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Jonathan Stewart: Inside the Mind of an Athlete

Jonathan Stewart, giving God the Glory.

*This interview and story is featured in my book Hustle Believe Receive 

 

This is the 4th interview and story in my 5 part series “Inside the Mind of an Athlete.” A series designed to inspire and motivate you to live your dream. Each with a different focus meant to provide you with tools and real life examples that these tools really do work. It’s possible for anyone, for you, to take what you’ve learned in this series and change your life.  All the tools to success using the #HBRMethod have been demonstrated in this series, and if applied can bring you the life you desire and deserve to live.

This weeks focus is on what happens when you’ve achieved your Ultimate Dream; living it, day in and day out. It seems counter-intuitive on the surface to chose this topic for an interview, yet it’s such a critical part of achieving success.  If you’ve worked most of your life chasing your dream that requires one mindset, but actually living it is a whole different thing. It takes a strong mind to keep your footing and not get caught up in the pitfalls of success. It also takes aware intention so you don’t become complacent and stagnate when you’ve reached your goal. This story will prepare you for when your dream comes true, so that you can handle it with grace.

Meet Jonathan Stewart, star running back for the Carolina Panthers. Jonathan was my “wild card” in this series, the only one out of the five players I profiled whom I did not know personally. But when I came up with this idea initially, he was the only player I wanted for the “NFL veteran” piece.  I just knew he’d be perfect. I’ve known of Jonathan for several years, as we have many common friends and have followed him on social media, so I knew his reputation for being a upstanding positive guy and devout Christian was exactly what I wanted this piece to be about. I even wrote out the interview questions specifically for him over a month ago, yet had no idea how I was going to make it happen. But I was determined, trying to get the story idea in front of him, hoping he’d see it somehow.  A week ago he commented on a post about Kenjon Barner’s story, saying that he’d be happy to share his story as well. When he called yesterday I was so glad I’d taken the time weeks ago to prepare for this interview and was ready on the spot!  For me it was a great manifestation of everything I teach; gotta put the work in (Hustle), believe it will happen (Believe) and be ready when it does (Receive).

Jonathan, like the other athletes in this series played football at Oregon, entering the NFL draft his junior year. He was selected as the 13th overall pick in the 2008 draft by the Panthers, and is entering his 7th season with the team.  I asked Jonathan, to tell me his story and what football meant to him growing up.

“I was always the little kid growing up, out there playing catch with my older brother and his friends getting teased for being the little guy.” He laughs a little. Jonathan’s parents divorced when he was in fourth grade, and his mom began dating a man named James Parker. “He really fell into that father figure role in my life. He’d come to our apartment complex and we’d go to the field across the street, and he’d be out there throwing the ball with me for hours. He’d leave work early, or drop whatever he was doing to come teach me the game of football and spend that time with me. He introduced me to flag football my fifth grade year, and always encouraged me, never pushed or forced, just encouraged. So football came with a sense of comfort and a connection with someone who really cared about me, it came from a place of love.”

In 7th grade Jonathan began playing select league tackle football and started to notice two things: 1. He was always the smallest kid on the team and 2. He was starting to love it, and he was pretty good at it. In high school Jonathan racked up the most yards of anyone on the varsity team as a non-starting freshman, and then the “high school hype” started. “My mom raised me in church and that’s always been really important to me. I was blessed to see that at a very young age and always put God first in everything I do. So in high school I just wanted to play football, honor God and focus on school. I felt like football was my tool to honor God. Everything I did was for that end, and to make sure I was living up to that potential.”

In 2008 when Jonathan was drafted, he signed a deal with the Panthers for $14 million, and resigned with them in 2012 for a reported $35.5 million on a five year contract. Knowing what I do about money and athletes, and seeing first hand how it destroys perfectly good people, I needed to know how Jonathan’s been able to keep his head about him after seven seasons in the league.  Especially with the distraction that type of money can bring. Many players unravel when they reach this level of success. They lose a grasp on reality and are not able to think past it. The “be careful what you wish for” factor tends to take affect.

So I had to ask…

Sarah: How have you managed to stay grounded and not complacent in your success?

Jonathan:  The key to staying grounded is to stay yourself. You remember where you came from and you don’t change, you adapt.  You refuse to change for anyone and surround yourself with the people who have always been there for you. If you are true to yourself that is the kind of people you will attract, those are the kind of people who are drawn to me. I think it’s like; if you go to a Country Music concert you’ll see mostly country fans, because that’s whats on the stage, that’s what people are attracted to. So if your heart is true, that’s what is playing on your ‘stage’, and those are the types of people you will attract to yourself.   

You also need to have a good internal radar to know who’s real and who’s fake, to steer clear of the mess. I don’t ever want to be seen as something I’m not. I watch who I interact with because I know you will be judged by the company you keep. You become very aware of that, and the company you keep becomes who you want to be. If you really want to be successful you need to filter what comes at you. 

Sarah: Where does that mental strength come from? 

Jonathan:  Having faith is what’s kept me strong. When your mind, body, and spirit are connected, that’s when it really begins to have it’s full effect on your life. When my body is not where I want it to be, I have to make sure my mind and spirit are top notch, so that I’m inline with where I need to be. I turn to the Word of God, and the Bible to maintain a positive spirit, and remind myself that whatever I’m going through, I will be okay.  Especially when I’m going through struggles, I remind myself that God has been faithful to me through
everything, I’ve made it through them before, I can do it again. And having gratitude no mater what. If something is going wrong I focus
on what God’s given me, and not on my problems. It especially helps when you’re faced with an injury, it’s easy to get down and upset because you’re not out there doing what you need to do.  But I don’t let myself dwell in self-pity. Your mind is such a powerful thing, it’s critical to keep it full of gratitude, because that energy effects everything, including
your physical health and recovery. 
Sarah:  What does it feel like to live your dream?
Jonathan:  To play football was never really my dream.  I always thought it would be great if I could, but I never necessarily made that my goal. In high school I wanted to go to college and football was the way to do that. I always had the mindset that if I do everything within my power that God will open the doors and take me where I should go, so I didn’t worry about the outcome. I have joy. So I’ve always let that guide me. Making sure I keep and live in that joy. That really is my dream at the end of the day; to always have joy and not have to worry about the outcome.My mom was a single mom, raising two boys and I never saw her worry. I know she must have, but she never showed that to me, she had faith that God would provide and he always did.  She never focused on what we didn’t have or tell me we didn’t have money even though I know times were tight, she didn’t focus on that. So I’ve always been the same, not worrying about what will happen just working hard and living in the joy of the moment, and trusting God with the rest. God gives me peace and provides everything I need when I need it, so I just try to glorify him. 
Sarah: What is your dream now? 
Jonathan:  To win the Super Bowl and to make an impact in as big of a way as possible on peoples lives. In whatever way that comes about, I want to fulfill the plan that God has for my life.   I have a passion for making and producing music.  I have a production company, but I make sure the music I produce is not negative or derogatory, especially towards women. I want to uplift people.  My goal is to inspire others, it’s the backbone of my life, to reach a place where I could motivate people to reach their goals and dreams.  I want them to see that they can accomplish something greater than they can even imagine. Football is a platform for me to make an impact on peoples lives and I try to use it to create momentum to effect others in a positive way. 
Sarah: What’s your Hustle?
Jonathan: Never settling.  I have a kids football camp every year, it’s the “Jonathan Stewart Never Settle football camp,” I tell the kids to be extraordinary.  Do extra in everything that
you do. Do that consistently, and when you do over time it becomes who you are. Weather it’s a goal or a dream, seek out people who can help hold you accountable to that goal, find things and ways to push you that extra mile, so it becomes who you are. It’s a lifestyle that you create and attract to yourself.
A quote from Jonathan’s Instagram page.

