F2F 029: Jake Toolson (BYU Basketball)

F2F 029 Episode Cover
From walk-on to Conference Player of the Year, Jake Toolson has had to earn everything that he has. But he almost quit basketball after his first year in college. Learn more about his extraordinary journey in this week's episode.


Jake Toolson (00:01):

I don’t ever want to go back there because that’s where my life just like went off course. But then I was like, how powerful is that to go to the place where things just went sideways for you and say, “You know what? I’ve come so far that I’m going to go back to that place. And it’s going to all come full circle.” I couldn’t think of a better way to end it than going back to BYU and proving to myself that I could do it.

Kyle Bringhurst (00:23):

What is up, everyone? I’m Kyle and I am the host and founder of the Freedom to Fail podcast and #FAILnation, a community where failing while pursuing our dreams is a positive and taking uncertain chances is celebrated. This podcast is for those who have a dream of starting a business or doing something they’ve always dreamed of, but have been held back by their fears. Our purpose is to share the unsuccessful stories of successful people so that you can learn how to take the first steps towards achieving your dream. You deserve to live a life full of freedom and free of fear. Let’s do this.

Kyle Bringhurst (00:58):

How’s it going, #FAILnation. I am sitting here today with Jake Tooleson. How are you doing man?

Jake Toolson (01:03):

Doing great. It’s a great day when I get to come on the podcast.

Kyle Bringhurst (01:06):

Oh, I love it, man. Jake is one of my favorite people of all time. I have known him for, what has it been? Like four or five… It’s been like six years, something like that.

Jake Toolson (01:15):

Yeah, it’s been a long time coming.

Kyle Bringhurst (01:18):

And he’s one of the best guys I know individually, but also one of the most talented basketball players that I’ve ever seen, especially collegiately. He played at BYU. Then he transferred to UVU. Then he came back to BYU. But during all that time, he was the WAC player of the year for the entire conference last season. And then this season, he was first team, all West Coast Conference. And he also was a part of a team that was ranked… what’d you guys end up? Like 15th?

Jake Toolson (01:45):

The highest we were was 15 during the year. And then we finished like 17.

Kyle Bringhurst (01:49):

Gotcha. And you guys took down Gonzaga, which was huge because everyone thought that they were going to just roll into March Madness and just take everyone down there. So…

Jake Toolson (01:59):

No, we weren’t having that.

Kyle Bringhurst (02:01):

So why don’t you give us a little bit more of a background about you? Just as a person, your basketball career, just so our audience can get to know you a little bit.

Jake Toolson (02:09):

For sure. No, first I just want to say thank you for having me on. It’s been in the works for a long time. I’m glad we can sit down and do this. So I grew up in Arizona in Gilbert. I have an older brother, two younger sisters, and I grew up playing basketball. It’s in the family. I’ve always loved it.

Kyle Bringhurst (02:26):

Plug, your uncle is Danny Ainge.

Jake Toolson (02:28):

True, shameless plug. So yeah, I mean, I think growing up, it was just kinda like, I grew up with a ball in my hands and I loved it and I don’t think it was ever forced on me. I definitely, from a young age, really loved the game and I always had dreams of playing in college one day and being a pro someday. So I think that’s some good context when we’re gonna, you know, maybe get into some of the details of the journey. But yeah, from a young age, I always knew that I wanted to be a basketball player.

Kyle Bringhurst (02:58):

Why is that? What do you love about basketball, more than other stuff?

Jake Toolson (03:02):

I love competing and I love the game. I think having people close to me in my family that played ball, I always want it to be just like them. Like my older brother. I wanted to be just like him. So I saw him playing with the ball. So I wanted to be just like him and play with the ball. And then as I got older, I fell in love with the game. I love competing. I love that there’s a winner and a loser. Like I love winning. I love that aspect of basketball. And I think sports is such a big part of my life because it translates to every area of my life. Like I’ve learned probably some of the biggest lessons in my life that I would call life lessons from the game of basketball and it can be applied to all areas of my life. So I think the way it has taught me about life and the competition aspect and, you know, winning and losing, like I just, I love it.

Kyle Bringhurst (03:53):

Awesome. Yeah. Thanks for sharing that. I want to dive deep a little bit right now. Kind of go back to the beginning of your college career. Just touch on that a little bit. Obviously we know that you guys have done, the team and you individually have done incredible things lately there, but you started at BYU and then you transferred. You played there. Was it one or two seasons?

Jake Toolson (04:15):

It was one. And then like the beginning of my sophomore year and then I left.

Kyle Bringhurst (04:18):

Okay. Can you walk us through a little bit or just go into that and what led into that decision to leave BYU?

