Along with Michele Tafoya, the sideline reporter for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, and Michael Lombardi, the powerful and influential NFL executive, we are excited to interview another figure in the NFL world who has popularized Stoicism. His name is Adam Lefkoe, and he is the co-host of the Simms And Lefkoe podcast, which offers a weekly discussion about football, life and everything between. He is also an Emmy award winning sports anchor, and was named the 2013 AP Kentucky TV Sportscaster of the year. He has raved about The Obstacle Is the Way, and he has even read a quote from The Daily Stoic on-air. We reached out to Adam to learn how he discovered the philosophy, his favorite Stoic practices and quotes, book recommendations, and much more. Enjoy our interview with Adam bellow!
The Obstacle Is the Way came heavily recommended to me by my friend Alex Mitchell-Hardt. He called it a “game-changer”. He’s never steered me wrong.
Do you remember what your first reaction was? Why do you think it hit you the way it did?
Right away I was taken aback. I kept putting down the book, muttering curse words and laughing. Living with controlled emotions, an unwavering focus, and a 30,000 foot view of self all made so much sense. In a world full of shortcuts, the path to happiness is paved by actually paving a path. I was invigorated. I felt independent. I recommended it to every friend, family member or stranger that I came across. I had never seen the world through that paradigm before. It was honest.
A lot of coaches—though certainly athletes too—are sort of naturally Stoic. Calm, disciplined, never dwelling on the past, motivated by a kind of internal code. What professional athlete or coach (past or present) best represents the ideals of Stoicism to you? Why?
John Wooden and Bill Belichick were the first two people that came to mind. I find Belichick’s mantra “Do Your Job” to be a three-word embodiment of Stoicism. He is defined by his intense focus and dispassionate nature. He lives for process. He prepares for any possible situation or outcome. He works harder than any other coach in the NFL and doesn’t have time to worry about losses…he’s “on to Cincinnati”.
People probably don’t immediately think sports -> philosophy or even sports -> reading, but clearly that’s a big part of what elite performers do. Have you found that athletes and coaches have a hunger for reading? Why do you think that is?
Since athletes and coaches spend most of the their time in transit between games, reading is often woven into their schedules. Also, coaches constantly use movies, articles and books to inspire and motivate their teams. At the professional level, the gap between the top and bottom athletes in a sports isn’t that wide. (Not including outliers like LeBron or Serena. There’s a reason they’re identifiable with just one name.) The separation comes from preparation and motivation. Everyone is looking for an edge. Books can provide that edge.
Was there a Stoic quote that has landed with you most? One you think about often?
“In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where will I find good and bad? In me, in my choices.”
This pretty much clears up any emotion I may have or decision I may have to make.
We did hear you quote one of the passages in The Daily Stoic to Michele Tafoya in your interview (from Seneca): “Death lies heavy upon one who, known exceedingly well by all, dies unknown to himself.” So, thank you for that. Why did that one stand out to you? What does it mean to you?
I used that passage since it fell on Michele’s birthday. I thought it would be a fun way to incorporate the book in the interview. For me, finding Stoicism has helped me find myself. By internalizing my actions and impact, I find myself free to live an honest life. With that in mind, I don’t fear death. Death makes me appreciate life more. I’ve observed that many people wait for the future to provide clarity, contentment and meaning. For them, death is a looming deadline and most people tend to procrastinate. The sooner you can be honest with yourself and live by pure guiding principles, the sooner you’ll actually start living. If one dies without self-exploration, have they ever truly lived?
If you were in the locker room with a star athlete—maybe one that had just lost a big game, or experienced a horrendous injury. Or maybe they just won a big game. It was some pivotal moment in their career, something you’d seen before given all your years watching the rise and fall of great talents, and you could give them one piece of advice, can you think of something you would say? It could be from Stoicism or anything in your experience.
“That moment doesn’t define you, your reaction to that moment will.” I think Marcus Williams will be an excellent case study.
Tell us about your own Stoic practices. Do you journal? Read a lot? Any daily routines you could share? How are you pursuing philosophy—particularly given that you have a job that keeps you pretty busy?
I read The Daily Stoic each day before I go to work. Candidly, I’d love to claim daily journaling and meditation but I respect Ryan too much to lie for perceived enlightenment. This might be odd, but I find the daily NYC Subway commute serves as a reminder to practice Stoic principles. Navigating the constant movement, rampant stress and short fuses is an exterior practice that, I find, channels an inner calm.
Which one of the Stoics do you like best? Who resonates the most with you?
I don’t know if Demosthenes was a Stoic, but his story is the one I’ll never forget. His situation, determination and core values have stuck with me as an extremely bright guiding light.
We are curious what other “quake” books you might recommend to our readers? What have been the books that have most impacted your life?
- The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King by Rich Cohen (Sam Zemurray might be the baddest dude to ever live.)
- Tough Jews: Fathers, Sons, and Gangster Dreams by Rich Cohen (The Jewish-American story I never knew but needed to hear.)
- Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court by John Wooden (Gems on Gems on Gems.)
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (A paradigm shift that everyone needs.)