Joe Hawley, a center in the NFL for eight years, decided to hang up his cleats at the ripe ol' age of 29. The pressure and injuries had taken their toll on the athlete, so an early retirement wasn't that unusual. What Hawley did next though, was unexpected.
He gave away most of his stuff, got a dog, and set off to travel the country in a van.
How long? He doesn't know.
To go where? Not sure, although national parks, baseball stadiums, and children's hospitals are on the list.
With what intent? That he does know. In Hawley's words, he wants to role model "living with less so you can experience more."
Hawley doesn't fit the model of the typical professional athlete high-roller. Sure, he made plenty in his NFL days ($13 million). But it was never his style to live the life of excess. Hawley even pokes fun at the baller lifestyle via a video entry for his popular Man Van Dog Blog--an MTV Cribs style tour of the customized van he's taking cross-country:
Hawley described the burden of materialism to USA Today on Friday:
"You don't realize how much (expletive) you have until you try to get rid of it. If you buy something new, it fills you with all this excitement, but that fades so quickly. Next thing you know, you want something else new to fill that void. And then it's a cycle."
After Hawley donated most of his possessions he described the feeling as a "weight being lifted."
I'm not suggesting we all cast off our belongings and downsize our life. After all, it doesn't work out great for everyone, like the Millennials who sold everything they had to buy a boat and escape the rat race, only to have their boat sink on day two.
But I do think Hawley's message has powerful application to life and business.
Living with less to experience more in life.
Like Hawley jettisoned the high-stress, high-demand life of the NFL, I left the corporate world behind (with probably almost as many concussions).
I too have felt a weight being lifted. I've learned to live with less materialism, stress, and competing priorities in my life. I've fashioned my life around a "five-point star" to help simplify and experience fewer things more deeply. Perhaps my sharing it will inspire you to develop your own version.
I focus on five (and only five) things in my life now:
- Relationships. While I have fewer people in my life now, I've been working on better relationships with fewer people; being friendlier with friends and more familiar with family.
- Purpose. I used to have a 10-point star. Six prongs were taken up by different facets of work. I've elevated and simplified: Now, it's about living with purpose. I keynote, write, workshop, teach, and coach all with the singular intent of trying to inspire and help others become better versions of themselves. My faith takes the form of being kind and staying true to my purpose.
- Growth. I see now how stagnant I'd become in my corporate life and how little I was growing. In the last year alone, I've built a video studio in my basement (despite being a techno-idiot), discovered how to build and sell online courses, and learned how to truly inspire a crowd to action. The breadth of learning feeds my purpose--and my soul.
- Health. No more under-investing here. Taking care of myself feeds each point of the star.
- Fun. It's amazing how much easier it is to enjoy life when you're not worried about how you'll come across in that next meeting or if you're good enough compared to peers.
Doing less to experience more (success) in business.
Hawley's message should ring true for every leader. It's so powerful when a leader stops trying to do everything and instead prioritizes doing fewer things--but doing them really well.
Here are a few of my favorite tips for better prioritizing:
- Think weights and measures. Be honest about the weight of the work you're about to take on and measure the amount of effort, resources, and time it will require. Leaders often underestimate the burden of new work and overestimate the success they'll enjoy by adding something to everyone's plate.
- Ask, "What's the cost of knowing?" Many leaders love to "cover the bases" and ask for an extra parallel path option, extra analysis, or more research to confirm something they already know. It gives a sense of security (triggered by their insecurity). But asking for everything isn't exhaustive thinking, it's exhaustively lazy thinking. Stop in such moments and ask, "What's the cost of knowing this?" Realize that some other priority item won't get worked and precious resources will get diverted.
- Have a to-do list and a to-don't list. A to-don't list forces you to write down work you want to avoid and work you tend to get sucked into. It serves as a reminder to, well, don't.
So simplify and prioritize. In life, business, or the NFL--it's great advice.