Jake Toolson (04:25):

For sure. Well, I think it’s important before I get into that, to provide some background. I grew up LDS and you know, obviously I love BYU. My uncle played there and my cousins played there. And so it was my dream to play at BYU. Like it was never a thought to play anywhere else. I just wanted to be at BYU. So luckily enough, I had the opportunity to play basketball at BYU and as a freshman, I didn’t really play that much, but you know, I got my chances and I made the most of them and I had a good mindset and I tried to be a good teammate and just really accept my role on that team and push myself to get better. And then the following year, as a sophomore, I, you know, I earned a starting role and I was feeling good and ready to really take that next step.

Jake Toolson (05:17):

And I think there were some things that came up that were kind of holding me back in my life and I kind of just needed to take a step back from basketball and really decide if this is what I wanted. And if I wanted to play basketball, I needed to kind of take that time to figure out and to peel back the layers a little bit. And then I could decide if I wanted to keep going and playing basketball.

Kyle Bringhurst (05:41):

Okay. So then during that year, did you take a redshirt that year?

Jake Toolson (05:46):

Yeah, I withdrew from school and I sat out the rest of the year. And then at the end of that season, I decided that I was going to transfer. Was it because of like a coaching fit or did you just have a really strong relationship with Mark Pope? Because he was there before, when you were a freshman at BYU, right?

Jake Toolson (06:04):

Yeah. He was the assistant when I was a freshman. So I was close to coach Pope, and I think it was a lot of things. There were a lot of things that played into my decision. Ultimately I just decided first and foremost, I needed to kind of take a step back to figure some things out. I think one of the biggest issues in my life at that time and things that I dealt with was not serving my full-time mission. So, out of high school I had a mission call and I wasn’t able to serve. And so, you know, I was taught when things don’t work out and, you know, things don’t go the way you plan, you just move forward with faith and things will work out. So I decided to go to school and put all my effort into that.

Jake Toolson (06:44):

Being in Provo and being on the basketball team and having, you know, people know who I am and know kind of my story, it was a challenge for me because I felt like I was in the spotlight and that people were judging me. I constantly had to answer questions as to why I wasn’t on my mission or, you know, what happened. And I never really took the time to heal from that pain and that loss that I suffered. And so that played into my decision really just kind of peeling it back and dealing with those feelings that I was having and those issues. And then once I was able to kind of clear all that stuff up and feel good about myself again and be a happy and great person, then I was like, “Yeah, like, I want to play basketball.” But basketball wasn’t even in the question at that point, I was like, I didn’t even know if I was going to play basketball ever again.

Kyle Bringhurst (07:29):

Let’s touch on that a little bit, because I think that’s really important. For those of you who aren’t LDS, serving an LDS mission is almost a rite of passage as a male in the church. And so if someone can’t do it, whether it be medical reasons or because they choose not to, sometimes they can be looked upon in a weird, weird way. And it’s because it’s just kind of almost expected at that point there. So what were some of the feelings that were going through your mind? Let’s just touch on more of like the personal side. How did you kind of deal with that situation and not let it hold you back forever? What contributed to you being able to overcome that and really accept that and embrace it and just be like, “You know, I’m not going to let this hold me back anymore,”?

Jake Toolson (08:14):

Yeah. I think everything you said is spot on. It was definitely a challenge because I never anticipated it going that way. You know, all my cousins and my brother and everyone, you know, went on missions and I was like, “Oh, I’m going to go on a mission too. And it’s going to be great. And I’m excited.” And I prepared and I was worthy and I wanted to really just go out there and do it. But unfortunately I grew up dealing with a lot of anxiety and, mental health and depression. And so I think that all kind of came to a boiling point and it just didn’t work out. And it was the hardest thing that I ever had to do. But like I said earlier, I was taught that when things don’t work out, like you just move forward with faith and you know, that things are gonna work out and this will be for your benefit and that, you know, weaknesses can become strengths.

Jake Toolson (09:01):

So, you know, I moved forward and I tried to really just see, you know, what was going to be next for me. And it was so hard because there were days when I didn’t feel like doing anything. And, you know, I felt guilty. I felt ashamed. I felt like people were judging me. And it was something that I had never dealt with in my life before, because, you know, I grew up in, I was able to do everything that I set my mind to. And unfortunately just serving a full-time mission was not in the cards for me at that time in my life. And it was really hard for me to understand that and to accept that. Obviously sitting here now, I can say, I have some perspective and look back and say, “Oh, it all worked out and things were hard, but, you know, I made it through.” But it was definitely super challenging in the moment.

Kyle Bringhurst (09:50):

I appreciate you opening up and just sharing that, talking about it. I know it’s not the most easy to get vulnerable, but I really feel strongly that that is the key to connection. And so I appreciate that. You touched on dealing with anxiety and mental health and depression a little bit. I just want to know your thoughts. Like what is one thing that you wish that the general population understood or knew about someone dealing with mental health or depression? Because I think a lot of times people put on a facade and they just have this fake life per se, and nobody knows what they’re dealing with on the inside. So what is one thing that you wish that everyone knew about someone who’s dealing with those internal demons?