 

I don’t know about you but Jonathan kinda exceeded my hopes for this piece. I had so many aha moments listening to him talk today. A huge one for me was the concept of living in joy. That stopped me in my tracks. Who lives in joy? I want that. I’ve always thought joy was so fleeting, like being in love… but to hear that it’s also a choice, a conscious decision, and a guiding force of life… that was powerful.
The other major one for me was hearing him talk about his mom.  How she didn’t focus on “lack” and communicating that lack to him or his brother while they were growing up. That hit very close to home for me because growing up poor that’s what I’ve always known. Talking about not having money, and even the last few years as I’ve been able to change my financial situation I still have always talked about it around my kids.  That was life changing right there for me. Realizing I was carrying on a negative pattern from my childhood that had negatively affected me as an adult, and knowing now I can change that pattern for my kids.
Of course I loved Jonathan’s views on gratitude and the critical role it plays in our success and happiness. And a lesson that has come up over and over in this series is surround yourself with the type of people you want to become. I can’t stress this point enough. If you want to be successful seek out successful like minded people.  Realize that the company you keep does define you and don’t be afraid to change up that circle if it’s no longer serving you. I also love that Jonathan’s belief in God is something he turns to for strength and peace, and the way he does that is the same way you can draw on whatever it is you believe in to give you that sense of peace and security. It’s a beautiful thing.
I hope this series has inspired you to go after your dream, whatever it might be. I hope you’ve taken the tools these guys have shared and incorporated them into your life. And I hope the next time you watch a football game you think about these guys a little differently than you did before. They are inspiring to me not because of what they have accomplished on the field, but because of how they have learned to control their mind, harness their motivation, and manifest their dreams. Those are all the same exact skills you can learn to master as well.
I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from Jonathan today…
“Happiness is temporary.  But joy is forever.” -Jonathan Stewart 

 

Follow Jonathan’s journey on Instagram @jonathanstewart1 and on Twitter @jonathanstewart1

READ JONATHAN’S FULL INSPIRING STORY IN MY NEW BOOK #HustleBelieveReceive 

Be sure to read AND SHARE the other stories in this series:
Week #1: Derrick Malone Jr -Current Oregon Linebacker
Week #2: Lavasier Tuinei -NFL Undrafted Free Agent “The Hustle”
Week #3: Kenjon Barner -NFL running back Panthers
Week #4: Jonathan Stewart -NFL running back Panthers (this one)
Week #5: Patrick Johnson -NFL retired Super Bowl Champion
I love this picture of Jonathan and Kenjon… Ducks fly together!

Feedback on this story from Jonathan and his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
Jonathan’s Facebook post
Comments on his Facebook post of the story
Facebook comments

 

His Instagram Post

 

Instagram comments
Twitter post had over 20 retweets and favorites in the first few hours

 

What do you think of Jonathan’s story? Did it change the way you view football players? What did you learn? Please comment and share.
Author Bio:
Sarah Centrella is a Success Coach for professional athletes, the Reality TV show REVERSED, and anyone with a dream. She is also an author an motivational speaker. Follow her on Twitter for motivation and inspiration, be sure to  Subscribe for my newsletter and info on free coaching classes.
Hustle.Believe.Receive. Motivation & Inspiration Sports Your Life Coach

Patrick Johnson: Inside the Mind of an Athlete

Meet Patrick Johnson. He is my fifth example and story in my series Inside the Mind of an Athlete. 5 Oregon Football Players: Their Lessons Could Change Your Life and his story is all about what happens when your Ultimate Dream has been achieved? How do you cope with no longer living a certain type of life, or that specific dream? How do you redefine the next phase of your life and make it just as rewarding?

Patrick grew up in a small town in Georgia, playing baseball at the Boys and Girls Club. “There were not a lot of opportunities for kids where I came from.”  Patrick tells me.  “I never really played organized sports until my Junior year of high school.  So I didn’t grow up with that dream of becoming a college football star or playing in the NFL.”  Patrick joined the football team with prompting from his friends, his Junior of high school. That first year he wasn’t allowed to play (transfer policy), but he practiced with the team relentlessly.  Finally his Senior year he started at quarterback, taking the field with guys who had been playing the game their entire life. “I knew that the learning curve was going to be  tough. But I’ve always tried to be the best at anything I do.”

But when his coaches told him after just a few games that they wanted to move him to running back from QB, Patrick did what many competitive, upset seventeen year old’s would do; he quit the team.  For a day. “But that was the best thing that ever could have happened to me. It changed my life, really. Had I stayed in the QB position I never would have gotten a scholarship to play for Oregon. It was a huge blessing in disguise.”

Sarah: When did you realize that playing football was your Ultimate Dream?
Patrick: I was so inexperienced in the sport when I came to Oregon. I was just focused on getting better as fast as I could, giving it my all. My skill level wasn’t at the same level as the other guys, I doubted if I could even do it. But you just have to go out and be willing to really, really work at your craft and do what it takes to get better. You can’t just say ‘I have a goal or a dream’, you have to go make it happen.  I would watch films of NFL players and think, ‘there is no way I can physically do that’.  And then I would go out and try to do it. 

The lasts three or four games of my senior year at Oregon, that’s when I finally had the confidence to think I could do what they did. I had what they had.  And that’s when I realized I could take it further.

Patrick was taken in the 2nd round of the NFL draft in 1998.  He played eight seasons as an NFL wide receiver, including winning a Super Bowl with my favorite team; the Baltimore Ravens.


Sarah:  At what point in your career did you start to think about life after football?
Patrick: I started thinking about that on day one. Before I was even drafted. In this sport it can all be over in one play, you always have to be thinking about that. I’ve always been an entrepreneur, even in college I started a few business. Some failed, some had moderate success, but they all taught me valuable lessons, and all kept me in the mindset that at some point football would be over. 


