Set your goal and keep resetting it. — Success isn’t about what you’ve accomplished. In my opinion, it’s about what you continue to accomplish on your journey. Michael Jordan wasn’t a star because of his one NBA trophy, he was a star because of his six trophies, then all of the accolades and history he created along the way. Set your goal, then continue to set the bar higher for yourself. A person that becomes content with what they’ve accomplished, will never develop. They believe they are already their best selves. NEVER let that happen. The key to success as a player or entrepreneur is to continue to grow, continue striving to be that best version of yourself.
As a part of our series about the work ethic lessons we can learn from professional athletes, I had the pleasure of interviewing Demitrius Omphroy.
Demitrius Omphroy is a former professional soccer player turned artist. Originally from California, his father was a professional athlete and his mother was an artist. Demitrius has played both Internationally for the USA as well as for MLS team Toronto FC.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I’m thankful to be here. I appreciate the time and opportunity to share my story!
I grew up as the youngest behind my older brother and sister. I was that kid that had so much energy and it would drive my family crazy.
My father is an athlete and my mother an artist, so naturally I fell into sports and painting. I was always really competitive. Whatever I was doing, whether it was learning how to juggle a soccer ball or trying to get my drawings up on our refrigerator door, I’d fixate on it for hours until I felt satisfied with the outcome of it. I guess you can say that’s stayed with me to this day.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high-level professional athlete?
What a great question! I have to break this into three separate influences for me because I’m having trouble picking just one.
I had three soccer idols growing up: Thierry Henry, Ronaldinho, and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Thierry Henry had the grace and dominance, in my early career, that made me fall in love with Arsenal FC(in the English Premier League). Ronaldinho had the pure happiness and joy expressed through the beautiful game of soccer — always reminding me to play the game with a smile. And Cristiano Ronaldo, with the pure flare and confidence of a god.
On a separate note: A few years ago, I was able to finally meet Cristiano Ronaldo in a docuseries I directed with Real Madrid and Facebook. Was one of the happiest moments of my life!
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I owe a lot of the success I’ve had to my dad. He instilled a different sort of work ethic into me. He’s been my role model and has helped me understand that the greatness on the field comes from the work I do off of it.
I remember this one moment in my early soccer career, I think I was 12 years old. I had been getting a lot of interest from other teams to train outside of my hometown. We were driving to a new team’s soccer training and I was completely sobbing to myself.
He pulled over the car and asked me what I was afraid of:
Was it not knowing the people there? Failing? Playing with kids that were better?
Ultimately, I was afraid of change and the unknown that came with it.
We talked it out and I came to the decision that I wanted to the new team’s soccer practice. And he let me make that decision. What he was trying to teach me was that there are uncomfortable, but necessary steps I need to take to achieve my dream. This moment was one of them.
I’ve carried this sort of risk taking and courage into who I am today as an artist and creative.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I wouldn’t necessarily say this was a mistake, but definitely was a setback in my sports career. I was 17 years old and playing at the Sporting Clube de Lisboa soccer academy, a professional soccer academy in Portugal. For context, this was Cristiano Ronaldo’s same academy, at the time one of the top 10 youth soccer academies in the world. I’d been scouted to play there and on my 18th birthday was set to sign my professional contract with the soccer team. I was three months away from my 18th birthday and I woke up one morning with blurriness in my right eye that wouldn’t go away. A couple doctor appointments later, I was on a flight back to California with the fear that if my eye problem was hereditary, I would go blind. It ended up being optic neuritis, which took several months to heal from. Ultimately, I never returned to Portugal and lost my dream of a signing professional contract.
I was devastated, but as a backup decided to attend UC Berkeley on a soccer scholarship. Three years later, going into my Senior season, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, the reason as to why I lost my professional contract in Portugal from optic neuritis at age 17.
I looked back at that conversation I had with my dad when I was 12 and realized I needed to make the decision of what I wanted to become given this crappy hand of cards. I was afraid of the unknown.
A year later, I went on to become the first player in Major League Soccer with Multiple Sclerosis being Toronto FC’s first draft pick.
