#38: Joe Hawley shares his journey of transitioning from his dream career as a professional football player to becoming a full-time travel blogger.
What I love about Joe’s story is that he didn’t let expectations of others hold him back, and instead he stepped out into the unknown and discovered a life that was much more aligned with who he is.
If you’ve been thinking about making a transition of your own, you’ll definitely want to check out this episode.
Podcast Episode Summary
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- why he chose health and freedom over his football career;
- how he silenced his self-limiting beliefs and rewrote his story;
- how traveling transformed him personally;
- why it’s okay to be vulnerable;
- the advice that he’d give to his pre-transition self.
I decided to choose my health at a young age, and my freedom, and I just know that there’s so much more opportunity out there. (05:35)
I was able to experience what I call the space between where I got to travel in between these major cities and seeing how you’re going from the city to the suburbs out into the country. (12:10)
[About personal growth] When you’re out in nature, connecting with awe-inspiring scenery, being on the open road, seeing how beautiful it is, being connected with nature, getting out on hikes, it really does connect you with something that’s bigger than yourself. And it puts things in perspective. (13:14)
Everything that we do was created by people before us. And we’re born into this system and we don’t have to plug into the rat race. There’s an opportunity to create the story that we want. (13:44)
[Content creation process] is really about showing up and just starting. (17:40)
There’s some beauty in the rawness of videos because so many people are creating content and it’s not about the perfect content – how it looks, it’s about what’s real behind it, what’s the story you’re telling? People want to connect with what’s real. (17:56)
The best way I’ve learned to lead in that kind of area is to lead with vulnerability and sharing through your own personal experiences. And that takes some rawness at times. (18:18)
It’s definitely beautiful to really connect with how can I show up and be of more service rather than what can I get for myself. (23:17)
Keep conquering those fears and you’re going to love where you’re at. Enjoy that journey ‘cause you’re never really gonna arrive anywhere. It’s just you’re going to continue to grow and improve. And the only way to do that is to keep going after your fear and keep getting outside your comfort zone. (24:55)
Connect with Joe Hawley
Ep. 38: From Pro Athlete to Full-Time Blogger with Joe Hawley
There's opportunity to create the story that we want and that's what's beautiful about what you share and what people are doing now and at this, you know, the internet provides and people being able to learn about making money, doing their passion, working remotely, being able to travel and creating lives that they are happy and satisfied with rather than waking up, going through a routine and kind of sleepwalking through life. And being able to go and travel the country and get a lot of feedback by sharing my story, be it the blog, allowed me to learn a lot about that and that's why I'm trying to work to inspire others to, if they want to that, you know, it's possible. It's possible to create a little side hustle, or transition into more of a business that fills your spirit, your soul, and go do the things and explore this world in this reality that we get to live in more openly and more full of love.
That was Joe Hawley and in this episode he shares his journey of transitioning from his dream career as a professional football player to becoming a full-time travel blogger. What I love about Joe's story is that he didn't let expectations of others hold him back and instead he stepped out into the unknown and discovered a life that was much more aligned with who he is. If you've been thinking about making a transition of your own, you'll definitely want to stick around for the rest of this episode, so let's jump in.
You're listening to the Content Heroes podcast where entrepreneurs, marketers, and creatives share how they build profitable businesses on their own terms by creating content online. And now your host Josiah Goff.
Welcome to Content Heroes, everyone. I'm here with Joe Hawley, who is an author, speaker, and coach serving people transitioning out of a career as a pro athlete. Joe, I'm super pumped about this conversation. Thanks for being on the show.
Yeah, man. Thanks for having me.
I really want to dig into your story because I love the path that you've taken to get to where you are are now. Can you share with the audience, you know, your journey?
Yeah, a little background. I was a professional football player, played in the NFL for eight seasons. I played five years with the Falcons, three years with the Buccaneers. I was drafted in 2010 I had a really up and down career, played a lot of football, played in over a hundred games, started in almost 50 and my body started breaking down and in 2017, I played my last year. I ended up walking away from the game just before my career was really, I could have probably played a couple more years but decided that it was time to experience something new. So I ended up walking away from the game, left it all behind, didn't really know what I wanted to do next. So I figured it was a good opportunity to kind of go explore my freedom for the first time. So I ended up buying a van, got really into like the van life concept and like the freedom that that provides. And thought I had a cool opportunity with little money in the bank and some time between, you know, careers trying to figure out what I want to do. So I ended up buying a van and rescued a dog and ended up starting blog, an online blog to share the story, and share the journey. Ended up hitting the road and traveling the country for almost two years. And went all over the place traveled over 50,000 miles, went to a bunch of national parks. Visited a bunch of baseball stadiums, that was kind of one of my things. It was an amazing journey. It completely transformed my life. I learned about, you know, who I am. Every athlete I think deals with this transition and kind of identity crisis when they're done playing their sport. And I definitely was no different. And so learning about myself and who I am and life outside of football, it was amazing. And so now I'm transitioning into what I really want to do and what I figured out what I want to do. And that's helped athletes in their transition process by sharing some of the tools I've learned about and different things. So it's been an amazing journey.
