Episode 175 – Surround Yourself With Greatness with Chad Lewis
Rob Shallenberger: Okay, welcome back to our Becoming Your Best Podcast family. This is Rob Shallenberger, your host for today, and welcome wherever you’re at in the world! We’re here in sunny Utah, it’s a beautiful spring day and just a gorgeous day. I love spring, it’s a time of rejuvenation, it’s just an exciting time of year. And we have a cool guest with us on our podcast today. This will be one that will be fun. This is one that you can share with your family, your friends, coworkers. This person I’ll introduce him here in just a few minutes has really become a good friend over the last few months, and I have the utmost respect for him. So, I’ll introduce him, I just wanted to give a quick reminder and shoutout, if you haven’t already gone to the Becoming Your Best University and register, there are several powerful free courses that you can get access to there, as well as some other courses that you can invest in. It’s free for you, share it with your family and friends, it’s such an incredible resource, and you can access it from anywhere in the world. So, becomingyourbestuniversity.com, go get some of those resources and watch them. They’re simple, they’re easy to access and easily shareable and implementable. Alright, so with that being said, let’s jump into this! I’d like to welcome our guest, Chad Lewis, and like I mentioned a little while ago, I’ve really gotten to know Chad on a personal level and we don’t invite anyone onto this podcast unless we feel like they’re a person that exemplifies Becoming Your Best. And Chad is certainly a person of character, he has my total respect, what he does, in his personal life, in his professional life, is just amazing to watch from the outside, and that’s a big deal because you can’t say that about a lot of people anymore these days. So, I’ll give a little bit of background on Chad, as a way of introduction, and then he can share with you a lot more in detail. Chad played, I think it was nine years, is that right, Chad? Nine years in the NFL?
Chad Lewis: That’s right, yeah. That’s right.
Rob Shallenberger: So, nine years in the NFL, with the Eagles, with the Rams, three-time pro-baller, I mean that says a lot about him right there, in his professional accomplishments. He’s a family man, he’s married, several children. He wrote a book, which is an incredible book, “Surround Yourself With Greatness”. I invite anyone who’s listening to the podcast to go get that book and read it. It has some great stories in it. And now Chad is working with BYU, he’s retired, he lives not far away from our office, and just an incredible “all-around” man, so I’m excited to have him here, and for him to share some of his lessons. So welcome, Chad!
Chad Lewis: Thanks so much for having me, Rob, it’s good. We’ll have a lot of fun here, in the next few minutes.
Rob Shallenberger: Well, let’s jump right into this. If you don’t mind, why don’t you give the listeners because there’s people listening to this all over the world and some know who you are, I mean they’d love to get your autograph and be able to shake your hand, others may not have any idea who you are. And so, if you don’t mind just sharing a little bit about your background, that would be helpful for folks.
Chad Lewis: Yeah, my claim to fame is that I was a tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles, for eight of my nine NFL years. I caught Donovan McNabb’s first touchdown pass. We went to the Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles, we were beaten by the New England Patriots by three points, down in Jacksonville in 2005. I played collegiately at BYU as a tight end. My skills as a tight end were catching the ball running good routes. I came from Utah, where I was raised. I served a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, before I played college football, in Taiwan, so I learned how to speak fluent mandarin chinese. Right before my mission, my dad had a massive stroke. He was a healthy physician, he delivered around 2000 babies, and even though he was a marathon runner, he got a wicked infection from a tooth infection, which ended up causing a massive stroke. He survived the stroke and brain surgery, but that event changed my life, and then it led me to what I just said: Mission in Taiwan, a walk-on, scholarship earning career as a football player at BYU, unrestricted free agent, entered into the NFL, played nine years and now I work for BYU in the athletic department.
Rob Shallenberger: It’s a pretty amazing background. I wish we had time to go into all of the story and how this came about. I actually just had Chad come speak to my son’s high school football team, Wasatch High School, and just a phenomenal story, and I wish we could go more into that. I’d really like to get into, Chad, let’s start with your book, and then we’re going to get into some of your experience from the NFL. What’s the gest of your book? What’s it about, and why did you write it?
