Embarking on a soccer-themed road trip for self improvement

If you’re reading this then you likely know I recently announced plans to spend the next eight months driving more than 20,000 miles around the United States and Canada. My journey, called The Soccer Tour, is centered around the emergence of the world’s most popular sport in our own backyards. On my travels I hope to visit dozens of teams, meet hundreds of people, and tell the innumerable stories of our diverse soccer landscape.

Sure, that sounds cool and all, but… why? That three letter word seems to be the biggest question in every conversation I have or in every interview I give.

The answer is, well… lots of reasons. Obviously, my fascination with the development of the sport and its differences in cities across the continent is a major one. Part of it is the romance of just jumping in a van and going for it. Leveraging my skills and personal networks, another. And whether I’ll admit it’s importance or not, the fact that it has never been done before is pretty damn cool to me.

Ultimately though it’s my desire do something that has worth. To me. And, hopefully, to others.

I recognized I no longer wanted to spend 10 hours a day mindlessly working behind a desk fielding calls from prodding reporters, attempting to hide or cover the indefensible actions of my employers, or creating content for an absent audience. My entire career I had spent working to earn what I thought was my dream job, but in the end it resembled more of a nightmare.

Colleagues from other teams couldn’t believe I stayed with the Strikers for as long as I did. Looking back, I’m not sure how I managed to either.

Everything clicked for me the second time I visited China — in July with the Strikers under-19 team. Thousands of miles away from the stress and uncertainty of the team in Fort Lauderdale, the week I spent in Weifang was a much-needed breath of fresh air (not literally… the pollution there is no joke). It was in China that I realized my job was holding me back from the things I wanted at this stage of my life.

Freedom. Excitement. Purpose.

Upon returning to the States, I handed in my two week’s notice — one of the best decisions of my life. I started to focus my attention and energy on creating a project to fulfil a lifelong dream that would help give more meaning and purpose to my life.

The Soccer Tour will be a massive learning experience for me. I’ve never attempted anything like it. There’s so many questions I have and a number of things that I haven’t quite figured out yet.

Will I be able to pay for all of it? Can I spend that long away from home? Will people even be interested? Every time I start to think about it the list of doubts and uncertainties seems to grow. But so far it hasn’t phased me. If anything, it has motivated me.

In business school I learned about a philosophy practiced by Japanese companies, kaizen, that I try to apply to everyday life. It’s about continuous improvement. As I think about it: “How to be a better Steve.”

I want to become a better writer and storyteller. I want to learn how to take better photos, or capture moments in video. I want to meet people and be inspired. Be more confident, less anxious.

Stepping out of my comfort zone won’t be easy, but it’s a big motivator to learn new things and open up to unfamiliar, or even uncomfortable, experiences.

For me personally, this trip has a lot less to do with soccer and a lot more to do with my development as a person.

In the early stages, I fully expect the content I produce to be less than stellar. I hope that you bear with me. Because with each interview conducted, every photo and video shot, and every new face I meet I’ll get a little bit better.

Eight months down the road, I’ll be a changed person. And hopefully a better one.

Continuous self-improvement.