition. I did not expect it to be easy, but I didn’t realize how tough it would be. I had started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life after basketball, and then I suffered a career-ending injury. That really pushed the decision to the forefront. I had a growing passion for business, but I didn’t have the same team structure for business that I had on the court.
The biggest challenge was meeting new people and starting to develop those relationships of trust. It was easier to meet people and learn who they were in the sports world because it is almost impossible to lie. The cameras are always on you, the stats are out there for everyone to see and you have to be who you say you are. In the business world, people can pretend to be whatever they want, and some look to leverage off your name or your talent.
A big part of my transition was learning how to vet people and understand who to trust. I grew a network of honest people that have stuck with me throughout everything. I am fortunate to be surrounded by inspiring people and opportunities, and we show up every day ready to work hard at making a better world.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting new projects you are working on now?
I am proud to serve as the U.S. President of Avocado, which is a new digital platform that connects brands, influencers and audiences to China. The Avocado App aims to create lasting relationships and experiences that break through cultural and geographic barriers. We’re giving the world’s best content creators full artistic freedom while simultaneously delivering uninterrupted shopping experiences for audience’s mid-stream. Avocado is putting premium entertainment, fashion, and lifestyle products directly into the hands and hearts of fans.
Do you think your experience as a professional athlete gave you skills that make you a better entrepreneur? Can you give a story or example about what you mean?
Becoming a professional athlete is a dream, and the chance of it becoming a reality is very small. For many players it can seem almost impossible, and most people have no problem telling you that. They will always ask you what your backup plan is. If you really got the skills and the drive, that dream is your main goal and backup plan all in one. Putting in the work and having the work ethic to achieve is what gave me the power to achieve what almost seemed impossible.
My goal is to do something that’s never been done before or something that most people believe cannot be done. Whether it is leading commerce and content from east to west, or carving out a career as a professional athlete, you need to believe and commit to doing the work in order to prove yourself. That is what changes lives.
Ok. Here is the main question of our interview. Entrepreneurs and professional athletes share a common “hustle culture”. Can you share your “5 Work Ethic Lessons That Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Athletes”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Study your opponents. On the court or in the boardroom, there is always something to learn from the people around you — especially those you’re up against. Learn their strengths and weaknesses, and you will better understand your own.
- Hone your craft every day. The world around us is rapidly evolving, and if you are not improving, you cannot expect to stay at the top of your game.
- Keep an even keel. Work steady, progress smoothly and do not aim too high or too low. Setting achievable goals and smashing them quickly will help you build sustainable momentum that you can understand, control and keep growing.
- Determination is key. Embrace your losses as an opportunity to learn and grow. Transform every step forward into wins and lessons. You can expect to take some hits along the way, but with a sharp and positive mind, your determination is the motivation that will keep you moving towards success.
- Maintain your focus. There is a lot of movement in every game, and things will try to pull your attention. Get clear on what is most important and keep your eyes on the prize. Being ready, focused and in the right position can be the difference between a win or loss.
What would you advise a young person who aspires to follow your footsteps and emulate your career? What advice would you give?
First up, I would ask them if it is really what they want to do. Do you believe it is who you are destined to be? If it is truly in your heart to go after it, you will have no regrets between failures and achievements. You have to have a strong mind to truly go after what you want. There will absolutely be trials and tribulations along the way, but you can go to sleep happy with the knowledge that you are following your path. It is not going to be easy, but if it is in your heart, it will be worth it.
You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I really focus on inspiring the “next” in my community in terms of training and motivating kids to stay focused in school, work hard and become a better person every day. I give back to my community in every way I can. As someone with a platform, they can see where I am, so it allows my words to go a long way.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Entrepreneurship. The reason Avocado is going to be huge is because it allows entrepreneurs on the opposite side of the world to connect as it taps into markets that are eager to learn from our culture. It is all about freedom, independence and connection within a supportive environment, and that is what the talent partnering with Avocado deserves.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
I hated every minute of training, but I always said: “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” — Muhammad Ali.
That line hits home as it is how I have prepared for every goal I set myself. Give everything you have got right now, and you will be further ahead in the next moment.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
There is no particular person I want to sit down with. I like things to happen naturally through the journey. That authentic connection makes it so much more meaningful, purposeful and fulfilling.