Book notes: Relentless by Tim S. Grover

Relentless by Tim S. Grover book summary review and key ideas.

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Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover


“Direct, blunt, and brutally honest, Tim Grover breaks down what it takes to be unstoppable: You keep going when everyone else is giving up, you thrive under pressure, you never let your emotions make you weak. In “The Relentless 13”, he details the essential traits shared by the most intense competitors and achievers in sports, business, and all walks of life. Relentless shows you how to trust your instincts and get in the Zone; how to control and adapt to any situation; how to find your opponent’s weakness and attack. Grover gives you the same advice he gives his world-class clients – “don’t think” – and shows you that anything is possible.

Packed with previously untold stories and unparalleled insight into the psyches of the most successful and accomplished athletes of our time, Relentless shows you how even the best get better – and how you can too.” -Audible

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Tim Grover, legendary trainer / “body architect” for Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, explains how being relentless & unstoppable starts with the “cleaner” mindset: taking full ownership, always having a high level of excellence, harnessing your dark side, and focusing on results at all costs.

Opening thoughts:

I read this book several years ago and I remember that I absolutely loved it. Not only did it cover athletes whom I respect like Kobe and Jordan, but the principles and ideas in this book are very inspirational and motivational. If I remember correctly, it’s a lot on mindset and the mental frameworks to be relentless and unstoppable.

Key notes:

A Note from Tim Grover

  • How you react after something devastating: Kobe finished his play
  • The word relentless is used in sports to describe the most intense competitors and achievers imaginable
    • Those who will stop at nothing to get to the end result
  • 3 Types of Competitors
    • Cooler – good
    • Closer – great
    • Cleaner – unstoppable
  • It’s the mindsets of elite athletes that allow them to dominate, not their physical skills
  • He isn’t the first person people reach out to when they want training. He is the last
    • In case of emergency, break glass
    • He trains for one thing: championships
  • You can’t keep improving if you fear others will disapprove of what you’re doing
    • The only difference between feedback and criticism is the way you hear it
  • In order to be successful, to truly have what you want in life, you must stop waiting to be told what to do and how to do it
    • Nobody can give you a ten-step checklist for achieving your goals
    • What this book gives you is insight into the mentality and guts of those who have found unparalleled success by trusting their own instincts to get where they want to be

Don’t Think

  • Refuse limitations as a cleaner
  • All you need to be great is already inside you
  • Being relentless means demanding more of yourself than anyone else could ever demand of you. Knowing that every time you stop, you can still do more
  • Success isn’t the same as talent
  • Cleaners are predators who have a dark side
  • Relentless is about never being satisfied, always driving to be the best and then getting even better
    • It’s about finding the gear that gets you to the next level, even when the next level doesn’t yet exist

The Cleaner You Are, the Dirtier You Get

Reader’s note: Now that I’m rereading this and after learning about authentic and sustainable leadership, this sort of “relentless”/”cleaner” mentality seems very toxic. The author is talking about how it’s basically a win-at-all-costs and “push people aside if they don’t step up” sort of mentality. It promotes never being satisfied and being addicted to the rush of success. While there is some value in this mindset, I don’t think getting results at all costs will lead to happiness, fulfillment, or great relationships, even despite the success and achievement.

  • Cleaners have a dark side and a zone you cannot enter
    • They get what they want but they pay for it in solitude
    • Excellence is lonely
  • You can’t be a cleaner in more than one area in your life because it requires such an intense focus and sacrifice
  • He numbers all of the things in his lists as “#1” because they are all important and need to be done together, or else none of it works
The Relentless 13
  1. When you’re a cleaner, you keep pushing yourself when everyone else has had enough
  2. You get into the zone, shut everything else out, and control the uncontrollable
  3. You know exactly who you are
  4. You have a dark side that refuses to be taught good
  5. You’re not intimidated by pressure, you thrive on it
  6. When everyone else is hitting the “in case of emergency” button, they are all looking for you
  7. You don’t compete with anyone. You find your opponent’s weakness and you attack
  8. You make decisions, not suggestions. You know the answer when everyone else is still asking questions
  9. You don’t have to love the work, but you are addicted to the results
  10. You’d rather be feared than liked
  11. You trust very few people, and those you trust better never let you down
  12. You never recognize failure. You know there’s more than one way to get what you want
  13. You don’t celebrate your achievements because you always want more

When you’re a cleaner, you keep pushing yourself harder when everyone else has had enough

  • “Those who talk don’t know, and those who know don’t talk”
  • Teach the mind to train the body
    • Physical dominance can make you great. Mental dominance is what ultimately makes you unstoppable
    • Get your mind strong so your body can follow
  • Do the work
    • Everyday you have to do something you don’t want to do and go outside your comfort zone
    • Break through apathy and laziness
  • Cleaners do the hardest thing first
    • You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • Do the work before you need it so you know what you’re capable of doing when everyone else hits that panic button and looks to you

Reader’s note: So basically this entire section is just about him saying how badass he is as a trainer and how hardcore his sessions are with his clients. He keeps saying over and over in different ways “I’m going to make you work until you puke and then once you’ve cleaned up your puke, we will keep going because that’s what hardcore people do.” Alright. Cool. We get it. You’re tough. Now where is the actually useful insight?

