Thrive Diary//

Thrive Diary: NBA Champion Andre Iguodala Says Winning Is More Than a Score

The debut author reveals the qualities of a winning team, both on and off the court.

It’s 9 a.m., and Andre Iguodala doesn’t want to talk about how he slept last night. “I don’t know if you’re going to like my answer,” the three-time NBA champion and Golden State Warriors 2015 finals M.V.P., says, laughing. After all, he’s here at Thrive Global: a company whose founder (and his friend), Arianna Huffington, is a self-proclaimed sleep evangelist. “Out of 10, my sleep score was about seven. I didn’t give myself enough time,” he shrugs. Iguodala, who himself has been an outspoken advocate of good sleep, is Thrive Global’s second tallest investor at 6’6” (Kevin Durant, a fellow Warrior, takes the helm at 6’9”). He’s in New York to start a press tour for the release of his memoir, The Sixth Man — just two weeks after the 2019 NBA finals, in which the Warriors lost to the Toronto Raptors. 

Iguodala has been a professional basketball player for 15 years, a long time in his field: He was drafted to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2004, did a quick stint with the Denver Nuggets in 2012, and then was traded to the Warriors in 2013, where he’s played the role of the sixth man, the first guy to go to court after the starters have done their thing. But Iguodala was used to being a starting player, and this wasn’t a change he welcomed with open arms. “When a starter is turned into a bench player, it’s just one of those moments when you begin to wonder if the end is coming sooner than you think,” he writes in his book. But guidance from his coach, Steve Kerr, helped change his perspective, and instead of looking at the change as a blow, he learned to believe in its purpose: to help his team find flow, and take titles. “I had been thinking of it all wrong. My job wasn’t to come in and create offense… It was always there. I was to find it for our team, to uncover it and deliver it,” he writes. 

Here are excerpts from Iguodala’s Thrive Diary (full video below), where he reveals his best advice for building connection with teammates, why everyone’s entitled to a bad day, and the dumbest thing he’s ever heard about sleep.

Thrive Global: You’ve just published your memoir, which you’ve worked on for the last several years, all while maintaining your peak athletic performance. What tips do you have for people who have concurrent, ambitious goals, and want to achieve at high levels?

Andre Iguodala: My advice for people that have these types of goals, especially the goals that take a couple of years, is to try to break it down. First, understanding that it’s going to take some time. Then, you break it down into little quarters and say, “This month we got four meetings, take them one at a time. You’re trying to get something accomplished by the end of this month.” And you start to realize you’re getting that rhythm, and you realize you’re making ground — although it will feel like it’s taking longer than you’d like. But just stay the course. Stay in the present, and understand that it’s a grind.

TG: Maintaining that level of excellence can take both a mental and physical toll on the body, which you wrote about in the book. What are your tips for rest and recovery, especially coming after this basketball season? 

AI: To recover and rest, it’s a long process actually. It’s euphoric, in terms of like, “It’s over.” That week after, I kind of just let go. I eat fried foods, I eat ice cream. That whole week is good for me to just get away from that strict regimen of being a vegan, making sure I get to bed at a certain time. Everything is kind of like a military-type schedule, and now I can just kind of let all that go. It’s almost like a vacation for the mind. But the shock on the body of all the bad things that go into it, it brings me back and I’m like, “Okay, live back in the present now. You had your chance to clear the mind, let’s get refocused.” And then I’m right back in: cleansing the body, cleansing the mind, getting back in yoga, getting back into meditation. Then it’s right back to the work schedule.

TG: In your chapter about finding flow, you wrote that, no matter how frustrated you were with something that was happening, you would not bring that negative energy into the locker room. Where do you channel your frustration, and how would you handle a conversation with someone who’s spreading negative energy? 

AI: If I was having a down day, instead of blasting music in the weight room, I say, “Can we have a silent day?” And I just lift through silence, through breaths — it’s kind of the yogi in me. To try to be centered, to start the day off, and then from there to kind of smooth things out. There are some really good personalities on my team, and in our organization, so just leaning on them on days like that and just trying to get through it is helpful. If anyone else is having a negative, down day, then “Debbie Downer” is one of the words I use a lot. Everyone is entitled to a bad day. Every day can’t be your best day. You’re not going to feel great all the time, so just being able to find a balance. Making them aware of it, but not making them feel bad for having a bad day. So something like, “Let’s not be Debbie Downers today.” 

