The Search For True Identity, A Keynote From Jarrod Barnes

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Jarrod Barnes challenges deep psychological themes affecting athletes, business people and students in his keynote speech at Grand Canyon University.


Do you ever wonder if you are good enough? Do you ever feel pressure to be more, to be better, to train harder and study longer?  

Jarrod experienced first hand the desperation and self-doubt that comes with wanting to be more, knowing full well that his expectation would never live up to reality. Brilliant and insightful, Jarrod knows that “to change the way you see yourself, you have to understand who you really are and more importantly, who you want to become.”

Jarrod recently spent an entire day on Campus at GCU speaking with the athletic department and the student-athlete leadership academy. In this inspirational and unique talk from Prime U, we hear excerpts and extracts from his final keynote speech presented to all GCU student-athletes.

Jarrod got to grips with a topic we all deal with but rarely talk about.

Overcoming self-doubt, anxiety and negative self-talk are key themes that affect not only the lives of student-athletes, but almost all young people starting out in their studies or careers. Identity, particularly the confusion surrounding who we are and where we are going is a source of stress for many of us. Jarrod sheds light on his experience with the self while highlighting the role the absence of his father played in shaping his identity, particularly in relation to the ‘who you are vs. who you think you are’ debate.  

Jarrod eloquently dissects these psychological stress points determining that ultimately, we can find areas of purpose in our pain. The talk illustrates that embracing truth, making success relevant to ourselves, and taking small steps in emotional intelligence can become a habit which becomes automatic which becomes part of your identity.

Key Topics:

Dealing with anxiety and overcoming self-doubt (01:10)

Coping with rejection and failure (04:14)

Truth, shame and guilt (06:15)

The importance and how to form habits (12:24)

Starting a business from the ground up (14:29)

Learning from the loss of a loved one and why time is crucial (16:30)

Identifying certain behaviors and aligning that with your identity (17:25)

Make yourself accountable and defining the non-negotiables in your life (19:03)

Finding pain in purpose and motivation to do more (20:08)

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Tweetable Quotes


“We need the tools to be fit for the fight against anxiety stress and depression.” (1:32)

“Every day we have a choice and the power to choose the direction of our lives.” (1:51)

“Isn't it so interesting that it takes that almost life-altering or breaking moment for us to turn to something greater than ourselves” (5:25)

“What are you willing to do to go live out the purpose that you have fought and gone through all of these things for?” (07:25)

“If you truly want to be exceptional it might be a lonely road.” (08:42)

“God will give you just enough to take that one step” (10:27)

“You get reps and practice so when the game comes - it's nothing - because you've been doing it your whole life.” (18:10)

“I would challenge you to identify the non-negotiables in your life and then hold yourself accountable to them.” (19:05)

“You will never outperform your self identity” (19:32)

“You probably won't find the answers on Instagram or Netflix” (19:52)

“you must first love yourself in order to help others” (20:07)

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode

Georgia State University -


Full Transcript

Jarrod Barnes Keynote Speech at GCU Complete Transcript 

The Keynote Speech starts at 02:09

The Keynote Speech ends at 19:26


[00:00:00] There are so many things that are going on in our lives that a lot of people don't see. Sometimes we have this battle in our minds, like man am I really good enough?


[00:00:17] Hello and welcome to today's episode of Reach Your Prime. This episode will be a little different and I think you're going to get a lot out of it. I'm Jarrod Barnes, your host and founder of PRIME U. Today, we're going to review the highlights of a keynote presentation I gave at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix Arizona. The focus of this message was on what to do when your best isn't enough.


[00:00:40] We edited this down to the most concise hard-hitting takeaways and truths you can use today. I hope you enjoy.


[00:00:52] We spent an entire day on campus at GCU you presented to their athletic department staff, and to their student-athlete Leadership Academy. But this final keynote was the one I was most excited for. This keynote was for all GCU student-athletes and more importantly, it was on a topic that we all deal with but rarely talk about.


