Don’t quit- I think a lot of people who never built themselves as an athlete take the first sign of struggle as failure and that’s not the case. I’ve called the same person multiple times in a follow up to get the deal. It’s easy to give up and decide not to call someone back because they were short or maybe didn’t get it.
As a part of our series about the work ethic lessons we can learn from professional athletes, I had the pleasure of interviewing TJ Wright.
Thomas (TJ) Wright (Founder & CEO) is a former NFL player, founder of Empire Technologies, and inventor of the Locator1 intelligent phone case. Thomas has 10 years in consumer products, wearables, product design, fashion design, marketing, sales, distribution, management, partnerships and fundraising.
Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a pretty cool situation. I’m from a town called Beaumont Texas. It’s not too big but also not too small and it’s close to Houston. Sports, family and appreciation for culture were things I learned in my family and my environment. I was a brother to four sisters. My dad worked at the post office and my mother was a teacher. I played every sport until I graduated high school. I grew up in a
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high level professional athlete?
I think my curiosity inspired me. Just thinking “I wonder what it’s like” or “let’s just see where my best stacks up against everyone else’s best. Because I just want to know” and from there it started being like “ok, tj you’re starting.” And then it made the hunger match the curiosity. Just moments like that. They blow your mind. Sports has so many levels, the feeling of reaching a new height in your abilities is such a great feeling. You learn about yourself. Your self worth from trusting yourself that good things can happen to you.
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. There were many times. I got hit by a car one time. I was in Ohio and my parents were in Texas. I broke my orbital bone. I had to get surgery. It was a same day type of thing or maybe the next day but I just remember going to sleep and coming up out of surgery to my parents face. It was crazy to me because I don’t know how they found out. I was expecting to be alone. That just showed a lot .
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? When I was in high school I played on the same team
As Kendrick Perkins. He was our teams star player. We won a state championship and went 36–0. In our 37th game I got a chance to start. I played well but ended up sitting for most of the second half. The game was very close. We were in a preseason tournament playing the state champion from the state of Georgia. As the game came down to the wire the coach decided to put me back in. He came to me and said “If you get it, shoot it”. As fate would have it, the ball landed in my hands as the clock ran down. I saw the goal in my vision and heard a loud clap screaming my name in my left ear, from the top of the 3 point line. It was Perk. I saw him and I saw the rim. I bent my knees, held my follow through and watched this perfect spiral hurl towards the basket. Time stopped. You could hear the silence and heartbeats as the gym watch this ball travel. 3…2…1…airball. Needless to say tempers flared up after that in the locker room. It’s hilarious to me and the biggest lesson I learned is I’m not afraid to take the last shot. And that matters. It takes courage to want the ball at then end of games no matter the outcome.
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?
Sure. Breathe, mediate, go for a walk/workout, and focus on the most important aspect to fixing the problem.
Can you tell us the story of your transition from a professional athlete to a successful business person?
After football I enrolled in the art institute of Miami, started a trap rock band and interned at slip n slide records. I majored in accessory design I used my design background to create my bands merch and one day heading to a merch meeting I lost my phone. I was so frustrated I screamed “I wish I had a way to press a button and find my phone!” In a that moment I was launched into the tech space. I decided to sit down and create a phone case that would allow me to press a button and find my phone. This led to me creating a prototype and getting into an incubator in New York City based on that same design. From there I learned to put teams together and pitch and have been a serial entrepreneur ever since.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting new projects you are working on now?
I am creating a business accelerator for pro athletes and building hover bikes and cars.
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?
Yes. I think when it comes to team building or being thick skinned or deciding to go on when I could quit. This is all learned in football. Especially the concept of not giving up.
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.
- Don’t quit- I think a lot of people who never built themselves as an athlete take the first sign of struggle as failure and that’s not the case. I’ve called the same person multiple times in a follow up to get the deal. It’s easy to give up and decide not to call someone back because they were short or maybe didn’t get it.
- Teamwork makes the dream work- would you rather own 20% of everything or 100% of nothing. I think sometimes when people haven’t played team sports they forget the value of others. Sometimes it’s so important to be king they don’t make any progress or money. I think a major lesson learned is the value of teammates. I think a great story is the fact that Michael Jordan won most of his championship due to clutch shots by teammates of “lesser” value. You have to trust others and leverage your individual “greatness” to attract, mold and retain great teammates that will bring you to victory.
- Fight self sabotage: you can often find yourself not taking the most important action or even the first step. You need to send a very important email but you end up doing everything else, including coming up with reasons not to send it. Always fight self sabatoge. When the excuses start to sound like reasons, really question yourself as to why you aren’t taking action. Self sabatoge can be very covert. You might go do something that seems more important than the most important thing for any number of “reasons” but always remember the most import thing in place is what gives life to progress.
- Don’t lose yourself: success if described as hard work and never giving up. Don’t get too caught up in “making it” that you lose yourself. Create a space to love yourself and be your authentic self because you will be holding yourself to an extremely Hugh standard by adding discipline to your lifestyle. It’s going to require you to call yourself out. If you lose yourself that pattern of accountability can quickly become depression. Monitor your thoughts, understand and process your emotions and find things that make you truly happy. Discipline absolutely sucks. You need to know what it feels like to rest, be happy and be loved by you.
- Start: don’t try too hard to be perfect and question any reason that sounds like a good reason. Just start. If you are just determined to think negatively, think that while going through the motions. But whatever act you need. Do it. If it’s saying no but you have anxiety, say no, get out of bed, start walking, start typing, start dialing, hit send, whatever you need to do, start it. How will you practice discipline if you don’t actuator action?
What would you advise to a young person who aspires to follow your footsteps and emulate your career? What advice would you give?
Do the work. Don’t worry about anyone else but you. If you actually do the work required to prepare you will see results. Build momentum and network. People will doubt you and let that be the reason you doubt no one. Network network network. Get people who can help you an easy reason to help you by being prepared. Build yourself, then present your self. Repeat until you reach your goal.
You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I try to teach and let people see some of the L’s. Humanizing this so called success. Success is definitely the result of hard work and preservenance. It’s a choice. Not a talent . And I think the best thing I can do is try to help people see that so they won’t be so afraid to believe in themselves no matter what limitations they are aware of.
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. 🙂
Self love and making money. I think if we all had appreciation for ourselves we’d be less likely to hate or care about other peoples success. Knowing how to make money would make us all an asset and create more humility and happiness. I believe this is true because people who try to control others usually don’t have control of their life or an important area of their life. Or they believe they don’t. Self love let’s you know you control your mood. Reactions, thoughts, and ability to develop new skills.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Hurt people hurt people. I used to react to everything somebody said or did until I can start to see the source and the triggers. I don’t always feel attacked like I used to.
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 🙂
Elon musk. I’d want to know what he thought about my mixtape.