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Joe Hawley: Winning, Walking Away, The Void & Pursuing The Next Dream

I'm joined here with an extra ordinary guest with an incredible background.

While playing football at UNLV, he caught the eye of the Atlanta Falcons and was drafted number 117 in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. At over 300 pounds of pure muscle, he anchored offensive lines for the Falcons and my favorite, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In 2018, he donated most of his possessions to charity, got himself a van and a rescue dog, a Boxer, he named Freedom and has been crisscrossing the United States racking up over 20,000 miles, 24 States, 13 baseball stadiums, 6 national parks and more.

He's an active advocate for wellness, nutrition movement and living with less so that you can experience more.

Please welcome to the show, Mr. Joe Hawley.

Dustin
I am fired up for this show. Thanks for coming in.
Joe
Thanks for having me. I'm excited as well.
Dustin
I want to take us back. The setting, the Atlanta Falcons locker room. You get a message that the coach wants to see you. Usually, this is not a good thing when you're being summoned to the coach's office.
Joe
It was my third year in the league. We were 13 on 3 about to go into the playoffs. It was a week or two left in the season and it was a real pivotal changing point in my career. I got called up to the coach's office. I got the phone call that every NFL player dreads, “Coach wants to see you. Bring your playbook.” I knew I was about to get cut and I went up there. It was a long year. I wasn't playing too hot and I was in this mindset of blaming others, blaming my coaches, not feeling I was getting a fair shot. It culminated and came to a head at that point when they were going to release me. When I was up in the office about to get cut, I was filled with regret because I knew that at that moment I was going to be on the streets without a job and I could've given more. I could have worked harder instead of blaming others and looking for others to give me the opportunity. I was going through the motions and blaming others. At that moment, it was this big eye-opening experience of all these people that I'm blaming are going to continue on living their dreams and I've squandered mine.
Dustin
When you're at that level, when you say there was more in the tank, you worked your whole life to get to the NFL, was it you would arrive and you let your gas off of the pedal? Was it that you came to this realization, "I can be more, I can do more, I can have more. I haven't been realizing my potential?"
Joe
Every NFL player, when you're in high school, you think you're the best in your high school, usually the best probably in your state, one of the best in the country. You get recruited, go to college and you’re usually the best at your college, best player, best top 2 or 3 players. I was definitely one of the best players in my college. I was in a smaller school, UNLV, then you get to the NFL and everybody's good. Everybody's probably better than I was. It was the first time where I had to figure out how to do more, how to separate myself, how to do extra. I didn't know what that looked like because I was always the best. It always came easy because of my athletic ability. I knew how to work hard. I'm not saying I wasn't working hard and pushing myself to get to where I was at but when you're around that high level of talent and people that are separating themselves every day. It's like, “What are you going to do to see the field?” I was working hard, but I wasn't giving enough and I wasn't pushing myself to the limit. I knew I could have given more. That was the separation. Nobody else knew I could have given more. They obviously expect me to give my all the time, but I knew personally when I looked at the man in the mirror like, "Could I have given more?" The answer was yes. I had this feeling of regret.
Dustin
You said something to the coach that dramatically altered your life at that moment. You asked him a question. Essentially the question was, "If you need a guy to go in, who do you want it to lead the line?" What do you feel compelled you to ask that question? Were you fighting for your job? Do you feel you were moved or touched by the Universe or by God?
Joe
I went from my second year being the starter at right guard to going into training camp the next year and losing my job, barely making the team and not dressing or even playing the entire year up to that point. That's where I developed this mindset of, “Woe is me” attitude, blaming others and the victim mentality. They had brought in another guy to replace me as a backup. We were going to be the number one seed in the playoffs that year. We were 13 on 3. I looked at the coach and I don't know why or what came to me at that moment, but this simple question popped into my head. After I said a few other things, I was standing up for myself and I was telling him how good a player I thought I was and I was sharing that and I said, "If the starter got hurt on Sunday, number one seat in the playoffs, would you trust this guy that you brought in to play and lead the team or would you trust me?" They both looked at each other, the coach and the GM and they said, "We're going to have to trust the other guy." I went through the whole cut process.
I was cleaning up the locker, gave my equipment back to the equipment staff, did my exit physical and signed out all the papers with the trainers. I was doing the last financial bit with the financial guy, talking about my last couple of paychecks and signing the last papers. I get a phone call from the GM and he said, "Joe, come back in, we want to talk to you." I went back in the office and they're like, "We thought about what you said and we think that we're going to give you another opportunity so we're going to bring you in as the 53rd guy and give you a chance to compete next year to keep your job. How do you feel about that?"