Jake Toolson (10:32):

Yeah, I think it’s been hard for me to talk about. I’m at a point now where I can talk about it and it’s been a strength in my life, but I would just encourage people to not shy away from talking about it and it’s become so prevalent in our world today. And I think the thing that’s hard about it and the thing that was so hard for me, it was like, well, what is it? Like, you can’t see it. You can’t really diagnose it. Like some people are born with bad eyesight and they wear glasses and they wear glasses so that they can fix their eyesight. And it’s like, some people are born with different. Like I’m not a doctor. I don’t pretend to know anything, but you know, different levels of chemicals in their brain and, you know, different experiences and different things that all kind of make us unique in our own way.

Jake Toolson (11:16):

But the thing that’s so hard about mental health is that you don’t see it and you can’t really like, it’s not physical. And maybe it manifests itself in a physical way. But for me it was just something so new. I was like, well, like I had anxious tendencies as a kid and I was always, you know, worried and whatever, but it’s like, I never thought it would get to this point where like, I couldn’t do something because of it. And so I think just being understanding, and really not shying away from talking about it, I think those are huge things to look at when it comes to this. And I was taught, I can do all things that I put my mind to, you know, with the help of my Heavenly Father. Like if I put my faith Him, I can do whatever. Philippians 4:13, like that’s like the most quoted scripture of all-time.

Kyle Bringhurst (11:58):

Every Instagram model has that in their profile.

Jake Toolson (12:01):

So it’s like, well, how come that’s not applying to me in this situation? Like, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It’s like, well, I can’t go on a mission right now? And so like, I dealt with that and it didn’t feel worthy and I didn’t feel like I was good enough. But at the end of the day, it definitely gave me a unique perspective to be able to help people in the future. And I think the reason that I wasn’t supposed to go on a mission at that time, like, I believe that it will, it will be for my benefit. And it has been like I’ve been able to help so many people and to talk to people that have had similar experiences and I’m able to empathize with them. I’m able to be like, “You know what? I feel you, because I’ve felt it.” And so I think it’s hard for some people to relate to people because you can explain what you’re feeling, but unless they’ve felt it, or they’ve been in your shoes, then they’re only just consoling you. They don’t actually know. So it has been such a blessing in my life to have experienced that. Granted, it was hard, but I think now it’s something that is a huge blessing and strength in my life that I’m able to help so many people with.

Kyle Bringhurst (13:07):

And I think that’s a really good thing that you point out there. Talking about scriptures, there’s another one, that’s one of my favorites that just basically says that our weaknesses will become strengths for us. And I growing up used to think that it meant for us personally. If I faced this weakness that I have that all of a sudden, it’s never going to be an issue for me again. But I think what you brought up is a really good point that I’ve started to really see in my life. And it’s that I don’t necessarily think that it means that it’s going to become a strength for us. I think it means that it’s so that we can become a strength for other people.

Jake Toolson (13:41):

For sure.

Kyle Bringhurst (13:41):

So I think that that is just so crucial. A lot of times we go through this struggle so that we can be there to give support to someone else who is going through that exact same thing.

Jake Toolson (13:51):

There’s another quote. I don’t know, off the top of my head, it was a prophet. I want to say it was Gordon B. Hinckley. And he said a lot of times, those who are experiencing difficult times and things aren’t going great, it’s because they’re only concerned about themselves. When the only thing that you’re thinking about is “Me and my life and what this means, where I’m going to go and what are people thinking about me,” then, like, yeah, that can be very anxious. And that can be very scary to have all that pressure. But if you can twist your mind to start thinking outwardly and to think about other people, then there’s not so much pressure on yourself to figure it out, because we’re all trying to figure it out. And so when you think about other people and you focus your energy and your efforts towards “What can I do to help other people?” then it’s weird how it works, but slowly your life just starts to kind of figure itself out.

Kyle Bringhurst (14:42):

When you try to heal yourself, it never really works when you focus inward, but when you try and help others, it’s just… I mean, you said it best, that’s when you start to heal as well. So obviously going through stuff like that, when it first happens, we have a tendency to go deep within ourselves and not want to be around anyone else. And we think, “Why is all this happening to me?” When was it that you started seeing that outlook? Started seeing, “Okay, this did happen to me, but I can use it to start helping other people as well”?

Jake Toolson (15:14):

Yeah. I think I really just embraced my own journey. And I was like, you know what? Like I grew up on a pretty straight and traditional, straight path. You know, I’m going to go to elementary school, junior high, high school, I’m going to get a scholarship to college. I’m going to go on a mission, go back to college. I’m going to marry some girl and I’m going to have kids and then whatever. But up until that point, like I’d say until high school graduation, my path was pretty straight, but then it started to go off course. And it just became the most crooked path you could ever imagine. Like I’m not going on a mission. And then I think really when I just decided to embrace my journey and my unique experience is when I felt so much power and so much joy in my life, knowing that this is what I was supposed to do.

