The Common Threads is a podcast about today’s leaders, athletes, educators and coaches who leave their mark through their actions. Each episode travels through time to explore the childhoods, influences, and habits of the world's leading athletes, industry experts and entrepreneurs. If you want a deeper look into who these people are, check out The Common Threads hosted by David Swain @swain, or visit the new community for athletes, TheProkit.com / @prokit, for insights from pro cyclists, runners, triathletes, nutritionists and mental health experts.
Pioneering Running Coach Greg McMillan: Extraordinary is in All of Us
Greg McMillan didn’t set out to become one of the greatest running coaches in America. He started diving into the research in high school with a simple goal: to run faster. Fast forward three decades and McMillan has coached over 10,000 Boston Marathon qualifiers, 12 National Champions, and countless elite athletes competing at the Olympics and World Championships.
There’s something fundamentally different about talking to McMillan about his journey into running, coaching and exercise science. He doesn’t differentiate between his athletes running their first 5k and those competing at the Olympic Trials. To him, “extraordinary is in all of us. It just has to be pulled out.”
Maybe that’s why McMillan Running has changed the game. Because McMillan — and the coaches he’s assembled — believe in all of us, not just the few winning the medals.
Listen to our podcast with Greg McMillan on The Common Threads: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify.
The Starting Line
David Swain, @Prokit: What did you have for breakfast?
Greg McMillan: I had a bagel because my wife bought fresh bagels. So I had a bagel with cream cheese, some sliced apples, water and a cup of tea.
Is that your typical go-to?
Not necessarily. I usually try not to have so much bread in the morning, but if she gets the fresh bagels, I’m gonna have one.
Let’s start with your journey to running and sport. As a kid, where were you and what were you doing?
I grew up in rural Tennessee on a farm, so we played outside all the time. Obviously, we didn’t have neighbors right next door, and I had to get to friends on foot or on a bike. So I grew up very active. I played baseball and basketball, which I really loved.
In our elementary school, we also did a field day. We would compete in different events like the long jump, the softball throw, and the mile run. I would always win the mile run and then got to represent my school at the county championship, which is a big deal.
Greg in high school
Of course, the high school coach watched field day and picked his future team. I got invited to participate on the track team quite early because I was successful when I was young. The switch flipped for me in about 11th grade. I really fell in love with running. I was playing basketball and running, but running just became my passion. It’s been over 35 years now and I still love talking about it, love helping people with their running, and love exploring how we get the most from ourselves.
What kind of farm did you grow up on?
We raised beef cattle, mostly for our own consumption and to raise some money. We would have one cow that we would slaughter each year and that would be our meat for the year. The rest would be sold off to pay the bills. My parents did have regular jobs, so it was more of a weekend farm. We didn’t subsist just by farming.
Tech Veteran Ime Archibong on Leading with Purpose
“Genius is everywhere.” An unsurprising phrase from someone like Ime Archibong who has had a front row seat to some of the greatest movements in tech over the past two decades.
But for Ime, the son of proud Nigerian immigrants, the phrase has a much deeper meaning. If genius is everywhere, how do we find it, empower it and spotlight it? What does it look like? Who represents it? These are the type of personal and societal questions at the core of Ime’s role at Facebook where he has worked for over ten years with community builders, entrepreneurs and nonprofits.
An eternal optimist with a fierce work-ethic I’ve seen up close, Ime is the person people want in their corner. Knowing how to hustle — something he displayed as the captain of the Yale basketball team — is not what sets him apart. It’s compassion and purpose, two things that vividly come to life within minutes of meeting him.
We sat down to dig into what he learned from his parents growing up in the South, how to lead through a pandemic where the tides have turned for tech, what he’s up to with his new team at Facebook, and of course, who would win in a running race between him and Mark Zuckerberg.
Listen to our podcast with Ime Archibong on The Common Threads: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify.
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Cookies for Breakfast
David Swain: What did you have for breakfast?