Man, that's fantastic. I'm really curious, you know, because that transitioned from the life of a pro athlete into the life of a guy driving around the country in a van with a dog, which by the way, I love the title of your dog was just ManVanDogBlog.
Rolls off the tongue, right?
Oh, that's fantastic. Like that, that's just a very, a very crazy transition. I'm really curious, like what was that like? Like what was going through your head in those first couple of weeks, couple of months of being out on the road on your own after you know, the lifestyle that you'd had?
I had this like calling to go explore and you know, I really started questioning like what's, what's the point? I feel like I was in this rat race. My body was breaking down. You know, a really powerful quote that I connected to was, you know, most people spend their young healthy years trying to create as much wealth as they can and then they spend all that wealth trying to get their health back when they're older. And I just really connected with that because as an athlete, especially a football player in such a crazy physical lead demanding sport, my body was getting ripped up and I was like, how long do I want to do this? You know, and I already had made some money and I'm looking around at some of the guys that played longer than me and they're just, they can barely get out of bed. I was becoming one of those people and I just looked at them like, you're doing this for more money, maybe a love for the game. But I kind of lost the love for the game because of my body. And it was just, I still love playing the game, but not everything that went into it. I just thought it was way too much work. And so you know, I decided to choose my health at a young age and my freedom and I just know that there's so much more opportunity out there. So many other things I wanted to experience. So I just thought it was time. And even though I walked away on my own terms, I still was really unprepared for the physical void that I felt afterwards. I was really like, I mean, I played football my entire adult life. It was my childhood dream. I played for 16 years total. I didn't know anything else. I've never had another job. Like I'd never really, I had this singular focus that I was going to be an NFL player and I accomplished that dream and I'm super grateful and proud of myself. But when it was all over, I was just kind of like, whoa, now what? And I really thought, you know what an opportunity, you know, what have I always wanted to do? And I had connected with the fact that I think everybody can connect with this. Like how awesome would it be to do just a road trip across the country with like no really destination in mind, but just the ability to explore. And I know a lot of people dream of that, but you know, in our society it's like go to college, get a job, go work and you just gotta keep trying to work to get ahead and you just get stuck in this rat race. And I feel like, you know, all the people that I've talked to, it's just I don't have time. I can't do that. I would love to do that. And so I had this really kind of rare opportunity where I really wanted to take advantage of it and you know, so I ended up hitting the road. Honestly, the blog and creating the content, I've always had kind of a like an artistic side to me, a creative side. And so I wanted to do a written blog. I called it ManVanDogBlog. I was like, I want to do a blog, everybody reads blogs now, like it'd be really cool. And I sat down before I hit the road to start writing and it, I broke like three or four hours and then went back and read it. And I was just like, man, I just sound like an idiot. Like that's terrible. And so I realized that writing is not my medium. And so ended up, okay, let me, let me try to do YouTube. And so I kind of started creating that a little bit more of a like an editing kind of side of creative flair with video. So I started doing YouTube. And the reason I honestly decided to start sharing my story was to share for people that would never have this kind of opportunity. And then I wanted to get involved in business and kind of explore how that all works. And I knew that if I started a blog, I could write off the gas mileage and do all that. And so as this little like just this little side project and I got a little bit of traction, a couple stories like on ESPN came out about me and USA today. People started following the blog and they started reaching out. I started creating this community around it and I started hearing feedback from people about how much I was inspiring them by what I did and going exploring the country and how much, you know, just me sharing my story. Just really help them throughout the day. Some people said they've either lost their jobs or quit because they were unhappy and decided to go explore their freedom and live life on their own terms. And so like all this feedback started really inspiring me to continue to share and grow the community and give back. And that's kind of what has led me into what I want to do now where it's funny when I go back to when I started writing and that self limiting belief that I had about not being a good writer, I've been able to transition that and I stuck with writing and I had made it a habit to start writing and actually am currently and I was two years ago when I started that I really had this belief that I would never be able to write. I just wasn't a good writer. And now I'm actually working currently on a book to share that whole story and that process of where I came from. I sorted through football and then into the van and now I'm creating a whole book around it writing every day and like really enjoy writing. I really believe I am a good writer now. It's something that I've had to have to shift within myself. It took a lot of practice and a lot of doing it, but it really like part of these beliefs that we have about ourselves and like breaking through those as kind of part of the story I want to share. It's an amazing journey. I mean being out on the road like this, the feeling that like total freedom and it's such a beautiful experience.
