- Posted by Action Catalyst
- On February 7, 2023
- 0 Comments
- author, Business, CEO, coaching, company culture, entrepreneur, football, leadership, motivation, NFL, success, team building
Shawn Harper, Former NFL offensive lineman, CEO and founder of American Services and Protection, motivational speaker, and author, explains how there’s no such thing as success; it’s a man made construct, talks about adopting a “success” vs a “win” model, planting seeds of potential in the fields of Iowa, emphasizing culture first, teamwork and collaboration on and off the field, what makes a great coach, breaking down to built up, playing hurt versus injured, and how essentially waterboarding himself every day is a critical piece of his morning routine.
Shawn Harper and his five siblings were raised by their single mother in Columbus, Ohio. Greeted daily by the hard knock life, he learned to survive the trenches of a rough, impoverished south side neighborhood. However, Shawn’s environment was not the only challenge he faced as a child. He also lived with four disabilities, including dyslexia and a speech impediment.
Teachers sneered at Shawn, blatantly telling him he was not “college material.” Despite suffering from his disabilities, a debilitating stutter and lack of support at school, he was determined to fit in and began playing football in high school. During his senior year, the coach at North Iowa Community College was looking for athletes who had potential, so Shawn’s high school coach recommended him. He graduated 154th (last) in his class, did not receive scholarships to assist him financially, and there were no guarantees for Shawn – but just having an opportunity at the junior college was all he needed to explode and change his entire life forever.
Shawn’s dream began at North Iowa Community College. While playing football for the junior college, he envisioned himself playing in the National Football League (NFL). For inspiration, he placed three letters above his headboard, “NFL”, and he continued to apply himself to his studies. Shawn was then recruited by Indiana University (IU). Having a successful football career at IU and graduating with honors, Shawn was drafted to the NFL and his dream became his reality.
Shawn played for several NFL teams for seven years, including the Indianapolis Colts, and is currently CEO of American Services and Protection in Columbus, Ohio. He also founded Bridge Builders International, a speaking and writing platform aimed at helping corporate staff and business leaders apply new perspectives on vision, leadership, teamwork, communication, and the capacity to WIN at all their endeavors. He also serves on the board of King’s Ransom Foundation, helping serve the poor and needy both domestically and abroad.
He is an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker who shares the wisdom he gained from his life experiences. Shawn uses his “no excuses” philosophy to motivate millions of students, executives, and CEOs. Rising to fame in the NFL and serving as a life coach, successful business owner and worldwide motivational speaker, Shawn is living proof that “a set-back is a set-up for a comeback.“
Learn more at ShawnHarper.org.
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(Transcribed using A.I. / May include errors):
Adam Outland: On today’s episode, we welcome Shawn Harper. Shawn is a former NFL offensive lineman who played a total of seven seasons in the NFL and NFL Europe, and now the founder and CEO of American Services and Protection, as well as Bridge Builders International. Shawn is a highly sought after motivational speaker and author. Shawn, I’m down here in Houston, Texas. I heard you used to play for the Oilers.
Shawn Harper: Long, long, long time ago. You know, I didn’t even finish out the entire season, but that’s when Jack Pardi was the head coach. It was a blast though. Great team. Yeah. Funny team. Yeah. Yeah.
Adam Outland: Just reading a little bit on your background and your story, I thought was just a really amazing one. I love any progressive story that talks about overcoming limitations to accomplish, and yours in particular is a, a really wonderful story in terms of what you overcame as a young man to then go on and accomplish all the things you’ve accomplished. I mean, to date, you played in the NFL for the Rams, Oilers, Colts, and then over in Europe. How long?
Shawn Harper: That was a total of seven years all combined. Three in the NFL, three and a half over in NFL Europe, so pretty close to seven years.
Adam Outland: And then today, CEO of American Services and Protection, which supports people with individual protective services.
Shawn Harper: Yeah. It was just a no-brainer for me being an offensive lineman to be able to carry this over to protecting clients like I protect running backs and quarterbacks.
Adam Outland: That’s brilliant. That’s such a great analogy. Your clients are your quarterbacks. That’s right. And then beyond that, you still are on the speaking circuit. So this is what I love. You are literally on the professional speaking circuit C of a company, NFL player.