[00:01:10] The subject of dealing with anxiety overcoming self-doubt and negative self-talk is really important to me because it's something I struggled with heavily during my time as a student and even more so early in my professional career. I used examples from my time as an athlete for the students in the crowd but we could share even more examples when talking about my experiences as an entrepreneur. These are all battles we face. And we need the tools to be fit for the fight against anxiety stress and depression.


[00:01:40] Some of the key points we covered are how to evaluate the expectations you're placing on yourself what voices are you listening to and how to identify the truth around your situation but also how to find areas of purpose in your pain. Lastly, how every day we have a choice and the power to choose the direction of our life. But it's not just about you. We all have baggage and burdens we're bearing; the person right next you could be hurting. But it's up to you to bridge that connection.


[00:02:09] Am I good enough? All these things that are going on in your mind. We got class we got practice we got coats to worry about coach has been on us. You're trying to be the very best you can be. You have all these expectations that these things you want to do things you want to get out of your college experience. But it's like man, all these things are trying to pull me down. So tonight I just want to open up a little bit about my story. My story as an athlete my story as a young professional in this world. My mother a very very dear lady. My father actually left before I was born. I didn't meet him till I was 16 years old and so I grew up very confused about my identity. I grew up with two white parents just so I was very confused about who I was supposed to be in this world so I turned to football. I found my answers in the game of football. I said at least you know I could put on this helmet. I don't have to worry about what people were saying or even how I feel. I'm going to go hit somebody I guess that will work out pretty good. And I ended up being pretty good at it. You know I ended up having a chance to go on a scholarship play at some great schools and have a great experience.


[00:03:03] I found that you will never outperform yourself identity. You will never outperform how you see yourself. How you see yourself how you picture yourself. You will never go above and beyond that. I promise you. I promise you. And so again like I said what you put in tonight is what you will get out and if there's one there. One thing I can do for you guys at the beginning of the school year is to really help you find out and discover who you are; not necessarily who you think you are, but really who you are and ask yourself this question. When I look in the mirror what do I see? When I look in the mirror what do I see? Who am I what do I see? You know who I want to become. You know what's what's my identity? All these different things. And so again I mentioned it earlier but it's this concept of who you are versus who you think you are. You probably won't find out what that is. And so for me it was October 31 2015. I had just gotten my first start for the Ohio State University I was playing free safety, I've swagged out on the field had to socks, cleetes, sleeves, vizor everything. I'm like yo it's about to go down. 8:00 ABC what's up. Everybody Retweet. Let's go.


[00:04:15] Third played of the game I gave up a touchdown on a double move. Coach pulled me say you are done. I didn't play the rest of the season. It broke me broke. Mentally I was shocked. Everything I saw was gray. I didn't want to play football anymore. I seriously contemplated turning in my equipment. Seriously. I didn't know what to do. And then I felt this pressure to be - I've got to be more. I've got to be more, I've got to show, I've got to prove to coach that I deserve to back out on the field.


[00:04:38] So then I started searching how can I be more how can I be more. Well maybe you know maybe I should take adderall. Maybe it'll help me focus better during practice and I can show coach or maybe I don't know maybe I should do what everybody else is doing and just you know try and fit in with this group. So coach knows I'm ready I can be that leader he wants me to be again who you are versus who you think you are. It's not going to show up until that high pressure moment comes up. And so the first thing when you really feel like man I'll give him my best but it's just not it's just not enough. First thing I need you to do you and you might be your own worst enemy in evaluating the expectations you are placing on yourself. Isn't it so interesting that it takes that that almost life altering or breaking moment for us to turn to something greater than ourselves? Isn't that so interesting when we have the ability to do it now or the ability to prioritize that in our mind yet it still takes that super important.


[00:05:30] Then you mentioned perspective and just connecting with people who may not have it like you have it and you start to see the world differently. You actually start to see what's possible for your life and wow I actually do have it really well. And so what I want to help you do is of having that thought process of thinking about number one and thinking about what you're thinking about. And number two, thinking about something a cause a purpose that is greater than you. And I understand it might not for all of you be your faith. That's OK. For me it wasn't my faith for a long time. And so what I want to share with you is seeking out the truth. You know this thing that thing. And I was just like man what is truth? What is truth? If there's one thing I can do for you tonight and your life it's identify the truth. Identify what the truth is to you and really what it is that you believe in. What is it? What is it? And so again for you hope you understand what shame is. I want to hope you grasp this concept as well. Shame is a focus on you. Guilt is "man I showed up late to class I feel guilty". shame is "I showed up late to class, I'm a terrible person.""


