MCCC Students "All In" for Talk from Gian Paul Gonzalez



On Wednesday, November 8th, motivational speaker Gian Paul Gonzalez spoke to students at MCCC in the “All In” Leadership Hour talk and lunch sponsored by Athletics, EOF (Educational Opportunity Fund), LEAD (Leadership Education and Development) and Student Life.  Gonzalez is a motivational speaker known for his “All In” speech he gave to the New York Giants in December 2011 which helped inspire the team to their Super Bowl run in 2012.


Gonzalez was an All-American guard at Montclair State University and scored 1,400 points in three seasons.  Gonzalez played in the NBA Summer League in 2007.  Gonzalez works as a high school teacher in Union City and works with at-risk youths.  Gonzalez founded Hope and Future, an organization dedicated to using fitness and athletics to share a message of hope and motivation to inner-city public schools and juvenile jails.


In 2011, Gonzalez was asked to lead a chapel service for members of the Giants on Christmas Eve before their game vs the Jets.  During his service, Gonzalez handed each player a poker chip and told the players to write their number on one side and what they wanted to be committed to on the other side.  If the team wanted to be committed, they would put their chips on the table and be “all in.”  The team beat the Jets the next day and went on to win the remainder of their games including a Super Bowl win over the Patriots.


Gonzalez is now a part of the Giants Health and Wellness Team and serves as the team chaplain.  Gonzalez travels with the team for their away games.  Other organizations that Gonzalez has worked with include the Portland Trailblazers of the NBA (National Basketball Association), Minnesota Wild of the NHL (National Hockey League), NY Red Bull and Philadelphia Union of the MLS (Major League Soccer), the Arsenal of the Premiere League and Rutgers University football. 


Gonzalez offered the MCCC students in attendance words of motivation to keep them going, especially during difficult times. 


Gonzalez explained that his talks aren’t just for athletes.  His message can be applied to many areas of life: school, work, family.  Gonzalez tells his athletes “Take care of your business off the field to take care of your business on the field.”  If you have too much going on with your family or personal life that can interfere not just with sports performance, but academic and work performance.  The issues become a distraction and take away from your performance and prevent you from being “all in.”


Identity is another topic Gonzalez addressed.  “Failure does not define you, it refines you. Mistakes mean we are trying to make things happen rather than sitting back and not making changes.” Gonzalez told students it’s important to separate your identity from your performance, that you are more than your school work, your job.  Gonzalez discussed how just because you didn’t perform well, doesn’t make you a failure. 


Gonzalez shared that he had this conversation with Eli Manning, who led the NFL in interceptions the year before he led the Giants to the Super Bowl.  Manning was starting to get down because of his interceptions and Gonzalez said he told Manning those interceptions don’t define you.  Gonzalez told Manning to separate those performances from who he is as a quarterback.


Gonzalez discussed working hard when no one is watching. “Be all in because you don’t know who’s watching. You have no idea what kind of impact you can make or how long that impact will take.”  Gonzalez was talking to those in prison as he worked on his teaching certification. Gonzalez explained that he had no idea that he had left an impression on someone who heard him speak in the prison and that his entire career path changed when they contacted him to speak to the Giants.


Gonzalez shared an analogy about sharks.  “Sharks are the alpha predator and are full of tenacity. Sharks’ number one weapon is their teeth.  Sharks lose their best weapon every day, but they don’t stop making teeth.  Don’t settle for being a tuna.  A tuna tastes good for lunch, but it’s not a shark.”  The idea is not to settle for where you are at.  Even if you lose or get knocked down, you can regain your position and get to the top. Don’t be average.


Another message from Gonzalez was discussing what being a leader really involves.  “The real definition of an expert is someone who helps others along the path.  It’s not just how well you do something, it’s how well you help others. You’re not an influencer because you have a million followers.  You influence by being there for someone who needs it in good times and bad. Stay ‘all in’ by helping those you care about.”


Gonzalez also discussed focusing on the process or journey and not just the end result or destination. Gonzalez used an analogy from the movie Tenant.  The basic premise of the movie is stopping a bomb from going off.  Gonzalez said “Everyone only cares about the bomb not going off but it’s the person who prevents it from going off that really makes a difference.  They used a process to stop it but we focused so much on the bomb not going off that we forget the process that prevented this from happening.” 


Gonzalez’s talk ended with students getting two things to take with them.  One was a poker chip.  The message of the talk and poker chip is be “all in.”  You need to be “all in” in order to achieve success and the poker chip is a reminder to be or stay “all in” or committed to whatever you are pursuing or working on.


The second thing students were told to take was a shark tooth.  And not just one tooth, but two teeth.  Following the shark analogy Gonzalez shared in his talk, he wanted everyone in attendance to take two teeth, one you keep and one you give to someone.  “Give the shark tooth to someone you are starting to treat like a shark but they’re still a tuna.”  It’s a sign that you care about that person and want to see them become that shark and be better than average.


There were many messages students who attended Gonzalez’s talk could walk away with.  Overall, Gonzalez emphasized working hard, especially when no one is watching, defining yourself as a person not a performance, learning to help others better themselves, being “all in” with whatever you are trying to achieve and focusing on the process and not just the end result.


Gonzalez left plenty of motivation and encouragement for Mercer’s students if they are able to go or stay “all in.”


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Motivational speaker Gian Paul Gonzalez




MCCC Students in front of speaker Gian Paul Gonzalez



  The box of shark teeth Gonzalez brought for his presentation for students to take with them



Poker chips provided by EOF for Gonzalez's "All In" talk