Oh man. I'm getting super inspired just hearing about it cause that's always been a, that's always been a dream of mine as well. Actually in 2000-- I think 2015, my wife and I were looking at getting an RV and driving around the country cause I was working remotely. And then we made the terrible mistake of going to an RV show and convince ourselves that to get the size RV we'd need to not drive each other completely crazy doing it full-time. It would be like 200 grand, at least.
You get one of those big buses or something.
And then, we kind of took a step back and then ended up having kids instead. So we got to put that on hold. I know, right? Yeah. That's a complete opposite almost. But that's still something that's on our plan, once we're done having kids, which is soon by the way, cause we're having our last one in July. But I love that idea of going out and just seeing what's out there. I mean, I feel like there's so much of the country that even we just focused on the US there's so much of the country that 90 plus percent of us, like we never go out and actually see I didn't get on my first plane, I kind of grew up poor and we didn't really travel. And so I didn't get on my first plane until I was 21. But I always had that desire to go, to go and see stuff. So when I did finally get out. And I took my first international trip and I got to fly to the West coast and I got to drive across the country a couple of times cause we moved out to Washington state for a little while. Like there's something that, Oh, it's hard to put into words. Maybe you're probably much better at it than I am with this. But like there's something about being out there on that road and exploring sort of connecting with the road that you're on and traveling that it gives you such a sense of being part of something that's bigger than yourself but also like a really personal experience. You know, I loved it. You know, you talked about there's been some personal transformations as a result of going out and doing and making that transition and traveling. I'm curious, what are some other big realizations that you had through this experience? Like how have you transformed personally?
You know, talking about the beautiful parts of this country and how big it is. Just to track back to what you said earlier as well. I like to call it the space between, you know, a lot of people they maybe fly for business or for work or to see friends in different parts of the country. And you know, we're all in these tin cans up in the air and we can kind of see it from a distance up in the air looking out the window. And then we go and land in the cities. And I was able to experience what I call the space between where I got to travel in between these major cities and seeing how, you know, you're going from the city to the burbs out into the country. And then it kind of seeing the metropolitan areas of all these different cities and all the different national parks and just really how big this country is and how diverse beautiful it is. It's pretty amazing. I mean, there's deserts, there's mountains, there's canyons, there's different beaches. You know, it's just such a beautiful country and it is, part of the journey I wanted to share was we need to get out in nature and appreciate this. I mean, our country has one of the best national park systems in the world and some of the most beautiful national parks. Like I go to the national parks, people from all over the world come to visit the US to see the nature that we have. And you know, people that live here don't ever really get out and see it, which is really fascinating to me.
Just driving through Yellowstone is like parts of it, like visiting another planet. It's crazy.
Yeah. And then part of that has led to a lot of personal growth because when you're out in nature, connecting with awe-inspiring scenery, being on the open road, seeing how beautiful it is, being connected, nature, getting out on hikes, it really does connect you with something that's bigger than yourself. And it puts things in perspective. And I think that's what's beautiful about what's happening with this virus - slow down. It's, you know, I was able to deconstruct these stories about what it is to live in our society. And like, everything that we do was created by people before us. And we've, we're kind of born into this like system and we don't have to, you know, plug into the rat race. There's, there's opportunity to create the story that we want. And that's what's beautiful about what you share and what people are doing now and add this, you know, the internet provides and people being able to learn about making money, doing their passion, working remotely, being able to travel and creating lives that they are happy and satisfied with rather than waking up, going through routine and kind of sleepwalking through life and being able to go and travel the country and get a lot of feedback by sharing my story, be the blog allowed me to learn a lot about that. And that's why I'm trying to work to inspire others to, if they want to that, you know, it's possible. It's possible to create a little side hustle, or transition into more of a business that fulfills your spirit and your soul and go do the things and explore this world and this reality that we get to live in more openly and more full of love.
Yes. That's so good. So Joe, I'd love to transition a little bit to talk about your content creation process. You know, I know you said you started trying to write and you transitioned more towards doing video and now you're writing a lot more, but especially when you were doing the blog, like what was your approach to creating content? How'd you go about that?
