NFL Player Joe Hawley Talks Competition, Performance, Career and Purpose – HPP 99
To make it to the top of professional sports takes a lot of hard work, mental toughness, and physical discipline, and to always be one step ahead of the game. What happens to athletes when they pivot and walk away from a lifetime of commitment and immersion in their sport? What experiences, challenges and psychological difficulties do they go through, and how do they cope?
In this episode, we’re excited to explore this existential moment with a former NFL football player and the founder and CEO of the HART collective, Joe Hawley. He shares his interesting story about his time in the NFL, insights and his effort to support former athletes who have since left their sport to find deep purpose.
Factors that led to leaving the NFL – 02:46
“And I feel like I was in that camp always trying to prove to myself. I always felt like I was replaceable, so I had to show up in perfect ways so many times. And that added to a lot of performance, anxiety, stress, you know, there’s so much that goes into playing in the NFL—I had to perform at such a high level, in front of millions of people with the constant scrutiny and judgment”
NFL on the inside: Paying it forward – 07:40
“So you’re competing with your teammates for millions of dollars, and all this stuff is such a hyper competitive environment. But then you have to create this team culture where you’re playing for the guy next to you. And so it’s this weird dichotomy of like, I’m gonna do everything I can to win this job, but I still have to be a part of the team and supportive”
It’s all about teamwork – 10:46
“And when you go to battle in that kind of hyper competitive environment, and you have to push yourself to your limits, you’re not doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for the guy next to you. And it allows you to push and tap into this collective flow, and when you do that all of the stories around who you think you are, or how you show up in the world, and your ego construct, all that drops away and it’s just my teammates out there on the field”
Every player’s story of overcoming adversity – 12:36
“I started looking around the locker room and realizing every single player in this locker room has a story, and none of them just made it and there’s so many guys like oh, I would have made it if I didn’t get hurt, or if my coach liked me, or if I just had the opportunity to play. Every single player in the NFL has a story like that, and they didn’t let it put them down. They overcame it. And just the adversity and the challenge of reaching that level of success in such hyper competitive environment, it’s incredible”
Discovering myself after leaving the NFL – 18:11
“We’re all really successful, high-achieving individuals who know how to push themselves and like all of a sudden in a moment, all of that’s gone. And it’s really hard, it’s really isolating. I think another thing that was challenging for me, personally, I think this is not talked about enough and I think a lot of guys go through this as well as the people closest to me like my parents, my family, my fiancé at the time—And so the feeling of not knowing who I am and the feeling of them not knowing who I am because I don’t even know who I am led me on this path of really trying to discover that for myself”
The HART collective – 26:56
“And so doing this work and figuring out how I can help support this kind of transition community, I realized there’s a lot of guys out there like me that want to achieve greatness outside of sports, they know life is just getting started. But it’s that it takes this humility of having to kind of almost start over and I truly believe, I think I talked about this earlier too, is like how special these individuals are as professional athletes. And if we can focus the energy, they put into the sports into themselves and their self-growth, really, magic can happen”
Keith Kurlander, Dr. Will Van Derveer, Joe Hawley
Joe Hawley 00:00
Halfway through my career, I started looking around the locker room and realizing every single player in this locker room has a story, and none of them just made it. And there’s so many guys like, Oh, I would have made it if I didn’t get hurt, or if my coach like me, or if I just had the opportunity to play, every single player in the NFL has a story like that. And they didn’t let it put them down. They overcame it, and just the adversity and the challenge of reaching that level of success in that hyper competitive environment, it’s incredible.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 00:30
Thank you for joining us for the higher practice podcast. I’m Dr. Will Van Derveer, with Keith Kurlander, and this is the podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health. If you’ve ever wondered what the psychology is like of a professional football player, and what happens to them as they transition out of playing professional sports, then you’re going to really enjoy this conversation with Joe Hawley today, Joe played for eight years in the NFL, retired in 2017, and has a really fascinating journey that he went through in the past few years to discover what’s next in his life. And I think that those of us who have faced massive crisis of meaning, whether it’s a big change in career or whether it’s a divorce, or whether it’s a health crisis, I think we can all relate to the scramble that can be very terrifying of what do we do next with our lives, how do we find that balance and equilibrium and move forward. And so I’m very inspired by Joe’s journey and the way he tells it, hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did. Joe Hawley. After an eight year career with both the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to walk away from the game when injuries and stress began to take their toll on his body, mind and spirit. Without the structure and support of the sport, he had spent his entire life pursuing greatness that he felt lost and unsure about what to do next. After traveling the country for the better part of two years learning, growing, connecting with like minded people, he realized that the one thing missing for all former professional athletes is access to a community who knows what the experiences are like and want to continue reaching higher levels of awareness, success and greatness outside of sports, which is why he created the heart collective, a community of male former professional athletes who want to support grow and learn from one another while expanding their network, deepening their connections and having a bigger impact on the world. While we’re excited to welcome Joe Hawley to the show.
