The book is Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable.
It was written by Michael Jordan’s personal trainer, Tim Grover.
(Grover has also trained a slew of other NBA stars — but due in no small part to him being relentless, he trained Michael Jordan as his first ever pro athlete client.)
It’s not a book about sports, even though almost every example in the book is about sports stars. It’s not about fitness or health, either — even though a lot of clients come to him when they need to be as fit and healthy as they’ve ever been.
It’s about mindset.
How winners think, approach life, and play their game. How they fight through obstacles and the toughest opponents, and win.
The book doesn’t pull any punches. Grover tells it like he sees it. With an attitude his superstar athlete clients gravitate towards — but that will likely offend most people who read it.
I’ll share a couple important takeaways. First, about the kinds of competitors Grover has identified. Then, about the traits of the most relentless foes you could ever hope not to compete against.
The three types of competitor…
Grover breaks down most people into three categories.
The Cooler, the Closer, the Cleaner.
The Cooler just cools their heels. They’ll do what they’re asked to do, but they’re mostly trying not to upset the apple cart. They want to live a life where things are kept at even keel, where they can live a comfortable life without too much expectation being put on their shoulders.
The Closer is the pinch hitter, the person you call in in a clutch situation. They’re a skilled competitor, and will lay it all on the line to get the win when called. They’re great to have on your team, and often considered the “most competitive,” but mostly because every win they notch up is celebrated with great fanfare. They’re loud and boisterous about their role, but they’ll only take on that role when asked.
Then, there’s the Cleaner. This is the true leader. The one who sees winning as the job that needs to be done, so they show up and do it. They can be loud, but often, they’re not. Often, they quietly take charge and make sure everyone is where they need to be, when they need to be there, doing what they need to be doing. The only time they make a fuss is when someone under-performs to their expectation and ability. (And then, watch out.)
Closers are masters of their one thing. A Cleaner is a master of everything, taking personal responsibility and accepting accountability for everything around them to function at its utmost. And because of that, they’re relentless.
Relentless at studying their craft. Relentless at improving. Relentless at bringing everyone around them up to a higher level. Relentless at practice. Relentless at making sure everything that needs to be done, gets done — and well.
And, they’re relentless competitors.
(Side note: Grover does make the point that you can be a Cleaner in ANY area of life. Anything you apply yourself to. There are stay-at-home parents that are Cleaners at that. There are janitors and school teachers who are Cleaners in their professions. There are most certainly copywriters that are Cleaners. And every other profession, occupation, vocation, or calling under the sun. He also says we all have the capacity to be Cleaners, but most of us don’t live it.)
Most of the book is structured as a breakdown, explanation, and investigation into the traits that Cleaners all share…
The 13 traits of relentless competitors…
If this resonates with you, buy the book. You will not regret it. The stories add depth and dimension to this that I can’t capture here. Grover’s voice of experience is inspiring, if you’ve got competitive blood pumping through your veins.
But I’ll give you the quick rundown of his 13 traits, so you can say, “Yes, I see myself…”
According to Grover, when you’re a Cleaner…
— “You keep pushing yourself harder when everyone else has had enough.”
You practice twice as hard. You show up earlier and stay later than everyone else. You’re improving yourself when others are sleeping, or relaxing, or recovering.
— “You get into the Zone, and shut out everything else, and control the uncontrollable.”
You understand Flow, you seek it, and you seek to master it. You know what peak performance states feel like, and you harness them in every moment possible.
— “You know exactly who you are.”
Your ability to be an effective Cleaner is only made more powerful when you recognize that for all its good and bad (in the eyes of society), this is who you are — you’re a relentless competitor.
— “You have a dark side that refuses to be taught to be good.”
You might clean up nicely, and play genteel. Even most of the time. But when it’s time to compete, you let out that fierce monster inside.
— “You’re not intimidated by pressure, you thrive on it.”
In fact, one of your biggest challenges is figuring out what to do with yourself when you’re NOT under pressure.
— “When everyone is hitting the ‘In Case of Emergency’ button, they’re all looking for you.”
You establish yourself as an A-player, and those around you know that when there’s a mess, you will be there, ready, willing, and able to clean it up.
— “You don’t compete with anyone, you find your opponent’s weakness and you attack.”
Winning is your job. You will find a way to make it happen. It won’t always look pretty, and it won’t always feel fair. (Although you know the rules well enough that you seldom break them, even as you fight a little dirty.)
— “You make decisions, not suggestions; you know the answer while everyone else is still asking questions.”
You’re not afraid of making mistakes. You’re afraid of the opportunity to win slipping you by while twiddling your thumbs trying to figure out the best course of action. You act fast, fail fast, and course correct — and repeat until you win.
— “You don’t have to love the work, but you’re addicted to the results.”
Yes, it is often painful and grueling to work harder, play harder, fight harder, train harder than everyone else. Yes, getting back up when everyone would accept your ‘best effort’ loss is the hard thing to do. But you do it, because you need to win.
— “You’d rather be feared than liked.”
Yes, you like to be liked. Nothing wrong with people liking you. But, given the choice, your priority is getting that win — and sometimes, people don’t like what you have to do to make sure that happens.
— “You trust very few people, and those you trust better never let you down.”
Your trust is a privilege. It must be re-earned in every moment. You expect most people to fail at this. Even those who succeed are likely to come up short eventually. But while you trust them, you’ll give them the chance to take the game winning shot and the glory over you.
— “You don’t recognize failure; you know there’s more than one way to get what you want.”
There is no failure. There is only testing to see what works, and what doesn’t. Every try that doesn’t get you the result you want just tells you how you must adapt for the next try.
— “You don’t celebrate your achievements because you always want more.”
“The control is your enemy.” The morning after you win, you go back to training and practice. Winning isn’t a destination — it’s something you do. And when you’ve done it once, it’s time to get ready to do it again.
Does this list make you feel uncomfortable, or understood?
There are elements of this list that I have to be careful not to let out except in competition.
But ultimately, it’s many of those same elements that have driven my success in business and my career. The book made me feel understood.
If you feel the same after reading this list, get the book.
If you’re uncomfortable with what it takes to be a Cleaner? On one level I get it. But if that’s the case, embrace that, and get out of the competition.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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