PM: You had a decorated high school basketball career and had your pickings of schools to play for. What made you decide on Portland State University (PSU)? It seems now that more and more players that have gone down south to play NCAA division 1 basketball are coming back quite unsatisfied with their experience. While others, most notably Phill Scrubb, who stayed in the CIS got more of an opportunity to develop their game and were able to parlay that into time on the national team and a professional career. How was your experience at PSU? Is there any advice you would give up and coming players to transverse this difficult transition?
TM: To answer this question it is important to know that beyond anything else in my life my passion is to develop my own leadership and influence capacity with the goal of continually having a positive impact on more and more people. I had 150 NCAA Division 1 schools recruit me and a couple dozen offer full scholarships including Cornell, Columbia, Stanford and UCLA. Yes, UCLA. Then there was little old Portland State University. I had to ask myself some really difficult questions and get incredibly clear on "Why" I wanted to play NCAA Division 1 and "What" I wanted out of the experience.
I spent months thinking about these questions and came out with the answer that I wanted to be a part of a program where I could have real impact. Where I could be looked to as a leader on my team, in the athletic department, and in the entire school. Basketball was in other words, a vehicle to growing as a leader - the glamor and glitz of sitting on the bench for 4 years at UCLA no longer appealed to me.
I look back and acknowledge that those 4 years were some of the most challenging of my life. But I also am grateful that I got to be team captain for 3 out of my 4 years, captain our team to our first 2 NCAA Conference Championships and NCAA tournaments, sit as President of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and even sit on several University wide boards and initiatives.
PM: The transition from BC High school basketball to NCAA division 1 basketball is huge. What is something you learned throughout your career that you wish you knew before you started at PSU?
TM: I have learnt a lot in my years of business leadership and high performance athletics since Portland State - one of the most interesting learnings I wish I had going into my experience is the empathy of leadership. There would be times during my career where either with teammates or coaches I would butt heads and get frustrated with the lack of leadership or understanding that I saw demonstrated. My response to this back then was to put my head down and work harder and harder - I managed to get keys to our arena and would spend evenings until 10 or 11 PM training.
I wonder what would have happened if I had the leadership awareness to step back and ask myself some questions that let me see the world through the eyes of my teammates, or coaches. Perhaps I would have been brave enough to sit down and have that transparent, open conversation with them that would have spring boarded us back onto the same page. This happens everyday in our business lives and personal lives - the tough conversations are many times the right ones to have - but it takes the awareness of others, separate from our ego that tells us we're right, and courage to step into discomfort and have that conversation to make it happen.
This is a rare and subtle skill but profound in impact.
PM: Currently as a budding entrepreneur trying to qualify for the 2020 summer olympics, and previously as a college student-athlete, what are strategies and tips to complete everything you need to without feeling overwhelmed?
TM: It's all about energy and being incredible intentional about every single decision I make in my life.
On a weekly basis I ask myself what things are sucking energy out of me, what is dragging me down? Conversely I ask what am I absolutely loving in life right now, where am I thriving? Based on this equation I am able to more objectively acknowledge the things I need to say no to - that are sucking energy out of my life. We have said Yes to every single thing that makes up our lives, many times unknowingly, going back and saying No to the things that don't serve our greater goals and purpose is
The third question related to energy is "where am I spending energy on decisions that I can automate". Believe it or not there may be 100s of these decisions we're making everyday. Some examples of where I've removed all decision making energy:
PM: You come from a great athletic family with you and your brothers being elite level athletes at their respective sports. Obviously there is a genetic component to your success, but are there any daily habits or practices that you felt allowed you and your brothers to maximize your talent?
TM: I think a lot of the credit goes to our parents who did an incredible job of raising us in an environment that let us chase our goals. This included never forcing our hand into any given pursuit and also providing the right level of support through the hundreds of challenges and obstacles that are present in any goal we chase.
The combination of allowing us to own the path we were navigating, and struggle through all of the hard times allowed us to build toughness, resilience, and perseverance that we have been able to transcend to all other walks of life and future pursuits.
The formula that I have applied to my Olympic dream or leading high impact technology teams is very similar to the foundational lessons I learnt when pursuing those early big hairy audacious athletic dreams.
PM: Lastly, a question I always like to ask, what is the best piece of advice you would give to an up and coming athlete?
TM: Own your dream. I truly believe we are capable of anything - but it all starts with this relentless pursuit that we must own in the core of who we are. It is this relentless pursuit - deep down within our being - that we will lean on as we run into the devastating barriers and obstacles that will knock others down.
Leaning into this challenge, and unknown that comes with stepping out of your comfort zone is one of the most valuable experiences and skills we can learn in life.
Wow, what a powerful interview by Tyrel Mara. I agree 100% with him. Own your dream. We do not achieve our full potential because we do not stretch ourselves enough to discover our true potential. It is essential to critically analyze why we do things as much as we analyze what we are doing. To be the best that we can be, we need to reconnect and crystalize our inner mission statement. On the other hand it does not matter how inspiring and motivating your mission statement is if you do not put in the work and develop the habbits needed to turn that vision into a reality. The best way I can describe Tyrell is as a pragmatic dreamer that turns his dreams into realities. To learn more about him and to follow his olympic journey check out his website, and follow him on Facebook, and Instagram.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.