Joe Hawley 02:44
Hey, guys, thanks for having me.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 02:46
Great having you, Joe, thanks for making the time for us today. I enjoyed meeting you the other day, and I just automatically wanted to hear more about your journey, and especially one of the things that really grabbed me about what you’ve shared about your life thus far as this huge inflection point of leaving the NFL. And if it’s okay with you, I’d like to start by hearing a little bit more about the context of where you were before leaving the league. And you know, what was going through your mind? What was your life like? So our audience can hear about that? And then after that, I want to take us through a little bit of the transition of leaving.
Joe Hawley 03:22
Yeah, absolutely. There’s a lot there to unpack, obviously, and I think the beautiful thing about leaving such a pinnacle experience is and having my identity wrapped up so much in that, that I had to go through this transformation, this ego death, this transition of figuring out who I am in relation to the world without this thing that I’d spent my entire life pursuing greatness and everything revolved around and looking back on. And I’m very grateful for that experience, because it provided an opportunity for a lot of growth. And I think all of us go through big transitions in life, and we can look at it one or two ways, probably multiple ways, but I like to look at it as an opportunity for growth, and that’s definitely challenging a lot of ways as well. But yeah, when I was playing in the NFL, I played eight years with a very up and down career. I was one of those guys that really had to grind constantly to prove myself, I feel like there’s kind of this bias in the NFL. And we can get into this. It’s a little bit of a side story, but if you’re drafted high, and you’re somebody that the team really likes, they give you ample opportunity to like screw up like if you give up a sack, our mess up off the field, whatever it is like to give them another chance. And then there’s another camp, a guy that is constantly trying to prove himself and grind and the coaches the front office, they’re always looking to kind of replace this guy with a better player. And so if you screw up one time, it kind of solidifies that thought that like oh, this guy is just a fill in. And I feel like I was in that camp always trying to prove to myself I always felt like I was replaceable, so I had to show up in perfect ways. So many times and that added to a lot of performance, anxiety, stress, you know, there’s so much that goes into playing in the NFL. That’s not just physical, that’s not just showing up and playing, I mean, even the mental capacity to push the physical body to the points that I had to perform at such a high level, in front of millions of people with the constant scrutiny and judgment from not only the fans, the coaches, the front office, like all of that pressure constantly on it. And so, you know, my journey was very up and down one play to the five, it’s been five years since it was released. Luma Nia, which is a huge part of my journey, you know, affecting my physical body went to Tampa, played three years, there had an opportunity to kind of a resurgence in my career, which is really beautiful. And then it came to a point where I lost my starting job for the fifth time in my eighth season, and I had been thinking about retiring for a couple years, I think, if you ask any NFL player in the middle of the season, it’s so grueling and difficult and challenging, that you asked them if they gonna play next year, they’ll probably be like, I’m contemplating retirement, because it’s just so hard when you’re in it. And then the offseason comes, you feel the body, get a lot of space, and then you go back at it the next year, and those thoughts kind of dissipate. But for me, those thoughts started coming in, and once I reached the point of having enough financial security to really entertain the idea of walking away from millions of dollars, which is still not an easy decision, for a lot of different reasons, I was confronted with the fact that do I want to continue to push myself my physical body, my mental stress and anxiety and even keeping on this amount of weight, I was weighing 295 to 315, during my playing days, which was another toll like all these factors played a role. And I came up with my final year last my starting job for the fifth time, and I was on the sidelines. And the season started, and for the first time in my career, I was kind of content without wanting to play. And I realized in that moment that this is gonna be my final year playing, I’m gonna walk away. And there’s a part of me that was really excited about the next adventure, the next challenge, the next opportunity, I knew my life was just getting started, I was 29 at the time, and just really excited about experiencing the freedom from this thing that I had given so much and has taken so much from me as well. And that led me to the decision to walk away, and three weeks after my final game, I sat on the couch, and it kind of all hit me the finality of it, and had gone through a big breakup at the time. And so it was just this huge transition point, and it all kind of hit me at once. And I just felt this real, Like in my body, there’s deep physical heaviness and grief, I felt like there was a physical void missing within my heart. You know, the breakup, I went through, I was engaged. And it was kind of this toxic relationship, but it was one of the ones like I loved her so much, but I knew she wasn’t right for me. And so having to break that off was one of the most difficult decisions of my life, and I was four weeks before I played my final game, so like all of this happened once.
