PTP:065. “Get Your SHIFT Together” with Jonathan Van Horn

In Episode 065 of the Pathway to Promise Podcast, Dr. Brad Miller interviews Jonathan Van Horn who is the creator of Project SHIFT which is a process to help professional athletes transition to life after their professional sports career comes to an end.

The mission of the Pathway to Promise Podcast with Dr. Brad Miller is helping people overcome life’s adversity to achieve a promised life of peace, prosperity, and purpose.

Dr. Brad Miller

June 2019

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Brad Miller 0:00
Today we have a special guest with us who is an athlete, and a coach and a director of helping other athletes in their life. His name is Jonathan Van Horn. And he is involved with athletes in action. He’s a national director of pro soccer ministry for athletes and action. It also for services, the team chaplain for the Carolina rail hawks, which is a in a sl professional soccer team. And he lives in Cary, North Carolina with his wife, Rachel, and they have three daughters. And he has an awesome story to tell about his journey in the sport of soccer and faith. And now he is looking to be helpful to athletes and other people as a transition from one phase in life to another. Jonathan, welcome to pathway to promise.

Jonathan Van Horn 0:47
Thank you. Appreciate you having me on today.

Brad Miller 0:50
Awesome. We are so glad to have us with us to just today here on pathway to promise. So Jonathan, I just gave a little bit about your story there. But unpack it for me a little bit more. You grew up as a athlete and play college soccer and been about with the pro soccer for a while, just a little bit about that journey, and then how to transition now to basically a ministry or trying to help others who are transitioning.

Jonathan Van Horn 1:11
Yeah, growing up, I’m actually originally from Michigan. And growing up, I grew up in an area where was a farming community. And it was one of those things where football, basketball and baseball were the force. And that was it like that’s, that’s what you played. And if you were fast, you also ran track. But for whatever reason I fell in love with this game, the game of soccer. And soccer was the sport that if you weren’t good at anything else, then you play that sport. And for whatever reason, like said, I just fell in love with the game. And that really set the path that trajectory for where I’m at today. I continue to play growing up, traveled this and travel soccer, got seen by a scout for a university outside of Columbus, Ohio called Ohio Wesleyan University, and went on to have a successful four year career there. Well, in Columbus, the Columbus Crew was just getting started in the late 90s. And that’s when I was first introduced to athletes and action in this in this whole idea of where does your faith fit into sport usually says your faith is one thing your sport is another thing, family different compartments. And this whole idea of integrating my faith into competition was was a new idea. And I was like, wow, that that sounds amazing. How do I how do I do that? What does that look like? And that was my first introduction to athletes in action. And now my wife and I have been on staff without the connection for over 17 years. And it’s been it’s been an amazing journey through the process.

Brad Miller 2:38
It’s awesome. And that’s part of integrating faith into competition. Tell me about competition. How does competition help the idea of competition help you not only in sports, things like that. But in terms of overcoming and dealing with obstacles that people may find in life?

Unknown Speaker 2:56
Yeah, competition is one of those just energizes environments in which you are pitted against someone else or an obstacle or something, a difficulty of some capacity. And it really begins to and in sports, specifically, we talked about how competition really begins to reveal your character reveals who you are, and what makes you tick. And I’d also add on to that also, I would say, competition allows you to, to grow and to cultivate your character. Competition is, is when you get to really see see who you are and what you’re made of. But then it begins to give you opportunities and those obstacles and difficulties to be able to overcome, wanting to sacrifice for others, the willingness to, to be able to see yourself continue to grow and develop into something and something greater than where you’re at in

Unknown Speaker 3:48
that moment.

Brad Miller 3:49
So I so in competition, we have the building character element, we have the kind of the iron sharpens iron type of thing, where do you rub it? Would you go against something else that challenges you, that helps you to grow? So growth is a big part of what you’re about? Sounds like, tell me about how this aspect of growing and overcoming challenges? What are some of the challenges that you may have faced or some adversity you may have faced or perhaps in some of the people you work with? What are some challenges that people face that competition and your life may give an example to?

