How to Use Pain to Become the Best In the World | Rodney Mullen on Impact Theory | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "How to Use Pain to Become the Best In the World | Rodney Mullen on Impact Theory".
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Everybody's got their stuff. Whatever it is. Everybody has a unique set of variables that they can put in place and express their individual identity in a form of call it greatness. That's something to be remembered. That's what you look for. Everybody, welcome to Impact Theory. Our goal with this show and company is to introduce you to the people and ideas that will help you actually execute on your dreams. Today's guest is widely recognized as the most influential street skater in the history of the sport. He invented many, if not most, of the tricks used today, including the street auley, kickflip, 360 flip, impossible, and many, many others. He began skating at the age of eight against his father's wishes and had little more than the garage on the family farm to practice in, and yet he would end up becoming the most dominant competitor the sport has ever seen. He won his first championship at the age of fourteen, and over the next decade, he won 34 out of 35 freestyle contests. His impact on the art and industry of skating simply cannot be overstated, and that's why he's known today as the godfather of modern street skating. The Tony Hawk Pro Skater franchise showed their reverence by featuring his character for nearly a decade. Additionally, in acknowledgement of his unparalleled level of innovation, the Smithsonian now hangs his board on display, and he was chosen for one of their coveted professional fellowships. In addition to his contributions to the craft of skating, he's been just as influential on the business side of things. He holds two patents for his revolutionary skateboard and truck designs, and his current company, Almost Skateboards, which he co-founded in 2003, has been thriving for fifteen years already. Prior to that, he had co-founded World Industries, the most successful skate company of the 90s. His insights into the nature of progression itself has made him one of the most sought-after speakers on the topics of innovation, mindset, and the staggering drive that it takes to be great. So please, help me in welcoming the two-time TEDx speaker and member of the legendary Bones Brigade, the godfather himself, Rodney Mullen. Good to see you. Thank you so much for being here. Wow, that was an intro. That is a well-earned intro, man, and as somebody who's been watching you since I was a kid and desperately wanting to be able to do the kinds of things that you do, but couldn't and wasn't able to break through the things that hold me back, I want to start with an idea that I heard you talk about, which is the barrier of disbelief. What is it that holds people back? One thing that happens all the time in skateboarding, and I think a four-minute mile is sighted off and it happens. Best dudes around the world can be striving after one particular trick. I find that one guy does it, and then the rest has come like limbing. Rarely is it a question of talent or technique at those levels?
Skateboarding And Personal Growth
A Barrier of Belief (03:05)
It's just one of belief in the concomitant will to kind of do something that either no one's done before or even more, I think. The crack open, the barriers that people consider impossible are undoable. And that kind of belief, I think, is rarer than talent. Talent is around. And having both of those levels, there's only a few people that really have that, I think, in the history of the other ones that have really changed things. So how can you build that sense of belief? That's the thing that I find so fascinating about your story is I get it when you become part of Bones Brigade and you're around all these other guys and they're all pushing and innovating, I get how you guys get better. But all of them say that you were the one that progressed the fastest, but you were the one that was almost always isolated. So how in that isolation on the farm in Florida, how are you able to create that belief in yourself? It is easy to say, and I think it's smothering to say, and often there's a culture of saying that if it cannot be proven, it must not be possible. And the big takeaway from that theorem is that there's lots of things that cannot be proven, though they are correct. And I think that this idea, too, is scaling that because we see things so often in front of us, the way that it should be done, and it imposes a kind of barrier through what people know and see, a familiarity, but maybe you can change something within you that can be just outside a new set of axioms, some new skill set that will take you further, and I think that that's the history of development, certainly when it's skating. Yeah, I want to talk about when you, so freestyle essentially dies, becomes uncool, which I want to talk about the emotional loss of that in a minute, but for right now, you decide that you're going to become a streetsgater, you're going to reinvent yourself. And one, what does that process look like? And then two, how did you come up with the idea to become formless? Where do I begin with that? Freestyle wasn't ever cool. And when I made the turn, it rode into the ground. So when you went to contest, that's good, feels good, especially the first time. After that, you are protecting this sort of only second place. Actually, there is no second place, there's only losing. So contests were a big thing. And a number by your name, that was important. So once you're on that treadmill, you're on it. And it, it militated against progression because it forced me into a pattern of consistency, do this best in show. Again and again and again and again make this. To me, that's never what drove me. It's interesting how getting what you think you want can end up being the force that pushes you into, paint yourselves into a corner, pushes you into a groove. There's something terrible to be top the mountain, I'm the best, I'm the king guarding it. The Nietzsche quote, right? What's left for you when you make it to the top? But lightning, you know? So knowing that that grain of sand by grain of sand progress is so brutally difficult. And it's hard in anything, but in skateboarding it comes with broken limbs and pain and just an ungodly amount of repetition people said you used to practice nine hours a day. So what drove you enough to keep pushing? I'm easily amused. You know, when you're looking at everything, it's such a gift to be able to look at something and to love it for the sake of it. In nurturing and maintaining that is one of the hardest tests of any pro, much less for anyone to find, right? What is the Beethoven who never found his piano or harpsichord or, right?