But if we go back to the very beginning of your story, tell us a little bit about going from the challenges that you had as a youth to what you do.
Shawn Harper: I’m probably the least likely an individual to make it to this level. Born in the south side of Columbus, Ohio. Documented with four to five learning disabilities, stuttered my entire life.
Couldn’t complete a sentence till college kicked out of schools for disciplinary issues. Left high school with a 1.62 accumulative gpa, not on my a c t out of 150 first seniors to graduate. My academic ranking was 154. I can imagine. Voted most likely to fail. And to be really honest, everything I just mentioned is the edited version.
You don’t have to get into the extreme poverty. One of six kids, father physically abusing me. It, it was bad. It was really horrific, but I was able to find something. And what I was able to find was the win. And what I mean by that is that every single one of us, we are created to win. We’re born. Success is a manmade construct.
There’s no such thing as success. They give it to you. Society prescribes it to you, but you’re not created to be successful. You’re created to win, which is why even down to a physiological standpoint, you know, hormones that you release, the excitement, the dopamine, all of that is predicated and based off of winning along the lines.
Third or fourth grade, were taught a new concept, and a concept is called success. So they stripped away a lot of the. To me, winning is the fullest expression of who you are mentally, socially, emotionally, financially, obvious, and legacy. That is the complete win. Well society, what they’ve done a great job is they stripped away, you know, everything else, and they kept maybe one or two aspect of winning Popularities financials, and now they’ve pushed everybody in that direct.
One of the reasons why a lot of people are incomplete, upset, depressed, lacking in so many other areas of their life is because they’re on a success model versus the win mile. Well, then I was able to put myself on a win mop and I looked at my goals, dreams, aspirations, and I looked at it from a winner’s perspective as if I’ve already won it, as if you’ve already obtained it.
Now that changes your perspective and I begin to attack, not address, but to. Areas of the life or areas of my life that I wanted to accomplish. If life is a game you play to win.
Adam Outland: You know, I love that. And one of the, the things that I do outside of this podcast is I actually, uh, we run a coaching program for youth, not athletic coaching, but you know, mentality, emotional intelligence, confidence, goal setting, vision.
And we not too long ago, started working with foster youth and the reason I just bring that up is that I think what you talk about in your early story, I talk to students that have similar backgrounds and I think, you know, if any of them end up listening to this, I, I, I just would love to hear just a little bit on what was the turning point.
I mean, you know, we call this the Action Catalyst podcast. We’re always kind of zoning in on that. What was it that flipped a switch that made you dive into pushing through education and everything else?
Shawn Harper: Well, first of all, just let me say I’m extremely interested in your actual coaching program.
Everywhere I’m going, it’s like youth, youth, youth youth’s like, okay, God, I’m gonna go get ’em. But what changed in me was being catapulted into the cornfields of Mason City, Iowa. I went to a junior college in Mason City, Iowa. Right? It’s like 26,000 blonde hair, blue wise. Everyone’s last name is Schneider.
Okay? I’m in the cornfield . I’m in the cornfield. Totally different mindset. I’m I’m, and where. Now check it out. If you call the seed potential, then the soil is the culture and I was able to germinate that seed in a different culture. Everything that was placed in me. Once you put it in a certain situation of circumstances, it begins to germinate.
And unfortunately, and this is man, this is bad, but unfortunately a lot of people, they’re not able to change because they’re not able to change their culture, their. and that’s one of the first things associations has to change. Hmm. People you hang with, people who, who you talk to, people who, who you consult with.
It has to change. If we put our energy on the culture of the family, the culture of the workplace, the culture of our community, man, I tell you what, you could take an average, a sub average seat and turn it into a bumper. Look at the, uh, recent Super Bowl champions. The Rams. Now understand this. Vaughn Miller was considered to be a Washup.
Oden. Beckman Jr. Was a washup. The starting quarterback was with Detroit. It was a washup. The left tackles played that game. He played with, guess who? Cincinnati. They got rhythm two years ago. It was a washup. What was the difference? The difference was the. The Rams haves and have, and has an amazing culture to take these individuals, these tainted seas, whatever you wanna say, and turn ’em into crops.
