Welcome back to the #AskASoccerPro Show! Thank you to everyone who tuned into the live over on Instagram this week, we were thrilled to have you with us!
This week I sat down with Eli Lesser of ‘This Week in MLS’ to discuss how doing what you love changes when you ‘go pro.’ I thought a lot about my own 11-year professional soccer career and how going pro has changed the game for me, and I’d like to share my thoughts with you this week.
If you missed the live, here is a quick breakdown:
- When You Go Pro…In Anything
- Learning to Fish
- Eli Lesser Joins the Live!
- A Unique Path
- Not Loving Every Moment
- Toxicity and Staying Positive
- Growth of the League
- Striking a Balance
- The Lowest Point
- What Was Missing
- Long Term Winner’s Mindset
When You Go Pro…In Anything
The MSL (Mental Strength League) is cross-platform. It, it's not just specific to soccer players. Soccer happens to bring us together, but the MSL is able to address the problems we face, no matter what industry we are in.
One of the largest issues that we can face is losing passion and love of the game, regardless of whether that game is soccer, or something else. I believe that one of the ways to survive at the professional level of any game is to come to the realization that a majority of what you must do to survive is to understand that you might need to sacrifice the things you love about what you do.
Reflecting back on my career, this is what I’ve had to do along the way to survive and thrive playing the game. When you go pro in soccer, you have to give up the reasons you may have been attracted to the game in the first place.
You no longer get to decide when you play, where you play, if you play, or who you play with. All of a sudden, there are lots of responsibilities attached to soccer as well. You have to show up to a certain number of practices per week, you’re beholden to your contract, organization, coach, and teammates. Soccer becomes work.
The reality that what you love has become work is kind of a hard thing to come to terms with because the entire reason why you started playing the game is because you love it. But, the unfortunate truth about professional sports or being at a professional level in your industry is that your passion and love for the game is a weakness and one that others can and will exploit.
If you're naive and you're not aware of that and how your passion can be a weakness, it really can negatively impact you over the long term. Unfortunately, you will find yourself in some difficult situations, and you'll learn that being naive was the reason you got yourself into that situation in the first place.
It becomes a question of, are you going to allow the system to kill your love for the game slowly and eat you up and spit you out? Or, are you going to kill the love for the game yourself knowing that you're going to create a framework, a team, a network, a system that can allow you to survive and thrive?
Learning to Fish
The MSL is so important because it’s a system that teaches you ‘how to fish.’ What I've noticed a lot, especially with kids coming through the youth soccer system, is that there are two categories; you're either the future Landon Donovan or Tim Howard, or you are nothing.
I know there are people that fall in-between the two extremes, but people usually feel they fall into either one of those categories. There are advantages and disadvantages to both categorizations. An advantage of being a nobody is that you get to claw your way up, test yourself at each level, and adapt or die. Most people don't really see that as an advantage because they haven't thought about the disadvantages of thinking you might be the next great thing.
You might be the best player where you currently are and because of that, everyone around you is telling you how good you are, how you're going to make it, and how everything's going to work out for you. The problem with that all of this positive feedback might boost your confidence in the short term, but it will lull you into a false sense of security.
You may feel as though you can never be beaten and you deserve to be here, but you haven’t yet earned the right to be here. When you reach the professional level, this is something that will quickly sober you up, because everybody there is talented.
You won’t be high on your own supply for long. This is where constantly being told you are the best is a huge disadvantage. Once you actually get to a high level of competition you aren’t prepared for the negativity and you haven't figured out how to overcome it yet, whereas your ‘nobody’ has been fighting against the tide for years.
Negativity is what people are using to suppress you and bring you down. So, you want to use that as positivity to lift you up. The MSL mentality, the MSL mindset, is how you take that negativity, those haters, those trolls, those doubters, everything that most people would perceive as holding them back… and use that as rocket fuel to propel you forward.
It's just a mindset. It's a perspective that we're here to help cultivate and encourage. In the MSL we are here to teach you how to fish. It takes a lot longer to teach you how to fish than it does to just give you a fish, but that’s more valuable, right?
When someone is just giving you something, you may think that they're helping you. Yes, they might be helping you in the short term, but in the long term, they're not helping you at all. They're hurting you because they're creating dependency.
Dependency isn’t what we’re about here in the MSL, we’re here to create independent, self-sufficient people who are capable of achieving their goals… in soccer and life.
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