Bo Eason has realized “impossible” dreams more than once, and he’s got the formula for all of us to do so, too.
When Bo Eason takes on a new craft or discipline, he doesn’t just learn how to do it — he masters it. Eason is a former NFL football player turned Broadway playwright turned global speaker, who now coaches others on how to achieve that same level of mastery in their lives. Financial advisors, artists, athletes, fitness trainers, C-suite execs, techies and more, all turn to him when they’re looking to accelerate their performance.
To impact such a broad range of people, Eason draws upon personal experience. By age 9, he knew what he wanted to do with his life. With pen and paper in hand, he drew up a 20-year plan to be the best NFL safety ever. While other boys his age slept, Eason awoke at 5 a.m. to his father, a rancher, rubbing his back and telling him, “You’re the best in there, god%*$#mit. You’re the best.”
Eason listened. When no college recruited him, he showed up at the University of California, Davis, and played his way onto the team — literally. He switched places with another player, without his coaches knowing, so he could get on the field and show them what he could do. Years of grinding were rewarded when the Houston Oilers drafted him in 1984. During his five-year career, he played against and beside some of the greatest athletes to ever play the game before a knee injury ended his run.
The impossible dream, revived
“As I was being wheeled off the field, I remember looking up in the crowd. We were in Miami, and I was just thinking, ‘What am I going to do now?’” Eason says.
Professionally trained to “knock people over,” Eason recognized that his highly honed physical skills and preparation had little application in the civilian world. He knew he had to find another outlet that would let him express all that “TNT” he felt inside his body. So, he moved to New York City and put it on stage.
“I channeled it into being the best stage performer of our time, and that was the new 20-year-plan,” Eason says.
Fifteen years later — with a little advice from mentor Al Pacino — he found success, starring in a play he wrote and produced called “Runt of the Litter.” He has since used his unique blend of stage work, physical training and intense preparation to help coach others on how to communicate for maximum impact and fulfill their dreams.
24Life spoke to Eason about his journey and the tools he uses regularly to help himself, his clients and his family achieve what seems impossible.
On getting the right encouragement from his father…
“He saw something in me, and he saw something in my brother [former NFL QB Tony Eason] and my four sisters that we couldn’t see for ourselves. He saw that we were the best and we didn’t believe him. But slowly, year after year after year, we lived into what he saw in us.
“That, I think, is the best thing that he passed on to me and that I see in my clients, and I see in my family, and I see in the people around me. I see them as the best and then I just give them air and oxygen and room to cut out enough space to live into being the best.”
On ditching those self-imposed deadlines for your dreams…
“Timelines destroy almost every dream. Because everyone goes, ‘Well, I have this dream of becoming the best [football] safety in the whole world, but I’m going to give it two years and if it doesn’t work out in those two years then that dream’s over.’ And I can guarantee you that that dream is not working out in two years.
“If you are going to have timelines, you better have them be 20-25 years so that they can actually come true, so you can actually get a runway and run some miles toward those dreams.”
Eason adds, “Basically, they come true if you get rid of your timelines and you have a clear vision of what you want, and of that thing coming true.” You have to be willing to do the work, day in and day out, whether you feel like it or not.
On setbacks and shame…
“Here’s another thing that ruins everybody’s dreams. They quit way too early… Most people quit, and it’s all over, because of the shame… They don’t think they can come through for themselves. Well, actually, none of us really can. It’s a matter of re-engaging, getting back on, getting back in there.”
Eason acknowledges that he’s quit plenty of times: “Quitting is part of the process. You just don’t do it for very long. You have to keep getting back up on the horse. That’s really the key to keeping these dreams alive.” So, if you need to quit, quit for the hour, or the day, and then tomorrow begin again.
On the similarities between fitness and marriage…
“It’s no different in that you have to make promises to yourself, sacred promises to show up.”
Eason says even athletes and performers such as ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov stumble and get discouraged. But, there’s a key difference between most people and Baryshnikov: “He’s very quick to get back on the horse. You just have to be quicker and better at getting back on, and quit beating yourself up after you fall off. That is really key to any kind of dream, and any kind of commitment that you’re making.”
Too often, Eason says, we make decisions to give up on a dream based solely on the daily ups and downs of our emotions.
“I say (get ready for this), who cares about your feelings? Do you feel like being married every day? I haven’t met anybody who has. I’ve been married 18 going on 19 years. I love my wife. I love being married but not every single minute of every single day.”
Still, he says, what’s important is that “my commitment is forever. It’s the same thing with your training.”