Unknown Speaker 4:23
Yeah, like I said, growing up in Michigan, soccer was the sport that like, if you were really an athlete, or good At last you played and I was definitely bucking the trend within within my city. I just love the game. And so there’s a lot of it like people, other parents to talk to my parents are people older guys that were that I knew in the in the city. Like why are you playing this game? Like you’re wasting your talent? And there was some said, No, I love this game. What I

Brad Miller 4:50
can do is pressure on you to play football or basketball or something like that.

Unknown Speaker 4:54
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. You know, there was when I was 15. I was getting i was growing baseball and soccer, right two main sports. And when I was 15, I was I was hand selected for this, this team to go compete throughout the US and actually turn it down. And and I had college coaches calling my parents going, why your son’s throwing his college career away. I was up and I’m like, I really don’t care. I love the game of soccer, I’m gonna continue to play and pursue that’s really my dream. And there was a lot of people like, no, you’re wasting your opportunity. You’re wasting free college scholarship to go play, play baseball. And I just like, that’s not my dream. And I want things I was very grateful for as my parents, my dad, really championing me, he was a baseball guy. So he was a bit of a tug on him. He wanted me to continue to play baseball, but he realized that baseball was not my dream. And he said, Hey, I’m going to champion you to go after what you want to pursue. And if soccer is it, then I’m all in with you. And that was a huge for me to have that from a competence standpoint at 15. To be able to you know what, yeah, I’m gonna go for this, even though 90 plus percent of the people around me are saying no, don’t go for it. You that’s a waste of time. Having my dad in my corner saying no, it’s let’s go for it. And I’m gonna go with you, I’m going to journey with you in this profit. So it’s

Brad Miller 6:13
a bit of a risk, but it kind of taken a bold action. It sounds like not only for yourself, but for your your dad and everybody who would stood up for you. Yeah, no, definitely was a risk. You know, what do you think are the value is Jonathan of taking a bold action, or it’s kind of stepping out in faith? When perhaps it might go against the norm or its expectations are kind of go even against? What might be considered your better interest? What do you think are the benefits of taking bold action? Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 6:42
I think, take taking that risk. Taking that bold action. That step is really where you find your greatest success and greatness is it being willing to put yourself out there, even though you may not have the path or clear path to whatever that destination may be, but it’s putting yourself out there in those situations. And when you begin to see success come about, in addition to that, you really begin to see who you are, when you take that step of faith, you see your personality come out, you see who you’re created to be come out, you really see yourself.

Brad Miller 7:17
What are some aspects of yourself that you found, when you pushed yourself to go a different path than what your peers were doing? What were some things revealed?

Unknown Speaker 7:27
I think that’s when I really first began to realize that I was a leader. My dad told me, you know, everyone has leadership, qualities everyone, anyone can lead. But it’s really in those moments that I was like, Hey, I don’t have to go with the flow, I don’t have to go with the masses, or what everyone else is doing, I can really, I can have confidence and the courage to really lead in first lead myself well, but also, in turn have had the capacity to lead others to that turning point that I saw in my life as as a leader, even though I was 15. I was like I can lead people and not just people that are younger than me, I can meet up I

Unknown Speaker 8:02
can meet those that are

Unknown Speaker 8:03
16 1718 even those that were in college at the time, because of taking those risks.

Brad Miller 8:09
How have your leadership skills been manifested? Not only then when you’re growing up, but even now in your career? How has these challenges these taking bold actions manifests itself in leadership? influence on others?

Unknown Speaker 8:23
Yeah, everything lives and dies on leadership, you know, for that’s in so I think, for me to continue to grow as a leader, I think is essential that the greater I become as a leader was in my home, with my wife, or within my ministry with athletes and action, the greater impact I can have with those that I’m influencing. And so leadership for me is something that’s it’s a daily a daily challenge, something I always want to continue to push myself to grow as a leader develop as a leader, whether it’s reading or taking risks, or are you spending mentioned earlier SARS, the iron, sharpening iron, just getting time with other people to glean from them hear what they’re doing, to learn, all Walk, walk humbly with other with other men.

