Every Athlete Needs a System and a Tribe

Every athlete needs a system and a tribe.

To make a successful transition into life after sports, every athlete needs two things: a system and a tribe.

Too many athletes struggle to transition into life after sports.

To combat this, athletes need to be made aware of their need of these two critical things that will expedite their transitional process and get them on the path to thriving.

Is that you?

All Athletes Need a System

a laptop, coffee mug, notebook, pen, and black smartphone on a wooden table
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Why a system?

If you’ve ever worked out before (you have, you’re an athlete), then you know the value of a sound system.

A system answers two questions around any worthy quest.

  1. Who do you want to become by the end of this quest?
  2. What constant action will you take to help you get there?

Systems wrap identity, goals, and action plans all into one.

When you enter an off-season weightlifting program, you’re building a system. You envision who you want to become, set a few metrics to measure progress, and then create a daily course of action (Your training program) to help you get there.

Systems are for everyone. Elite athletes and soccer moms looking to get into shape both reap the profound benefits.

You know this. You’re an athlete.

But did you know that systems are just as crucial in your life after sports?

Why is this? Let’s find out.

Systems Point Due North

a compass
Photo by Jordan Madrid on Unsplash

The value of a system is its compass-like direction.

The reason is simple: systems point due north. In other words, they help us know which direction we should be going.

No, that doesn’t mean you will always know what to do.

Systems give you clarity because if built correctly, you will be taking action that helps you day-by-day unlock the type of person you want to become.

Once you have an idea of who you want to become – whether that be a top trainer, salesman, accountant, teacher, or any other endeavor worthy of your skills – you can take daily actions to help you get there.

Systems help you break pursuits down to first principles.

Elon Musk is famous for breaking things down to their first principles. For example, when he envisioned the hyperloop to improve transportation times throughout LA, he began by digging a hole in the SpaceX parking lot.

Instead of getting caught up in fear of what he was doing, Musk simply chose to do the first thing that was necessary: get underground.

While we likely aren’t looking to save people from soul-crushing commutes, our ventures in life are valuable. Instead of getting caught up looking at the whole staircase, focus on the first step and follow the compass of your system that points you towards the type of person you want to become.

What kind of system?

Systems allow for flexibility.

Because systems focus on the type of person you want to become, you are free to change the how behind how you get there.

Over time, your focus for any post-athletic endeavor will change. You’ll feel a need or desire to pivot to some degree. It’s inevitable in life. Here lies the beauty of a system.

Instead of getting locked into a plan that you don’t want to follow any longer, a system allows you the flexibility to pivot with time.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for developing a system:

The system’s outcome should be the evolution of your identity. If the result of a system is a specific achievement, you are not thinking high enough and have instead created a goal.

Focus on who you want to become, and develop daily actions around the identity you aspire to. If you do this, you are well on your way to creating your system.

Kobe Bryant’s New System

Kobe Bryant shooting a free throw at the Staples Center
Photo by Ramiro Pianarosa on Unsplash

Kobe Bryant opened up about his transition out of basketball and into the next chapter of his life during an outstanding interview with Lewis Howes.

Since retiring from basketball, Kobe has taken to storytelling. After winning an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball,” it’s evident that this is an area of passion and skill for him.

But his NBA contemporaries weren’t sold that Kobe was going to successfully transition into his new role in life.

When asked what he was going to do in retirement, Kobe responded and said that he was going to tell stories.

Most guys would respond something like this: “So what’s gonna happen when you retire is you’re going to go through a week of depression, and then the second week is going to be denial…”

Eventually, Kobe got sick of nobody believing him, so he just started saying that he didn’t know.

Kobe knew.

Kobe had a plan, a system.

When should you build your system?

While we don’t know precisely when Kobe decided he was going to tell stories, we see that it was premeditated. He didn’t stumble into storytelling; it was a deliberate choice of his and was something he was going to pursue after the final horn blew on his NBA career.

When should you build your system?

There’s no one optimal time.

But, sooner is often better than later.

The value in going first is much greater than waiting to the end.

I should know. I waited too long.

Believing that I was on track for a professional baseball career, I chose not to look into my future and meditate on who I wanted to become other than a pitcher. I devoted myself to becoming the best pitcher possible even as it became increasingly apparent that my baseball career was coming to a close.

The thing is, I didn’t take enough time to think about what I wanted to do after baseball came to a close.

I got a late start, and that’s okay. You too can overcome a late start. You’re not out of time.

For those of you who are still playing sports, know that building a system early helps you to navigate the transition into life after sports well.

My Friend Will

A few months ago, Will Conerly interviewed me for his podcast.

We stayed connected afterward, and he’s doing some great work.

An aspiring broadcaster, we talked about what he could do to develop the skills necessary to move in that direction after his baseball career comes to a close.

I recommended that he begin recording a daily 5-minute sports talk segment and posting it to Anchor. The reason?

Daily action helps you get your reps in.

Getting your reps in is critical to seeing a system through.

Will’s a junior in college, and he’s already thinking about what he wants to do next. He’s getting his reps in and will reap the benefits if he keeps it up.

It’s never too early to start thinking about who you want to become after sports and building a system to help you get there.

All Athletes Need a Tribe

4 young men sitting beside a mountain
Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

What is a Tribe?

In Tribes, Seth Godin lays out the two factors that turn a group of people into a tribe.

  1. A shared interest
  2. A way to communicate

A tribe can come in many shapes and sizes.

Grandma’s sewing club could be a tribe, but the chances are good it’s not.

That’s because tribes require something else. Tribes are catalysts of movements. Tribes inspire change in the world.

The ultimate goal of any tribe is to make a necessary change in the world. A tribes’ purpose requires passion from its members.

Passion necessitates a shared interest and a way to communicate.

Why a Tribe?

Tribes create the context of your life.

It’s as simple as that.

We are tribal people. We are meant to belong to a group.

Isolation is dangerous for many reasons, one of them being that isolation hinders our understanding of ourselves, others, and the world. We understand things best through connection to a tribe.

A tribe gives the individual a sense of connectedness. Connection is imperative for living a good life.

No man is an island. That’s why we need tribes.

How to find your Tribe

If we follow Godin’s 2-part identification of tribes above, we can see that it can be reasonably simple to find your tribe.

  1. Find people with whom you share a common interest
  2. Start communicating with them

You might make mistakes at first. You might get in the wrong tribe. Be of good cheer; there’s no shame in this.

Get off the bus, and find a new tribe.

The worst thing you can do is to isolate yourself, to not be in a tribe.

What if my Tribe doesn’t exist?

Birds flying in a V shape
Photo by Ethan Weil on Unsplash

Start one.

The world is waiting for your leadership.

If you don’t see the tribe you need, it’s your calling to start it. I guarantee you that you’re not the only one who sees this need.


What to do now

We have a tribe here. It’s for current and former athletes who want to dominate life after sports. Join below, and I’ll send you a free eBook that will give you five keys to building your effective system. We would love to have you.

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