Here is the full text of motivational speaker Molly Fletcher’s talk titled “Unleashing Your Potential” at TEDxEmory conference. Molly Fletcher is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker and former sports agent. She is the founder of the Molly Fletcher Company, based in Atlanta, Georgia.
Molly Fletcher – TEDx Talk TRANSCRIPT
What fun! It’s awesome to be here. What an honor! I tell you what: Wow!
Listen, you know I have felt so fortunate over the last 20 years to have the opportunity to work with some of the best athletes and coaches in the world. It’s been fascinating and I’ve always been so interested in how they do what they do and how they do it at such a high level consistently day after day after day.
And what I believe is that [us] wherever we may be in our lives, wherever we may be in this wonderful world, have so much that we can learn from these athletes and coaches that execute so consistently at a high level.
So I think there are sort of five things that I want to sort of walk through that I think are paramount in sort of shifting your behavior in the absence of crisis. So in other words, we hear the word potential so much, right? People talk about potential.
Well, why do these athletes so often reach that potential? How do they maximize it and how do we take those processes that they capture each and every day and insert that into our own lives, to improve what we do and how we do it?
So I think at the most basic level we have to believe in what we do and why we do it, right? So one of the guys that I’ve worked with for years is an unbelievable guy, John Smoltz. John Smoltz is a guy that I believe certainly believes in his ability to execute as a pitcher. John was a pitcher in the big leagues, pitched for the Braves for years, a right-handed pitcher and had great success.
Well, for 10 of the 14 years that the Atlanta Braves went to the division series, John was a really big part of that process. And he was a starting pitcher. So he would come out at the beginning of games, right, every four or five days and he would pitch and he would start and he would throw 80 or 90 pitches right and then four or five days later he would do it again. John won Cy Young, he had incredible success, and was a part of the Brave’s success.
Then in about 2001, he struggled and had Tommy John surgery and had some issues physically but then in 2000 — late in 2001 the organization came to us and to him and said, “Hey, listen, you know what! He’s an unbelievable star. He’s had great success but we don’t have a guy inside of our organization right now that we want to close for us. So we don’t have a guy that can come in the 8th or 9th inning and finish the games for us.” And we feel like John can step up and do that role.
Well, nobody believed that he could, because John had had a lot of injuries — he’d dealt with some issues. But John at the core believed that he could. Writers and folks in the media were saying, “Boy, I don’t know if this guy can actually handle this transition physically, mentally; it’s a whole different deal.” And that in many ways was what motivated John to want to do it.
John said, “You know what, everybody doesn’t think I can do this but I know I can close now.”
So he accepted the opportunity to be the closer and in that very year he came out in 155 — closed 55 games, had 55 saves, unbelievable, set a new NL record. So not only was he a Cy Young winner as a starter but he also set records as a closer as well.
But what it was was John didn’t let the negative influences from the world, from the media, from anything else come into his mind and tell him ‘you can’t make this change’, you can’t make this change from being a marathon runner right to a sprinter but he could and he believed he could.
So I think when we think about unleashing our potential, when we think about maximizing our abilities in our own lives, the first step in that process is to send ourselves the right messages, to send ourselves messages that allow us to believe that we can in fact execute at the highest level that we have that potential.
The second thing that I think is paramount is our ability to ensure that we discover who we are and the gaps in the world in which we live and how in fact we can actually potentially close those gaps for ourselves personally and for the world that we live in to add value.
So I’ll give you an example kind of a personal story.
In 1993, I graduated from Michigan State and I had this passion to be in the business of sports. But like most of us at 21 or 22 we’re not sure quite what that might look like. But I got my Honda Accord in Lansing, Michigan where I grew up in a wonderful family and I packed up my Honda Accord and I had about 2000 bucks in my back pocket because my folks were kind enough to let me live at home after I’d graduated for a few months and teach tennis at a little park nearby.
So I taught tennis, made two grand, put it in my back pocket and drove to Atlanta without a job. And my college coach from Michigan State I played tennis there was kind enough to give me three names of three coaches that she said would be able to help me. And I had this philosophy at 21 or 22 that if you ask for advice you get a job, and if you ask for a job you get advice, right?