The lesson I took away from this was that we all have the ability to choose our destiny, or in this case “change” my destiny. I felt like the stage was set for a perfect “could have been story” of the soccer player that lost his contract and ultimately stopped playing after being diagnosed with MS at 21. Instead, I used it as a fuel to ignite that fire within me to achieve my dream. To let those know that I define me, not this disease. That is the story I want to write for myself.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As an athlete, you often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress.
Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
There are three really great strategies that I use to perform at my highest level under pressure situations.
1) Be overly prepared — Do your research, find additional resources, go above and beyond so you are the most knowledgeable of the subject or idea. And in sports, I applied this idea that nobody was working harder than me — doing that extra work on and off the field. The first to training, last to leave. Always in the gym. Watching film in my downtime. Controlling everything you can control which all plays into your preparation.
2) Exude Confidence — You may be really nervous in a high-pressure situation but it always helps to exude confidence. If you remind yourself you probably are the most prepared person in that room or on that field, then you have the space to hold your head high and strut. Sometimes this can help your mind and even help others around you to really believe you when you talk or play. Because you are EXACTLY what you believe you are.
3) Your Body is Your Temple — You can do the two steps above but if you’re unrested and don’t have the proper nutrition, you’re likely going to buckle under the pressure. Eating right, taking care of your body, getting the proper amount of sleep, meditation, writing goals and journaling, visualization — these are all things that need to be worked on to make sure your body, mind, and soul are all aligned and ready to take on any situation.
Can you tell us the story of your transition from a professional athlete to a successful business person?
I don’t know if I actually the made transition to a successful business person, consciously.
When I decided to hang up my soccer cleats and retire from the game, I knew I was ready to start the next chapter of my life. That said, I knew whatever I was going to pursue I had to be the best at. The most important thing I did was…decide. Making that firm decision to do something gives you the mental and emotional commitment to your dream and to yourself that you are able to achieve whatever you are putting into the universe.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting new projects you are working on now?
I’m currently working on some art pieces for an art show that I have coming up at the end of the month. I also have a collaboration with clothing brand French Connection United Kingdom (FCUK) for an upcoming campaign.
I’m excited to be able to tell stories and share experiences through my painting. I guess, I would say that is my most exciting new project, is allowing myself to feel love, show love, and give myself creative license to fail. Because at the end of the day, I’m living authentically and that is what my work is meant to say.
Do you think your experience as a professional athlete gave you skills that make you a better entrepreneur? Can you give a story or example about what you mean?
To me, it comes down to work ethic. In sports, talent is the baseline. Everyone is incredible at what they do. The difference is what that person is willing to do, day in and day out. The moments when nobody is watching — those are the moments that I find myself living in the most. Because those are the moments that can define our success and failure.
When I was training for the MLS Combine (tryouts for Major League Soccer Draft), I would tell myself every single day I was the number one draft pick. I would visualize myself going up and putting on my team scarf and hat. I pictured myself getting on a plane and saying goodbye to family. Then I put in the work wherever I was. In my mind, nobody was training like I was training. When I got to the combine tournament — in my head I was already the number one pick. So naturally, my body followed. I had a spectacular showing and I was hands down the best player in my position in the tournament.
If you can look yourself in the mirror and know that you’re doing everything that you possibly can to achieve your dreams — you’ll live with little to no regrets. That’s the goal, right?
Ok. Here is the main question of our interview. Entrepreneurs and professional athletes share a common “hustle culture”. Can you share your “5 Work Ethic Lessons That Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Athletes”? Please share a story or an example for each.
Throughout my journey as an athlete and now being a successful entrepreneur, I take these questions/statements into account as I shape out my road to achieving all the goals I set for myself.
1) Who wants it more?
Like I’ve said before, talent is the baseline. It’s about who wants to be the best and what they are willing to sacrifice. I have so many stories of people in my life that were incredible athletes, even better than some of the biggest stars we know today. But something happened along the way: head was too big, didn’t think they needed to work harder, and this led to them never living up to their full potential. So, when you ask yourself “Who wants it more?” It has to be an undeniable “Me.” Then you need to put action behind that statement.