Keith Kurlander 07:37
Things kind of dominoed?
Joe Hawley 07:39
Keith Kurlander 07:40
I’m curious, like leading up to that point, so let’s call you in this other camp, like you said, there’s two camps of players, right? And like one camp is sort of like the idolized, they come in super high in the draft, like a lot of people know their name. And they’re like, they can mess up, they could come get and get by. You’re in this other camp, like we’re the players supporting each other in the psychology of this whole thing? Are you just all kind of bearing down not talking about any of this stuff, you’re all going through your own crazy process? And you’re all like, trying to just make sure you stay in the game and no one’s talking about it, and you feel all alone?
Joe Hawley 08:15
Yeah, there’s a weird psychological game for sure, because it’s such a hyper competitive environment, right. So there’s only nine offensive lineman on a team, there’s five starters for backups, and then maybe one or two practice squad guys. And during training camp they bring in, there’s probably 15 to 20 offensive linemen. And so and then there’s only five starting jobs, and that center, my position is only one guy that starts and one backup. And so there’s this weird experience of and with millions of dollars in the line, and obviously the fame and everything that comes with like playing and being the guy like that is on the line constantly. So you’re competing with your teammates for millions of dollars, and all this stuff is such a hyper competitive environment. But then you have to create this team culture where you’re playing for the guy next to you. And so it’s this weird dichotomy of like, I’m gonna do everything I can to win this job, but I still have to be a part of the team and supportive. And there’s a lot of different guys like some guys I played with, and this is not the majority, thank God. But there’s some guys that would just not help out the younger guys, or it makes sense because they knew that their jobs on the line so if I help this guy, and he takes my job, and that’s me on the street without food on the table, I was always under the camp of pay it forward. And that’s because when I was a rookie, I played under a 13 year vet who had been playing a long time and he was just so good about helping me out any questions I had, and he knew I was there to take his job and he still helped me pay it or pay it forward to me. And when I was older, when I got to Tampa, my sixth, seventh eighth year, I definitely tried to pay it forward the best I could. And as far as like the struggle and the challenges, it’s not necessarily talked about in the way that I would talk about it now obviously through my own healing journey and understanding my own psychology and inner stories and the shame and the pain and just Mental Health and emotional health and being able to process there’s not necessarily the environment that cultivates that I think you do have close friends and teammates on the team that you can kind of confide in. But yeah, a lot of it’s really fascinating how it’s such a hyper competitive environment and mental health I mean, even me doing the work I’m doing now. And talking to a lot of athletes, it’s a lot bigger issue than is discussed even now it’s becoming pretty prevalent and the awareness of it is growing, I still think it’s not anywhere close to actually helping the player it’s it’s, the benefits and those things that the NFL is providing is very superficial and surface level compared to, I think, what needs to happen in order to really re institutionalize players when they’re done playing into Normal Reality, and it’s tough.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 10:46
One thing that I get really curious about Joe is with the insider’s perspective of being in the NFL for eight years, this kind of concept that you kind of have to it’s like a battle mindset is what I’m hearing you say, it’s like a warfare mindset where, you’re essentially on the battlefield. And it makes sense that you would have to hide the more vulnerable or the more tender aspects of being human to be able to drive yourself to perform that way every day for eight years, I mean, that’s huge.
Joe Hawley 11:15
Yeah, there’s a warrior mindset, there’s something beautiful with that as well, that I’ve thought about since I’ve been done playing and being out and, you know, the normal world is what a gift it was that I was able to play with teammates from such a wide variety of different backgrounds, different cultures, different upbringings, different belief systems. And when you go to battle in that kind of hyper competitive environment, and you have to push yourself to your limits, you’re not doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for the guy next to you. And it allows you to push and tap into this collective flow, and when you do that all of the stories around who you think you are, or how you show up in the world, and your ego construct all that drops away, and it’s just my teammates out there on the field. And that’s allowed me to see people differently, I think a lot of my friends that maybe didn’t play football that’s still in the same town I grew up in even my like my brother, like, they’ve never really hung around black people, or like people from different upbringings, or cultures. And I had a very, amazing blessing to play with 1000s of different teammates around my crew with different belief systems and structures and upbringings. And to see them on the field, all of that stuff drops away, and we become a team in a unit. I think, just collectively as a society, I think that’s why we love sports so much, because it’s an example of what’s possible when we put our ideal that’s greater than the self.
