• Dr. Jim Loehr

Elite Performance Psychology for Sports, Business and Life

Updated: Jan 4

Podcast: What Got You There with Sean DeLaney.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Episode Link: Episode #221 - Pioneering Elite Performance Psychology for Sports, Business, and Life



Episode Notes from Sean DeLaney

Key Takeaways

“The more I understood it the more I realized that is how you create an extraordinary impact in a person’s life, is that every moment you are with them it’s not the amount of time you have with them but what kind of energy did you create in the time you were there.”

Jim received his doctorate to go into the mental health field of psychology, not sports surprisingly. During his time as a Chief Psychologist, Jim quit his job and pursued sports psychology, working at two different tennis centers which he credits to teaching him the value of two PhD’s.


“I began to get a sense of how the human system was designed, how it performs well under pressure, what are the pitfalls, and it was a massive learning curve for me.”

After working with the tennis center, Jim and his business partner started the Human Performance Institute. One of the primary focuses in working with the elite athletes at the Institute was understanding everyone’s story and what their purpose is.


“We want to demonstrate to them that they can change their lives, they can change them significantly and the way you start that is you get the right purpose and that purpose goes to the centerpiece of this new story.”

Jim says that the biggest insight he has had is realizing that our most important resource is energy. What we give energy to is what we give life to, and Jim believes that giving energy to someone is the greatest gift.


“I began to realize that the most important resource you have as a human being in terms of getting something done is your energy and recruiting the energy of others and surrounding yourself with really extraordinary people.”

“You have to have enough humility but you can’t be dealing with too much insecurity, so insecurity has to be balance with confidence and confidence has to be balanced with humility.”


4:21 Foundational Routines

Jim’s morning ritual that sets the stage for his day is getting up early, he has to make his bed, he responds to urgent emails, overviews his calendar and to do list. When he was writing his book, Leading with Character, he would wake up at 2 in the morning and write until 8 before going into work.


“In writing this book, I got up at two in the morning every morning for over a year and wrote until eight and then I went into the Human Performance Institute and did my job.”

Jim’s nutrition and daily tennis is what he uses to maintain his energy.


“Energy for me was the most important thing and all of these rituals help me to mobilize it to make sure it’s directed in the right direction.”


7:41 Jim’s Childhood

As a kid, Jim loved adventure and pushing the envelope. He has always had a passion for the wilderness and outdoors – calling himself a “reborn frontiersman.”

8:27 Jim’s Discovery of Sport Psychology

Jim received his doctorate to work in the mental health field but was introduced to elite performance through a track and field coach while he was working as a Chief Psychologist for an elite training facility. After conversations with the track and field coach, Jim resigned and decided to pursue sports psychology which was not a recognized job title at the time.


After opening up a private practice, Jim says:

“Very quickly I realized that I didn’t know anything, I literally didn’t know anything.”

Jim then went to the Jimmy Connors Tennis Center for two years and then the Nick Bolletierri Tennis Academy for six years, where he says:

“It was by far the most prolific period of player development I’ve had in my entire life.”


12:42 Lessons of a Fast Learning Environment

Jim had access to fantastic players every day for six years, and he began to understand the human system when it comes to elite performance.

“I began to get a sense of how the human system was designed, how it performs well under pressure, what are the pitfalls, and it was a massive learning curve for me.”

Following his time at Nick Bolletierri Tennis Academy, Jim then went on to start his own business with Dr. Jack Groppel called the Human Performance Institute.

“I try to have one foot in the practical world and one foot in the scientific world and I think that that has really helped me to stay practical, relevant, but to really make sure that I’m anchoring in good science.”


14:51 Pioneer Mentality

Jim still looks back at his resignation from his job as Chief Psychologist with surprise in himself for taking the leap to pursue sports psychology.

“I began to realize that the most important resource you have as a human being in terms of getting something done is your energy and recruiting the energy of others and surrounding yourself with really extraordinary people.”

Jim says that he is most proud of the amazing talent base that he assembled for the faculty of the Human Performance Institute.

“Everyone benefits when everyone performs at a higher level and does it in a way that’s sustainable.”


17:09 Feeling the Magic Within the Team

Jim says that people from his faculty when creating and working for the Human Performance Institute refer to it as their ‘camelot’.

“When we were there everyone felt that this is probably the pinnacle of anything they could ever come to be involved in because they could see the changes that we were making in people’s lives.”


18:44 A Winston Churchill Quote Jim Loves

Both Sean and Jim talk about the great Winston Churchill quote,

“History will be kind to me, because I intend to write it”

Jim says that he loves the quote because one of the main elements of human performance is the story.

“More important than what happens to you is the story you tell about what happens to you.”


19:45 The Importance of Story

With over 400,000 people that went through the Institute when Jim was there, the main element is for them to write their ‘old story’ that is holding them back. The optimal number of times that the Institute found for people to rewrite their story is 6 times.


“Writing it frequently, reading it, it’s a form of indoctrination.”

Jim read every single story that went through the Institute and he began to understand that purpose is the centerpiece of our lives. This is where Jim got the inspiration for his book, The Power of Story.


