Blood, Sweat, and Years: The Sacrifice of Callings

“Every day of your life, the choice is yours: Will you embrace the demands, the discipline, and the sacrifices that will lead you to an impactful and ultimately fulfilling life?”

By Kelli Masters, adapted from the book High-Impact Life

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

I glanced across the table at my friend, and even with the bright Texas sun shining in my eyes, I could read the concern on her face.

If I had a nickel for every time a well-meaning friend or colleague asked me that question, I thought, looking down at my plate, I would probably be able to pay for this meal.

I folded my napkin and shot her a confident smile. “Positive.”

She held my glance for a second, then smiled and reached for her purse. “Okay, then. How much do you need?” she asked, producing her checkbook.

“About $1,800,” I said, cringing. I hated having to ask for money, especially from friends, but one of my clients was going to be playing in the Super Bowl in two weeks, and I had to be there.

It was 2016, and almost ten years into agenting, I was still struggling financially and had become something of an expert on “stealing from Peter to pay Paul.” Every day brought with it a “Sophie’s Choice” of sorts: Do I pay my electric bill or get this client the new cleats he needs? Should I treat myself to hot water next month or pay my client’s physical trainer for another week? Cable sports package or new receiver’s gloves?

I’d known going into it that starting my own sports agency was going to be an uphill battle—and an expensive one at that—but I had expected to be seeing a positive return on my investment by now. If anything, most days I felt like I was sinking even deeper into the hole.

Every player I represent requires an investment. It starts with the recruiting process—countless hours researching players, developing relationships, preparing presentations and materials, creating individualized game plans, driving or flying around the country to attend meetings and games—and I don’t get paid or reimbursed for any of it. The investment only pays off if the player actually signs with me and makes it into the NFL, and the odds of any player making it in the NFL are slim.

Of course, when a player and his family do say yes, it is a hard-fought victory! Time to celebrate, right? Yes, of course, but the time and expenses only increase. Every player I sign goes straight into a training program to get ready for the draft. These training programs, which I design for each individual athlete, include: physical and mental conditioning and preparation, coaching specific to the position they play, rehab or physical therapy, nutritional support, and everything else the athletes need to perform at their best during the draft evaluation process. That includes travel to the training location, housing, rental cars, meals, and a stipend for living expenses. Most agents put together some variation on this plan, and the cost for each player can be as much as fifty thousand to one hundred thousand dollars. All of this before we even get to the draft. And even then, there’s no guarantee they’ll get picked up—or stick.

And it’s not just a question of money; it’s also a question of time.

The fluid nature of the job means that I need to be willing to drop everything on a dime. If I go out to dinner with friends and get a call from a client, I have to take it. I haven’t had a legitimate vacation since college, and I can’t make any family commitments around holidays. In fact, since becoming an agent, I’ve missed practically every holiday family get-together. Most of my Thanksgivings are spent at a stadium somewhere, eating whatever the vendors are hawking that day or whatever I can dig up at the airport. Most Christmases are spent accompanying my clients to children’s hospitals or other charity events, and most New Years are spent on the recruiting trail, traveling back and forth to Bowl games my potential recruits are playing in.

The point is following my calling as an agent has proven both costly and time-consuming. I have slept in my car and in baggage claims more times than I care to count. And I ate more boxed macaroni and cheese and Top Ramen as an adult with a law degree than I did as a college student. But to me, every sacrifice has been worth it. This is what God put me here to do, so whatever it takes to fulfill that calling, I am willing to do it.

Pursuing your calling may require a great deal of personal sacrifice. Depending what you feel called to do, you may have to quit your job, go back to school, relocate, rethink your financial portfolio, or give up precious time with family and friends. But here’s the thing: If it’s your calling—if it’s who you are and what you were put on this earth to do—it won’t feel like a sacrifice. It will feel like a privilege. That’s how you know your calling is real.

When it’s your calling, difficult decisions (like my forgoing hot water so a client I believe in can get the training he needs) are not have to’s; they’re get to’s. You make these decisions not because it’s what you do but because it’s who you are. It’s how God wired you.

You’ll often find that committing to something bigger than yourself affects more than just you. Sometimes pursuing your calling can impact your family and friends as well. I have known countless coaches and players who have had to uproot their entire family multiple times as a result of trades or team personnel changes. Kids have had to change schools. Spouses have had to leave jobs, friends, and churches behind. It’s not always easy. But then, nothing worthwhile ever is.

Without pain, there is no growth. Without setbacks, there is no perseverance. Without delays, there is no patience. Every single imperfect, unpleasant, or seemingly unbearable moment in your life gives you an opportunity to either give up or grow. But you get to choose . . . always.

Every day of your life, the choice is yours: Will you embrace the demands, the discipline, and the sacrifices that will lead you to an impactful and ultimately fulfilling life? Or will you complain, grow bitter, give up, and feel sorry for yourself? I wish I could say I never complain, but I have my weak moments. We all do. The key is to refuse to let yourself stay there.

Whenever you find yourself slipping into a negative place because of the sacrifices you’re facing, shift your focus to what makes you grateful. Meditate on the blessings in your life and the gifts you have been given, and visualize yourself moving toward your goals and dreams. And remember, as long as you are actively and obediently following God’s calling for your life, you will always be on the right path. It may not always be the easiest path, but it will always be the right one.

You might be interested in

High-Impact Life by Kelli Masters

Who do you want to become? What kind of impact do you want to make—at work, in your community, in the world at large? What is the legacy you want to leave?
These are the questions sports agent Kelli Masters asks each one of her players before their professional sports career begins. The first woman ever to represent a Top 5 pick in the NFL Draft, career success is a priority for Kelli—but even more, her agency was founded on helping her clients discover who God really called them to be, finding their true purpose in life beyond the field.

Now, in High-Impact Life, Kelli brings that same passion to your life, helping you discover what you really need to succeed. Through her own personal story of becoming an agent in a male-dominated field, as well as through practical tips and tools, you’ll discover how to see who you truly are, live with significance, and find fulfillment and purpose in your everyday life, starting right where you are now.

About the Author

Kelli Masters is an attorney and a certified sports agent, and is the founder of KMM Sports, a full-service sports management company based in Oklahoma City. She has represented more professional athletes than any other woman in the history of sports business, and was named one of the 25 most influential women in sports worldwide by Bleacher Report. In 2010 Kelli became the first woman to represent a top five pick in the NFL draft. She is a pioneer, and now pours her wisdom into others across the nation and around the world as a speaker, professor, and mentor.

Christine loves how stories open our imaginations to God and His work in our lives. As a marketing coordinator at Tyndale, she is excited to help readers connect to life-changing stories through books, Bibles, and blog articles. In her free time, Christine enjoys reading multiple books simultaneously, exploring the forest preserve near her home, and writing about everything she sees and experiences.

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