Jake Toolson (16:02):

And being able to get married to my wife, which was my girlfriend then, who I dated in high school. And we’ve known for, you know, we met when we were in middle school. Marrying her and really just taking that step with her was like a huge step in my life because I was like, “This is what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m getting married and I’m making promises and special covenants that’ll last forever.” And I think who knows if I served a full-time mission, if that would have been the case, who knows? But I think that was a big step in my life when I just really embraced it. And I think too, one thing that somebody told me, is just like a lot of times, like we touched on, when things are going wrong in your life, or when things are crazy and chaotic and you know, not going the way you planned, you worry, like, “What are other people thinking? What’s going on? Are they going to judge me? Are they still talking about me all the time over dinner andcalling each other gossiping?” But it’s like, nobody really even cared about what I was going through. Like maybe they talked about it for one minute, but I had to just get over myself. I was not that big of a deal. People aren’t just spending hours in their day of focusing their energy towards why I didn’t go on a mission or, you know, what I’m going to do now that it didn’t go on a mission. Like I was just like, “Dude, get over yourself. You’re not that big of a deal.” So once I like, kind of just like humbled myself I was like, “Okay. Yeah. Like whatever, this isn’t a big deal.”

Kyle Bringhurst (17:26):

And I think that’s really a really good point because it all is about humility. I mean, we are so selfish that we think that everyone else is thinking about us as much as we think about ourselves, but obviously that’s not the case at all. And I just want to touch on something that nobody really knows about, but Jake practices what he preaches for sure. It’s not just lip service. He’s definitely there for other people. He was one of the first people that I told that I was going through my divorce and we met up and he’s just, he’s a true friend for sure. And so he is a very, very genuine guy and is always there to help other people. And it’s just awesome to be able to see your progress from when we first met forever ago and just see how you’ve been able to overcome all those difficulties to be able to get to where you are now, having an incredible basketball season, being married, having a kid now, and just seeing what the future holds for you. It’s really exciting.

Jake Toolson (18:22):

Yeah. It’s definitely been a cool journey. I mean, for both of us too, like our paths have crossed multiple times and, you know, we ended up in the same neighborhood and got to spend some time with each other. But I think something that’s really important too is like, there’s this negative idea of adversity and things that are hard and, you know, going through really hard things, there’s this negative idea that, you know, you want to avoid it and you want to avoid it at all costs. But really like the things that I’ve been through and the things that you’ve been through have been, you know, some of the hardest things that we’ve ever had to deal with. But at the end of the day, they’ve made us be able to connect on a deeper level. And I feel like that’s why we’re here is to be able to help each other. And to just like, we’re all doing our best, we’ve all got stuff going on. And it’s like, if you can be able to empathize with people instead of talking at them, then that’s when you can really be able to progress as people and in relationships. So I think as hard as your divorce, wasn’t as hard as, you know, some of the things that I had to go through, I think we were able to help each other in a unique way because we had both experienced such hard things.

Kyle Bringhurst (19:27):

Yeah, for sure. I want to jump back into the basketball side a little bit now. So we’ve talked a lot about the struggles and some of the personal demons that we’ve had to overcome to be able to get to where we are, but for you, it’s incredible to see the steps and the jumps forward that you’ve been able to take, because you went from being a role player freshman year, who was solid when you were on the court, but you didn’t see like the most time ever to, when you got to UVU, now becoming the conference player of the year. So walk us through some of the things that you did mentally and physically, and just in your preparation to make that mindset shift from being a role player to now being all of a sudden, a world class athlete.

Jake Toolson (20:08):

I think the whole time, you know, like as a freshmen and my first stint at BYU, I accepted my role and, you know, I had to adjust to college and to the game. And, you know, there were seniors and good players ahead of me. And so I had to adjust to that, but throughout the whole time, I never stopped believing in my ability and I never sacrificed what I wanted for myself. So all along, like when I left BYU, you know, they said, “Oh, you’re not good enough to play here.” And I didn’t believe that. I knew that they said that and they said, “Okay, hit the road.” And I was like, cool. But like, I’m still going to do everything that I set out to do, regardless of if that’s here at BYU or somewhere else. You can say whatever you want, but my mindset was always that it was just going to happen. And I had to take the unconventional route. Like I had to take the crooked path, but I knew that someday, like I was going to get everything I wanted and more. And people, especially me too, like, I look at people and I’m like, “Man, like if I could just be like that person, then my life would be great.” But I don’t think that that’s the case. I think that my journey is important and unique because it’s my journey. And it wasn’t always easy, and I wasn’t always the best player on the team or the player of the year, whatever that was.