TG: How do you communicate to someone higher up when you disagree with their advice or direction?

AI: So I’ve been able to hang around my profession for a really long time. Fifteen years is a really long time in my profession. I’ve been able to have some success and some experience that has allowed me to have a grandfather effect, where I’m allowed to say whatever. They respect it because I do all the things that the job tells me to do, from helping my teammates to being a leader, to showing up early, to leaving late, to being one of the hardest workers, to paying attention to detail in every facet of my profession. For anyone who doesn’t have the experience that I have, or doesn’t have the footing that I have within their organization, I say you gotta show by example that your opinion matters. So everyone will see when you’re working hard, when you’re doing the little things right, and when you’re sacrificing for the whole. Then your voice will be valued.

TG: You’ve described the last five years on the Warriors as feeling like “a circus, more than a rollercoaster.” Do you have any tips for thriving in a hectic, circus-like work atmosphere?

AI: Try to embrace the little things when you’re in a circus. You tend to have tighter bonds with those you work around that are going through the circus with you. I just texted one of my teammates yesterday, checking up on him: “How’s it going, how’s the family?” And really asking those questions, and really having a concern for those that you work with. You grow together with these people, and when you’re in the fire with these people, it makes for a tighter bond. You trust each other, you have better connections, and those are all recipes for success. 

TG: Is there a mantra that inspires you, or helps you stay focused? 

AI: I tell myself to stay present. You know, we can get into all kinds of situations or parts of the job that we don’t like. And the brain’s there telling you, “Just get it over with, just get it over with, I can’t wait until this gets over.” Those tend to happen from time to time. But I try to tell myself to embrace it, to stay in the present. By doing that, you learn more about yourself. It helps you become more patient, and I always tell people, “Difficult times make a better you when you get through them.”

TG: Describe your most successful failure. 

AI: I’ve had mistakes of overthinking a lot of things. That’s one thing that I do a lot: overthinking. And as athletes, there are so many voices, and so many opinions surrounding you, you can let those things seep in, and it has a huge effect on the brain. And I went through insomnia and anxiety in college, trying to figure out what was thought about me. All of that led — it was a long process — but it led to me see a sleep therapist. And once I saw a sleep therapist, my whole lifestyle changed around me. I went to yoga, meditation, changed my entire diet. And now everything I do, I do in detail. If there’s something I feel like can benefit me, I’ll do a really deep dive into it. So it’s led me to discover a lot of things about life.

TG: Do you still see a sleep therapist?

AI: I don’t. I feel like I’ve mastered sleep. Before I go to bed, I know if I’m going to have a good night of sleep or not. It’s important, because you want to be proactive and not reactive. When you can see what’s coming ahead, you’re in a pretty good position.

TG: What would you say to someone who feels like sleep is a luxury they can’t afford?

AI: For people who say sleep is a luxury they can’t afford, I’m pretty harsh about my response. I’d say that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. People don’t realize how important recovery is to the mind, to the body. It affects you physically, it affects you mentally. You know, especially in the community that I come from, we talk a lot about “Sleep is the cousin of death.” Or “I can’t sleep because someone else is going to pass me.” You know, I heard it growing up. It’s like, “While you’re sleeping, somebody else is working on their jump shot.” Looking back, you look at a lot of injuries. You look at a lot of [negative] mental health, you know? People can be unsure of themselves, or second guess themselves. Sleep can play a large factor in that. The mind is very fragile. And from what I’ve experienced and from what I’ve seen, and try to preach to friends, and people close to me, and co-workers, is that sleep can be the foundation of being balanced, and mentally healthy.

TG: You’ve said that the qualities of a winner aren’t always shown in stats, or analytics, but in life experiences. Do you identify as being a winner?

AI: I would like to be identified as a winner. I’ve had success. One thing I try to tell myself is to maximize myself, and to maximize the situation that I’m in. I’ve been on teams where we weren’t as talented, the bar wasn’t set too high for us, and we far exceeded expectations. Those are the things I was most proud of. So although we didn’t win the championship in certain years, or although we may not have made the playoffs in certain years, I was able to reflect and look back and say, “Listen, we got the most out of the whole group that we had.” And actually, those are the relationships that I’ve been able to build the strongest, and the relationships that have lasted the longest. The [groups] where you’re not expecting to do too well, you’re counted out, and you’re able to get through it and get the most out of yourself — I was most proud of that.

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