Like most professionals, my path to success was not linear, but full of highs and lows. But my persistent pursuit out of the box (and my perseverance through failures) are what inspired me to become a doctor, and more importantly, to do the work that I do today. The calm, measured, and logical doctor you see smiling at you on this page was once a ferocious competitor—addicted to achievement, driven by external motivation, and riddled with tremendous stress. I know what it’s like to create extraordinary results, but I also know how to overcome the internal obstacles that erode motivation and well-being.
HERE’S MY STORY.
I went from being a 5x national tennis champion—top ranked in the world—with a contract from Sergio Tacchini to a lost, unfocused, former pro athlete in just six years. And from that journey I received my greatest gift ever. Let me explain.
I grew up as a creative in a conservative family environment, so naturally I stayed quiet and had constant pent up frustration. Sports was my outlet; the only time I felt like me. I wasn’t overly gifted, but I was driven. I never let anybody out-work me, I took risks nobody else would, and I had an insatiable desire to discover what is possible. That’s how I became a 5x national tennis champion.
I left home at age 15 to pursue my sports career. I left everything I knew—my friends, my culture, and my language, but I didn’t realize what effects this would have on my state of mind at the time. I communicated with my family once a month by mailing letters—remember those? Our talks were infrequent so I learned how to be alone while facing the pain of finding my identity through sports.
Even though I was experiencing tremendous stress, waking up every day with the jitters, I performed in spite of my anxiety. I became an expert in dealing with the pressure to continue to perform and win—I took action despite my divided mindset.
It didn’t last, however, and shortly after becoming a pro athlete, despite my great contracts, I sabotaged my sports career at the age of 21. The people who had expectations of me reaching the top of my sport were shocked—they had no idea what I was going through internally.
Losing that part of my life left me feeling lost and dispirited. I kept digging deeper into understanding my flow and realized that the status quo leads us to believe achievement at any cost is required to bring our best forward.
But I knew this isn’t true at all, and that was the greatest gift from my experience.
After the abrupt end to my athletic career, I decided to explore a new outlet and found myself in the world of performing arts. It’s a completely different scene from athletics, and that dramatic experience triggered me to start asking much deeper questions about myself beyond winning and sports.
How is the body connected to the mind and who are we besides our image, trophies, titles, and diplomas?
And while practicing performing arts, I had an incredible realization:
In the performing arts, with enough practice (rehearsal), you can become anybody. You can accomplish your goals without depending on your identity or self-concept.
This curiosity led me to explore science. Thinking about identity and creativity, I wanted to better understand the relationship between the brain and thinking out of the box.
How do we grow our capacity to think out of the box to create what we genuinely want? How does the mind-body connection impact our performance and in turn our health? How do we tap into our potential to continually lead our own selves to create the life we want? I had to find out.
I obtained my PhD in clinical Psychology and was a fellow scientist at Stanford University. Shortly after, I became a professor at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Later, I was Director of High-Performance in the University of Miami’s Department of Athletics.
While my background of excellence in elite sports, the performing arts, public keynote speaking on transformational leadership, culture, and well-being has led me to consult with global industry leaders to strategically evolve regenerative leadership in their lives and in their companies, my mission is centered on guiding youth to be prepared for the world ahead.
As a leadership and transformation psychologist/advisor to high potential youth and high impact leaders who want to evolve their leadership, my dedicated research and life’s work has led me to coin my work Potentialism™.
Rather than winning at any cost, Potentialism focuses on expanding awareness, learning, and practicing essential habits that can help us see and be ready for the future coming and feel we can directly impact well-being for ourselves and the world at large.
Developing self-awareness and leadership capacity early in life is essential to build understanding, self-awareness, and intelligence to enjoy healthier and more constructive lives long term.
It sounds simple, but as you know, bringing out the best in ourselves in the major leagues doesn’t come without humility, discipline, and an insatiable openness to learning in the midst of uncertainty.
Now you know my story, my professional history, my mission, and hopefully, me.
As a parent myself, I know what we want is for our children is to be confident, learn to become independent, adapt and recover from failures, and in essence be a healthy and happy person who knows how to persevere in a complex world to contribute to a better humanity than we have today.
Let’s prepare our youth to thrive in a rapidly changing world, and help them move forward without having to kill their spirits along the way.
Let’s do it for ourselves, our children, families, and a world that is entering a new chapter of its history.
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