How do you deal with heartbreak over something you’ve trained to be the best in the world at and now it’s over? You have a knee surgery or an injury and your dream is taken away from you. That happens to a lot of us—it’ll happen to all of us at some point. How do you re-engage? How do you get back up on the horse when the dream is over?
For one thing, I spent a lot of time alone after I had my heart broken—after I had seven knee surgeries and my NFL career was over. I was afraid. I was scared because I knew I was great at a thing but I couldn’t do that thing anymore. A lot of people go through that. They either get laid off or go through a divorce. It’s some kind of heartbreak or game-changer and people usually stop. They’re so heartbroken they just stop. And I wanted to, too.
I wanted to stop because I just didn’t want to run all those miles to be great at something else. I didn’t know if I had the energy to do it. But I spent time alone. I spent time talking to a therapist about the anger I felt inside and this desire to express myself physically but I couldn’t do it in a professional sport anymore because I just couldn’t do it. I had to find a platform, a placed to put that TNT, that energy.
I found the stage. The mistake that most people make is they don’t take all that TNT to the next dream. They leave it and let it die and don’t think there’s anything left. Well I say all of the mastery that made you great in one field will also make great in another one. You’ll be the best in the world but in a different place. You just have to channel it into the new dream. So my platform went from an NFL field to a theater like this—totally different worlds but I brought the same me to the second one.
I found out after years of training that I was just as good at this as I was at football. Anything I do, whether it’s writing or speaking or being a parent and husband, anything I do I bring the same aggression—the same dynamite I have inside me. I bring it to all those relationships. You must do the same. You can’t live the rest of your life heartbroken without doing anything about it.
I’m heartbroken. I miss football. I miss the guys. I miss being able to be one of the most elite athletes on the planet. I miss that so much and I’ll never have it again. But I could take that same TNT and put it into the next endeavor. I want you to do the same. There was some heartache—some heartbreak—where you said, “Time out. I quit. I stop. I’m done.” I want you to reignite that energy in your next dream.
When you talk about impact, my position in football was to make impact on people. To really hit them as hard as I could—to run at full speed and hit them, make an IMPACT on them. My job is no different today. My job is to make an impact on people with words and physicality, not necessarily throwing my head into them, but impacting them in a different way, in a leadership way.
Think of the thing where you called, “time out” and your heart was broken and you said, “You know what? I can’t do it anymore.” Channel your energy into the next thing. That’s what life is all about. That’s what I always tell my kids. That’s what I always tell everybody. As soon as your heart breaks you have a lot of ammunition. You’ve got a lot of emotion to draw from and that is pure power. Draw from it. Use it.
Tell me if you’ve ever had to reinvent yourself. How did you do it? What advice would you give to someone who’s in the middle of figuring out a new path?