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Success Story Podcast

Matt Mayberry – Bestselling Author & Keynote Speaker | Peak Performance Lessons From The NFL

By August 17, 2023September 25th, 2023No Comments

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About The Guest

Meet Matt Mayberry, a global authority on leadership development, culture transformation, and organizational performance. As a former linebacker for the Chicago Bears, Matt knows what it takes to overcome challenges, achieve goals, and excel in any endeavor. He has translated his on-field lessons to the world of business, becoming a highly sought-after keynote speaker, author, and management consultant. His insights have been featured in Forbes, Fox News, Business Insider, Fortune, NBC, ESPN, and more, establishing him as a respected thought leader.

Matt has worked with some of the world’s leading organizations, such as JP MorganChase, Allstate Insurance, Phillips 66, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, among others. His unique ability to connect sports and business, using his personal story and practical examples, equips his audiences and clients with powerful strategies that drive lasting results. As the author of “Winning Plays,” Matt’s passion for empowering organizations through leadership, culture, and peak performance is evident. With a firm belief in creating workplaces where people flourish, Matt Mayberry is dedicated to helping organizations reach their full potential

Talking Points

  • 00:00 — Intro
  • 02:07 — From NFL Dreams to Leadership: Matt’s Inspiring Genesis
  • 08:40 — NFL Farewell: Matt’s Pivotal Transition
  • 12:07 — Beyond the Field: Matt’s Unconventional Path
  • 14:23 — Gridiron to Boardroom: Winning Lessons for Success
  • 16:46 — Navigating Setbacks: Matt’s Candid Reflection
  • 18:51 — Decoding Culture: Matt’s Vision Unveiled
  • 20:38 — Power Play: Sports and Business Synergy
  • 23:28 — Winning Edge: Athletes Shaping Stellar Culture
  • 28:53 — Sponsored Moment: Shoutout to The Goal Digger Podcast
  • 29:40 — Crafting Culture: Matt’s Blueprint for Success
  • 34:57 — Culture Catalysts: Overcoming Implementation Hurdles
  • 38:23 — Culture Epitome: Showcasing a Corporate Triumph
  • 42:21 — Culture Crafting: Insights for Visionary Leaders
  • 45:11 — Balancing Act: High Performance and Well-being
  • 47:49 — Coaching Chronicles: Matt’s Ultimate Mentor
  • 50:13 — Parting Wisdom: Matt’s CEO-Culture Nuggets
  • 52:20 — Book Teaser: Sneak Peek into Matt’s New Work
  • 53:41 — Connect with Matt: Your Link to Inspiration
  • 54:02 — Defining Success: Matt’s Personal Triumph Tale

Show Links

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Show Summary: From Pro Baseball Prospect to NFL Longshot to Motivational Speaker: An Athlete’s Journey to Making an Impact

Matt Mayberry wasn’t on the typical path to becoming a motivational speaker and leadership advisor. In fact, he was a promising baseball phenom as a teenager destined for MLB stardom. But a spiral into drug addiction nearly derailed his sports dreams and entire life trajectory before he eventually turned things around.

Mayberry would go on to play football at Indiana University under an inspiring coach who deeply cared about developing the person as well as the athlete. After going undrafted in the NFL, Mayberry finally got a chance with his hometown Chicago Bears, only to see his career end abruptly due to a devastating ankle injury in preseason.

Rather than wallowing in disappointment, Mayberry found a new calling sharing his story as a motivational speaker. This launched an entirely new career where he now advises top business leaders on building healthy, high-performing cultures within their organizations.

In this in-depth profile, I’ll be sharing key insights from Mayberry’s winding journey in his own words. From learning leadership lessons as a premier athlete to bouncing back from setbacks to finding fulfillment in service of others, Mayberry’s story is equal parts cautionary tale and inspiration.

If you’re an athlete struggling to see beyond sports, or a business leader seeking to maximize your team’s potential, Mayberry’s hard-fought wisdom can guide you to make an extraordinary impact on the world.

Let’s dive in.

From Promising MLB Prospect to Drug Addiction and Despair

Mayberry grew up in inner city Chicago with immense baseball talents that had pro scouts salivating. He looked destined not just for the majors, but potential stardom. As Mayberry recalls:

“I was projected to go straight to the major leagues and skip college…for me, baseball was my first love.”

But these gifts caused Mayberry to get an over-inflated ego at a young age. He started buying into his own hype and hanging with the wrong crowd. As he explains:

“I think when I got kicked off of even that sport that’s what even went further down that hole of just hanging out with the wrong crowd, gang bangers…I fell for that right because at the time that was the cool thing to do.”