Jake Toolson (21:22):

Like, I walked on, I was a walk on. And so I had that chip on my shoulder that, you know what? I know that I’m going to have a great story to tell someday. And right now I’m just like laying the bricks to be able to one day look back and be proud of what I did. And so I kept that chip on my shoulder. You know, the people that said I wasn’t good enough. And the places that said no to me when I was looking for a new place. And I think leaving BYU was really hard, but it was even harder going to UVU just 10 miles down the road. Like I wanted to leave Utah and I wanted to get out of here, but I thought that that was the best decision for me. And it turned out that it was, but I think I just always kept that belief in myself and I trusted that my journey was going to lead me somewhere great someday.

Kyle Bringhurst (22:05):

So after UVU, you then transfer right back to BYU. Can you tell us, like what made you decide to do that? Go from the school where you left and then all of a sudden come full circle to end your college career there again?

Jake Toolson (22:18):

Yeah. So I left BYU the first time and I went to go play for Coach Pope who I had played for as an assistant at BYU. So me and Coach Pope, we grew a great relationship and I really loved playing for him. And we had three great years at UVU, and I was in a position to where I could graduate from UVU and still had one more year of eligibility. And, you know, if you would have asked me when I was at UVU, if I would ever go back to BYU, I would like tell you that the world would end before that would happen, like I’m not doing that. You’re crazy. But coach Pope took the job. And then I was like, Oh, shoot. Like, that might be a possibility because this is my future that we’re talking about. Like I wanted to be able to have a position to where I could set myself up for future success as a professional. And so that’s something that I really considered.

Jake Toolson (23:03):

And then I thought, you know, BYU, you know, it was a very hard experience for me, and I had all those feelings attached to BYU. And I was like, man, like I don’t ever want to go back there because that’s where my life just like went off course. But then I was like, you know, what, how powerful is that to go to the place where things just went sideways for you. To go back to that place, to choose, to go back to that place and come back as a whole new person, a person that has walked this crazy path, this crazy journey to be at that point, and to go back to the place and say, you know what, I’ve come so far that I’m going to go back to that place and it’s gonna all come full circle. And like I said earlier, that story that I had in my head of me doing everything that I set out to do, it’s like, I couldn’t think of a better way to end it than going back to BYU and proving to myself that I could do it. And it all just kind of came together for me.

Kyle Bringhurst (23:53):

That speaks to your competitiveness and to your drive to be the best possible, because I think a lot of people shy away from their challenges and from the moments in their life when things were hard, they try and avoid dwelling on that completely. So for you to look that in the eye and see that positive potential outcome. And granted, it wasn’t guaranteed at all, that it would be a positive outcome. So for you to do that, had to take a lot of willpower and strength, and that just speaks a lot to who you are as a person, just being able to get down and grind and know that, you know what, just because something bad happened in the past doesn’t mean that that’s my story. Like I can still control the end. It’s really, really cool. I’m just curious for you with all of the bouncing around that you did in college now and all of the experiences that you’ve had. What was your favorite thing that you experienced as a college athlete?

Jake Toolson (24:44):

Man, that’s a good question. You know, so many great things have happened these past six years. It’s been crazy. You know, I got married and you know, I’m bouncing around. And I think the coolest thing for me is just to kind of look back and see how far I’ve come and, and like how my life has changed for the better. I’ve been lucky and blessed to have great people around me and be on great teams and have great coaches and teammates and people that, you know, bring out the best in me. The thing I’m most proud of is just, we have a, almost two year old son now, like he brings so much joy and love to our lives that I think if you would have asked me, you know, when things were going crazy and all this stuff, like, you know, you’re going to be a dad someday and whatever. Like I want to be a good example for him. And I want to prove to him and show him that I didn’t have an easy road. And I always believed in myself and I always went for what I wanted. So like, whatever it is that you want in your life, that’s something that you can do. And that’s something that is important that we show our kids, is that a lot of times things aren’t going to work out the way that you imagine them, but in the end they always do work out in some fashion.

Kyle Bringhurst (25:50):

And just adding this in there, he is a baller too. Your son is going to be incredible to watch one day. That’s cool. That reminds me of a quote that I actually just heard today. I was listening to a podcast earlier when I was at the gym. His name is Trevor Moawad. I think I probably butchered that. But he worked for Alabama with Nick Saban, Jerry Pruitt, who went to be the coach at Tennessee, just a bunch of very, very high performing athletes in college football. And he said, “Your willpower will eventually succumb to who you believe you are. And so I think it goes both ways. Like you, you had that deep belief in yourself that you knew that you were going to be able to accomplish great things that even in the face of adversity, you still were able to find a route to make that happen.

Kyle Bringhurst (26:39):

On the flip side of that, a lot of people don’t necessarily in themselves. And so they try and just white knuckle it to be able to reach success, but they don’t believe in themselves. And so they always just end up falling back onto their beliefs that they’re not good enough. And so it really goes down to the mental aspect of things again, just being able to strengthen that a lot. I know you said that you have had that self-belief since you were little, but have there been any things that you’ve done specifically to be able to strengthen your own self-belief?