Love of Skateboarding (07:18)
And like so for me, I had an intuitive yearning that skating was for me. And when I found these movements and the little subtle things that no one was pointing me telling me what to do because I have such a visceral push against being told what to do. Especially for this, you know? For the joy of what I'm doing, you're going to tell me what to do. I struggle with that. There's days you want to go out and it hurts or your sore or you just suck. And you're not making progress, you're ramming into it and you feel defeated. Sometimes after filming tricks, it would be everything I could not for wanting to turn my car off into the, you know what I mean? Like you take it that personal. But that's the nature of love, you know? It's got hate in there, you know? It's got pain in there. And it draws you to it. That's the magnetism. That's what... I guess I have that. I've nurtured it in my life. I see people with talent, with all those things. But the one thing they don't have is that just love for doing it for the sake of it. In the sense of obligation to do something with what you're given, you know? There's something to that. It's important. I think getting what you want quenches the fire that got you there often. Unless it's something replaced by something more permanent, which becomes more intangible. I think the successes of winning, right? You want to be the best in the neighborhood. And then win the local contest and then whatever, whatever. It just keeps going up. And then by the time you get there, you can have a stadium screaming your name. It's actually happened a couple of times to me. And there is a visceral exhilaration to it. There is. I've experienced that. I know what that's like. You land a trick and there's it just lights up. It's crazy. But at the same time, it's hollow. It's hollow. That's not the thing that can drive you, at least not for long. It's being able to say, "Oh, I had that. I had a model or I had people all together." Or whatever, all of these honors. Eventually, that stuff fades to just static and you're left with you and your board. And if you decide that that's what you love, that's what you're doing, then your days are numbered. And so the trick is to always peel back of, "Why am I doing this in the first place?" "Oh, yeah. I still like, I'm still that kid on the farm." And I cling to that. Even the things that hurt, like the things that I grew up with, the things that still, like, I got issues, you know? But I nurture them. That's what gets me out every night. That's interesting. Tell me more about that. What do you nurture? It's funny. You know, things were great inside the house at home. Everybody's got a story. Mine's not more severe than the next guy. Everything's relative. I'm not saying I'm different.
Skating as a Meditation (10:34)
But there are things that fractured something in there. And for whatever it is, I got, I need to get away. And I got some stuff that I need to work out. And skateboarding has always been that sort of meditation. And it's a meditation, you know, like where, you know, I'm on a marathon, like, like some of that good death metal, you know? It's the only thing that sounds like music, right? I get to have and I expect that to be played at the Pearly Gates because somehow it connects with something in my soul. Or some of the, like, stiff little fingers or the things that there's tumult in there. Because that's what's resonant for what's inside. And so I stay in tune with that. I nurture that because that's part of what fuels me. It's probably not healthy. It's not healthy. What else am I going to do with it? Why do you say it's not healthy? That a lot of people would agree with you on that. Yeah. But why do you say it's not healthy and then nurture it in yourself? I think because it leads people to do a lot of stupid stuff, like drink too much or take drugs or fight or smash something, you know? Does it lead some people to be the greatest of all time? Absolutely. It's probably more than anything else. Everybody's got their stuff. Whatever it is, an ability to see patterns or some genuine, like, there are guys, like, I know not only guys, like, they do the big rails. And I'm fascinated by it. Some guys are scared to death and they're overcome it anyway. I guess you would call that curve. And for the life of me, they're at least a couple that their eyes don't dilate. They just, hmm, I know one guy in particular. It's like, oh, okay, this is what you're very robotic. Like, does it commit first try? It's nuts. And skill sets do things for different people. Point being is the beauty of skating of all things. All shapes, sizes, for the most part. It's this admixture. It's everybody has a unique set of variables that they can put in place and express their individual identity in a form of call it greatness. That's something to be remembered. That's what you look for.
