Guest Interview: James Leath

Season #21

Today on the podcast, I’m chatting all things mindset with a leadership development coach, author, mental performance expert, and your next favorite Instagram follow, James Leath!

James and I, in many ways, grew up in the mental training world together (since, ya know, before it was cool). And as much as he is a colleague, he is also a friend and an inspiration to me and anyone in his path. 

A lifelong student (in and out of the classroom), James has a Bachelors in Communication, a Masters in Performance Psychology, and almost 20 years of coaching experience. He has worked for companies like IMG Academy, USA Swimming, Positive Coaching Alliance, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Chicago Bulls organization.

As you’ll see in our episode, James is a captivating keynote speaker, a true gift to every team and individual he coaches, and an endless source of knowledge regarding sports psychology. And through his many lives as a coach, an actor, and an entrepreneur, James ties all his success back to his mindset.

Throughout the episode, James is a natural teacher and visionary, effortlessly sharing hard-hitting stories and metaphors that beautifully illustrate themes like integrity and perspective, and other topics that are often hard to pin down.

What makes James such an amazing guest on this episode is the fact that he lives what he teaches, and he creates everything with intention and follow-through. He is equal parts inspiring as he is witty and entertaining. With an infectious attitude that will leave you absolutely pumped up and ready to run through a brick wall, this episode is one you won’t want to miss. 


Instagram: @James Leath

Here’s a glance at this episode:

[4:40] James opens the episode by sharing how he brings mental training to athletes today in a plug-and-play, intentional format. 

[9:13] Lindsey asks the question, “What advice would you give a coach who wants to start mental training today?” James believes time doesn’t need to be a barrier; instead, he believes you just need to carve out space for athletes.  James shares one of his favorite analogies for defining integrity, and discusses the unique challenges facing athletes today. 

[13:38] What can the kids game, Zip, Zap, Zop teach us about failure? James reminisces about two exercises he taught his team that helped them lean into silliness and play without fear of failure. As he puts it, “If we’re playing a game and we’re having fun, the winning takes care of itself”.

[19:19] What is James focusing on right now, and what does mindset have to do with it? James shares all about his newest book, inspired by the children’s tale, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, (only, written from the perspective of the wolf.) 

[25:05] James shares what’s on his reading list (hint: you probably wrote a book report about it), and tells an offbeat tale about how Jillian Michaels changed his life.

[30:15] Doing the work isn’t easy; it takes, energy, time, space, and intention. And when it comes to holding space for athletes, James and Lindsey acknowledge that it’s messy. Oftentimes, holding space for athletes means going against your high-performance, action-oriented instincts. 

[38:05] As a coach, you have to think about your athlete’s experience and remember that, however trivial their pressure, disappointment, or stress might seem, it’s valid. James believes that Mr. Rogers’ lived out this example of empathy beautifully.

[41:30] James ties his cold plunge practice to deep mindset work. He explains how he uses positive self-talk and body language to influence his body’s experience. 

[44:02] Lindsey and James wrap up their episode by disucussing the psychological power of storytelling. Want to better understand the psychology of the kids you coach? James leaves you with two fiction book recommendations.