Adam Outland: Culture is a big thing, obviously in, you know, the business realm. It’s, it’s not just in athletics. What’s the crossover? What do you see when you look at a sports culture? I, I always think of high, obviously highly competitive in a lot of ways, but there’s gotta be a balance to that and, but what, what are the crossovers and culture, what are the defining factors and culture that you see in really great sports organizations that transfer to business organizations?
Shawn Harper: Well, first thing you have to do is that you have to. Redefine the corporate culture. A lot of, you know, mid or major corporations, the C-Suites and above, you know, win, win, win the numbers, win. This projections, this market share. Think about the words I’m using. You know, market shares, stealing influence in business from your competitor.
You give a cute name called market share. Making your numbers either A, you made the numbers or you didn’t make your numbers. Let’s just get all that out of the way. Let’s get black and white. Let’s say win loss. Creating that culture is first. You have to redefine it as this is a winning culture. Okay, we are here to win now.
Win now. Fosters automatically teamwork, it fosters collaboration because we’re all working together for. And everyone who participates, whether this much, this much, or a whole bunch is appreciated, respected, and honored a lot of times the same. The kicker, he celebrates as if he was the quarterback. He ain’t score no touchdown.
No. We scored a touchdown in the locker room in the culture. The win is The win is the win, and everyone’s excited and everyone participates it. And that’s what has to be accentuated in corporate. What’s going on with the pr? What’s going on with hr? Are they winning? Well then you ain’t winning. Hmm? The entire culture has to win together or we lose together, period.
Adam Outland: A hundred percent. You see it at a lot in corporate America. There’s kind of different levels of how people relate to each other, and a lot of corporate America is, there’s a lot of internal. Not winning together. It’s in order for me to win, you have to lose. But you’re on my team, right? It’s like I need to be better than you.
Shawn Harper: I want to speak for a very prominent, I’m not gonna mention the name Bear, not mention this name, organization. And as I’m speaking for this organization, there was a small group, maybe like 25, maybe 20 people, and they all put up screen blockers on their laptop, every single one of them. So no one else could see what they’re. And I’m like, wow, this is that culture.
Adam Outland: Hmm. Because you gotta hide your work from someone else. Wow. Yeah. You know, one of the parts of your story I’m just fascinated with, and I think it comes back to the culture piece you’re talking about. There’s gotta be some mentors, people that played a positive influence in your, your development of that vision and progression.
I mean, were, were there some people that you were able to latch onto that encouraged you or. The total opposite and there’s, there was no one that believed and that just had this chip on your shoulder that really pushed you through a lot of, of that challenge. Yeah.
Shawn Harper: So one of the most genius and fascinating things that my mom did is that she made me play football. I didn’t wanna play football. She made me play. And finally one day she broke down and told me why. She said I was a single mom and you needed to be around men. Hmm. So Adam flew of just man, you know, over the years I gravitated towards, So whether it’s high school, whether it’s junior college or my actual college coach, they were my mentors.
They were men, and that’s exactly what I needed. I needed a man in my life, somebody who can see the potential and challenge me. Someone who can call the king out of the kid.
Adam Outland: I’m always curious what people think makes a great coach.
Shawn Harper: You know, water is water at 211 degrees. At 212 degrees. Water boil. Boiling waters change the world as we know.
Now, getting into the two 12 is very difficult. You cannot do it by yourself. A coach, whether they’re aggressive or passive aggressive, their job is to push you into the two 12 and have you live in the two 12 as long as possible. That’s it. Push you past yourself. That makes a great coach, whether it’s with.
Or with a stick, because what else in our society does that? Your boss had worked, he or she’s gonna work you to death, but now you have a coach and that person’s like, listen, you’re doing this the wrong way. Do it this way. And by the way, you can do more. Let’s go think about all these athletes. All winners have coaches.
Remember, I don’t know if you remember Kobe Bryant got rid of Phil Jackson. Directly or indirectly, I don’t wanna quote that, but he left for whatever reason, so I’m a backtrack that he left for whatever reason, they had to bring him back. Mm-hmm. as great as Kobe was, he needed a coach. Yeah. You know, it’s so funny, I was, uh, having dinner with a double dined and a multi-level marketing organization.
