In this episode, we are entertained and informed by Walter’s energy and wisdom on leadership, self-development, and coaching. He shares the lessons he got from his experience as an NBA player and college student and the moment Walter realized he missed something in his life. In addition, Walter explains The Sacred Six — six steps to reach a shark’s mindset and rule our lives as sharks rule the ocean.
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger, and we have a fun guest with us today. He travels the country speaking, coaching, teaching, and inspiring companies across a wide range of industries from financial services to agriculture, franchising, the real estate, and many more in between. At any given time, you can find him leading a mastermind class, offering one-on-one professional development, hosting book talks. I mean, this is a man that really gets after it. I love to have him on today. Welcome, Walter Bond.
Walter Bond: Alright, Steve! Hey, thank you. I’m excited, and let’s have some fun.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, let me tell you a little bit more about Walter before we get going. When Walter steps onto the stage, you can’t miss him. It could be because he’s 6’5” and stands out in the crowd, but it could also be because on the stage is where he feels at home. And as a nationally recognized public speaker, he commands the stage. He makes the entire audience — whether it’s a small boardroom or a large conference venue — feel seen and people walk out of Walter’s talks changed, motivated, and inspired. His principles are simple but powerful and his delivery is an awesome delivery. It’s smooth, and it combines humor, tough love, and experience in a way that changes lives. So, while many people know Walter as the former NBA player, more and more people know Walter as a passionate, motivated speaker, author, and business coach with one goal: to help people see their full potential. Walter graduated from the University of Minnesota, has been married to his wife and business partner Antoinette for nearly 30 years. Congratulations. Nice going. And so, they have three adult children. Let’s get into it, shall we? Walter?
Walter Bond: It’s great! Let’s go! It’s showtime.
Steve Shallenberger: I’ve lived in Salt Lake City for 50 years. And we had fun talking about this because Walter played for the Utah Jazz — a Jazz man — with our friends Karl Malone and John Stockton, what a team!
Walter Bond: Mark Eaton. Can’t forget Mark Eaton either!
Steve Shallenberger: Big Mark! Wow, those are from fun days, weren’t they?
Walter Bond: Yes, they were.
Steve Shallenberger: And we can’t forget Walter Bond, either.
Walter Bond: Please don’t forget me, please.
Steve Shallenberger: Alright, well, let’s get into it, Walter. We’d love to have you tell us about your background, including any turning points in your life that’s had a significant impact on you, and really what you’re doing today.
Walter Bond: Steve, that’s a great question, a great way to begin. You know, I always wanted to be a professional athlete. And when I was young, that’s all I cared about. I’m the youngest in my family and unfortunately, I lost focus, and I excelled in sports but I struggled academically and flunked out of my first high school. So when I think about my pivotable moments, that was it. You know, it was one of these top academic schools, kind of high performance go there. And my parents were all about education, and I failed, you know, I flunked out. And honestly, it was the first time that I was embarrassed about me, I felt like I let my family down. And for me, that was a great moment because I realized that the world was bigger than sports, I realized that the expectation for me was greater than just being a good athlete. So, you know, I think trials and tribulations are blessings. But when I think about a moment that changed me, it really changed through my academic failure.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, that’s a big turning point, isn’t it?
Walter Bond: It is, it is. Especially when both of your parents are teachers. You know, I joke with a lot of people that my parents would have a parent-teacher conference right in my house, at the kitchen table. And being the youngest, my brother and sister did well academically. And, you know, at the time, I was a weak link. You know, I played sports and you don’t want to have a weak link on your team if you played basketball, baseball, and football. But for my family, I was a weak link academically. And, for me, I hated that feeling and I love to compete, I love to contribute. And it was that moment that was defining that really began to transform my life.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, looks like, Walter, you turned that around.
Walter Bond: I did. I did. Just some maturity, and some tough love, and some coaching, and some patients, you know, all of that kind of mixed together, got it turned around, and that’s what kind of started the process of training and development. When you come from a home where teaching and developing is important, that’s when transformation began.