[00:06:29] It's just class. It can happen like that in your mind. It could happen like that. You don't believe me show up to class late, have everybody starts to walk away. Tell me how you feel. Next time some of you don't even care - it's all good!


[00:06:48] So these next two questions are really. Oh man I want you to dive into these. I want you to dive into these. There's actually this third one right here.


[00:06:56] How is the public you different than the private you. What potential front might you be putting on I need to know in the minute you call it out is the moment you experience freedom. It's the moment you experience freedom. I can just be me. I don't because I used to be so ashamed to even talk about my NFL experience. What you are hiding could be stopping you from something you are built and designed to experience. And I don't want you to be your own worst enemy. Because for many years in my life I was.


[00:07:25] What are you willing to do to go live out the purpose that you have fought and gone through all of these things for? and I think some of us haven't experienced that purpose because we stopped short because the minute somebody says well what were you thinking about that with that doesn't know this. Why would you do that. We stop. We stop. We have all the resilience you can have all the grit in the world in a weight room on a court on the field. I promise you I've taken some crazy hits. I've delivered some crazy hits but it's like the minute you start to criticize me I'm like wow. Well it's real. It's real. So how would you define success? What does success look like to you. And I'm not talking about wins I'm not talking about getting drafted. I'm not talking about grades I'm talking about what does success look like. What does it feel like. For me it's this for me it's inspiration. For me it's been a time with my man Alex before this, connected with him on a personal level. That is success to me. That's what that looks like to me. Because right now there's this there's this chase to be exceptional. There's we all got to be great. You know we all want to be the best ever. Yet a lot of us sometimes fall into this. And so I talked to the leadership academy earlier about exceptional. The route word of exceptional is except where everybody did this certain thing except me. If you truly want to be exceptional it might be a lonely road.


[00:08:41] It might be a lonely road but there is hope there is hope. Because we all have a purpose in the pain and the things we've gone through in our lives.


[00:08:49] I want you guys to think about this. What purpose have you found in areas of your pain? What purpose? And if you have it how could you dig deeper into that? And for me one of the things that I'm so purposeful about is that optimism. My level of optimism is just ridiculous. Man I feel you on that. Because I mentioned earlier my father my father left before I was born. I met him when I was 16 I met him when I started to get recruited. He reached out to me over social media when I was getting recruited I was like Yo who is this man? Talking about my dad. So I was upset. I was bitter for many years and a lot of pain in that I was hurt. I'm like man. And the crazy thing is he never actually got to see me play. But thankfully in 2017 we did. I took a step of faith. I forgave him. I put myself out there we decided to build a relationship for the first time actually had that father son joking thing.


[00:09:40] It was like that type of stuff going on. You know how your Dad calls you, men in the room. Yeah I know.


[00:09:48] But we had that for a moment. And then May 25th 2017 on a Saturday morning, he passed from a massive heart attack. And for me I was I was so hurt because I said God I just started to get to know you. How could you take him away from me, how? I just I had only gotten a few months with him that the actual relationship. But the beauty of it is where I found a purpose. I got just enough to know when I'm hopefully blessed to be a father one day I've got just enough to know how to treat my child. Even though I never got it when I was a child. I got just enough on the back, just enough, and it's so interesting for those of you who are believers in Christ. God will give you just enough to give you just enough he will give you too much. He might even give you what you think is enough but he'll give you just enough. To take that next step because if you think about it if you knew every step like you said the journey wouldn't be that great if he knew every step that would give you just enough to take that one step.


[00:10:45] And so if you take that one step that one step if you take that one choice today. That one choice to actually apply to develop answers and responses. You take that one choice. This starts to become a habit. You start to OK now I'm going to start thinking about my level of self awareness. I'm going start practicing emotional intelligence in the locker room most asking my teammates how they're actually doing. I'm going to start reading people's body language and adjust myself to how they're feeling or really put myself on their level. It becomes a habit.