At that moment, I was so filled with gratitude at having a second chance. I know there's going to come a point where I wasn't going to be playing football anymore. I know it’s a hard game and I was going to be on the streets eventually. Maybe whether I get cut or injured or decided to retire myself, but it wasn't going to be because I didn't give everything I had. That was a big turning point in my career and grateful for that second chance. I ended up playing another five years, worked my way back to becoming a starter and started over another 40 games. Because of that one moment, I never looked for someone else to give me an opportunity. I always made it for myself and worked hard as I could and gave it everything I had.
Dustin
You said what's critical is the mindset you shifted. What actions did you take? After you said, "I'm not going to play full out. I'm not going to be a victim in this scenario. I’m going to take control of my destiny," what actions did you do? Did you get a nutritionist? Did you work out an extra day? What did you do to elevate yourself back up in such a competitive field?
Joe
Every day I went in and I wanted to do extra. I did more than I was asked of in the NFL, it's what's going to separate you. As a football player, the first thing you think of is, "I've got to go in the weight room and get stronger." The first thing I did was I started eating better. I wanted to redo my body, get stronger and feel better. I focused on that. I made it a priority. I didn't go out as much. I got a better rest. I went in early and stayed later. I did extra. I went up to the coaches and asked what I could do more. After a few months during that off season, a lot of coaches, a lot of the scouts and a lot of the front office were actually approaching me and saying, "Joe, I don't know what you're doing, but keep doing it. We see a change, a difference." It inspired me. This is what makes the difference. It's giving that extra of yourself and demanding more of yourself and not what other people demand of you.
Dustin
You said eight years of professional football. You had four at UNLV and four in high school. Did you play Pee Wee Football too?
Joe
I didn't, thank God. Sixteen years total.
Dustin
Sixteen years of people telling you what to do, what to eat, basically controlling your life. Your last year, you have a change of heart. Your body's breaking down and you have that change of heart. What did you discover about yourself in that last year?
Joe
It was a slow process coming to retirement. Football is hard. During the middle of the year, if you ask any player in the middle of that grind, week 10 or 11 and say, "Do you want to play next year?" a lot of them would probably be like, "I don't know if I want to keep playing. It's so hard." Everybody has those thoughts during the season. It was a slow couple of years build up to when I was retiring and my last year, I was competing again for a starting job. They brought me back from my eighth year in the role of mentoring a younger guy to take my spot. I didn't dress again, but it was in a different context and I was more of a leader support system. I remember being on the sideline and my whole career, whenever I was on the sideline, I was always like, “I wanted to be out there. I wanted to be the guy. I wanted to be contributing in some way.” When I was on the sideline, I was totally content. I love being a part of the guys and supporting and leading, but from a distance and not being out there, not putting my body on the line. I knew at that point the fire is gone to be that competitive and it was time to hang them up and look for new opportunities.
Dustin
Did mentoring come easy to you? I suspect this is a process in the NFL where you're supposed to mentor the guys that come in and some guys subscribe to this and some don't because they want to be on that field.
Joe
It's tough because there are many opportunities and there are not a lot of backup opportunities. UNLV has the Farm League, there's none of that. It's cutthroat. There are some guys that will not help younger guys because they know the younger guys are coming to take their position. I was lucky because when I was drafted, the starting center at the time was a 13, 14 year vet by the name of Todd McClure and everybody knew they drafted me to replace him eventually. I played under him for two years and he was nothing but amazing to me. He put out of his way to mentor me, teach me and pay it forward. One thing in the NFL is that you can't learn his experience, you've got to go through it. Him sharing his experience with me helped me and helped the length of my career and my ability to make it in the NFL.
I always felt whenever a younger guy comes up, you pay it forward and be a mentor to these guys. If they do take your job and they're better than you, that's what I have my eighth year. This guy outplayed me and I still supported him throughout the year because that's the universal law, even not in football, but in the macro level of life. Whatever you give always returns back to you somehow. I always believed in that and I paid it forward. I loved mentoring these guys and being a leader on that team. When I went to Tampa, it was something special. It was a young team. When I went there, I ended up going there in my fifth year and they had come off 0 and 16 year. I went there and ended up going 6 and 10 or 7 to 9 that year. We didn't make the playoffs, but the term we made and being a part of that as a leader in that locker room and seeing how hard the guys were playing, mentoring them is special. It fills me with a lot of fulfillment.