Brad Miller 9:06
Awesome. Talk about iron, sharpening iron, still take the lead in this league, in your path here in athletics, lead you into ministry and some of the things you’ve talked about here. What are some strength that you’ve drawn? What is a higher power that you may have drawn into your life to help to give you strength to take these bold actions gave you the, the wherewithal in order to move forward? Tell me about the role of a higher power in your life?

Unknown Speaker 9:34
Yeah, my faith is one of my faith in Jesus has radically transformed my life. And that’s really what I’ve really gone after and pursue. No, I think it first starts starts with the reality that is I’m fully loved and accepted. And that, that the freedom that that gives me, knowing that you have me gives me the opportunity to freely know and love other people. And that and that’s for me, it’s been significant. Having that freedom and that confidence to say, I’m accepted, and I’m loved, allows me to take those risks. When I’m negotiating with other with other pro athletes, when I’m initiating it with other people in the front office or ownership groups, or the people interested in my community, I am able to take those risks and overcome the fear of rejection or fear of failure and these other fears that can we can encounter, because of the fact that I’m unloved. And I’m accepted by God.

Brad Miller 10:30
Yeah, so that’s the power that you kind of need to do, what you need to do there. And then you mentioned that you feel like you’re loved and have that power within you. But speak to me a little bit about relationships, how that how that comes into play here in terms of helping to you or others to deal with problems, challenges in life, tell me about loving relationships in your life, and how that helps fuel you to accomplish what you need to accomplish.

Unknown Speaker 11:02
You know, I mentioned earlier as far as far as my father, you know, he’s us champion me since day one. And that is something that has given me the freedom to really go after the things that I’m passionate about. Like even though it’s at a young age, just sort of sit on his head.

Unknown Speaker 11:19
And just seeing what he did, and observing him

Unknown Speaker 11:22
and watching him. I was offensive, hey, come follow me and watch me do what I do. And then there was a sense of subtle transition, really high school, when he began to say, Okay, you’ve seen me now do this, now you can go. And it’s okay, if you make mistakes, it’s okay, if you fail, my love for you is not going to change your flow based on your performance. And so because of that, I had this immense competence and freedom to really go after things. And when I was traveling throughout the Midwest, when I was 1617, because of soccer. on my own, I was able to He’s like, hey, go, you gotta you gotta game a couple hours away, that’s fine, you can go by yourself, I trust here, go for it, that’s going to help you pursue your goals of playing college soccer, and he was all for it.

Unknown Speaker 12:05
That’s a really steam that champion me in that regard.

Unknown Speaker 12:07
And then and then my wife, Rachel,

Unknown Speaker 12:11
my best friend, allowing us to continue to know and to grow in our marriage. But again, she’s continued to champion the dreams that we have for our family. Within within epics national within our ministry, we’re able to minister together within the pro world, a lot of the athletes have have families or wives, girlfriends, that kind of stuff. And so she allowing us to minister look together, the champion champion in where I know, I’m fully loved, and I could take those risks and take those.

Brad Miller 12:44
That’s awesome. So it sounds like your relationship with your wife and and you’ve helped has been in a body money helping you develop and nurture other relationships within the the ministry that you have, and the proteins that you work with, and things like that, and that developing healthy relationships is so important to you know, having the wherewithal to overcome challenges in life and so many of us have, oh, broken or messed up relationships and to nurture that is just such an important thing. And I just applaud you for that. Tell me Jonathan, little bit about you know, athletics, you’ve been involved with high school and college level athletics and now the pro athletics, which means you’re around a lot of people who are highly motivated and highly skilled at in their, in their athletic prowess, you know, and their physical body and their skills and so on. Tell me a bit about how personal discipline comes into play here. I think I’d be interested even Johnny, but any any personal disciplines you have with be a physical or mental spiritual time management, whatever, what are some of the disciplines that you have in your life that helps you to deal with daily challenges, or some of the things that come your way? Tell me little bit about self discipline?

