Dear Athletes: The Best Way to Predict Your Future Is to Create It
Stepping out of the locker room and into the professional world is an opportunity to master a new game: The game of life. This is a game you’ll continue playing for as long as you live. You’ll never get cut, you’ll never be too old to play, and no one can ever take your spot.
When competing at an elite level, the majority of an athlete’s time, energy and focus are dedicated to practice and training. The fully loaded schedule required to operate at this level doesn’t leave much room to mentally prepare for the realities of a life that no longer revolves around sports.
It’s no secret that student-athletes don’t have time to gain valuable real world experience or do internships the way most other students do. I felt the weight of this all-too-common situation as soon as I graduated.
Although I was very grateful to have earned a full scholarship, I couldn’t help but feel like I didn’t have much to offer professionally when "disciplined student-athlete" and “works well with others to achieve a common goal” were the only marketable skills on my resume.
I applied to hundreds of jobs without hearing back from a single employer. When I finally did land my first gig, I was miserable.
In hindsight, I’m thankful for that first opportunity because it gave me several tangible skills to build from. It was a stepping stone to my next job, and the next job after that (and the next few jobs after that).
I had to learn through trial and error what kind of life I really wanted for myself, and each step along the way brought me closer to who I truly wanted to become.
One of the many lessons I've learned through all of the growing pains is that discovering what you don’t want is equally as important as discovering what you do want.
Instead of viewing the transition out of athletics as a time of uncertainty and confusion, I encourage former athletes to approach this moment with excitement, curiosity, and above all else: intentional action.
The question to ask oneself after hanging up the jersey isn’t: “who am I now?” The question is: “who do I want to become, and why?”
Starting with this question in mind puts us back in the driver’s seat, and allows us to make choices from a place of clarity. We go from being victims of circumstance, to deliberate creators.
Whether you’re looking to land your first job, or launching your first business, this is an opportunity to reinvent yourself and discover new ways to make an impact.
There will be times when you must completely transcend yourself, and abandon old ways of thinking that may have previously held you back.
Think of this process the same way you think of updating the operating system on your phone. This is how we foster growth. This is how we become the best version of ourselves time and time again.
Unlike sports, it’s not the strongest, the fastest, or the most athletic who thrive in the professional world, it’s the most adaptable. Being adaptable requires a constant state of learning and growth, which enables us to make informed, confident decisions as we progress through life.
No matter how busy your schedule is, no matter how overwhelmed or frustrated you may feel, make time to envision the kind of life you want. Your future self will be glad you did.
Look ahead 3 years, 5 years, even 20 years. Make it real in your mind, and be specific. The further out into the future you can project, the more effective you’ll be at laying down the foundation today.
If this is the first time you’ve dedicated this much thought to mapping out your future, don’t worry. You’re not too late, and you’re definitely not alone. Don't let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that learning stops after graduation. You're just now beginning the life long, ever-changing journey of self-discovery
With enough effort, discipline, and careful planning, you can dominate any path that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning. Once you discover what that path is for you, you'll be unstoppable. You can, and you will be successful in other areas of life. Welcome to your new game!
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