Steve Shallenberger: So what advice do you have for our listeners who may be parents with a child — a young adult child that’s struggling in school — and they want to help turn them around at that critical time? What advice would you have?
Walter Bond: I’ll be candid, Steve. A lot of leaders, you know, we always want more out of our people. But the truth is, our people need more out of us. And the average high school is loaded with what we call that C-student. And a C-student can go either way. And that’s where coaching and leadership come in. And so, when I think about mom and dad, you’re the first coach, right? You are the first coach for these kids. My mom and dad were the first coaches in my life and I was average, but they rolled up their sleeves and got to work and spent a little bit more time with me, nurturing and developing and being patient and being honest, though, and being real. And that’s my advice for parents, you know, to really think like a coach, and understand that developing the total child is their responsibility.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, it would be good to just take a moment to discuss this. We were blessed with five boys and then a girl — number six, which was fun; the princess, of course. But anytime parents are raising kids, one of the things I think that’s really important is doing what Walter talked about — putting on your coach hat. In other words, how do you bring out the best in your young ones? But that also requires, and one of the biggest challenges is having high trust. In other words, it’s really hard. Sometimes, what I’ve seen is parents think they can just tell their kids to do it, and expect it’s going to happen. But in order to do that, they have to create high trust, so that the children will be in a place where they can be influenced. What’s your perspective on that? And maybe some ways to do that and be a good coach.
Walter Bond: To me, it’s all about mindset. You know, it’s not like telling your kids what to think, but really how to think. One thing I talk about all over the world is what we call the Shark Mindset. And if you really think about it, Steve, sharks run the ocean for one reason. It’s basically based on how they operate. And that’s why, in my messages, I really teach the shark mindset, because I had it in sports but I didn’t have it in the most important areas. And so, my parents really helped me with my thought process. And when I talk about this shark mindset, it’s really how we think. And the reasons why the sharks run the ocean is based on how they operate, and how they behave, and their attitude, and how they approach. And so, the one thing we have to do is get our mind right. And when I think about the shark mindset, one thing I love about a shark is their work ethic. You know, the truth is, I was a C-student because I wasn’t working hard. I mean, the first day of class, I was content. You know, if I get a C, I’m good. Chemistry — okay, I’ll just get a C. I didn’t think that way in sports. In sports, I wanted to win. In sports, I thought I was the best player. In sports, I wanted to dominate. So I had a shark mindset in sports, but I didn’t have it in the academic areas. And so, any parent, your job is to really help your kid with their mindset, and their thought process, and how they operate. And so, the shark mindset, honestly, is something I teach. It’s a collection of behaviors, it’s a collection of attitudes. And we all agree if we go to the beach, there’s only one fish in the ocean that we worry about, and that’s the shark. But a shark is a fish, and the only reason we call them a shark is because they’re made out of cartilage. And that differentiates them from other fish that are made out of bones. Sharks are unique, sharks are different, but sharks run the ocean and a lot of it has to do with how they operate.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, so, Walter, how can you have a shark mindset? Give us some tips here.
Walter Bond: There’s six. I wrote a book called Swim and we created what we call ‘The Sacred Six’. It’s a wonderful story. It’s a parable about a young man who kind of struggled in life, didn’t have the best background, best family. But he went to a Boys and Girls Club and got a mentor. And his mentor was a guy named Drew. And the truth is, we all need mentors. You know, hopefully, it’s mom and dad, but sometimes it’s not mom and dad. You know, sometimes it’s your third-grade teacher, sometimes it’s your high school principal, sometimes it’s your football coach. You need to find a mentor. And so, this young man, Scotty, found a mentor. This mentor taught him the sacred six of a shark. And I’ll go through them real quick.