Unknown Speaker 14:07
Yeah, there’s a couple of things that that I’ve really bad, especially the last few years, is the importance of physical fitness. You know, the older that I get, I can’t just go out and just as a 25 year old who’s gotten player 18 year record is going to do whatever I wanted athletically is calling play that one. But realizing is that the importance of the consistency. So So now actually, I do CrossFit, I work out at 530, in the morning, three days a week, and getting that time in first thing of the day has been so significant for me. So this, I’m going into my third year of doing that. And having that consistency every week, having a consistent time where I know, there’s not a lot going on at 530 in the morning. So I know that the reality is that there’s not going to be other conflicts. And so as a family, so the father of three as a husband, involved in other people’s lives as well, and need to find a time where it could be every week, I know I could turn those times. A couple of things that I’ve really been intentional with and time management are a couple things is my call my first 30 is that just setting the setting the tone for the day, so my first 30 minutes of every work day. So the time I do a brief moment of journaling of gratitude. So what are the three things that I’m grateful for today, I do a moment of time of prayer, and then a time of a reading in the scriptures in the Bible. And so those are sort of my first 30. Like That is something I have to do every day just assess sets me up to be successful for that day. And then another thing, another thing that I use is called my rule of rule of 90. And that is basically throughout the day, as things come up with inundated with text messages, phone calls, or that kind of stuff. As things come and go, if I don’t write it down, I’ll forget it. But I have this rule of 90 what is if I can do something and let 90 seconds or less, I get it done right then allows me to continue not only building momentum for the day, and building confidence, hey, I would have accomplished five things that you only took me two minutes and three minutes. But I’ve still been able to build some some confidence and some momentum into the day to accomplish the the other tasks that I want to get done. So that has been helpful in that regard. Just again, just to get some of those quick little quick little wins in the day.

Brad Miller 16:21
Absolutely rather 90 things you were mentioning, may help you with, with managing distractions, which seems to be a huge issue that a lot of us have these days.

Unknown Speaker 16:30
Absolutely cell phones, cell phones are very distracting

Brad Miller 16:34
to say the least. Absolutely, absolutely. Well, that’s awesome. You got some great, great suggestions there. And I think we can have folks in all walks of life can learn from athletic style of disciplines or people who are you know, professional, whatever musicians, things like this, who can they have some sort of a regiment, or some sort of a ritual or routine and your 530 in the morning, three days a week is one aspect of that, and I think it will help us helps people to have something foundational to hang on to to help us to deal with the challenges in life. What I’m sorry, go ahead.

Unknown Speaker 17:14
I’m just thinking in addition to that, you know, a lot of times when we have these consistencies, what I’ve learned, I see that with the with the pro athletes that I work with the intentionality they have people say, Well, just willpower this, a lot of times that willpower will wane and they’ll struggle and what I found is that it’s having is the power of why is understanding what is that one thing that is driving what seven transit motivator that you’re that’s at your core and your heart that is pushing you and driving you and that is something for me that I’ve been able to by identifying that one thing I created with the physical fitness, you know, I want to be able to throw throw a baseball or football I want to be able to kick a soccer ball with with my girls, my kids. And so for me to be able to do that. And that’s my motivation to be able to do that I need to be physically active.

Brad Miller 18:02
Yeah, the power power of why is that emotional charts that you have to have. So give me your overall, you mentioned two or three things. There’s possibilities. But what’s your overriding power of why what really drives you, Jonathan, what’s your emotional connection here?