Dustin
One of the things you communicated to me that I hadn't considered is when you're going through this transition, you're exiting the NFL. You’re exiting something you've been doing and been groomed your whole life for. You're faced with loneliness because you lose your community which spoke to me. The second thing, which I hadn't even considered is there is so much opportunity for you that you're overwhelmed by that. Can you speak a little bit about that? I don't think a lot of people think that. I was thinking this way. Here's a guy from NFL that made lots of money. The world is his oyster and you have to reinvent like people leaving careers and businesses. Will you speak a little to that?
Joe
There's a huge identity issue. When you go to play football, you have to be so acutely focused and driven to accomplish this singular goal. Most guys don't have a plan B. It's funny because throughout my career, they always bring in guys like, “Make sure you have a plan B.” Even me, you think about what you would do, but if you do, then it gives yourself an out because football is so hard and it's so competitive. The top 1% of the 1% make it. You have to be so acutely focused and driven to accomplish that goal that you don't think about anything else. When it is taken away from you, I'm very grateful and lucky that I walked away and on my own terms. I gave to support everything I had and still when I was done, there was this physical void of something missing.
I'd played sixteen years my entire life and then football, there's a roadmap to success. You have this huge group of support to help get you there, especially younger when you’re like, "This guy has a chance at making it." They bubble wrap you, give you all the opportunities. You need to do this, work hard, show up and the roadmap to success is laid out for you. I knew exactly what I needed to do, show up early, work hard, lift weights, get strong and it was all laid to get to where I wanted to be. Now it's all gone. All that support system, all that roadmap is gone. To me, I see it as an opportunity. Now that I'm done with football, I'm 31 and retired when I was 29. Football was not the end.
A lot of people think like, "What now?" There's this huge range of people at football. There are guys that played ten-plus years that have millions of dollars that they're not motivated to go make money and then they're depressed because they don't have a purpose. There are guys that played 1 or 2 years that didn't make a lot of money and they're like, "I have to find something else to do. I'm on the streets now." They don't have any idea or any education. There's a wide range of people. Realizing for me, it's not the end, it's not over, it's the beginning and now we have so much opportunity. That's what I'm working on, is trying to help former players. I'm creating a business to help facilitate retreats to get guys together to support them in this way and to educate them.
Dustin
I most certainly want to go there and it's critical because I love this part of your story, which is the Man Van Dog Blog, the brand that you built as part of your test bet, to arrive at what you're about to do or what you're embarking on right now. At what point did you get this idea? Were you on the field playing? Were you watching and mentoring? Was it after NFL where you came up with this idea?
Joe
My career is coming to an end and I knew I wanted to get involved in business somehow and create something. I thought it'd be special to create something out of nothing. I didn't know what I wanted to do when I was done. I was overwhelmed, like we're talking about. When that dark void came up, I was like, "I'm missing this. I need to do something.” I've realized I had all this time in my hands and a little bit of money in the bank. I don't need to rush into whatever's next because I know if I go get a job or start a business, it's going to take all my time and it's into the next thing. I wanted to go explore, find myself and who I was without football. I figured what better way than to go do a road trip? Everybody dreams of having time to go experience the road.
I had this unique opportunity where I had all this time on my hands and I was by myself. I bought a van and honestly, the reason I started the blog is that it was an opportunity to practice business. I started an LLC so I could write off the gas mileage, the cost of the van, the repairs and the travel. If I post about it and create a little blog, then I could do that. ESPN and USA Today wrote an article and my blog blew up. People started following me and the stuff I was posting, they were telling me how inspired they were and that motivated me. This is something that is touching people and it was special.
It turned into not just something from my own experience, but to help share experiences for others and help give value and impact to others. I lit my fire of being of service to others and that's why I want to get in the business of being of service to others and help them in any way I can. I'm in transition from it, but it was definitely a great opportunity to find myself, go experience some cool things, experience my freedom for the first time, get a little bit of education on the business front which I learned a lot through it. I was able to connect with a lot of people. It's a special time to be alive or have the ability to connect so easily. I got a lot out of it and I feel I'm getting started and it's exciting.
Dustin
Why do you think it's striking such a core? Getting exposure is helpful, but when people arrive and they're hearing your messages, what are people realizing about themselves through what you're doing?
Joe
A lot of people are chasing material things to find inner fulfillment and that's a fleeting thing. It's always the carrot out in front of the rabbit and you're always chasing to get a bigger house, a nicer car, a better job, more money and you still feel the same. It might make you feel good once you accomplish the goal. Once you accomplish it, it's like, "On to the next one." You realize you keep going. I learned that in football and keeping up with the Joneses. I had the nice house, the bigger car, the bigger contract, wanted more money and I had the nice Mercedes. I was making millions of dollars a year and then I was comparing myself like, "This guy's making $5 million more than me. Why can't you do it?" I'm like, "When is enough, enough?" I took a step back and I was like, "I want to go experience what life is like without all of that."
