Episode 218 – Lance Allred – The First Legally Deaf NBA Player
Steve Shallenberger: To all of our Becoming Your Best listeners and those that are getting ready to just crush it this year and into the new decade, it’s always nice to have some really great tools to help lead you through that, and the Becoming Your Best Planner is ready to go, if you don’t have one already. It’ll help lead you through with your vision, setting clearly actionable goals in the different areas of your life, which will help bring balance. It’s a process that helps you stay focused, day in and day out, on the things that matter most, while still bringing balance and vitality. So, if you don’t have one yet, you can just go to store.becomingyourbest.com. To get 25% off on your planner, just put in the promo code “20planner25”. And here is to a fabulous new year!
Rob Shallenberger: This is your host, Rob Shallenberger! I’m joined here, today, by a good friend, Lance Allred who’s just making ripples throughout the world and doing some incredible things. So, him and I talked about doing this podcast together a couple of months ago and we’re finally making that a reality and this will be a treat to have him on because, really, he’s got an amazing background story, and he’s just doing great things throughout the world, and we’re going to hear some of those today. So, first of all, welcome, Lance!
Lance Allred: Thanks, Rob! Thanks for having me! I’m glad we were able to finally get the timing and all. So, I’m happy to be here!
Rob Shallenberger: Yeah! Well, he has such a unique background! He was the first legally deaf player to play in the NBA – he did that for several years. Now, he’s speaking around the world as an inspirational speaker, corporate consultant, and trainer. He’s doing a lot of cool things! Before we get into all of that, one thing that’s always helpful, for me and the listeners, is to get a little background and perspective. So, Lance, if you don’t mind, just share a little bit of your background and how you got to where you are today, so that we can get a little more personal feel for who you are.
Lance Allred: Well, how much time do I have, Rob?
Rob Shallenberger: Give us the semi-nutshell version!
Lance Allred: So, yeah, the reason why I have hearing loss – 80% hearing loss – I was born and raised in my grandfather’s polygamous commune, a Mormon fundamentalist extreme sect in rural Montana, and there were no concerns or thoughts of something called the RH factor. My mother was a negative, I was a positive blood type, so her body was killing me off. When I was born I was nearly dead, so I’m very lucky to be alive! The hearing loss was a result of that medical condition. There were no amenities in rural Montana, in that place where I grew up, to learn sign language, so I had to learn to read lips and wear hearing aids through trial and error, being in speech therapy until I was 16, to learn to speak this way. So there’s that extreme upbringing that gives one a lot of perspectives as you navigate the world. You see a lot of people in shock and awe about polygamous groups and they say, “Wow, what was it like growing up in a cult?” And yes, you have perspective, but then, you’re able to see cult behavior everywhere you go. You don’t have to be in a tiny religious sect, but, to me, cult mentality is seeing and hearing only the things you want to see in here. And, by that definition, a cult could be professional sports teams and their fan base, it could be a political ideology, it could be a lot of things.
Lance Allred: So, I had that as a background, giving me perspective. When my family broke away, we went into Haiti, my father blew the whistle on child abuse and money laundering. When I was 13, we had to go into Haiti for about six months. Seeing lots of the human psychology hiding behind the mask of religion, learning that for many people, not for everyone – I don’t want to sound like a condescending brainiac or anything – but I learned early on that religion for many people is mostly psychological, it has nothing to do with spirituality. It’s more psychological and wanting to belong to a community or support – which is completely understandable – and how that need to belong was stronger than people wanting truth. So, seeing how my father was disowned by his family and friends, and all of my cousins pretty much being excised out of my life at such a very young age, with those experiences, and my hearing loss, watching human beings, watching their body language – as the body will always tell you more than words; the words can lie, the body never lies – and being able to use those experiences for, again, background, gave me a different lens on things.
