Why All Athletes are Artists (And What You Should Do About It)

I was an athlete, not an artist. My extra-curricular contribution was on the basketball court and baseball field, not in the studio wielding a paintbrush.

This is how I thought for my entire athletic career. Despite flashes of artistic ability, I thought of myself as an athlete and it stayed that way until the day I retired from baseball.

Then, I struggled. And struggled. And struggled.

I couldn’t let go of my self-identification as an athlete.

If I wasn’t an athlete, who was I?

This question led me to a realization.

This realization has been solidified as I’ve accepted the end of my career and moved on. In fact, I believe that it’s been a major key in any forward progress I’ve made in my life after sports.

A GIF of DJ Khaled saying "Major Key Alert"

That realization not only helped me to better understand my work as an athlete but also helps me to do better work today.

What is the realization, you ask?

Let me tell you…

All Athletes are Artists

Artists are people with a genius for finding a new answer, a new connection, or a new way of getting things done.

Seth Godin, Linchpin1

We must expand our definition of an artist.

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.

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    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?

    This one?

    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.

    What I Miss About Baseball

    A few weeks ago, my co-worker came up to me while I was in the lunchroom. I don’t usually leave my desk for lunch.

    I devoured some homemade chicken while hunched over a copy of Cal Newport’s Deep Work.

    It was a good lunch.

    “What are you up to?” Jason spouted out.

    “Eating and reading,” I replied. “Do you want to know what I’m reading, or don’t you care?”

    I’ve found this to be a valid question for 99% of the population.

    “Nah, I’m good.”

    We both had a good laugh at his brutal honesty.

    Fortunately, the conversation didn’t end there. We talked about family, college, sports as a whole, and Kyler Murray.

    Then we started talking about baseball.

    Jason: “Do you miss it?”

    For the first time since quitting, I had a real answer. I was honest. I do miss baseball, but probably not the parts you’re thinking of.

    What I Miss About Baseball

    The (Mostly) Objective Story of How and When I Quit Baseball

    When I reflect on my career, I try to remain as objective as possible. This can be a complicated task as our memory is clouded with emotions and the narratives we’ve chosen to tell ourselves (AKA narrative fallacy).

    When I quit baseball, I tried to explain why I stopped playing to everyone. This was stupid. I didn’t even know why I quit. I had no business trying to explain it to others.

    I had been considering it for a while but held out because I wasn’t sure. One night in August 2017, I sat on my bed in Puyallup, Washington and had the thought randomly pop into my mind.

    I’m done with baseball.

    I hadn’t been thinking about baseball, much less retiring.

    I had just thrown 94 in a velocity drill a few days prior, so I had no reason to quit from a performance standpoint.

    Huh, that’s a strange thought.

    I decided to sleep on things that night and see where my head and heart were at in the morning.

    When I woke up, I remember being jacked up to go to Driveline for work, but not for the velocity training session that was scheduled midway through my workday.

    I texted my girlfriend to let her know that I was leaning towards quitting. She asked a few questions and the way I remember it (AKA clouded with narrative), I decided to quit that day.

    After that, I texted my brother to tell him. My parents came next.

    I did the final workout as a just-for-kicks, maybe my UCL will explode thing.

    I have good and bad news.

    My UCL remained intact.

    The Next Day

    I showed up to the gym for work for my first day as a retired athlete. I think I felt calm. Again, narrative bias here.

    I hadn’t told many people what I had chosen to do. It was almost like an engagement announcement. I had to contact all of my closest friends and family before I could announce it to the world.

    News spread quickly at the gym. I had plenty of people ask me why I had chosen to quit.

    I didn’t have a satisfactory answer for them. I could explain my somewhat-mystical experience atop my bed where it seemed heaven’s clarity invaded my thinking and made it clear what I should do, but it wouldn’t make sense to most people.

    “I don’t like playing baseball,” I told them. While this was true in part, it’s not the whole story. I liked certain parts of playing baseball. There were also other factors added in the mix to why I decided to quit–I suspect I still haven’t uncovered many of them.

    Romanticizing My Decision

    I’m incredibly guilty of doing this. After I announced my decision to retire on my then-popular Instagram account and a new YouTube channel, I was bombarded with questions about why. Some people were happy for me. Some were sad. Some were legitimately angry. Everyone seemed to ask why.

    The truth of the matter is that I had no idea. I didn’t know the exact reason I had quit, and that should have been okay.

