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The Colts’ Andrew Luck Asked Himself The Question You Need To Ask

The most shocking sports story of the weekend came right in the middle of an otherwise forgettable NFL preseason game. With one tweet, NFL Network’s Adam Schefter turned the upcoming football season on its head, creating a tidal wave of confusion that we’re still dealing with today.

Andrew Luck, one of the best quarterbacks in football when healthy, is stepping away from the game at age 29, the prime of his professional life.

“This is not an easy decision,” Luck told reporters after the Colts’ preseason loss to the Bears Saturday night. “Honestly, it’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me. For the last four years or so, I’ve been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab, injury, pain, rehab, and it’s been unceasing, unrelenting, both in-season and offseason, and I felt stuck in it. The only way I see out is to no longer play football.”

Like most of the sports world, I was caught entirely off-guard by the news. I was engaged as he was coming out of Stanford to work with Luck on his media presence, so I’ve enjoyed watching him grow both on and off the field. He combines immense physical talent with a fierce intelligence. Last year, when Luck was healthy and in full form, he exhibited Greatness in ways that were thrilling to watch.

So I understand why some people are upset with Luck’s decision. I can imagine some fans were stunned– though I’m embarrassed for those who booed Luck when he walked off the field Saturday night after Schefter’s tweet broke, especially the one fool who made the most of his five seconds of fame to dramatically take his Luck jersey off for the TV cameras.

In fact, the whole response to Luck’s retirement has been about how we as fans are affected by the decision. People are all over the internet telling us that our gut feelings of admiration or disgust are justified.

I want to point you in a different direction, toward something that will help you out far more than pondering whether or not your fantasy football team will be the same this year.

I want you to ask yourself the question Andrew Luck asked himself: Is my environment contributing to me being the best person I can possibly be?

For Luck, the answer was an unequivocal no. Football is a brutal sport, and for an athlete as talented as Luck, things have been especially challenging: he’s been in pain and rehabbing various injuries to his ribs, shoulder, kidneys, labrum, calf, and ankle since 2015. That’s four years of his body betraying him. Four years of grinding his way toward physical health while simultaneously battling to hold on to mental and emotional health as well.

Just listen to something else he said during his retirement announcement:

“I’ve been stuck in this process. I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of the game, and after 2016, when I played in pain and was unable to regularly practice, I made a vow to myself that I would not go down that path again. I find myself in a similar situation and the only way forward for me is to remove myself from football and this cycle that I’ve been in.”

How difficult it must be, at the height of your earning potential, to make a decision to walk away from a career you know you could dominate?

And keep in mind, this doesn’t just have to apply to the multi-million-dollar world of NFL football—this applies just as much to a stockbroker, or a real estate agent, or a teacher, or (in my case) a writer and public speaker.

We all live and work in environments that impact our overall health and well-being, but how many of us have the honesty of an Andrew Luck to look at everything in whole and say, “This isn’t what’s best for me?”

Luck is walking away from the game he loves so that, one day, when he has kids, he can walk toward them. He’s sacrificing a potential future of high pay and high pain for a potential future of health and wholeness. Given how smart Luck is, he’s in a financial position to make this choice without worrying about money, but he’s also smart enough to realize that he can’t buy a pain-free life.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Is the life I’m living good for me?”

If you haven’t, maybe you should. I don’t say that lightly—two and half years ago, I was living what some described as a dream life: writing, traveling, speaking to organizations and teams about my passion for Greatness. I delivered more than 90 speeches that year, and while it was good for my career, it wasn’t good for me—or my family.

So I asked myself the same question Andrew Luck asked himself and came to a similar conclusion: No. I cut back on my speaking engagements, began working on other ways to live out my passion, and turned my extra time towards getting myself and my family life healthy again.

It’s funny how sports works. Last week, I wrote about Roger Federer and the retirement everyone is expecting. This week, I’m writing about Andrew Luck, and the retirement no one expected. Two different stories, same point. You have to do what makes you the best person you can be, regardless of what others think or say.

Fans may be upset over Luck’s decision, but they don’t have to live his life—he does. The same is true for you. If you’ve never asked yourself if your environment is contributing toward making you the best version of yourself, then now is the time.

Instead of questioning Andrew Luck, maybe we need to turn the question inward.

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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