I told myself that not only would I work in the offseason, but I would find a job that required me to advance myself professionally.
When we’re young, parents and teachers encourage us to dream about our future careers. We imagine reaching the highest form of our desired profession—to become the chart-topping musician, Oscar-winning actor, or world-famous artist.
As a Division 1 football player, my dream was to make it to the NFL. But, early in my college career, I suffered major injuries that forced me to step back and reevaluate my options. After much reflection, I made the decision that would change my life—to seize full advantage of my athletic scholarship by completing undergrad early and obtain an MBA.
When I finished graduate school a few years later, I found myself at a major crossroads. I could pursue my goal of playing football professionally or start a career in corporate America.
At the time, mentors, professors, and grad school peers expressed their concerns about my interest in the NFL. They didn’t want to see my hard work and MBA go to waste if I chose professional football over the business world.
But I realized I’d been granted a tremendous opportunity. Instead of choosing one job, I had the chance to do both. I told myself that not only would I work in the offseason, but I would find a job that required me to advance myself professionally. That way, when I did retire from the NFL, I’d still have an underlying foundation in business from which to build a life after football.
Looking back, I can clearly see how juggling careers in the NFL and the corporate world prepared me for life as an entrepreneur.
Working during the offseason taught me how vital it is to prioritize time wisely.
My first job during the 2011 offseason I worked with CaridianBCT, a company that specializes in medical device technology. For eight months I put in full-time hours as a member of their strategic research department.
The next year I worked as a financial consultant for Wells Fargo Advisors. In the beginning, it was a remote position that offered a ton of flexibility. Later, when I retired, it translated to a position as co-manager of the portfolio, and eventually partner.
Although they were very different situations, both offseason positions taught me one essential lesson: how to prioritize my schedule.
At CaridianBCT, I was responsible for working with a group of people to implement new projects and introduce products to different markets. As a result, I had to learn the most effective ways to manage my work-load as part of a team and present our findings directly to senior leadership in a timely manner.
My situation at Wells Fargo was very different, but time management was still essential. Because it was an off-site position, I had to prioritize my tasks on my own. I’d decide what needed to be done and when—whether it was studying analyst reports, responding to emails, or making recommendations.
So, when I finally started my own company, AMP Human, I’d already learned how to manage time effectively and make decisions under pressure.
Today, time is still my most limited resource. Every day is a massive exercise in prioritization. It’s about stacking the list of things to do against time: what should I do now, tomorrow, next month—even a year out. Working every offseason was important to my current ability to prioritize effectively.
Balancing my NFL career and full-time jobs gave me invaluable insight into the endurance it would take to one day lead my own company.
Endurance is about having the capacity and power to sustain through tough times without flinching or breaking. And my ability to endure and survive longer than others during training and drafting is what got me into the NFL
When I went looking for jobs in the offseason, I took the skills from the field and applied them to the business world. People weren’t looking for me—I had to advocate for myself to find employment. It was me saying, “This is my background. This is what I want to do. This is the value that I will add to you and your company and your team.”
When I decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship, I had to use those skills again. I had to continue enduring and surviving.
I didn’t question how I would handle setbacks and hardships. And it didn’t matter when or how they happened, or what they were. All that mattered was that I found a way to overcome the turmoil.
Eventually, I even learned to thrive in it.
Setbacks are a natural part of life—whether you’re starting a company, building a career, or trying to get drafted. Success isn’t about never experiencing a setback, it’s about getting back up and persevering no matter what comes your way. In both life and business, you get knocked down.
The cards don’t always fall your way. But you have to make the most of the hand you’ve been dealt and endure to overcome the obstacles in your way.