The Heisman Trophy winner, bestselling author, and media personality speaks with Boardroom about his newest book, Mission Possible — and whether he sees himself coaching one day.
We live in an era in which our great media apparatus has decided on the use of the term “multi-hyphenate” to describe famous persons who are famous for doing several reasonably distinct things.
Scientists have not yet discovered enough hyphens to capture the sui generis cosmic verve of Tim Tebow.
A left-handed battering ram whose championship exploits with the Florida Gators were a iconoclastic hard reset for the quarterback position, the 34-year-old Tebow has gone on to live several fully-formed lives — NFL starting QB, minor league baseball player, humanitarian, motivational speaker, television personality — and has managed to find the time to write five books along the way. Three have been No. 1 bestsellers to date.
This week, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, two-time national champion, and affable ESPN analyst joined Boardroom Book Club to discuss his latest book, Mission Possible: Go Create a Life That Counts. The following is our conversation with Tebow edited for length and lightly edited for clarity.
SAM DUNN: You’ve already written several books, several bestsellers in your life. What makes this the perfect time to tell a new story like Mission Possible?
TIM TEBOW: Mission Possible: Go Create a Life That Counts is something that’s been on my heart for quite a few years. This isn’t a Tom Cruise movie, something that you’re going to have to do something extraordinary to accomplish. I believe it is [possible] for every single one of us to make our life count.
Especially young people ages 18 to 35 — over 60% of young people say that there’s nobody in the world that believes in them. One third of all people say that they’re lonely most of the time or all of the time; 12% of our daily thoughts are spent comparing ourselves with other people.
I want to encourage people that it’s not about what the world is trying to tell you [that’s] most important. It’s not about the money, fame, and power; I hope people are successful, but more than that, I hope people are significant by truly going after what counts.
I wanted to write this book to take away that daunting feeling of ‘How can I actually have meaning how can I have purpose? How can I have a calling?’ I think sometimes it feels like this impossible mission for people, but it’s not. It’s a possible mission. We look at the macro of it, but then we also in the micro of the simple, daily task and the practical applications of what we can do to really have meaning in how we wake up and how we approach life.
SD: You’ve had so many impactful teachers, mentors, and coaches in your life — is this book more of a culmination of what you’ve lived personally, or what you’ve observed outwardly?
TT: Such a part of what we’re called to do — the highs and lows, the battles we face — we’re called to make it easier [for the next generation]. We’re called to take away those obstacles. We’re called to take away those roadblocks. [If] I can make it easier for someone that might pick up this book, where I could encourage them and maybe they can learn from the good in my life but also learn from the bad in my life, they can learn from the mistakes.
SD: In talking about goal-setting decision-making, you write in the book about “elevating convictions over emotions.” What does that mean to you?
TT: Our emotions can sometimes be great things. I think our emotions can sometimes lead us down a very dark path. An amazing thing, but they can also be very fickle. Your emotions can urge you on to want to do really good things, but can your emotions can also say ‘Don’t get outta bed in the morning,’ right? And when we let our emotions guide our life, we’re going to live a rollercoaster life.
But when our convictions guide our life, then we don’t always feel [great], but we get to do what we believe every day. And we get to choose our convictions over our emotions.
One story that I tell in the book is when I’m going to speak in Dallas at the Cowboys‘ facility and I see their facility for the first time, I’m like, oh my goodness, their weight room for their fans is nicer than almost any other weight where I’ve been in my life for all the teams I’ve played on combined. This is insanity. And the next thing I know, my emotions are telling me, ‘Hey, you never had a chance to do this. You should have been able to do this. You should be a little bit bitter. You should be envious. You should be jealous.’
And all of a sudden, I realize that I’m getting caught up in this situation. Instead of being grateful for all of the things that I have in my life for all that God’s done in my life for all the blessings, I’m literally there to speak at an amazing event that night to encourage people. But inside of my own heart, I’m envious. I’m jealous. I’m bitter. And I believe it’s almost impossible to be envious, jealous, and bitter and be grateful at the same time. I have to be able to choose my convictions over my emotions [in] the way I feel, and that only came when I was walking on stage. When it turned from thinking about me to thinking about other people.
That’s one of the main things we talk about a “Mission Possible,” when you really wanna change from having a life that’s all about you and all about “stuff” to all about other people, because you wanna be the most fulfilled in your life. It’s when you affect other people for the better. When you’re not just looking inward, but you’re looking outward. I’ve never met someone that is at the end of their life, that they say, ‘The most of important things I’ve done were for me.’ Everyone that’s on their deathbed, they always say, ‘The most important things that I’ve ever done were for my wife or for my husband or for my kids or for [other] people.’ Over and over.