Chad Lewis: The title is “Surround Yourself With Greatness”, and it came to me about one year into my experience as a missionary in Taiwan. Right before I went to Taiwan, my dad had a massive stroke, and in his hospital room, as he was recovering from that stroke, he listened to great music, and his music was Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the Ode To Joy. He loved it! And when he listened to it, he would weep and so anyone who came into his hospital room, he couldn’t but be affected by his response to this music. My mom went at the same time and got a little book down at the bookstore, and she called it, “Our blessing’s book”. And it was just a journal, where we would, each night, gather as a family, and write down our blessings. And so, here in this hospital room, for two months, as my dad was recovering, learning how to walk again, learning how to tell time, learning how to eat again, as a family, we were blessed with miracle after miracle. And then, I went to Taiwan, and it was a year after I was in Taiwan, that I realized what had happened in that hospital room, a year before, that there was an atmosphere where miracles could take place, and the atmosphere to me was, my dad surrounded himself with greatness: great music, family, friends, everything good. Well, I was a normal high school kid, I knew the absolute difference between good music and bad music, good movies and bad movies, and as a 19-20-year-old kid, I decided I want to surround myself with greatness. When I come home from this mission, I want to walk on the football field, I want to play football. When I come home, I want to listen to great music, I want to watch great movies, I want to read great books, I want to be around great people. Everything that I put around myself, I want it to be great. I want to build that pile so high, that it takes me with it! Sometimes, in fact, a lot of times, we don’t have the choice to place, like if we’re working in an environment, I’m on a football team, I can’t pick all my teammates, but I can certainly pick the great aspects about my teammates, so I can focus, hopefully on those and not on anything else, and in that way I can still surround myself with greatness. And I feel like not just myself, but if all of us. When we make a conscious decision to surround ourselves with good things, and with great things, it changes everything, and we have a chance to be successful, happy, have peace in our lives, move forward. The flip side of that is if we surround ourselves with skunk, we’re going to stink, and everyone knows what that means!
Rob Shallenberger: I could not agree with you more. One of my favorite quotes and a lot of people have heard this, is that, “We become the average of the five people we spend the most time with”. I mean, really, if we look at who our circles are, that’s almost financially, it’s our attitude, it’s the way we approach life, and if I understand what you’re saying there, correctly, from your book, there’s really two parts to this. When we’re talking about surrounding ourselves with greatness, it’s both on the personal side of the equation, but it’s also the environment. Something we can do professionally, but it’s also something personally. In other words, I just shared that quote, the five people who we surround ourselves with is what we become the average of. Well, that’s one aspect, but you’re also talking at the personal level. The music we listen to, what we do behind closed doors, so really, both aspects of that.
Chad Lewis: Well, when you talk about what we do behind closed doors, that’s our foundation! That is who we are at the backbone! That’s our structure!
Rob Shallenberger: Amen!
Chad Lewis: So, if our structure is strong, we have a chance, as we build on top of that skeleton to be powerful. If the very essence of who we are is weak, all of us have weaknesses, that’s one of the things that help us to be humble, but if we can work on those weaknesses and make our structure strong and sound, and have integrity, now we’ve got a chance!
Rob Shallenberger: Well, and ironically, all of our listeners are going to be familiar with the 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders, it’s not lost on me, that Principle Number 1 is “Be true to Character”. That’s why what we have behind closed doors is the backbone, and I love your analogy of, you know, “You play with the skunk, you’re going to stink”. Carrying on this theme of surrounding ourselves with greatness, as you look back at your NFL experience with the Eagles, the Rams, what was one of your most stand-out experiences? You know, as you look back and you say, “That particular experience”, if you could narrow it down to one or two, really had a big impact on your life, whether it was a lesson learned, or whatever it was, what’s an experience that had a big impact on you?