Jake Toolson (27:10):

Yeah. I mean, there’s a ton of things that I’ve done that have helped me. I think first the first thing that I did that I touched on earlier is this, I just trusted that everything was going to work out. And it wasn’t the way that I thought it would, but I knew that in some way, if I worked hard and if I, you know, worked harder than anyone and really put myself out there to achieve something, I knew that it was gonna be for my favor in some way. I think a lot of people are scared to shoot for the stars and scared to really verbalize what they want, because then if they fall short, then they have to justify why they didn’t make that. You know, like when I was at UVU, I was like, “I want to be the player of the year.” Like I believe in myself, like I know that I can be the player of the year, but was there a part of me that was like, Whoa, like, that’s kind of scary that you’re saying that because you know what? You’re saying that out loud. People are going to hear you say that. And if you possibly don’t do that, they’re going to laugh at you. They’re going to judge you. They’re going to say, “Oh, well, you know about that player of the year. Where did that go?” So I think people always are scared to really believe in themselves because they’re scared of failure, but I didn’t have that.

Jake Toolson (28:24):

I wasn’t scared to fail. Like I was like, I’ve been at the bottom, I’ve had my back against the wall. I know what it feels like. It’s sucks, but I’m not scared of it. I’ve made it through it. I had my back against the wall and people said, “You know, you’re not good enough. You’re not going to play here.” Take my scholarship, all this stuff. And so I knew what that felt like. And so I made a conscious decision and it’s like, I’m going to just go for it. And I’m going to just go all out because at the best I’ll achieve the things that I’m going for. And at worst, I’ll be right back where I was. And that’s not such a bad place because I’ve been there, and I know what it feels like. It’s reminds me of the man in the arena by Teddy Roosevelt. It’s like at most, you’ll know, like the great triumph of victory. And at least you will know that you put everything you had into it and you will never have to be with the bitter souls that will never know what it’s like to give their all for something, because they’re too scared and they’re cowards. And I didn’t want to be a coward. I wanted to really try and do something.

Kyle Bringhurst (29:28):

And going along with that quote, that’s one of my favorite quotes of all time too. But he also touches on the fact that, “Look, if you’re not in the arena with me getting to work and getting down and dirty, you can’t say anything to me.” And as a person who’s in the arena, you need to have that mindset as well. If someone isn’t doing what you’re doing, why the freak are you listening to them? Why does their opinion matter? They’re not trying to achieve what you’re doing. And so a lot of times we get stuck in our own heads that way as well, just letting other people’s opinions, who aren’t even close to doing what we’re trying to accomplish, affect how we live our lives. And it’s just a horrible way to live it because we end up staying stagnant, always having that “What if?” in our mind of what we could accomplish if we just went for it.

Kyle Bringhurst (30:14):

But like you mentioned, if we go for it, we could reach it. But even if we don’t, we’re exactly where we are right now, which is where we would have been by not doing anything anyway. You don’t lose anything by trying ever. So just to kind of wrap up here, we are living in some interesting times with everything that’s going on. 2020 has been a year for the ages. It’s going to be interesting to see what people think of when they think of 2020 again, with everything that’s happening. COVID, Kobe Bryant dying, World War 3, all of that good stuff. But now, especially going along with the murder of George Floyd and all the racial tensions that are happening right now as well. I want to get your thoughts and opinions on all of that, and just what you think that people can do to be more accepting or just help out the community a little bit in this aspect.

Jake Toolson (31:10):

Yeah. I mean, I’m not going to pretend like I have the answers and I know like what’s gonna change. But I think for me, I’ve been able to reflect, and I know that, you know, there needs to be a change and it’s been far too long for this to just keep happening over and over again. And, you know, my message is, is just, I mean, it’s not that simple because, you know, if it were that simple, it, things would be different now and things would have changed for the better. But I think there’s nothing that we can do at the legislative level to implement laws and policies that are gonna help people treat people equally. I don’t think you can enforce that, that can’t be done. It’s just going to come down to people in their hearts.

Jake Toolson (31:55):

And if they want to be open to loving everyone and, there’s so much bad and it seems like there’s so much craziness, always. You know, social media and the news and everything. Like, it’s just, it can be hard to, feel like things are positive and things are good. But I think acknowledging that there is bad and doing everything we can to figure out solutions and to collaborate and to be open-minded. Like, that’s my thing. I’ve always been kind of stuck in my ways a little bit, you know, like, “Oh, this isn’t real. Like, I don’t believe that.” But all this stuff has kind of just opened my eyes and opened my heart and opened my mind to new ideas. And I think the way we’re going to do that is together and we’re all that we have the end of the day.