Yeah, what a process it was. I mean I'm still trying to learn the most efficient ways to like use different platforms because I think the thing that's really intimidating and you know it's, there's so many different platforms to connect with different audiences. And different people use different things. And so trying to like create a funnel now to like make more use of my time where I can create content, not spend as much time cause it is, especially like the YouTube videos it was very time consuming but I'm really glad I did that and had that creative outlet because it really felt good to share that kind of creative ability. But if you go check out my YouTube channel, it's ManVanDogBlog on YouTube, you can see like one of my very first videos like starting a blog, like a video blog. I really had no experience doing that. And so when I did the writing I was like, okay, writing is not my thing. Let me try and do this blogging thing, this new thing where you can talk to the camera instead of having to write. And my very first video, if you go check it out, it's before I hit the road and I'm trying to talk to the camera and if anybody who's starting to create content, I know you probably connect with this, like when you're trying to talk to a camera without anybody there and you're just by yourself, it's you and the camera and like looking into it, just talking is one of the most difficult things to start figuring out, so like my first video, I was recording and I recorded all day trying to like say something and nothing was really coming to me and I ended up calling my sister and be like, Hey, like I can't write a blog. I can't do a video blog. I can't talk to a camera. Like I think I'm just going to go travel and not share any of it. And she's like, no, come on. Like you gotta show up. You're like, this is what you want to do. Like keep giving it a try. And I was like, okay. And I ended up like learning, you know, about content creation, about creating a story and a brand and you know, what people really want to see is is the struggle is what it takes to get from point a to point B in that growth that it takes. And so I really connected with that. I was like, it doesn't need to be perfect. So I ended up taking my first YouTube video and cutting up how bad it was. And I basically just said, Hey y'all, Hey y'all. Hey. They just like kept cutting that up into like this kind of funny comical video of how much I messed up. It was like all these outtakes and to see that, I'm so glad I did that and I stuck with it because to see that all the way to my last video, I think I made like a total of 25 or 30 videos on the road, to my last video. And just seeing the growth from point A to point B is is really fascinating, something I'm really proud of sticking with it and seeing how, if you just keep practicing how it improves. But yeah, it's really about showing up and just starting. I think it's intimidating for a lot of new people. It's like where do I start? What do I do? It's just start putting things out there and sharing where you're at, and especially now I think kind of comes in waves but I think it got to a point where a lot of people really wanted high production value. And now I think there's some beauty in the rawness of videos because so many people are creating content and people don't really, it's not about the perfect content, how it looks, it's about what's real behind it, what's the story you're telling? Like people want to connect with what's real. And I've really like connected with that and trying to share more vulnerably, even though it's really hard at first and like trying to figure out what to share and how to protect your personal stuff. But it's really about figuring out who your audience is, what do you want to do, how do you want to inspire them. And the best way I've learned to lead in that kind of area is to lead with vulnerability and sharing through your own personal experiences. And that takes some rawness at times.
Yeah, absolutely. And you're totally right. That's what people connect with. You talked about how there's, you know, there's been this pendulum swing and I've seen that as well. It's like, you know, YouTube when it started out was very much like really low production quality and then the way to make yourself stand out was to ramp that up and, and it became the trend and they're like really high production quality. And then I've totally seen that, too. The swing back of, you know, coming back around and focusing less on the production quality and more on the story, the authenticity and connecting with the audience. Like that's really what people want. One of the weird things that sort of come out of this whole, you know, Covid crisis I found myself kind of loving is the like late night talk show hosts who are still trying to like, they're still showing up and serving but they're adapting through, you know, everybody being quarantined essentially and now they're just recording in their living room.
They don't have the audience, they don't have, you know, this really high polished TV worthy production. There's a lot that I like about it even more than than the high polish because it's like I was watching this video with Steven Colbert and his dog just like, you know, jumps up in his lap and is going all crazy and then he goes and tries to like chew on some chords to the camera. It's just like you would, you would've never seen that on the TV. Like the high production TV, but there's something so it makes them seem like a real person. And so I feel as strange as it sounds, I feel way more connected to Steven Colbert there than I did before. And like John Oliver, he was on the show, too and he was talking about how he's been trying to figure out how to set up all the equipment himself and he seems like he's just not a technical person. And so his teams like on Zoom trying to coach him through it and he says, he says, yeah, and he says, I've got, you know, basically in order to do this I have to like, yeah, put my kids in front of the TV and turn up Octonauts really loud so they can't hear me swearing while I'm doing the show. And I totally relate to that. Not the swearing necessarily, but like I totally relate to do it. You know, like right now my kids are watching something on TV because my office is right next to their bedroom and then when they're going all crazy in here, you can definitely hear it to the microphones. I totally relate to that. There's an opportunity, especially right now in the midst of all of the terrible things that are happening in the world, there's also opportunity to show up in a way that maybe we haven't before, connect with people and help them feel less alone and serve people in a way that we weren't necessarily doing before. So yeah, this is great stuff.
