Jordan Babineaux: “Know your bank balance”

Know your bank balance. Financial literacy is a skill not taught in formal education. It will require an intention to build the necessary understanding needed to create wealth and use the money to create more value. I share this story because John empowered me to think big, tackle a tough challenge, provoke learning, and do […]

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Know your bank balance. Financial literacy is a skill not taught in formal education. It will require an intention to build the necessary understanding needed to create wealth and use the money to create more value.

I share this story because John empowered me to think big, tackle a tough challenge, provoke learning, and do my part to make positive change.

As a part of our series about sports stars who are making a social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jordan Babineaux.

Jordan Babineaux transitioned from nearly a decade of playing in the NFL to becoming a sports broadcaster, entrepreneur, business leader, and author of Pivot to Win: Make the Big Plays in Life, Sports & Business.

Jordan holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from Southern Arkansas University and is a 2021 Leadership Executive MBA graduate from Seattle University.

Today, Jordan provides commentary and analysis for the Seahawks gameday radio and TV broadcasts, and also offers keynotes, leadership training, and mindset coaching at Pivot to Win Inc.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to your career path in professional sports?

I grew up in Port Arthur, Texas surrounded by drug abuse and poverty — where the streets seemed like a faster way to make money. When my father passed away, I was eight years old. My brother, Jonathan (known as “Monsta”), and I are closest in age. Hearing and seeing mama’s struggles, he and I looked at one another and made a pact. I said to him: “When we grow up, we’re going to play in the NFL and make a lot of money, so mama never has to worry again.”

Now, statistically, we had a better chance of winning the lottery. But suddenly, the loss of my father left my mother to raise five kids on her own — each to graduate high school and college. My brother and I played more than 20 years in the NFL combined.

The biggest success factor for me is the ability to visualize. I had a big imagination at every level in my life to believe something greater was in store. Whether it was growing up in economic ruins and believing that one day I would travel the world, or being a Division II athlete and leaving to train with my brother and other Division I athletes for a chance to make it to the NFL. I genuinely believe that despite any of our circumstances, the power to engrain in our subconscious mind of something greater, our minds will attract all the things that can transcend our greatest dreams.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What were the lessons or takeaways that you took out of that story?

Learning to pivot after leaving the NFL was a series of experiences that impacted my life tremendously. I had to redefine success. It was no longer putting on a jersey, making big plays, or tackling Tony Romo before running into the endzone. I wanted to grow my platform into something bigger. This is a critical and ongoing theme that I discuss in my book PIVOT TO WIN.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

Never aspire to be like someone else, but rather learn from others and become the best version of yourself. I believe God put us each here to achieve great things. It’s up to you whether you think that for yourself too.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

As the youngest, I watched my older siblings set the standard for me to follow — education, sports, and achievement. It was my brother Monsta who pushed me to become my best self. In my senior year in college, I knew I needed to find an edge to make it to the NFL. I phoned my brother to ask for a chance to train with his college team. Not long after, I was on the road to Iowa to train with some of the best Division I athletes in the country at a top-notch football program. That entire summer, I worked just as hard as everyone else, sometimes harder, while trying to stay out of the way. I trained rigorously every day and slept on Monsta’s couch. Then I woke up and did it all over again. By the end of the summer, I left Iowa City exuberant and confident, believing I could play on Sundays without a doubt. I increased my weight and speed and returned to Southern Arkansas, demanding a cornerback position and a special team’s assignment. In 2003, my senior year, I earned D2 NCAA All-America First-Team honors as a cornerback and kick returner. I worked out in front of half of the 32 NFL teams and cast my ballot for a chance to make it to the league.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about what it is like being a professional sports player?

Everyone who plays in the NFL isn’t rich. While making it to the NFL is a rare feat, it doesn’t mean that every player is a cash cow or money tree. Successful, yes. The National Football League has a wide range of salary compensation levels. While it’s usually the quarterback who makes the most money (upwards of $15 million) annually due to the importance of the position, other NFL members, like practice squad players, make roughly eight thousand dollars a week.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

Since my childhood growing up in Texas, my mother instilled in my siblings and me the values of faith, education, and helping others. Achieving success is shallow if there isn’t a component of success associated with building the community. While I’ve given time and resources to fundraisers in the past, I became more intentional about this after not hiring someone who had a conviction history. Over two years ago, I began to work with nonprofits and organizations that help formerly incarcerated individuals break the reentry barriers to help reduce recidivism. I focused on second-chance employment opportunities due to the over 50,000 lateral consequences associated with formerly incarcerated to get employment, housing, open a bank account, or attain higher education. As a result, today, I’m working with Teresa Hodge, co-founder of Mission: Launch and R3 Score Technologies, as well as Sue Mason, co-founder and executive director of What’s Next Washington, to create a bridge between corporations and formerly incarcerated for successful reintegration into the community and those who are eager to re-enter the workforce. We educate companies about creating a safe work environment and providing a real-time risk assessment hiring process based on comprehensive and equitable data points that go beyond the standard background checks.