Walter Bond: Sharks never stop moving forward, or they die. I mean, that’s a powerful statement. You know, that speaks to being relentless, that speaks of making progress, that speaks to being resilient, that talks to just work ethic. I mean, when I think about sharks never stopping moving forward or they die, I mean, that’s critical. That means everything’s important. And typically, a C-student or anyone who’s kind of meandering through life, there’s really a lot to do with effort. You know, you have to be aggressive, you have to pursue, and you have to know where you’re going. And sharks never stop moving forward or they die. Sharks only look up, they never look down, which means we need to be positive. There’s no need to focus on negative things and negative areas and negative experiences. How many people that we know focus on the past, right? Sharks never look down. They always look up. Here’s another one. I love it. Sharks are curious and always learning. You know, sharks are the smartest fish in an ocean because they’re curious. They’re always investigating, they’re always uncovering or discovering. They’re not just kind of floating through the water. They’re paying attention to their environment. And the real truth is, success is all around us. We can see people successful in sports, in entertainment, in business. If you really think about it, find someone who you love that’s successful, and become curious and ask yourself the question, “How’d they do it?” You know, “What was the work behind it? What was the vision behind it? What was the creativity behind it?” Sharks are curious animals and that’s one of the biggest reasons why they run the ocean.
Walter Bond: Here’s number four. Sharks respect their environment and they recognize other sharks. If you really think about it, everything’s an opportunity. You know, if you get a chance to play college sports, that’s an opportunity. If you get accepted to a certain high school or college, that’s an opportunity. When you get that first job, second job, third job, that’s an opportunity. Steve, when you get married, that’s nothing more than the opportunity to live a happy life, you know, produce some great kids. Sharks recognize their environment and they recognize other sharks, which means they understand who’s successful and who’s not successful, and they understand who’s a good fit and who’s not. And so, a lot of the decisions we make with our fellowship is huge. And sharks don’t hang out with goldfish, right? Sharks either grow by themselves, or they do it with other sharks. And so fellowship is a big reason why sharks are so powerful and so successful. Two more — you’ll love these last two, Steve. Sharks are made of cartilage, as I mentioned earlier, which means they’re flexible. Some sharks can operate in saltwater and freshwater. Right? Some sharks are just so adaptable. Anywhere you put them, they’ll survive. And we meet people all the time, “Well, I have to be in a rural area”, or “I gotta be in the big city”, or “I gotta have a big company”, or “I need a little small school.” The truth is, sharks are adjustable. They can adapt to anything. And to me, that’s something we should learn from. How do we operate? Salt Lake City was very different for me. I’m from Chicago. Probably Chicago and Salt Lake City, there’s no two different cities for me to live in. But guess what? I love both. I love Chicago and the food and the history and the hustle and bustle of Chicago, but I love Salt Lake because of the beauty, the mountains, the people were nice. You know, playing for the Utah Jazz, man! We were the only show in town. So I love Chicago. I love Salt Lake City. And I enjoy both because I’m flexible. And the truth is sharks are flexible, and that’s why they run the ocean.
Walter Bond: The last one. Sharks are great teammates. They work in tandem with what we call a Sucker Fish. And no matter how big a shark gets, they need a teammate to survive because sharks are very vulnerable to parasites. If a parasite gets into the gill or to the nostril, they can get killed by a parasite. So they work in tandem with another fish called the Sucker Fish. Sucker Fish are really little small fish, weak, frail, but sharks need them. And the bigger the shark, the more Sucker Fish they need. And the Sucker Fish get free rides in the ocean, they get to eat the scraps every time a shark makes a kill. Steve, the best part is that the sharks need the Sucker Fish to keep them clean. So the Sucker Fish’s job is to eat the parasites. They cannot allow the parasites to get inside the shark because that’s not a good teammate. So, no matter how powerful a shark is, no matter how big a shark gets, they need teammates. Karl Malone, John Stockton, those were sharks, but they need teammates like me that can knock down a wide-open three-point shot, make the right pass. You know what? To have great players, you had to have great role players around. And that’s the relationship between the shark and the Sucker Fish. Sharks are great teammates and that’s probably of the sacred six, the most important for us to talk about today — really being a great teammate.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, that’s awesome. Alright, good job. And I’ve seen the video clips of orcas hunting together. Don’t mess with them. Okay, now, how can a person learn to stop making excuses and competing against themselves?