Ime Archibong: It’s election week here in the United States, so my diet has not been one I’ve been proud of. This morning, like the last two mornings, I started my day with a cookie.
Whole Foods is right down the street in San Francisco — they have a brown butter cookie that is to die for, and it’s also dangerously addictive.
What time of day was this wonderful cookie?
I’m an early bird, so I’m typically up working in the six o’clock hour.
That is my first memory of you in our early years at Facebook. I’d get into the office early thinking I was way ahead of everyone, and you had already worked out and been sitting in your computer for two hours. Have you been able to continue that work ethic?
Yeah, it’s still there. As you get older, you realize at what time you do your best work, and where you have energy. In my case, the most strategic and the most active time for me tends to be in the mornings. That hasn’t changed at all. Unpinning that is this drive to do more.
For better or worse, I have a little bit of a feeling of never being satisfied. I feel really fortunate to be in this industry and at Facebook at this moment in history. We have such an opportunity ahead of us as humanity and society are trying to figure out the internet. Knowing that I have the time to try to shape that and make sure that we get it right over the longer...
Bailey Richardson: Building Communities that Get Together and Stay Together
Bailey Richardson grew up with a foundational belief “that you can make any future you want.” This “naive optimism,” as she calls it, led her to the startup world, where, in her early 20s, she became one of the first dozen employees at Instagram and worked closely with Prokit co-founder, David Swain.
After leaving Instagram, Bailey started People & Company with Kai Elmer Sotto and Kevin Huynh to “help people bring their people together.” It would be challenging to find someone who thinks more about the meaning of community and the magic that goes into building it than Bailey and her co-founders. They’ve interviewed thousands of community organizers, advised startups and leading brands, and written the community-building playbook, Get Together.
We’re all pros at something. Bailey is a pro at community. Her insights won’t disappoint. Here’s the community kit.
Listen to our podcast with Bailey Richardson on The Common Threads: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify.
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David Swain, Prokit: What did you have for breakfast?
Bailey Richardson: I was away surfing in North Carolina and South Carolina for the last few weeks, and when I came home, I found out that my refrigerator had broken, which is a disgusting experience. Because I can’t keep anything in the house, I need to go out more than I normally would. This morning, I got coffee and a power berry smoothie from Food U Desire, a great bodega on Smith Street in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.
What was your childhood like and were there indications you would become the community builder you are today?
Two words stick out when I remember who I was at 11 or 12: competitive and optimistic. Both traits were passed down to me from my mom and dad. I’ve always been competitive with myself. I played every sport growing up. Sports make me happy. I played basketball, volleyball, and softball. My dad was a semi-professional barefoot waterskier growing up, so I water skied. My uncle surfed Mavericks, so I surfed. My mom was a competitive swimmer, so I swam. One of my uncles was a collegiate football player, and my dad’s identical twin was an Olympic bobsledder, so sports are big in my family. Sports was an outlet for my ambition and a way to push myself. I was also really driven in school. I’ve had to dial it back as I age and want to be a more chill, happy person.
Then there’s the optimistic side. I grew up in the Bay Area, near San Jose and Santa Cruz. My dad is an optimistic engineer. He believes we’re going to solve all the problems the world has and that you can figure out anyt...
EverAthlete founder Dr. Matt Smith: Mastering Movement, Strength, Breath and Why the Pros are Pros
Dr. Matt Smith helps the pros reach the highest levels, whether they’re competing at Ironman, chasing gold at the Mountain Bike World Championships, running Western States, or playing in the NBA or NFL. But at his training center and clinic, EverAthlete, he’s just as dedicated to training someone for an epic bucket list hike or helping another build the solid foundation they need to prevent injury and keep doing a sport they love.
Before COVID, Matt had just opened the training facility of his dreams, the next phase of EverAthlete. That all quickly changed in March, and Matt pivoted immediately. He closed the training center doors and moved to a combination of in-person therapy, online training and instructional videos. He sat down with us to talk about it all — the impact strength training and form have on performance and longevity, the power of breathwork, and what he’s learned about mindset from pros like Kate Courtney.