Mayberry recounts how drug dealers and gang members latched onto him for their own gain:

“They saw me as this athlete where they can get into different demographics and areas that they weren’t before and you know I fell for that right because…that was the cool thing to do.”

What started as teenage dabbling in marijuana and alcohol spiraled into full blown addiction to hard drugs. Mayberry’s baseball talents couldn’t protect him from the consequences of addiction forever.

He vividly remembers the turning point:

“When I was 16 the full blown out drug addict was completely throwing away my life and hurting the people that I loved most was probably the biggest defining moment that really changed my life forever.”

At just 16 years old, Mayberry had multiple near-death experiences due to overdoses. He stole from his own baseball teammates to fund his habit. And he faced expulsion from school unless he entered rehab.

Mayberry had gone from elite prospect to completely throwing his life away in the span of just a few years. The promising baseball career was the first casualty, but his whole future was now in jeopardy unless something changed quickly.

Turning Life Around After Bottoming Out

Thankfully, Mayberry’s family and coaches hadn’t given up hope. They forced him into drug rehab, even paying him for attendance at one point. This constituted a literal lifeline — without that intervention, Mayberry believes he would likely be dead or in prison today.

The rehab stint didn’t instantly cure his addiction. But it did plant the first seeds of change in Mayberry’s mind. He knew he had to make drastic changes to turn his trajectory around.

However, he still lacked a positive outlet. That’s where football entered the picture.

Though baseball was his first love, Mayberry realized football could give him the grind and discipline he desperately needed. He threw himself into developing as an elite football player, earning a scholarship to Indiana University.

Mayberry credits this fresh start in football for giving him the drive to stay clean and rebuild his life. As he explains:

“Football really became my outlet, it became why I did what I did and why I didn’t want to go down the path that I was going down…I had to create and instill a bigger future for Matt Mayberry.”

The sport gave him a sense of purpose and hope during the critical years after rehab. Mayberry needed that structured environment and new community to blossom into his best self and develop critical life skills.

He took inspiration from his college coach Terry Hepner, who cared as much about developing his players as people as winning games. Hepner sat Mayberry down as a freshman and told him:

“One day you are going to be more successful outside of the game of football than you ever were playing the game of football.”

This mentality shift planted the seeds for Mayberry’s future as a speaker and author.

An NFL Dream Cut Short by Devastating Injury

After a successful college career at Indiana, Mayberry set his sights on the NFL. But he faced an uphill climb as an undrafted free agent.

After months of grueling tryouts and cuts, Mayberry finally got a shot with his hometown team, the Chicago Bears. His one shot at his NFL dream.

But in the first preseason game, Mayberry’s career ended before it could truly begin. A brutal ankle injury during a special teams play marked the end of his time as a football player.

This devastating moment left Mayberry despondent once again:

“When I did get injured I even thought about suicide for you know a brief time there because even though such a physical and violent sport such as football, you can’t control getting injured.”

After rebuilding his life around football, this single freak injury represented losing everything again. Mayberry was back to square one, needing to redefine his path and purpose with sports now in the rear view mirror.

An Injury Opens the Door to a New Calling

Mayberry refused to let the ankle injury write the conclusion to his story. He battled through the darkness and began embracing a new opportunity.

Shortly after the injury, he got invited to share his inspirational story at a leadership conference thanks to a chance meeting. This first motivational speech went surprisingly well, planting the seeds for Mayberry’s next act.

Word of mouth spread and he got asked to keynote at more corporate events about perseverance, teamwork and overcoming adversity. Company leaders valued the parallels between sports and business.

Mayberry found that sharing his journey filled him with new sense of purpose. As he explains:

“I still had in my mindset you know I was still going to get back to football at this point…But after that speech you know word of mouth started getting around and all these big companies you know they would say Matt we’re having our sales conference in Vegas next month we’d love to have you come share a message on leadership.”

Though it started gradually, Mayberry realized helping others through public speaking could be much more than a temporary gig. This new career combined his passions for motivation and impact with his communication talents nurtured as a football team captain.

However, speaking engagements alone don’t pay the bills. Mayberry demonstrated entrepreneurial hustle through a series of jobs that supported his budding speaking career and built confidence.

He took a pharmaceutical sales job out of college and quickly became a top producer. Though sales didn’t fulfill him long-term, it proved he could thrive in the business world by applying lessons like preparation and hustle from sports.

Through perseverance andLaser focus, Mayberry built his public speaking engagements into a full-time business. He poured his energy into this new passion.

Today he speaks to major companies and conferences around the country, which also led him to author leadership books like Culture is the Way based on his experiences.

