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“How to optimize your mind and body.” with Uchenna Agu

The body follows the mind. Finding ways to achieve more mental strength and a disciplined mind is the best way to achieve optimal performance in everything we do. When I assess where I am and what I am experiencing in my life, there is a direct correlation to my mental strength and the level of […]

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The body follows the mind. Finding ways to achieve more mental strength and a disciplined mind is the best way to achieve optimal performance in everything we do. When I assess where I am and what I am experiencing in my life, there is a direct correlation to my mental strength and the level of discipline I have. Discipline may be hard at first. However, discipline offers life and freedom. Discipline can have a negative connotation, but, in reality, discipline is power.

Asa part of our series about “How Athletes Optimize Their Mind & Body For Peak Performance”, I had the pleasure of interviewingUchenna E. Agu.

Uchenna Agu has had an amazing life. After the devastating loss of his job at Enron and the complete exhaustion of his family’s life savings, he found a unique way to get back on track: He entered and won the CBS reality challenge show The Amazing Race.

On the heels of his success on the Emmy Award winning CBS show, he became a motivational speaker — giving speeches on teamwork, Adventure Travel and Living Boldly. He is regularly invited to give motivational talks to Fortune 500 companies, which include Procter and Gamble, GE, ConAgra Foods, The Four Seasons Hotels and M&M MARS. He’s also been invited to speak and co-host television and radio shows across the US.

Still, Uchenna remains grounded with a strong affinity for community involvement. He has found a way to use his 15 minutes of fame for philanthropic endeavors in Houston. While his desire to help others has always been in his heart, his travels around the world, competing on The Amazing Race really brought action into focus. Uchenna’s global travels exposed him to the joys and pain of humanity, including poverty, hunger and homelessness. Seeing these same issues in his own backyard made it clear where to start.

“After circling the globe twice, my view of the world and my role in it was changed forever. Hunger being one of our most wide spread issues, we set out to raise awareness, inspire action and create change in our community, using reality entertainment to gain tangible results in the community through (Fun)draising™ and volunteerism”.

In 2009, Uchenna developed and produced a new “home grown” reality show, The Great Raise, an adventure challenge for charity. The first installment aired in Houston TX, in the fall on KHOU-CBS affiliate. The show ultimately raised $10 million for the Houston Food Bank. The Great Raise proved to be a “win-win” for the Houston community, sponsors and the charity.

Uchenna has involved himself in expanding the global experience of elementary school children thru EarthTrek. A curriculum supplement for 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students that simulates his Amazing Race journey while including Math, Reading, science, Social Studies and Geography. Learn more at http://earthtrekgames.com.

Uchenna has accumulated over 20 years, of sales, marketing and business building experience, with KING-NBC, Phillip Morris, Emery, Level(3) Communications and ENRON. With his extensive business building experience, he has enjoyed consulting small and midsize businesses executives to “Next Level Growth” thru his firm the UEA Group. Today, Uchenna is Vice President of North American Sales for Champions + Legends, a company that produces and sells CBD based sports supplements for athletic preparation, performance + recovery.

Even after receiving two City of Houston Proclamations and an official day in his name, he’s always on the lookout for his next great adventure; Uchenna Agu is “Still Racing.”

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?

Iwas born and raised in inner-city Los Angeles by a single mom and public-school teacher who devoted her life to exposing me to life’s possibilities outside of our circumstances. We lived very modestly. My mom always pushed me to dream bigger and have confidence in myself and my abilities. My mom — my first guide and mentor — taught me to be grateful and find joy in everything you can. All that I am and hope to be, I owe to my mother.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high level professional athlete? We’d love to hear the story.

Growing up an only child, I naturally migrated to the physical versus the academia. If there was a competition, I was there, no matter what it was. Being good at sports was a way of fitting in and making friends. Another motivator to excel was finding a way to pay for my education beyond high school. It became clear early on that if I were going to college, I would have to find a way to pay for it. My mom had sacrificed so much to keep me in good schools through high school. Athletics were the way to take my natural talent to the level where colleges would offer me a scholarship. It worked.