Unknown Speaker 18:19
Yeah, and the thing that I’m really driven by is, is, is love. That’s the idea of that I’m fully loved. And then because I have the freedom to fully love others. Whether it’s in my marriage, Rachel, or to my three girls, or the profits that I’m investing in, is that that is really in the out of that love, I see development to see growth, at the willingness to speak truth into people’s lives, even when they may not want it. Or maybe I’ll be something that they’re wanting to hear. Because I care about you tonight, let me let me speak some truth into your life. Because I care about you. And because of that relationship, because of that friendship that I have with the individual they’re willing to hear, hear those truths. Just like a coach. players don’t want to hear that they’re doing something wrong. As an athlete, a coach, a good coach is able to step into that relationship with that player, and speak some truth and say, Hey, here’s the things that you can do to get better to prove to be a better professional, increase your your consistency as an athlete. And it may not always be something you want to hear as an athlete, but it’s imperative that you hear it to develop and grow as an athlete.

Brad Miller 19:30
Awesome. Well, it sounds like also out of that big why that power of loving others is also leading you in a pathway to look to serve folks in the athletic community who face a particular challenge that they have that all folks have it to some degree or another. But I think it may be more magnified in the world of sport. That is what do you do after you can’t compete at a high level in terms of your athletic world anymore? This type of thing? When How is your personal identity wrapped up into your sport, other people can have this aspect in saying their job or their hobby or something. What do you do when you can’t do you know your, what you love, do what you’re used to doing. And you see, like, if you spoke about a particular calling, you have to help people find a pathway here and you’re working on a project called called shift, get your shift together as a project that you’re working on. Tell us a little bit about what you’re calling is to help serve the folks life after their sport is Oh,

Unknown Speaker 20:35
yeah. So as as pro athletes, their dream, since they were five, six years old, is to be a professional soccer player. So that’s the reason that I’m in. And so the thought of doing something else is completely born, like an idea or the thought of playing another sport or doing another job is like, why would I even think about that. So as a 22 to 25 year old, pro life, and that thinking about anything else, there’s a sense of, I want to be a good professional, I want to be fortunate to get better and better well as an athlete. So even having the even the inkling or thought of, of coaching, when I’m playing or going into marketing or any other job is even a fleeting thought. And so when their careers do come to an end, a lot of times the struggle is this difficult moment of time for these athletes going I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where, who I am, because my whole life has been locked up in this sport as a pro athlete. I’m not sure what this next up can be. So

Brad Miller 21:38
just interject for just a second there. I think it’s pretty common for us to hear stories about well known athletes in any sport, who have, you know, ended up, you know, messed up marriages messed up in jail, blowing all their millions of dollars, all kinds of stuff happening. We hear those stories on those come to the front. And what I’m hearing you say is that doesn’t have to be that if you do some that you’re here to step into that gap there. So, so cool. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 22:08
absolutely. You know, and that’s, and that’s something that what I’ve learned is that, except was shift, the shift is actually it’s an acronym. The ask is start now. And that’s basically to tumble of an evaluation like, like a coach would do with the team is that you’re just taking and bringing all the resources pulling all the things that you’ve experienced as an athlete, travel all over the world. Training, that some will self discipline, successes, failures, what lessons learned all those things, sort of putting everything together, the ages, your heart. And as we talked about, as far as your why your core, what is it that’s driving this can be a driving force for you now, but also can be a driving force for this next phase in your life. The eye in shift is imagine the future, what what could that just dream a little bit? What could that future look like for you? What is something in your past that maybe you’ve experienced with something you’ve done, or even just something is that you even thought about? randomly? That you like, Hey, I think I could do that. So just beginning to open up those those brainwaves and thinking about those things, the app is focused, that’s really the goal setting phase. So now that you can imagine the future, what are some of the goals that you need to put into place to be able to make that imagination of that future become a reality. So having those goals and then the T is take action. So all those goals are talking it down a little bite sized chunks, what’s something that I can do today, that will allow me to get that much closer to those goals. And so it’s helping athletes work through that process

Unknown Speaker 23:35
to be wanting to prepare for life after playing professionally.