Keith Kurlander 12:36
Beautiful. I love how you’re framing that to just like how the team comes together as a unit, and it’s all about the unit at that point. It’s just, it’s a family system, basically, and everybody has a shared goal, which is also unique. And I mean, before we get into the transition of what it’s like to leave for you, the NFL, I’m curious about what you learned not only about yourself and others in terms of what kind of qualities in a human does it take to even get through the NFL? And like, what is unique about you and these human beings that are pushing their bodies to this capacity and staying that focused? And like, what did you notice about a lot of the people around you? Does that make sense?
Joe Hawley 13:22
Yeah, absolutely, it’s really special individuals to make it to that level. I think that’s really cool. What I’m really excited about with the work that I’m doing is getting these guys to find a passion and a vision and a heart of service outside of sports, because they do have the foundation of really achieving excellence and greatness. And if they put that energy into developing themselves, and then showing up to be of service that I believe these individuals can really have a huge impact on the world, especially because they’re leaders and role models in our society, and people look up to them, but when they’re done playing, they just feel lost. And halfway through my career, I started looking around the locker room and realizing every single player in this locker room has a story, and none of them just made it and there’s so many guys like oh, I would have made it if I didn’t get hurt, or if my coach like me, or if I just had the opportunity to play every single player in the NFL has a story like that, and they didn’t let it put them down. They overcame it. And just the adversity and the challenge of reaching that level of success in such a hyper competitive environment, it’s incredible. And the foundation is the amount of discipline it takes the amount of mental toughness, being able to push your physical body past its breaking point, the ability to handle failure, the ability to overcome limiting beliefs. And this is like constantly remember, like during practice, if I got beat one time, like I had to be able to process that and not go down the spiral of like I suck, I’m no good and like those thoughts definitely come up. But having to overcome those thoughts quickly and to be able to go out there and perform. That’s what separates the best from the greats from not so great, right? And it’s just such a fine line. And it’s all these deep intangibles and it really comes Down to the mental game of being able to, there’s a saying I forget who said it was a speaker that came in, we talked and it’s just really good. It’s like how can I talk to myself and not listen to myself, because there’s always that voice and saying, like, during training camp, like, you’re tired, you don’t want to do this, this sucks and all these negative thoughts and being able to override that. And I think having that foundation has really helped me on my journey, post forts in my spiritual journey, my self growth journey, just understanding that I have control over my thoughts over my mind. And I think that’s really cool that a lot of athletes have a base foundation of understanding the ability to overcome those thoughts, and that we are the awareness of the thoughts, but not the thoughts themselves, I think that’s a really important step on the journey to self realization.
Keith Kurlander 15:45
Yeah, it’s just so interesting, right? You’ve had such a unique life, to even have this experience to go through this and curious too, about the fame like for you, what was it like in your own psychology to have 10s of 1000s, hundreds of 1000s of people cheering, and just hearing that coming at you and the fame? And what was that like in your psychology to just relate to all that?
Joe Hawley 16:12
Yeah, yeah, definitely, I mean, there’s the part of me that loved it, obviously, the ego part that wanted to be recognized. And obviously, that’s how I found worthiness and love and acceptance was to my performance on the field. But there’s this other side of me that, I remember while I was playing, I think this might be an offensive lineman thing. But I hated telling people I played. I felt weird promoting that I played football, and then even in conversation, I guess someone didn’t know who I was, you know? And they say, like, oh, what do you do? I would hate saying I play football, because their whole demeanor would change. And they would all of a sudden treat me like Joe, the football player, and they obviously have this identity that they put on me. And I hated having to navigate that, and so if I didn’t know the person, I would usually like to say, I did something else. Isn’t that weird? Like the feeling of not really liking the fame and wanting to not promote it, and I felt like there was this thing, like, I don’t want to be like, Oh, yeah, look at me, I played football. So there’s like that humility part, but now that I’m done playing, it’s like confronting like, Oh, wow. Like how, like I do miss being that important, I do miss being that good at something really like one of the best in the world is something and those are things I didn’t really understand while I was playing until I was done, and I look back on my career and how proud I am of myself. Because when you’re in it, you’re just you’re grinding to continue to make it right, and you don’t really have time to make it look at me, because you’re just you have to constantly prove yourself. And until I was done playing, I looked back on my career now. It’s like, wow, like, I accomplished so much, I played eight years in the NFL, I overcame so many odds and percentages. So many people throughout my life told me how hard it was and make sure to have a back up plan and all this stuff and being able to push through and make it happen, Yeah, just really grateful for the journey.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 17:51
You’re talking Joe about this kind of idea of identity and getting wrapped up in the time this person who does this thing, like in your case, this incredibly high level of athletic achievement and sustained for years you busted started in what Middle School playing football?
