How My Career-Ending Injury Helped Me Find My Purpose
A typical Midwestern boy, I dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. I couldn’t imagine anything better than being one of the star quarterbacks, point guards, or Olympic medalists on TV. In real life, I was lanky and goofy with big ears and just enough turmoil at home to make me feel like an outcast.
Cut to gym class, when my 8-year-old self was picked last for dodgeball. For me, that moment was defining. It was the worst rejection I could imagine. I hated that feeling so much, I swore I would never be picked last again. I threw myself into sports — basketball, baseball, soccer, and any other sport. I was obsessed with being the best — all because I had been picked last.
I went on to play college football, break an NCAA record, and go All-American in two sports. My quest for redemption turned into something so much bigger. I don’t think I would’ve gotten where I am today without that experience.
By the time I graduated college, I had my heart set on playing in the NFL. As a stepping stone, I played arena football in the American Football League. It’s an indoor version of what you see on Sundays in the fall.
It was amazing to be paid to do what I loved and had worked so hard for — until I injured my wrist so badly in a game that I had to have surgery, which required a long, arduous recovery. I had no money, chronic pain, and I was sleeping on my sister’s couch. That was my rock bottom.
When a lifelong dream falls down around you, it’s hard to find meaning. As hard as it was, I knew I needed to pick myself up and keep going, so I started to look for a new dream.
I took little steps every day toward finding a new passion, but I had no vision. I was lost. I started with what I knew I was good at. I was a connector, a networker, and I loved adding value to other people’s lives. One of my favorite sayings is “When in doubt, focus out.”
By focusing on helping others create value in their lives, I worried less about my own. I knew I didn’t want to work for someone else, and it took months before I saw any income from my efforts, but my dedication paid off. Within two years, I had built a seven-figure business with my partner, by formulating my new dream and vision along the way.
About the same time, I came across an Olympic sport called Team Handball. Though popular in other countries, the game is not as well-known in the States. I was fascinated by the game, and suddenly my dream came back to me. I had always wanted to represent my country in the Olympics, and had a hunch that Team Handball might be the sport for me.
I moved to New York City to train with the New York club team, got myself back in shape, and made the U.S. National Team.
Looking back, I’m so grateful I didn’t compromise by taking a nine-to-five job. So many more of my dreams have come true, as I work to help people make a living doing what they love. I didn’t know then that my football injury was the catalyst I needed to start serving others, but I know it now. It’s true that in retrospect, our lives often look like perfectly planned lessons. Just try to remember that along the way.
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Photo courtesy of the author
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