[00:11:13] And then after a while it becomes automatic. Now you only have to think about it. You just - that's who you are. You're just doing it because you've repped it so many times you repped it so many times you've repped it so many times it becomes automatic. Becomes automatic and after a while it becomes your identity. Now you identify when you look yourself in a mirror. You identify as a person who cares as a person who can empathize as a person who understands their own thoughts feelings and emotions and connect and can connect with the thoughts feelings and emotions of others. That's how you identify. Now you only have to think about it. You just that's who you are. You're just doing it because you've repped it so many times you repped it so many times you've repped it so many times it becomes automatic. Becomes automatic. And after a while it becomes your identity. Now you identify when you look yourself in a mirror. You identify as a person who cares as a person who can empathize as a person who understands their own thoughts feelings and emotions and connects and can connect with the thoughts feelings and emotions of others. That's how you identify. And lastly, it becomes your nature. It becomes simply who you are.


[00:12:26] That's Jarrod. That's what he is. And so we have these chains. We have these chains in our life. That can pull us forward because of that. But it also goes in reverse. You make a choice. I'm focused on me. I'm just focused on me. I'm trying to be I'm trying to do what I need to do to get up out of here and do my goals, I've got these goals. Everything and the next thing you know that. That becomes a habit. Now it's like that's crazy, you've got a problem. Ok cool. How often does that happen? It becomes a habit. It becomes a habit. Next thing you know you become blind to it and it becomes automatic, it becomes automatic. Now you're really really trying to listen anybody like that. OK it's cool. But here's me and now you wonder why you're in a cycle of relationship after relationship after relationship it becomes automatic. And now you start to identify with it. You start to identify with it and it becomes your nature becomes who you are. And now you don't even know why things are going this way but it's who you are. But I promise you if you make that choice, it all starts with a choice.


[00:13:38] And the reason I'm so adamant about getting you guys to write this down is because writing is a subconscious activity - when you take the time to write something down. You are thinking about it and you're also doing it because everything happens in your mind first. Everything happens in your mind first but then you're also taking the time to write it and it becomes real to you. It's not just floating around it becomes real. If you make that choice that becomes unbreakable and it goes both ways.


[00:14:02] But the choice is yours. The choice is yours guys. You have every single opportunity in front of you to make your life exactly what it is you want. Purpose. Talk about nature. This is my nature like this. This is my oxygen. I know what I would do without this if I could if I couldn't share this. But this is purpose. It's in my nature now.


[00:14:24] This is why I feel I've been called to because this is something I'm so passionate about something I care so much about and the very least I could do is share some of my experiences of the experiences of others to help you.


[00:14:36] Yes. So she asked when I was in the process of starting my own business how did I know how to do it when to do it what to do and that kind of stuff. I'll be the first. So you spent two years working for people. I spent two years watching and learning as much as I possibly could and I actually spent almost an entire year working for free.


[00:14:53] And I worked for free but working for free does, or working as an intern or working at the bottom of the totem pole does it give you access to information access to a network access to influencers to opportunity. And I studied I studied people very hard. And I didn't necessarily listen to what they say. I watched their interactions and sometimes I'm even hesitant to give advice on like I'm talking about I just watch. You know like seriously I don't believe me just watch. I studied people all of my coaches I actually have like a notebook on every single coach I played for and worked for about their tendencies about their habits about how they made decisions. And so when I decided to launch a business even though I didn't have a ton of business experience because I have been around those minds like that I feel comfortable, I had some level of competence built up where you know faith is defined as the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen. I had some substance in evidence before I watched it and it makes sense. So I took a leap but it wasn't a blind leap.


[00:15:59] You know people here just take the leap and they're probably going to go out of business pretty quick. That makes sense. So I had substance evidence. I studied people I studied business. I did what's called Customer Development, and I identified gaps. I polled colleges around the country asking "hey what are you doing from a leadership perspective? How are you talking about mental health? How are you talking about self awareness?" I did this all before even launching. And so I had got a whole notebook of data to look back on it so I could say, "OK this is where I could fit in." That makes sense? Strategic strategy - strategy you can't be  just blind you know.


