George Mumford

376: Embrace Your Greatness | Mindset Coach to Michael Jordan & Kobe

This week’s conversation is with George Mumford, a renowned author, coach, speaker, and elite performance expert. 

George is a legend amongst… well, more legends. Over his career, George’s clientele has consisted of world’s bests like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, countless other NBA stars, and a never-ending list of Olympians, CEOs, and artists. All of these elite performers have worked personally with George to embrace their greatness, unlock their potential, and become more authentically themselves. 

George has channeled his life’s work into two books: The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance and  Unlocked: Embrace Your Greatness, Find the Flow, Discover Success. In these, he uses both instructional wisdom as well as stories of personal pain and addiction to celebrate the challenge of being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

George and I dig into the dynamics of highly successful teams, mindfulness, what it means to unlock your masterpiece within, and how sometimes our darkest moments lead to our greatest revelations. Whether you’re someone in hot pursuit of a specific goal or someone who just wants to know yourself more fully, this one’s definitely for you.

“You’re competing against your previous best self. So it’s really about you. Because that’s the only thing you can control is you being you and you being the best version of yourself.”

In This Episode:

Being a trailblazer in performance coaching

Just after getting into recovery and dealing with chronic pain, I was just doing what was in front of me. I had no intention of being a trailblazer or anything, but I knew two things. I knew that if I wanted to really learn about this stuff, I had to teach it. The second thing I knew is if I wanted to keep it, I had to give it away. So the best thing I could do is share my experience, strength, and hope and just keep serving. That’s what happened.

Helping others

I think what got me over the hump was I realized that I could help people. I couldn’t do it for me, but I could do it for others, so this element of serving and just being willing to just meet things, embrace everything, and say yes to it. Then, change roadblocks into stepping stones. That’s pretty much it. I didn’t know, and I remember one of my teacher mentors, Jack Kornfield, said to me one time, “Man, you brought mindfulness and performance in a way that no one’s ever done that before.” I said, “Oh, I did? Really?” I wasn’t self-conscious. I was just really just doing what I knew to do and my intention was to help, and by helping others, I was helping myself.

Reveal the hidden parts of yourself

There are things that are hidden and there’s things that are going on that we don’t know about until they manifest. I’m still unlocking and I’m still… It’s like you have a bunch of stuff in the proverbial basement, and there’s a lot of good stuff and stuff not so good in that basement. When you open that door, that basement door is ajar, stuff is coming out. Some of the stuff that comes out is not helpful. Some of the stuff is helpful. What stops you from expressing it, like you said, it’s only when I can start to open and let what’s hidden reveal itself.

The masterpiece within

Here’s the challenge and the adventure of it. I have no idea how it’s going to happen, but it’s going to happen… I have to trust the masterpiece within, the wisdom within. If I have mindfulness where I can let things speak to me in its own language and understanding, knowing what am I supposed to do… I’m supposed to be in the moment, see what’s happening and relate to it in a way that empowers me and be in a growth mindset. It’s an opportunity and it’s a lesson.

What he learned from working with Kobe Bryant

I learned that you have to meet people where they are. You have to meet him where he is and help lead him. They call that leading and pacing in neuro-linguistic programming, NLP. It’s always about meeting people as they are, not trying to change them, but helping him to unlock, helping him to beat up his best version of himself. To me, he taught me how to trust that and the tenacity and the not never quitting and committing and being creative about his approach to things. He had this ability to expand things and say, “I’m going to do this,” and I don’t have to back away from it, but to see it as an opportunity and to meet that challenge with intelligence, with heart, and with a strong will.

What does it mean to be your best?

It’s creating space between stimulus and response, and in that space, you have the freedom and power to choose in alignment with your values and the goal that you have. Being your best means based on the intel you have, your mindfulness and the wisdom that knowing the basic essentials and what your goal is, being your best meaning having an intention and being able to express it honestly or sincerely or authentically.

No struggle, no swag

I like to say no struggle, no swag. It’s going to be a struggle, and if you’re struggling, you’re learning, and that’s how you build up your strength and your swag. Without both sides of the coin, you don’t have the result. You got to have both.


I’m trusting that if I embrace whatever comes up, and generate the hope that even if I make a mistake, I’m going to learn from it. It’s not about making a mistake, it’s about saying yes to it and being present for it and doing the best I can do based on what I know now, but trusting that it’s going to be a learning opportunity. The universe is friendly and I’m in alignment with how things are. I don’t have to deny or destroy or remove anything. I just need to be still and know. I need to stay in that eye of the hurricane and I’m going to see what I need to see. There’s a wisdom and creativity that comes out of that silence that is powerful and helps me to get to create to change the roadblock into a stepping stone.

Not always about results

It’s not the results, it’s the effort. That’s all we can control is our effort and our attitude and the results that happen are going to happen, but the thing is that’s when you’re still locked up and still locked because you think it should be this way instead of being with what is.

True self

When I talk about being real or the big S, the big self, is when you realize that there’s an illusion of separateness that we need to go beyond and realize that how I treat the other person is how I want to treat myself. If I want love, I got to be love. If I want peace, I got to be peace. If I want kindness, I have to be kind, so if I’m being hostile to you, that’s what’s going to come back to me…the true self is knowing the truth and letting the truth make you free. In other words, just seeing the other person as a spirit, somebody that has a masterpiece, somebody who wants to be happy just like I do, somebody who suffers like I do. We have to get to that point.

There is no one formula

When I went on my book tour for The Mindful Athlete, people got frustrated with me because they wanted me to give them a formula. The formula is there is no formula. Just being present and letting things speak to you, and then out of that insight, now you are acting because once you see clearly, you can behave clearly. Good actions need good images or good understanding of what’s happening. Great actions need great images, and need more clarity.

What makes a great team?

The way the Celtics were winning, I grew up in Boston, so the way the Celtics were winning those eight championships, my friends will say, “Well, the other team’s better, but they lose.” Well, Bill Russell said, “The best team always wins.” It’s the synergy. You may not have the same quality of individual players, but how you support each other, how you play, how you share not only value, but love and respect and all those things, but core values and a worthy cause. Everybody’s in line with that cause. That cause is whatever that is, and so you need that to matriculate through those stages. You don’t go from stage three to stage five right away. It takes time.

Holding up the mirror

Number one, you got to accept personal responsibility, and two, know that you make choices. Even if you don’t make a choice you’re making a choice, so you got to start with those two. Then, you got to be willing to look at your stuff, the good, the bad, the ugly and understand what you do well and leverage that and what you need to improve on to do that. I would say my formula is you got to know yourself to be yourself, to express yourself, to share yourself.

Be honest with yourself

Self-honesty is where the confidence comes from. Self-honesty is the most important thing. Know the truth and the truth shall make you fee and to thy own self be true. Even if we’re not being honest with ourselves and we’re presenting, there’s a lack of integrity. Integrity is power or integrity is workability, so being integritous or having integrity, which mean saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

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