I totally feel inspired with that. Like having the ability to slow down and obviously when you're creating community, I'm sure you can connect with this, and you're putting out content, you're constantly thinking about the next thing. You're thinking about how I can grow my community, how I can get more people in my audience. I can continue to grow my brand. And I think for me personally, like slowing down, being in my house has created a lot of space for me to think and really slow down and think, okay, how do I want to show up in the world? What kind of value do I want to bring? It's really not how many more people I can touch. It's like, okay, let me, let me see what I can share really, and help people through this thing. It really connects to this human level. Rather than trying to fight for everybody's attention and trying to get a piece of the pie. It's like, okay, no, I see that with a lot of people. A lot of the communities I'm a part of, it's everybody's starting to put out more content for free, trying to be more positive, trying to really connect everybody and it is a beautiful thing. As much suffering that's happening and as many people you know, losing their jobs and going through really tough times, like it's such a beautiful opportunity for everybody to kinda realize that it's such a shared experience that everybody's going through this together and the connection that is creating, even though we're all really kind of quarantined and separate, we have this beautiful thing called the internet. And you know, thank goodness for these communication tools like Zoom that we can really connect and still kind of feel the energy of other people and create community around it and share. And you know, I've talked to more people personally, like my friends and communities in the last couple of weeks that I, that I have ever, because everybody's just kind of really more available now that they're home. And so there is a lot of beauty to this even though it's, you know, there's a lot of struggle, but you know, we're going to continue to navigate it and see what comes of it all. But yeah, it's been definitely beautiful to really connect with how can I show up and be of more service rather than what can I get for myself.
Yes, totally. So Joe, before we kind of start wrapping up, I'm really curious, what would you go back and tell yourself when you were thinking about making the transition out of the pro athlete career, what would you go back and say to yourself then?
That's a great question. I feel like I've changed so much in the last two years. I've grown so much and it really, I think it's, it's because I decided to lean into the unknown and get outside my comfort zone. And there's a lot of fear. It takes a lot of courage to do that. And I think a lot of people, especially now, I mean we're talking about whatever a lot of people are going through now or you know, they might lose their job, they might have to transition. I mean this is a transition for the planet, for everybody and having to lean into the unknown and it is really scary. But trusting and having the courage to go into that, I would just tell myself with all the fear that I did have like, you're going to be fine. Like this is going to change your life. You know, enjoy the moment. Like I remember my last year, I was, I knew it was my last year I was playing. So I was really able to be present and grateful for every little thing that was happening. All of our lives are impermanent and that's what's this. This virus is kind of showing us. So connecting with gratitude for the moment and the process that you're in currently. And I would tell myself, trust it. Like you're going to learn, you're going to grow. Just keep going into the unknown. Keep conquering those fears and you're going to, you're going to love where you're at and you know, enjoy that journey. Cause it's, you're never really gonna arrive anywhere. It's just you're going to continue to grow and improve. And the only way to do that is keep going after your fear and keep getting outside your comfort zone.
Oh, I love that. You're never going to really arrive anywhere. That's a beautiful sentiment. I love it. It's fantastic. Well Joe, this has been an amazing conversation. I really appreciate you coming on the show today. Before we hop off here, can you share with everyone where they can connect with you online?
Yeah, I'm on YouTube. I'm starting to ramp up some transitional content, more into like, you know, sharing like a video journal. I'm not traveling as much in the van, but you can find me on YouTube @ManVanDogBlog. Instagram, I am most active on and I really try to communicate with my community. So if you want to reach out to me, share your thoughts about this podcast. Or you have any questions for me specifically? That's @Joe.Hawley - H-A-W-L-E-Y or you can search ManVanDogBlog on there and I should pop up. I would love to hear from you. Yeah, and also I have a website ManVanDogBlog.com where you can kind of dive deeper into my story and you know what I've learned on the road.
Fantastic. And we'll make sure all that's linked up in the show notes so everybody out there stay safe, stay healthy and go be a hero.
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