Garret Kramer is the founder of Inner Sports. He has provided mental conditioning, performance consulting, workshops and crisis management to Olympic athletes, NHL players and teams, professional golfers, collegiate athletes, and well-known business leaders. He is credited with bringing the inside-out paradigm to the athletic community at large. Garret’s work has been featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated and Forbes Magazine. He has appeared on ESPN, Fox, NPR, WFAN/The FAN and the Golf Channel. He is the author of two books, Stillpower and The Path of No Resistance. Please welcome, Garret Kramer.
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The Path of No Resistance with Garret Kramer
Garret, where are you from?
I was born in Paterson, New Jersey. I grew up in Clifton, New Jersey. I was into playing hockey, pretty much that’s what I was into.
The Rockets, right?
They’ve always had an unbelievable program.
I was probably a Squirt or a Pee Wee right after conception of the Rockets. The Rockets were originally the Essex County All-Stars. They played out of South Mountain Arena in West Orange, which is now Codey Arena, and Branch Brook Park in Newark. Then the Senior Rockets that was a semi-pro team, they took the name of the Senior Rockets. They were a semi-pro team that played out in South Mountain. Then the All-Star team has became the Rockets. That’s how the Rockets started. We’re talking 45 years ago.
Then you started playing for the Rockets, then you started to get scouted by some colleges, is that right?
Yeah, I played college hockey at Hamilton College.
Did you play right out of the Rockets, no Juniors or anything?
I played Junior B. There was no Junior A in United States back then. In my senior in high school, I played Junior B for the Rockets and we won a national championship. My linemate was Brian Mullen who played for Wisconsin and Winnipeg Jets and then the Rangers and Islanders. Brian played in the team. Another one of my linemates is a guy named Kevin Foster with All-American at Vermont. We beat Wayzata Minnesota in the finals. We actually beat Chicago Young Americans in the semi-finals. Tony Granato was on that team.
In college, you had a couple of knee injuries, right?
I had the first knee injury my senior in high school. I actually played that Junior National Championship with torn ligaments on my left knee. I had surgery two days after the tournament was over. My senior year in high school, that was my left knee. Then two years later, pretty much the same injury happened on New Year’s Day at Colgate University. We were playing Colgate and the same thing happened to my right knee.
What year was that?
Were you done playing college after that or you kept going?
I kept going.
What did you do after college? What did you get into?
I actually coached the JV team in Hamilton for a year after college. I was always into coaching. My dad ran a skating rink in New Jersey and I coached clinics and stuff at the rink. I really wanted to coach. Coaching was always my first love and I wanted to coach. I did it for a year but then I realized I had to start making some money, so I bounced around. I worked in Wall Street for a year, I couldn’t stand it. Then I worked in a residential construction field for eight years or so and did pretty well on that field but also I didn’t love it. Then I’ve been doing what I’m doing now.
I was reading your book, The Path of No Resistance. You were coaching hockey and you just slipped into this little bit of depression and you didn’t really know what was going on. What was going on in your life at that point? How did you come out of it? How did it place you on the path that you’re on right now?
I’d say that what we’re describing as depression was building from the time I was young until I was about 25, 26 years old. I was a constant coping machine. I was lucky enough to stay away from elicit stuff like drugs. I never took drugs. I never even drank much really. I would cope through hard work. I would cope through totally killing my body or hitting people on the ice, getting into fisticuffs or banging around. I would cope through running excessive amount, track work and lifting, just a constant quest to fix some of my insecurity. When I was in my mid-20s this really hit a tipping point where it was just constant. What I did was I did what many people would do, which we hear about all the time, I made appointments with therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists. I tried yoga, meditation. I upped my exercise and my running even more. I tried at that time medication. Incredibly, I was getting even worse. I said, “This therapist isn’t the right therapist. I’ll go to a different therapist,” thinking that would be the answer or, “This medication wasn’t the right medication. I’ll try another one. Or this meditation routine isn’t the right one, let’s try a different one.” It was constant quest to cope, to fix my insecurity and my anxiousness and my paranoia, whatever.
