Review: ‘Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable’
Tim Grover’s life story is an inspiring one. If it was made into something I could watch on TV, I’d probably DVR it. In fact, here’s a pitch for his own Lifetime Network movie of the week: Indian boy moves with his destitute parents to America to seek a new life. At age six he’s helping his father dismember corpses at what had to be the worst imaginable job at a Chicago area hospital. Boy grows up to become a world-class athletic trainer, working with the likes of Michael Jordan, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant. Lifetime may want to gloss over that middle part, but it’s an uplifting story nonetheless.
If Mr. Grover had written a biography, interspersed with anecdotes about the NBA stars he’s worked with, chances are I would have recommended this book wholeheartedly. But Relentless is a self-help book. Sort of. I’ve always found books in the Tony Robbins/Eckhart Tolle genre to be basically worthless jibberjab aimed at the Oprah-genuflecting crowd, but I tried to approach Mr. Grover’s advice with an open mind. However I couldn’t get past what in the end was a 200-plus page collection of repetition and cliches. At any rate, here’s the gist of what Mr. Grover imparts in the book.
There are 3 types of people in the world: Coolers, Closers and Cleaners. I’ll generalize for brevity here. Coolers are the everyday schlubs, and can only be “good” at what they do. Closers are the standouts that can rise to the level of being “great” when challenged. Cleaners are the alpha and the omega, the unstoppable superstars of their chosen trade. The ones willing to achieve their goals at any cost and are never satisfied until they are the undisputed masters of their domain, have defeated everyone in their path and can enjoy the lamentations of the women. Think Michael Jordan, or Stalin.
After 50 pages or so of explaining what these classifications mean in various ways, I was wondering when Mr. Grover would get around to telling me how I could (or should?) become one of the vaunted “cleaners.” That never really happens in any way that’s substantially different from what anyone who’s ever played a sport has heard from every single coach they’ve ever had. I should practice, I guess. And focus. While giving 110 percent. Got it.
Actually Mr .Grover says a bit more than that. His advice for those determined to be the best is to “place no limits” on themselves. This strategy worked out particularly well for Mr. Grover when he, at the time an unknown trainer, convinced Michael Jordan to hire him to prepare for a more physical style of play. Mr. Grover also advocates that his devotees “embrace their dark side.” A “cleaner” should never apologize for bad behavior, and a certain amount of sociopathic, antisocial jerkishness is necessary to win. His opinion on the Tiger Woods fiasco was that Tiger should never have apologized and that womanizing was his way of defusing after a hard day at the links. Huh. Mr. Grover doesn’t advocate bad behavior, exactly, but does seem to excuse it as a natural aspect to the “cleaner’s” makeup. I guess that pretty much rules out any chance of me reading this book to my kids before the next T-Ball season.
Which leads to the question, who exactly is this book for? I can see it being a good motivational tool for professional athletes who don’t mind coming off as complete tools, but Mr. Grover states that his system applies to any walk of life up to and including stay-at-home parents and bus drivers. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have my bus driver placing plenty of limits on himself on the open road. And home life could get a little intense with a homemaker who has “an insatiable addiction to success” that “defines his/her entire existence.”
It’s impossible to argue with Mr. Grover’s success. So he must know what he’s talking about in some regard, right? He’s lauded by numerous top tier athletes as being the best there is at motivating others to win. But does this admittedly tactless, hard-nosed, win-at-all-costs system really apply across the board? Probably not, unless you’re the type of person who considers Joe Jackson an under-appreciated voice in the field of child development.
What I did enjoy was when Mr. Grover told stories about the players. Like I mentioned at the beginning, if Relentless was a book full of NBA anecdotes I would have had a hard time putting the book down. But as far as a source of applicable life advice, I can’t say I recommend it. I’m no psychologist, but I’m pretty sure there are a few more than 3 personality types. I understand that simplicity is convenient and effective when you’re trying to make a point (or sell a book), but I’d like to think life is a little more complicated that that.