This basically sounds like an advertisement or pitch for his coaching services and to work with him. I mean, it’s compelling if you’re a pro athlete. But I imagine many people reading this aren’t.

  • There are no secrets or tricks to get results. It’s the opposite
    • Ask yourself where you are now and where you want to be instead. Ask yourself what you’re willing to do to get there, then make a plan to get there
    • Act on it. There are no shortcuts

When you’re a cleaner, you get into the zone, shut out everything else, and control the uncontrollable

  • He figures out someone’s buttons and learns how to push it to get them into the zone
    • Everyone’s buttons are different
  • Kobe and MJ entered the court like they were CEOs. Quiet killers
  • When you’re in the zone, you’re not thinking
  • Emotions make you weak
  • Have a routine that doesn’t vary. Do what you do everyday so that you never have to account for your environment or the situation. Everything stays the same
  • The zone is dark and cool

When you’re a cleaner, you know exactly who you are

  • We’re all born to be bad and taught to be good
    • Babies are born naturally relentless. We’ve been taught limitations and compliance all our lives
    • Many times you make something simple into something complicated
  • Kobe had killer instinct. He’s the ultimate athletic predator
    • He didn’t study the competition, he made the competition study him
  • Learn about yourself and trust what you know

When you’re a cleaner, you have a dark side that refuses to taught to be good

  • A cleaner harnesses his dark side into raw, controlled power
    • Powerful and successful people can harness their dark side
  • Any time you’ve had an internal struggle about what you want versus what you know is right, that’s your dark side you’re wrestling with
    • You can wrestle for a while but you’ll never win
  • A cleaner controls his urges, not the other way around
    • The dark side isn’t taking stupid risks and getting in trouble
    • Your self-control is what distinguishes you from everyone else

Cleaner Law: control your dark side, don’t let it control you

When you’re a cleaner, you’re not intimidated by pressure. You thrive on it

Reader’s note: I’m not gonna lie, even though there’s not a lot of practical application in this book, all of the affirmations and mental talk is making me feel pretty motivated. It’s like the mental coaching and reminders and affirmations that you are a champion if you choose to be.

  • There’s no such thing as a clutch gene. A cleaner is always ready and steps up
    • Every moment is a pressure situation and everything is always on the line
  • Cleaners practice excellence and step up all the time
  • Clutch is about the last minute. Relentless is about every minute
  • Stress keeps you sharp and challenges you in ways you’ve never imagined. It forces you to solve issues and manage situations that send weaker people running for cover
    • You can’t succeed without it. Your level of success is defined by how well you embrace and manage it
  • Cleaners never feel external pressure. They only believe what’s inside them and feel pressure from within

When you’re a cleaner, when everyone else is hitting the “in case of emergency” button, they’re all looking for you

  • Confidence means recognizing something isn’t working and having the flexibility and knowledge to make adjustments
    • Cockiness is the inability to admit when something isn’t working and repeating the same mistake over and over because you stubbornly can’t admit you’re wrong
    • It’s about the preparation and hard work that goes into knowing everything that needs to be known, letting go of your fears and insecurities, and trusting your ability to handle any situation
  • Do your thinking and planning in advance, building your reflexes so that when your back is against the wall, you’ve got the right move
  • When you mess up, admit it and say so. There’s no faster way to alleviate pressure
    • Once you’ve owned it, fix it
    • Have the confidence to say when you screwed up and people will respect you for it
      • If you did it, own it. If you said it, stand by it. Not just the mistakes, but all your decisions and choices
  • The most successful people are those with the instincts to respond quickly to anything

When you’re a cleaner, you don’t compete with anyone. You find your opponent’s weakness and you attack

  • You don’t question the methods, you just look for the results
  • A great leader knows the best way to get people to raise their performance is to put them where they can truly excel
  • Our challenge in life is to use the abilities we have and compensate for the abilities we don’t have
  • The only way you can light other people on fire is to be lit yourself from the inside
    • Professional, cool, focused

When you’re a cleaner, you make decisions, not suggestions. You know the answer while everyone else is still asking questions

  • Cleaners lead by example, make decisions and know the answers
  • Make a plan that truly reflects your goals and interests and you’ll be more likely to execute
  • People get paid a fortune for being the expert at one thing so that anytime others need that one thing done, you’re the only one they’re calling
  • Figure out what you do, then do it better than anyone else
    • Then, let everything else you do build around that. Stay with what you know
  • Sickness, mental or physical, is one of the best ways to put a person in the zone
    • Their survival instincts kick in and give them an extra gear for fighting back from a weakened state
  • Interesting how the guy with the most talent and success spent more time working out than anyone else
    • MJ and Kobe were like this
  • The best get better because they sweat the details