And he’s talking. He’s like, you know, John, it’s like, talk John. I speak to my coach who’s a triple diamond. I speak to my coach every day. I heard Anthony Robbins say the same thing. You have to have it. You have to have it.
Adam Outland: I, I love it. I love the perspective. You know, I, I was talking to a guy named Florent Groberg. He won the, the Medal of Honor for service in Afghanistan recently. and I asked him this question I kinda wanna pose to you. I, I always wanna know the down slope on someone’s Disney story. And what I mean like is, is that critical point where things almost break and, you know, Florence shared that for him.
It was in ranger school, he said it was the, that going through that ranger training in the army. There was just a point where they just push you so far that even as athletic as he was, you just had to kind of come up with a mental game to not quit. Right. But I’m, I’m curious, when in your life, when were you at, at a breaking point?
When did you get pushed so much where that little voice in the back of your head started to say the things that you didn’t wanna listen to and maybe started to catch on?
Shawn Harper: Going into the second year of my junior college. Hmm. You know, it was so easy to just give. Think about it. You know, I had all the excuses, you know, I had the learning disabilities, I have this, my fleet are flat.
I can’t play football. I had all the excuses and, and I, there’s, there’s no reason why I have to continue. I had the perfect out and everyone would, everyone would accept it. And it was at that moment when you push a little bit more, it’s when you can get through. . There’s been several moments like that.
When I first took over the security firm and it just broke me and I wanted to quit, I was like, I’m done. Push past the moment. Push past the moment, push past the breakdown. What I mean by that is when you lift weights, the purpose of lifting weights is to tear your muscles down. Then once you tear ’em down over the next day or so, they’ll begin to build back even stronger, tear ’em down.
The challenge is, is that we don’t wanna be torn. So we do so many things to hide into icks and the cover and the mask and the pacified paint. But when you allow life to break you down, four, you come back so much stronger.
Adam Outland: Just go into it just a little bit with me, Shawn. Cause I know there’s a lot of people listening here that are probably in or around that point when you’re out of it.
Right. You can reflect and go. Yeah. And you push through in the. I mean, what are you, what are you grasping for? I mean, is it a conversation with your wife and there’s some encouragement there and encouragement in your social support network that that helps you get through it? Is it this piece where you have a conversation with yourself at night when you can’t sleep at 3:00 AM I mean, when you kind of go into your head and you think of those breaking points, what’s been that tool, that conversation, that support system, and maybe it’s a little bit of everything that helps you flip over and decide that you push through.
Shawn Harper: I’ll tell you what, I have to be careful with this. The reason why is because the question that I’ve been asking myself and everyone should ask themselves is, are you hurt or are you injured? Okay. Hmm. If you’re hurt when we played football, if you’re hurt, then you gotta just tough it out. You gotta fight through it.
You got some aches and pains. You gotta keep moving. If you’re injured, well then you gotta allow the trainer to take your helmet and he will hold that. And that signals without saying anything to the coach, it signals to the coach. You cannot go back in that game. You need to have somebody in your life when you’re going through, who is watching you to make the determination.
Are you hurt or are you injured? Are you making critical decisions? You playing this game and you’re injured, you can make some bad choices and bad decisions. Hmm. As a leader, Have the ability to pull out the flag and say timeout. Mm-hmm. , timeout. And so what I is, I use my speaking engagements as timeouts cause I leave and then I may tack on an extra day and just lay in the hotel room.
Adam Outland: Some of the, the most creative executives and leaders in terms of problem solving take time off because you, you almost have to, right? Whether that’s a day, like to your point, but you’ve gotta, yes. You gotta be able to pull yourself outta the weeds to be able to get that perspective. Yes.
How do you keep yourself at this stage? We all go through different phases. You had the athlete, you know, pull yourself out in the IU and then go to the N F L, and that phases your life. You’re in this phase as c e O speaking now. With each phase, I feel like there’s a new vision that comes out of that.
