Tag Archives: Evan Shirreffs

A Time of Transition By Evan Shirreffs

A Time of Transition – It’s OK to Take a Break By Evan Shirreffs

There is a reason the United States has the largest economy in the world. We work harder than anyone. There is also a reason we have a mental health crisis that is affecting 1 in 5 adults, nearly 50 million people. One of the contributors is our results-oriented society. Instead of falling in love with how things are done, we fall in love with simply getting things done. Whether it’s studying for a test or reaching a quota set by an employer, the satisfaction is short-lived for the amount of stress put into reaching the end goal. It wears us down because school and work gradually become viewed as a task instead of an opportunity. We look to the future for happiness and build these elaborate plans for our lives that become less realistic as time passes. We work towards a certain degree or job because we expect it to yield a favorable outcome that will in turn make our lives better. What we do not realize is that in doing so, our jobs become our lives. Why then would I even consider following a career path that is destined to become my life if the work involved isn’t something I am prepared to mold my life around?

In December, two major seasons of my life came to an end: school and my football career. Both dominated my life since I was a child, which left me wondering what might fill their voids on my list of priorities. Throughout our schooling and upbringing, we are taught that there is usually one proper way to do things. For me, this would mean searching for and starting a job as soon as possible to guarantee there would be no gaps on my resume and a steady stream of income to begin my business career. At the time, rushing into a job just didn’t feel right.

The truth is, all I was worried about for the last few years was training for football and completing my MBA program. I had no plan for how I would even apply my MBA to a career; I simply knew that having another degree would add to my value in the eyes of potential employers. Many people advised me to secure a job before finishing school. Ironically, much of this advice was coming from people who currently hated their jobs, so why would I listen to them? I was burned out from college football and knew that if I started a job in January, I would work myself into the ground. With employers pressuring me to start work following graduation without any real knowledge of what any of the jobs might entail, I felt a bit trapped.

Instead of accepting a position just to have a job, I decided to buy a one-way ticket halfway across the world. Australia would be my home for the next few months. I worked cash jobs for spending money and stayed in hostels with 10 different people every night. My 15-pound youth backpack was my only companion as I hopped on greyhound buses to get from place to place. For the majority of my life, I had planned my next move before finishing my last, so living day-to-day with no solid plan was a completely foreign idea to me. My world was turned upside down.

I soon found that I had no place in the hierarchy of society. I was no longer a football player or a grad student. I had no standards or expectations established for me by other people, meaning that there was no end result to work towards. I was simply a kid from America trying to find his way. There was something freeing in that.

Don’t get me wrong, it was tough. The time had finally come to think about past experiences, relationships, and mistakes I had made. It was a time of reflection that was long overdue. With everything I had been through over the years, I had bottled up a lot of issues because I just didn’t have the time to deal with them. Looking at myself in the mirror and truly analyzing my actions helped me discover a lot about myself.

Not only did I get to experience life on my own, but I got to hear about other travelers’ stories. I met people from all over the world: New Zealand, Ecuador, the UK, Canada, Germany, Spain, the list goes on. I found that Germans are serious in all aspects of life until they’ve had a few beers. Canadians are in fact the kindest, most agreeable people on this Earth. Australians love life because they don’t spend it indoors aimlessly scrolling through social media; instead, they explore and try new things. Through comparing my experiences and upbringing to others’, I realized that there is no perfect way to do things. There are endless solutions to every problem, it is just our choice to figure out which solution best answers the problem for our specific needs.

Sometimes you have to take a few steps back before a huge leap forward. Whether it is from high school to college, college to a job, or one job to another one, we are wired to rush from opportunity to opportunity without even batting an eye. We refrain from taking time off for no reason other than to save face when people ask us what we are up to. I was a bum for two months and I needed that. I needed to learn how to live on my own and appreciate the blessings I had taken for granted my whole life. Maybe travelling isn’t your thing. Maybe you’d prefer hiking or art or music or reading. Take some time to get out into the world and live on your own terms between these monumental seasons of life. Make those memories for yourself so your only stories for your grandkids aren’t about the time you watched an incredible video that someone else made while you sat on your couch. I’m not promising that this will cure everything you are going through, but I will say that it was a step towards finding joy in my life. It worked for me to clear my mind, realign my priorities, and reignite the passion for my dreams that every worry-free kid is born with. Go be a kid!

Student Athlete tackles MBA Program by Evan Shirreffs

Beginning A New Challenge

It was the spring of my final year at the University of Miami. With graduation looming as a bittersweet moment only a few months away, I was left with two options: start my career in the real world or pursue an MBA with my last two years of eligibility in football. While both choices fostered great upsides, I chose to pursue my MBA as it became apparent that football was too large a part of my life to let go of. Thus, I began my search for the ideal university to meet my needs.

I struck gold when I came across the campus of UNC Charlotte, a school that I knew little about despite being only three hours from home back in Georgia. A quick drive up I-85 told me all that I needed to know; I had found my new home in this not too big, not too small city.

Situated in the Queen City, UNC Charlotte and its subsequent location proved to have everything I was looking for. An up and coming football team with all of the potential to become a nationally-known program, a flexible MBA program that paired well with the demanding hours of football, and a lively Uptown area filled with endless possibilities for young professionals looking to succeed in business.