Tony Hawk (12:55)
No question. One thing that I want to talk about is the overtime you had these injuries where your femur was grinding into your hip. And basically they just said, why don't you hang it up. Now's the time. But instead of doing that, you spent years, if I'm not mistaken, breaking the scar tissue apart in an insanely painful fashion. Walk us through that. What was that? What was the process? How long did you stick at it? Yeah. That one's heavy. You know? I remember I used to talk to Tony a lot because we're, you know, he's close. Tony Hawker. Yeah, he's good as people come. He's so smart. And I had scar tissue that somehow got around the joint. And so every time he'd flex muscles and the biggest ones in your body, it would pull the femur into the socket and it would grind maybe 20 times a day, turn over when you're sleeping, whatever. Again, break to accelerator. You feel a little... It was worse and worse to the point where you couldn't fall and roll and she can't fall and rolled and what are you going... You can't escape. And I went to the dock and flew me to East Coast took a bunch of pictures, friend. And he said with his eyes what he wouldn't say in words because he cared for me so much. He gave me this little tool basically.
What Retires Peoples Scar Tissue Is Going To Grind Their Head And Bonyneck (14:24)
They can't cut you open because there's so much that generates more. So what do you do? This is what retires people's scar tissue. And you've got to the point where it's going to grind off their head and any bones grinding, it'll calcify and stick, right? So that's what was happening. And I remember when it stopped moving like a bone socket to more of a stick shift. So I'm hopping around and things are pretty dark for me. If your champ, if your whole identity is expressed through what you do and then it's gone, we become a mess. A lot of people do. We see it, right? Child actor, first thing in mind. What is it? And they showed me that you can... Like a masseuse's elbow, the fascia, fascia, the pressure on it is the only thing to deactivate it so you can pull a little bit. So I started sticking this little plastic thing and I started breaking unpalcy curves which are awesome. And I realized that it's relaxing stuff and I can get my leg around, particularly fire hydrants because then they have those... They have the separate stems. And you can put them in you and they can reach over and stretch and then get leverage because I'm not that strong. And so then you can use your body. Weight is leverage to pull things. And then you start to get to discern over... This is an hour or two in a day and you use your skating. It's like a micrometer. When you're walking you don't know your bounce but if you're on a board or a tight rope you know your bounce. And so I would pull, pull, pull and I would find there are strings. You can tell it's not you. You're like, "All right, gradually pull. This is after hundreds of hours. You get more courage and you become... Everything you need to know has already been said. What is desperate people do desperate things and necessity is the mother of all invention. All you need to know. I was desperate and I needed to break free. And so I just ratcheted it up and it takes a while to get used to the pain but you keep cycle those karate guys kicking bamboo. You get tougher. It doesn't make you tough but you get tougher. And that is a crazy example of how driven you are and how much this means to you and how much it's become a part of you. I mean literally when I think about you hanging upside down on the truck and that this searing pain becomes a moment of joy for you it makes me ask one simple question. Why did you throw away your trophies? Yeah. A couple of reasons. It's no disrespect to people that have their trophy rooms and all. Like I get that. I do. This is all my issues growing up the way I did. I never wanted to look at those dusty things and say that's what I was. I'd never have the inclination to have point other people to it and say, "Hey, look what I was. I am what I am." You know? Because ultimately, look at what kids do now. That stuff is irrelevant. Cool, you did a kick flip. Everywhere I look, they're doing it. You know what I mean? Kick flip, front, front, front, easy. And look, I'm honored people give me those respect. But that stuff moves on. I'm honored and fortunate that I came in with those blank canvas. And so I'm given credit. I thank you. I appreciate it. I do. But the joy I get that I could create some of the vocabulary for others to express themselves. That gives me a connectedness. I think a lot of skaters are kind of outsiders. I think a lot of us are outsiders even at least in some way, right? You can always find something. And so that just means when you find a connection with someone, it means something, right?