Down to who I am on the road, me and my dog and go experience life. I met people and it was nice not being known for football, for being a football player, for being this guy that gave everything away to go experience life and what I've learned on the road about getting us out on my comfort zone and not needing all this stuff. Once I got rid of all that stuff, it created a space to bring in stuff that made me happy. Strengthening my relationships, connecting with people and experiencing life, that's why my motto for the blog was, “Live with less so you can experience more.” I learned so much. Now I'm getting wealth and accumulating wealth is not a bad thing. It's very nice to have a security blanket that I've developed for myself because it gives me a lot of opportunities to go out there and do things that can have a bigger impact without having to worry about it.
There's nothing wrong with wanting nice things or having nice things but if you put your value in those things, you're going to ask yourself, “If all of that stuff was taken away tomorrow, would you feel less of a person?” If you're leaning on those things to give you value, then there's an imbalance there. You shouldn't need that to make you feel happy and feel like somebody. I feel that's a big problem with our society. That's why a lot of people have connected with my message because they have that figured. I'm very blessed that I was able to figure all this out at such a young age. I'm 31 and most people, they work until they're 50, 55. They've been grinding in the corporate or all of a sudden they're making good money now and they had their retirement plans growing. They're getting older and then all of a sudden they're like, "What am I doing this at a later age?”
A lot of those people were connecting with it too. There's this new generation coming up with different ways to make money because there's so much opportunity out there and you don't need to go work the 9:00 to 5:00 grind to be unhappy. You can experience life while creating opportunities for yourself and budgeting your money better, not spending it on things that you think will make you happy, but they don't compare yourself to others and make it look like you've made it to others. There's this big movement going on. A lot of people can relate to that.
Dustin
That's part of our vision. We are the Get WealthFit show. Wealth is such a money word, but we see wealth as an abundance of time and abundance of influence to do what it is that you want, like you described. To find it at such a young age, I was caught up in that myself. What I've come to realize is less is more and to go deeper on certain things. I appreciate you sharing this. I'm curious criticism along the way, family members that were saying, "What are you doing?" 
Joe
The biggest thing I dealt with personally was when I decided to retire. A lot of people didn't understand why and unless you're in it and realize the pain and stress and how much it takes from you, people see the dollar sign in our society especially, "You're going to say no to $4 million." It’s like when Andrew Luck retires, "He's leaving $50 million on the table, possibly hundreds of millions." It's like, "The guy's got probably $50 million cash in the bank. What do you need more for?" He's not saying no to that. He's saying yes to his health and his life so that you could have time to go do other things that he's passionate about. I got a little bit of confusion from some close family and friends, but once they realized that I'm was walking away for the right reasons and I have other opportunities. I totally believe that I have an opportunity to make way more money outside of football than I didn't. Believing in yourself to create the opportunities for yourself is part of it.
A lot of people don't think they're worthy of making $50,000, $100,000 or getting the promotion or creating a business to sell. The first place you start in manifesting any of that is a belief in yourself. I totally believe that money is energy. If you had the energy to give the world and be of service and add value, then that energy going to come right back. The universe looks out for those who want to add value and be of service to others. It's funny how the synchronicities work and the people show up in the right things work out when your heart's in the right place and you're not doing it for the money. There's nothing wrong with money because money's energy and you fuse that energy to build and add more value to the world and then of course you're going to receive it.
Dustin
I appreciate you sharing that message. We're in alignment with that message. I'm curious, you're out on the road, you got Freedom there with you in the front seater or in the back hanging out and you're realizing you've got this freedom, you're out on the open road. What did you immediately miss?
Joe
About football?
Dustin
No, not about football. Just about you're in the van and you've been prepping for this, you bought all the stuff, you customized it. I'm curious, after those first couple of days out on the road, what did you immediately miss? How did you have to change your mindset in your life now living on the road? Can you recall back to that?
Joe
The biggest thing, I’ve got to vividly remember, I was making my first YouTube video and you can go check this out on my YouTube channel. When I first hit the road, it was excitement because I had been planning it for a couple of months and I was coming to fruition. I had gotten rid of everything and I felt free in light because I didn't have a lot of stuff. It was an open road ahead of me. I had my dog and I'm getting goosebumps thinking about, because it's such an amazing experience but it was like leaping into the unknown and it was scary.