Walter Bond: You know, that’s a great question. My whole business is around that. My first keynote message that really made us famous was “No one can stop you, but you.” And I learned that the hard way. You know, I would come home and make excuses, “The school is too hard. The teacher didn’t like me.” And, you know, the truth is, I was not accountable. I didn’t own my mistakes, I didn’t own my weakness. So the truth is, until we stop making excuses, until we become accountable, we’re stuck. And to me, the lack of accountability is like kryptonite. We’ve been designed by God to be powerful and to be fruitful and to multiply. But the one thing he doesn’t want is excuses. The one thing he doesn’t want is to blame other people. And the truth is, the only way we can get to that next level is to get away from these excuses. You know, the only way we can really become all that we can become is just to stand up and say, “You know what? I made a mistake, I’m wrong, I gotta be better, I gotta do better.” The moment any human being, Steve, can get to that place of stop blaming your mom and dad, stop blaming your environment, stop blaming your age, and just look in the mirror and say, “Look, I have some strengths, I have some weaknesses, I’ve made some mistakes, but I gotta learn from them.” And as long as we stay in the space of accountability, it will expedite our maturation because the truth is, we know when we meet someone immature. Why? Because they want to make excuses, they’re gonna justify, they’re gonna say things that don’t make any sense because they don’t have the strength to be owners. The only way we can become stagnant is if we make excuses for ourselves, our behavior. The best thing we can learn how to do is say, “My bad, my fault.” That is music to my ears. As soon as a person can say, “Man, my bad my fault. I need to do better.” you’re well on your way to reaching your potential. You’re well on your way to becoming the best you that you can be.
Walter Bond: And so, anybody listening today, no more excuses. My first book, Steve, you will love this. The first book I wrote was titled “All Buts Stink! How To Live Your Best Life And Eliminate Excuses”. We’ve sold 60,000 copies of All Buts Stink. And people love the title because it’s true. All buts stink. The moment someone says the word “but”, stop listening to them because everything else they’re gonna say for the next three minutes is hogwash, it’s going to make no sense. It’s going to be their excuse. Take away the excuses, stop blaming people, and realize that no one can stop you but you, which means that if you get out of your own way, which means if you stop sabotaging you, then you are in a position to reach your potential.
Steve Shallenberger: I love it. You know, being accountable and taking responsibility is a liberation, isn’t it? Because that’s the moment you start growing and being able to move ahead.
Walter Bond: That’s right. That’s right. And there’s a lot that goes into it. And hopefully, I didn’t make it sound just so easy and make someone feel bad about themselves. And that’s where coaching comes in. You know, people can help you with your development. And that’s why I’m a big supporter of mentorship because I had coaches. Oh my god, Jerry Sloan, I had some amazing people in my life that really helped me mature and become the best basketball player I could be, the best author I can be, the best speaker I can be. I didn’t do it on my own. So anyone who’s struggling today, just know, hey, get a mentor, get a coach, get someone that can help you break through your own limitations because it’s hard to do it by yourself and for yourself. And so, support, mentorship, coaching — I’m a huge advocate of.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s a huge point. And what’s so excited about what you’re talking about — it really does start with making the choice, the decision, “I’m responsible for my life. And if I don’t do it, nobody else is going to do it. I need to make the decision I want a mentor, I want help. I want to learn. I am curious. I’m made of cartilage. I’m flexible.