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?

I went to a small military high school and was the only track athlete from my school to qualify for the state meet each year. Mr. Larry Rice, a science teacher who was also a big track and field fan, would drive me to the big meet each year. On those road trips, Mr. Rice would tell me stories about the Olympics and other great track and field athletes. He helped me pick colleges to go to and sent my stats to them as if he were my coach. Together we narrowed down the prospects to two choices. Basketball at UNLV or Track and Field at Oregon. Oregon won out.

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?

One year I was able to compete in the Texas Relays in Austin where all the top U.S. Track and Field athletes would congregate for a showdown. The field at this meet would largely make up the upcoming US Olympic team. At that point I wasn’t yet ranked on the world rankings (better than 20th). I mistakenly got on the wrong bus heading to the stadium and found myself in the van with the person, who, at the time, was the fastest man in the world. Feeling quite stupid, I made myself look as inconspicuous as possible. During the ride, I overheard a statement by that athlete that would change how I looked at competition forever. I heard him say, “Yes, he’s currently got a faster time this year so far, but I have the edge. He doesn’t think he can beat me. He’s questioning himself right now. Any man here can be beaten but only by the person who believes they can. I’m going to break the American record today. He doesn’t know why he’s here.” In that moment, I learned that we can only go so far physically, but our mental strength and our belief can take our physical abilities to another level. I achieved a personal best that day and a huge mental shift that carried me through the remainder of my college career.

What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your career?

I would be honored that my journey could act as an inspiration to a young person. However, I would encourage them exceed my achievements tenfold and make their journey truly their own with their unique stamp. I would share that what has been done is their steppingstone to achieve more. It is their unique destiny to go beyond the horizons they have already seen.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’ve spent most of my adult life seeking ways to make a difference in the lives of others. The most interesting and truly exciting project I’m currently working on now is bringing the Champions + Legends CBD sports supplements to the masses. Athletes and active people all over the world are realizing great benefits from using CBD for pain management, inflammation control, muscle and joint soreness, relief from anxiety and much more. The Champions + Legends product line is designed for people who want to maintain an active lifestyle and formulated with elite athletes in mind. We’ve created a series of CBD products that meets the three phases of the athletic or workout journey — prepare, perform and recover. With these products, we feel that people can naturally achieve their goal of being the best version of themselves.

Globally, more people than ever, are seriously looking at longevity through mental and physical fitness. Activity, both physically and mentally is the key to longevity. Champions + Legends offers tools to aid in that pursuit and I’m honored to be a part of a team dedicated to that cause.

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?

1. Trust in your preparation — Never question if you are ready.

2. No plan B — I was once told that “Plan B” is relief from the sting of failure and robs us of our hunger to succeed.

3. Expect success even in the face of challenges and especially naysayers.

4. Focus on the joy that started you on this journey to begin with and keep it in your sights.

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques to help optimize yourself?

I’ve learned that everything starts with a foundation of breathing. I’m just learning about the different forms of breath work and am finding it helpful in achieving focus, controlling anxiety and positively energizing myself. There is so more to learn.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

In sport, I know how to clear away distractions and get laser focused. In full transparency, in these days of the pandemic, social isolation, civil unrest, and a general sense of unknown, there seems to be far more distractions to manage and process during day to day life. I now turn to yoga, meditation and breathwork to calm my mind, find the focus to zero in on my goals.

How about your body? Can you share a few strategies that you use to optimize your body for peak performance?

The body follows the mind. Finding ways to achieve more mental strength and a disciplined mind is the best way to achieve optimal performance in everything we do. When I assess where I am and what I am experiencing in my life, there is a direct correlation to my mental strength and the level of discipline I have. Discipline may be hard at first. However, discipline offers life and freedom. Discipline can have a negative connotation, but, in reality, discipline is power.

