What does that even mean? What does it mean to be human? And what does it mean to be a being? What differentiates the two? And why is this such an important concept to understand?
A couple of weeks ago I took some time off and went to Hamilton Island to clear my head. I wanted to gain some clarity on a few different aspects in my life – particularly in relation to soccer and my future. While staying at my friend’s apartment I came across this book, The Lost Art of Being, and everything that was in that book was exactly what I needed to hear.
As many of you know, I’ve had an extremely difficult time letting go of my dream of playing W-league. It’s been a dream I’ve been chasing for over ten years. A dream I’ve invested significant time and energy into. It’s a dream that’s occupied the forefront of my mind, dominated many conversations, and a dream that’s caused more heartbreak than pleasure. How could I possibly let go of something that I’ve wanted so badly? That I’ve devoted my entire life, to this date, to achieving?
It started with asking myself why. Why do I want this so badly? Why is this so important to me? And I had to start getting honest. And the honest truth is this: I wanted it for the recognition. I wanted to know that my hard work was worth it. I wanted the pride in saying I was a professional footballer. I wanted the credibility. I wanted to not feel like a joke – having seen almost all of my peers having played W-league at one point or another in their lives, I felt like I've missed out. And unfairly so. I wanted it for my ego.
I tried to justify my dream by saying it would give me a platform to influence more people, to gain credibility amongst the younger generation, but the truth is, I just wanted it for myself. I wanted a name. Because I wanted all the perks that came along with having a name – the money, the recognition, the sponsors, the assistance with medical bills, and the opportunities. Or at least, that’s what I thought I wanted.
Before I left for Hamilton Island, I had a really good conversation with a coach in the WNPL about playing without an acl. I asked him whether he was in pain now, “Yes,” he said. I then asked him if he regretted playing without an acl because of the pain he was now in, “Absolutely not.” He explained that he took a calculated risk, one in which I am doing too. There is no guarantee that by me not playing soccer, I will prevent the need to have a knee replacement in the future – people who have never played sport still require hip and knee replacements so if that future is inevitable, am I not better off doing what I want in the meantime?
I explained to the coach that I think the hardest thing about me playing without an acl is learning to let go of playing at the level I’ve always wanted to play at, and he responded in a way that started to shift my perception. He admitted that yes, I might have to let go of playing W-league, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have a significant influence in the WNPL for many years to come if I have the desire to do so. And he was right.
I realised then that I’ve been so focused on the macro – so focused on influencing many people widely that I’ve forgotten that it’s not the macro that’s important; it’s the micro. It’s influencing fewer people in more intense, meaningful, personal ways. I can’t do that if I have hundreds of people responding to my blog posts or Instagram posts. But I can do that at the level I’m playing at now.
This perception shift was aided by a question my friend on Hamilton Island asked me, “Would you be fulfilled if you were able to coach a player to play at the level you never did?” Immediately my heart closed up, my chest became tight. I don’t want anyone I coach to be subjected to such a toxic, political environment where they don’t care about you. Woah. Hold on. Why the hell do I want to subject myself to that environment then? If I know the environment isn’t positive, if I know the environment won’t fulfil me or add value to my life, if I know I won’t be able to have the influence I want to have because I’ll be silenced, why would I still want to be a part of it?
This idea of having and chasing dreams is a very human aspect of our lives. We teach kids that if they work hard enough, they can have and be whatever they want. But that’s not true. And that thinking is flawed and destructive. Humans want to be in control. They want to create their future. They want to believe the aforementioned statements. And everything in our society is tailored towards this kind of thinking – towards “success”. Towards making “something” of yourself. But at what cost? Is money the ultimate goal? Is that what brings value to your life? Just ask Steve Jobs. His final sentiments explain that no matter how much money you have, you can’t pay someone to carry your illness. No matter how much money you have, how much success you have, how much fame and fortune you’ve attained, these do not translate into joy. So why do we place so much value on money?
Because we’ve been conditioned to. We’ve been conditioned that the world operates around money. That in order to do anything, to have any influence, you must first have money. But do you really need money to have an influence? Do you really need money to feel valued? This last question is something I’ve been tackling recently – my entire life I’ve been conditioned into thinking in a human way – that money is important. Money represents value. But could there be something more valuable than money? I become conflicted because I’ve been taught I should know my worth, fight for my worth, and accept nothing less than what I believe my worth and value to be. But why does my worth and value have to be represented in monetary terms? Because it is for everyone else?
In the last couple of weeks I’ve been seeking player sponsors so that I can continue getting paid to play soccer. But I’m struggling. Because it feels wrong. It feels wrong to ask for money when I don’t necessarily need it, but I’m wanting it because I believe, or have been conditioned to believe, that money translates to value. I’m asking myself – if I was given an extra $5, or $250 every week, will that allow me to do any more in my life than I’m already able to do? What value would that extra money actually add to my life? Now I’m not trying to say that that amount of money wouldn’t make a huge difference in someone’s life, because it probably would. I am beyond fortunate that I am in a position where I don’t need that money. So why was I so obsessed with obtaining player sponsors?
Because I’ve lost the art of being. Because I was incorrectly associating value with money. Because I’ve been so caught up in the human aspect of my life, of chasing things, creating things, doing things, that I’ve forgotten the beauty in allowing. The beauty of focusing on the micro rather than the macro. The beauty of building relationships for no other reason than the genuineness of the connection. And it’s in these genuine interactions where I can have the most influence. Where I will feel valued. Where I’ll return to my being.