Sarah: What has been your key to success throughout your life?
Patrick: At each stage in my life I’ve always surrounded myself with very competitive, successful people. When you do that it forces you to up your game. And a lot of the methodology I learned in sports… like you have to manage your expectations. Both of yourself and others. You can’t win every time. There are going to be times when you are disappointed and you need to learn how to deal with that and how to not let it distract you.  And self-motivation is the key to success. You gotta always be the first one in and the last one out. Work harder than anyone else, push past the boundaries.

Sarah: Did you have specific goals for after you retired from football?
Patrick:  I don’t like to call them goals because I think it puts a ceiling on my potential. I don’t want it to ever be a destination I’m reaching. I work extremely hard at what I do, I try to keep it real simple. For me they are more of a benchmark, a way to hold myself accountable. 

Patrick is always hustling (working)

Sarah: You’ve managed to be as successful after football as when you played, what do you do now? 
Patrick: I build and run companies, it’s my passion.  Right now I run two publicly traded and regulated companies. One in the oil and gas sector in Texas and one in construction in Canada. I also work in hedge funds and sports radio.


Sarah: What is your dream for your life now? 
Patrick: I want the generation after me, my son and nieces and nephews to have a better future full of opportunities. And not just family, but I’d love to impact that generation, and other kids that don’t have great opportunities, so I try hard to give back and to support causes that help provide those opportunities. 


Sarah: What keeps you going? 
Patrick: I don’t have “quit” in me. 

I love the lessons Patrick shared, that sometimes something you think is “the wost thing ever” turns out to be your greatest blessing. Our ability to believe and trust in that can carry us through so many difficult times, his story is the perfect example of that.
The dream for your life doesn’t end when you reach a desired goal or destination. It’s always a process of redefining it, it’s always in motion. That dream is what gives you focus but it’s never static, it’s always evolving and growing and the tools you learn to achieve and live one dream are the same ones that will carry you to your next success. It’s a personal
commitment you make to give it your everything.  To demand success, and greatness of yourself.  And with each stage of the journey you rise higher. Giving back and being of
service, teaching others and being a mentor, reinforces what you know.  And finally I loved his key to success, surrounding yourself with successful people teaches you how to be successful.  And when you’ve reached a level of success yourself, giving back and mentoring others is just as important for your growth.
I hope this series has inspired you to believe that anything is possible. These five guys are human, they are not Superman. They are guys who grew up and worked hard and refused to quit once their dream began to build inside of them.  They are the living examples of the #HBRMethod  They have shown us that with Relentless Pursuit anything really is possible. They’ve also demonstrated how visualization is a critical part of manifesting your dreams, and how non of it is possible if you don’t believe in it. Take these lessons and make them part of your life, they are powerful and have the potential to inspire greatness in you. And like every single one of them said, there is no “living your dream” without The Hustle. So get to work! All of their inspiring stories will be featured in my book #HustleBelieveReceive 
Be sure to read the other stories in this series:
Week #1: Derrick Malone Jr -Current Oregon Linebacker
Week #2: Lavasier Tuinei -NFL Undrafted Free Agent
Week #3: Kenjon Barner -NFL running back Panthers
Week #4: Jonathan Stewart -NFL running back Panthers
Week #5: Patrick
Patrick shaking hands with then President George W. Bush after winning the Super Bowl
 Be sure to follow Patrick’s journey on Twitter and Facebook
BE SURE TO READ PATRICK’S FULL INSPIRING STORY IN MY BOOK #HustleBelieveReceive 
Hustle.Believe.Receive. Motivation & Inspiration Sports Your Life Coach

Kenjon Barner: Inside the Mind of an Athlete

The always smiling Kenjon

This is the third story in my four part series; “Inside the Mind of an Athlete“.  And this story is all about how you adjust to life once you’ve achieved your Ultimate Dream. It seems so easy, but like everything else it’s something that you need to prepare and plan for, because adjusting to living your dream can actually destroy you if your not prepared for it.

Meet Kenjon Barner, former star running back for Oregon. I asked Kenjon to tell me his story, share with us his dream and how he’s been able to achieve so much at such a young age. This is his story…

Kenjon grew up in a home full of love and competitive brotherly rivalries, his parents had their hands full; six boys and a girl.  So from a young age he learned that confidence was king! Being great at basketball gave him that confidence from the start. “I played basketball from the time I was three years old, it’s all I ever wanted to do.” He tells me when I ask him when football became his dream.  “I wasn’t really even thinking about football, I’d never played it, except with my friends in the yard growing up. But basketball was what I loved and was good at, and it’s what my family expected me to play.” 

Sarah: What changed?

Kenjon: In seventh grade (he laughs a little). My dad came to wake me up to go to practice, but I didn’t wanna get outa bed, so I told him I wasn’t going. I said I wanted to quit. My dad looked at me and said ‘then what are you going to do?’ It was such a huge part of my life, it’s like how do you quit the one thing you spend most of your time doing?  I looked at him and said ‘I want to play in the NFL’.”

Kenjon had never played football before, hadn’t studied the plays or warn a uniform, but when he said it out loud to his dad, and later to his friends they knew he was serious. When he set’s his mind to something, nothing stands in his way. “I’d always been a confident kid, growing up with five brothers you kinda have to be. I’ve always believed in myself.”

But all through my freshman and sophomore year of high school I was just thinking, man I gotta find a way to get a  job when I graduate high school. No one in my family had ever gone to college, it’s just not what I was exposed to, not an expectation I had. But my junior year I got a scholarship offer to play football, and I thought ‘wow that’s crazy’ but in the back of my head I was still thinking I need to get a job.  But my mom was like, there is no way you are not going to college now! And by the end of my junior year I really got to that place where I believed it was possible for me.”

Sarah: When did you start to think that the NFL could be a reality for you? When did that become your dream?
Kenjon: As soon as I got to college, I was determined to make it to the NFL.  Football had gotten me this far, I knew it could take me all the way. 

Sarah: What was it like for you on draft day?
Kenjon: The most stressful, annoying, frustrating, happiest three days of my life! My agent had warned me not to watch it live and to just wait for a call, but of course my family and I watched it nonstop. But then when I got the call from Carolina on the third day, wow that was amazing. It was such a celebration for my whole family. It was the happiest day of all our lives. 


Sarah: So you’ve achieved your Ultimate Dream, you’ve been drafted into the NFL. What was the experience like the first time you put on the uniform, walked into the stadium and took the field as a Panther?

Kenjon: My first pre-season game I wasn’t nervous. I thought something was wrong with me because I just felt so calm. This is what I’ve dreamed about, have worked all my life for a moment like this. Looking up in those stands and seeing thousands of fans I was just thinking, wow this is so crazy.  And as soon as I got out there they called my play as the first play of the game, and then suddenly I was a nervous wreck, taking the field for the first time in the first play of the game. They give me the ball and I fumbled it, and we lost position of the ball.  When I make a mistake like that, I can’t let it go. I chose not to let it go, because it motivates me and keeps me present. I take that negative energy and channel it for motivation. And the next time they called my play I was ready, I ran the ball for a touchdown. 