Lance Allred: But, as a way to adjust to my new life when we left polygamy, in the eighth grade I grew from 5’10 to 6’4 and I got a late start to basketball. I was tough. I grew that much, so it was very difficult for me to get my body coordination, my gross motor skills were atrocious, my inner ear balance was bad with my hearing, and I couldn’t play basketball with my hearing aids in, due to the sweat and concussion issues, having been hit in the ear a few times. It just wasn’t safe. So, I had to learn to play in a different way. Again, reading body language, keeping my head on the swivel, developing peripheral vision – stuff that you would know about as a pilot, too – the peripheral vision skills you have to develop. It just allowed me to see the game differently. But again, a late bloomer, and so, through lots of ups and downs, learning to use that “disability” allowed me to see the game in a very different way, and went through lots of setbacks and heartbreak and disappointment. I actually finally made the NBA when I was 27 and, as you know, Rob, being a sports fan and all that, the average age of an NBA rookie is 20.
Lance Allred: So, I get to talk a lot about perseverance and grit, how so many courses or podcasts or influencers are out there, trying to sell people on shortcuts, like, “Hey, you can shortcut your way to success and have all your dreams come true!” I’m actually out there as a speaker kind of grounding people in some reality, but also with some hope and inspiration that yeah, you can achieve many things, but it doesn’t come quick or easy and there’s principles of perseverance that I share with people. That’s kind of the backbone of what my message is all about.
Lance Allred: So, I retired from basketball five years ago, when I was 34. I was going through a divorce, I didn’t want to be away from my son – he was 15 months old at the time. So, unsure of what I was going to do, I wasn’t planning on transitioning into speaking, but since my call up to the NBA, I had lots of schools and people reaching out asking me to come to speak to their kids. And so, there I was, 34 with no real prospects in sight, as far as career outside of basketball; I didn’t want to be a coach because that would just take me away from my son even more. I figured, “Hey, let’s give this speaking thing a shot!” It was a train wreck at first, but little by little, we figured it out and now, five years in, I love what I do. It’s a great job!
Rob Shallenberger: That’s a fabulous background, Lance! It’s interesting that you talk about perspective. Each of us has a lens through which we look at life and the outlook on things is shaped by our perspective, which in many cases, is a result of the experiences we’ve had, especially when we were young.
Lance Allred: Yes! And culture! The culture dictates so much of our perspective!
Rob Shallenberger: Yeah! Culture, the mindset. And so, it’s just interesting, we each look through a different lens, and one of the things that we could use a little bit more of, in our culture – speaking of culture – even throughout the world, is to be able to resonate with someone’s else’s opinion without being offended by it. Do you know what I mean? We can have an open dialogue because if someone doesn’t agree with our opinion or our perspective, it doesn’t make that person inherently bad, it doesn’t mean that they’re a horrible person. It’s just that maybe we have a different perspective, and that’s okay. It almost seems like we’ve lost the ability to talk through those.
Lance Allred: Great point, Rob! You’re a sharp guy, and that’s why I love it because, with your military background, I’m sure you get frustrated with how people love to use you as a prop for a political agenda or a political argument, as though you’re like some sort of trophy. And you’re like, “No, wait! My travels around the world and all the friends and people I’ve made from so many cultures has opened my perspective. It hasn’t limited my perspective as one sort of propaganda for a political ideology or not.” And in my travels around the world playing basketball on every continent – except for Antarctica, I’ll get there someday, I don’t know how – here’s the thing, in every culture I played in, everyone and their mother thinks their values are the best values. So, if that is the common recurring theme, then that negates that there is no best value. And yet, here we are, unable to see that our culture is very much like the software and our brain is our hardware. The culture is a software that we’re installed with. So, you and I were raised in Rocky Mountain, inner Mountain West American cultures and values. So basically, let’s say it’s like Microsoft Windows. And then, we’ll go over to Japan and they have their certain set of values, which is like Linux, and then Italy will be Macintosh or Apple. And then, we’re sitting there, looking at each other, judging each other saying, “Why aren’t they operating with the same set of values and algorithms that I am? Obviously, they must be operating from an inferior set of values or operating system!”