Though the path was indirect, Mayberry ultimately found his calling by channeling the adversity of a crushed NFL dream into helping others succeed.

From Player to Coach: Guiding Leaders to Build Elite Cultures

Through his growth from troubled prospect to accomplished speaker, Mayberry realized his purpose was serving others however he could. In recent years, his focus has turned to working hands-on with companies to strengthen their cultures and empower people.

Mayberry firmly believes that leaders at all levels can learn critical skills from the world of sports:

“Some of the best culture builders in the entire world are football coaches…they understand that people aspect and they do a great job of balancing performance and care.”

I asked Mayberry to distill some of the biggest leadership parallels between building a winning sports team and building a thriving business:

Focus on people first — Great coaches drive results by caring for players as human beings first. They connect on a personal level.

Clear standards and expectations — Championship coaches have unambiguous standards of excellence and hold people accountable. The same goes for healthy corporate cultures.

Model desired behaviors — Players follow the coach’s lead. If leaders don’t embody the culture personally, it falls apart.

Communication and connection — Coaches constantly communicate with players to understand problems and help them improve through feedback and training.

Health vs performance — Good coaches balance pushing people to excel while keeping their humanity intact. It’s about developing the whole person.

Mayberry lives these leadership principles by example. His entire career arc reflects never giving up on human potential and leaning on others for support during the lowest moments.

He coaches leaders now like his mentors coached him — with compassion within a culture of high standards. This creates the foundation for bringing out the best in people.

Key Lessons from Matt Mayberry’s Journey

Matt Mayberry’s story offers several powerful lessons for athletes, leaders and anyone encountering hardship:

Setbacks and adversity contain hidden opportunity — Mayberry’s greatest setback — his career-ending injury — opened the door to an even more fulfilling purpose as a speaker and author. Maintain perspective during life’s lowest points.

Help others to help yourself — Speaking to help companies based on his personal experience reignited Mayberry’s passion. Helping others through hardship can be cathartic.

Surround yourself with positive influences — During addiction and after his injury, Mayberry drew strength from family, coaches and mentors. Your “crowd” determines your trajectory.

Channel your past into insight — By reflecting on his journeys through sports, addiction and injury, Mayberry cultivated insights to inspire others. Past pain can elevate your future wisdom.

Impact comes in many forms — Fame and fortune alone don’t create lasting fulfillment. Following his injury, Mayberry found meaning through impacting others’ lives for the better.

While Mayberry dreamed of baseball glory, his life of service to others became far more meaningful and rewarding. He carries his experiences forward with humility and grace, seeking to lift people up.

Mayberry offers a shining reminder that our greatest contributions often follow our lowest moments.

Matt Mayberry’s Guidance to Find Your Calling

Matt Mayberry’s against-the-odds journey reveals that massive success isn’t the key to fulfillment — making a positive impact in your own way is.

Here is his advice for avoiding common pitfalls and creating a life of purpose:

Beware the trappings of fame

Early athletic success inflated Mayberry’s ego and seeded his addictive behavior. Tune out adulation and stay grounded.

Have the courage to change course

Mayberry pivoted from baseball to football, then again to speaking. Know when to walk away and realign with your passion.

Don’t define your value by achievements

After his NFL hopes dissolved, Mayberry avoided despair by realizing he brought value beyond his sport accomplishments.

Turn wounds into wisdom

Mayberry uses his darkest struggles with addiction to inspire others. Our most painful lessons often have the most to teach.

Envision your legacy beyond status

Mayberry found fulfillment through impacting lives and developing leaders. Focus on your values over trophies.

Matt Mayberry is a shining example of the personal growth and fulfillment possible when you never stop reinventing your purpose. He carries his experiences forward with grace, using his gifts in service of empowering human potential.

Rather than lamenting dashed dreams, Mayberry found deeper meaning by pouring himself into calling bigger and brighter dreams out of others. And there’s no greater measure of success than being able to give at your highest level.

What is the Success Story Podcast?

On this podcast, you’ll find interviews, Q&A, keynote presentations & conversations on sales, marketing, business, startups, and entrepreneurship.

The podcast is hosted by entrepreneur, business executive, author, educator & speaker, Scott D. Clary.

Scott will discuss some of the lessons he’s learned over his own career, as well as have candid interviews with execs, celebrities, notable figures, and politicians. All who have achieved success through both wins and losses, to learn more about their life, their ideas, and insights.

He sits down with leaders and mentors and unpacks their stories to help pass those lessons on to others through both experiences and tactical strategies for business professionals, entrepreneurs, and everyone in between.


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