Walter Bond: If something doesn’t work, you can change, it’s just that simple. I hear people all the time, like, you know, “I’ve been divorced three times, I just can’t find the right man.” I’m like, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. You’ve been divorced three times and all three times the guy was the problem? Come on! You want me to believe that all three times it was 100% this guy’s fault?” Right? And some people live like that, but you know what? Accountability — to kind of frame-up this conversation — accountability will set us all free. I mean, the moment we’re strong enough to just say “My bad, my fault. I need to do better.” Right? That will unlock anyone listening today to be in a position to stay right there, and you’re well on your way to becoming the best version of yourself you can become.
Steve Shallenberger: Amen. Yeah, I’m gonna learn from these things, I’m moving ahead. Alright, well, time is just burned up. It’s been a delight. Oh, my goodness, I wish we had an hour to kind of just listen to Walter. Any final tips you’d like to leave with our listeners today, Walter?
Walter Bond: The truth is, I have something free I would love to give to everybody because I believe in sowing the seeds first. And I’m a big fundamentals guy. You know, when I think about making it to the NBA, I had to master the fundamentals of dribbling and shooting and rebounding. But when I started my business, you know, I help business leaders kind of understand fundamentals and how to teach fundamentals to their team, make sure they’re executing the leadership fundamentals. At the end of the day, the only way we can reach our potential with anything, is by mastery of the fundamentals. So if I can, I would love to give everyone a link for a free ebook. Totally free because we believe in sowing seeds and subduing the earth and just making people prosperous. That’s our goal. That’s our mission. That’s what we do. And so, you can find this on my website, www.walterbond.com/next-chapter. Just go to my website, you can get a free ebook where I really break down how important the fundamentals are for you to master in order for you to get to your next level.
Steve Shallenberger: Awesome. I am personally excited to read Swim. I’m gonna get it today, and we’re gonna get after that. That’ll be fun to listen to.
Walter Bond: You know, Steve, Swim is a best seller. I got mentored by Mark Victor Hansen, from Chicken Soup For Your Soul and our clients buy them in bulk. And it’s a leadership book. And that’s where we teach the sacred six. And so, the shark mindset kind of came out of the book Swim, and it’s blessing people all over the world. We just had a big order today, someone just ordered a bunch of shark masks and T-shirts. You know, it’s becoming a thing. And so, anyone listening today, if you want to be a shark, if you want to join in the revolution of the shark mindset, just go to walterbond.com, lock in, plug in, and let’s have some fun because here’s the truth — and this is my final thought, Steve — is that when you get a chance to play in the NBA, think about that. I mean, I got a chance to play an NBA, and now I’m a Hall of Fame motivational speaker, and now I’m becoming a best-selling author. I mean, this thing is fun but I flunked out of my first high school, because my mindset wasn’t right. And so, I’m on a mission, Steve, honestly, to help as many people as I can with their mindset because even the Bible says, “As a man thinks, so is he.” If you’re not thinking right, you’re not gonna do right. But if your mind is right, if you have that shark mindset, that’s why it’s so important. If we get our mind right, Steve, we’re unstoppable. And the moment I got my mind, right, literally, I’ve been getting straight A’s the rest of my life, and it all was birthed out of failure. So anyone struggling today, anyone who wants to get to their next level today, trust me, the one thing that might be holding you back is your mindset. It might not even be your effort, you might be trying hard. You might be working hard. But if you don’t have the right mindset, it’s gonna be really, really hard for you to maximize your opportunities, just like a shark could.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, thank you, Walter, for being part of this show today. It’s been a delight.
Walter Bond: Thank you, Steve. Thanks for having me.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, you bet. What a great and productive visit this has been. I’ve loved it. And we wish you all the best as you’re making a difference in the world. Good going. And to all of our listeners, wherever you may be, we’re so grateful to have you with us today. We wish you the best today and always. This is Steve Shallenberger, your host.
Keynote Speaker, Business Coach, Author, Certified Speaking Professional, and NBA Player