Joe Hawley 18:07
I started in high school, 16 years total.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 18:11
Okay, 16 years, right. So I imagined that a lot of guys must go through a massive crisis of identity, like Who am I, at the end of, especially if their careers ended by injury? I imagine that’s even more abrupt than deciding to retire. Did you feel like for a while and a big tailspin about who am I and what do I do now? And
Joe Hawley 18:37
You know, I think, a rare case, just the simple fact that I walked away on my own terms. And that’s really rare. I think most people’s careers’ athletic journeys are over before they want it to be, whether it’s injury, whether they don’t make it to the next level, they get cut, they feel like they have more to give the game, and they’re done. And that’s a completely different situation to navigate, and I can’t believe how difficult that is. Because I thought I was, I was ready, I was prepared, I was excited about the next challenge. Like I said, three weeks into it and the finality of it all hit me. There’s unique challenges that you can’t really prepare for and one of them being I was on a team, received a coaching structure, had a purpose, and worked together with my teammates on a common goal. We’re all really successful, high achieving individuals who know how to push themselves and like all of a sudden in a moment, all of that’s gone. And it’s really hard, it’s really isolating. I think another thing that was challenging for me, personally, I think this is not talked about enough and I think a lot of guys go through this as well as the people closest to me like my parents, my family, my fiance at the time. You know, I was a football player to them, and so me leaving the game was them not having access to the game as well. And so the feeling of not knowing who I am and the feeling of them not knowing who I am because I don’t even know who I am led me on this path of really trying to discover that for myself, and it wasn’t a big quick, I need to go do this. It was like, What do I do now? I feel isolated, I feel alone. There’s nothing really grounding me here in Tampa, I have family and friends all over the country, let me go on a road trip, let me just go experience my freedom. Let me give myself some space and permission to just be in it, and that’s what led me to the decision to give away all my stuff to charity, I bought a van and I traveled the country and was going to be just like a two to three month road trip to visit friends and family all over the country turned into almost two years. And it was definitely the spiritual journey of self discovery, and who I am and, meeting people on the synchronistic moments and the universe kind of guiding me towards what I’m working on now. And it’s just been this constant unfolding and being open to the lessons and the experiences that life has provided me and you know, like I said earlier in the show, it’s an opportunity for growth. And I think a lot of the fear around big transitions like this. And I definitely felt this is not like an easy decision is what now like, I’m feeling this thing within my soul calling me and telling me it’s time to let this go, it’s time to be done with this thing. But where’s it drawing me to? Where is it pulling me towards? And it’s hard when you don’t know what that is? It’s like calling me into the unknown. And so I think it takes a lot of courage for people to answer that call, and I definitely stepped up and went on this journey of self discovery. And it’s been so magical and it’s actually helped me develop a deep trust and faith that what wants to come through me even though I might not necessarily know where it’s calling me towards trusting that and just go for it.
Keith Kurlander 21:41
Yeah, on the road, Jack Kerouac, I had sort of a similar experience, sort of pre career, you could say I was 21 trying to know what career at all I should do graduating college and thought I was doing one career and Wall Street and decided I’m going to sort of on the road like what you’re describing of like, I need to go find myself. I don’t know what I’m doing, and I remember back then that it was super exciting and spiritually, like invigorating time. But I also had a pretty baseline fear of like, what if I don’t figure this out? Like, what, where is this going? And how can I take care of myself and I just remember that it was just this big kind of catharsis of so much in so many fears, and so many excitements. I’m wondering if you had some fears during that time, like, what’s going to come? Or if you just felt really open and really relaxed in the process?
