At the start of 2019, I stopped checking my Instagram account.
A few months later, I deleted my Twitter account, and let the 30 days pass that rendered my account gone forever.
In an age of ever-connectedness and constant communication, I’ve decided to step away.
I realized that there were algorithms beyond my understanding that were set up to manipulate me and disrupt my life. I didn’t like that. I wanted to regain control.
I realized that a key component to developing skills that matter is long periods of uninterrupted, focused work. Social media was doing its best to claim my attention. I wanted my attention back.
I realized that I wanted to live, not just exist.
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
I realized that each trip through my feed made grumpier and generally more dissatisfied with life more often than not. I like being happy.
I realized that a better alternative would be to create my own platform, a place I can control and mold into whatever I want it to be.
I realized that “dead time” social media checks were depriving me of the necessary inner solitude to process life and disconnect.
I realized that I could better upgrade my brain by reading books than by scrolling through everyone’s 280-character brain dumps.
I realized that I needed to create margin in my life. I needed breathing room. Social media chokes out every last bit of breathing room.
I realized that I could be more present with my wife on a daily basis if there was no pull to check social media.
I realized my life would be better off without social media.
And that’s why I quit.
Simple as that.
Will you be next?
Endnote: It seems like every blogger I follow has written about their experience with a social media detox or quitting social media altogether. I don’t want to mimic those books and articles, but I do want to highlight a few pieces of writing that had a profound impact on my decision to essentially quit all social media. Check out the books and blog below if you are thinking of doing the same things.
The person who has to lead the fight against complacency, Belichick had learned, was the man at the top. Some three years into his career, after he had finished working at more or less entry-level positions in Baltimore and Detroit, he was at something of loose ends. The group he had been a pat of in Detroit had all been fired. His colleagues at both places had understood how talented he was, that he was a young coach with the rare ability to take film and turn it into a living profile of an opposing team, that he produced scouting reports of exceptional value. Because of his Ohio connections, Don Shula, then one of the two or three ranking coaches in the game, was a possibility. Shula, too, had come out of the Paul Brown alumni association, and Steve Belichick, if he had not actually played for Brown, was connected to him because Bill Edwards had once roomed with Brown and had been an assistant coach under him. The name Belichick would be known to Don Shula in Miami. So Bill Belichick had contacted Shula, explained what he thought he could bring to the job, and given his references, which were already glowing, especially for someone in his mid-twenties. Shula was gracious and listened carefully. Then he said, “I’m afraid you’re exactly what I don’t want. I don’t want someone like you doing film. I want my coaches to do it themselves. I don’t want them delegating responsibility to their assistants and distancing themselves from what is happening. I want them right on top of it.” With that Shula apologized, and there was no job offer–it was an interesting lesson; Belichick had been rejected for being able to do something important too well.
The Education of a Coach, page 27
Bill Belichick learned a valuable lesson after only three years of coaching. It seems unlikely that this would even be a thing, but he was rejected for a job because he was too good at something crucial to the game of football.
The temptation to specialize is real. We hear it from all over.
The temptation comes backed with enough logic that some fall prey to it.
Become an expert at one specific thing, and you’ll be very valuable to an organization.
In Belichick’s case, he thought being the best advanced scout would open up doors.
Instead, he faced rejection precisely because he had become so good at one thing.
Years later, Belichick had changed his stance.
“The less versatile you are, the better you have to be at what you do well.”
The Don Shula interview and many other experiences led him to understand the value of not just being a one-trick pony. Instead, Belichick looked to master every discipline of football. He’s known as a defensive mastermind, but his understanding of and innovation on the offensive side of the game is up there with some of the all-time greats.
Belichick didn’t stop with becoming a master scout.
He continued on and built a wide range of skills.
You should too.
No matter what you do, look to build a broad range of skills. Read widely. Understand things outside of your discipline. I bet you’ll start making connections you would have never expected.
You may never break down film in your life, but you can surely benefit from Belichick’s lesson learned.
To paraphrase him, finite games have a beginning, middle, and end with agreed-upon rules. There are a winner and a loser.
The game of baseball is a finite game.
One team wins; the other team loses.
What is an Infinite Game?
An infinite game is vastly different.
Infinite games have no defined start and end.
There’s no winner and loser.
Business is an infinite game. So is your career.