Sarah: Had you ever visualized that moment and did it feel the way you expected it to?
Kenjon: In order to do something you need to be able to see yourself doing it. I visualize the game before I play, I see myself running for a touchdown. Then when it happens I’m not surprised because I’ve seen myself doing it and I’m prepared. I think of it as God gave me that vision, allowed me to see it, and then he enabled me to live it out. 


Sarah: At Oregon you were a huge star, what’s it like to be living your Ultimate Dream, yet be the “unknown” rookie?
Kenjon: For me it’s easy, I’ve always had to wait my turn. Sit and be patient, watch and learn. My dad always says ‘What God has for you, you’re gonna get.’  If you do what your supposed to do, and put in the work, then what’s meant for you will come to you. You have to trust the process and be patient and know that if you do all the preparation, then when your turn comes, you will be ready.


Sarah: What’s been the most challenging part of your transition into living your dream vs. working to get it?
Kenjon: Adapting to the lifestyle is always challenging. But I have great guys on my team and they talked to me about how to be a man, and how to handle my responsibility. How to deal with the girls, money, and life. Those conversations really impacted me. Those guys really took the time to show me the ropes. I’ve always surrounded myself with good people and people I admire.

Sarah: What’s your Ultimate Dream now?And do you think you will live it?

Kenjon: To be a valued member of this team, and of course to win a Superbowl! And to give my son all the opportunities I possibly can.

I absolutely believe that if you set a goal and a dream you can achieve it. I verbalize a goal and believe it, and know I’ll achieve whatever I set out to do. My Junior year of high school when it came time for the awards, I missed the award for first team all-state. I felt robbed, after the awards I was upset and told my dad I would ‘make ’em pay’. I told him ‘I’m gonna score 40 touch downs and rush for 3,000 yards next year.’  The next year I scored 48 touch downs and rushed for 3,024 yards.

You’ve got to believe it with that kind of confidence. If you don’t believe in it then how can anyone else? People thought I was crazy, but my family knew that if I said it I would do it. You’ve gotta have that faith that confidence. And always keep your hand in God’s hand. 

Sarah: What motivates you?
Kenjon: Fear of failure. I want my son to know that his dad was not a failure. Not letting myself down and being accountable to myself. And the fear of not fulfilling what God has blessed me to be. I know he put me here for a reason, I want to maximize that potential. 

Sarah: I know you, and I know you’re always smiling and positive…. do you ever have a bad day?
Kenjon: (Laughing) Absolutely! But if I’m having a bad day I try not to show it. It’s what you do with that feeling and emotion that’s important. My mom is huge on detecting that, she calls me 15 times a day and can detect the slightest thing in my voice.  Her and my sister, they sense it, and they always know the right thing to say to get me out of it. I love my friends and family. I mean I really LOVE and appreciate them, I know they are always there for me. This job is stressful so you compartmentalize people, the ones who bring drama get a very small space if any, the ones who are there to help you be a better person are the ones you keep. 

Sarah: What’s your Hustle?
Kenjon: Hard work. Sometimes three workouts a day. It’s being away from your loved ones. And always trying to get better. If you’re not willing to work hard, don’t expect it to happen. 


I’ve had the honor to know Kenjon for several years and have always been blown away by the way he thinks and his positive mindset and loyal friendship.  It’s really from our conversations over the years that I learned so much about how tangibly success can be achieved. That there was a simple formula and that it didn’t just need to apply to athletes, I could apply it to.  So I did. And he really inspired that because as you can see he believes like I do, that when you speak something it holds power. When you believe in something and work for it, you can and will manifest it. And above all be grateful and humble and try to bless others with the talents you’ve been given. Take his advise, it works!

Kenjon surprising Kanen for his 8th birthday, with Ed Dickson
After playing football with one very happy Kanen

Kenjon Barner is a running back for the Carolina Panthers who just finished his rookie season. Follow his dream and inspiration on Twitter.

 



Be sure to read Part 1: Derrick Malone JR story.
And Part 2: Lavaiser Tuinei’s inspiring story. 
Part 3: this one
Part 4: Jonathan Stewart
Part 5: Patrick Johnson 


BE SURE TO READ KENJON’S FULL INSPIRING STORY IN MY NEW BOOK #HustleBelieveReceive 

Hustle.Believe.Receive. Motivation & Inspiration Sports

Lavasier Tuinei: Inside the Mind of an Athlete. Part 2

Inside the Mind of an Athlete: Part 2, is all about #TheHustle, overcoming adversity and never giving up. I wanted to share this story because it’s an unbelievable example of what is possible when you are committed to your dream, put the work in and don’t take “no” for an answer. It proves that you can overcome “bad luck” and any other obstacle that comes your way if you are truly committed to living your dream.

This is the story of Lavasier Tuinei, former Oregon Duck, and Rose Bowl MVP.  I chose “LT,” as he’s commonly known by friends and family, because his journey has been far from a bed of roses (pun intended), yet he’s remained focused on his goal and committed to his dream. As a kid growing up in Indiana, the son of an NFL player you’d think he would have been born with a football in his hand, but in fact basketball was his passion. His parents divorced when LT was very young, and his mother wasn’t at all interested in her son playing football, encouraging his love for basketball instead. But when he was eight years old he went to live with his father, and held a football for the first time.

Sarah: When did you discover your love of football? 
LT:  (I can hear the excitement and nostalgia in his voice). The first time I touched that football.  I didn’t want to put it down, I took it everywhere with me. I wanted to be just like my dad, who was playing for the Chicago Bears at the time. I asked him to teach me how to play and he gave me a choice. He said “go to sleep tonight and set your alarm for 5:00 AM, if you still want to learn how to play in the morning, come wake me up and I’ll train you.” The next morning I woke him up at 5:00 AM and we trained for two hours before school every morning he was home through high school.

Sarah: What is your ultimate dream?
LT: To play football in the NFL.

Lavasier transferred high schools his senior year hoping to get into a better football program, but the move backfired and he found himself ineligible to play at all his senior year of high school. Without playing time there were no college scouts and no scholarships. It seemed hopeless. But his dad wouldn’t let his son give up, he knew LT had talent, ability, and most importantly heart. So they drove together to colleges and tried to join the team as a walk on.  He was denied.

But his dad had an idea; move LT to southern California to attend the same junior collage that he’d attended and see if his son could get a chance to finally play ball. Things began to fall into place and for the first time in a long time LT was back on the field doing what he loved to do most, having fun, and turning in some impressive numbers. It wasn’t long before Oregon took notice and offered him a scholarship after just one season of junior college. But, “bad luck” seemed to tail LT and again his dream was put on hold as he worked out issues with his transfer and eligibility. It looked like his chance to play for Oregon was dead in the water.

