Overcoming Obstacles with JJ Birden

In a special episode of the ‘Impact with Don Wenner’ Podcast, Bo Parfet filled in for the Founder and CEO of DLP Real Estate Capital as Guest Host and spoke with the inspirational NFL veteran JJ Birden about his success as an athlete and motivational speaker, and what drove him. The two discuss JJ’s philosophy for overcoming obstacles and how it relates to DLP’s top challenges.  

Who is JJ Birden:

As a successful player in the NFL, a published author, and a father of 8, JJ Birden has worked hard for his achievements. Initially from the inner cities of NorthEast Portland, Oregon, he says his family struggled, and he was determined to break the cycle. He admits he was also smaller than other athletes in high school and his journey to the NFL was not typical. Not many players reach his heights–especially at five-foot-ten, 160 pounds. After receiving a track scholarship from the University of Oregon, he took the opportunity to press the football coach to let him play on the team. The coach finally gave in. After playing college division one for some time, he was shocked to learn he was drafted to the NFL late in the season, and the rest is history. 

Bo Parfet frames the interview with three key takeaways:

  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Approaching every day like its game day
  • The importance of mentorship and coaching 

Overcome your obstacles

JJ’s success inspired him to give back and help others in many ways. He recently wrote a book called ‘When Opportunity Knocks: Eight Sure-Fire Ways to Take Advantage.’ The book outlines the blueprint that led him to the success he has today and is meant for anyone aspiring to manifest something great. The main message of JJ’s book is to seize all the opportunities in your life. Opportunities aren’t just handed over; sometimes, they must be fought for and require work. 

JJ notes that the average NFL player is 6 foot, 2 inches, 245 pounds, and only plays for about two years. As a 5 10” player at less than 160 pounds, he was always aware that he was undersized for the NFL. So he continued to work hard at track and long jump while still pushing for the opportunity to play football. He played with determination, overcame the odds, and proved himself a strong team member for nine full years in the league.

During the interview with Bo Parfet, JJ Birden discusses as a kid, JJ was driven by the fact that other people saw him as an underdog. Being persistent and having a strong work ethic, he became determined to prove them wrong. He never had the goal of playing in the NFL but wanted to prove he could play college football and prove coaches wrong. He wanted to pick himself up quickly after a bad game. Overcoming his obstacles meant hard work and maintaining a disciplined mindset. Although he was always told he was at a disadvantage in the sports he played, he responded by working on himself so that he could compete at the highest level. JJ emphasizes the importance of how you respond to obstacles. We all have habitual responses that we can change. 

Approach Every Day like Game Day

Bo Parfet and Jj Birden discuss the pain of discipline vs. the pain of regret. Birden has always had the mindset of pushing on to what’s next and not getting stuck in a “pity party” for too long. In the NFL, a loss would mean going to the next game or the next workout. 

As Bo says, “what kept JJ on the field for almost a decade wasn’t just how he played the game, but rather how he approached every day like it was game day.” In football or any other professional level sport, the players aren’t simply giving their best individual efforts. There’s a strategy at play, a system, and everyone needs to maintain the discipline to follow it. 

For Bo Parfet, the game-day mentality applies to business and extreme mountain climbing activities. Whether in sports or business–you need to have a system in place. JJ recounts his coach telling the team, “our system works! If you follow the system, we’ll get the results.” 

For Birden, discipline is key.

“Discipline is the ability to do what you need to do when you need to do it while no one is watching.”

The Importance of Mentorship and Coaching

One of the social problems DLP works to address is the ‘legacy crisis.’ Bo Parfet explains that approximately 90 percent of the time, first-generation wealth is lost in the second or third generations and, therefore, can’t benefit the family and community the way it should. As part of the DLP Prosperity Membership, the company coaches families to ensure they leave an enduring legacy. 

Mentorship has been super important for JJ as well. As a parent of eight, he teaches his kids that there’s no entitlement. They’ll need to work hard for success. But even more importantly, we need to teach our kids why we want to build a legacy, to begin with. No one is motivated to work hard without the why. “Success leaves clues,” JJ says. You can always learn from those who came first. All the greatest athletes asked someone for help and guidance. JJ recommends finding a mentor who’s also an accountability partner–someone who will push you to be better.