When You Find a Connection With Someone It Means Something (18:24)
Because they don't come easily. So I'm privileged that I created, I started a few some tricks and then other people have taken it more. And that's turned into a vocabulary for others to express themselves. That to me is like a living trophy. Because everywhere I look, I see and I feel that. But as for those things, you're number one, number one, for that, like most of those contests, I didn't even give all I had. I just played it safe. Those are representative of me being conservative, not doing what I could have done. Because I just want to win.
Facing Fear (19:08)
Because I was afraid. I looked at trophies like that. Have you broken out of that desire to just play it safe and win? That helped me. I can't say that I'm cured, human, I'm insecure, I'm all these things. You know what I mean? Put me in a new arena. You know what I mean? Like, that's human nature. We're always fighting. I don't think anyone ever gets to the top mountain and kind of hovers, you know? Oh, I'm enlightened, you know? But I'm better. I'm not as tethered. What lights you on fire outside of skating?
Computer Love (19:46)
A lot of things, again, the gift being easily amused. When I couldn't skate, I went back because I have some math background, biomedical engineering, whatever, through chemical. And it's like, how do I put this analytic stuff? I have a, I didn't have to study as much for some of the courses that were analytic. And I fell in love. I love puzzles, skating is a puzzle. I started just building computers and playing around. I was actually never fond of computers. But then when you start building, I'm nerding out. And that's cool, but then that's just Legos. And then I discovered Linux. Different operating systems, it's all rogue. It's all open source, hacker community. Doesn't make you evil. It's just knowing something so well they could use it in ways it was never intended to be used and create something new in the process. I think, well, that's streets getting the whole time. It's culture, kind of rogue. It's got some dark spaces, but it's got a lot of light and it's gritty and it's underground. And I connected with it. And I fell in love with that community. And yeah, I still, I think that stuff's cool, you know? I do. But there's lots of things, you know? Ultimately, just people with character, I try to surround myself more with age. You spend so much time focusing on being good at one thing in the business. That takes a lot of time. And then the friends you develop through what you do. If it's through sports, sports, something that requires a strong body that is it taking time up, then when you don't do that, the friends that you love and share this experience in love, it's a rare experience. And there is a brotherhood to an extent, overhyped in other ways. But when you're not skating with them, you don't see each other. And so finding friends of similar character and heart, that's important to me. I strive for that.
Make a wish (22:03)
You know, the greatest thing that's ever happened, I think, most humbling. Make a wish of, you get called up a great, great foundation, some poor dying kid for whatever specs by all the metrics of modern science is probably not going to make it. And so he gets a wish. A lot of kids are really young. They don't know what they're asking for. One of the ladies told me that one kid wanted to be a superhero. So they dressed him up, took around the city. He saw the crime. They brought him into the city council meeting and you know what I mean? Like the kids. And when you get the call from them, that, hey, this is, some kid wants to meet you because, dude, it's a wrecking. Because whatever you think you've done that's cool in that light, you realize it's not. It's not. You are officially a fraud. I skate. I roll around. I do tricks. Right? I do maneuvers. What is that? Magicians and prostitutes do tricks. And you go meet these kids and I'm terrified. It's always the parents. They see you first because they're waiting outside the hospital. And you're like, ah, it's embarrassing because you're an adult. You know that he's looking at you and going, you? And I'm like, your kid. But it's actually not that way because they meet you with these loving eyes. Like, I don't give a crap who you are. My kid wants to see you make your way to the hospital room, man. You get choked up thinking about it. Depends. Sometimes cats are attacks people and they kind of seem fine depending on what system it's attacking. They're all going to die for the most part. One most memorable to me. Mom had this white blonde hair. I get in and they're unplugging the kid and he's so excited. He's jumping out of the bed, right? And the nurse is getting scared because, hey, watch this stuff, you know? And he just runs and jumps into my arms. And all the anticipation of you're an idiot. You're not. It just goes away. What he's ultimately what it boils down