06 Jun Career and identity: lessons from a retired NFL player
One unexpected question crushed me after I quit my Wall Street job at age 35. And believe it or not, it didn’t involve health insurance, money, or career prospects. In fact, it was usually delivered via text message:
“What ARE you doing these days?” Not only did I hate that question because I couldn’t answer it, but because it cuts to the heart of our identity – and it’s inextricable link to our identities.
And I was just a nerdy guy in a tailored suit! Outside of my little bubble of quant hedge funds, no one knew who I was. Imagine what it feels like for the giants of our society, the NFL player, when they hang up their cleats for the last time.
Sergio Brown played safety in the NFL for eight years before retiring and joining Google. In interviewed Sergio on the Rad Awakenings podcast about this loss of identity:
Navigating this internal challenge is hard, but can be exacerbated by the fact that some people around you will show the true colors of their intent:
Most things we care so deeply about come with some status markers and external validation. For a Wall Street execs it can be titles, bonuses and Amex black cards. For athletes, I’d imagine it’s similar with the addition of fan adulation (or outright worship).
Yet when it fades, and it inevitably will, what’s left? Future baseball hall of famer Ichiro Suzuki (who, like Andre Agassi had his sport imposed upon him by his father from a young age) is at the tail end (or outright end) of his illustrious career. In this ESPN profile journalist Wright Thompson chronicles this obsessiveness:
In a testament to impermanence,Suzuki suffers from the “insecurities and diminishments that come with time and can’t fathom an existence without baseball:
Is there a way to dampen the blow from this loss of identity? Shifting meaning away from the external via self-inquiry is a starting point. Gratitude, love, and meaning can emerge from this contemplation. Adds Brown:
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