Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 67 - Brett Beebe - SET EXPECTATIONS FOR GREATNESS

Yeah. I think I’ve got kind of an unconventional path to where I made it as far as hockey goes. Definitely was kind of the norm for California players when I was growing up, but that’s not the normal oh, I was on the pond in my backyard, in the middle of winter in Minnesota, whatever.

“Yeah. I think I’ve got kind of an unconventional path to where I made it as far as hockey goes. Definitely was kind of the norm for California players when I was growing up, but that’s not the normal oh, I was on the pond in my backyard, in the middle of winter in Minnesota, whatever. So, my next door neighbors were older than me. They both played hockey and spent a lot of time in their, I guess in what you would call a backyard, it was more of a driveway, shooting pucks and whatnot.

And I was younger so I wanted to fit in with them. So, I jumped in and they were awesome. Kind of fostered this love of the game. Sure enough, like a roller hockey league opened up in a parking lot down the street from my house [??? 00:45] elementary school. Started when I was five or six. And then the LA Kings built a brand new practice facility not far from my house, and I was about 10.”

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JESSE: Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today is a rarity for me but very very welcome, former pro-hockey player, owner of a company called Rapid Athlete Development sometimes known as RAD Hockey, but he’s gonna be moving into more sports in the future. So, [??? 02:05] hear about that. Currently living in LA doing residential real estate, which is a bit of a shift, but that’s okay. He also has a few different philanthropic foundations he’s worked on or starting, and we’re definitely going to get into that in this episode. Welcome to the show, Brett Beebe.

BRETT: Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. Looking forward to diving into some of these topics with you.

JESSE: Yeah, and thanks for hanging out with me like we were talking about before we got going trying to figure out how to provide value to people is a big deal as business owner, we’re both business owners. And I’m always very grateful that people are willing to spend time with me so I can share you with my customers and the other people that listen to the show.

So, I don’t know if it always comes across but it’s hard to say or express, I guess how grateful I am that people like you want to hang out with me for an hour or so and just chat. So, thank you for coming on.

BRETT: Oh, absolutely. This stuff’s great. I think the more we can all help each other out and spread the word about positive people doing positive things, the world’s gonna be a better place. So, I’m all in on this stuff.

JESSE: So, I have to admit being pretty much a hockey novice. I’ve watched a little bit of hockey, my college roommate loved the heck out hockey. So, I’m almost like, I wish he was available but he’s a doctor now running around the city taking care of patients.

But I have spoken to one former, well, she’s an Olympic hockey player. She played at Harvard. So, I had one hockey guest on before. But otherwise, I think you’re my first pro hockey player. Tell me a little bit about getting into hockey. I assume you started probably at a young age?

BRETT: Yeah. I think I’ve got kind of an unconventional path to where I made it as far as hockey goes. Definitely was kind of the norm for California players when I was growing up, but that’s not the normal oh, I was on the pond in my backyard, in the middle of winter in Minnesota, whatever. So, my next door neighbors were older than me. They both played hockey and spent a lot of time in their, I guess in what you would call a backyard, it was more of a driveway, shooting pucks and whatnot.

And I was younger so I wanted to fit in with them. So, I jumped in and they were awesome. Kind of fostered this love of the game. Sure enough, like a roller hockey league opened up in a parking lot down the street from my house [??? 04:43] elementary school.

Started when I was five or six. And then the LA Kings built a brand new practice facility not far from my house, and I was about 10. And then that’s when I started playing travel ice hockey. So, I was a little later than most. Most kids now are starting six, seven, eight years old, and they’re pretty good. So, that’s how I got started. It took an unconventional journey. I played very, very low level until I kind of hit puberty, and then it was kind of full-throttle from there.

JESSE: What’s kind of interesting is that I’ve spoken to, I don’t know, a number of unconventional pros now in various sports, obviously not hockey since you’re the first pro hockey player I’ve spoken to. But it seems like a lot of people say I took an unconventional path, and that’s ended up benefiting them because it gives them a unique perspective or a unique skill set that not everybody else has.

BRETT: Yeah. I mean, I would say that the more people I’ve talked to, and the more guys I crossed paths with on the way to college and I didn’t play in the NHL, but playing the minors over Europe, the more I talk to people, the more people have a more similar story that I do than maybe the alternative. Which is the person that was structured from early on all the way through. I think I had this conversation with my dad the other day. I’m so grateful that he never pushed me, he never forced me to do anything I didn’t want to do sports-wise. He just let me play.

And I don’t think I took my first private lesson until I was 12 when I told him, “Hey, I really want to do this.” And he’s like, “Okay, I’ll pay for it. But if this is what you want to do, then you have to do it consistently.” And that was really the first time we ever told me like, if you tell me you’re going to do something, then you’ve got to be all in if I’m gonna pay for it.

I see now kids that their parents want them to every time that they’re doing something sports-wise that it needs to be structured, and it needs to have X, Y, and Z laid out for it for a full hour or whatever it is. But the best coaches, I think, are the ones that understand that at a young age kids just need to play and that’s the best teacher. So, I’m sure a lot of the people that you’ve encountered, they played other sports, they didn’t maybe specialize in one thing until they were older.

And we preach that to parents all the time, like keep your kids in other sports. But it’s so easy to just like do this all the time and say, well, that kid is getting better than my kid. He probably needs more lessons. Or that kid’s getting better than my kid, I need to catch up to him.

And I think that’s where today more than ever, especially with social media and things like that people are constantly looking side to side and trying to keep up with other people rather than focusing on their own journey. And I think the people that took that unconventional route, they stayed away from looking around at other people and they just had fun doing what they were doing.

JESSE: Yeah, I think I saw on your Twitter feed and I can’t recall off the top of my head, you had I think retweeted a coach’s comment, or quote about the rate of progression of your journey is not the same as the rate of progression for other people. So, just focus on what you’re doing.