I also use CBD every day to help me focus and execute in everything I do. When I need a little boost, I use CBD. When I’m recovering after a workout, I use Champions + Legends recovery products like the muscle rub or roll-on gel to help me feel better before the end of the day and ready to attack the next day.

These ideas are excellent, but for most of us in order for them to become integrated into our lives and really put them to use, we have to turn them into habits and make them become ‘second nature’. Has this been true in your life? How have habits played a role in your success?

This has been true in my life. I face the consequences of my habits daily. Consistency is the way to create habits that become “second nature” to us. That works for both creating success as well as failure. The successes I have had are directly related to my habits and the small choices I make hourly, daily, weekly etc. I am “on it” sometimes and there have been stretches where I’m not. We’re all a masterpiece in the making, one moment and one choice at a time.

Can you share some of the strategies you have used to turn the ideas above into habits? What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

I believe if we can consistently picture ourselves where we want to be and behave in accordance with that belief, bad habits will be less of an obstacle because were so focused on the goal. Our minds can follow only one belief at a time. The longer we focus on one thing, momentum begins to take over. That’s when I’ve seen my greatest successes, through consistent focus over time.

As a high performance athlete, you likely experience times when things are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a mind state of Flow more often in our lives?

That flow or “the zone” happens when you’ve done faithful work during the times when no one was around and worked hard through the painful moments and discouraging moments, only drawing from what’s in your heart to motivate you. That process makes you strong mentally as well as physically. By the time you get to the performance stage, you are in your joy physically and mentally, then the flow just comes, you’re in the zone and you are GONE!

Do you have any meditation practices that you use to help you in your life? We’d love to hear about it.

Breath work and yoga is a great foundation to start with. I’ve found that my breathing is the key to deeper more fulfilling meditation.

Many of us are limited by our self talk, or by negative mind chatter, such as regrets, and feelings of inferiority. Do you have any suggestions about how to “change the channel” of our thoughts? What is the best way to change our thoughts?

I was told most recently, that in most cases the majority of our thoughts are negative and what separates the good from the great is the percentage of positive thoughts they have coupled with their ability to block out the limiting thoughts — both internal and those coming from external sources. It’s important to focus on self-talk positive statements like “I can” and “I will” vs “I can’t” or “I don’t want.” This practice holds true no matter what you are pursuing, be it athletics, education, career, relationships etc.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’m most fulfilled when I’m directly involved in helping people make shifts to realize their potential and set them on a path to their individual successes. What does that mean? It means people from all walks and at all levels need support in some way. I’ve found that the successes I’ve experienced are never as important to a person whom I encounter as their need to be seen or heard and shown that they can make it. I could list the charities and foundations I’ve supported and tally how much money I’ve raised but the most gratifying thing has been when I’m able to have personal contact and make an impact with people in need.

The last ten years I’ve made a shift vocationally to only doing work that makes a difference for people. I’ve worked in the fitness space working with kids up to professional athletes. Then moved into healthcare in the pain management space which eventually lead me to Champions + Legends a CBD based sports supplement producer. CBD is making a difference for many people. Naturally helping people manage pain and inflammation management as well as anxiety without harsh and often addicting pharmaceutical drugs.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

I was once told by a mentor (I’ve been fortunate to have had many in my life) that, “the most noble thing I can do, is to leave whatever or whomever I touch, better than how I found them.” This quote resonates with me most currently because of what I’m seeing in the world today. There is so much disconnection in our society that people are forgetting that contribution is why we’re on this life journey. If we all looked for ways to contribute and improve, we would not have as much civil, social and political unrest we are experiencing.

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 🙂

Barack Obama — Because of his journey balancing public service, family, statesmanship and the business of the United States. I would like to understand how he managed to stay at peak performance throughout his term amidst the great and continuous opposition he faced from within government and from the public who resisted him because of race.

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