I stumbled on Coach George Raveling’s story while reading, Jon Gordon’s Book: The Power of Positive Leadership and after finishing the book, I googled him and I was inspired by his story hence am blogging about it.

Referred to by many as “Coach”, George is Nike’s former Director of International Basketball. He is a husband, a father, a friend, and a mentor to many. In 1960, Raveling graduated from Villanova University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and a fruitful collegiate basketball playing career in the record books. In 1964, George would return to basketball as an assistant coach at his alma mater. He would go on to become a world-class educator and coach with head coaching jobs at Washington State, the University of Iowa and USC. Following a prolific basketball coaching career, he would spend brief stints as a color commentator for Fox Sports and CBS, before being presented with an opportunity of a lifetime to join Nike, Inc.

March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

On August 28, 1963, as Martin Luther King Jr. waved goodbye to an audience of over 250,000 “March on Washington” participants, Raveling asked King if he could have the speech. King handed Raveling the original typewritten “I Have a Dream” pages. Raveling was on the podium with King at that moment, having volunteered to provide security.  He still has the original, and had been offered more than three million dollars for the speech.

2018 Coach George Raveling Interview with Tim Ferris

On Growing Up

As I was growing up, when I was 9, my dad died, and, when I was 13, my mom had a nervous breakdown, and she was institutionalized the rest of her life. 

Tim Ferriss: Well, were there any other mentors during that – or teachers or people who had a strong impact on you over that stay in that Catholic school?

George Raveling: Yeah. There was a nun who took a liking to me named Sister Delores. She lived to be 87. For some reason, she saw something in me I never saw in myself. She would always say positive things to me. At the time, I didn’t realize the value of them, but she’d always say to me, “George, you can be special,” or, if I wasn’t working up to my potential in whatever area it was, she would say, “Now, that’s not being special, and you’re on earth to be special.”

On Life Long Learning

Tim Ferriss: You mentioned books, and I want to make sure we give reading at least a few minutes because you are known as a veracious reader, the human Google – one nickname – and you’ve read, probably, I’m sure, thousands of books at this point. You were very kind, when we first got here – we’re recording this right now – you said you learned from the wise man. It’s always a good thing to bear gifts, or something along those lines, and you gave me several books. You’ve also gifted many, many different books. How did this love affair with books start, and could you tell us about how you read books? Because, as you alluded to earlier, you have a particular way of reading books.

George Raveling: Well, as I look back on it now, Tim – and the point of reference, as so many times as we speak, is always going to be my grandma. My grandma told me, one time – when she’d be in the kitchen cooking, she’d tell me stories. One time, my grandma told me, she said, “George, you know, back in the days of slavery, the plantation owners used to put their money in books and put them up on the bookshelves,” because their banking system wasn’t as sophisticated as it is today. I said, “Well, grandma, why do they do that?” She said, “Because they didn’t have to worry about the slaves stealing the money because the slaves would never take the books off the shelf because they couldn’t read.”

One time, my grandma told me, she said, “George, you know, back in the days of slavery, the plantation owners used to put their money in books and put them up on the bookshelves,” because their banking system wasn’t as sophisticated as it is today. I said, “Well, grandma, why do they do that?” She said, “Because they didn’t have to worry about the slaves stealing the money because the slaves would never take the books off the shelf because they couldn’t read.”

From that, I began to understand that, as long as someone can control your mind, they can control who you are in your body. I decided that I was never going to allow myself to be in a position where someone could control my mind and control my body because of my lack of information and knowledge. I decided that I was going to try to read and learn as much as I possibly could on a continual basis because I believe that people will have a greater respect for you if they respect you intellectually. I’ve often felt, in life, if I had the choice between Tim liking me or Tim respecting me, I’d far more hope that you respect me than like me. I figure the byproduct of you respecting me will be that you’ll learn to like me. I don’t work at trying to get people to like me.

I’ve been on this mission for reading for years and years and years. It’s become an obsession now with me.

I’ve been on this mission for reading for years and years and years. It’s become an obsession now with me. I don’t go anywhere without a book and a notebook. If I’m in line – if I go to the doctor’s office, I take a book with me. If I’m in the – I have a new system now. If I go to a bookstore, if I’m in Barnes and Noble and the line has got eight or nine people in it, rather than stand there for ten minutes waiting, I’ll start reading the book right there in line and start underlining things. I have all these quirks that I’ve acquired over the years with reading books. First of all, I divide the book into messages. I don’t spend any time, now, trying to read a whole book because there’s probably, in most books, maybe, eight to ten chapters that are really powerful and influential, and, the others, I skim through. I never start a book from the front and go to the back. I’ll open the index, and I’ll find what I believe is an interesting chapter, and I start there. That’s actually how I purchase a book. When I’m in the bookstore, I have this routine that I go through. If it passes, I buy the book. If it doesn’t, I don’t buy the book.

George Raveling 2019 Interview with Jon Gordon (Positive University)

On Reading Voraciously (100 Books per year)

When People say they don’t have time to read.

Some people say “I don’t have time.” No, all you have is time. It’s how you prioritize your time that matters.

George Raveling’s Thought on Reading more Books:

  • Develop a strategy to read the books. On time, that is the only thing you have; you just need to look for opportunities to read. When you are in line at the bank, read a book while you are waiting.
  • The key is to make reading a priority.

I’ve always had this theory that, if you help enough people get what they want, you’ll always get what you want.

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

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