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“Stop paying attention to what other people are doing!”, With Dre Baldwin and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

To build habits: start by deconstructing your best performances. What did you do leading up to that performance, both physically and mentally? How did you train? What did you eat? What was your thought process — if you were thinking anything at all? The answers to these questions will help you to identify what creates your best outcomes. […]

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To build habits: start by deconstructing your best performances. What did you do leading up to that performance, both physically and mentally? How did you train? What did you eat? What was your thought process — if you were thinking anything at all?

The answers to these questions will help you to identify what creates your best outcomes. From there, test and iterate to find out which of those elements are actually causing success versus which merely correlate to your success.

The first step in stopping bad habits, is to recognize that you have them!

This is not always so easy, as habits become habits for a reason: they’re automatic and mostly unconscious. Start asking yourself why you’re doing some of the things you’re doing, and you’ll uncover some of your habits.

From there, start reviewing your habits the way a corporation reviews their employees: identifying what is helping and should be promoted, what is hurting and should be removed, and what can be adjusted to better contribute to the whole.

These “habit reviews” should be ongoing and constant — not just twice a year. I’m talking EVERY DAY.


As a part of our series about “How Athletes Optimize Their Mind & Body For Peak Performance”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dre Baldwin.

Dre is a former 9-year pro basketball player who traveled 8 countries in his career after walking on at an NCAA Division 3 school.

Dre is now a full-time entrepreneur who has authored 27 books and performed 4 TEDxTalks on Discipline, Confidence, Mental Toughness & Personal Initiative. He has over 135,000 subscribers on YouTube, and his daily Work On Your Game podcast has been downloaded over 3 million times.

Dre built his company, Work On Your Game Inc. on giving as much “game” as possible to many people as possible.

Link to Dre’s webpage: https://dreallday.com/


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?

Glad to be here with you!

I’m from Philadelphia, PA, and was always into sports. I started to focus exclusively on basketball at age 14, and finally felt like I was a “good” player (read: confident that I could play against anyone) by age 18.

In between all of that, my road to becoming a passable athlete was anything but smooth — but the challenges along the way helped toughen me mentally.

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

I always saw myself going into either entertainment or professional sports as an adult; at first I thought it would be football and then baseball, but by age 16 I knew it would be basketball — how to actually make it happen, however, was a different challenge altogether.

What I credit with inspiring me to make it was my competitive drive. I didn’t make my high school varsity team until my senior year — and didn’t play much even that season. No one saw a future for me in sports, but being a “late bloomer” as a player, my skills started to show after the point when most “elite” athletes get recognized as future pros.

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?

Though I had never been identified as a future “somebody” in basketball, one particular thing always kept me going: when people who didn’t know me saw me play as a teen, they often came away impressed — which told me that I had the tools to possibly make something of myself in the sports world.

Those who knew me, they knew my story and my background. They knew that I hadn’t made my varsity team until senior year, that I was never amongst the better youth players in my neighborhood. No matter what I did, those people couldn’t see past my undecorated past.

But, people who saw me with fresh eyes saw a player with talent, and me noticing that inspired me.

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?

That would be my junior year basketball tryouts in high school.

It was my third attempt at making the team — our school did not have junior varsity or freshman teams, only varsity — and I was finally feeling confident about my game. I was growing taller and could finally dunk, which is a huge rite of passage for a basketball player.

Plus, I had a vision of using my junior year of basketball as a warm-up for a dominant senior season, where I’d earn a college basketball scholarship and see my career take off from there. It would be straight out of a storybook!

Then came the actual tryouts.

I played terribly — actually, I wasn’t that bad, but the guy I was guarding played amazingly, scoring basket after basket on ME, in front of the whole school and the basketball team coach.

Even the coach was laughing at me by the end of that day.

Needless to say, I didn’t make the team my junior year.

That kind of experience would be a death knell for many young athletes, and I almost thought the same for myself.

Thing is, every time I tried envisioning myself doing anything else other than basketball, my vision came back to basketball. I gave it another shot, playing for a team at my local rec center that year, and rebuilt my confidence.

I made the team the following (senior) season.