Sarah: What did that defeat feel like?
LT: I felt like I was done. I couldn’t see a way out, the doors had all closed. I was just broken. Devastated. Here I’d worked so hard, gotten this close and was stopped by something out of my control, something the administration had done incorrectly. It didn’t seam fair.

Sarah: What kept you from giving up?
LT: Staying and playing another year for the junior college was not at all what I wanted to do, but what choice did I have? I guess I could have quit, but that was never really an option. When you have a dream that is part of your DNA it just becomes who you are. It removes the option to quit. Also my dad always believed in me, I wanted to make him proud. Show him I could do it and that all our hard work was worth it.

A month later LT got the unbelievable news that Oregon had fought for him and he was cleared to join the team. That spring training was a rough one. He’d never competed on that level, played with athletes of that caliber. He felt overwhelmed and under-prepared. “I sucked.” He tells me.  “I was this skinny kid from a little school with no credibility. I was dropping every pass. It was a mess. At the end of practice I went up to the coach and asked him if I could red-shirt my first year, I just felt there was no way I’d be ready to compete at that level by fall.”

But that summer, after classes he could be found at the practice facility studying plays. Every spare minute he had, he spent going over all the plays, learning the system, trying to catch up. And when fall training camp came around he didn’t drop a single pass. By the third game of his first season with Oregon he had not only made the team, he was named the starting receiver.

Rose Bowl MVP Lavasier Tuinei

Sarah:  You are named the MVP of the Rose Bowl, you have a great senior year at Oregon, did you expect to be drafted?
LT: I didn’t know honestly if I would get drafted. It’s a statistics game at the end of the day and I wasn’t sure I had the numbers the NFL was looking for. But when I didn’t it was another major disappointment. But I still believed in my dream. I knew I’d get a chance to play in the league. I knew that a team would see my heart, my athletic ability and take a chance on me. And then I got a call from Seattle.

Sarah: What has the last two years been like as an un-drafted free-agent?
LT: It’s been a struggle. A mix of highs and lows. In the past two years I’ve been signed and released by the Seahawks, Bengles, Cowboys and Patriots. It seems like every time I get my chance I have an injury that prevents me from being 100%. My body has worked against me, and I’ve pushed it beyond what it should have to endure and, played when it wasn’t healthy and I’ve paid the price.

Sarah: What was the lowest point for you over the last two years?
LT: The car ride home with my dad after I was injured and cut form the Bangles. He was so mad at me for getting injured and released. He said my career was over and that I’d never play football again. He told me I should quit. That broke me. Coming from someone you love so much and admire and credit for your success, that was devastating.

The hustle in action

Sarah: Where does your motivation come from?
LT: I have something to prove, to myself and to my dad. I know and believe I can make this dream happen, now I just need to prove it. And to my peers, at a certain point when your chasing your dream and you see other people succeed, you can start to get down on yourself for not being where you want to be. It can be humbling, but I’ve realized that not everyone is going to get my vision for my life and I’m okay with that. I’m doing it because it’s who I am, it’s what makes me happy and it’s what I love. Sometimes you just need to tune out what other people think of your dream and just use it as fuel and motivation.

Sarah: What is your Hustle?
LT: It’s every day. Putting in the work needed to get my body back to 100%. I’m in Hawaii now working with a trainer, training 3-4 hours a day, six days a week getting ready for that call from a team. It’s also keeping my mind right, I rely on prayer a lot for that. And… I play domino’s! (he laughs).  No matter how much you chase your dream it can never be all you do. Life is short you need to enjoy it, have fun, let your mind relax, save the next hustle for tomorrow.

Sarah: Do you believe you will achieve your ultimate dream?
LT: Of course! No doubt in my mind. I will make it happen.


I love LT’s story so much because he is a living example that no mater what comes your way, if you are committed to your dream and The Hustle it takes to get you there, and believe in it with your whole being… nothing can stop you. You will live it. He has already achieved so much. More than most men could even imagine, he’s lived those moments, been a member of several NFL teams. He is making it happen regardless of all the obstacles that stand in his way. And I love that not only does he believe in his dream, he realizes that it’s up to HIM to make it happen. He’s not waiting for some magic fairy to show up with a contract, he’s doing everything within his power, every day to get closer to his goal.

I also loved that LT doesn’t let other peoples negative energy sidetrack or destroy him. He turned that potentially toxic energy into positive motivation, making it just one more reason to be committed to achieving success. We all have “haters” in our life. People who don’t get us, and don’t understand why we would want to redesign our future and change our life. Let them hate, take that and turn it into fuel and additional motivation. People knock things they don’t understand or have the courage to do themselves, so just keep your eye on the prize, and know at some point when you’re super successful, they will come a knocking…. asking “how’d you do that, I want to try it now.” I can’t tell you how many times that has happened to me in the past few years.

Remember there is no such thing as “bad luck,” we make our own luck. We prepare and do our part and if it’s right for us it will come to us. If it’s not, the door will close for the time being, and when we are actually ready the right door will open out of thin air. So, be patient, and like LT; never give up. We are all going to face adversity on our journey to the life we are creating. It’s not going to always be easy, there will be many days when we want to give up, but just like LT said; when you’re committed to your dream, failure is not even an option.

So… are you committed to your dream? To changing your life? If you’re not, none of this will work. But if you are, guys like Derrick and LT and myself are examples that it can be done. It’s not rocket science, it’s not complicated. But it is life changing, and it will work for you too.


Lavasier Tuinei is an un-drafted, free agent in the NFL. Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram to watch his dreams unfold.


UPDATE TO LT’S STORY: OCTOBER 11, 2014

After this story was published, LT did get a call, from the New York Jets. He flew to New York and worked out for a few days with the coaches, hoping to make the team.  But no follow-up call came.  So he went back to his #Hustle, coming home to Euguene to continue training, in hopes the next call would come.  And in July it finally did.  This time from the Canadain Football League (CFL), and the BC Lions.  LT packed his bags and moved to Vancouver BC, thrilled to finally be a part of a team, and for weeks he practiced, worked and waited for his turn to play.  But yet again, it never came.  Instead he found himself in the all to familiar spot, of being cut from the roster.

But instead of heading back to Eugene to train like he had done in the past, Lavisier made a decision that would change everything.  He stayed.  He took a lease on a nearby apartment and decided to wait out the rest of the BC Lions season; even though he was no longer part of the team.  He told the coaches he was staying in town, and would be there if they needed him, and then he went out and looked for a “real job” to pay his rent.  When he got hired on at a temp agency he was grateful to be getting a paycheck, and went to work. For several weeks he worked his temp job, and trained himself, never giving up on his dream, or questing his faith that one day his opportunity would come.

Last week it did. The Lions had lost several players to injury and found themselves desperately needing a wide receiver, and who just so happened to be in town waiting for his shot? Yup. It’s not luck people. It’s what I like to call #ManifestThat, the moment when #TheHustle meets opportunity.  LT was ready to go when he got that call, realizing this might be his last shot at his dream.  So every day he practiced hard, determined to prove himself to the coaching staff, in hopes of getting a shot to actually play.