I was absolutely stepping on the gas pedal with my tires . It was unbelievable how bad it was getting. At this point in my life, I had what I would describe as just my first insight into what was going to change my life and the path of my life. I’m going back many years now, 27 years now. The insight in my memory is, “This isn’t working. This constant quest for the cause of your feelings and all these therapists were pointing me back to my past and some tragedies and difficulties in my past, this constant quest for the cause of why you feel so bad and the constant quest to cure why you feel so bad, that isn’t working. You’ve got two choices: kill yourself, that will fix your feelings, or if that’s not going to be it, why don’t you do nothing? Everything you’re doing is taking you further into the mud.” I have to say it looks to me the reason I chose B was because I was engaged at the time to my now wife since forever. I was with her enough to not want to hurt her. Killing myself was not an option, not that I really cared because I didn’t care about living. I was conscious enough to look at it that way which is in hindsight how bad I was. There’s a lot of truth to that.
Here’s what happened. I literally cold turkey any coping strategy. I cold turkey going to see therapist and having them point me back to my past. I cold turkey any coping anything. Not that I stopped exercise necessarily but I stopped any coping for the quest of feeling. It was obvious to me that this was where I was going. I just cold turkey trying to feel better. Amazingly what happened was I started to feel better. I would say three weeks into feeling better, I had the second insight that changed the course of my life. That was that the human mind is built to fix itself. I had been taught that the body, if you leave it alone, and you know that more than anybody, is trying to fix itself. I had never heard, I have never even read, I have never even noticed that the mind is built to self-correct. Another way to say that would be human beings own a physical immune system so we also own a psychological immune system and still nobody knows it.
In an instant when I saw that as someone who loves sport, was good at sport, somewhat respected in sport at least locally at that time and also love coaching, what occurred to me was I’ve got to bring this to the world of sport. Sports psychologists are so much about fixing and giving mental strategy and techniques that things could do in order to elevate your state of mind and thus your performance that they’re just totally jamming players up because you cannot deliberately do that nor it’s not necessary, A and B, it’s just impossible to do it. I took this understanding to the world of sport quite boldly using contacts I had. I just went for it. Twenty-seven years later, I’m still here.
When you said you were contacting people, what did you do to get the word out? Obviously, this is a fresh thought, it’s a new idea, people probably don’t know what you’re talking about. How did you get your message across there?
What started to happen was I was coaching at the time and luckily I happen to be coaching some of the New Jersey Devils players’ kids. Actually, they’re former players’ kids. Because of the impact this understanding was having on their children and all the children, they started to notice and wonder, “What does this young guy know?” I’m 27 years old. “There’s something about his coaching style, the approach, the direction he’s pointing these players that is different.” They started to talk to me about it. That’s how it made its way into Pro hockey. I bypassed all the Minor Leagues. It was crazy. The big breakthrough in hockey was getting a phone call from J. P. Parisé, Zach Parisé’s father, out of the blue saying, “My kid was just drafted by the Devils, I want you to work with him.”
You didn’t have any conversations with J.P. before this?
I learned this in hindsight. I had written some stuff, I have not written a book yet but I had put some articles out there and J.P. was the Director of Hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota, the factory that’s produced Zach and Jonathan Toews and Derek Stepan and Sidney Crosby and Gustaf who now plays on the Devils. J.P had noticed something in my work. I didn’t know that. We became quite close. J.P. was the antithesis of this. J.P. was what I was. He was an ultimate grinder. He was a heck of a player and scored some really big goals in his career. In a weird way, he wanted better for his son, which we all want for our kids, which is fine. He reached out to me and said, “I like your work.” Zach at that time was eighteen. He played two years at North Dakota but he was young. Zach embraced the work in a big way. He wrote the foreword to Stillpower, my first book. Because of Zach’s excellence as a player, he was one of the best American player of all time obviously captain of the US Olympic team, etc. It made his way throughout. It continues to because there are a lot of young American players in the league who look up to him. You watch the game between the Coyotes and Rangers, you’re going to see a bunch of those guys in Minnesota area. A bunch of these guys are like under studies of Zach and I work with a bunch of them as a result of that.
Where do you start with a young kid that’s got the world in front of him? He has obviously got a lot to learn. Where do you start with a young kid like that that’s just a stud, he’s got everything going for him? What do you look at? What are you looking for? What is he looking to get out of it?
It doesn’t matter if it’s a young kid or a 65-year-old person or whatever. It’s always the same thing. What we’re talking about is a universal understanding of what the human experience is. It doesn’t matter what age a person is. It doesn’t matter what they experiences. That’s the old paradigm. In other words, we’re going to look at your life history, what you’ve been through, your biology, your intellect, all that stuff. We’re going to then make a plan for you personally. That’s what I’ve been fighting all these years. Anytime you go to the personal, you’re going outside so to speak. What we’re looking at is what the human beings have in common, what’s universal because truth has always been on what’s universal. It’s never found in a person.