2) Are you doing everything you can be doing?
If you’re not exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally…if you’re not networking and meeting the people, coaches, companies, teams you want to play on, then are you really doing EVERYTHING? You have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and know the answer to that question. Cause only you know that answer. This will separate the good from the great.
3) Know your opponent, beat them.
Part of your path to success is understanding the other team. Knowing what is out there in the market so you can learn from their failures, understand their weaknesses, and use that knowledge to improve yourself. Being prepared is about a full understanding of the opponent so you know HOW to beat them.
4) What is your purpose?
Why do you do what you do and who are you doing it for? We all need to know why we strive for success. Money, family, fame, legacy — whatever it may be, it’s about knowing the “why” behind all of your hard work. That will help to keep you on your path when things aren’t always going to plan.
5) Set your goal and keep resetting it.
Success isn’t about what you’ve accomplished. In my opinion, it’s about what you continue to accomplish on your journey. Michael Jordan wasn’t a star because of his one NBA trophy, he was a star because of his six trophies, then all of the accolades and history he created along the way. Set your goal, then continue to set the bar higher for yourself. A person that becomes content with what they’ve accomplished, will never develop. They believe they are already their best selves. NEVER let that happen. The key to success as a player or entrepreneur is to continue to grow, continue striving to be that best version of yourself.
What would you advise to a young person who aspires to follow your footsteps and emulate your career? What advice would you give?
If I were to give advice to 10-year-old Demit, I’d tell myself to never be afraid to fail. It’s more courageous to be a person that fails trying to do something they love, than being great at something you hate.
So often I feel we have been conditioned to believe that there are “right and wrong” career paths to go down. It’s about doing what you love and being the best that you can at that. That’s all anyone can ask for.
You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
When I was drafted as the first player in Major League Soccer history with Multiple Sclerosis, I used my platform to spread awareness to the disease. I felt like it was my duty to provide hope to the people fighting this disease, just like me. During my time as a pro athlete, I also held a silent auction of my artwork for the MS Society.
Recently, I’ve made artwork and am collaborating with some brands to bring light to the social injustices and racism that are occurring in the US currently.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
An interesting and very relevant question to the times we are in today with the Covid-19 pandemic.
One positive takeaway I have from this pandemic, is that it forced me to really figure out what was valuable to me in my life. It improved my communication with family and friends, and it challenge me to look inwards. Ultimately, it forced me to love myself again.
If I could start a movement, it would be to encourage us to truly value the time that we have on earth and spend the time to love those that we care about. Maybe it could a wellness movement, a movement for love, a movement to let us all heal — even if it is for a temporary amount of time. But it’s so extremely necessary in our journey of success. Can we have forced time-off? ☺
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
I have two — one is more related to life and the other to art.
“The person that says they can and the person that says they can’t, are both right.”
We are what we say we are. The power of our minds and the power of our words are completely responsible for our actions. Success is built into how we talk to ourselves.
“Being an artist requires unlearning things we were taught to us in school and re-learning how to think like kids again.” — demit omphroy
This has been my mantra as an artist. We were conditioned to think that things were right and wrong based on how we created them. This conditions the way we think, the way we approach creativity. When we were 5 years old, we never thought about what we were creating, we just led with emotion…with feeling! And that is what came out on paper.
So, for me to re-learn how to think like a kid, is me trying to go back to my purest mind state of creativity.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Frank Ocean is one person in music that has blown me away. His style, his personality, everything about him — is so authentic and it has inspired me since day one. His music is timeless, and he has truly achieved how to live purely as an artist. A lunch with him would be such an honor.
Alternatively, more in the world of on-screen and art, I’d love to meet Wes Andersen. His color palettes, his vision of film — it’s truly an art. I am enthralled by his work, his meticulous process, everything about him is what I try to embody as an artist. It would be invaluable to have a half hour of his time and guidance.
Now if we are referring to people that aren’t alive anymore, well this one is a no-brainer.
My dream would be to hang out with Picasso at a café and share conversation and coffee.