A lot of people deal with that when they have a big transition in life. They lose their job or they get a job offer in a different city and they're like, "I don't know if I want to take it because I've never been to that city. I don't know anybody." A lot of people deal with this and there's this big fear of the unknown. What I've learned is that if you are courageous enough to take that step and leap into the unknown, then the universe on the other side is going to fill you with so much opportunity and abundance because you were courageous enough to conquer that fear. By going out in the road and leaning into that fear, it made me feel so alive. I'm getting goosebumps thinking that. I'm addicted to these new experiences and getting outside my comfort zone and going places I've never experienced because you stay open to the present moment and you realize that it's all ahead of you. Constantly being outside my comfort zone, it changed my life completely.
Dustin
You're out on the road, you've got this new found freedom and you got the goosebumps. You had planned for this. I'm curious about what you failed to account for? You don't have a bathroom on the road. Maybe your food supplies were low. What did you fail to account for that you realize later?
Joe
A lot of people asked me because they're looking to do similar things and they're like, "What would you recommend I pack, this or that?" A guy that I knew that had lived in a van for a year or he's one of the guys that inspired me with the idea. He's a friend of a friend. I remember talking to him asking him the same questions, "What do you think I need, this or that?" He's like, "You don't need as much as you think. Go and do it. Go for it. You'll learn as you go." I was like, "Okay." I have the money to get all the things that I thought I needed. I had too much and half the stuff that I brought I never used. As I went, I learned, "I don't need this, I don't need that." I almost over-planned. I tell people all the time like, "What do you think I should do with this?" I'm like, "Just start, go." You're going to learn as you go and you can't take experience, you can't teach experience. You’ve got to go experience and learn for yourself.
Dustin
You started out in a customized 2000 Ford E50 but you traded that in for a 2019 Mercedes Sprinter back to your Mercedes. Did you put rims on it? Why the change?
Joe
I traveled for eight months originally and my trip was coming to an end, it was about a year ago. It was like during Thanksgiving time and was headed to my sister's for Thanksgiving and the winter was coming, was getting a little cold. I'm not a big fan of the cold. I was like, "I don't know what to do now." The trips coming to an end, "What do I do with this now? Do I start my new business?" It was a delayed transition from football that most people are like, “I delayed it with this trip and then now I was having the same feelings, now what?" In my van, the Ford was a pop top and it was awesome and badass, but it was not very comfortable and I had to roll out this mattress and that's one thing that if I would have changed with a more comfortable van.
I was like, "If I find a more comfortable van I'll continue the trip." I got an opportunity to go speak at this Tiny House Festival in Florida and it was outside St. Augustine. I was like, "I'm not sure if I want to do this during Thanksgiving." I wasn't going to be able to drive my van down there because I was going to be at my sister's in Virginia. I was like, "If I fly out there, I need to have some value. Is there going to be any van builders there?" She's like, "Yeah, there would be plenty of van builders. Come out, it will be great." I went out there, did the talk and I was looking around and a lot of school buses not the style I was looking for. I finally walked back and there's this perfect van and I'm like, "That van is sweet."
I go talk to the guy and he's this van builder and this is the first custom van he's ever built. He gives me a tour and after five minutes I'm like, "I want it." In my mind, I was going to ask how much it costs. I was like, "I'll take it." He's like, "This is a big purchase." I was like, "No, you don't understand. I used to play football. I'm traveling the country with my little van." I was so excited. It's like, "I know who you are. I follow you." I was like, "That's dope." I was like, "Yes, I got this. Let's do it." He's like, "Let's do a van trade and see if it works out." I was like, "I didn't want it to sell it to anybody because I had this feeling." I’m a big gut intuition guy. I trust my feeling like losing van. Two weeks later he hit me up. He was like, "Let's do it. This van's yours." That was in February that I bought the van and then hit the road again and traveled for another six months. It had a full queen-sized bed in it. It had a nice fridge. It had the burner stoves in it. It was way more comfortable. I got an amazing experience out of it and now I'm in Austin, taking a break, working on a new project, but I'm so glad I got the opportunity to buy that van.
Dustin
There are always stories when people are on the road. I want to get into some of the crazier incidences or experience. What are your top experiences being out on the road, crazy circumstances or things like that?
