This is an excerpt from Finding Mastery #093 with Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton, in which he describes the mindset required to make it at the pro level in sports.


Michael Gervais: Will you teach your children those same qualities?

Luke Walton: That’s tough. I literally debate with myself all the time on that because what I want for my children is for them to have the greatest opportunities to feel all the love in the world from me, to know they know I’m there to support them. My life is there to help them pretty much. But I feel like they’re not going to develop that type of mindset, you know what I mean? To have that type of mindset…

Michael Gervais: It comes from a craziness. Yeah it’s like an unsettled razor’s edge. That intensity can burn inner and outer. It is literally playing with fire.

Luke Walton: It is and I think even to a way lesser extent like I think that’s why I was able to make it in the NBA. I had three brothers. I was the third of four. We grew up in San Diego. It wasn’t like I had to make it to the NBA to get out of a bad situation, but I was a very shy kid. I didn’t talk to anyone except for my brothers until I was probably like 10 years old. I felt uncomfortable a lot, I wasn’t into socializing at all, but when I played basketball I felt at home, I felt ease, I felt peace, and it made it so that’s all I ever wanted to do. I did it every single day. As a player I have this burning inner drive, especially if we’re competing, to literally do anything to win. I haven’t broke down enough into my childhood psychology of what exactly that came from but there was something in there that was driving me everyday whether it was raining outside or not to be in that yard playing. Back to the original point, with my own children, I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that. I’m hoping that in our friendship and our growth together here, you’ll guide me because your kid is nine, my oldest is three.. So you’ll go through this before me. You can kind of advise me on it because I don’t know the answer to that.

Michael Gervais: But that’s why I asked the question too because I don’t know either. I’ve got some real thoughts about how to guide and a philosophy on being a dad but this is the reason I fired up this podcast too is to be around people that have had really unique experiences in life. Particular world views and done exceptional things. And to understand like how do we deconstruct and to better understand what they’ve done to pass it on to the next generation. Use it for ourselves in the best possible way and then pass it to the next. And I’ll tell you what I see. Couple of observations just about kids. I see my friends and I see coaches that I coach with up at the Seahawks or wherever I am that they are the most chill on the sidelines during the youth league games. There’s a couple that are knuckleheads you know. But that’s also reflected in the way that they do life. But for the most part this is the guiding thought: it’s really hard to be great in sport and so you’ve got to spend a lot of time doing it and you won’t spend enough time doing it if you don’t love it. So let’s create an environment where the kids love what they do.

Luke Walton: Well let me speak on that because this is part of why I love your podcast is you’re creating a community where let’s get all this stuff out here and share and brainstorm which is how I like teaching anyways. My coaching staff and I do sessions like this all the time. Let’s pick what we like out of it and see how that works and move on. I get approached by parents of eight-nine year olds all the time asking, “When did you start playing? How did your dad teach you? I’m telling him he needs to do this and that.” There just so involved in what they’re trying to get their kid to become. And I tell them, I say, “Listen that’s not my experience at all.” My dad never said a word. He would come to our games and he would sit there in silence. After the game he’d say, “Hey do you want my opinion on what I saw there?” And if I was pissed off and not in the mood I’d say, “No.” And he’d be like, “Ok.” And then later that night when I calmed down, I’d come back and be like, “Hey dad let me hear it.” He’d tell me his opinion on what I need to work on or what I need to do better. But there was never that push. In fact it was the opposite. Every day he would say, “Luke you don’t have to play basketball. Find something you love in life, whatever your passion about it. Music. If you love music, follow music. If it’s you know school or business go do that, don’t play basketball because you think you have to because I did.” And it was almost annoying because basketball is what I loved. It’s all I wanted to do and I’d say, “I get it Dad, thank you. I appreciate it.” But to your point, you have to love it. And the only way you know if you love it, is if you let the kids do it. Let them experience it. There’s times where I agree like, hey, don’t let them quit midseason. If he doesn’t like it still make them stick the season out so you know he at least gets a life lesson of you stick out commitments but don’t force. Don’t force kids to do something. Don’t be the overbearing parent that makes it unfun for the kid because once you lose that joy, you’re not going to make it anyways.

Michael Gervais: It’s too hard and it takes too long. You have to spend too many hours on a deep, relentlessly, deep focus, nauseatingly deep focus to really reveal potential.


Listen to full podcast here.


Luke Walton is the current head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. He played 10 seasons in the NBA as a forward, and won two NBA championships with the Lakers and won one with the Golden State Warriors as an assistant coach.