I think the same thing is true in business, right, if you ask for the business, sometimes you just get advice. And if you ask for advice sometimes you get the business.
So I get my car, I drive down to Atlanta, and my parents thought well this will be about two to three weeks top, she’ll be back driving north on 75 back home to come back and live with us and find a job here.
Well I got down to Atlanta and I woke up and one of my friends from high school was kind enough to let me live on the floor of her apartment for a couple weeks until I could find a place to live and get a job and sort of start tapping into my two grand which I didn’t want to tap into too quick.
So I get up that first morning and this is before cellphone, so I’m exposing my age a little bit. But I get up and I call from the landline there at the little apartment and I call this one Pro who my coach had given me the name of. And I said, “Hey listen, I played tennis at Michigan State. You know I want to teach tennis and I’m trying to kind of get into my space in Atlanta. I want to be in the sports marketing business but I’m thinking you know maybe you might have some nice people in Atlanta they’d be kind enough to give me some advice, because I really want to pursue my passion of sports.”
And he said, “Well, you know that’s interesting” and we got to chatting for a minute. He said, “You know you may not know this but in Atlanta you can teach tennis in exchange for your rent.”
And I said, “Wow! Man, I got to get one of those deals right, that sounds like a sweet situation.” I said what do you mean?
And he goes, “Well, people teach tennis at apartment complexes in exchange or for reduced rate on their rent.” And he said, “In fact, there’s this property great location in Atlanta where the Pro is actually leaving. He’s been teaching at the property for a long time but he’s actually leaving the property and I don’t even think he’s told the manager yet,”
And I said you got to be kidding me where is this place, right, I got to go over there.
So I get my car, I drive over to this place and I walk in and I said, “Hey how are you? I played tennis in college. You know I see of a court, I wondered if by any chance you know I could talk to you about teaching tennis to your residents.”
And she said, “Oh well, I appreciate you stopping by. You know we have a Pro and he’s amazing, he’s doing a great job. You know and we’ve had him forever and we’re good.”
And you know when you’re like 21, how you go to Kinko’s or wherever and you make your little business cards and they’re super bootleg right and they’re sort of paper-thin but you’re so pumped because you actually have a business card now. So I had my business card that I had made that had nothing on it but my name. And I walk in and I said, “Well, hey,” I said, “here’s my card, why don’t you keep this and if anything changes you know let me know and we can stay connected.”
She said, oh yeah I appreciate it but you know like I said he’s been here, he’s awesome.
I said great.
So I drive out. I drive across street and I see this little pizza place called Perro’s Pizza and I see this little place and I thought to myself, man, I wonder if that place sells a lot of pizza to that apartment complex, because boy they should, you know a bunch of folks 21 years old 22 whatever it is, they probably love a $15 dinner and it’s right across the street. So the best way to figure that out is just go over to this pizza place.
So I walk in and I said “Hi, is Mr. Perro there?”, thinking that was a pretty good guess, right. Mr. Perro was Mr. Perro here. And they said, “Oh, as a matter of fact he is.” She said, “Just a minute. Is everything okay?”
I said, you know I just had a quick question for him. So out walks this guy in all black, he’d been back there throwing dough making pizzas right and he comes walking out and I said hey, I said Mr. Perro? He said yes. I said, “Can I just ask you a quick question?” He said sure.
I said, “Do you sell lot of pizza to that apartment complex across the street because it feels like you should, I mean they’re right there man.”
And he goes, “You know that’s a great point.” He said, “You know we sell a little bit.” He’s sort of looking around at the folks in there kind of getting hot, you know like why don’t we sell a lot of pizza to that apartment complex?
And I said yeah, I mean it feels like you should. He said no question.
And I said, “Well, listen, what if we work something out where like you gave me 15, 20 free pizzas a month, and I gave them to the apartment complex to all the residents at the tennis clinic and we could maybe put a little coupon from Perro’s Pizza in the newsletter that the residents get at the first of every month. You know and you just give me the free pizzas.”
And he said, “Wow!” He said, “so 15, 20 free pizzas a month and you’ll put a little coupon in the newsletter that the residents get?”
I said exactly.
He goes, “Done, I love it.”
I said okay but listen, man, I don’t have the deal yet. But when I get it I’ll be back and we’ll work it out. And he goes, ‘Love it. Let me know.’
