It’s the question I’m asked most and it’s the question I can't wait to answer.
Baffled, people look at me, head tilted to one side and ask, “Why did you quit playing professional soccer when you still had your whole career in front of you?”
The beautiful game
I grew up in Ghana, playing soccer seemingly from birth. In fact, my Mother tells people that I kicked her so much in the womb she knew I’d be a soccer player.
My soccer ball was my constant companion. I brought it everywhere. Everything I did was for the love of the game.
Living the dream
Soccer moved me from my family’s home to a live-in academy when I was 10. Soccer moved me from Ghana to the U.S. when I was a teenager. And soccer moved me from California to Washington when in my junior year Adidas gave me a contract and I signed with the Seattle Sounders FC.
I remember the feeling I had on draft day as I waited for my name to be called, not knowing where this beautiful game would take me next. Nothing could be better. I was living the dream.
A new dream
In my second year with the team I was coming off of injury and was loaned to a team in Orlando. The heat was stifling which meant we trained early in the morning and had the rest of the day to ourselves.
It was too hot to go outside, even for this proud Ghanaian, so I spent my days in my room reading, praying and learning.
Now that I look back on it, I can characterize it as my “wilderness experience.”
One night I woke up suddenly, sat up in bed and saw a picture forming on my otherwise white walls. I could clearly see a school filled with children being encouraged to live up to their full potential. My heart started beating quickly as ideas started flooding in. I took out my notebook trying to capture everything that came to me. I listened, I wrote and I drew. When the night was done I had three clear visions:
Build a leadership academy in Ghana to train the mind, body and spirit of the next generation
Write books that inspire people to live into their gift
Speaking a simple message: Your gift will make room for you in this world
As the details for this new vision unfolded, a strong feeling came over me. I was being called to a new place and it would require I sacrifice the thing that had most defined me up until that point.
Of course I was nervous. Actually, I was terrified out of my mind because the dream was so big. But I was also excited because of the clear sense of purpose I suddenly had that night.
And by following the call to give up playing soccer I was able to develop a whole new dimension of my gifts and strengths.
Transition lead to transformation
Fast forward to now, I’ve retired from professional soccer, started the One Kingdom Foundation and today I become a published author with my first book, “Giftocracy-Awakening the Seeds of Greatness.”
The transition from my first dream to my next has transformed my belief system, stretched my thinking and changed my relationships. I don’t want to gloss over the difficulties, they’ve sure been there, but I count it all as necessary experience.
If you’re there, contemplating change for the sake of a bigger dream, I encourage you to begin that journey today.
What I learned from my journey is to never become so proud of what I’ve done that it prevents me from what I could do.
I gave up my childhood dream so that I could live into something bigger than myself.
What’s your big dream?