Listen to our podcast with Matt Smith on The Common Threads: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify. Follow Matt on Prokit @everathlete.
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The Start of EverAthlete
David Swain, Prokit: What did you have for breakfast?
Dr. Matt Smith: Every morning, I have a breakfast shake. We do a veggie box so the veggies vary, but usually what I put in my shake is either spinach, kale, or chard, and some broccoli. I try to get as many vegetables in, as possible. Today, I blended kale and broccoli, an apple, a handful of blueberries, and a scoop of the Primal Kitchen collagen protein. I’m allergic to dairy so I always go with either almond or coconut milk.
There’s always discussion around making sure athletes get enough protein. What’s your go-to?
I usually eat meat, nuts and seeds. Occasionally, I will have a clean whey isolate protein because I’m not as sensitive to that as I am to milk or cheese.
Tell us about your journey as an athlete moving into health and starting EverAthlete. Where did it all begin?
I grew up in the Bay Area and played baseball and football through high school. I decided to go to University of Redlands to play football, but tore my hamstring and had different injuries prior to my freshman season that caused me to fall out of organized sports.
There was always interest in becoming a chiropractor, mainly because of a mentor in high school. He was my anatomy and physiology teacher, and he was a bodybuilder and former chiropractor. He had a substantial impact on me, and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps.
After two years,
Rebecca Rusch: Be Good, Be Vulnerable and Don’t Stop Learning
Rebecca Rusch's nickname is the Queen of Pain -- for good reason. She has pushed herself to excel at every outdoor adventure imaginable, continuously reimagining what's possible and leaving her mark on everything from mountain biking and adventure racing to solo pursuits in the Alaskan wilderness.
But it's not just her world championships, Emmy Award winning movie, or records that inspire so many. Rebecca has found strength in honesty, vulnerability and in listening to an inner voice telling her "to see what's over the next hill."
Rebecca goes deep on her strategies for coping with pandemic, building a personal mission statement and the process she went through to articulate her "why." We also get into the business and community she's building, filming Blood Road, and the impact of the pandemic. She captures the moment perfectly: "Everyone in every country, in every corner of the world, is feeling some kind of stress, and how we manage that is more important now than ever.. I think it’s important that we call our mothers, call friends, and stick together."
WIRED Editor-in-Chief Nicholas Thompson on Running and the Future of Media
WIRED's chief editor, Nicholas Thompson, has thought a lot about the intersection of technology, media and society. As a long-time journalist and editor at the The New Yorker and Wired, Nick can talk about media and tech the same way many pro athletes can recount in vivid detail a moment from an event that happened decades ago.
Nick has almost always been a runner, finding ways to log eight miles a day on his daily commute. Just enough that with some training he could get to consistent 2:40 marathons. But he never took the time to think about why he runs and how it intersects with his past, his relationship with his father, and a cancer diagnosis when Nick was 30.
After an incredible 2:29:13 at the 2019 Chicago Marathon, Nick decided to try to figure out why he ran just under 2:44 at age 30, and just under 2:30 at age 44. He joined us to talk about it all -- running, media, and overcoming mental barriers you might not know exist.
Insightful and fun conversations with world champion mountain bikers, Olympian triathletes, famous podcasters like Rich Roll and entrepreneurs and people chasing their dreams. A favorite for sure.
One of my favorites
Many podcasts focus on one niche area or topic, which can get old. The Common Threads takes you behind the scenes with both famous and rising star athletes, entrepreneurs and leaders to find the often overlooked but important parts of their journey. Great insights for aspiring athletes, pros, women, parents and people with the itch to perform better at work or in their sport.
Dave goes deep to get lessons learned and great advice from endurance sport stars. You always learn something new about athletes who have been in the spotlight at scale—a sure sign of a great podcast.