[00:16:34] He (Jarrod's father) never verbally said anything to me. I wish he would have but it just didn't pan out that way and that's ok. What his passing taught me is now my number one priority value is on time. You know it's so serious like I don't wear a watch because I'm so aware of how much time I'm actually spending doing something like this. I checked my phone and I was right on schedule how I paced out this entire presentation because I'm just aware of time and how much I'm like really when I'm talking to somebody on my own, 100 percent I'm just not I block it all out. I'm right here. With time because that's that's what he taught me because what I didn't say is he passed on a Saturday morning that Friday night we were on the phone joking and in my mind I might just catch him later. I hung up on him because I had to go. I can't remember what I was doing. I just knew I said hey man I'll call you back. He's like cool. I never got a chance to do that. You know so. I don't live in fear but I live very intentionally very intentionally. Even today you know I'm having a great time I'm going around campus but I'm very intentional about my time very intentional very intentional about connecting with individual people. Does that make sense?


[00:17:39] Identify certain behaviors like daily things like we talked about from a practical standpoint, we talked about with the leadership why, I need to get eight hours of sleep. I need to turn in all my homework on time. I got a lot of times motivational speakers they talk about the past and the future but I'm more like we've got to be real practical. How can you build up small wins every single day. So when that big one come you are like "Oh it's nothing." It's nothing. You got to get rich just like practice you get reps and practice. And so when the game comes - it's nothing - you've been doing it your whole life. So how can you get reps every single day? The most important thing is you have to hold yourself accountable to those behaviors. But you have to give yourself grace if you don't make it. That goes back to you know what to do. You have to identify those expectations that you place on yourself. So you can give yourself grace but hold yourself accountable to those. Hold yourself, write it down make it visible to you.


[00:18:30] Make it visible. I didn't go into it. Our organization is called Prime U and what we've built, what we're building is a team of people like me - facilitators who are traveling around and what we do internally as a team- we have a set of standards or values that we abide by. We don't we don't budge from that. This is what we do. These are the certain behaviors that are required for us to have experiences like this. This is how we're going to interact with clients, this is how we're going to interact with students. I made sure anyone who's on my team we're making sure we are devoting individual time to students who seek us out. That's a non-negotiable.


[00:19:05] So I would really challenge you to identify those non-negotiables in your life and then hold yourself accountable to them. That's how you keep that. Like for me that's how I keep my fire. I keep my fire by keeping connected with people like you doing Q&As like this. I get more high for the Q and A and actually than the content if you can't tell.  You know I'm high on that right now. But seriously because this is what holds me accountable to continue to live out what I say I'm going to live out.


[00:19:27] Ok. So that was a lot to take in. But just to drive home the main points here, remember you will never outperform your self-identity. In order to change the way you see yourself, you have to understand who you really are and more importantly who you want to become. Evaluating the expectations you are placing on yourself and the voices you are listening to will help you find truth and clarity around your situation. When we're afraid, often times we will distract ourselves from the situation. You probably won't find the answers on Instagram or Netflix just saying you have the ability to find an avenue of purpose in areas of your pain but it's all how you see it. Lastly you must first love yourself in order to help others. It's bigger than just you that loss you're experiencing the battle you're fighting pain you're dealing with. It is the birthplace of your purpose. I'm recording this podcast right now because of the pain I had as a college student. I was so hungry for depth of conversation and discussions on real problems not just motivation or surface level talk. That pain has driven me to start a show that provides exactly what I was seeking and hopefully it provides exactly what you've been seeking as well.


[00:20:49] Please share this podcast and visit us at Prime U  want to find more valuable tools to help you reach your prime. Our next guest is coming up soon. And if you subscribe to our newsletter on, you'll get it right in your inbox when it comes out. Send me an email at That's J A R R O D And remember it's not enough to know we must apply. Take the lessons you're learning and start using them now. Thank you so much for listening and I'll see you next time.