BRETT: Yeah. I mean, and you can throw thousands of examples at people and they’re like, “Well, my kid’s different.” And it’s just like I’ve played with guys that peaked at 14, 15 years old in their respective sports, whether it was baseball, basketball, hockey. And then I played with other guys that didn’t peak and get great until they were older. And I beat this one to death now that he’s become a good friend of mine. But the perfect example is a guy named Matt Gilroy and Matt works with me at RAD hockey now.

He just retired from a 10-year professional career. And Matt was like five, six 140 pounds and 16, 17 years old and finally hit puberty, grows up, had zero college offers at 20 years old because in hockey you kind of– it’s a little bit different window. You can start at 20 or your oldest you can be to start college is 21.

And he walks onto the Boston University, one of the most prestigious hockey programs in the country, and walks on as a defenseman. He’s played for his whole life, but he’s finally growing and ends up being a captain, winning a national championship and winning college hockey’s Heisman Trophy, which is called the Hobey Baker, and signs an NHL contract. And I’m sure he had lots of people that passed him when he was 17 that he ended up passing by the time he was 21, 22, 23.

So, there’s no right route for everybody. I think the hard part now is like everyone’s looking to make money off people in these sports and it’s tough to see so you get these family advisors or agents or whatever you want to call them and they try to tell you how good you are or what you need to do or all this specialized coaching you need to do.

The best thing you can do is find somebody that believes in you that’s in your corner that stands to make no money off of you and they just want to see the best for you. And they’ll give you guidance because they’ve been where you want to go; sports, business, doesn’t matter. That’s the mentor thing. It’s huge.

JESSE: Yeah, yeah. I wonder especially because you work with youth athletes, is there a way to cut through that almost like toxic parenting mentality that’s like that parents decided my kid’s going to be a pro hockey player. We’re going to pay whatever we need to, we’re going to take them to however many lessons. And like ignores whether the kid has the desire, first of all, and then also robs them of the opportunity to try other sports and see, do they excel more at baseball or something that’s not whatever they’ve been pigeonholed into. Is there any way to cut through that?

BRETT: Yeah, I mean, it’s tough. I think one of the things that I actually focused on and one of the things that I’ve done with RAD and with our program is when we do events, whether it’s our camps or our tournament teams or things like that, we try to always bring in guest speakers, or people whether it’s professional agents; NHL players and anyone in between those as well coaching [??? 11:50] all the time.

And we try to get that message through people and we try to have people who have either been where they want to be playing-wise or coaches who are going to be recruiting them down the road; what do you look for in a college athlete? What do you look for in a pro player? What do you look for when you were playing? What was it like at this age? And almost all of them say the same things over and over again.

Yet, I think the hard part is it’s not necessarily that parents get into their heads like hey, my kid needs to make it to the NHL. It’s more of like an ego thing that my kid needs to be better than all the kids that we play with here. Or my kid needs to be the best player in our neighborhood. Like, it’s like an ego thing like the kid’s ability is reflective of the parent and who they are.

When in reality, I mean, I work with 500 and a 1,000 kids a year now in our program, and I promise you that my favorite kids, some of them are really talented players, but my favorite kids are the ones that I’m going to go up to their parent and say, “Hey, you have done an awesome job raising your kid and I’m excited to see what he goes and does with his life.”

I absolutely do not do that to the kid who goes and scores five goals in a game and goes and celebrates by himself and doesn’t high five, his teammates, doesn’t come and say thank you after every skate, or pick up the pucks or clean up the locker room or whatever else. Because eventually, everyone else is going to catch up to where you are in your ability. If you’re not a good get kid, it is what it is at that point.

JESSE: But it seems like, and I’ve talked about this with other guests. It seems like there’s is– I guess maybe I should ask, is there any correlation between that, I’ll call it a humble attitude, but that attitude of like I’ll help pick things up, I’ll help set things up, do the things that are involved in being part of the whole team framework instead of like the me show? Is there any correlation between that and keeping that, what I refer to as beginner’s mind where it’s like, always willing to learn, always being humble enough to ask questions, and know that you can learn more?

I mean, I don’t know if you’ve read it or not, but in Michael Jordan’s biography, talked about it in there like, no matter how good he got, he was always like probing other players. How do you do this? How do you do that? Always trying to get better. And that’s, I mean, among other things, one of the reasons he was so good.

BRETT: Yeah, I mean, I think you worded it perfectly. There’s that zen mentality of a beginner’s mind where there’s always something to improve on. Versus the expert mind where it’s, hey, I know everything and there’s nothing else I can get better at. In hockey, the perfect example is a guy Sidney Crosby, it’s a pretty familiar name to most people.

He’s probably been the best player in the NHL for 10 years. I had the fortunate privilege to skate with him for two or three summers here in LA when he was here training. And obviously like number one, I walk in the locker room, and I’m a young college guy. And the best player in the NHL is sitting right across from me. And I knew he’s going to be there skating. It was the first one of a full summer.

And as soon as I walk in the locker room, I’ll never forget, he goes, “Hey, I’m Sid. Nice to meet you.” And I’m like, “Yeah. I know who you are like thanks.” But immediately it disarmed everything that I was thinking about, made me feel comfortable. He had no reason to do that. Couldn’t have been a nicer guy all summer. And then he goes out and like you said, all he wants to do is get better. He’s asking for guys to throw in bad passes. He’s asking for this, that or the other thing.

And like he’s constantly watching and he’s on the ice three to four days a week starting in like June, which is like a month or two after his season ended, if that and is working his ass off. And it’s like that’s how you become the best and it goes back to kids too. It’s like, are the– I coached a team during the regular season and we’ve been with the LA Junior kings program. And we’ve had one of the top teams in the country the last couple of years.

And our top players are the ones they come and they ask for more. They want to know why, they want to know how. Their battle, instead of taking the easy route and practice and going against someone that might not be as good as them; they’re finding the other strongest player to make sure that they’re going against them every day in practice. And they do it themselves like you can’t force it. And they’ve turned into some really, really talented hockey players because they’re willing to fail.