Lance Allred: And so, a lot of it, Rob, it’s just pot kettle black. Having been in speech therapy until I was 15, the ability to communicate is one of the things I’m most grateful for. And yet, here I am now, as an adult – a kid who had hearing loss, legally deaf – I’m now paid to help people communicate because I see so many people taking communication for granted and living in a world where people believe in the story of soulmate and “you have to read my mind”. When people talk about soulmate love, what I usually hear is someone saying, “I don’t want to have to communicate because they’re supposed to get me and they’re supposed to read my mind.” And so, whether it’s an intimate relationship, or strangers with different political ideals, we feign shock and outrage that people would somehow process things differently, that somehow we assume everyone’s brain should be mechanically wired the exact same way, despite all the many different experiences we would have which develop different synapses in our brain and force our brain to process the world in a very different way.
Lance Allred: And so, while yes, sometimes, Rob, is frustrating that people have different political ideologies, let’s sit and talk about it. Instead of saying, “You’re an idiot! How could you support Trump?” just ask questions, “Okay, what is it about Trump that you feel best reflects your values?” or “What is it about this party best reflects what you want to see in the world or in the world you want your kids to grow up in?” And then, if you just start asking questions long enough, you get people to let the guard down, and sometimes they’ll acknowledge, “Hey, yeah, I know sometimes I’m doing mental gymnastics by thinking in a black and white way and thinking that this President or that President has all these characteristics that sometimes we project him to have, but he doesn’t really have. We want them to have so we feel like our world is safe and we make sense.” Just being able to ask questions, Rob, as you learned with all the work you do, just asking questions goes a long way. People have forgotten how to do that because I think a lot of it, too, is online culture where we’ve been spoiled to have things set and catered to our exact preferences, that everything needs to look the way we want it to look, and therefore, if people don’t fit in that perfect cookie-cutter model that I have made, which is my comfort zone, then obviously, they’re a threat to me, which is not true, as you know.
Rob Shallenberger: Yeah. It’s a great comment and great points there. And even if there is a universal truth out there, that doesn’t mean that there’s not different ways that we can still live that truth, if you will, or focus on those things. And I love the way you touched a political discussion. Instead of, “You’re an idiot!” you’re asking questions that break down those walls that are up in so many people. Let’s shift gears here. So, you’re writing a new book, it’s coming out on March 10th. It’s called, “The New Alpha Male”. So, let’s talk about that for a few minutes and tell us what that’s about and what the intended objective of that is.
Lance Allred: I’m really excited about this book! It is my fifth book. My first one, published by Harper Collins, was a memoir, back in 2009, called “Long Shot”. I wrote those books – the memoirs – more for catharsis, therapeutic means for me to process what was happening with me anyway. Growing up with a hearing loss, my parents encouraged me to read and write as a kid, so I’ve always written to express myself. And those were more for me and I wanted my future kids to know who I was and understand some of my experiences, but memoirs are a tough racket because usually they’re consumed by people who want voyeurism. So, you see a lot of people with polygamous books writing a memoir style, and women consume them because they want to kind of have, again, a voyeuristic approach. And what I’m doing now with all the speaking and coaching and training that I’m doing, I kept having people come up and say, “Hey, what book is most like the keynote you just gave?” And I’m like, “Oh, I need to get to work on that!” And so, this book, “The New Alpha Male: How To Win The Game When The Rules Are Changing” is very much the self-development, self-help format, educational teaching format, where yes, I relay stories and experiences, but I make them applicable to everybody, not just men, even if the title alludes to men. There are application points, there are little forms and things that people can fill out for their own self-assessment. So, it’s very much me moving into fully the genre of coaching.
Lance Allred: The backbone of it is, is my seven principles of perseverance. Those principles came as I was transitioning into keynote speaking of how do I take my stories and make them generalizable? So, I’m not out there just being a storyteller, but being a teacher. And the seven principles of perseverance, which are first, accountability and number two integrity – I know people roll their eyes like, “Oh, great! I know these words.” But here’s the truth, Rob: integrity was one of Enron’s principles. And so, what does that actually mean? And so, integrity, I say to people, is I ask a question every night when I go to bed and that’s, “Are you the same person in every room that you walk into?” And you’ve seen it, I’ve seen it with my coaches, that you have lots of people that when the cameras are on, they’re Mr. Charming, but behind closed doors, they’re Mr. Hyde, and that creates a culture of double standards, of fear. The quickest way to kill your team is a culture of double standards. If you have a superior in the Air Force, who’s changing his personality or playing favorites because whatever, that erodes trust in your battalion, that erodes trust on the basketball team.
