Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover

Tim Grover has been personal trainer and performance coach to no less than Michael Jordan, Dwayne Wade, and the late Kobe Bryant, among others. So, its fair to say that he knows a little about performance. Success is winning an NBA championship, making a million dollars, or achieving whatever your personal goal is. Tim Grover’s book, Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable isn’t about success. It’s about the never satisfied, always wanting more pursuit, not just of success but of perfection. Stop and think about Michael Jordan for a moment. Do you live in a universe where he could be content with one championship ring? No, you don’t, and neither do I. Tim Grover works with athletes for whom only uncommon success is enough and even then, they want more.

Relentless is about the things Grover has learned and the things he has taught these exceptional performers. Make no mistake though, Tim Grover and the content of his book aren’t for everyone. That’s really the point though.

“…being relentless is a state of mind that can give you the strength to achieve, to survive, to overcome, to be strong when others are not. It means craving the end result so intensely that the work becomes irrelevant.”

That’s a really high bar though. A bar so high that the vast majority of people don’t want to clear it, let alone believe they can. Most people want to be happy or comfortable and there is nothing in the world wrong with that. A small number of people want something more and that is who Grover is writing for, that small group of people who are driven to pursue seemingly unreachable goals. It is to them that Grover writes,

“You don’t have to play basketball like Michael Jordan to have his mind-set and mental toughness, and apply it to whatever you do. You don’t need Kobe’s athletic skills to attack your dreams the way he attacks his. You don’t have to overcome injury and impossible odds like Dwayne Wade to overcome whatever obstacles are standing between you and your goals. You just need to share their relentless drive for the end result. And let nothing stand in your way of achieving it.”

“Everything in this book is about raising your standard of excellence, going beyond what you already know and think, beyond what anyone has tried to teach you.”

“Being relentless means demanding more of yourself than anyone else could ever demand of you, knowing that every time you stop, you can still do more. You must do more.”

Like I said before, this book and Grover’s message isn’t for everyone. Some of you have read this review and already checked out. Good. This book isn’t for you and there is nothing wrong with that. At the height of Michael Jordan’s, or Tiger Woods, or other ultra-high performing people’s careers they rarely seem to be happy. Relentless isn’t about trying to be happy, at least not in the moment. It just isn’t. Again, it’s about trying to be the absolute best you can be and in all probability that’s way better than you can actually conceive of. And yet it…

“…has almost nothing to do with talent. Everyone has some degree of talent; it doesn’t always lead to success. Those who reach this level of excellence don’t coast on their talent. They’re completely focused on taking responsibility and taking charge, whether they’re competing in sports or managing a family or running a business or driving a bus; they decide how to get the job done, and then they do whatever is necessary to make it happen. These are the most driven individuals you’ll ever know, with an unmatched genius for what they do: they don’t just perform a job, they reinvent it. I own this.

If you’re still reading this review then maybe your pulse has quickened just a bit. Something deep in your psyche recognizes a little of yourself in what your reading. Good. This book is for you and Grover has a secret for those willing to completely dedicate your life to the relentless pursuit of your goals.

“There are no secrets. There are no tricks. If anything, it’s the opposite. Whether you’re a pro athlete or a guy running a business or driving a truck or going to school, it’s simple. Ask yourself where you are now, and where you want to be instead. Ask yourself what you’re willing to do to get there. Then make a place to get there. Act on it.”

In some place’s Grover sounds more like Nick Saban or Ben Bergeron but to me that only gives him even more credibility.

“Do. The. Work. Every day, you have to do something you don’t want to do. Every day. Challenge yourself to be uncomfortable., push past the apathy and laziness and fear.”

Another important point from the book is that at the absolute highest levels of performance, you have to make some choices. You cannot be uncommonly good, relentless, in every facet of your life. Many of the athletes mentioned in the book or in this review have had pretty terrible personal lives. Grover would argue that’s a choice they made. You may want to be a world class parent. Awesome, but your professional life may suffer as a result. Some people may find this discouraging. Instead, I take comfort in it.

“…most people want to show they can do everything, which ultimately detracts from their real abilities.”

There are a few areas of my life where I do want to be world class. There are other areas of my life where I don’t aspire to that standard. Being honest with myself about which things go on which side of the line is freeing to me. Still, making that mental choice isn’t enough. To quote Grover one last time…

“Interesting how the guy with the most talent and success spent more time working out than anyone else.”

It will take more time and more work than you think it will to truly become relentless. No short cuts. No magic pills. Just time, effort, and the refusal to quit.

Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover is ultimately a book that throws down the gauntlet to the reader. Do you want to be unstoppable? For most people the answer is no. For the rest, Grover asks the question…really? Let’s see you prove it.

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5 thoughts on “Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover

  1. So the obvious question is: why should we want to “be the best”?

    The line that struck me was “want to be a world class parent”. What does that mean? I want to be my son’s best parent; is that world class? I have no objective outcome for my son, but the other examples given have an objective outcome (most major PGA victories, leading teams to championships, money in the bank, etc.). I don’t want to be the “best” parent in an externally defined sense, I want to be my son’s best father. And I don’t fundamentally care whether he passes societal tests of greatness as defined above – I actually hope he is able to see the meaningless of such tests – so what do we do as parents?

    For myself, I see where you’re getting at (and just spent far too much on an order of books of the philosophy of time and the meaning of law in an era of abundance to force myself to keep practicing). But it’s the parenting angle that’s intruiguing me. Should we wish to be the best, and why? And should we ask our daughters and sons to pursue that – and why? I ask my son to pursue the good… but what is it about “the best” that offers meaning above the good?

    1. It’s a fair push. Clearly world class at being a parent is far more subjective than being the #1 ranked PGA golfer or being the richest person in the world. “Best” for you might be different than “best” or “world class” for me. Still, the point is that I certainly know people for whom being a great parent, or even a good one, isn’t a priority. Further, in order to say, rise to the rank of CEO or launch a unicorn start up, will most likely to require you to make sacrifices…to suck at other things in your life. You might be a terrible parent or spouse. You might also draw the line and say I’m all in on professional success, my marriage, and my kids…but nothing else matters. The real point of my comments, and of much of Relentless, is that you aren’t going to be the best at everything. Some things aren’t going to rise to that level of effort and attention and it’s ok. It’s also different for everyone.

    2. One other thing, I am not arguing and the book is not arguing, that we “should” want to be the best. Instead it’s, IF you desire to be the best, here’s what its going to take.

  2. Actually, that’s a very fair retort. And I take your point: lots of people don’t really want to be “the best” at things.

    It does raise an interesting issue, though, for the vast majority of us who would love to be good at baseball but can’t hit a curve thrown by a high schooler: we’ll focus our efforts on other things, flailing at our other objectives in life (partnering, parenting, vacuuming) but still only achieve “pretty good” level in our primary target pursuit. Is it worth it? Or should we focus our attention on the things which are only valuable locally – parenting, partnering, vacuuming – and dial back our efforts on the non-local scale of career or whatever, as the world will not really care a whit about the difference between “good enough” and “pretty good” in that realm?

    As always, Matt, love being provoked by good writing and thoughtful reading. Keep up the effort here, it’s world class!

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