Chad Lewis: Well, the experience was definitely going to the Superbowl, and it was made possible by two main people: Andy Reid, my head coach, the head coach for the Eagles for several years, he’s now the head coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, and Donovan McNabb, my quarterback. So, those two men and who they were and how they lived, how they prepared for work each day, how they prepared for work in the off-season, those two guys, in concert with the rest of the team, the rest of the organization, that’s what powered us to go to the Super Bowl, and when I think back about my career, playing with Donovan, going to meeting after meetings, traveling with him, doing stuff in the off-season together, doing stuff during the season, what an incredible guy, and a force! He had athletic ability that there was no limit of what he could do on the football field, his strength, his speed, his athletic ability. And then, Andy Reid, his ability to organize as a head coach, to inspire confidence, to run not just a football team, because that’s one aspect, but to run the organization. Jeffrey Lurie was our incredible owner, and he gave Andy the freedom and the ability to run that organization. So, to have the way with all, to run the organization and to lead it through the ups and downs of the full hot spectrum of the pressure of the Philadelphia media, and the national media, in your face, and to still perform at a high level, that was intense, it was rewarding. That was it, right there, going to the Super Bowl, but going with my teammates, but specifically my head coach, Andy Reid, and my quarterback, Donovan McNabb.
Rob Shallenberger: Isn’t that amazing? I mean there’s this motto that we’ve been using lately, that really becoming your best sits on three things: people, culture, and strategy. And what you’re talking about right there is the people, the people, and the culture. The culture that Andy created, and the people, Donovan McNabb, you and the other team members. If the people part equation is broken, you rarely see someone ever go beyond mediocrity. As a team, as a person, and that’s why I love your book, “Surround Yourself With Greatness”, Donovan McNabb, leadership in Andy Reid, and the owner that gave Andy Reid the flexibility to do what he needed. Great thoughts! Here’s a question that we don’t often ask, I don’t like to look at failures, it’s just a negative place to focus and I don’t like the negative energy. However, if we look at it from this angle, this is why I’m going to ask this question, there’s something to be learned from this because, like you said, all of us have challenges, we have setbacks, things that happen in life that we didn’t plan for. Everyone can relate to that, we’ve all experienced it. And so, as you’ve gone through this journey, from BYU walk-on, NFL star, now post-NFL, what’s an experience you had, as you look back through your life, where you say, “You know, that’s what I would consider maybe one of my failures” or “That was a teaching moment for me, something that really stood out”, whether it’s something you wish it would have been different, whatever, it doesn’t matter, but what’s an experience you’ve had, that you consider to say, “You know, that was a challenging experience, and this is what I learned from it”, or “This is what it taught me”?
Chad Lewis: Well, we can go right back to the Super Bowl. I was not able to play in that Super Bowl because the game before, the Interstate Championship game, against the Atlanta Falcons, I caught a touchdown pass with just under three minutes to go on the game, something like that. And catching that pass to seal the victory, I tore the lis franc ligament in my left foot, which is the most important ligament in your foot. Think of your foot as a compressed spring, with so much energy compressed in there. Well, as soon as you tear that ligament, your spring has been sprung, you have no power in your foot. I required surgery on Wednesday after that game, I flew with my team on Sunday, to Jacksonville, I spent a week with my team at the practice field, and the hotel, but I wasn’t able to play. I had two screws in my foot. So, when my team entered the arena, in Jacksonville, I was the last person out of the tunnel, and I was on an old man jazzy scooter, drive across the field, and when I got to the sidelines, and I was thinking how bad I wanted to play in that game, that I’d always wanted to play in the Super Bowl, and what happened is I realized that I had 18 people from my family at the game, my parents, my wife, my brothers, their wives. And I realized that my family was my Super Bowl, and it wasn’t the game, but it was my family and that made a huge difference. So, at a critical time in my life, where I had my biggest challenge, could be my biggest setback, it was the best worst day of my life, catching a touchdown, sending us to the Super Bowl, but breaking my foot at the same time, couldn’t be more ironic. I mean, it was crazy! It helped me realize that my family is my everything, and I have to remember that, as I go through life.