You can’t win business. Just like nobody wins their career.
Infinite games require your own scorecard because there’s no defined set of rules. No agreed-upon terms to let you know when you’ve won (or lost).
Infinite games require a long-term mindset.
The good news? You get to decide which game you want to play.
Finite vs. Infinite Players
The choice is yours as to what kind of player you will be.
You get to choose which game you will play.
So what defines a finite player or an infinite player?
The finite player focuses on winning, being #1, beating their competition.
The infinite player will approach life differently. They keep an inner scorecard. Their concern is to become better than they were this morning and consistently upgrade their skills and understanding of the world.
The finite player gets caught up in the wins and losses of today, the promotions of next quarter.
The infinite player thinks 5, 10, x years down the road. They know where they’re going, but they don’t quite know how they’re going to get there.
The finite player gets caught up in what and how.
The infinite player starts with why.
The finite player will do anything for a win.
The infinite player cannot possibly lose.
Coaching: Finite or Infinite Game?
Coaching is interesting.
On game days, we and our teams take part in a finite game.
The National Anthem resounds through the stadium, the first pitch is thrown, and the game starts.
After a predetermined amount of time, the game ends with a winner and a loser.
Baseball is a finite game.
But coaching, that’s different.
While the games are finite, coaching is best played as an infinite game.
The finite coach is over-concerned with wins and losses.
The infinite coach sees beyond the immediate external scoreboard and chooses to play a different game.
They want to win games, of course. But their true measure of success goes beyond wins and losses.
They’re concerned with impact. Player and personal development. Leaving people everywhere better than when they first met.
They’re not gunning for a promotion, sacrificing others upon the altar of their career.
They recognize that when it all ends, they won’t “win” their career.
They’ll simply be content with the impact they made and the men and women they helped along the way.
Traditionally, baseball coaches have seen significance as wins, draft picks, and promotions. In today’s age, significance now includes social media followers and viral tweets.
All of this stuff is noise. A viral tweet has a resemblance of significance, but it’s as filling as Skittles after a deadlift workout. The sugar-high of social media significance makes us crave more, but more never provides the fulfillment that we are after.
But what if I told you that those things aren’t what makes a coach significant?
At its core, coaching is about helping other people.
You get to empower others to become better at what they do. As a result, you are rewarded with a deep sense of satisfaction.
The artist isn’t only someone who is masterful with a paintbrush or who can tell a compelling story through their words.
No, all it takes to be an artist is to solve interesting problems.
That’s all? Sounds hard.
You’re 100% right.
Solving interesting problems is a unique skill — one that you’ve been solving since you first picked up the bat, dribbled the basketball, or shot a puck on net.
The athlete is a highly skilled artist
When artistry is about problem-solving, the athlete gets included. Every movement is a highly-calculated decision based on external stimuli.
I might get some disagreements here from “real artists”, but I think all of these (and more) qualify as artistic moments:
Throwing a high-pressure 3-2 fastball on the black for a strikeout
Hitting a 92 MPH slider from Noah Syndergaard
Steph Curry maneuvering his way through traffic and nailing a 3-pointer from 35 feet away
Patrick Mahomes dishing out no-look passes in an NFL game
Athletes are constantly solving interesting problems. They’re dealing with a rapidly changing environment and coming up with creative solutions that are then showcased in front of everyone watching.
I wish I would have understood this while I was playing. I think this is key to helping athletes detach from their athletic identities and allow them to move on to the next phase of their lives.
Say it with me:
All athletes are artists.
All Former Athletes Are Artists, Too
For you and me — former athletes — thinking of ourselves as artists (creative problem-solvers) helps us move on from sports.
Many athletes have a hard time transitioning out of sports because they’ve never thought of themselves as anything other than an athlete. They were the star pitcher, the stud basketball player, or the #1 golfer on the team and couldn’t move past that status in their mind.
After their athletic career ended, they are stuck living in the past because they’ve only ever thought of themselves as an athlete — someone who plays sports.
But, if we expand our minds and begin to think of ourselves as artists, we will open up a world of opportunity in our life after sports.
No more will you face the depression that comes from no longer being an athlete.
No more will you doubt your ability to contribute in a meaningful way in the world.
Instead of being stuck trying to move on from your athletic identity, you will look for the next way to solve interesting problems.