And I think that’s a big thing that parents really protect their kids against in today’s society that I see is they won’t allow their kids to fail. And if they do fail, they make an excuse, or these other kids that really have become successful that I’ve seen, their parents, they’re not sitting there hovering, they let the kids make whatever mistakes they’re gonna make.

And the kids that really want to get better, they don’t want to make that mistake again. So, they come to us and they’re like, “Coach, can we go through the film from that last game? I didn’t play well, and I know I can be better. Or, “Hey, can we do this in practice because I was struggling with it in the game, and I don’t want to struggle with it again.” And it’s like, instead of hiding from those struggles or hiding from the mistakes or parents that move those roadblocks out of the way, the ones that stumble the earliest and then become better for them, those are the ones that have long term success.

And I’m sure, I’m not a parent, but I’m sure it’s hard to watch your kid fail at something, and I’m sure it’s hard to watch them be disappointed because they didn’t make the team or because they didn’t get on the power play or because they didn’t play as much that game. But rather than making an excuse, or rather than fighting it, find out why and find out how to improve to get better. And the ones that do that are the ones that really improve.

JESSE: Is there any way to– So, I always struggle a little bit about where does motivation come from? So, I am gonna take a wild guess and say that both of us are probably pretty internally motivated. At least in my own case, I always felt like a lot of that is just, it was there like it wasn’t coached. It’s just, as you mentioned, there’s the kids that asked why didn’t I do well? What did I miss? How can I do better? Is there any way to change the perspective of kids who aren’t like that? And move them more towards that, like improvement mindset. Is there any wiggle room? Or is it just, it is what it is?

BRETT: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s one of those things that everyone has a different coaching philosophy, and that can be the same thing with teaching. We’ve all had teachers that we like better than others. We’ve all had classes that we like better than others.

We’ve all had coaches that we like better than others. It’s a tough question to answer because I think if we had the perfect answer it would be universal. I believe that you’re a product of your environment. And so when we do our training, our goal is to bring together kids that have that mindset. So, if you don’t have that ability and that mindset to do it, you’re either one, not going to be selected to come work with us.

Or number two, if you have all of the ability, and I joke around, I always say that our program, we’re like the New England Patriots. You give us somebody that’s cast aside that maybe doesn’t have the– maybe they’re not the best kid, maybe they don’t have the best character. Maybe they don’t have those things quite yet. But they’ve got the skill and they really want to get better, but they need a little refining.

We’ve created an environment where if you bring us one or two of those kids, they’re going to come in and they’re going to be molded by the other guys around them. And it’s basically gonna be like, here’s how we do things here. And you’re either going to get with that program, and you’re going to improve, and you’re going to join us because we want to get better. And the only way we’re going to get better is if you’re working your ass off and doing the things that we do to get better. And if you do that, great, and you’re going to now improve.

So, I think creating that environment is so important. And for certain kids, like if you’re around a bunch of kids that aren’t like that, you can do all the drills and training you want to do. But if no one there has that mindset, there’s not a leader pushing it, you’ll never develop it. But I do think it is something that can be developed. And same thing with business, right? If you surround yourself with yes men all the time, they’re just going to agree with your ideas, you’re not going to have any progress.

I don’t think Elon Musk or any of these guys, they walk into an office and everybody agrees with them. They want people to tell them no or they want people to push them, they want people to push back a little bit. And again, it’s ultimately responsible for the leader to create that environment and recognize that there’s other people that might have differing views, but it’s going to help the overall end product. And I think that’s how you develop that kind of intensity and that mindset is, this is how we do it.

JESSE: I think that shows up in a lot of places. And anytime I think about that I think about whatever the quote is about you’re the product of the five people you spend the most time with.

BRETT: Yeah. I’m a huge, huge, huge believer in that.

JESSE: Yeah, so it’s like I think– Whenever I first encountered that and who knows where it was, because a lot of people talk about it. I feel like I remember them giving the example like Girl Scouts, and like the Girl Scout troop that sells the most cookies sells an extraordinary number more than like the next. And it also goes with like 80/20 principle.

But it’s like they could bring in new girls and they’re going to sell more because of the systems, because of the environment. They’re all set up in that little ecosystem where they’re all accountable to each other. And it’s not just a matter of you can be a laggard. I think it imparts inspiration and then in part, it sets the bar, right? Like you belong here if you can exist, otherwise it’s going to be uncomfortable.

BRETT: Well, I think it’s the expectations that are set from day one. And with our– So, there’s two hockey avenues that I have one is RAD, and we run from April to August and our whole thing is offseason training we do. We basically take kids from different programs, we bring them together, they train, they play together and they do all that stuff and then we send them back to whatever team they play on in the winter.

And hopefully, they have a better season than the year before. And then during the regular season, I coach a team here in LA, that’s a triple A level team, which is kind of the highest for their birth year. And in those teams, you’re selecting 17, 18 players. And there are certain things that I’m there to coach those kids on and there’s certain things that are expected.

I’m not coaching your effort, I’m not coaching your passing, like it’s a requirement that your effort and that you’re passing are going to be as good as possible. Everything else, we’re going to coach you, we’re going to get you better. And I think a lot of coaches have to waste time, coaching effort, coaching intensity, coaching work habits.

But when those are the expectations, and like, hey, anything less than that is you’re just not going to be here. I think at that point, you now see a huge step in development for players because you’re able to focus on the things that shouldn’t– are the things that they need to get better on.

Could you imagine if somebody walked into your office right now and said, “Hey, I want to work for you.” And you said, “Okay. Well, here’s your tasks.” But then you’re having to teach them also how to breathe and how to eat and how to walk around. And it’s like, could you imagine if you had to teach those things first before you got into teaching them how to do a job.

And that’s sort of what I think organizations and sports like, again, I go back to the New England Patriots all the time. It’s like, they’re able to have success because the coaches don’t have to spend time at the beginning of the year teaching some of the things that other teams have to do. It’s like the expectation is this. So, you’ve now eliminated a month worth of coaching that some of these other teams have to go through. So, you’re now a month ahead of the competition.