Joe Hawley 22:37
Yeah, definitely, I was confronted with a lot of that, I think I had the conscious thought when I was done that I wanted to get into business and entrepreneurship and give a go at like creating something really inspired me. And I knew that whatever I got into after my career, like I’m such a high performer, high achiever that was gonna give it my all and put all my energy into it. And so part of the conscious decision to go travel was okay, I’m gonna really give myself some space here before I dive into whatever’s next and really enjoy this freedom from whatever it is I’m putting my energy into doing. And I traveled for close to eight months, all spring, fall, or Summer, Fall. And in the winter I started coming around, and I remember heading back to the east coast from the west coast, I just got back from Machu Picchu with one of my best friends. It was an amazing experience, I was kind of in the van. And I didn’t really have anywhere else to go, I was heading back to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving. And that’s when the feelings of like, okay, now what, you know, what is my purpose? What am I going to be doing? And those questions started coming in, and I didn’t really know. And over the course of the next six months, I joined a couple different communities of people focused on self development and reaching higher levels of potential and learning more about human optimization and growth and healing. And I started down the psychedelic path as well, and just figuring out who I was on even a deeper level, and I started asking myself the question, How can I be of service and when I started asking that I started getting this, this intuitive hit to bring what I’ve learned and this medicine into the former athlete space. And when that first thought came to me, I not gonna lie, I had a lot of fear, I had a lot of resistance, you know, and a little backstory with my career playing, I always felt like I never fully stepped up as the leader that I could have been, I always had these intuitive hits in different moments throughout my career, when I was like, okay, now’s the time to step up and give a speech or now’s the time to maybe call this guy out and inspire him to show up in a different way. And all these opportunities to lead vocally and I always played kind of small, and I never really liked being seen, and I felt like I always had to be like it to be a leader, I had to have everything perfect. And I was always a really great leader by example, but I was never voted a team captain was always like a locker room leader leader on the field. And so when the idea or that intuitive it came to like, okay, you’re gonna go serve this community, I was like, No, I don’t want Do that that’s scary as hell like I couldn’t step up as a leader. Now I’m going to go back with this healed masculinity and try to help navigate guys through this really challenging time and like all this stuff. And so over the course of six to 12 months after that idea came, I started working towards it, and just working through my resistance and my own fears, and confronting him and finding out who I am on a deeper level and what I’m capable of, and what my lessons are, and realizing through, not only my journey through football, and on the road, I kind of adopted this quote, which I really love, which is on the other side of fear lies freedom. And I truly believe that the thing that we have resistance toward or the thing that scares us the most, like, that’s the compass calling us towards that thing. And I truly believe my journey and my path is it goes towards the things that scare me, and realizing they’re just an illusion, and that’s where all the growth happens is by getting outside the comfort zone. And really proud of myself for where I’ve gotten to now, because you know, since then, in November, I ended up launching the heart collective, which is the community that I was called to create, and it’s growing, and the momentum is building. And I just feel like the work I’m being called to do is, it’s so much bigger than me. And when I do have fear and resistance to really get out of my own way, and that’s my job is to work through my own fears and resistance and know that this thing is bigger than me. And it wants to be created through me and not by me. And when I really drop into that space, it allows me to surrender into it even though you know, in the idea of surrender to I’ve thought about a lot about this, especially in like spiritual communities like surrender can seem like, you know, this, this bypassing, like, I’m just gonna let life kind of come at me, like, whatever, I’m just gonna surrender into it. But realizing now that to surrender is the most courageous act that you can possibly do, because if you truly surrender in into what wants to be created or experienced through you, it’s not going to be comfortable, it’s going to challenge you to step up in ways that maybe you don’t think you’re capable of. And that’s real surrender. It’s not a passive act, it’s one of the most courageous acts in the universe.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 26:56
I’m reminded of the moment where I decided that I was going to try to help lead the revolution in psychiatry to change the way mental health happens globally, and it was really scary for me to feel that. And so I can relate to that resistance of moving from my profession as a psychiatrist and being in the clinic and seeing patients and oh my gosh, here’s this bigger vision of how I could serve in a much bigger way. And the fear that came up for me like, is that really my place? What’s that going to be like? And so thank you for sharing that. And I’d love to hear more about your vision of the heart collective and where you’re going with that, and so our folks can know what you’re up to and people listening.