Yesterday, just days after being called back up to the team, and an hour before kickoff he was told to suit up, that he was starting.   With just a few plays into the game, as a BC Lion, LT caught his first pass.  And the ball kept coming his way, and each time he was ready.  And then the moment he had worked and bleed for, believed in and pursued against all odds, came…. he scored his first ever pro-regular season touchdown. WATCH NOW

Congratulations LT for never giving up on your dream.   For pushing past the point when most people would throw in the towel, and for doing it with quiet grace. You are the definition of #RelentlessPursuit and #HustleBelieveReceive in action.  This is your moment to shine.  You deserve it.

Lavasier Tuinei BC Lions
Lavasier making his first pro start with the BC Lions

 

LT making his first CFL touchdown
Lavasier Tuinei  making his first CFL touchdown

 

Lavasier’s inspiring true story will be featured in my book #HustleBelieveReceive available in 2015

 

Be sure to read the rest of this series:

Part 1: Derrick Malone JR story.
And Part 2: Lavaiser Tuinei’s inspiring story.
Part 3: this one
Part 4: Jonathan Stewart
Part 5: Patrick Johnson



 

 

Hustle.Believe.Receive. Motivation & Inspiration Sports

Inside the Mind of an Athlete Five Part Series

*Note this series launched the idea for my book #HustleBelieveReceive and all five of these stories are featured in my book. 

 

What can a football player teach you about achieving your dream and finding success? A lot. Over the next five weeks I will interview and share, five inspiring stories of Oregon football players who prove that anything is possible, for anyone. Five unique stories, five stages of the same journey, one common dream, united by a common brotherhood. Each is on a mission to fulfill their Ultimate Dream. What is their common key to success?  The answer to that question, and what they have taught me could change your life, the way it did mine.

Living his dream.. Derrick Malone Jr. 
This series will feature players with one common background, they are all alumni of the University of Oregon football program, but their stories couldn’t be more different.  I will feature each stage of the journey:
1. A current college player, with hopes of playing in the NFL.(Derick Malone Jr)
2. A un-drafted free-agent who’s been signed and released from several teams, still hoping for a contract. (Lavasier Tuinei)
3. A rookie finishing his first season in the NFL (Kenjon Barner)
4. A seven year veteran in the NFL (Jonathan Stewart)
5. And finally a retired Super Bowl champion. (Patrick Johnson)
My goal is to tell their stories from a new lenses. This is not just another football story, it’s the truth behind how they create their future, and manifested their dream.  But most importantly it is proof that “regular people” can use the same tools (visualization, prayer/meditation, mantras, belief, and hustle) to create the life of their dreams, the same way these athletes have. I have taken these lessons, and as a single mom in my 30’s applied them to change my life and live my dream.  You can too.  These guys are not “super-human,” they simply apply a common formula to achieve success.  And one I’ve been sharing on this blog for the past few years, and coach in my Success Coaching practice.  I want to motivate and inspire you to apply these same methods to live your dream. The stories are fresh, personal, with a new perspective, and FINALLY something positive about football players!

I have chronicled five different athletes in five different stages of the same dream, to show you that this is a life long journey and that success is not achieved overnight. Also to show you that even successful people, who’ve lived their “dream,” also face defeat and seemingly insurmountable adversity. It’s what they do to overcome this adversity, that makes them great, and their stories so inspiring.

The always smiling Kenjon Barner

The amazing thing you’ll learn is that all these athletes have a similar philosophy about life and success, even though their lives and backgrounds are very  different.  This is further proof to me that this mindset is self-created. Not something “special people” are born with.  Which is great news for the rest of us! We can create it too. These are some of the athletes who’ve helped shape my beliefs and given me motivation to never settle for anything less than my dream. Through the years we’ve learned a great deal from each other as we’ve watched the other apply the tools for success to achieve our own set of dreams. I am blessed to call these guys friends and even more grateful to them for sharing their inspiring stories with you.

I know we can learn so much from their successes and struggles, that we can directly apply into our own lives. And hopefully it will help you to see athletes in a positive light. I have immense respect for each of these guys and I have a feeling whether you’re a football fan or not you will see the game and players in a whole new light, and hopefully have some amazing aha moments along the way.

 

The relentless Lavasier Tuinei

 

Series Schedule: 


CLICK ON THEIR NAME TO READ THEIR STORY

Week #1: Derrick Malone Jr. Current linebacker from Oregon.
The life of a college player with his eye on the NFL draft day.

Week #2: Lavasier Tuinei, former Oregon Wide Receiver and current NFL free agent. 
What do you do when your dream is taking longer than you thought it would? What keeps you from giving up? 

Week #3: Kenjon Barner, former Oregon star Running Back and current Carolina Panther (NFL contract, just completed his rookie season.) 
What is it like to achieve your ultimate dream and go from a star to a rookie. How did it change him? What is his next big dream?

Week #4: Jonathan Stewart, former Oregon star Running Back and current starting Carolina Panther running back. League veteran. . How do you keep your focus, drive and stay grounded when you’ve achieved your Ultimate Dream? This stage destroys so many, is it “be careful what you wish for?”

Week #4: Patrick Johnson, Retired NFL star for the Baltimore Ravens.
How do you transition from “living your dream” to a whole new life? What is your dream now? How have you been able to achieve it. Do the same rules still apply? 

Get ready! It’s gonna be fun. Please share their stories in your networks and comment on their posts, help spread positive energy and encourage their dreams.

Patrick Johnson, making plays for the Ravens.


Motivation & Inspiration Sports

Derrick Malone Jr: Inside the Mind of an Athlete

*This is the first story in a 5 part series titled “Inside the Mind of an Athlete“. Check the link to learn more about the series and see who else will be featured in upcoming articles. 

I chose to feature Derrick as Part 1 of this series because I’ve always chosen to associate myself with players who have a similar positive mindset. Ones that are focused on their goals, determined to stay grounded through the process of fame and success, and who are constantly looking for ways to grow and become better.

Derrick is known for his contagious smile and upbeat personality

Derrick Malone Jr. embodies these qualities. As the star starting linebacker for the Oregon Ducks Derrick has always impressed me with his positive attitude, uplifting social media posts, and general demeanor, so I was thrilled when he agreed to let me interview him for this piece. I wanted to know if what I’ve learned so far about the law of attraction and the connection I’ve made with it and athletes was true for him as well. I wanted to see if he lives his life by these principles without even realizing it. I have to say I got goosebumps with many of his answers, seeing once again how the simple formula Hustle.Believe.Receive. really does apply.