JESSE: If I’m going to create a new organization with these expectations, how do you do that? Do you just– So, here’s what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about– So, I ran cross country in high school, and I ran in a high school that did not have a lot of participation. So, we had like 20 people, girls and boys, versus like the most dominant school in our district had 120 person program. Their cross country program was bigger than their football program, and had that culture of this– The coach there had been there forever.

He had his own like, training manual for nutrition and there were expectations to be met, and then they were met. But he also didn’t turn kids away. So, I’m thinking about, in my case, like– I guess it’s a little different with a high school because you’re set into these are the kids that are fed into high school. But if we had said if you walk like don’t show up tomorrow, or something like that, we would have probably cut a quarter of the people that we had. So, how do you get a program going and have those expectations?

BRETT: Sure. Well, I think it’s really simple. How do you measure your results? If you’re measuring your results by wins and losses, then your team’s going to run out of players. Your school of 20 people is going to run out of players and runners before you ever have a chance to compete for anything. Some of those bigger schools like in the bigger programs if you measure by wins and losses, probably going to have some pretty good success. But it’s defining expectations, right?

So, if I’m the coach and you’ve got three boys and three girls that they need to walk half a mile after every mile at the beginning, and they’re doing five miles so they walk one, or they run one, walk half, run one, walk half, whatever. The expectation is that the next day, you’re only going to walk a quarter-mile next time. And the expectation is that you get 1% better every day, right? So, just don’t stay the same.

So, as long as you set those expectations early enough, like I’m not– When I work with our triple A players, our really high-end players, I’m getting some of the best kids throughout Southern California to play with us. I’m not going to coach my 10-year-olds the same way that I coach my 14-year-olds. Like, 10-year-olds still need help on passing. I’m not going to blow the whistle and make the kids skate because their passing is bad when they’re 10 years old.

I’m going to have– and they’re going to work on it. But the expectation of hard work and that competing hard is the expectation. If you do that, I don’t care what your skills are. That’s what we’re there to get you better at. If you can’t shoot the puck real well, if you can’t do certain things real well at 10 years old, that’s totally fine.

But as long as you work your butt off, and you’re competing, you’re always going to have a spot with me and you’re a good kid. So, same thing goes with a team that might not be that strong, they might not– It doesn’t matter what sport it is, but it’s how you set the expectations and that you set SMART goals like measurable goals. And as you push kids to achieve those goals, how do you reward them for it is a huge thing.

If kids keep doing things and there’s no reward, they’re not gonna enjoy it. How do you set those measurable standards and what you do once they get achieved? And then once they get achieved, how do you raise them to the next level? So, that’s the simple answer to that is set the expectations and grow from there.

JESSE: Okay. I’m not imminently going to be coaching youth but I do think about the various coaches I’ve had over the years and their attitudes and expectations. And the coach that’s in charge of the program I was at now, very much is like, he doesn’t care what your ability level is, as long as you work hard. Kinda like you said, if you gotta walk at the start that’s fine, but we’re gonna make improvements. I guess when I was thinking about the walking thing, I was thinking about people I knew who were capable of continuing to run, but just slacking off.

BRETT: Yeah. Well, I think at that point, then I think that is where a really good coach comes in. And I think that’s where the really good teacher comes in. Right? So, how does a teacher get a kid that she sees a lot of potential in, or he sees a lot of potential in who maybe just doesn’t study that hard or maybe just doesn’t do the extra work. But he knows that there’s something there, or she knows that there’s something there. This is where good to great, right?

So, how does a good coach or a good teacher can produce good material for the kids to study and learn or to improve on in their sport? A great teacher or a great coach can pull that potential out of them by finding whatever it is that motivates them. So, why does that kid walk when he has the potential to run? Or why does that girl, why does she only go at three-quarter percent, like not– [crosstalk]

JESSE: 75 instead of all.

BRETT: 75%. Yeah. Instead of you know that there’s another gear in there that you can get out of them. What are you doing to create a relationship with that player that they’re gonna want to do whatever it takes because they believe they know that you believe in them. So, I think if you– A kid will never work hard for you until they know that you’ll do the same for them.

And I think some coaches just expect kids to have that mindset but I think it doesn’t necessarily need to be dangling a carrot at the end of a stick, right and say, “Hey, if you do this in under five minutes, you’re going to get an ice cream after practice.” But it’s what genuinely motivates you to be great? Maybe your home life is tough and you’re just running cross country because it’s something to do to keep you away from being at the house.

But how would a coach know that unless they know they had a conversation with you and the player felt like they could share that with you? Or maybe hey, coach I would love to run more, but I get so tired. I barely sleep at night. Or I don’t have access to a lot of food so I’m always like running out of gas. Or hey, coach, running’s not my favorite thing, I’m just doing it because my parents are making me. And then it’s like, okay, how do we say okay, if you’re going to be here, you may as well make the most of it. And you can help a kid find their passion in just about anything if you’re willing to dive a little deeper than surface level.

JESSE: That’s fair enough. I think I’m trying to make broad strokes out of a situation where you really can’t.

BRETT: Yeah, I mean– Well there’s always going to be– I’m not sitting here saying it’s perfect. Like [??? 34:00] kids where I’m like, you know, I was joking with Matt the other day like maybe at the beginning of the hockey camp stuff he was trying so hard to work so hard on every single player. And I’m like, dude, you are going to burn yourself out. I was like what you need to do is there’s going to be three types of players.

There’s going to be the ones that are up here that you’re not going to have to worry about much on, all you’re going to have to do is help correct them on little things here and there and help them get better. There’s your middle of the pack kids who they’re going to be coachable, but you’re going to have to kick them in the butt here and there to get them going. Make sure you spend some time with those kids.

And then there’s going to be the other third-level kid. And that doesn’t necessarily mean the least skilled of the three-level kids. Like a lot of times the kid that’s here can be the most skilled, most talented player. But if they’re not coachable, and they’re not willing to learn, and they’re not willing to do those things, at that point, I am not going to invest my time in you if you are not willing to accept what I have to tell you. And at that point, unfortunately, I just don’t have the time or the bandwidth to spend that much time on those kids.