Jake Toolson (32:39):

So, like I said, I don’t think I have the answers at all, but I know that I want to try and do everything that I can. And I think what I can do is just love people, be open minded, try and empathize with people as much as you can. And like I said earlier, you’re able to empathize by having gone through similar experiences. And I think it’s really hard for white people to empathize with minorities because we’ve never been one. So how does that work? I don’t know. But I think a good first step is just to realize it and to recognize it and say, “You know what? This is happening. What can we do from here to move forward and to change?”

Jake Toolson (33:16):

And as much bad as is going on and as much craziness is going on, there’s still a lot of good. And I believe that all people are good and I don’t want to have judgements on people before I even know them. Like, that’s not a great way to live. So I don’t know, man, it’s been crazy and I hope, and I think this will lead to great things. And I’m really proud of everyone that’s sharing their opinions and speaking up and we’re getting different perspectives and everyone feels like they can help and that their voice matters. So if anything is to come from this is that the people can make change. And we need to.

Kyle Bringhurst (33:52):

I think you’ve brought up a couple of good points that I was going to talk about. Number one is just collaboration. I think that is huge because as a white person, we have no idea what they go through. We can’t even imagine that. I don’t even know where to begin on thinking about those kind of things. But as an individual, trying to be able to understand so that we can empathize, that means listening. And so that means that we need to have those hard conversations. We need to be reaching out to our friends who are black, who are Hispanic, who are Asian, who are whatever minority they are, who are gay, lesbian, part of the LGBTQ+ community, whatever it is that they are, we need to be able to reach out to them and listen to them to hear what they’re feeling. Because we can just listen to them speak, but if we don’t try and understand what they feel, it’s going to be impossible to have changed at all.

Kyle Bringhurst (34:44):

And so in the past, when things like this were happening, when the other murders happened, I was like, “Oh, this is horrible. This is despicable. Things need to change.” But I didn’t do anything. And I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t do anything. I just sat there. And I was like, “Yeah, things will work itself out,” but that’s that. But now I’m realizing that in order to be able to get change, we actually have to take action. And so posting a black square on Instagram doesn’t mean anything in that act itself. A lot of people did it yesterday. That’s great. But for a lot of people, that’s going to be it. That’s all that they’re going to do. And they’re going to say that they are providing support.

Kyle Bringhurst (35:20):

But in reality, I got called out on mine because one of my friends was like, “Hey, you have no idea what it means to be a minority in Utah. And it’s not up to the minorities to be able to reach out to you and explain to you.” He was exactly right. That wasn’t what I was implying with my message, but that’s what it came across. And so, again, it just came down to me, not understanding their point of views at all. And so it was really eye opening and I was like, “You’re right. I’m not doing enough to reach out and understand and be there to support and stand with all of them.” And so just individually, you mentioned this, it all starts in the heart. And in order to love someone, we need to really truly get to know them. And so just reach out to people, stand with them, go to protests and walk with them and do whatever it is. But don’t just sit there and think that it’s okay because in the past, when things like this have happened, black people have tried to protest and have tried to get change, but they can’t do it themselves. We all need to come together as a community to be able to make a change. So that’s just been something that’s really been on my mind a lot the past couple of weeks, because it’s just been a very sensitive subject for everyone. And I don’t know where to go. I’m with you. I have no idea what to do. I just know I need to do something. So I appreciate you sharing.

Jake Toolson (36:40):

Yeah. And on that same note, I think something that’s been somewhat of a theme today is that our experiences can bond us together. And that’s what does bond us together, our experiences that we share. And me not being able to serve a mission and feeling like I’m less than, and being kind of, you know, an outcast and being somewhat oppressed. I can’t sit here and compare that to what other people are going through, who actually have faced oppression for hundreds of years. But I can try. That’s an experience that I’ve had. And I can share that with somebody and they can share theirs with me. And I can say, “You know what? These two are not the same, but at least I can know how hard that was for me in my life. And then try to understand how hard that was for them that isn’t in their life.”

Jake Toolson (37:25):

So I think using those experiences that we go through and trying to empathize with each other and relate to each other and be there for each other is something that’s super powerful. And I think people are scared to have those conversations to be vulnerable, to feel like… people don’t want to be all soft and whatever, like, the stigma that it has these days. They want to be strong. And “I’ve never failed. And I do everything the first time.” And that’s just not real. People like that are hard to be around because you don’t feel like those people are real and that they’re relatable at all. You want like somebody who is humble and somebody who has really struggled and acknowledges it and knows, that’s somebody that I want to be around. Somebody that inspires me because I can listen to their story and be like, “You know what? That’s awesome. I see that things haven’t been easy for you, but you’ve made it through. And that gives me strength. And I love that.”

Kyle Bringhurst (38:19):

Yeah. Thanks for touching on that. Just to wrap up here, I got the lightening round, just a few of my favorite questions. Quick answer, whatever comes to your mind. So the first one is what is your biggest fear?