With that said, what I will commonly do with a person when I first work with that person or a group is ask a question something along the lines of multiple choice questions, “What causes a human being to have a feeling?” It might sound cheesy but just go with me. The first answer would be a circumstance: the past, a situation, another person’s behavior, traffic, how much money you have, something like that; a circumstance. B would be thoughts, our thinking. C would be both. To review, the question is, “What causes human beings to have a feeling?” The answers are: a circumstance, a thought or both. People listening to this podcast I can promise you what I’m going to say is true right now. 99.9% of people who are listening right now are thinking the answer is C. I can promise you I’ve been doing this for a lot of years. The fact that people say C explains every problem in the history of human beings. I’m saying that with complete surety, even though who will question what I just said, “That can’t be true.”
Here’s the thing, every human being at his or her core knows that feeling our inner gain, they’re 100% connected to thought. Another way to look at thought is it’s just energy that comes and goes. When energy builds up inside of us, we feel crappy, insecure. When thought starts to flow through us, we feel fantastic. Our feelings ebb and flow as a result of energy coming in dawn; thought coming in dawn, end of story, full stop. The outside circumstance has zero percent to do with that. Not even 1% let alone 50% which was both. You have to understand that human beings create their reality from in to out. We are not capable of working from out to in. Another way to say that would be our state of mind, our thinking, how that energy is flowing or not, will create our experience. Our experience cannot create our state of mind. The confusion between the knowing that is an inner thing but the illusion that the outside is doing it. That is why people answer C and that is incredibly confusing to human beings. My job is to remind them of how it works. Not to do anything with it. In other words, I don’t tell people what to do, how to act, none of that. It’s simply remind them where their feelings are really coming from. That we’re living in this illusion that it looks like traffic, how much money we have, our past, the weather, the president, it looks like all that stuff is what’s causing our feelings. That is never true even though it will look like it’s true. What’s always true is our state of mind in the moment which we don’t control. We’ll create our experience. We’ll project outward and create our experience. It’s in to out game. That’s all that I reminded those players before. I don’t do anything else but remind people of that essential truth.
Does that take some time for them to click?
It varies. For example, when we talked about his briefly and even now, it jives in you like you see it. I don’t know how you see it. There’s no right or wrong time frame. It’s all over the map. I can give a lecture and let’s say there are a thousand people in the audience and maybe just two out of the thousand will understand. Maybe a hundred, maybe 500, it’s all over the place. What I tell audience very often is, “I can probably guess what the ratio of understanding is going to be in this group by the time we’re done. One-third of you is going to think I’m absolutely out of my mind,” to suggest what I just suggested to you before. “One-third of you is going to say, ‘That’s cool, but I don’t really know what to do with that information.’ One-third of you is going to say, ‘That explains everything.’” The funny thing about it is if I came to give the talk on a different day, where you would sit would be different. In other words, it’s not that one person is dumb more than the other or less conscious than the other. It’s simply where that energy, where that level of consciousness is at that moment in time whether it lines up or not. It’s not anyone’s fault if they don’t see it. It’s simply, is it time for you to see it?
When you have all these things in the world coming from the outside-in, pressure from your job, money, all these feelings coming from outside-in, it’s very easy to get caught up in that, how do you remind yourself to go inside-out?
First of all, you don’t have any feelings coming from outside-in. It’s important to phrase the question relatively cleanly. When the illusion is hitting you that your feelings are the result of X, Y and Z. Another way to say that would be, when you get the order mixed up because it’s very easy to think that the circumstance happens first and that causes a feeling. Thought and feelings happen so quickly that we don’t catch the order. The fact of the matter is your feeling state in the moment will always determine your perception or your projection. It’s never the opposite, even though it will look like it’s the opposite virtually all the time. There’s nothing you can do to switch that. It’s more about understanding what’s happening, not doing anything about it. It’s not a matter of you’ve got to fix it because the fact is, this will sound strange, the illusion is normal. If you’re a human being, you are going to do that. It’s actually what’s so great about being a human being. We both love hockey or sport. If you didn’t do that, when you scored a goal, you wouldn’t even be happy. You’re buying into the illusion and it’s fine.