So, eventually, they’re going to fade out and they’re going to go to another program, or they’re going to go to another group, and maybe somebody else pulls it out of them. But the problem is like you can’t make it work 100% of the time. But as long as you as a coach have a formula for what it is that you’re looking for, and how you get it out of them. More often than not, you’re going to be able to help more people.

And then the kind of kids that you– It doesn’t matter; kids, NHL players, whatever, they give you– [crosstalk] It’s all the same. It’s all the same stuff. But ultimately, the ones that want to be there, and that know your philosophy, they’re going to be the ones that flock to you. And the ones that, hey, that coach is hard on me, that coach is tough, that coach is going to push me, I’d rather go somewhere else where I don’t have to do that, eventually, that’ll start to happen.

Like, again, back to the Patriots, like a lot of guys aren’t going to go there because they know that they’re going to be held accountable every single day. And that’s daunting for some people. And so that’s sort of how we try to operate. We want to attract the people that– We want the energy that we put out to come back to us and the people that we work with.

JESSE: Fair enough. It’s a little bit of a segue but it kind of makes me wonder. You said you had played pro in Europe, right?

BRETT: Mm-hmm.

JESSE: So, is it that mentality that leads you there? Or how do you– that says like, I always want to be better. I always want to be pushing myself whatever avenue that takes, is that how you get to Europe? Or how I mean, how does that avenue happen?

BRETT: Yeah. Well, I mean, I’ll be the first one to admit I matured mentally at a later age than I wish I would have. As a kid growing up, I had great people around me in a support type of way. I always had people there to give me advice, things like that. I worked really hard. I worked as hard or harder than anybody else. I just didn’t necessarily work hard at the right things all the time. Like I’d be like, okay, let’s go run five miles as fast as we can because it’s going to make me a better hockey player, which is not the case.

Like that is not how training works. That is not– But to me, I’m like, okay, I’m working really hard at something. It’s not necessarily what I should be working at. So, I think I could have had a more successful career if my hard work was guided in the right direction.

And so the Europe thing was more I had got– My whole thing was when I finished college, I pretty much knew I was not going to play in the NHL. But my goal is I was gonna give myself two years of professional hockey in North America to make it as far as I could. So, I started in what you would call double A for the people that know baseball. And then the goal is if I could make it to triple A by the end of my second year, then I’d keep going and I’d try to push to try to make it all the way up.

If I couldn’t do that, at the end of two years, I would go over to Europe, have a great experience over there, and basically cap off my career by living abroad, playing over there, and then call it a career. So, I was giving myself three years basically. So, Europe is usually, for hockey players, it’s usually a fallback. There’s more money to be made over there than in the minors over here.

So, some guys go over there, right away after college knowing, hey, I’m not going to play in the NHL, I don’t want to play in the minors in the US and not make a lot of money. I’d rather go play in one of the top three leagues over in Europe, play a 10-year career, make a whole bunch of money and come back. For other guys like me that were like in the middle pack or the minor leagues. I wasn’t going to be playing in the number one or two league in Europe and making a ton of money.

I was going to go play– I was gonna go from the middle of the pack in the US to the middle of the pack over in Europe, and I was gonna make a decent amount of money and get to see the world and that was basically capped off a year of a lot of fun. So, that’s how I ended up over there and that’s sort of the mindset that I think a lot of players take.

JESSE: And this happens on the show all the time. Anytime somebody makes a jump to a different continent or a different country, I’m always like, well, how did that happen? And in your case, I won’t say it’s a straightforward path, but it’s a little more straightforward.

And I know– I feel like even one of the guys I went to college with, I went to a very small school of like 1,000 people. I think he went to Europe to play basketball. So, it’s like, I don’t know how similar but I think it’s somewhat similar in that you can go and play pro basketball in Europe versus trying to play in the NBA.

BRETT: Yeah, yeah. I mean, just the number– it’s different here a little bit than the NBA as far as I know in Europe, there’s a couple guys I went to college with are making great careers over in Europe. One of them played a couple years in the NBA as like a 10th, 11th player on the roster. And kind of up and down from the [??? 40:59] league there. But some of those teams over in Europe, they get treated way better than the G League. And same thing with the league over in Europe for hockey, they get treated really well. So, for some guys, it’s a better lifestyle choice, it’s a better–

A lot of countries over there, you play over there and you live there for a few years and maybe you get your citizenship or maybe you get certain things like, I know kids born in Germany, they get the full treatment over there for everything and they get taken really–

They have really good systems in place and families are like hey look, it’d be really great if we can go over there for a few years and get free health care, get free babysitting and things like that that they wouldn’t necessarily get here in the US when they’re only on one-year contracts most of the time and you’re kind of having to fend for yourself in the offseason.

Over there, you’re taking care of year-round so it’s certainly a lifetime style choice. I think everyone– again everyone’s journey is different. For me, it was for fun. I was single. I knew I was at the end of my rope and I [??? 42:11] over there was a really good friend of mine so I knew it was gonna be a really fun year. Still competed really hard, but had a lot of fun too.

JESSE: Talking about it gives me a little bit of wanderlust.

BRETT: I mean, I couldn’t be happier. I traveled to like 11 countries, I got to ski in the Alps. I went to Oktoberfest in Germany, I went to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day. Like I’m a big World War II history nerd. So, living in Germany and getting to experience some of that and to see some of what you learn in the history books and things like that, it was amazing. A lot of the traveling that I did was– there was some for fun and then there was some for learning which is to be able to see some of those places was life-changing.

And I know that year that I took over there has set me up in a better place to be more empathetic to people living in a place where– I lived in a small village in Germany outside of a big city. And like, I knew a month before I was leaving that I was going to Germany, so I didn’t speak a word of German. And I’m like, trying to go grocery shopping.