I’ve had the chance to talk to people on death rows and suicide watches, terminal, at the end of their life, and it always somehow involves making other people’s lives better. In turn, they get so fulfilled, but it’s never just ‘I had the chance to earn a million dollars.’ They never say that. It’s always, ‘I remember when I got to cry with this person. I remember when I got to celebrate with this person. I remember when I gave this, I remember when I saw my kids do this.’ It all always involves other people, community, relationships — which is what I believe we’re created for.
SD: In terms of talking about dealing with obstacles, adversity, and self-doubt, how do you look back at your own path? What would you have most wanted to tell high school Tim Tebow or college Tim Tebow now that you have this perspective?
TT: People always say to ‘Don’t listen to it’ or block out the noise; I think it’s almost impossible to block out the noise. You hear it. it’s TV, it’s radio, it’s friends, it’s family. There’s always noise, right? So I don’t necessarily think it’s just ‘block out the noise,’ but put in better noise. It’s being able to have the right people that are speaking to you, the right friends. Sometimes, it’s which family you listen to, the pastors you’re going to let into your life, the mentors, the wise counsel.
We use one example in the book: It’s the old proverb, you have a good wolf and you have a bad wolf. Which one wins? Well, the one you feed.
There’s these battles. There’s conviction versus emotions. We need good input. Sometimes, we just think, ‘Well, I just need to be super disciplined and focused.’ Yes, but we also need support. We need community. II think I’ve been so fortunate to have that, but I wish it was something I would’ve sought after earlier and more often to constantly keep those people pouring into my life. That Wolf wins.
SD: The book also discusses the evolution of the work you do through the Tim Tebow Foundation. Tell me about the role those experiences play in the story.
TT: Honestly, it’s what I’m called to. I think more [important] in life than anything else is trying to fight for people that can’t fight for themselves around the world. [We’re] now in 75 countries serving the least, the last, the lost. Those that are being thrown away, those that are orphaned, those that have special needs, those that are being trafficked, those with long-term illnesses, those with terminal illnesses.
And it is in our heart to be able to one day, if God lets us be in every country, to get to as many boys and girls, men and women that so much of the world has forgotten or literally thrown away. That is our heart. That is our calling. It was my calling when I was 15 years old.
I met a boy who was born with his feet on backwards in the jungles of the Philippines, and because of that, his village looked at him as a curse. He was literally a throwaway to them. And I just don’t believe that there are any throwaways, ever. I believe every single person was created in the image of God created with worth and value, and it is our job to show them and to love them and to help them.
That’s a big part of what Mission Possible is all about. It is about worth and value and loving people.
SD: What made AJ Gregory the ideal partner to help you bring this story into the world?
TT: Because she’s awesome and I love her and she’s just so sweet. She does such an amazing job of helping me organize these thoughts together.
I’m so weird with it. I’ll be in the gym in the middle of the night, working, thinking about it, just recording all this stuff, sending it to her, calling on the phone. She just does an amazing job with it, and I hope I get to work with her for a long time, because she is super special.
SD: I come up with some of my best ideas as a writer when I’m right about to fall asleep. And then I don’t.
TT: You know another good time you have thoughts is in the shower, right? And so one of the best gifts anyone’s ever given to me is these things called AquaNotes. They stick to your shower and the pencil works on it and the paper works. It’s awesome. Game-changer. I gotta throw out praise to Levi Lusko — that’s who gave them to me. I love ’em.
SD: This is clearly a person who gets you. This is someone who understands what you’re all about.
SD: With these lessons you impart, it almost feels like I’m speaking with a football coach. You have this incredible opportunity at ESPN, but have you thought about becoming “Coach Tebow”?
TT: I would never say never. There’s a lot of me that would really love and enjoy coaching, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. But the other thing that happens with coaching is it’s way more than a full-time job. You have very little time to do anything else in your life, and there are so many things that I’m so passionate about.
Like what we’re just talking about with the foundation, I just got back from spending a month in Africa. There’s no chance I can do that during recruiting season. That’s what would make coaching very difficult for me, although there’s a lot of awesome things that come with it in developing and molding young men and sharing and encouraging and building teams, which I love being a part of.
There’s also a lot of things that I would have to say no to. That would make it very difficult.
SD: Finally, what’s the single most important thing you want folks to take with them after reading this book?
TT: I think what’s really important is to know that you have a mission. That you’re not here by accident, but you are created on purpose; with a purpose. ‘I’m not here by happenstance. My life is not just an accident, but I actually have purpose’ — meaning the reason something is done, used, created, or exists. There is a mission for every single one of us, a job or a task we have been given to do.
One of the greatest parts of our mission that we have been given is to make the world better. Better for other people. To invest in other people’s lives. There’s so many things that we talk about in this book, but if there was one thing, it would be about taking the focus from being about you to being about us, and being able to make other people’s lives better in the process. Because you are here, are other people’s lives better?
Click here to learn more about Tim Tebow’s book, Mission Possible: Go Create a Life That Counts, and find out how you can get your hands on a copy.