Jake Toolson (38:30):

Oh man, I don’t really love flying or elevators.

Kyle Bringhurst (38:35):

Okay. I love that. Very specific. But I like it. The next one is what is your personal definition of failure?

Jake Toolson (38:43):

Hmm. My personal definition would be just giving up and giving into whatever the story is. Like a lot of times people are going to say, “You’re not good enough,” or “This isn’t for you,” or whatever and just giving into that. You know, I think something that I’ve learned on my journey is that when there’s adversity, you have a choice. Like you always have a choice and that’s to give in and say, “You know what? You’re right. It is too hard. This is, you know what it’s going to be.” Or you can say, “You know what? I don’t think that’s true. And I’m going to try and find a way to make something happen. I’m going to dig deep and I’m going to rewrite the story.” And I think when you just give in and you say, you know what, that’s right. Whatever it may be. And it doesn’t have to be determined by what other people are saying, but just kind of giving up is just like, you know what? I think we were all put here to be able to accomplish great things. And so giving up is probably what my definition would be. Cool. I love it. Next one is what is one of your habits that you have that contributes to your success?

Jake Toolson (39:51):

I think self-talk. I think the way that I think in the way that I’m talking to myself, I always try to do it in a positive way. And I always try to say things out loud to myself and, and that’s like, that’s important. The way you talk to yourself is super important to your mindset and the things that you are able to do. And so I’ve kind of just always have a dialogue in my head of kind of what’s going on, what I’m feeling. I think that’s been since I was a kid and, you know, dealing with anxiety and like feelings, like I’ve always had to deal with those. So just being able to talk about it with myself is something that I feel like I do well.

Kyle Bringhurst (40:26):

Cool. What is a piece of advice that you would give to our listeners?

Jake Toolson (40:30):

Well, being that this is, you know, Freedom to Fail, I think just embracing that. Embracing failure, embracing adversity, because from my experience, adversity has always catapulted me into great success and it’s always an opportunity to grow and to learn. And that’s why I believe that I’m here on this earth is to grow and to learn and to be the best that I can.

Kyle Bringhurst (40:54):

And if adversity is something that will help me get there, then give me all the adversity because you know, I want to keep growing and I want to keep learning. Cool. And then the last one with this is what is your favorite book?

Jake Toolson (41:05):

My favorite book, I’d probably say there’s two of them. The first one is Chop Wood, Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf. And my second favorite book is The Alchemist.

Kyle Bringhurst (41:16):

Okay. Why?

Jake Toolson (41:17):

I love the stories in both. I think they always teach me something new every time I read them. And they relate like, you know, just reading the other night, there’s always something good that comes out of them. And it’s always a different idea and it’s always a different perspective. And I like that and it helps me kind of refocus and re-commit to the journey that I’m on.

Kyle Bringhurst (41:41):

I haven’t read either of those, so I’m definitely going to have to check those out. Just to wrap up though, for our listeners, obviously your college career didn’t end up, like you would have hoped with it just being shut down from COVID and everything, but what is in store for you in the future?

Jake Toolson (41:56):

Uh, that’s a great question. I think there’s a lot of uncertainty right now and not just for me, but for everyone. So, my plan is to play basketball professionally, whether that’s here in the US or overseas or wherever, you know, I’m open to those opportunities. And I think now I’m just trying to take it day by day and stay in the present and really focus on the things that I can control because there’s so many things that I can’t right now that are out of my control. But I think basketball is something that I’ve has brought me a long way and I want to kind of see it through and be a pro.

Jake Toolson (42:29):

But like I said, this whole time, I’m just going to keep trusting this journey that I’m on, this path. You know, I have this idea of what I think my path is going to be, but, you know, it’s probably going to be nothing like what I imagined right now, but that’s okay. And I’m not scared of that.

Kyle Bringhurst (42:45):

Where can our listeners connect with you?

Jake Toolson (42:47):

On Instagram you can follow me Jake Toolson or @jtdajuiceman. And then on Twitter my handle is @jtoolgoinham. Both I created in high school and are both very applicable to me as a person. And I probably will never change them.

Kyle Bringhurst (43:06):

I love it. They definitely fit his personality for sure. Thanks again for taking the time just to talk to me today, it’s been really good just to learn more about what has helped you find success and then being able to get your thoughts on how people can become more mentally tough and be able to overcome the challenges that people face on the daily.

Jake Toolson (43:25):

Yeah. I think this is a cool perspective. Like people don’t come on podcasts and talk about failure and talk about these types of things. So these are my kind of people that really embrace it and that not that people seek it, but embracing it is really important. So thanks for having me and thanks for having this platform where people can come on and share their struggles and turn them into strengths.

Kyle Bringhurst (43:48):

Thanks. I appreciate that. Definitely can’t wait to see what comes next for you and I’m expecting some front row seats to wherever it is that you land.

Jake Toolson (43:57):

Of course. I got you man.

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