    But, it wasn’t.

    I’m the kind of person who wants to make it appear that everything is A-okay. Regarding my decision to quit baseball, I wanted nothing more than to have it all figured out so I could give people a pointed, well-thought-out response to their question, “Why?”.

    Remember, I didn’t have the answers. I just had a moment in time where something deep inside of me cried out that I was done with baseball.

    The combination of not having the answer and my desire to appear all good led me to romanticize my decision and craft a narrative that I didn’t believe in.

    It felt gross to tell people that I quit because I didn’t like baseball. I felt strange saying most things that I told other people about my decision.

    What I should have done was say, “I don’t know,” but I refused.

    I would much rather emit the appearance of having-it-all-together than admit that I have unanswered questions.

    I’m working on that.

    An Apology

    I’m not sure how many of you will read this. I know I seem like a lost soul since I quit baseball. I have been.

    If you’ve read this far, I want to say I’m sorry for crafting a narrative to appease you. I’m sorry for anyone I led to make a stupid decision and drive themselves crazy because of the story they were forced to tell themselves.

    I’m sorry for believing I was more important than I was.

    I’m sorry for taking you for a ride on my romanticized, wishy-washy, ultra-confusing narrative.

    I’m sorry for using you to give myself an odd sense of validation.

    Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You

    Well, it really is this. When people ask me, “How do you make it in show business?” or whatever. What I always tell them – I’ve said it for many years – and nobody ever takes note of it because it’s not the answer they wanted to hear. What they want to hear is, ‘Here’s how you get an agent. Here’s how you write a script. Here’s how you do this.’ But I always say ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’ And, I just think that if somebody’s thinking ‘How can I be really good?’, people are going to come to you. It’s much easier doing it that way than going to cocktail parties.

    Steve Martin

    One reason I struggled so much with my transition into baseball is that I left a field in which I had amassed a certain amount of career capital by becoming good at something – namely, throwing a baseball relatively hard.

    First, let me define career capital: Skills you have that are rare and valuable to the working world

    This concept comes from Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

    As I’ve written about before, I believed I had to cut myself off from baseball entirely. My romanticized narrative of why I quit baseball evolved into “I don’t like baseball.” All of a sudden, there was incongruence between the story I told myself and others and my life situation. I was working at arguably the top baseball training facility in the world while telling people that I hated baseball.

    That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    In quitting baseball, I left something that I had developed a passion for. I didn’t start as an 81 MPH college sophomore burning with desire for velocity. No, I distinctly remember my decision to begin training with Driveline was based on this: “I am sick of being average, and I don’t want to be average anymore.”

    Not quite the sophisticated thinking I’ve tried to convince myself and others of in other endeavors.

    After I retired, I continued to throw. “I like throwing!” I told others. “I hate baseball, but I like throwing.”

    That doesn’t make an iota of sense.

    Even though I was done playing baseball, I continued to throw on a regular basis. I eventually worked my way up to throw 95 MPH (my first time) AFTER I RETIRED.

    How’s that for transfer of training?

    Even while I was throwing (and confusing everyone, pissing off some), I didn’t know why I did it. If I genuinely hated baseball as I said, wouldn’t I be okay shutting it down and not throwing anymore? That line of thinking seemed to make sense, but it didn’t match my experience.

    This is one thing about my decision to quit and resulting life choices that I do seem to have an answer for.

    My Need for Validation

    I have a high need for validation. It’s a weakness of mine. When I was no longer throwing 94 MPH fastballs on the reg, I felt like less of a person. To combat this, I continued to do the one thing I knew I was good at – throw a baseball hard. I couldn’t move on because I was terrified of what would come when I no longer had something I was good at in my life.

    As I sit here in Grafton, Wisconsin 363 days after throwing my all-time fastest pitch on my final day at the Driveline facility, I realize that this fear has shackled me down for far too long.

    I’m a prisoner to my expectations and dreams. My constant need for validation prevents me from doing the thing that matters: become good at something.

    I know that it’s vital to pursue mastery over metrics, but it’s much harder to walk the walk than talk the talk.

    Anyone can say they value mastery.

    Not many will do the insanely tricky work of reaching mastery.

    When I quit baseball, I was the prime candidate for purveyors of the passion hypothesis. I was susceptible to the mantra that the next step in my life required me first to identify what I was passionate about through introspection and then align my next career move with that pre-existent passion.