Joe
I think the big thing that sticks out is the synchronicities that happen. One cool story is that, I was all about getting outside my comfort zone and going and doing things I'm not normally doing. It was cool having a blog because I would post where I was at or where I was going and people would send stuff, “You should do this.” I was in San Francisco and I went to a lot of baseball games and that was how I met people. I went to over twenty stadiums, which is cool. I went to over 50 baseball games. That was one of the places where people wanted to meet me or say, "What's up?" In San Francisco, when the Giants came through there like, "What's up?" That's why I met a lot of people and fans and it was cool. I was in San Francisco and I was going to be in Denver four weeks from that time.
I want to go. I don't know what I want to do. I'm like, "What should I do?" Someone had posted, there's a yoga festival. I've been getting into yoga post football with my body and stuff. “There’s a yoga festival in Tahoe. You should go.” I was like, "That sounds cool." I went there and I've never done it. I went to this yoga festival and the first day I was there was not what I thought. I was off put by it. I called my sister and I was like, "I'm going to leave and go do something else." I was like, "This isn't my thing." She's like, "What are you talking about? You wanted to go outside of your comfort zone. This is why you're doing the trip. You should stick it out and see what happens." I was like, "Okay." I ended up staying, ended up meeting these people that became good friends of mine even to this day. They lived in Boulder, which is where I was headed.
When I went to Boulder, I ended up hanging out with connecting with them and they had recommended I go to Jackson Hole, Grand Teton, which I never heard but it was beautiful. One of my favorite weekends I spent camping and it was the most beautiful majestic time. I tell people on the road all the time, a lot of people like to plan things out and there are certain things you want to see. I wanted to see the Grand Canyon and I wanted to go to New York City. I always recommend making sure you leave it open. If you want to go to New York City and you have two weeks to get from Tampa to New York, leave it open to the experience and what the universe has to offer. I did that a lot. I didn't plan it too much and it always led to the best experiences. I always recommend if you're traveling, don't plan it too much. If you get behind on your schedule you get stressed out, “I need to be here and here,” just stay open to it.
Dustin
That's interesting and funny because with that said, I'm curious as to what this next year looks like when you're back in the van. What are some of the experiences that you're accounting for that you're planning for?
Joe
The new experience I'm looking forward to now is building a business and adding value that way and I'm focusing a lot of my energy on that. My business partner lives in Austin and I've been up there for a couple of months. I actually got a little studio apartment so that I can have a home base. The van is going to be taking a break so that I can experience this new thing. I definitely am going to be taking it. I took it on a two-week trip to the Grand Canyon and drove it. There are definitely places I want to see. The Pacific Northwest is somewhere I haven't explored yet. It's crazy. I traveled for a year and a half and I feel like I saw so much of the country but I barely scratched the surface of all the beautiful places to see. The Pacific Northwest, I definitely want to get up to Montana and Wyoming because I drove through there briefly and it was beautiful. There's definitely a lot up there I want to explore.
Dustin
When you have people following you on Instagram, going to the blog and to the YouTube channel, knowingly have you inspired folks to do this? If anyone in the NFL is maybe retiring or when they get out, they're like, "I'm going to go do what Joe does."
Joe
I haven't heard anybody in the NFL. When I first started doing a lot of my teammates were like, "You're crazy. What are you doing?" They started following me on Instagram and seeing all the cool experience of it. They started being like, "That's awesome. I'm envious of what you're doing. That's amazing." People were surprised at first and then now they get it. I've definitely inspired people to live with less and go to experience different things. A couple of people reach out to me like, "You've inspired me to do the van or I quit my job because I was unhappy."
One of the best inspirational stories was this guy in Chicago. He lost his job, got laid off and he was depressed for a couple of weeks. He was like, "What am I going to do with this or that? I needed this job." He reached out to me, "I started following you. I realized I hated that job. That job was not something I want to do. It didn't make me feel happy and since I lost it, I didn't know what else to do, but it was an opportunity to go do something I love." He got this part-time job actually working for the Cubs and doing security. He's like, "It's the best year of my life because I did that part-time to have something to do while I was looking for the new job that actually fulfilled me. I got to spend more time with my family. It’s such a blessing," and that’s a perspective shift. That's so beautiful to see people when they can connect with that.
Dustin
I’ve got to say I saw some pictures from your playing days and you were beastly. I was trying to think if I saw you play in Tampa Bay. It's impossible because I went to a couple of games, but you’re playing weight was over 300 pounds. You're obviously not 300 pounds a day. I also discovered you dabble with Keto, you were putting butter in the coffee. When you left the NFL, why was changing your diet and your health important? Is it because you couldn't do that?
