By Jay Kapoor and Tim Katt
This week’s episode of The Game Plan features former NFL safety Jon McGraw, who is now the co-founder and principal of Vision Pursue, a performance mindset training company.
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A walk-on at Kansas State who was taken in the second round of the 2002 NFL draft by the New York Jets, Jon McGraw went on to play 10 pro seasons, making stops with the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs along the way. For all his success, including winning the prestigious Ed Block Courage Award in 2011, the process of playing football wasn’t always a great experience for the hard-nosed safety. The daily grind took its toll and he felt his focus was suffering.
Toward the end of his career, McGraw stumbled across the concept of process oriented psychology. Instead of focusing on the end result, he learned to find purpose in the day-to-day aspects of the job and found joy in the sport again.
This ultimately led McGraw to pursue an entrepreneurial path after football, sharing what he’d learned with other pro athletes and corporate executives working in high-stress environments. He co-founded Vision Pursue alongside his business partner, Russ Rausch, a former hedge fund operator. Today, Vision Pursue works with high-profile clients in sports and business, including the Miami Heat, the San Francisco 49ers, and FedEx.
In our conversation you’ll find . . .
- McGraw on the uncertainty of playing in the NFL and how he viewed life outside of the game: “So when I got to the NFL, I knew that it wasn’t going to last very long, even if I ended up having a long career, which I did relatively—you just never know when it’s going to be over. So I was always thinking about what life was going to look like after football and assumed I would get involved in some type of business afterwards.”
- McGraw on the mental grind of playing football: “A lot of the process of playing my sport wasn’t a great experience for me. And I want to be real clear. It wasn’t because of what I was doing. It was because of how I was experiencing it. And it was how my mind was converting the daily grind into a stressful means to an end. That was a really big wake-up call for me towards the end of my NFL career. What happened? I stumbled upon this, this principle by accident, where I stopped focusing so much on the end result and on making the team and on game day—and just began to really enjoy playing football again.”
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- McGraw on the illusion of becoming an overnight success: “It’s really amazing what the mind and the body can do and what we’re able to accomplish over a given period of time. Too often we get too discouraged when we don’t see the results right away. And so I was able to see that play out in my football career and that transitioned into business really well.”
- McGraw on the importance of process: “The process is really important because it’s what ultimately creates the outcomes that we’re going after. And sometimes when we’re so goal-oriented, the process starts to feel like a stressful means to an end. And that was a lot of my sport experience and football experience.”
- McGraw on what inspired him to start Vision Pursue; “My business partner had convinced me that this was a legitimate business venture. He was seeing it in the corporate world and I just began to realize like, wow, how impactful would this type of training have been for me early in my career? I’m telling you it would have been a game-changer.”
- McGraw’s advice on how to perform at a high level: “Dopamine is absolutely critical for any high performer. Any time we lose motivation it’s because dopamine levels have dropped too low. And then there’s some ways that we can keep dopamine levels higher, and sleep is one of the biggest ones.”
- You can follow Vision Pursue on Twitter (@visionpursue) and Instagram (@VisionPursue).
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About The Game Plan
The Game Plan is a weekly SportTechie podcast hosted by venture capitalists Jay Kapoor and Tim Katt. The show features professional athletes and their business interests beyond sports.
You can follow us on Twitter (@thegameplanshow) and Instagram (@gameplanshow) for show news and updates, to recommend guests, and for bonus content! Follow co-hosts Jay Kapoor (@JayKapoorNYC) and Tim Katt (@Tim_Katt) for all things sports, media, tech, and venture capital.
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