    Like a carp taking a nibble at the “harmless” worm floating in the lake, I was hooked.

    Even as I recognized the passion mindset’s fallacies, I continued to submit myself to the belief that there is something out there just waiting for me to find it. It drives me crazy.

    This way of thinking is coming to an end.

    As I look to 2019, I have increasing clarity on what I want to do and how I want to do it. I’ll keep it at that for now, because telling others about what I’m going to do is useless and utterly stupid.

    Just know that introspectivity and “passion” will no longer be the driving force behind my decisions.

    (I hope.)

    So, what do I miss about baseball?

    I miss the pursuit of greatness.

    I miss working to become good at something.

    I miss being good at something.

    I miss being on a mission.

    What Am I Going to Do About It?

    There’s only one option.

    Become so good they can’t ignore me.

    This is the only thing worth doing.

    Either become the best at what you do or don’t. There’s a thick line in the sand on this matter.

    Either you’re legitimately good, or you’re not.

    You were designed with greatness in mind.

    God doesn’t create mediocre or below average.

    What will you pursue now that sports are done?

    Will you pursue greatness? Or will you allow yourself to be swept away by the promising comfort of mediocrity?

    Your heart burns for greatness.

    Choose wisely.

    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.

    How to Develop Better Eating Habits as a Former Athlete

    I used to eat 4,000 calories each day.

    Yup, you read that right.

    Four thousand calories.

    As a skinny 21-year-old college pitcher, I did this nearly every day for two years and successfully added and then maintained 20 pounds (most of it muscle) to get to my final playing weight of 230 pounds.

    I was used to spending over $100 on groceries each week. For a student-athlete, it was insane.

    All in the pursuit of throwing 95.

    When I quit baseball, I had to unlearn this habit. I knew that my exercise levels would decrease. As a result, I was going to get chunky in a hurry if I didn’t make changes to my eating habits.

    What did I do to break this habit and build a new one?

    I’m glad you asked.

    Building Atomic Eating Habits

    I’ve written about James Clear and his new book, Atomic Habits a few times before. On his blog and in his book, Clear gives incredible advice on building habits and getting remarkable results through the power of tiny changes.

    The book outlines a 4-step framework he’s named the 4 Laws of Behavior Change. They are:

    1. Make it obvious.
    2. Make it attractive.
    3. Make it easy.
    4. Make it satisfying.

    If you’re reading this article, the chances are that you are intelligent and don’t want general advice on how to build better habits. You’ve come here for practicality.

    For the rest of this article, I’m going to take you through a practical example of how I used Clear’s 4 Laws of Behavior Change framework to reform a habit of mine for my new life as a non-athlete.

    The Vertical Diet

    In college, I was introduced to THE world’s strongest pro bodybuilder, Stan Efferding. This was my introduction:

    I began drinking a gallon or more of sodium-laced water each day. After flavoring it with MiO, everyone at school thought I was drinking windshield wiper fluid. No joke.

    A small group of friends and I tried to piece Stan’s nutritional advice together to help us throw harder. The diet is simple, so it wasn’t that hard.

    • Ground beef is good
    • Steak is better
    • White rice is essential
    • Sodium is the unlock

    This worked fairly well, but we didn’t know what we were doing.

    That all changed when Stan released the Vertical Diet to the public. This comprehensive program was previously only available to high-paying clients, but Stan made it accessible to anyone willing to pay the fee (or have a generous friend).

    I got a copy and tore through it in one sitting. Things made more sense and I implemented his advice on leaning out immediately. My short review of the diet: It worked.

    By implementing the Vertical Diet through the 4 Laws of Behavior Change, I built new eating habits and lost 20 pounds.

    Here’s how:

    Make it Obvious

    I make this first step extremely simple.

    I prepare my food ahead of time.

    Because the diet is the same every day, I can prepare various components for the meals all at once. For example, I usually cook one week’s supply of Ground Sirloin on Sunday or Monday night. I dump it in a Tupperware container and place it in my fridge.

    In the same way, I prepare rice ahead of time by setting the delay timer on my rice cooker before I go to bed at night. That way, all of the necessary components of my meals are obvious each morning as I pack my lunch for the day ahead. My goal is to eliminate every choice I have other than Vertical Diet approved foods during the week. If the only foods I have ready each day are foods that follow the Vertical Diet’s guidelines, I am going to make better choices and choose to eat those foods.

