This week, we’re doing something a little different – we are excited to re-release a fresh version of our 2019 conversation with the U.S. World Cup and Olympic soccer legend, Abby Wambach.

So – why are we re-releasing an episode? And why this conversation in particular? Because transitions are an increasingly prominent part of modern life. As the pace of change accelerates, so does our need to be able to eloquently adapt and adjust. And Abby has demonstrated mastery here.

She is an emblem for doing the inner work – she’s moved from the sport world to the business world with grace while living aligned to her values throughout. So I’m really excited to bring her back to the forefront of our community.

If you heard this conversation when it first came out a few years ago, it’s definitely worth revisiting. If you haven’t… you’re in for a real treat.

“Understanding yourself is the biggest game that we’re all actually playing.”

In This Episode:

The transition away from sport

There’s a terrifying realization when you retire about that like, what am I going to do now? But I think I’m past the terror of it and I think I’m into this kind of child’s mind of exploring the world and trying to figure out what it is that moves me and things that challenge me, things that will make me the best person I possibly can become. And so that’s kind of what I’m in pursuit of right now. Being an athlete makes me know that I can have a real vision and I can process and I can work hard and I can struggle and I can succeed and I can fail, and still achieve a level of success it feels good to me.

How is she now defining success?

Finding the wins was huge for me, figuring out and defining what a win was. Defining what success means outside of the game, because it’s super black and white. Winning is understandable when you are playing in a game, somebody wins, somebody loses sometimes it’s tie, whatever. But in the business world and now in my life, winning is totally different and define in so many different ways in every different part of my life.

Doing the inner work

At the end of my career, I was really suffering and during my dark ages, so they say, I sought therapy out. And you know, I think that understanding yourself is the biggest game that we’re all actually playing. Some people focus on it more than others, which is fine, everybody gets to choose, that’s the beauty of being a human being. I find that the more time I focused on myself and my internal self, the better outside external self I live.

What she learned from therapy

Once the light turned on that this was a place in which I could go to, to get better as a person, once I saw that the dividends paying off after having done it one, two, three times, once I saw this different relationship I was having with myself and exploring that and finding different perspectives because I think ultimately that’s what therapy’s about – searching for a new perspective so that you can become a better person. We all think we’re one person but when you actually figure out who you are and who you’re evolving to be, I think that when I dedicated myself to trying to get better, that encompassed every part of my life – regardless of how hard it was, regardless of how confusing it was, regardless of how crazy making it was at times.

Getting sober

Being great is accessible to a lot of people. I mean that is the dream, that’s like what you’re in search of. And I think at the end of my career I found myself feeling, well, first of all, I was abusing alcohol and prescription drugs and so that wasn’t great. So it was taking me down, I was self-medicating, I was terrified of retiring because I didn’t know who I would be without this one identity that I had molded myself to become for so many years. So I’ve done quite a bit of work, I think that getting sober was probably the best thing that I could have ever done at the time for the transition I was heading into and through retirement.

A dream of evolution

My dream was to leave the game better than I found it. Well here I find myself at the end of my career looking at some of these young players coming in expecting more. And I’m like, “Yes, that’s exactly what I spent my life trying to give them.” And so now why has old people, why is it part of our culture to like be jealous? Because essentially that’s what people’s, that’s what’s really coming up for them. This is them being jealous of our younger generation having more opportunity, expecting more with maybe doing a little bit of less work. But I think that, that is essentially the true definition of evolution. I’m not a scientist but that’s my dream.

Being the youngest of seven children

When you are the youngest of seven, when you are one of seven, because I’m sure all my brothers and sisters feel this way on so many levels, there’s just only so much attention that can go around. And it’s the very thing that drove me to the level of success that I was able to achieve, so I can’t sit here and be pouty about it all the time because it also has brought me not just like soccer success but like, it’s also a drive for me in every area of my life, whether it’s becoming an author or speaker or a co-founder of a business that I’ve just launched, like it’s driving me in every way of my life. And I’m just trying to make sure that I’m using it in a positive way rather than a negative.

Needing less attention

That is what terrified me the most about my impending retirement, is how the hell am I going to ease this anxiety that probably rises or this need for attention? How will I get that? What will I do to solve for that? So I’m doing personal work now trying to need less attention, to try to not be as big of a performer even at the freaking dinner table. Like our kids are talking and I feel the need that I’ve got to go on like, I got to like go on this dissertation to be the person in the room like giving them a lecture on something. And it’s like, so not my role, it’s my role to listen because your kids are literally talking at the table like no kids talk at the table like just listen Abby.

Courage over fearlessness

I like to do things my way. And I think as a young athlete my first memories of being athletic was just being in the backyard, we had a swimming pool growing up. And I had this courageousness, I don’t believe in the word fearless, I think that it’s overused and actually is not even true. I think all people experienced some level of fear, it’s just so I choose to go forward or not and that’s courage. And I think that I was just as courageous little kid, I liked to take risks.

Dealing with shame

Secrets develop shame…the way that I have been able to deal with the shame is by talking about it. And the further I get away from that period of my life, the more I am seeing the most beautiful, truest version of who I can become and who I am, who I’ve ever been.

Value systems

That’s what life is. It’s about creating a value system for yourself and going through them one by one every day, every single day. Because here’s the thing, people say they value things but then they never work on them. So then my question to you is, do you actually value them? Do you really value your body even though you’ve not gone and worked out in one whole year? Do you really value your relationship with your children even though you spent every single week night at work? Do you really value your marriage even though you haven’t been physically intimate with your partner in over two years?

Feedback loops

Getting feedback from your other person, from the person in your life that you trust the most is huge. Getting feedback from your business partners, the people that are with you, that talk to you, that hear the things that come out of your mouth on a daily basis. My wife says it’s really a great thing she talks about in order to not have deathbed regret, make sure you don’t have bedtime regret. And that is like a really easy thing to conceptualize. Like, “Oh yeah, if I don’t want to be disappointed with the way that I live my life down the road, then I need to not be disappointed the way that I’m living my life right now.” And you have to figure out, “Okay, who am I now and what are the parts of who I am right now that are inhibiting me from getting to the end of the road?” So when I go out in the road and I’m doing the speaking tour or whatever it is, one of the things I tell people is like you have to write your own commencement speech or write your own eulogy, and try to reverse engineer that.

Awareness of your inherited belief systems

I don’t fault people for having belief systems about the way the world runs and operates because everybody has their own perspective, their own childhood, their own family dynamics, their own upbringing, their own young adulthood, their own adulthood. And that perspective shapes everything that we think we know and the things that we think we believe, right? My only request is for people to figure out what it is they believe and figure out truly how they believed it. And then when they can do that, then they can figure out if that belief system is actually serving them still in their current life and in the lives that we’re living in right now.

Listen, Watch & Subscribe

Related Episodes

For a complete list of all Finding Mastery sponsors, vanity URLs & discount codes, visit Our Sponsors.
Stay up-to-date with the latest high performance and wellbeing podcasts and content with the Finding Mastery weekly newsletter.