I’m trying to go to the store, I’m trying to do this or that. And like you know enough German to say hello, and maybe ask for another beer at the bar or something like that. And so I come back to the US and like we’re a country of immigrants, we’re a country of people from all different backgrounds and ethnicities and things like that.

And for the first time in my life, I was the minority. I was the one that people looked at like, what is this guy doing here? And it’s very humbling. So, going over there gave me a very, very unique perspective on life that I will never forget. And I’m certainly grateful for, and how cool is it that a sport took me over there to experience all of those things, and I got paid to do it.

So, that to me, I encourage athletes to, you know, use your sport to allow you to have those kinds of experiences and allow you to get uncomfortable a little bit. So, yeah, that’s how I ended up there, that’s what I got from it. And I’m sure a lot of other people that have played over in some of these places would have similar things to say.

JESSE: Yeah, I feel like that experience of being the minority in a situation or being in a situation where you’re the outsider is, I think it’s almost fundamental to like, truly understanding and being able to be empathetic with somebody when you’re now the majority. I’ve talked about this with a few other guests. I spent, when I was 25 just kind of on a lark, I found myself single, so I could do whatever I want travel-wise, I decided I’m gonna go spend a month in Montreal. Didn’t speak French, which in Montreal, it’s kind of like cheating because half the city speaks English.

BRETT: Great [??? 45:27].

JESSE: So, I was like, it’s kind of like traveling to a foreign country but on easy mode. But I mean, everything, all the signs are in French, I stayed in the French part of town, all those kinds of things. And Montreal itself is really a city of immigrants. There’s a very, very large and diverse immigrant population.

And I found that the people I met often we’re more willing to have an actual conversation be it politically-minded, ethic, religious, whatever it was, you could have an actual conversation. And I think it’s because of that forced experience of being so diff– every being so different from each other, that there’s no homogenous like we all believe in red shirts, and we wear white shoes and like whatever it is. I don’t know who that is. I’m just making something up.

BRETT: [??? 46:28] I couldn’t agree more. And it’s funny, having had the experience that I had, it’s funny to me now just to listen to people who are like, oh, yeah, like I have– I’m worldly, I traveled all over the place. And it’s like, yeah, you traveled to Europe for four weeks. And you stayed in the nicest hotels for three days in each city at a time and you bounced around like from place to place and you stayed with only English speaking people.

Things like that and not to knock anybody on that and that’s great. And I’m sure you I’m sure you’ll get something out of that. But like for my college roommate’s wedding gift, I bought him a plane ticket to come visit me in Europe and it was right after– it was the day after the season ended.

We met each other in Amsterdam, and we backpacked through Europe for two weeks and had to navigate trains, had to navigate walking around the hostels, and we went all over the place. And having that experience is pretty cool. But like you said, you meet people, you meet travelers, you meet people that are like-minded. And that’s where you experience growth.

And I think with everything that’s going on in our country right now, the hardest part, for me to see is people taking one side or the other of whatever it is. Whether it’s the racial injustices that are going on, whether it’s political, whether it’s whatever else; it’s people taking one side or the other. Like if you this, then you’re totally on this side and if you’re– you can’t be any sort of in the middle.

And I think when you live somewhere else or you experience things like that, you realize very few things in this world are black and white. There’s always some sort of middle ground. And the way you get there is by talking to people and understanding their experiences and understanding who they are, where they come from, what’s important to them.

Same thing we talked about with a kid who we need to find motivation. Most of the time, human beings in the same way, they’re going to be successful. You’re going to get their best potential out of them. You’re going to get the most out of them, once you understand them and their worldview and how they are. Instead of just saying, hey, I’m this and if you aren’t, then you’re against me, you’re my enemy.

And so that’s, I mean, what a great perspective that hockey was able to provide for me. Because I wasn’t necessarily like that all the time. Like, I definitely had a singular worldview in a lot of things before I was able to travel and get out and meet people and that’s in the US. Like I was fortunate, I moved away from home when I was 17. I live in a pretty affluent area in Southern California called Hermosa Beach. It’s in the South Bay of Los Angeles.

Where I grew up, it was upper-middle-class white families and that was my worldview. I knew success because I knew the families I interacted with on a regular basis all had a house. They all had two parents.

They all had this, that, it was very structured, everything was pretty much– everybody was the same. I went to high school in downtown LA. And that was kind of the first time my eyes got open to me what else is out there. The private school I went to is a quarter white, a quarter black, a quarter Asian, a quarter Hispanic, and everyone was from all over LA. I hung out with people like kids became my best friends.

I went to their house and it was in the middle of an area where I probably never would have been in LA if I didn’t [??? 50:26] any you know what? I couldn’t have cared less because this is my buddy and this was his family, and this is his, his worldview. I’m like, wow, you know what, and you show up every day to school with this attitude that I have and I have it easy. And you’re having to jump on the bus, like walk half a mile.

Like one of my buddies had to walk half a mile to the bus stop, bus to school, walk to campus, it’s 20, 30 minutes extra than what I have to do to get there. And he still shows up and gets his work done in jumps ahead of me and his way more successful than 90% of the people that are our age and he had to go do even more than that.

And same thing, I moved away when I was 17 to go play Junior hockey in Iowa. I went from here to the cornfields of Waterloo, Iowa, and like, again it’s super blue-collar small-town rely on the John Deere Foundry there for a good chunk of the jobs.

You travel all over the Midwest to these small towns playing Junior hockey and it’s like, okay, I understand why a certain part of the country thinks a certain way and I understand why people in the Midwest have a different outlook on life than people on the west coast, than people on the east coast, than people in the northwest.

Like once you interact and you have those experiences with people; and sports are able to teach us those things a lot of the times. And I think that’s one of the things that we push to kids a lot is that your sport can take you to a lot of places in this world if you allow it to.

JESSE: I don’t want to run out of time, I want to give you a little chance to talk about your– [crosstalk] No, I’m fine. But I want to give a chance to just talk about the philanthropy, the philanthropic stuff you’re doing now.

