Joe Hawley, a center in the NFL for eight years, decided to hang up his cleats at the ripe old 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 applications for life and business.
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:
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:
So simplify and prioritize. In life, business, or the NFL—it’s great advice.
Originally published at www.inc.com