Joe
Yeah. As a lineman, you always wonder what it would be like to look good, feel good and have a six-pack. All these tiny receivers, their bodies are looking good and I have to be big because that's my job. It’s stuffing my face constantly and I've always dreamed of what it would be to feel good and be lighter. When I was done playing, one of the big things I was looking forward to be losing the weight and getting my body in shape. I looked into Keto for the weight loss and I got a lot out of it. I dropped weight pretty rapidly right after I got down to 270. I had to focus. I do more plant based stuff. I still do eat a higher fat and learning about nutrition and how important and vital fat is to sustained energy. Experiencing that through my diet change and eating less processed food and sugars. I've learned a lot and it's cool. I share a lot of that on my Instagram, my blog as well. Hearing from people how they're inspired, changing their diets and moving more. People are looking for more energy, how to be more productive and get more out of their day and create more wealth. It starts with creating more energy within yourself and that's how you feed yourself and that's how you move your body and move the energy within your body. If you can do that, then you can have more energy throughout the day and get more accomplished and accumulate more.
Dustin
I most certainly want more energy. You said plant-based but you also said fats. Typically, when I think of getting fat, I think of getting that from animal fat. How are you able to get fats through plants?
Joe
A lot of healthy oils. One of the best things they did a study for the brain is they studied these blue zones, which are the longest living populations in the world, Japan and Greeks.
Dustin
There's a place in California.
Joe
One of the big things is these places all eat healthy fatty oils like olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is actually one of the best fuels for the brain. I cook with a lot of olive oil. It says one thing you should eat every day, a tablespoon of olive oil a day. I cook with a lot of olive oil. Avocados are healthy fat. That's a super food. It's got jam packed with nutrition. Eggs are good and nuts. Animal fat is not bad like bacon and stuff. There are this different ways to get it and that's not necessarily I learned, especially connecting with how it made me feel. It's one thing to read and learn.
When you start introducing these different foods and connecting with how they're making you feel personally because everybody's different. There are all these fad diets like following this, how to, but once you start introducing and connecting with how you're feeling with the foods you're fueling yourself with, then you can make your own diet. You have to get off the fast food and you have to get off the processed food and get off the high sugar diet, which is the standard American diet. I don't know what feeling good feels like. You've got to start somewhere. Eating more fruits and vegetables is a great place to start.
Dustin
Joe, we've covered a lot of ground. We talked about having the right mindset. We talked a little bit about your health and what to put in your body as a way of creating wealth. One of the things I wanted to ask you about is more on the personal finance side. On the good old-fashioned internets, it’s been said that you made $13 million in your career. I'm curious at how you're thinking about that money in terms of investing it, putting it to work for you and what advice you might have for a young athlete coming up who's about to come into that?
Joe
You've got to be prepared for the good old-fashioned taxation and government because that's automatically cut in half. People see these big numbers online and I still was blessed enough to make a lot of money and I'm very grateful for it. I worked hard for it. Setting up passive income streams is a big thing. I have two properties I've purchased that have tenants in them and one of them is paid off. I'm getting a check in the mail to live off of monthly while I work on my other projects. Investing in the market, start accumulating wealth and making sure you surround yourself with a good team. If you're spending your energy making the money, there are professionals that look at the market. If you're investing, be very careful because it's a volatile thing, but surround yourself with the right people and creating a team around you to help you with that. There's so much opportunity to create a passive income, especially nowadays with crowd funding and all that. For me, I am excited about creating businesses and adding value and learning and the process of creation is special and it's how I plan on having an impact on the world. I'm looking forward to it.
Dustin
Let's talk more about that. You're out looking in the marketplace and you identified an opportunity to help athletes that are exiting, start a business, help them find their identity, get in potentially to investments. Are they not training? Are there not places for folks that are coming to that? What do you see as this opportunity?
Joe
What I've learned is every good entrepreneur, when they come up with an idea, it's like, “What would I use or what is an idea that I would benefit from?” If it doesn't exist, a good entrepreneur, they go create it. I was done playing and I've been getting involved in a lot of these mastermind programs, retreats and different offerings to try and learn and grow. I'm addicted to growth. I'm reading a lot of books, trying to learn as much as I can so that I can be successful outside of football. What I've realized is the power of these communities and masterminds, bringing in high level speakers and educating yourself. I was like, "It would be special if there was a group offered for former NFL players." NFL players are high-achieving individuals. They're warriors. They know what it's like to push themselves.