On teaching his kids to live their dreams 66 days at time…
“My son [Axel] just started fifth grade, and he has big, big dreams. He wants to play in the NBA, and he wants to play in the NFL. Now, that’s a huge dream because no one’s ever done it. So, he’d be the first.”
To tackle this huge dream, Eason and his son put together dream boards to help visualize this dream, moving forward with new goals and habits. “We take 66-day segments of our lives, and we use a theme. We bring something into existence that doesn’t exist for us today.”
While many people believe a habit can be changed in 21 days, Eason subscribes to more recent research that suggests that if you initiate a new behavior for 66 days, “It’s harder to not do it than it is to do it.”
The 66-day plan of action lays out the tasks that become habit. “You don’t want to be thinking about, ‘What do I have to do or say to help my dreams?’ You don’t want to have to think about waking up at 5 in the morning. You just want your body
to get up.”
Most important, he says, is knowing that you outworked everyone else to reach your goal. That’s one of his family’s mottos.
“My son, he’ll be working on some basketball drills, right? And they’re hard, and so he gets frustrated and he goes, ‘Dad, this is hard.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly right, it’s hard. Guess why you’re the only kid out here?’ And he goes, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ ‘You’re the only kid out here because it’s hard.’”
That kind of hard work makes the difference, he says. One of Eason’s favorite quotes is from basketball coaching legend Bobby Knight of the University of Indiana, who said, “Everyone has the will to win, but almost no one has the will to prepare to win.”
On distraction, the enemy of your dreams…
Part of being mentally prepared to live your dreams is eliminating distractions, Eason says.
He and nine-year-old Axel work for several hours a day on training, drills and practice, shutting out ESPN and other sports programming.
“I don’t want him listening to reservations about anybody achieving anything. The media as a whole is out to prove what you can’t do, what you can’t achieve. And they’ll give you statistics and scientific studies to prove that you can’t do it.
“Your life and your job are to see how simple your life can be, without distractions. They’re going to come and you’re going to have to push them away.”
To that end, Eason has blunt advice. His proclaimed enemy is mediocrity. “Destroy everything in your life that is not excellent. This is very hard to do, but we have to do it because our dreams are big. And you weren’t put on this earth to do some half-assed dream.”
On his daily routine…
Eason is usually up at 6 a.m., and when he’s not traveling, he drinks a tumbler of water, makes some Bullet Proof coffee and does some morning exercise with his children.
“I want my kids’ bodies activated before school,” he says. “We do a lot of lunges, hops, skips and jumps. That takes 40 minutes to an hour, and then the kids get ready to go off to school.”
Before they leave, they all put their hands in the middle for one of the family mottos, such as “Hard work beats talent every time,” or “While other kids complain, Easons train.”
When the kids leave for school around 8 a.m., Eason prepares some scrambled eggs and sprouted toast and gets to work, preparing for upcoming speeches and training sessions by writing, rehearsing and developing new concepts.
Once the kids are out of school, there are basketball and football practices, or dance classes for his daughters Eloise and Lyla, before homework begins and the family sits down to dinner together.
“We usually put the kids to bed at 7:30 or 8 and go over their 20-year plans that are hung up over their beds,” he says. “We pump fists and hit the pictures they have drawn of who they want to be,” Eason says.
He and his wife Dawn are in bed by 9, talking about their day, family and clients. Ensuring he gets enough rest is part of the plan, as is eating right and taking supplements to help his once-battered body and brain stay on track.
“Preparation, performance and recovery… Anything that interferes with those three things, get rid of them,” Eason says, and “watch your productivity go through the roof.”
And the ritual that grounds him…
Eason, known for his physicality and presence, has a trick for developing greater ease in the body, and it starts from the feet up.
He begins his work day with a ritual called the Sacred Six that he teaches all of his students. The ritual begins with a grounding and embodiment practice. He begins by taking a moment to slip off his shoes and stand on a couple of heavy stones, to become more present, aware and grounded.
“It starts to open up the foot. Our feet naturally are supposed to splay; they’re supposed to open to the earth, and that’s what gives us that power and energy,” Eason says. “Get them on the floor and spread out and safe so the upper body can come out to play. Start to do that. See what happens.
“After you do this, people are then going to walk up to you at lunchtime. It’s weird, but this is what’s going to happen: they’re going to say, ‘Did you get a new hairdo?’ or ‘Have you been working out?’
“You’re just being ultra-present, just like a predator, because your feet and your paws are into the ground and you have a great relationship with it. Try it,” he urges.