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

  • Keep working on your game. Skills get you in the room; you will go nowhere without ability to play
  • Work on your Mental Game as well — your Discipline, Confidence & Mental Toughness. At the highest levels, everyone has talent. Skills get you in the game; mindset keeps you in the game.
  • Listen to your own intuition more than you listen to ANYONE else. You’ll have to bet on yourself sometimes.
  • Remember that this is a performance-based business: you must perform when you get your chance to stay in business.

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

Right now I am focused on The Overseas Basketball Blueprint, a book and framework I’ve created to help guide basketball players through their entire professional basketball careers.

Any player who is serious about playing professional basketball and joining the 1% of athletes who get paid to play already has this book.

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) Discipline. This is about the work you do behind the scenes, before the situation happens. The more focused and diligent you are in preparation, the better equipped you’ll be to handle whatever comes your way — even better, you’ll see it coming before it even happens.

Discipline can be monotonous and boring — which is why there’s opportunity in discipline: it’s the opposite of what most people want to do. Opportunity in life is ALWAYS in the opposites.

2) Confidence. On the other hand, everyone wants to be confident. Unfortunately (or fortunately), not everyone is willing to pay the price of confidence.

Discipline builds confidence: the belief that you can do something. The more confident you are, the more safe and poised you’ll be when in high stakes situations.

But what if you’ve never done something before and have to face it, what then?

In those cases, borrow your confidence: put yourself in the same mental state you think your favorite athlete would have in this same situation. Then, once you’ve handled it, you have your own experience to build on.

3) Mental Toughness. I define mental toughness as your ability to remain disciplined and confident despite the fact that your efforts have yet to produce the desired results.

Mental Toughness is your willingness to deal with challenging situations knowing that you’ll find a way to the other side of them, even when — especially when — things look their most bleak. You won’t win every game or defeat every opponent, but you can know that you’ll stick to your plans until you figure things out.

That’s the key word for Mental Toughness: UNTIL.

4) Personal Initiative. Going to things and initiating, rather than waiting for things to happen to or for you.

When you anticipate a high stakes situation on the horizon, do what you can to prepare for it before it happens. Visualization, film study, practice, all the disciplines that you, as a top athlete, should already be doing anyway.

(Bonus) 5) Visualization. This is one of the best tools for athletes in high stakes situations. Literally, see yourself doing what you plan to do — in the game, on the game-winning shot, in your career — before you do it.

The human brain does not differentiate between imagination and reality. The more you can focus on your visualization, to the point that you can feel it emotionally, the stronger the imprint that image makes on your brain, and the more you experience it internally as if it actually happened.

(This is also a great way to get “experience” when you don’t have any.)

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

Taking deep belly breaths is part of my daily yoga and meditation routines.

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

Yes — it’s called “stop paying attention to what other people are doing!”

Social media is the main tool that distracts us these days — it’s an endless feed of “news” that’s not actually news. If you wish, you can keep your mind occupied literally 24/7 with other people’s affairs and other people’s comments on those affairs. None of which has any bearing on your life and definitely not on your future success.

The simple technique: pay less attention to other people. Log off social media and focus on your future (which doesn’t involve talking about other people’s business).

This creates time and space for you, and allows you to harness the force-multiplying power of focus.

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

1) Drink LOTS of water. I aim to surpass my bodyweight in ounces of water per day (i.e., if you weigh 200 pounds, consume at least 200oz of water daily).

2) Sport-specific functional training. This is training that is targeted for the specific movements of a sport or even a certain aspect of a sport.

3) Stay away from anything that doesn’t make you better. You don’t need to hire a nutritionist to know that ice cream, soda and potato chips won’t help you to perform in the fourth quarter of a game. So stop eating them!

4) Hire a trainer. If you are a player, that is your focus: playing. A trainer’s focus is getting your body in peak shape for playing at your best. Both of you should be positioned to do what each of you does best.

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?

Habits are everything for professionals. The delivery of consistent results are a result of consistent habits, executed over time.

Every successful professional, inside and outside of sports, has a bevy of habits they perform over and over again, some to the point that they never even have to think of them.