I’ve watched my own kids play sport during their careers and I’m all into that. It’s fun. It’s also equally as fun to be like, “Darn.” It’s all part of it. It’s just really important to know that even though we’re doing that, that’s really not what’s happening. If you reflect on it, you’ll see that a hockey player for example has scored goals before and sometimes he’s really excited. Other times he’s like, “Whatever, I just scored.” It’s never really that you’ve got to look at it closely. It’s not really what you think that you’ve lost games or you’ve had something go bad in the office and sometimes it’s like, “This is the worst thing.” Other times it’s like, “I’m cool. I can handle anything.” It’s never a good thing. It’s like traffic. You sit in traffic sometimes and you’re so frustrated. Other times you sit in traffic and you’re like, “I’ll just chill, no big deal.” It’s still the same traffic because you’re never feeling the traffic. Your feelings are already happening and that will create our projection or our perception of the traffic. It’s in to out always.
If people would grasp what we’re saying, let alone performance, we’re talking about you couldn’t have a war. You could not have war if people understood this. It’s possible, let alone divorce being ramped in, let alone bullying, let alone road rage, let alone terrorism. All these awful calamities so to speak are totally the by-product of misunderstanding. If people understand where their feelings are coming from, it’s an inner thing. If you and I understand where our feelings are coming from, I may disagree with you, but you can’t cause me to feel anything. There’s no reason why I’ve got to fix you and then tend to fix my feelings. It’s illogical.
One of the areas that we’ve worked in and you would read it in the book is in bullying. The current paradigm in fixing bullying is to give the bullies, the victims and the bystanders things to do, not just chance to assist them more. The minute you help people that remind people that that guy cannot cause you to feel anything.
Unless you let it.
Aside from letting it, you either understand it or you don’t. No one’s trying to miss it. It’s really understanding. Let’s say a twelve-year-old is a bully. Once that bully wakes up to the fact that he works inside-out not outside-in, he’ll never bully again. It will be illogical when he feels insecure to try to beat up somebody else in the quest to feel better. That’s the only reason to be bullied. That’s it. No other reason to be bullied. We’ve had an incredible success in schools, in pointing young children in this direction. It’s amazing how fast bullying cleans itself up without us even telling people what to do. It’s just simply reminding them what we’re talking about today.
This is what I woke up to so many years ago and my whole course of my life changed. I don’t want to say that I don’t get up my head at times. It’s helpful to know why I get up with my head. I get up with my head because energy comes and goes within me, nothing to do with the outside. When that happens, it’s almost like I’m up in my head right now but I’m still okay. I can still perform. I can still love my wife. I can still be a good parent. I can still work. It’s not in a fix.
You just let the storm pass and that you’re aware of it?
In a perfect world, you would see that if the storm is normal, if the human mind and human experience is built to ebb and flow, and the ebb and the flow are both normal which they are, then the storm is normal. The storm is part of it. The storm is the ultimate blessing. When you start to see that the storm is as much a blessing as the calm, you could care less. You stop really noticing your state of mind so much. I have players say to me, “Garret, tell me something. Is this normal because last night before the game, I was a complete insecure wreck but for some reason, I didn’t give a crap. I was fine with that.” Now, we know we’re getting somewhere because that player knows that coping is never the answer. There’s never anything that has to be fixed.
When you start to wake up to that, you realize that you can excel, you can serve, you can care, you can love no matter what your state of mind is. Right now, the world is under this cloud, this constant quest, the fixer state of mind because we’re almost programmed to believe that you’ve got to be in this optimum mindset in order to excel, in order to be a good person. That’s simply not true. The human mind, like any energy frequency, is meant this is the waves, the energy, that’s how we’re built, we come and we go. That’s what I’m about pointing people in that direction.
How did you get started with writing books and everything? Did you bring someone on to help you voice that message or you just wrote the book and then had someone edit it? How does that work?
Luckily just for me, I’ve always been a decent writer. If I went to Hamilton College, which is the second best writing school in the country, by the way the funniest thing is all I want to do is play hockey. I didn’t even know that when I was there. I think the number one or two or three, if you check it out you would see that. Somehow, it did seep into me a little bit. I learned how to structure. I write every week from my email list. I have a very large email list of athletes and general managers in pro sports and other people. It goes out to that audience every Tuesday. Those articles ultimately determine the sections of the chapters in my book. I have a board which tells the beginning of my next book. All the articles over the last three years grouped together in chapter, so I have seven chapters. I take the articles and I edit them big time. I meander the story together. It’s arduous but that’s how I do it. That’s the actual start of a book with a working title of, The Myth of Mindset. That’s the title of the next book as of right now.
Garret, where can people find you or seek out your books or your help? Do you have a website or anything like that?
You’ve written two books so far?
Do you recommend reading one prior than the other?