Being out in the real world now, I've realized a lot of people don't know what it takes to push themselves and get uncomfortable. Being 1% of the 1%, NFL athletes have all the intangibles to be successful in life. When they're done, they don't have the support. They put all this time and effort to become good at this specific skill. What it took for them to get to that point cannot be applied to anything. I realized there's no community for guys to come together who are likeminded, who are relatable, who've been to the same situation, who want to be successful and want to accomplish things outside of football. There's no community like that. NFL offers a couple of transition programs trying to find guys careers, weekends, information and they do a good job and they're starting to invest more money and capital into that.
Creating a container where guys can come together and support each other. It's one of the biggest things I'm missing in my life and my transition is a community of support of guys that are going through similar situations. I feel like I have a lot to offer. I have experience and I've found in these different programs that, when you get in a place where people can share their own experience in a group setting, that's where you learn and grow the most. Bringing high level achievers that are finding success outside of football, former players, maybe guys that want to get involved but don't know how to go. Educating them, getting them coaching and creating this community that can grow and supports each other is going to help change the world because these high level individuals give them the opportunity to co-create together and I'm excited about it. We're actually launching our first retreat in March.
Dustin
Are you starting NFL because that's who you are and you're starting niche and then you're going to expand to achievers or is this open right now to any high-performing athlete that is retired?
Joe
Yeah, we're going to start with NFL guys and then we hope to scale it into all athletics. Hopefully, eventually getting into maybe college athletes, military guys, maybe first responders and maybe high level executives. All these mastermind programs that I've been in, I've gotten so much value out of them. Being able to bring in speakers and coaches and bring value to these guys that want to be successful in the line, then the opportunity to co-create together, that's what it's all about. I've realized in business you've got to start in a specific niche in order to scale. That's something I'm very passionate about and I'm involved in being a former player.
I'm in the transition. It's only my second year being done. I realize this is such a powerful opportunity and if these guys can come together, support each other, they can make a difference not only in their own lives but in the world because of their influence and their ability to achieve high levels of success. They went and they're warriors and they've performed at the highest level in front of all these people. A lot of them don't have any direction or any purpose or any place to put all that energy. They feel lost. There are guys that do a good job of being successful. I want to bring those guys together too and teach them and help them co-create together and create this beautiful network of guys that can hopefully have a bigger impact in the world.
Dustin
Anyone reading into this, whether it be an ex-NFL or an athlete, when you start to open it up, I would imagine even someone that's not in that or would love to see inside of that retreat. Can you share the little details of what you're planning for this retreat? What you're most excited about and what your process is going to be?
Joe
I'm going to plan on bringing in high level successful speakers in different branches, some business and entrepreneurship guys. I think to educate them on those and giving them an opportunity, helping them learn how to find themselves and what their purpose is and what direction they want to take their lives, giving them some direction. In football, the roadmap to success is this tunnel, it's a good analogy. It's a tunnel and then there's this light at the end of the tunnel and the decisions are being made for you. You know what it's like to be successful and where you got to go. All of a sudden, the game is over and you open up to this field of all this opportunity. I want to create another container to help give these guys direction and purpose and bringing in different high level speakers. There's a lot of power in creating a community. It's not going to be the retreat, but we're going to create an online community where guys can co-create together and support each other and get coaching outside of the retreat space and hopefully grow this community that can support each other. What a time to be alive where we can connect so easily with all these different tools and technologies and continue to grow it out that way.
Dustin
Have you got a location yet?
Joe
We're thinking LA or Atlanta because there are a lot of guys in both those areas, but we're going to eventually grow it and offer retreats all over the country.
Dustin
Man Van Dog Blog was the brand you had built in your journey to this. If folks want to follow you, they can go there for sure to check out your Instagram. For this new iteration of you, where's the best place to find you?
Joe
We're working on creating the domain right now. I'm excited about the future and getting started.
Dustin
Thinking about the career that you've been in and I feel like you're rather enlightened for such a young age. If you could give yourself advice at the start of that football journey, whether it be in football, whether it be in life, whether it be in maybe business, what would that advice be?
Joe
Enjoy the journey. Don't take it too seriously and continue to learn and grow every day. The biggest way to do that and the fastest way to do that is to get outside your comfort zone and go after what scares you. I feel we all have different fears and I feel like the universe has given me those fears as a guidepost of where your biggest dreams are. That's why a lot of people don't go after their biggest fears because it scares them. If you can learn to lean into those fears, that's where you're going to feel most alive. That's where you're going to accomplish your biggest dreams. On the other side of fear lies freedom. If you can find total freedom, then you can do and create anything you want.
Dustin
Those are powerful words. Thank you big time, Joe. I appreciate you being on the show. I appreciate what you're up to in the world and how you're paying it forward and you bring this attitude of service, this being is what you are of service out there and paying it forward.

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