What methods are you using to most effectively share your cause with the world?

Earlier this year, I published my book, Pivot to Win: Make the Big Plays in Life, Sports & Business. The book’s underpinning is to help others and invites people, companies, and teams to cultivate a winning mindset, have a vision, build mental resilience, and turn adversity into opportunities. Additionally, to seek the change we want to see, we must confront old ways of thinking and embrace new beginnings. Through keynotes, interviews, roundtable discussions, we can no longer remain stagnant in the pursuit of equitable change.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

The pandemic has helped us recognize, more than ever, the power of connecting with others. As we look to the future, we have an opportunity to reflect on our thoughts, words, and actions. How can we take better care of our neighbors and our communities? How can we dismantle our biases and dismiss old practices and prejudices? How can we take a stand even if it feels uncomfortable? It will take bold action and awkward moments: we must stand up for what’s right, interrogate reality, and relentlessly pursue a more inclusive, sustainable world.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

One day, I interviewed a man applying for a driver position. I’ll call him John Doe to protect his privacy — John was personal, upbeat, spiritual, and wore a big smile. He was a good fit, and I wanted to offer him the job. After the interview, he told me that he had a convicted history. Now, I’ll admit I was taken aback at first and wasn’t sure what to say. I thought two things: One, “Damn! Another Black man in the system”; and two, more empowering, “How can I help?”

So, I researched employment laws. It turned out that, legally, I couldn’t hire him. And I learned something more distressing: if you’ve served prison time and want to return to work or school, get housing, or open a bank account, it’s an uphill battle. If you have a criminal record, you face more than 50,000 lateral consequences, making it nearly impossible to return to a normal way of life. And yet, I couldn’t let go of John’s story. I got to thinking about the tens of thousands of other people in his shoes. I became determined to find a way to help the formerly incarcerated create long-term economic stability and access second-chance employment opportunities.

What’s fascinating about it all is that it started with one simple act of listening and connecting with another human. Putting myself in John’s shoes helped me step outside of myself, get curious, learn more, and challenge my biases.

I share this story because John empowered me to think big, tackle a tough challenge, provoke learning, and do my part to make positive change.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Nurture strong relationships. It is often said we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. If this notion is accurate, and our network can influence our lifestyle, don’t waste time in meaningless conversations or with people who don’t contribute to helping you become your best self.

Know your bank balance. Financial literacy is a skill not taught in formal education. It will require an intention to build the necessary understanding needed to create wealth and use the money to create more value.

Refuse to take “no” for an answer. When you face a “no,” it means you’ve asked the wrong person. Sometimes the person who says no doesn’t even have authority. Don’t walk away without seeking the person who has the “yes” that you’re looking for. “No” could be the one thing standing between you and achieving your goal. Consider this approach the next time someone tells you no.

Guard your mind. In the “Strangest Secret” recording by Earl Nightingale, he reveals, we become what we think about. The fascinating part is whatever we impress upon on the subconscious mind, our brain is wired to find a way to make it happen.

Focus on what’s ahead. Whatever you focus on gets your attention. Life is like a magnifying glass that can burn a hole in a paper when it’s in pure focus. You, too, can ignite a fire when you focus on what’s in front of you. Stare into the rear-view mirror too long, and you’ll crash. Get back in the game and pursue the future you want. You may not accomplish all you find out, but you should find out all you can.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

I believe now more than ever that organizations must be responsible to the communities they serve. The U.S. system of capitalism was built to create divides of race and class and oppress minorities and underrepresented groups. Having pivoted away from sports, with more exposure to the business world, it has become apparent to me that Corporate America has inherited institutional racism.

Admittedly, some organizations acknowledge their practices and are actively doing something to create change rather than letting it be a “check the box” line item with no implementation. This is a two-part problem to address. Promoting sustainable change and improving DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) practices requires a culture change. Companies may want to create inclusive and more diverse workplaces. However, they are often unprepared to develop a successful transition. Why? Because it’s people who make companies, not algorithms and applicant screening processes.

Furthermore, the path to leadership positions remains discriminatory. The second part of incorporating better diversity practices includes a pipeline of qualified candidates. Indeed there are qualified candidates right now. It also means increasing the sources for talent pools and investing money year after year to ensure that black and brown-skinned people, women, formerly incarcerated, and individuals with learning disabilities have fair opportunities for job placement advancement.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

“It isn’t the strongest of the species to survive, nor is the most intelligent. It is the one who is most adaptable to change.” -Charles Darwin

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, 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 see this if we tag them 🙂

In the last two decades, I have had the rare opportunity to meet iconic sports figures, high-profile business executives, and movie stars. Icons that any kid or adult would want to meet — the late NBA great Kobe Bryant, Kevin Hart, Ice Cube. I was even teammates with the greatest receiver in NFL history, Jerry Rice. But, my two favorite athletes of all time that I would love to have dinner or a golf outing with are Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.

How can our readers follow you online?

My profile name is @jordanbabineaux across all platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring.

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