What’s the vision at this stage of your life that compels you to stay motivated? Even though you have a lot, you have, you have all the things that you, you didn’t in the beginning of life. Um, that, that many would say I’m successful. I can call it, I can sit down and it’s been way more than one night in a hotel room, and be comfortable.
So, what’s the drive that keeps you building and wanting to do?
Shawn Harper: First and foremost, hope this doesn’t offend people. It’s God. Hmm. It’s God, it’s Lord, I’m here for a season. I’m here for a reason. Number two is gratitude. Gratitude’s important. It’s like, you know, I’ve been given so much, I’ve been given so much to give and to be a blessing.
And you wanna know the third one, which is, you know, it’s kind of scary, but it’s the truth, it’s fear. Hmm. In the sense that you don’t have to win all four quarters in life to win the game, but you can lose the game in the. So you have to be diligent and you have to fight this thing all the way out cuz there are a lot of people who get to the fourth quarter of life and lose.
And I want, at the end when it’s 0, 0, 0, and Aaron, Shawn Harper’s life, I want it to be like, okay, he played the game and he died empty. It’s all out of him.
Adam Outland: And I feel like part of what you’re saying is also that idea that success is almost never owned. It’s rented. Right. And and yes. Here is if I stop paying the rent Yes. What might happen as a result?
Shawn Harper: That’s right. There is no such thing as retirement. Like what is that? I’m not retiring. Do you know what the whole concept of retiring is? In my opinion is when you’re no longer productive. Mm-hmm. , it’s like art. Success is based off of production. Winning is based off of reproductive.
He can just unpack that forever. Winning is congruent with nature. You see a apple, it died. It reproduces cause seed is in the apple. Everything the apple needs is in the seat. The DNA of the caterpillar is in the butterfly. It’s there. Transformation get you have to reproduce. You gotta plant seeds and keep planting. And keep planting and planting.
Adam Outland: With that vision, with all the things driving you at this stage, you know, one, one question we ask almost every guest is, what does a morning look like in Sean’s shoes? Like, what’s your ideal routine to, to start your day off, uh, in a way that’s, that makes you successful?
Shawn Harper: Everyone has all the secrets and you know, and you know, you take a cold shower, you get to the gym at 5:00 AM positive affirmations. So I’m gonna get something real simple. My goal is to down within an hour, hour and a half, an entire gallon of water.
When you look at the benefits of water and what it does and how people aren’t getting enough water and how they’re drinking diuretics with, you know, caffeine and everyth. Drinking water. I drink a gallon of water before the first hour, hour and a half of the day, it’s gone.
Adam Outland: Wow. I’ve gotta wrap my head around that one.
Shawn Harper: Here’s the deal. Yeah. They say that you’re supposed to drink half of your body weighting ounces. Okay. But I’m 300 pounds, so that’s 150 ounces of. I’m thinking that right. , that’s so right. Yeah. It might not be a gallon for you. Let me clarify that. People be like falling around here crying and dying and you know, that’s me. I’m a big boy, big boy. 300 pounds, so hundred 50 ounces for me, and I’m getting done.
Adam Outland: Shawn, this has been great. I’ve taken away a lot of good things. Uh, you have a book, the Winning Edge American Services and Protection is your L L C. And then in addition, you also do some nonprofit work with, is it the Kings Ransom Foundation?
Shawn Harper: It’s an amazing organization. Look it up. King Ransom Foundation. 100% of every dime that comes in goes right back out for sexual trafficking, the whole nine yards. And the reason why I know this cuz I sit on the board so I know the numbers.
Adam Outland: Oh, that’s wonderful. A and then lastly, uh, bridge Builders International, where you founded that a as a speaking writing platform to help with business and corporate staff. A lot of the things we talked about today.
Shawn Harper: That’s it. And then also I have a non-for-profit up called Game Changers and that’s when I’m doing work with the youth. And just changing the trajectory of people’s lives at a young age.
Adam Outland: Yeah. I love that. Well, I, I appreciate you being on here, Sean, and great value, great lessons, and, uh, just a great story. A lot of our listeners need to hear another story of someone who’s had every challenge in the world and every reason not to, but did it anyway, and did it incredibly well. And what a good speaker you are just from this interview. Really outstanding.
Shawn Harper: Well thank you so much.