Rob Shallenberger: Man, isn’t that the truth? And if you don’t mind, I’ll just take a second here, to share this, and then we’ll come back to you. There’s been a couple of studies done. One was written by a friend in his book, “The Five Keys to Longevity”, how do you predict longevity? Diet, sleep, exercise, having a vision, a purpose for the heart to beat, and then this one, you just hit on it. The number one reason, the number one predictor of longevity is relationships. Is who we surround ourselves with and with all of us. I mean, here you were, your peak of startum, all of that stuff is going to fade at some point, in everybody’s life, whoever they’re going to be, the spotlight will fade at some point. And so, the question is, who’s going to still be around when that spotlight fades? It’s the family, it’s the people close to us, our relationships, so I’m so glad you highlighted that because that’s why we do so much of what we do. What are the relationships look like in our lives? Is a good question for all of us to think about. And what are we doing to better those relationships? With our spouse, if we’re married, with our children, with the people around us, are we making time for what matters most? Here’s another question for you, Chad. This is the one that I like to ask because you just don’t know what you’re going to get. If you had to narrow it down to just two minutes, if you had two minutes with someone, and they just randomly ran into you and said, “Chad, I really need some direction and I only have two minutes” share with me your biggest lessons learned. What would you share with them in two minutes? What would you tell that person, if you had two minutes with someone?
Chad Lewis: Well, I walked-on to the football team at BYU. Walking-on meant that I did not have a scholarship to play college football, I walked to the coaches myself, I was a student at BYU, I said, “Can I play football?” They gave me a chance, I tried out, I made the team, I eventually earned a scholarship on the team, I played for four years and then I went pro. Walking-on is really hard because you have to go from zero to hero, really fast. They don’t have a lot of patience for walk-ons. You’re not a scholarship player. And the difficulty of walking-on and earning that scholarship meant everything to me. It gave me so much confidence. Well, guess what, when I went to the pros, I was not drafted. I essentially had to walk-on, as an undrafted free agent, all over again. And it was really hard, you have to go from zero to hero, faster, and I made that team, and I made plays my rookie year, and I ended up playing for nine years, and what I found out is that walking-on was the greatest blessing that I was ever given. And that life is a series of walking-on, everything we do. We’re not given anything, we’re not entitled to anything, we have to earn people’s trust and respect, and that happens continually all the time. So that was my gift, to learn that I can be a walk-on, and I can earn it. And so can everyone else!
Rob Shallenberger: So doesn’t that really also encapsulate just this mindset of never give up? That nobody is going to outhustle you?
Chad Lewis: My favorite quote from Winston Churchill, is when he went back to his Boys Grammar School, and he told them, during the war, “Never give up! Never ever, ever, ever, give in!” His talk was about 30 seconds long, they took 10 minutes to introduce him, and he speaks for 30 seconds, and he walks out of the building to an astound audience of people saying, “That’s right!” And I believe that to my core. There’s something about us, as humans, if we keep trying, if we keep standing up, if we keep giving all we got, we will stand up on top of whatever it is we’re trying to do. We’ll make it! We can do it! Even if that top changes as we pursue it. But when we quit, when we give up, when we give in to our fears, then we’re not able to use the gifts that we have been given, both from our creator and both from our parents, the way we were nurtured, so it’s that element of not quitting, not giving in, just keep trying. That’s everything to me.