Lance Allred: And so, integrity was number two. I always love to talk about integrity, because when I go to the corporate settings, the C Suite people think I’m just going to beat up the workforce people and give them all the right keywords. But when I start talking about integrity, and, “Are you the same person in every room you walk into?” you just watch their body language change, and they get kind of squeamish and uncomfortable because people think this outdated modality of Cold War authoritarian leadership, where it’s “my way or the highway” is still relevant, but it’s not. And we live in a world where there’s more transparency with social media, but also, where there are more jobs than employees, especially in the tech sector. And so, you have these employees that say, “Hey, if you treat me like garbage, I’m gone!” So, you have these C Suite people – the CEOs and coaches in basketball – now kind of lamenting, saying, “Oh, the world’s gone soft. I can’t verbally abuse people anymore!” And then I tell them, “Do you know what’s really soft? It’s the inability to adapt!” You can adapt and still be consistent in character. Stubbornness is the inability to adapt. Perseverance is the ability to adapt. I can still be the same person in every room that I walk into – treating everyone exactly the same, whether they have money or don’t have money – but also being flexible enough to adapt to the adjustments of what’s happening in the professional arena or the basketball court. I can still have a way that I play basketball with principles and foundations, and fundamentals that I developed, but they’re actually going to start calling the game differently in the second quarter, in the third quarter, in the fourth quarter, and I can whine and complain and say, “Wait! You need to go back to where he is calling it in the first quarter” or I can say, “Okay, you’re now calling charges more easily. Okay, I have to adapt, I have to adjust. I have to take that in and process it.”
Lance Allred: And so, I have the luxury of the sports background, of being able to take in all of these sports stories and sports metaphors into C Suite levels, to really connect even the most false bravado CEO type, who’s sitting there with puffed chest and begin to really trigger some synapses in their brain – left and right brain – to get them to see, “Oh, wait! Yeah!” And pointing out the great irony that you have all these CEOs that love to buy front-row tickets to the sporting events, cheering the athlete for making a great instinctive play and say, “Oh yeah, it was a broken play. You took the ball, you went and did something, you went and made a home run. Good job, man! You trusted your instinct. You trusted your gut!” But then the next day, they’ll go to work and they’ll hamstring their employees and say, “Well, what did the stats say?” failing to learn the lesson that the athlete has taught them, that, yes, stats inform us, but they don’t drive us; and that we live in such a stat-driven, hyper left-brained world that is thinking that we can put everything into nice little stats. But, Rob, you and I know, anyone can fudge the stats to support an agenda. And so, people get so fear-based and they look at the bottom line of stats, worrying about their jobs. But, at the end of the day, we, basketball players, yes, we had stats and scouting reports to inform us, but at the end of the day, we had to go play ball. You have to be willing to just live and make mistakes and learn from those mistakes and grow from those mistakes. And yes, so many companies lose that entrepreneurial edge of being willing to play to win; they’re now playing to lose and they’re trying to hold on to a status quo.
Lance Allred: So, being able to take in all of these things and lessons, I’ve made them into the book, “The New Alpha Male”, and it’s for women as well – to help women understand the challenges men are facing, especially men who grew up in the Cold War era, the era where the most trophies, the most nuclear weapons, the most prizes, said you were successful. And yet, here we are, growing up 30 years later, 40 years later, and we’re like, “Wait, I did everything I was supposed to. Why am I not happy? Why don’t I feel any different?” And this world is eroding away, the world of the Cold War; America is the greatest country in the world and we’re a superpower. That reality is slipping and instead of adapting, a lot of men are throwing fits and trying to force nature to go backward, and that’s not how nature works – it evolves forward, it’s currently changing, always changing.