Brad Miller 23:39
Give me an example of how you may have been helpful to someone in this process. You know, how you spoken to someone’s life and maybe help walk this shift process with or perhaps even your own life? Or someone you’re working with? Tell us a story?

Unknown Speaker 23:54
Yeah. So one of the guys that that, that I’ve been working with, we journey through this process for about a year actually, it was a long just, it was going through a lot of emotional other issues. There was an injury involved and stuff. But one of the things that he said when early on in the in our stage is that he was like, I don’t think anything that I’ve ever done, could help me in playing and doing something after playing professionally. And I just started talking about some of his characteristics. I just said, Hey, what are some of the things that you value? your teammates? And he goes, Well, what about team? First of all? What are some things that you do? Naturally, because you want to be a good teammate, if one willing to sacrifice for my teammates, I’m like, Oh, that’s great, when he started lifting all these different characters, skills that he has developed as a philosophy, who first whose team focused willingness to sacrifice for the people. In his desire to pursue excellence, they started, again, listing off these characters skill that he has cultivated and developed, I go, all those skills are transferable, and to a sales job

Unknown Speaker 25:00
or into marketing or into any other

Unknown Speaker 25:03
environment outside of playing professionally. And those are extremely valuable character traits that you can, you can bring to the table for profit. And it was almost like a light bulb went off in my head was like, Oh my

Unknown Speaker 25:13
gosh, I’ve never even thought about that.

Unknown Speaker 25:15
That’s just something that as a pro athlete,

Unknown Speaker 25:17
because of my craft that I don’t want to kill, I never thought that I actually could take those same skills and superimpose them into another in another arena. Because it was it was it was awesome. for three reasons I had no worth, I had no values, and the longer playing golf with white balls first dropping goes, Oh, I can bring value to another team. I can, I think my ability to be willing to sacrifice for my teammates within a marketing firm. He’s like, Oh, my gosh, that’s, that’s brilliant. And so that was a really significant except for him a really good shift that took place in his in his mind, but also those hearts begin to open up his eyes, say, Oh, I do have value significance. And what I’ve learned as a pro athlete is very transferable to other arenas, marble inches,

Brad Miller 26:01
it seemed like that in this particular case, you were able to be a person in this may be needed out there for people to have someone to reflect back with them on to help give them perspective beyond themselves. And perhaps to develop tools or other ways people can gain an assessment of what they have, what their value is beyond what they see right in front their face, their their soccer skills, or what have you. And that’s sound like that’s what you’re working on. And so you’re working on a book or resources of some sort to help people in this process. You think there’s a big need out there for this

Unknown Speaker 26:38
second significance, like you said, You can’t watch ESPN or any other sport outlets and not hear about athletes that have, you know, gone through bankruptcy or struggling in their marriages or just struggling with mental health or depression.

Unknown Speaker 26:54

Unknown Speaker 26:54
commonplace, but it’s now just starting to be talked about, which is which the great thing. And so I’m excited about about the forefront of this, this need that is out there to help.

Brad Miller 27:07
That’s awesome. Well, if people want to find out more about your shift program, or more about you, Jonathan, how can they do that? And to get connected to what you’re working on these days,

Unknown Speaker 27:17
what you can connect with me on our website, Jonathan Van Horn com. Well, as well as on on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is another place where I blog and post other other articles as well. And that’s just Jonathan Van Horn. And I’m in North Carolina. So there’s a couple other Jonathan Van Horn out there. But yeah,

Brad Miller 27:36
awesome. Well, it’s been a pleasure to have you with us today on pathway to promise and we’ve learned a lot today about how the the integration of faith on a competition and these types of things can help people gain a new shift in their life to shift from an understanding of that there is life after weather add to can have an identity, a new identity that has value to add. So we thank you, Jonathan, for being with us today on pathway to progress.

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