You can contribute again, and understanding yourself as a creative, problem-solving artist is a key to living your best life after sports.
Now That You’re An Artist…
Acceptance of yourself as artist is the first step.
I would expect a lot of athletes to denounce this right away if it weren’t for the new definition of artist: creative problem-solvers.
For me, this was key to helping me self-identify as a writer.
When I made this connection that athletes are artists, I could fight back against The Resistance and begin to do the important work of a writer: write.
You’ll go through plenty of moments where you feel like this. Where the performance is subpar, the words don’t come (or worse, they do and no one reads it), the video edit doesn’t look right, or you’re not connecting with potential customers on sales calls.
But once you accept that you are an artist, a world of opportunity opens to you. You’ll have to fight The Resistance at every turn, but that’s the nature of improvement. Any time you seek to improve some aspect of your life, The Resistance will try to dissuade you from whatever you’re doing.
There are two main things that you should do when you realize that you are an artist.
1. Turn Pro
In Steven Pressfield’s book Turning Pro, he discusses the difference between amateurs and professionals.
The main takeaway from this is simple: Amateurs give excuses for why they can’t do something. Professionals look past those excuses and forge ahead.
I’d like to say that it’s a subtle change that can be done by flipping one switch in your mind, but that’s not true. Instead, it’s a complete overhaul of the mindset behind your life.
When you turn pro, everything changes.
The Professional (Not Professional) Pitcher
I might get some slack for this, but I consider myself to have been a professional baseball pitcher even though I never threw a professional pitch.
Even though it might sound crazy, I stick to that.
I wasn’t a professional pitcher by the standards of those who make decisions for the MLB teams.
No, I decided to turn pro. It was an internal reality well before the 2017 MLB Draft came and deemed me not worthy.
My work habits were like those of professionals, and I had the mindset of a professional.
My days were designed around training. I wasn’t trying to “squeeze in” baseball. Instead, baseball was the non-negotiable thing in my life. I had a 2-5 hour block taken out of each training day and then took care of business outside of the training arena with nutrition, hydration, education, and sleep. At some point, I decided to go all-in.
This was the day I turned pro.
Maybe you were the same way. I hope so.
Resistance and Turning Pro
In your life after sports, you’ll undoubtedly feel like an amateur.
I felt very amateurish my first day at the place I currently work. I work in sales and discovered quickly that I didn’t know the first thing about selling meat snack products to grocery stores.
I had the same experience when I started a vlog, podcast, and this website.
Who am I to do this work?
That question still tries to talk to me each morning when I wake up to write.
This is The Resistance. When you get these doubts, you can rest assured that you are doing meaningful work.
Once you discover something worth turning pro in, you have a choice to make. That choice is whether you will continue to be the amateur with infinite excuses or you will burn the ships, decide that there is no going back, and turn pro.
I hope you make the right decision.
When you turn pro, you’re putting a stake in the ground to fight back against The Resistance. The professional makes a declaration that this is who they are, and they’re going to see it through. They’re going to do the work.
2. Do The Work
Turning pro is the first step to the life you want to live. After that comes the daily process of doing the work.
When Tiger Woods mulled over turning pro after his 3rd straight US Amateur championship, he had a lucrative Nike sponsorship awaiting him. This kid would go from a Stanford-educated golf phenom to a worldwide sensation seemingly overnight.
His life was going to change the moment he turned pro, but he wasn’t going to be Tiger Woods, the man who transcended golf, just because he looked out at the Greater Milwaukee Open media and said, “I guess…hello world.”
Even though he was already one of the most talented golfers in the world, Tiger had to do the work if he would step into the fullness of his potential.
And did he ever do the work.
Wielding a golf club, Tiger Woods was (and is) one of the finest artists this world has ever seen.
You — an artist in your own right — have the opportunity to turn pro and then do the work.
Each day, the professional shows up. The professional does what he says he’s going to do.
Will you do the same? Or will you remain an amateur?
It’s Your Turn
You have been gifted with the opportunity to turn pro. You don’t need anyone’s permission.
Remember those old NCAA commercials?
You have the opportunity to turn pro in work that matters.
Will you take it?
To Help: I’ve created a how-to guide around the topic of going pro. In it, I go deeper, taking you 3 steps further than we went in this article.
All you need to do is fill in your first name and email below and I’ll send it to your inbox right away.