When you’re a cleaner, you don’t have to love the work, but you’re addicted to the results

  • It’s easy to improve mediocrity, not so easy to improve on excellence

Cleaner Law: when you reduce your competition to whining that you got lucky, you know you’re doing something right

  • There are no shortcuts and there is no luck
    • There are facts, opportunities, and realities. How you respond to them determines whether you succeed or fail
  • Luck is an excuse. Hard work isn’t a skill
  • Priorities change if you don’t protect them
  • There is no off-season for a winner
  • Do the work. There is no privilege greater than the pressure to excel, and no greater reward than earning the respect and fear of others who can only stand in awe of your results

When you’re a cleaner, you’d rather be feared than liked

  • What makes Kobe one of the greats of all time is that he doesn’t tell you what he’s thinking or going to do, he just does it
    • He makes others fear his next move and respect his ability to execute it
  • The way you conduct yourself in all areas of your life, your ability to show intelligence, class, and self-control, those are the things that separate you from the rest of the pack
  • Cleaners set themselves apart from their colleagues and peers, distinguishing themselves by rising to a higher level
    • When you completely focus on one thing, your craft, it’s hard to pay attention to other people

Cleaner Law: The same guy who is worshipped as a cutthroat competitor is also likely to be called an asshole

When you’re a cleaner, you trust very few people. And those you trust better never let you down

  • In the world of cleaners, if you can’t be trusted, you’re gone
  • You can’t make things better until you stop making things worse
  • Attaining excellence means seeking and accepting the truth, and adapting as necessary

Cleaner Law: Surround yourself with those who want you to succeed, who recognize what it takes to be successful

When you’re a cleaner, you don’t recognize failure; you know there’s more than one way to get what you want

  • Failure is what happens when you decide you failed. Until then, you’re still always looking for ways to get where you want to be
    • Success and failure is 100% mental
  • “Quit” and “relentless” don’t go together
  • Fuck try. It’s an open invitation for failure, an easy way to put blame on someone else
  • His greatest weakness became his greatest strength by helping others with what he went through
    • He suffered a lot of injuries and rehab as an athlete, but it allowed him to help professional players later on
  • You take what everyone else sees as a negative and turn it to your advantage
  • He’s an architect from the inside out
  • Success isn’t about making money. Success is doing things others can’t

When you’re a cleaner, you don’t celebrate your achievements because you always want more

  • Winning is a habit that inevitably becomes the addiction
  • Why get even with someone when you can get ahead of them?
  • For Kobe, everything he does is all about excellence
  • He thinks childhood is overrated
    • You can have a much bette childhood as an adult when you have freedom and affluence to enjoy it
    • You get this small window to be a legend and you have the rest of your life to act like a kid
  • The greatest battles you will ever fight are with yourself, and you must always be your toughest opponent
    • Always demand more of yourself than others demand of you
    • Be honest with yourself and you’ll be able to meet every challenge with confidence and a deep belief that you are prepared for anything
  • Life can be complicated. The truth is not

Closing thoughts:

After a second read-through five years later, I still think this is a great book. If you’re looking for something motivational and inspirational, especially in terms of the mindsets and behaviors of legendary athletes like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, this is the book for you.

However, I realized that all these years later, I don’t wholly agree with the “relentless” or “cleaner” mindset. After reading about authentic and effective leadership from books like Extreme Ownership, Dare to Lead , Awaken The Giant Within , Crush It! (or anything by Brene Brown, Tony Robbins, or Gary Vaynerchuk), it’s clear that this mentality will only take you so far. Yes, you might achieve great things that others will be in awe of, but you’ll do so at the sacrifice of deep, meaningful relationships, you won’t build a great team, and you won’t foster leadership in others.

Also, you won’t ever be happy or fulfilled no matter what you achieve. And like Tony Robbins says “Achievement without fulfillment is failure”. If you’re not ultimately happy, what’s the point? I strongly disagree with the author’s premise that you shouldn’t question the means if it get’s you results. As it says in the bible “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Overall, it’s still a great book. I was listening to it while at the gym and it’s a great audiobook to get you motivated and pumped. Highly recommend for the mindset, but be wary of the toxic undertones of never being fulfilled and sacrificing relationships simply for results.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

For a motivational/mindset book, there’s a lot of great takeaways. My one pick would be:

  • Your level of success is defined by how well you embrace and manage it

As the author says, stress keeps you sharp and challenges you, which makes you grow. It forces you to solve problems and manage situations. I think that mental resiliency is important. And the mindset of embracing the stress as a good thing is a great way to not let it wear you down.

Similar books:


Rating: 3 out of 5.


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