“We want to demonstrate to them that they can change their lives, they can change them significantly and the way you start that is you get the right purpose and that purpose goes to the centerpiece of this new story.”


25:30 Self Esteem Hindering Elite Performers

Jim says it’s the full spectrum that blocks elite performers from being able to perform their best, but typically it comes down to self esteem and what the athlete believes they are capable of.

“What if the person you were, met the person you could have been at the end of your life?”


30:30 Balancing Confidence and Arrogance

Even after great success, Jim still has a nagging feeling that he can do more.

“You have to find an area that you’re willing to take risks and a pathway that ignites your passion.”

Jim always wants to help people find what is going to open up that excitement and feeling of adventure for them.

“It’s a balance between confidence and arrogance and the modulator there is humility.”

Jim believes that humility is the most important quality for people to have.

“You have to have enough humility but you can’t be dealing with too much insecurity, so insecurity has to be balance with confidence and confidence has to be balanced with humility.”


34:22 Next Steps After An Epiphany

When talking what happens after Jim has an epiphany, Jim bluntly tells Sean:

“Sometimes I have these epiphanies and they turn out to be complete train wrecks.”


35:55 Facing Hard Truths

Jim explains how self reflection opens up a risk. When Jim is self reflecting he looks at his performance skills and his moral and ethical skills.

“Our self esteem is so closely allied with our character.”

He explains how he didn’t learn this in his education but throughout observing data.

“Awareness is the window to which we all have to go to make changes.”


40:56 Jim’s Process with Elite Performers

Awareness is part of the process that Jim and the Human Performance Institute work with their athletes on. The first step in the process with the athlete is determining what’s reality,

“There’s the real world and then there’s the one you’ve created and I can’t work with anyone unless we go to what’s real.”

The next step is talking with the athlete about how they hope to look back on their life. Jim says that during this exercise no athlete or performer says that they got first place in something or got the CEO job, the answers all come down to how others will remember how they treated them.

“The most important element in one’s self esteem is your treatment of others.”

It’s a backwards process, after they have looked at the end of their life then Jim brings the focus to the present.

“How can you use your achievement skills in high performance to actually build that pathway?”


46:22 Structures Jim Recommends

Jim recommends a similar process for people that might not be at the elite performing level. Outline who you are now and who you want to be and confront if you’re currently on the path to what you want to be remembered for.

“You start with purpose.”


49:37 Mindsets We Can’t Train

Jim explains that early abuse in someone’s life can be very difficult to mentally recover from throughout an entire lifetime.

“If you have a lot of that scar tissue from your early years, you have to work harder.”

Similar to a damaged muscle, you have to recover and slowly bring back in stress to that area in order to grow.

“If you don’t go in and stress it you’re never going to grow, and recovery is when you grow, so you have to have this balance of stress and recovery.”


53:24 The Importance of Energy

Jim says that the biggest insight he has had is realizing that our most important resource is energy.

“We’re not going to be judged by how long we live, in terms of the value of our life, it’s going to be whatever time we had, the energy we brought to that time aligned with what we really thought was important, what our values were.”

Aligning our values with energy will bring us a sense of fulfillment. Renewing our energy is important to continue the sense of connection to what is important to us and ensuring that we don’t burnout.

“You want to be a big spender you have to have great recovery mechanisms in your life.”


59:51 The Value of Recovery Time

When working with the top tennis players in the world, Jim studied what players were doing between points and how their recovery within the short amount of time impacted their performance.

“They were strategic in how they used the 25 seconds for brilliant recovery.”

When meeting with a Spanish Bullfighter, Jim learned the importance of posture and body language when it comes to maintaining confidence and calmness in performance situations that may cause the heart rate to spike from anger, such as a bad line call from the referee.

“I spent hours teaching players how to walk, how to develop this matador look on the court, how to carry their rackets, how to walk down the courts relaxed but showing great belief in themselves.”


1:04:43 Body Language

Jim explains how changing your body language to appear more confident does not only apply to elite athletes in competition – this is something we can all apply to our own lives.

“We have opportunities to practice everyday.”


1:06:05 Jim’s Most Important Insight

Jim says that one of the greatest insights he has learned throughout his career has been that most people are unaware that their energy is what makes everything happen.

“Every moment of consciousness you’re giving life to something and it could be something that you really want to grow but often it’s exactly the opposite.”

Jim worked with his athletes on understanding their inner voice that no one else hears.

“You have to be much more conscious that whatever you’re giving your energy to, you are giving life to.”


1:09:10 Jim’s Reflection


When reflecting, Jim says that he has gotten on the wrong path throughout his career that wastes his time and energy but that it has taught him humility.

“When I look back on my life I wish I had been more aligned with these understandings. I would give anything to have these insights much earlier in my career.”

Jim also wishes he had given more energy and been more engaged, which he believes is the greatest gift we can give.

“The more I understood it the more I realized that is how you create an extraordinary impact in a person’s life, is that every moment you are with them it’s not the amount of time you have with them but what kind of energy did you create in the time you were there.”


1:12:10 Who Jim Would Choose to Have Dinner With

Jim says that the book Man Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl, has impacted him drastically and that is who he would choose to spend an evening with.


Jim’s Resources

Book – Leading with Character


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