Joe Hawley 27:46
Guys, the Heart Collective is an exclusive community built for former male professional athletes, and I think I talked about this earlier in the show, but like one of the most unique challenges that you can’t prepare for as a former athlete is being surrounded by like minded people who are focused on really growth and achieving excellence in that field, and have a common goal and a vision, and receiving coaching and support and you’re just around this environment know exactly what you’re working towards. And all of a sudden, when you’re done playing like all of that is gone in an instant, and it’s not something you really realize until it’s over. And so doing this work and figuring out how I can help support this kind of transition community, I realized there’s a lot of guys out there like me that want to achieve greatness outside of sports, they know life is just getting started. But it’s that it takes this humility of having to kind of almost start over and I truly believe I think I talked about this earlier too is like this, how special these individuals are as professional athletes. And if we can focus the energy they put into the sports into themselves and their self growth, really magic can happen. And so doing some research and realizing, you know, the stuff that you know, the resources that the NFL provides, and I’m sure the other major sports leagues, it’s very superficial. It’s like how do we solve this issue, let’s figure out a second career for them, let’s get them career placement, let’s get them secondary education if they’re really struggling with them provide therapy. But even a therapist can’t really hold space for the experience and through my own work and joining different communities realizing that being surrounded by a community of people who are focused on a common goal who in a safe space is created to really work through and do the deeper healing work to feel seen and heard there’s so much power in that, and so that’s my vision of creating this community for former athletes, and I think a lot of people that try and help this kind of space in this niche really focus on that kind of down and out guys they see the guys on the media that are really struggling in the mental health issue like I’m focused on the guys who you know that the middle tier 80% of the guys not the guys that are super that you know, make millions and millions of dollars to kind of have it figured out even though those guys still need to work through some stuff or the guys that are really down in. This middle group like me wants to find success and happiness and fulfillment outside of sports, but they just don’t really have the structure or support of people who know what the experience is like, it’s just a very niche rare person to actually have that experience. So creating a community of guys that can support one another, who understands what the experience is like. It’s kind of like this, this group led peer therapy sessions, and the way it’s structured is we have weekly drop in groups, which is like a men’s group. It’s as simple as that, and I facilitate a safe space where we can just show up and share our experience and what we’re going through. And then we have these master classes, which I’m starting to implement, which are webinars where I bring on thought leaders, experts, coaches to kind of share their medicine and wisdom, and that’s actually available to anybody. So if your listeners want to drop into some of the content that I’m providing the community, they can actually drop into these webinars as well. And you can find out all the information at the hartcollective.com, it’s spelled H A R T, the hartcollective.com, you can put your email in and add it to our newsletter, and stay up to date with all of the amazing content that we’re creating. And really excited about the world opening back up and hosting some in person retreats as well, we have our first one coming up in a couple weeks, actually, in Colorado, got a really amazing retreat experience, whitewater rafting in September, and just going to continue to create experiences where we can facilitate connection and growth and safety. And just I think everybody on the deepest level when you talk about mental health is they just want to be seen and heard, and I don’t think a lot of people know how to be present with one another because they’re in their own heads and worried about their own stuff. And so when you find and can create a felt sense of presence, where you don’t feel judged or shamed, you can just show up and be who you are not really trying to change who you are. But working through the deeper stuff that’s getting in the way of that. I think that’s really where the magic happens.
Keith Kurlander 31:49
Beautiful, I love what you’re up to man, I think you’re doing great things and so psyched what you’re doing. Well, let’s go to our last question. We ask every guest the same exact question. If you had a billboard that every human would see once in their lifetime. They’d have a paragraph on there, what would you tell everybody?
Joe Hawley 32:09
Yeah, I mean, the simplest thing I said earlier in the podcast is on the other side of fear, lies freedom. And, you know, like I talked about earlier, it’s the compass, right? It’s the things that we resist, or it’s what’s calling us towards it. And I think heading into the unknown and going towards what you fear the most is really how to find true freedom, and I think another thing would be to mention something around death. I don’t think people think about death enough, I think it’s a taboo in our culture. And until you can really fully understand and confront your own death and the impermanence of life, you’re not really going to fully live. And so I think thinking about that, contemplating that and, and understanding it allows you to live more fully in the moment.
Keith Kurlander 32:53
Love it. Thanks for being on the show, Joe.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 32:56
It’s great having you and look forward to more connection with you.
Joe Hawley 33:00
Yeah, thanks, guys. I really appreciate it, it’s been great.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 33:04
We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of The hire practice Podcast, where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.