Lance Allred: So, getting men to be brave enough and vulnerable enough to begin to adapt and adjust through the principles of perseverance – which are accountability, integrity, compassion, discomfort, acceptance, transformation, and then gratitude and forgiveness are the last two and they’re one of the same – being able to use our trauma and our experiences and our pain – and not using some platitude of like, “Oh, I forgive people, not for them, but for me”; you’re still holding on to a story and we’ve been conditioned, as Americans, to really embrace the victim archetype that we’re so litigious – someone did me wrong, I need to have my pound of flesh, they need to be punished. And I’m not saying that accountability – which is the first principle of perseverance; accountability is always first and foremost – I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be held accountable, but I am saying we need to evolve as men to let go of the victim archetype and embrace the teacher archetype, which is the opposite of it, they’re two sides of the same coin. You, Rob, see a lot of speakers fall short, that people are really good at telling stories, which is usually the victim archetype, but a teacher archetype is saying, “Here’s how I learned from these experiences and here’s how they propelled me forward in life, always growing, always expanding, and here’s how I’m going to help you bring out that teacher archetype for you to be empowered to take your painful experiences, to learn from them and to grow more intimate with yourself.” And so, that’s what The New Alpha Male: How To Win The Game When The Rules Are Changing”, That’s very much the issues that I’m tackling: the me-too movement, relationships between men and women, and getting men to really begin to go inward. That’s very much what the book is about, using basketball always as a Trojan horse to get into those avenues to get men to be more reflective.
Rob Shallenberger: Yeah, great background, Lance! And I’m going to share with you a phrase that I just do not like to hear – and no one says it with ill intent – but here’s a phrase I just can’t stand hearing: “These are soft skills.” The reason I hate that phrase – and hate is a pretty strong word – is because it almost minimizes how powerful they really are. And you say, “Well, I don’t want to invest in soft skills.” Well, Lance, if we look at these skills that you just talked about, these principles are really the foundations of success or failure.
Lance Allred: Yesh.
Rob Shallenberger: And I’m just sitting there, thinking about my own relationships, and I’d ask our listeners to do this: as we’re looking back at our own relationships, whether it’s with spouse, previous spouse, children, co-workers, as Lance was sitting there talking, thinking about integrity, accountability, how are we applying these to our relationships?
Lance Allred: Exactly!
Rob Shallenberger: And I’m just, again, thinking about my own relationships – my own wife or my son or daughter. How many times is it easier just to hold a grudge? And why won’t we let go? Many times, the foundation why we won’t let go, is that ego.
Lance Allred: Absolutely! They heard a story. You had a story and that story was ruined, therefore you’re mad.
Rob Shallenberger: Yeah. And so, the whole point is, I’m just reinforcing what you’re saying that to live these, is not anything soft at all. These are foundations of true leadership and success because to actually live these takes a high level of emotional intelligence.
Lance Allred: Absolutely!
Rob Shallenberger: We’ve got to let go of our ego, and if we need to apologize we can apologize. And like you said, sincerely throwing away the script, letting go of the story and not having an outcome attached to it. If we’re sorry, we forgive with no conditions attached to that.
Lance Allred: Absolutely! And that’s why I knew I like you, Rob, when I first met you, is that apologizing or compassion; you lose nothing by showing compassion to another human being. Nothing! And yet, so many people think, “Oh, if I even deign to think why would football players do something so self-sabotaging as taking a knee and threaten their job” instead, we just shame them, which only perpetuates the problem further. And I’m not saying they have to be rewarded or given financial praise, but you just sit there and say, “What is going on that they would risk their entire reputation for this, and their entire job? Wow! It must be pretty bad and they would have a lot of fear.” Or, I can say, “Wait! I remember the one time I was in Venezuela, and I was pulled over as an American, and the police officer came and I was really scared. And basically, I had to bribe him. And I was scared.” Well, if that happened in a country where I wasn’t a citizen – that would really suck if that happened in a country where I was a citizen, in my own country. And yet, we flip it around and say, “Oh, they’re hating the flag. They’re disrespecting our troops.” instead of just saying, “Okay, I may not like how they’re taking a knee, but I lose nothing by actually having some compassion and saying, Wow, it must really suck that bad for them to take that big of a risk, to threaten their careers!” And I’m not saying that is the right way or the appropriate way to go, but I’m saying, I lose nothing by trying to put myself in their shoes.