    Make it Attractive

    The way my fiance and I view food is very different.

    She is an exceptional cook and enjoys the process of taking different ingredients and combining them to form something masterful. For her, the method of cooking or baking is more enjoyable than actually eating the food (or so it appears).


    From Jess: “I enjoy eating the food I make more than the act of cooking it. I like cooking because it adds depth and flavors and textures which make food taste better and more unique”

    On the other hand, I view food for its utility rather than for enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong; I still love a good, carefully-prepared meal. But if I am the one preparing food, it’s going to be quick, efficient, and productive instead of a long, drawn-out process.

    The Vertical Diet allowed me to do just this.

    Building off of the previous law (Make it Obvious), the relative ease of preparing Vertical Diet meals is desirable. My fiance gets bored eating the same thing each day, but I love it. I can automate this part of my life. I’m all for simplifying areas of my life, and this is a lovely benefit of the Vertical Diet. The ease of preparing Vertical Diet meals appeals to me and is a significant factor in why I successfully implemented this meal plan and lost 20 pounds.

    Make it Easy

    Researchers have said that we have a finite amount of willpower in any given day. Because of this, automation of certain life activities becomes very important. If we can automate things in our life like the food we eat or the clothes we wear, we can save our willpower for more critical areas.

    One example of this is Mark Zuckerberg. Did you know that he wears the same thing each day? He does this to avoid decision fatigue and use his willpower to make decisions that influence Facebook and its billions of users.

    Packing my food and routinizing my meals each day helps me to do this with my eating. I don’t ever need to question if I want chicken alfredo or lasagna. I don’t ever have to use my willpower reservoirs to decide between processed meals in the vending machine at work or a prepared meal. Instead, I open my 6-Pack Fitness cooler and pull out a container of Monster Mash and feed on healthy whole foods.

    Preparing my food well-ahead of time and packing it each day makes following the diet easy. Monster Mashes are simple concoctions and don’t take much effort to make each day.

    The Vertical Diet is easy to prepare. This helps me to comply with the diet and results in the fulfillment of the final law of behavior change, satisfaction.

    Make it Satisfying

    “The science is compliance.” – Stan Efferding

    Stan will be the first to tell you that there’s nothing magical about the Vertical Diet. If you break it down, it’s nothing more than eating natural, whole foods that give you the macro and micronutrients to perform well and optimize your gut health.

    The real secret in losing weight is to eat fewer calories than you burn each day. Well, I hope that’s not a secret any longer.

    The Vertical Diet helps me to avoid snacking, which limits calorie consumption. The meals are filling, and the combination of macro and micronutrients, combined with a plethora of sodium satisfy the appetite so they don’t crave the sugary foods that are so often the culprit of plateaued fat loss.

    With hundreds (thousands?) of individuals following this program, we must ask why. Why have so many people hopped on the Vertical Diet train and refused to get off?

    Simple: It’s satisfying to follow.

    The food tastes good. It’s not overly restrictive, and each user can customize it to our own needs and desires (Sorry Stan, I can’t pass up Oreo Cheesecake custard at Culver’s).

    In addition to the immediate satisfaction Vertical Diet adherents receive from eating a meal, many people report increased energy, fat loss, muscle gain, and improved athletic performance. Some people note these changes taking place within five days or less after getting on the program. The immediate satisfaction of good tasting food helps to create compliance. The delayed gratification of improved physical well-being keeps people compliant. Both the immediate and delayed satisfaction users get from the program are vital in creating a positive habit loop that helps people like you and I achieve their physique goals.


    Stan has created an easy-to-follow program which offers benefits to a broad group of people. Perhaps without even knowing it, Stan created a product that follows the 4 Laws of Behavior Change and helps people from all walks of life easily build exemplary eating habits and transform their lives.

    After quitting baseball, I knew that I was destined for fat gain if I continued to eat the way I did while I played. I used the Vertical Diet as a former athlete to change the way I ate.

    There’s no secret sauce to the Vertical Diet. While Stan promotes his product hard, he would be the first to tell you that I could lean out and change my eating habits in many other ways. But, I chose to follow the Vertical Diet to reform my eating habits and automate my eating so that I can focus on the stuff that truly matters to me.

    It’s not too late to take charge of your habits.

    I want you to recognize that you do not have to let yourself go. You can use the 4 Laws of Behavior change to transform your physical health and regain control of your life after sports.