For me as a professional athlete, every day is scripted and planned to the minute. Everyone who knows me knows exactly what I’m doing and where to find me at certain times each day.

Those habits and routines create predictable performance levels.

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?

To build habits: start by deconstructing your best performances. What did you do leading up to that performance, both physically and mentally? How did you train? What did you eat? What was your thought process — if you were thinking anything at all?

The answers to these questions will help you to identify what creates your best outcomes. From there, test and iterate to find out which of those elements are actually causing success versus which merely correlate to your success.

The first step in stopping bad habits, is to recognize that you have them!

This is not always so easy, as habits become habits for a reason: they’re automatic and mostly unconscious. Start asking yourself why you’re doing some of the things you’re doing, and you’ll uncover some of your habits.

From there, start reviewing your habits the way a corporation reviews their employees: identifying what is helping and should be promoted, what is hurting and should be removed, and what can be adjusted to better contribute to the whole.

These “habit reviews” should be ongoing and constant — not just twice a year. I’m talking EVERY DAY.

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?

In sports, you’ll hear it referred to as “The Zone.” You don’t feel or think anything; every movement feels effortless, even when you’re fatigued. You experience the game at a level of consciousness that no one else is at; you perform in a way that surprises everyone — maybe even yourself — at times.

Getting into this flow/zone state is achieved by 3 things.

1) Less thinking. Flow is unconscious — thinking is conscious. Thinking, about anything, is the exact opposite state you want to be in when you want to get into the zone.

2) Prepare your bump off. It’s hard to get into a state of unconsciousness and not thinking when you haven’t done the preparatory work up front. When you’re unprepared, you can’t help but to think about what’s in front of you!

Do the work ahead of time so that when it’s time to perform, you don’t need to think about anything.

3) Have a clear objective. This flow state of less thinking is nearly impossible to reach when your mind is juggling multiple ideas, goals and what-if scenarios. To get into your zone, you need ONE idea to follow, one outcome. Your mind focuses best when its goals are clear and simple.

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

I use the Calm app for a minimum of 30 minutes daily, during my daily yoga practice and when reviewing my goals.

I don’t sit cross legged with my eyes closed — that uncomfortable for me, and I’d probably fall asleep! — but meditation isn’t about that. It’s about clearing your mind and giving your brain a “reset.” There’s no right or wrong to it.

And, meditation is a practice: it prepares you for the active part of your day when you’ll need to relax and center your mind. The meditation time is designed to get you ready for that.

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?

Repeating negative self talk in the mind is like watching a bad movie over and over again. You’ve already seen the movie and decided that it was no good — why would you pay to watch it again?

You have to start looking at negative chatter as what it actually is: a bad funding in your future. Everything you do is an funding: an input today that produces an output tomorrow. Every thought, word and action is either making you better or making you worse.

Every negative thought that you catch yourself having, must be replaced with a positive thought — or even better, 2 or 3 positive thoughts — to cancel out the negative. And, using your visualization skills, you need to internalize these positive thoughts, not merely verbalize them.

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?

That’s the only thing I’ve been doing since I started!

My brand started with me sharing material for improving at basketball, then evolved into Mental Game materials and then overall personal growth and development. Today I still do those things, along with helping people advance in their business and sports careers.

If I wasn’t giving people value, I would have no resume to speak of.

My business grows only one way: by making other people better and showing them how to keep the process going even after finishing the book or after the speech is over or the consulting call ends.

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

My favorite quote is “Work On Your Game” — one reason being that I created it, and because it will be forever connected to me.

I’ve always believed that people need to be their own inspiration at times, as we won’t always be able to call on others or watch someone’s video to get ourselves activated.

This quote inspires anyone to run off of your own energy — which is the peak of self-reliance!

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 🙂

Curtis Jackson aka 50 Cent.

I don’t know Curtis, but he’s been a virtual mentor of mine for a long time. He came back from the ultimate defeat — a near death experience — and achieved the American Dream in bouncing back from it.

I’ve always admired Jackson’s objectively sharp views on life and his insights into people and situations, in addition to his music and TV content. I think I could learn many great thought frameworks by sitting down with Curtis.

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