Rob Shallenberger: Yeah, that’s such a powerful principle, and there’s different times, and I think everyone listening to this can relate. There’s sometimes in life where everything’s working out fabulous, I mean never give up, of course, that’s easy, we’re not going to give up, but it’s in the crucible of the test where, you know, you’re really tested, on will we live that principle or not? And it’s not that difficult when things are going well, when everything’s going as planned, when we’re on track with our vision. It’s when you break your foot, you know, with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, and now what? What are we going to do? Or we have a career-ending injury, now what? Now’s when the real crucible of the test comes into play. I love what Rudy Ruettiger said, “You just can’t be the person who refuses to quit.” One of the things that stood out to me, Chad, when you spoke to the high school, building on your dad a little bit, and coming back to your book, “Surround Yourself With Greatness” and what we do behind the quiet and the closed doors in our life, is you came back and touched on that idea of confidence several times. Expand on that a little bit for our listeners, what you meant by that. You’ve touched on it on this podcast, but expand a little bit on this idea of confidence. Where does confidence come from? Why is confidence so important?
Chad Lewis: To be great, especially in a football game, especially going against the best players in the world, you have to have confidence, you have to have a lot of confidence. You can’t walk into a game, thinking, “I’m going to drop this pass. I’m going to run the wrong route. I’m going to screw up in front of my teammates and coaches and family and the world.” Perhaps you will, that is a self-fulfilling prophecy that I guarantee will happen. You have to go in with confidence, saying, “I’m going to run the right route. I’m going to get open. I’m going to make the play, I’m going to catch this ball. I’m going to score a touchdown, we’re going to win the game.” But to have confidence, it starts in the quiet moments. Where do we get our confidence? From reading Scriptures, from reading good books, from being surrounded by powerful music, by the people who are around us. Some people are blessed with confidence in the face of being stuck in absolute crap holes. They have no people in their lives that are building them up, and somehow, they still survive and thrive. That’s amazing to me! But I think confidence comes from doing proper things, doing good things, surrounding ourselves with the right things, so that when we do enter that field of battle, or into our offices, where we have to compete on a daily basis for our work, we need confidence. And the things that erode confidence, true confidence, are the things that attack us and our soul. So, right now, pornography is one of the greatest plagues in the history of humanity. And it’s so addictive and so easy to be exposed to pornography. And pornography will destroy our goodness and confidence faster than anything. So that’s one thing. When I talked to that football team up there, I reminded them that they have a responsibility to choose to look at good stuff, and don’t, for a second, click and look at crappy stuff, that’s going to erode your confidence because when it comes to the time to go out on the field and perform in front of your family and friends, your teammates and coaches, against the opposition that’s prepared themselves, you have to have real confidence. And real confidence comes from all the way back when you’re by yourself, your structure, your backbone, your foundation. And if you clean that up, you can have real confidence.
Rob Shallenberger: Wow, man, I just love this. So, I totally agree with you! Confidence, in my opinion, is something that emanates from our core. It’s exactly what you’re suggesting. And wouldn’t you agree, Chad, that there’s a difference between ego and confidence?
Chad Lewis: Ego is, to me, something that’s almost… I think of the word, puffed up. Ego is something that is important to all of us, we have to have a strong ego, but when I think of the word, ego, I think of someone who’s puffed up more than someone who’s strong and sturdy and poised and [don’t understand] and ready, and confident. That’s just me, that’s how I look at it.
Rob Shallenberger: Yeah, you know, I’m just thinking about some of the people who I’ve met throughout my life, who I have the utmost respect for, and there’s only a handful of those people. And it’s amazing, because when you look in their eyes, they can look straight at you, into your eyes, and there’s this pure confidence that comes from within. And it doesn’t mean they’re perfect, we’ve all made mistakes like you said, but it’s what happens at the core, when they can look right in your eyes, versus ego. I’ve been around a lot of people who have this huge ego, and is puffed up, that’s a good way to describe it. And to me, many times, that can almost be a facade, like it’s an outer shell, whereas the internal person, there’s not a high level of confidence. In other words, some of the best leaders I’ve ever met, are humbly confident, if that makes sense. There’s this humility about them because they know where they draw their power from, and yet they are very confident because they know where they draw their power from.
Chad Lewis: That’s right.