    I’ve created an eBook to help current and former athletes build a plan to move on from sports. Get it now to get live well after the final game.

    Get the eBook here!

    2 Tips to Discover Your Calling as a Former Athlete

    The way we think about calling is wrong.

    We assume calling is something that falls into our lap. We wait for the day when we wake up and find that heaven breathed a sense of calling and purpose in our lives.

    This thinking is faulty.

    Think like this, and you’ll remain stuck forever.

    Let’s dig in.

    Jody’s Story

    In The Art of Work, Jeff Goins tells the story of a Washington State park ranger named Jody. Jody’s story starts like many others: he went to college, got a degree in finance, and got a job. He worked at a commercial bank for a few years and got married during that time. Jody spent his time away from the office hiking the trails of Deception Pass State Park in Northwestern Washington. He developed an insatiable passion for the outdoors. It was here, not behind a desk, that Jody discovered the thing that made him come alive.

    As destiny would have it, Jody was approached by a friend who just happened to mention that Washington State was looking for park rangers and asked if he would be interested. Funny how coincidences like that seem to happen. Within minutes, Jody knew he would become a park ranger. He knew that he had found his calling.

    He spent the next year secretly going through park ranger training while continuing to work at the bank. Once he was fully certified, he changed careers. 

    Jody loved the work. He honestly felt like he was called to do this, and each day was better than the last. He and his wife had their first child soon after that. Things were good.

    Stepping Away From His Calling

    As time passed, Jody faced a tough decision. Life was more complicated than it had been when he started his career and there were more responsibilities at home. He could continue his career as a park ranger and miss out on much of his kids’ lives, or he could transition into a different role and be with his family more often. Jody chose the latter. Returning to school again, he earned an MBA and began working at a small construction company.

    At the writing of the book, Jody’s career led to him becoming a business consultant helping clients with their strategic planning and marketing. 

    The Calling Comes Back Around

    But Jody isn’t just a business consultant.

    Jody saw a need for park rangers everywhere and decided to address it.

    He recognized that there was a large hole in the park ranger program’s business training. He set out to fix that.

    Jody launched a podcast called The Park Leaders Show which according to Goins “features guest interviews with other rangers and experts and is quickly becoming an industry resource” (151). With this podcast, Jody can raise the next generation of park rangers. As the first guest on his podcast prophetically told him, “You may miss being a park ranger, but if you can make this [podcast] work, you will impact more people than you ever could working in a park” (152).

    Jody had to leave the job he loved to spend more time with his family and leave a legacy for his children. Years later, he returned to parks in a way that combined all of his abilities and has the potential for global reach through his podcast. Jody explains his sense of calling like this, “I was called to parks, not to be a park ranger” (152).

    There are many valuable lessons to glean from Jody. We’ll get there. First, I want to share a bit of my story.

    My Story

    When I quit baseball, I began searching for “the next thing.” The way I saw it, I was going to find something that would draw my attention and intrigue me just like baseball had done. The next step in my life would look like what the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13: “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” In my mind, I had to forget baseball to move onto the next thing in my life.

    I discovered that this is a false assumption.

    I tried to do many things in the year after baseball. I started a podcast. I tried new methods of lifting. I took up golf. Oh yeah, I started a new job in sales as well.

    None of these things brought me the satisfaction of a true calling. I didn’t feel like any of this was leading me to the most meaningful work for my life. I was disappointed.

    I had to approach calling differently.

    When I began looking at calling a different way, I understood that it is something that evolves. As Goins writes, “Maybe moving on is part of the process. Maybe a calling is always evolving, never allowing you to stand still in one place for too long.”

    In discovering your life’s work–your calling–you are going to need to move on from certain seasons.

    I am starting to see that I was called to baseball, not to be a baseball player. I understand that my impact was never going to be throwing 100 or striking out Miguel Cabrera on live TV. No, my calling goes beyond that.

    It was difficult to understand this when I first quit. I shocked a lot of people by stopping when I did. I didn’t have an excellent explanation for leaving baseball, even though I tried. An unfamiliar peace came over me, and I was sure that leaving the sport I had given so much to was the right thing. But, I had one major thing wrong.

    I went wrong in trying to separate myself from the sport. I tried to draw a line in the sand and say, “That was me then. This is me now.” Immaturely, I wanted to distance myself from the very area that I can have the most significant impact.