BRETT: Yeah. So, I mean, I think that’s the most important thing that I’m able to do in my life. And something that was ingrained in me at a young age was that to whom much is given much is expected. And I’m the first one to say that I’ve had nothing but great support from family and friends my whole life. And I’ve never– [phone ringing] Sorry, hold on. I had nothing but support from family and friends my whole life and a lot of people don’t have that.

So, every time I’ve kind of gone on this journey I’ve looked to find a way to help out people that haven’t. So, my mom went through cancer so we started at a foundation for her back in college. We raised a bunch of money that went to helping women who can’t afford mammograms be able to have access to those for early detection. We’ve got a bunch of stuff [??? 53:10].

And the latest one was two years ago, almost two years ago to the day. One of my best friends killed himself and was the happiest, best, most energetic guy in the room, always couldn’t have been a better guy, last guy, you expect to go through something like this. And we found out that there was a lot of things going on that we didn’t know about.

And so what we started to about a year ago that we’re getting ready to launch, it’s called, his name is Walker. So, we started Don’t Walk Alone, which is a grassroots initiative right now aimed at helping kids be able to talk about their mental health and be able to talk about things that are going on in their lives and also– and we’re using youth sports as our platform.

So, being able to teach kids number one, how to talk to either people in authority or their friends about what’s going on in their lives. Number two, we’re teaching kids how to listen when somebody comes to you with this, how do you respond to it? And then number three, we’re teaching coaches, what to look for, warning signs in kids that are struggling with something that they might be able to help with.

And then number two, how to talk to those kids and how to interact with them so that that kid feels comfortable telling you something that you can then pass on to either a parent or a professional. Because a lot of times these kids, they’re struggling with something at home, they don’t necessarily want their parents to know what they’re feeling here.

Parents go through a divorce or whatever, they show up to practice, the kid’s not working hard. As a coach, do we then just compound that by saying, hey, what are you doing, you gotta work harder. And that can just now zones out of hockey because now he can’t use that as his outlet. So, we’re actively working on that and creating this platform to basically end the stigma around mental health at a very young age.

Because if we can get this ingrained in kids, that it’s okay to not be okay, then we’re going to have better adults who it’s way easier to help kids than it is to fix adults that have gone through a lot of trauma without being able to talk about it. So, that’s the main focus that we’re on right now. And it’s something that I’m really, really excited about.

JESSE: Yeah. On a personal level, I just want to say thanks for doing that. So, like, I guess I’ll say human– The mind has always been interesting to me. I majored in psychology because I’m interested in people and why things happen. And it is still such– I mean, we’re making progress culturally, but it is still such an issue.

And I think it’s not the whole equation, but I think it’s like some people– I have no idea about what went on with your friend, but it makes me think about some people who maybe feel embarrassed that they’re depressed or feel like it’s a personal defect. Like there’s something wrong with me. Like, I’m not good enough or it’s something I did that makes me not worthy of help that all contributes to that stigma.

And it’s like, like you said, it’s the idea that it’s okay to not be okay. And especially that component of being able to talk to somebody, whether it’s a friend or a parent or a teacher or a coach, and that person being comfortable and knowing what to do to talk about it. I know I had several friends growing up, we’re talking 12, 13 years old going through puberty. So, there’s all kinds of things going on with your body, your brain, your hormones, [??? 57:01] depression and suicidal thoughts.

And they felt comfortable enough to share those things with me and I would figure out how to get them help because I pass that on to the adults I trust. But the whole ecosystem is so important. So, I’m glad that you’re taking that approach to it, not that I’m an authority. But just I guess from personal experience, I know how important it is to come at it from all angles.

BRETT: And I think the big thing that really helps, especially for kids is as human beings we naturally gravitate towards other people who share similar experiences or likes with us, right? So, it’s natural for somebody that likes sports, to gravitate to somebody else that likes sports. It’s natural for a group– That’s why we have clubs, that’s why we have associations like if you’re somebody that likes to go on bike rides, there’s probably a website that you can go on and find 20 other people that like going on bike rides and join with that.

Or you can join a club that has somebody that they watch soccer every morning at European soccer at 7:00 AM. And you guys share beers over watching the soccer games. There’s something where you can find an interest that makes you feel good expressing what you’re passionate about, or what you have going on. There’s almost something like that for everybody.

Now, imagine having those thoughts and those feelings and thinking you are the only one in the world that is dealing with this problem. Number one, and then number two, that you’re probably going to have to deal with it for the rest of your life because who can possibly understand what I’m going through mentally because there’s no one else– I can’t see, I can’t physically see anyone else that has this. It’s just like concussions are such a huge issue in sports right now.

When somebody has a broken arm, you can physically see the cast on them, and you can get an X-ray. And you can see when it’s fully healed, right? And with a concussion, it’s like, there’s no cast, there’s no– and they’re all treated, they’re all different, right? So, when you’re ready to play might not be the same as somebody else who has a concussion and they’re like, I was back in a week. What are you doing? You’re fine. There’s no protocol.

It’s the same thing for this stuff with mental health. It’s like the way one kid might be feeling at 10 years old is probably way different than another kid might be feeling at 10 years old. How are we becoming more understanding of that?

And then as coaches and as people who– as someone who’s now been through the traumatic experience of having one of your best friends do this to themselves, you start looking back for warning signs that you might have missed out on or when people might have reached out or whatever. How do we train all our staff to understand those warning signs when a kid acts up? Is it because they’re a problem? Or is it because they’re looking for attention that they’re not getting somewhere else?

What are those things and we’ve aligned ourselves with the Chicago School of Psychology to help us understand this. And I think just like with, you know, you can say working with kids in sports, there’s an organization called Safe Sport. They make sure that all coaches are trained in how to basically make sure that it’s a safe environment for kids to play the sport. That’s safe from like predatory coaches, make sure that hey, no kid and a coach are ever in the same room at the same time.