So I go back over to my friend’s apartment and I pick up the phone and I call my buddies at Wilson Sporting Goods. They gave me rackets when I played in college and I said “Hey, can I ask you a huge favor?” I said “Listen, would you help me up in like send me a box of like tennis rackets, you know, keychains, water bottle, t-shirts, I mean just anything good stuff; I’m trying to get this deal to teach tennis for a reduced rate on my rent.”
And he goes, “Wow! Molly”, he said, “yeah you know I’ll do that for you. I’d be happy to.”
And I said okay, great but like I need it tomorrow.
So he goes, ‘Done.’
So I get this box the next day and meanwhile I run over to Kinkos actually again and I print off these little articles that I’d written in this little paper in Lansing, you know, on how to hit a forehand and a backhand like little tennis steps. So I print that off, like 15 of them because I’m thinking this would be really cool to put in the newsletter to all the residents, right.
So I’m thinking I’ve got to wait a couple days because I’ve got to make sure that the Pro has told the lady because you know how you only have so many shots to walk back in before somebody sort of politely escorts you out of that place. So I wait about a day or so and then I go back over to the property.
And I said “Hey how are you? I’m Molly, I play tennis.”
And she goes “Oh my gosh, I am so glad you’re back.” She said it’s unbelievable, she said I couldn’t find your card, she said but our Pro came in and he’s leaving the property.
I go “No, you’ve got to be joking me. This is incredible.” He goes yeah, he said it’s incredible timing, this is amazing. I said unbelievable. I said well you know I was actually just coming by to bring you this box of stuff because I called my buddies at Wilson and I tell her about these little articles that I’d written, I said oh by the way you know I talked to this pizza place across the street. I said they’re going to give us free pizza to give to all the residents and she goes well, this is fantastic.
And I said well how did it work with a pro, you know what was the deal?
And she said he just taught tennis one night a week on Tuesday nights for an hour, and I said so he could go get a job — another job during the day. And she said exactly. And I said wow that’s awesome.
I said well how did it work? And she said well you know the rent is 850, we gave him 500 bucks off the rent every month and he paid the difference of 350 on the first of every month.
I said oh wow. I said you know I mean the Wilson stuff, you know that we do this hit for prizes program and I said did you have that deal with the pizza place across the street because no, no it’s great. And I said you know what I said, listen, why don’t we just waive it, you know just waive the rent straight up, you know just 850 straight up waive it, you know, it’s cleaner it’s just easier.
She goes what? I said let’s just waive it. You know, let’s just call it it’s cleaner and she goes well I’ve got to go get that approved, you know I’ve got to go call my boss.
And I said okay I said cool, I said I’m good, you know I got a couple minutes.
So she goes back and she comes back out about five minutes later, and she goes you know what I told him up this Wilson stuff and this pizza deal and these little articles and she said you’re good.
I lived in this apartment complex for nine years and never paid rent. It was beautiful; it was beautiful.
And I tell you that story because to me at the very core I didn’t have a lot of money to make it out of the gates, right? So I had to pull back and discover things that I could do, ways that I could add value to create a platform for myself to pursue my dream of sports marketing. I had to discover the needs inside that apartment complex at the most basic level for what I could do to help solve problems for them, so in turn I could support them, right? That’s what I see the best athletes and coaches do too, right?
The best coaches in the world Doc Rivers, Tom Izzo — guys that have won national championships, world championships, these guys pull back and figure out what their own gaps are and they go fill their bench with assistant coaches that they know can support their gaps.
The best college coaches do the same thing. They fill their rosters based on their gaps: how do we pull back in life and take the time to discover our own gaps but also the gaps of the lives in which we’re trying to serve. And when we can discover those at the core I think we can add great value.
The third thing that I think that the best of the best do to maximize their potential is they get really clear on what they do and why they do it. You know, RG3, Robert Griffin III, the quarterback for the Redskins, an unbelievable athlete and an unbelievable quarterback. Well, he has a post-it note on his locker that says, “Know your why” because he says if you know your own why, why you play the game that you play. And if you know the players that you play with why, then you want to sacrifice more so that you can win.