    How to Uncover Your Call

    When I talk about uncovering your call, I am mostly speaking about figuring out the next step. When we think of calling as something that evolves, we recognize the need for experience to act as the rudder that guides us to the next thing. Practically speaking, I would never write about life as a former athlete if I hadn’t first struggled to transition into life after baseball.

    Below are three take-home points that will help you step into the next season of your life as you uncover your calling.

    1. Assess Your Abilities

    For months after quitting baseball, I doubted my abilities. I refused to see areas that I had talent in and was stuck, not knowing what to do or where to go next.

    Thank God for my fiance.

    One day, we were driving home from a day of wedding registry when I asked her, “What am I good at?”.

    She quickly rattled off a few things as if she had been waiting for me to ask. Above all other skills, she named writing. She said that I had a talent in it and believed I should explore it further.

    That was in May.

    I finally started writing regularly in September.

    Guys, listen to your fiance.

    I am fortunate to have Jess because she called out the skill that I was too blind to see. When I was ignorant to my abilities, she spoke into what was already there. She looked at my past work and said, “Hey, do more of that!”

    Thank you, Jess.

    But Jess wasn’t the only one telling me that I should write. My academic career shouted this to me.

    There are countless clues that I possess writing ability. I think about the time a poem of mine got published in fourth grade. I remember the 42-page Multi-Genre Research Paper on Barry Bonds that remains the crowning jewel of my academic career. I think about the paper I wrote trying to understand laminar flow as a sophomore in high school that still gets the occasional mention on Twitter. All of these projects caused something to come alive inside of me.

    Take a look at your portfolio–your past work. Think back to school projects that you loved. Think back to part-time jobs that you enjoyed. Think about volunteer experiences that made you feel fully alive. You need to look back on your past to identify things that engaged you. Doing this will give you clarity on where to go next.

    2. Combine Your Sport with a New Interest

    Please don’t make the same mistake as me. I thought I had to entirely leave baseball behind to “move on” from baseball. That’s a horrible way of understanding things and will limit your options as your calling develops.

    I had to overcome the false belief that the only thing I had to offer baseball was a 95 MPH fastball. There is so much more to my life than the fact that I threw some baseballs hard. Each baseball player is more than their physical abilities. Countless other factors influence who you are as a person that needs the same (or more) attention than your physical abilities did during your playing career.

    One way to discover work that is meaningful to you is to combine something familiar with a new interest. My friend Chance is an excellent example of this.

    Chance quit baseball about two years ago after an unfortunate injury. He and I reconnected about one year ago and talked about what we were doing after our playing careers. One idea that came from our conversation was that he should start a podcast in the baseball space.

    He then went on to build the Art of Pitching podcast.

    In a recent conversation I had with him, Chance gave some great insight into his process and how he used his podcast to help him discover the next step in his journey as a marketing and branding strategist.

    I went through the “passion-finding process” when I stopped playing and found it incredibly frustrating. The way that I ultimately found my new passion (business/brand development, in e-commerce specifically) was by starting my podcast (thanks to you). The problem for me was the fear of trying something completely new, not enjoying it, and ultimately wasting my time. To remedy this, I tried something new (podcasting) within the confines of an old passion (baseball). In the end, I found that the aspect of the project I enjoyed most was branding, marketing, and building something from the ground up. This directly led me to my new life as a marketing and branding strategist for e-commerce startups. Effectively, I used my old passion as a bridge to explore new ones. I believe this framework could be applied to a myriad of contexts.

    Chance unknowingly took the steps necessary to identify additional layers of his calling. He combined something familiar (baseball) with something new (podcasting) and eventually found work that he was passionate about. I asked Chance what he thought his life would be like had he not done this.

    I think I would have figured it out another way to be honest. But if I didn’t, who knows. I guess I’d be more apt to settle for an average entry-level job for example instead of what I’ve (found) my way into, which would’ve been very frustrating.

    Chance has since decided to end his podcast. The lesson here is that we can build something that serves to unlock the next steps in our calling. The Art of Pitching is still available to listeners and serves as a reminder that we discover the next thing in our lives by trying stuff and by exploring what we already know in a new way.

    In Mastery, Robert Greene writes, “The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.”

    Will you do this? Will you recognize that you have a valuable skill in baseball and combine it with other skills to create something that the world needs?

    This is the way forward.

    This is the way you move on.

    This is how you discover your calling.