Malone grew up in the Southern California town of Culton, a community known for turning out pristine football athletes from it’s high school. As a kid, Derrick remembers how football was always part of his life from a very young age, even though he didn’t formally start playing until the 8th grade. But it was always there, his father Malone Sr. was an excellent running back in high school and had dreams of his son playing quarterback. But, Derrick was more interested in baseball and basketball, even though he spent every evening playing football at the park with his friends, or at recess or before and after class, he still wasn’t sure it was what he wanted to do. It wasn’t until his breakout game playing safety his junior year of high school, that he realized, maybe he was actually pretty good at football, as the college recruiters began circling like flies. It was then that he finally began to see what his family and friends had known for some time, that he had a gift and that gift could change his life.

When I asked Derrick where his confidence comes from today as a red-shirt Senior and a key part of Oregon’s defense, he says without hesitation; my family. Growing up our home was full of love. My mom, dad and grandmother believed in me to the fullest. They instilled that confidence in me, told me to never settle, and to always expect more, that I “deserved it.” That core foundation helped Derrick get to the place he is at today, one where he truly believes in his ability, the future and his ultimate dream.

Derrick’s first “impossible dream” was to play football for the University of Oregon. It had always been his top choice for colleges, and when they were the first to show interest in him, and ultimately the one he accepted a scholarship from it was the realization of his first ultimate dream. It was life on a grand scale, ESPN highlights, featured games on Saturday afternoons. It was more than most young players could ever dream of; the fulfillment of his big dream, being part of one of the top football programs in the country.
So I had to ask the Oregon Senior…

Sarah:  What is your ultimate dream now?
Derrick: “To get drafted into the NFL.”

Sarah: What makes that moment your ultimate dream?
Derrick: Because it makes everything you’ve done along the way, all the sacrifice, all the things you miss out on, worth it.  It’s the payoff. There are a lot of limitations that come with the responsibility of being an athlete, my life is not like the life of a ‘normal’ college student, there are sacrifices, and struggles that come with the glory moments. It’s the proof that all those little things really meant something. It’s the reward for putting in the work to  graduate with two majors, and the moment your family can be so proud of you.  It’s an opportunity for me to be a role model to the younger generation and make an impact on others and help change their lives. This is what we work for. That validation, that reward.


Sarah: Do you ever visualize that day? Imagine what it would be like?
Derrick: Of Course! Every day. It’s a lifelong thing. I close my eyes and visualize, I constantly daydream about it, all day every day. It’s a way of life. It’s been like that since I was a kid, I’ve always been able to make a movie in my head and focus on it. Football is a way of life, it’s who I am, it’s in my blood, it’s my family, my belief, it’s more than a game. It’s all day every day working towards that goal.
 
Sarah: When did you realize this was your ultimate dream?
Derrick: Honestly not until I got to college, probably my sophomore year. Even though my family always believed in me and told me I was the greatest, I don’t think I really believed it. In a lot of ways I think that’s what’s kept me grounded, always wanting to work harder and be better. But my sophomore year my coaches were the ones who really instilled that dream in me. They told us every day that making it to the league should be our goal, that we should work every day for it and that it was possible. I knew the odds where small, but I wanted to be part of those small odds. And over time I began to really believe it.

Sarah: Do you believe you will be drafted into the NFL?
Derrick: Absolutely. Everyday I get better. I’m better this year than last year, and way better than I was in high school. If I can improve like that with work and dedication then there is no reason I can’t continue to improve and make it to the league. It’s a progression and a process, it’s not overnight, but I know it’s possible if I stay focused and keep working. Anything is possible!

Sarah: Have you ever wanted to quit or give up?

Derrick: No. Never. I never quit, it’s not in my nature.
 
Sarah: What do you do to motivate yourself when you have a bad day? 
Derrick: When I need motivation all I have to do is call my mom. I hear the pride she has in me, and it makes me smile, and it just makes me want to make her even more proud. That is why I do this. And I do it for my Aunt who passed when I was in high school. She was my biggest fan, she believed in me and was so proud of me. I dedicated my senior season to her in high school. I wish she could have watched me play at Oregon. Every day that I want to quit I play for her. Those moments when you wanna give up you remember why you’re doing it and it keeps you going. You think about the moment you’re working for and helping your family and you just get back to work.

Sarah: What is one moment you’ve lived out that felt like standing in the middle of your dream?
Derrick: Running out the tunnel to play in the Rose Bowl. I had watched it as a kid at my grandma’s house and remember thinking those players looked so big, and it seemed so impossible, and then I lived it. Being with my family and sharing that experience with them, and holding the trophy after we won, it was the happiest moment of my life. A dream come true.  

Derrick holding the Rose Bowl trophy

Sarah: What’s your daily hustle? 
Derrick: Win the day (Oregon’s mantra). It’s tatted on my arm, and it’s what every day is about for me. Just go out and no mater what I’m doing, practice, a game, training, eating right, or choosing not to go out, all of that is my hustle. It’s all part of just winning today.  

Sarah: So what’s your dream once you are drafted?
Derrick: To renovate my high school locker room and weight room. I want to make my school, family and community proud. I want to give back. 

Derrick’s motto WTD (Win The Day) Tattoo, a constant reminder of his hustle.


Like I said, I got chills listening to Derrick talk about how he practices the exact same things I’ve been teaching on this blog and in my coaching classes. He’s applied the formula (without even realizing it) and has achieved the same results. He’s drawn on coaches and family to help him build his belief when he needed it, and over time it became his reality. I also love how his dream grew and changed over time. How at each stage he began to dream bigger, once his confidence and belief grew. And, of course I LOVED the fact that visualization is a constant in his life, not even intentional at this point, just automatic. And, as we know there are no results without the hustle. I loved how Derrick takes that just one day at a time, and when he wants to get down on himself he looks back and sees how far he has come. But one of the most important things he said is something I hope each of you take away from this, it’s a process. It’s a life long journey. It’s not something you do to get to a goal, it’s who you are. It’s what you believe in, what you eat, live and breathe. You’ve got to be committed to making this your new life plan if you want to see results.

Thanks Derrick for inspiring us and reinforcing our belief that anything is possible!


About Derrick:
Derrick Malone Jr is a journalism and advertising major at the University of Oregon and a starting member of the Duck football team. He is also an up and coming writer and poet, sharing his positivity and passion. Be sure to check out his blog: I am Poetic Soul and follow his twitter to learn more about him, and watch his dreams unfold. 


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Be sure to read the other stories in this series:
Week #1: Derrick Malone Jr -Current Oregon Linebacker
Week #2: Lavasier Tuinei -NFL Un-drafted Free Agent
Week #3: Kenjon Barner -NFL running back Panthers
Week #4: Jonathan Stewart -NFL running back Panthers
Week #5: Patrick Johnson -NFL retired WR and Super Bowl Champion

 

Be sure to read Derrick’s inspiring true story in my new book #HustleBelieveReceive 

Divorce Hustle.Believe.Receive. Motivation & Inspiration My Stories Single Mom Life Vision Boards

#HBRMethod Success Story.