No, I would actually recommend reading The Path of No Resistance. The other book is called Stillpower. That was the first book. I would read the second book because that’s closer to where this work is at now. You could check them both out. They’re on my site. Anyone can check them out and take their pick. I encourage anybody who reads the books or checks out the work to keep in touch with me. What we’re suggesting as you can see today is a total 180-degree paradigm shift in how we help people psychologically. In your business, in our field, it’s so similar especially your particular specialty which I know very well. It’s a whole different ball game. It’s the same thing with what we’re talking about. I could tell you that it’s just like in any paradigm shift. It’s met with a lot of opposition. Ultimately, when the tide shifts, it’s never going back, such as the Earth being round. It sounds crazy but it’s not that long ago. You’re talking people would have laughed at you if you suggested that the Earth was not flat. People thought you were a lunatic. This is true. I was born in 1962. In my lifetime in 1968 when the Apollo astronauts landed on the moon, they took pictures back of the somewhat round Earth. Life Magazine wouldn’t even publish them at first because they were afraid that people would freak out when they saw what the Earth really looked. The flat Earth paradigm was still not completely out of the psyche of human beings. That breathed in my lifetime. That’s true. Just like today, the world of Psychology would say that if someone is struggling, don’t fix it. That is exactly what I’m saying. The mind is built to fix itself. It will do that to the degree you don’t try to fix it. That is blasphemy to therapists generally.
You must get a lot of resistance from sports psychologists and all that, right?
How does that work too? You’re working with these professional athletes and a lot of teams have these sports psychologists in place with their organizations. Do they jump out at you?
Of course, the thing is I’m not saying that just because you look at a direction I’ve suggested that you’re going to excel and you’re going to win major golf tournaments or Stanley Cups, but we’ve done okay. I’m not even saying I necessarily care about that. All I care about is that paradigm shifting. Ultimately, that’s why I’m in this work. I know that there’s unnecessary struggle out there. I know that human beings are doing crazy ass things in a quest to feel better. If you look at people who are hurting other people so to speak, they’re not inherently evil people but they bought in to evil, they bought in to the mis-understanding. That’s very easy to do. I did it and I still do it to a certain extent. It’s very easy to do the illusion that your feelings are coming from the outside is incredibly compelling. It will lure you right in. It will suck you right in. Those bad feelings you get when you’re falling for it so to speak, that’s actually your sign that you’re falling for it. You cannot have an insecure feeling and see life clearly at the same time. The problem is we’re taught that we’ve got to fix the insecure feeling as opposed to understand what’s happening. Once you understand what’s happening, then you could care less about being insecure. You see it as a blessing. You see it as something that, “That means I’m working. My psychological immune system is actually working.” It’s almost crazy to know that in the world of therapy, people are trying to fix those feelings. The therapists are giving people ways to fix them when they’re your most reliable resource. They never should be fixed.
It’s almost like a drug just masking the pain and not going out to the root cause of what’s actually going on.
Absolutely, it’s that simple. There’s no question. I’m not trying to paint a picture of these therapists that they’re bad people. They’re trying to help. Going back to bullying, if you’re a bullying specialist, your heart is in the right place. Think about that. The problem is the training is so outside-in that the bullying specialist’s own psychological immune system gets shrouded, gets covered up. They can’t see it. They can’t see it themselves. What happens occasionally, Kevin, is one of these therapists or helpers or whatever will point a person who is struggling back to his or her past. They’ll give this person all kinds of strategies and methods and techniques, coping methods to feel better. Then that client, that patient will feel and get better. The mistake that these therapists make and so does the patient, they attribute their better feeling to the direction the therapist just pointed the person. There is no connection. What happen was the person’s psychological immune system activated and the person found clarity of mind. It didn’t happen because of the methods of this therapist. That’s why that person will then get jammed up again, go back to the therapist and that time it won’t work. The fact is it never worked. The only thing that can work is the person’s psychological immune system, their innate ability to find clarity of mind. That’s the only thing that can ever work. It’s like a sports psychologist given a golf or a mental technique and he feels good and he plays great and then uses the same technique the next day and he plays like crap. Technique is neutral and either case. It didn’t hurt him. It didn’t help him. It’s the player’s understanding of what’s really happening that will guide the player. The technique is 100% a waste of time. Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t look that way so we buy in that illusion.
Garret, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate you. Thanks for taking the time out today. I love to have you back once you get that new book rocking and rolling.
I’m looking forward to you fixing my neck.
See you soon.