When you can look to your right and your left on the line as an athlete and know what their why is, you can solve anyhow. That’s what Viktor Frankl wrote: unbelievable author, unbelievable man.
So what is your why? I would challenge you to pull back in your own life personally, professionally, you name the category and identify why you do what you do. Because to me that creates clarity and that passion for your why can suffocate any fear that you have inside of you that may tell you that you’re not good enough or that you can’t do it.
You know that little voice that comes out sometimes over here and says I don’t know, I don’t know if you’re good enough fast enough whatever it is, that little voice isn’t doing you any good, right? So getting clear on your why helps suffocate those negative voices.
The fourth thing that I think is paramount is discipline. When you look at the best athletes and coaches in the world, most of the best have tremendous discipline. They have the ability to recover from challenges really really fast. They have the ability to dig in and behave in a consistent way over and over again to help them create a platform for themselves in their lives.
So one of the guys that I think does this incredibly well is many of the guys out on the PGA Tour, many of the ladies on the LPGA Tour and certainly any of the other thousands of amazing athletes.
Well, every year I get to have dinner with a guy by the name of Butch Harmon. Butch Harmon is one of the most well-known golf teachers in the world. He’s taught Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson; he’s taught many of the best ladies on the LPGA Tour.
Well, Butch is a guy that every Tuesday of the Masters typically we have dinner and I was sitting with Butch a couple years ago. And at the end of dinner we sort of stopped and we were just chatting among sort of the small – it was a very small group of folks. And I said, hey butch, I said can I ask you a question? I said, listen, man, you know what do you think is the difference between the best athletes and coaches in the world, the best golfers that you teach, the ones that are holding trophies over their head that are consistently finishing top 10 that are making cuts out on the PGA Tour over and over again and everybody else? So what’s the difference with the folks that are 1 to 10 on the money list and then the folks on the money list that are like 11 to 125, what’s the difference?
He said, “Without question, it’s their ability to recover from adversity faster than everybody else.”
How do we make sure that we send ourselves the right messages so that when negative things happen in our lives we don’t let it unravel. I’ve been around a lot of athletes that have gone through slumps that have struggled. But you know what I see them all do the best do is they don’t let it unravel. You look at the best athletes’ scorecards, they may go bogie out there but guess what they’re going to go birdie the next hole.
You look at a baseball player that goes 0 for 4, 0 for 4 for a couple nights in a row, well guess what he’s going to do maybe on the third night, he’s going to hit a bomb; he’s going to go two for four. He’s going to recover, he’s not going to let it unravel. So grab opportunities in your life when you start to see that snowball coming, recognizing it creates discipline so that you can in turn send yourself the right messages so that you can in fact recover. It’s paramount.
And then if we execute with discipline, we can in turn execute right? If we behave with great clarity, if we behave with great belief and passion, then we can in turn build a platform by which we can begin to execute. You know, so often in life we have success and then we take a deep breath. What I found with the best athletes and coaches in the world is they never stop, they keep the pedal down.
Tom Izzo, one of my clients years ago, the head coach at Michigan State for their basketball team, Izzo is a guy that years ago wins the national championship right, he wins it all, unbelievable. As many coaches will tell you it’s getting a little bit lucky keeping the athletes a little bit healthy and sort of getting it done.
Well, Izzo wins the national championship. So what happens, at like 10 o’clock at night right he’s on the shoulders of his players cutting down a net, pumped that they won the national championship they did it right. And then you know at 10:30 or 11:00 he’s back doing a postgame interview with the media breaking it down right and then maybe having a couple cokes with his coaches celebrating privately winning the national championship.
And then as Tom would describe it at 8:30 in the next morning he was on the phone with a snot-nosed 18-year old kid begging him — begging him to come play basketball for Michigan State. The best of the best executes with urgency consistently. That creates a platform for them to do it over and over and over again.
So I believe that if we wake up every day and want to maximize our potential, want to unleash everything that we have inside of ourselves, we have to first believe in what we do and why we do it. We have to discover our own gaps and the gaps in the world in which we want to serve.
We’ve got to get really clear on why we do what we do. And then at the core we’ve got to have the discipline to behave the way in which we’ve gotten clear that we need to behave to unleash our potential to maximize our platform, and then we can what — we can execute at the highest level.
Thank you so much.