There’s all these steps that they’ve taken to protect these kids, and to make sure that coaches aren’t putting themselves at risk either in either situation. And every coach has to take a class on that. Like hey, you have to sit through this. And you have to understand, this is why we’re doing this. Here’s what you look for. Here’s how you fix a problem.

How do we now come up with a curriculum that every coach– doesn’t have to be a huge glamorous thing but every coach that coaches AYSO, youth basketball, travel sports, that they have to go through an hour-long class or a couple of certification things to understand, here’s what we’re doing, here’s how we’re working through it with our kids.

And I think there’s going to be a shift in sports that we’ve gone from athletes have to be tough, can show their weakness, like weaknesses is going to hurt your team, to an understanding that hey, if I’m feeling my best, I’m going to help the team. That might mean hey, I’m struggling in one area of my life. But I need help with it. And once I get that fixed, I’m going to be a better hockey player. When we can get to that mindset as a culture, we’re going to see such a great improvement in our humanity.

JESSE: A little bit of a hard shift, but we’re winding the clock down. So, it seems particularly [??? 01:02:19] with you. Oh, I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot lately because I’m talking to some really cool people. I’m asking everybody this year, what do you think the purpose of sport is?

BRETT: What do I think the purpose of sport is? I mean, most parents are going to tell you that it’s just a way to get their kids some energy out of their system, when they come home and they’re ready for dinner and to go to bed. So, there’s a couple of things that I think sports teaches that it doesn’t matter what you play, what level you’re at.

Number one is, how to set goals, and how to attain those goals and the sacrifice required to do that. And then number two is the greatest life teacher of all, which is adversity. Sports creates adversity. And for us, with playing, coaching high-level kids in hockey, you have to miss a lot of your events that your buddies are going to. And then that’s your commitment.

And then your adversity is like, hey, when things aren’t going your way, how are you going to overcome that? And in the big picture is one hockey game with 14 year olds going to alter their lives? No. But if they’re able to overcome that adversity and say, okay, I’ve done that once. Now, something hard happens in life, they’re going to have the tools already to be able to deal with those things. I think those are the two things: commitment [??? 01:03:51] goal setting, and then adversity. So, those are the two things I think are the biggest teachers in sport.

JESSE: Your second point makes me think about the idea or the attitude of how you do anything is how you do everything.

BRETT: My kids hate that I say that every single day but the way you do anything is the way you do everything. I say it all the time because it couldn’t be more truthful. If you’re cheating one little thing, you’re gonna cheat on the big things. And that is my– I love that you said that and I hope the kids that I coach are gonna listen to this. I definitely did not prompt you to say that. [crosstalk]

JESSE: No, absolutely not. But it’s the same thing where it’s like, as your teenager, you get your first job or whatever, like I worked at Cold Stone ice cream store. It could be like, I just work at an ice cream store, whatever. But like, I wanted every ice cream I had somebody to be just like the picture. I didn’t want it to be soup. I want it to be beautiful. I wanted to hand it off and I wanted to do it quickly, and have a good time doing it. But it’s like you can take it not seriously or you can take it seriously. And that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun but just like when you have that attitude of like, I want to do my best, it’s pervasive through all the things you do.

BRETT: Absolutely.

JESSE: I want to– It shows up, I think it maybe even be easier too because it’s not a matter of like, I have to turn it on and turn it off. When I get on the ice, I’m going to turn it on to be good, and then when I go home, I turn it off. It’s just how things are.

BRETT: Choose to be great at everything that you do. That’s the other thing that our kids hate me saying all the time. And it’s like if you’re gonna do something, be the best at it. Like there’s certainly things you do for just pure enjoyment. But if your job or your whatever it is, doesn’t matter, like you said, doesn’t matter if you’re serving ice cream cones or whatever else. Like I worked at In-N-Out was my first job when I was 16, and it’s like you know what– But also I think part of that’s internal but part of it is the culture that’s created in your environment.

If you have a manager at Cold Stone that says guys, you’re not just making ice cream. People are coming here to celebrate a birthday, to have a fun experience, and how do we make it so that it’s not only they’re getting their ice cream, but it’s a great experience in their day. And they can take that forward.

It’s like in In-N-Out, man, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one here in California, but they work their butts off here. I couldn’t believe it when I first started. And I’m like, I was excited to take out the garbage because it was going to be the best thing for the group. So, like when you– it doesn’t matter, like I in the real estate world here we’re pretty busy. My boss is like, it doesn’t matter if we’re marketing a $600,000 condo or a $5 million house.

Like we’re going to put the same amount of effort into it. Because hopefully, that person that buys that $600,000 condo is gonna get a pay raise, and they’re gonna be buying a $3 million house from us someday. And it’s just the right thing to do. So, I couldn’t agree with you more that it’s just– And you can’t turn it on and turn it off because it shows. It shows. Like if you only work hard on the things that are fun [??? 01:07:21] work hard that you’re not going to go very far.

JESSE: Right. Is it– Who is it? Is it [??? 01:07:39] I can’t remember the quote right now. But it’s basically like, if you– [crosstalk]

BRETT: Greatness is not a choice. It’s a habit.

JESSE: Yeah.

BRETT: Basically, I know that one. Yeah, for sure. I mean, you have to choose to be great every single day. And I think the earlier people can learn that and the earlier that can become ingrained in you, the better.’

JESSE: Yeah. Brett, thanks for hanging out with me today. If people want to see what you’re doing with hockey, see updates from you; where can they find you? Where can they keep up with what you’re doing?

BRETT: Yeah. I mean, Instagram is probably the easiest because I have links to all of our channels on there. Just @BrettBeebe, B-R-E-T-T B-E-E-B-E. There’s links to our hockey program, what we do with real estate, and our mental health awareness situation there as well. So, all that stuff is all there. I’m always up for having conversations with people just about anything. And so feel free if there’s anyone out there that wants to reach out to talk more about it, I’m happy to chat.

JESSE: Sounds good. Like I said, thanks for hanging out with me and spending time with me today, Brett.

BRETT: Yep, no problem. Thank you for having me.

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