 

Starting Anew

After committing to Charlotte, questions began to build surrounding my upcoming experience as an MBA student. What would it be like to start all over again in a new city? Would the classes be as taxing as undergrad? What would my classmates be like? As the questions swirled, so did my own answers in the form of expectations. To ease my tensions, I told myself it was just some more school; it would be the same as high school and undergrad. Although I was somewhat right, most of my expectations were far from reality.

As time passed in the MBA program, I realized how it differed from undergrad studies. Classes actually encompassed learning and growing instead of memorization and repetition. I began to soak up information from not just my professors, but other students in my classes. All of my classes were filled with people older than me by 5, 10, and sometimes 20 years. As intimidating as this seemed at first, it could not have been any better for my development.

Despite my lack of traditional professional experience, I was lucky enough to hear the real-life experience of all of my classmates who already had years of experience in various fields: engineering, entrepreneurship, music, healthcare, you name it. Everyone seemed to have a unique story and everyone seemed to think differently. Mixers, guest speaker, and other MBA events soon became regular parts of my schedule to meet people and build friendships.

 

Becoming Situated

Comfort came in accepting the different perspectives of my peers. They enjoyed my young optimism; I enjoyed their experienced pessimism. I was often able to learn what not to do without having to experience some of the rock-bottom stories shared by my peers.

Do not get me wrong, moving to a new place and essentially starting over is one of the hardest things to go through in life, but luckily, I have been able to realize the magnitude of the impact this move has had on my future. As I thought the new school and city could not get any better, an unexpected cherry was placed on top of an already promising experience.

 

Seeing the World

Throughout undergrad, I had dreamed of studying abroad, but with football occupying my time and energy, this merely remained a dream. Charlotte turned this into a reality when I got a random email about a trip to Europe during winter break. It was a two-week seminar course in Lyon, France during the only time of the year that I had off from football. It truly put into perspective the great opportunity I had seized in packing up from a promising future in Miami to move to an up and coming program at Charlotte. The Queen City has proved to have everything I was searching for in a school, football team, social life, business opportunity, and unexpected fruition of my dreams.

Cost Benefit of Being a Student Athlete

The Cost/Benefit of Being a Student Athlete by Evan Shirreffs

Picture walking out of your dorm room at 5am on a Friday morning with a jug of water in one hand and a granola bar in the other. With sleep still in your eyes you’re wondering, “what will the workout be like today? Intense conditioning or a grueling squat day?”

Then, as you reach the door to the parking lot, you encounter a few students stumbling around, standing in their outfits from the evening before. One of them lost their student ID at some point during the night in between shots of liquor and their failed attempt at chasing after that one cute girl from Calculus class. Lucky for them, here you come to the rescue before they pass out in the bushes.

During my first few weeks on campus as a football player at the University of Miami, this moment put into perspective what the following few years would encompass.

Sooner or later, every student-athlete has experienced a similar moment that made them realize the depths of dedication it takes to play a sport in college. To say it is a job is honestly an understatement. Do not even get me started with compensation, but the pure will it even takes to commit to such a rigorous lifestyle is much more demanding than any job could ever be, and that’s coupled with much less reward.

What job is so physically taxing that by the end of an early morning lift session, you need to take a nap before most of your colleagues are even awake? What job gives you twice as much “optional” work as mandatory work, yet expects all of it to still get done despite the repeated statements that, “school comes before football?” If this was truly the case, then why would my only free time to study be after hours in the library with the thought of that early morning practice distracting my efforts to learn the importance of a balance sheet, or developing a business model for a business world that I have only heard of in theory and not yet experienced?

Learning class material was never the issue for me. It’s a bit easier to go into an exam with a general concept of what will be on it, and BS an answer that will satisfy your professor. If you BS your preparation for football however, you will be exposed by your opponent. And he will let you know about it before you even get to the sideline to get ripped by your coaches and teammates as well. As a quarterback, I need to know everything that all the other ten guys on the field are doing. The amount of focus it takes to go through hours of daily practice, meetings, and film is something that is quite difficult to understand until you must do it. No other position is like that; few positions in business are like that either.

Yet with all the challenges involved, the cool thing about committing to something like this lifestyle is the absence of regret, and the feeling of satisfaction that comes from doing everything in your power to succeed, even if the venture results in failure. In a society so focused on perfection, it is hard to see the value in failure. Football has taught me that success is never possible without failure.

I have lost battles for starting jobs, had coaches that did not believe in my style of play, I missed games because of injuries, not performed when my number was called, but none of that is what defines me. Failure not only showed me that I was not as badass as I thought by beating me down during some of the toughest moments of my life, but it gave me the opportunity to overcome obstacles during those times that makes success so much sweeter.

Failure gives you the chance to learn how to respond when things are not going your way. It humbles you when you most need it. This has been the single most impactful lesson learned from football. When you accept that the outcome you are working so hard for may not be attainable, you learn to fall in love with the grind and process of even giving yourself the opportunity to reach the result you are striving for.

As I sit behind my computer screen gathering my thoughts on my final collegiate football season to come, and my eventual “transfer” into the real world of business, I cannot help but smile at the opportunities ahead. I have no idea what the future holds, but I know that nothing I face in life will be as hard as the days of being a student-athlete. I understand that there is so much to still be learned, but there is no doubt in my mind that I will be successful in whatever career path I take. In all honesty, I just fear not finding that one thing in the real world that I am as passionate about as football. But I know that when I find it, I will make a difference in this world.

-Evan Shirreffs