A text message changed my life. On the evening of September 7, 2008, I opened my husband’s cell phone while he was in the shower, to read: I can’t wait ’till you’re finally free and all mine. No more sharing. Those few words tore my world apart in an instant. 

I’d been with this man half my life, since we were sixteen years old. We had an eight-year marriage and shared three beautiful children, including twin girls just over a year old. We’d been through it all: buying our first home, then losing it in foreclosure; being overjoyed when I got pregnant with our second child, then devastated when I lost it six months into my pregnancy. I thought we’d seen everything, but this I never saw coming. 

I never saw it because everyone knew he loved me just a little bit more. They say in every relationship one person does that, loves the other more. The kids and I had always been his entire world. No part of me ever questioned that he’d jump in front of a train to save us if he had to. 

I was all he ever wanted. Until I wasn’t. 

I set his phone on the bathroom counter and without a second thought, threw open the shower curtain, turned off the water, and said; “Get the fuck out.” I watched him pull on his shorts in the hallway, still dripping wet, one leg and then the other as I pointed to the front door. He kissed our son goodbye, tossed his ring in my general direction, and walked out slamming the door behind him. 

He never came back. 

Things had not been perfect between us prior to that day, I can’t lie. We’d been struggling financially to the point of desperation for what felt like forever. We’d lost our home the year before and were forced into bankruptcy after our twins were born. Our life was in a noticeable negative tailspin. Losing everything we’d worked so hard to acquire had destroyed our pride and left us both feeling useless, helpless and miserable. I’d done everything I could think of to cut our budget and make it so we could pay the bills and still eat, but every month we fell further behind. 

On the day he left, I didn’t have five dollars to my name. Our electric, water and gas bills were all past due, with shutoff notices pending, and the rent was late. I hadn’t worked in over two years, and the economy was in the middle of a deep recession. The car title was in his name, as was our bank account. Overnight, I went from desperate to stranded and destitute, with no way to provide for my three small children. 

That night, I laid on the cold hardwood floor in our living room, my hair matted to the side of my head with tears that had finally run dry from my own dehydration. The only thought that floated in my semi-conscious brain was, “How the hell can I do this?” I’d tried so hard to think of a plan, anything, but nothing came, except that question over and over again. It seemed completely impossible. Yet somehow in that moment survival mode also kicked in, and with it came even more questions. Of course we’d have to move right away, but where? I didn’t have family who could take us in. And we’d need to sell everything we owned, but how? And I’d need a job, but doing what? And how could I afford to work when daycare would take up most of my salary?

All night these questions swirled in my head without answers. 

The sense of utter helplessness was all-consuming. I was no stranger to hard times. I’d grown up in extremely difficult circumstances and had struggled all my life. I already knew what it felt like to go hungry, to not have a roof over my head, or a bed to sleep in at night. But this was different. Being resilient and scrappy is fine when it’s just you. But when you have children to feed, it’s a new kind of panic that washes over you in overwhelming waves. In the past I had always relied on #TheHustle to get me through anything; it was comforting knowing that no matter what came at me, I would always “find a way.” But this time, I knew Hustle alone would not save me, and I had no bright ideas.  

In moments like these, I think we are faced with two options. We can give up, fall apart and disappear. Or we can fight. I knew I could never just give up, but I didn’t believe I had what it would take to fight. Not this time. 

That was about the time my girlfriend Charise walked in the door with her arms full of Costco boxes. She’d thought of everything: diapers and formula for the girls, dinner for the next week, and even enough cash to keep the electricity and water on. That is the moment that has defined my #RelentlessPursuit. That is the moment I Hustle and grind for. 

Something inside me snapped in that moment. A light went on, deep in my core, followed by a burning desire to never put myself or my children in this kind of position again. I made a promise to myself right then that I would not rely on anyone to provide for my family. I wouldn’t borrow money from family members; I wouldn’t beg for help. I would somehow pay my girlfriend back, and figure out how to handle my business on my own. Before I’d always just thought I was unlucky and entitled to what little help I’d ever received.  All my life I’d told myself this story, and believed it. Nothing good ever happens to me.  I work twice as hard as everyone else for half as much. That was my core belief. And as a result, that was my life.  No one ever told me that my life was the result of my thoughts, my beliefs and my actions. I believed that the only thing I could control was how hard I worked (#TheHustle), but that on its own left me feeling like I was drowning in quicksand, no matter how hard I worked, the results never showed. It took the catastrophe of that night, when my world collapsed in an instant, to spark within me a desire to drastically change my life. 

That week I sold everything we owned on Craigslist and filed for divorce. I took the money I made from our belongings to pay for first and last month’s rent on a really tiny, super-shitty two-bedroom apartment. I had just enough left over for one more month of rent and a few groceries. That was all the money I had in the world: I didn’t even have a bank account. My sister convinced me to get on food stamps, just until I got on my feet, and though I cried when the case worker took my story, I knew I had no choice. I applied for every job I could find, but interviews were few and far between. When the second month came and my rent money was gone, I sold my wedding rings on Craigslist for a fraction of their value; enough for one more month’s rent. When the women came to pick up my rings, she looked around our little apartment at my twins running around in their diapers and said, “I don’t want to know. Please don’t tell me the story.” She didn’t want my “bad luck” giving her new wedding rings negative juju. 

Things were certainly bleak, to put it mildly. It was terrifying, yet at the same time there was a new spark of hope deep inside me that wouldn’t go away. Now I was in control of my future, and that was a whole new way of thinking about what was possible for my life. I remembered an Oprah show I’d watched where she’d talked about changing your thoughts because they have the power to predict your future. I mentally traced my life back five, ten years, and realized that everything I worried about, feared and stressed about, had become my reality. That was a huge revelation for me. I saw it plain as day: I’d created all those “misfortunes.” I’d created that life. That was all the proof I needed of the tremendous power of my thoughts, even if it had only worked in a negative way up to that point. I knew I had nothing to lose, and the possibility of possibility brought hope in a way I’d never known before.

My book Hustle Believe Receive  is how I went from a newly single mom with nothing, relying on state aid to survive, to an executive of a software company in just eighteen months. It’s the story of how I manifested four vision boards in six years, and completely changed not only my life but my children’s. It’s how I went from living in a “poor me” world, to being a take-charge-of-my-future badass. It’s the tale of how I learned to dream HUGE and what it felt like to live out those dreams quicker, and bigger than I’d ever imagined, often without spending a dime of my own money! It’s how I learned to work smarter and not harder.  It’s how I Changed my Crew. And it’s the story of how, for the first time in my life I learned to truly be grateful, live a “pinch-me moment” kinda life, and how I found my joy. 

 
 
“Anything is possible child, anything can
be.”
–Shel Silverstein


 

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*You can read all my posts about these events and all the others as I went through them in  real-time. Look on the left side of my blog and click the “archive” to read what I wrote as I faced these  challenges and celebrated these victories in 2009-and beyond
 
 

 

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