Interview: USA Soccer Legend Landon Donovan on Meditation, Self-Doubt and Ego

By Victor Macias,

Published on Feb 20, 2023   —   3 min read

USA Soccer Player Landon Donovan

When people look back on how soccer took off America, one name is going to be on everyone’s lips: Professional soccer player Landon Donovan. As a member of Team USA, Donovan became the all-time leader in scoring and assists, becoming the only player to reach the 50 goals/50 assists mark. In Major League Soccer (MLS), Donovan won six MLS cups and became the league’s all-time leading scorer. The man even has an MVP award name after him.

I had a chance to chat with Landon Donovan a while back. We talked about meditation, self-doubt, and letting go of ego. This interview is a masterclass in what it takes to have a success mindset when you're at the top. I love it because these principles apply across all disciplines.

How do you stay focused?

"Part of it is what you do, but it is also what you get used to. It is all about compartmentalizing. I learned throughout my career how to be present in the moment. When you are present, it helps you to focus. Once you have done an experience once, it becomes easier to do it again and so it becomes no big deal. For me, I use meditation to focus on each new action."

How does meditation help you focus?

"Meditation is still taboo in our culture, but so many people do it without even realizing it. If you have ever walked on a beach and looked at the waves to relax, then you are meditating. You are present in the moment, but you are enabling the next moment to arrive. It also helps me let go of the previous moment, so I can truly focus on what is to come."

What advice do you have for those who believe they can't meditate?

"You cannot turn your mind off. It is about focusing on your breathing, accepting the moment, and allowing it to pass. It is not about trying to block something out. If you try to stop thinking, then you will not be present at the moment, and you will only be aware of trying to stop thinking, which is counterproductive. Many people wrongly think they cannot meditate when they can."

Have you ever experienced self-doubt?

"It has only happened a few times in my career. One was when I was in Germany. I was playing in a reserve team game. The Germany style of play is very structured and regimented. Whereas I was more creative and freestyle. I took 2 or 3 risks, which didn’t pay off, and I heard a very disappointed echo from the stadium, which resonated in me playing the rest of the game in fear. After the 2006 World Cup, I also felt a lot of doubt. I took a fairly public beating. For the first time in my life, I took a more general sense of doubt where I questioned if I could play soccer at all. It went beyond the game."

What does success mean to you?

"I believe that if we’re not striving to be happy, then we are not meeting the point of life. Many people are miserable with life in general, and I wonder what’s the point. We have a choice in happiness. There are many factors, granted, that we can’t choose, like where we are born or socio-economic factors, but we can choose to always be striving for happiness."

How do you find balance?

"In the soccer world, there are so many people who make what we do possible. I get so excited and proud, and happy, with what soccer has become. However, many people still bash soccer and say that we need to do more or be better, and while that is true, it is important to stop and be proud of what you have achieved. Many times we don’t appreciate a moment until it is too late."

What is a core belief that you have?

I live my life with the belief that “This too shall pass.” I don’t say it often but in hard moments, I do turn to it and it helps. I think, “life always works out.” It goes back to meditation and becoming present in every moment.

Landon Donovan's journey to success in the world of soccer offers valuable insights for anyone striving to achieve their goals. His ability to stay focused and be present in the moment helped him perform at a world-class level and overcome challenges. His motto "This too shall pass" remind us that setbacks, no matter how serious, are only temporary. Whether you're an athlete, an entrepreneur, or someone just striving for success, there is a lot to learn from Landon's story.

This interview was originally written for my former website Male Standard

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