Rob Shallenberger: I hope that’s one of the biggest takeaways for all of us. I’m sitting here, thinking about it right now. What are the decisions that we’re making in our lives? Are they building our confidence or they’re destroying and eroding it? Are they strengthening our marriages, our relationships with our children, or are they eroding it? And these are all choices that we have on a daily basis, and ultimately, they’ll define who we are. That’s what it’s all about. Chad, as we get ready to wrap this up, there’s been some great nuggets, that I hope people have gone down to it, it’s going to cause me to think, for the rest of the day here, about my own life, leadership, at home, and personally, and with our team and organization. A couple of things: one, you have a golf tournament that you started, that you use to raise awareness, if you could talk a little bit about that, and then where could people find your book? What’s the best place to get that?
Chad Lewis: Okay. Every year, for the last 13 years, I’ve done a golf tournament for cystic fibrosis, this year it’ll be up in Park City, at the Promontory Golf Course, the Jack Nicklaus course, the Painted Valley course, on Tuesday, June 4th. You can go to cysticfibrosis.com, to look at information, if people want to be a sponsor for that. We’ve raised about $2 million for the Utah-Idaho chapters of cystic fibrosis and I’m grateful for that opportunity. My book, it was published by Deseret Book, people can go to deseretbook.com and type in my name, or the title, “Surround Yourself with Greatness”. In the last few months I’ve filmed it, so I read the entire thing, it’s about almost 12 hours of audiobook runtime, so if you’d rather do it by audiobook, it’s available, but I would encourage people to buy the book or check it out on audiobook and read it, and share that concept with others, how important it is for all of us, to surround ourselves with goodness, with greatness, and that way we have a chance to have a great and happy and peaceful life.
Rob Shallenberger: You sold me! I haven’t read it yet, I’m going to read it. One thing that my dad did for me, when I was younger, and it was amongst several things, that all happened at a similar time, that caused this transformation in me. And I was around 16 and my dad paid me $15 to read the book, “How To Win Friends And Influence People” and write a report on it. That was the same time when these F-16 flew by the state, probably Utah, and I started to develop a vision to become a fighter pilot, so my life really came into focus. I’m going to pay my son, $25 if he’ll read your book and give me a nicely done report on it. And he’s totally motivated to do this because he just listened to you last week. Because one of the corollaries that we found at great leaders, is that they’re readers, and this is amazing, Chad. I don’t know if you’ve heard this before, but 43% of college graduates, will never read another book for the rest of their life.
Chad Lewis: Wow!
Rob Shallenberger: It’s crazy! 80% of households in the United States last year did not invest in a single book. This is one of the greatest predictors of success in a person. We’re talking about surrounding ourselves with greatness. I mean, it’s the title of your book. GIGO is many times used as an acronym to say Garbage in, Garbage Out. Well, since we’re on this theme, how about Greatness in, Greatness out? So I really do invite all of our listeners to get your book, “Surround Yourself With Greatness”, you can get it on deseretbook.com, Amazon, and read it. Commit to reading it in the next 30 days. Easy to read, nice stories, I’ve at least glossed over, so I know what’s in there, and I’m excited to read it myself, along with my son. So, Chad, thank you so much for being on this Podcast, great stories, great thoughts, a lot to ponder and think about, and any parting thoughts?
Chad Lewis: What a beautiful day to be alive! There’s still much goodness out there. If we focus on what we can do, we can do everything. And if we focus on our challenges and obstacles, we’ll be stuck in the quagmire. We’ve never been blessed, we’ve never had more opportunities to do great things, let’s do it!
Rob Shallenberger: That’s awesome! Great parting words! One last thought, anybody who is interested in having Chad speak to their group or anything like that, you can reach out to him. His contact information is in the book. If you can’t find it, get a hold of it, write at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll make the connect as well. So, Chad, thanks for being on the podcast. To all of our listeners, share this with your family, share this with your friends. You, be the catalyst for good in the world, just like Chad was alluding to, right there. We’re alive and we’re breathing, so what better day to share and build ourselves and grow? So, we wish you a great week, wherever you’re at in the world, and we’ll see you next week!