Lance Allred: So that is compassion. And compassion protects you. This is what I tell people. They’re like, “Wait, what? No!” It’s a principle of perseverance. As a kid who dealt with a lot of bullying – kids would take my hearing aids and run off with them or make fun of the way I talked – one day, I just learned to ask the question, “What is going on in their home life that is so bad, that they would want to come after me to make me feel worthless?” And so, you learn that people inflict pain because they’re in pain, and you realize it has nothing to do with you. And so, when you walk about with compassion, it actually creates a buffer around you that you no longer internalize other people’s projections and dramas and stories, and therefore you’re no longer reacting or playing to their game. And so, yet though, especially in the Cold War era, we were conditioned to be tough guys. You always had to push back, eye for an eye, show that you’re a macho and you’re a bravado. But, as you know, anyone can puff their chest. That’s not hard to do. But can you actually, as you said, Rob, get your ego, get your own stories aside, and actually sit and try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand why are they operating this way, and what is their internal narrative that would get them to behave such a way? So many people think that’s weakness, but absolutely is not.
Rob Shallenberger: It’s a huge level of strength to do that.
Lance Allred: It’s a huge strength!
Rob Shallenberger: I mean, it’s hard to do that in my own relationships with my son – he’s 18. My script or my story is he should be doing this and this and when he’s not, that takes a huge level of emotional intelligence to rise up and set aside my ego of what I think should be happening. So, I think we can all relate that this is definitely not easy. This is not a weakness, it’s a strength.
Lance Allred: It’s the hardest one, and I get to use it every day. Having gone through a divorce, accountability, and compassion – accountability is my job to keep my side of the street clean, of our failed marriage; owning the baggage and the stories from my polygamous background, my marriage, the women I had in my life – were a reflection of my value was a man. That’s a lot of pressure to bring to a relationship. We all do it. But it’s my job to check that story and own my part of a failed relationship. And with compassion, understand that when she is clinging back at me, understanding that she’s in pain. And it’s hard. I love how you attack soft skills. These are not soft skills, these are daily practices that I had to check myself with every day. I will always talk about the principles of perseverance. This keynote or these messages, I’ll be doing them until the day I die, because it’s a daily reminder for myself. So, when people say they’re soft skills, I’m like “Oh, no! They’re not! They’re very difficult to live.”
Rob Shallenberger: Yeah, amen! Well, just like that, Lance, we’re at 30 minutes. I can’t believe that! Great stories, great thoughts, and I hope that our listeners will go out and get your book. This will probably be released just a little bit before March 10th, but I know a lot of people will listen to this later in the year, a couple of years from now, and so, it’ll certainly be available. Do you have a website or a place that they can go to get that book, Lance?
Lance Allred: Yeah, you can go to lanceallred41.com, but The New Alpha Male will be on Audible, it’ll be on Kindle, you can get it on Amazon, it will be in bookstores distributed by Macmillan Publishers – it’ll be everywhere. And so, keep your eyes out for it. It shouldn’t be too hard to find.
Rob Shallenberger: Yeah, so, the website – lanceallred41.com, right? Is that correct?
Lance Allred: Yes!
Rob Shallenberger: And then, of course, Amazon and all the other places – The New Alpha Male.
Lance Allred: Yes, absolutely!
Rob Shallenberger: Well, Lance, thanks so much for being here! Any parting comments here, before we wrap up?
Lance Allred: Well, I guess I do. It’s just been fun to watch you, Rob, because we see enough “speakers’ or “influencers” out there who are really good at regurgitating Wayne Dyer or Tony Robbins. But, the fact that you have walked your path, and you found a way to take your background in the military and make it applicable, and you do it from a heart-centered way, I just want to tell you, thank you, man! And, you don’t do it from bravado or a tough guy, you do it from a heart-centered way, and the world needs more of that. So thank you!
Rob Shallenberger: Well, thank you, Lance! And, again, thank you to all our listeners. The hope is that these really add value to your lives, to your relationships, to your success in your business, and whatever ventures you’re involved in. So, we appreciate Lance coming on the podcast today. We wish him the best, and we hope that everyone out there listening remembers that one person can make a difference and we hope you have a fabulous week!