to is, he's supposed to meet you. You just become like a lightning rod or something that he loves. God, you too. That life. So you talk about stupid stuff, you know? Your pizza, favorite tricks, whatever. But you share this unspoken connection in whatever he thinks you are. That stuff vanishes because it becomes what you are in the moment. What kind of man are you? And are you able to be there? And that is something that I take with me, with age, with success, that what you do in these reflexive couplings shapes you. You shape it. It shapes you. You don't disconnect from that. You just tumble forward. Your time, you become what you do, and you find hopefully at the end of that process, you're not insufferable. That you actually have something to give and can be present, you know? So for all I've done, I appreciate, I don't look at it as much. It's a long time ago, I go out, like believe me, I'm going out after this, I'm going out tonight. And I'll go out because I have something right now. I can do. I'm close. And if I do something, if I get it, I'll film something and I'll mean everything to me. And I will. But ultimately it just goes out there. It's just what you do. Just become one with that. I think that's been a key for me of why I've been able to sustain this fire that's so seemingly easily quenched. You know? So when I see people who have had success, I see boredom for the most part in them, and then I see a tombstone. And circling back to what trophies and those things represented, right? Fine man. Great physicists said that the Nobel Prize would be the tombstone on all great work. Just look at it. I haven't done a study of Academy Awards, right? But usually when you get what you thought you wanted, the fire goes away. So if there's anything, just find joy in what you do for the sake of it. And then recognize how you're being shaped in the process. And hopefully you become a better man through it. Rodney, that is astonishing. Thank you so much for sharing that. Before I ask my last question, tell these guys where they can find you online.
The Impact He Wants to Have (27:25)
Oh. So I'm so addictive, easily amused by nature. I won't allow myself to have the apps. Just I know my name, it's out there. You type in Rodney Instagram, whatever. It's out there because I write sent to my manager, he posts on crap. All right, perfect. We'll put links to it in the show notes. My final question, what's the impact that you want to have on the world? I'm honored to have had the rippling impact that I have helped formulate the language of a community where others can help shape and express themselves in a process and connect. That to me, for people like me, that doesn't come easily. And ultimately, I just want to be a good man, you know? You're here that goofy internet thing of found it. So stupid stuff that people send you. Can you name the last Nobel Prize winners and Olympians, right? But you can name the fifth grade teacher that had faith in you, right? Is the people you touch singularing? That's a bigger test of the way.
I love that. Thank you so much for coming on the show, man. That was incredible. Absolutely incredible. Guys, there are few people that I've stalked as hard as this man to get him on the show. There's something about the way that he thinks, the way that he looks at the world and what he has accomplished in the past and what I think he will continue to accomplish in the future, it is utterly breathtaking. And the level to which he is driven by obsession, by desperation, of his own admission, that there are just things that he absolutely must make come true in his life. And I resonate with that so much. And I hope that you guys do as well. And the notion of turning inward, the notion of shutting out the noise and going inside of yourself to create, to build something new, to break through the barriers of disbelief to be able to create in your mind a willingness to believe that you can do something that is possible. For me, it's the ultimate intoxication. It's the ultimate thing that each of us should try to be chasing. And then to have that wrapped inside somebody who's only finish line is to be a good man is pretty extraordinary. This is one of those people I know he issues social media, but go out, he's done some interviews, they are breathtaking, read his book Mutt, How to Learn Skateboarding Without Killing Yourself. In it are life lessons. There's just no other way to put it. And they are extraordinarily beautifully shared, raw, and something that I think that you will all be able to take something away from. All right. If you haven't, be sure to subscribe. And until next time, my friends, be legendary. Take care. God, you're a thank you man. Thank you so much for watching and being a part of this community. If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe. You're going to get weekly videos on building a growth mindset, cultivating grit, and unlocking your full potential.