I originally shared my story as a 10 part series on Facebook.

I had no idea that I would get the response I did and was astounded by the number of comments and private messages I received.  At events, people would come up to me and tell me how much they had enjoyed the read and how they were inspired to now share their story.

In this blog post, you’ll find the first 3 instalments of my story.  I hope you reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 

Part 1: 

In 2003 I’m returning from Cyprus where I’ve spent a year as a professional footballer. After a few injuries and a struggle to force my way into the senior 1st eleven, I decide it’s time to come home and try my luck here in England.

I write to every professional club in the country and receive just 2 replies which both say thanks but no thanks.With no advanced qualifications and no interest in doing anything but playing football, I find that I’m at a major cross-road in my life.

No club wants me and no job interests me. I wish I could’ve reversed my decision and just head back. My thoughts are eating away at me.

With the help of some friends, I start work at a property management agency and if anything was going to remind me of how good life was just half a year earlier it was this job. Driving around London, battling with traffic, roadworks and smog were not what I had envisaged my life to look like.

I’m grateful I have work and for the people that have given me the chance but deep down I’m in a dark place. I feel angry at the world and isolated from my friends.

It appears like I have it all together but the reality is different. A secure job, a stable home but inside I feel empty. Life has no meaning to me.

I feel worthless.

A failed footballer doing a job I hate with no idea what the future had in store. Something has to give, and finally, it does.

After a year in the job, I found the courage to pack it all in and head on a travelling adventure to Australia where I unknowingly meet my first mentor. Life is about to take a interesting twist.

***

It’s 2004 and I land in Australia excited for the adventure ahead but more so relieved that I’ve escaped the ‘hell’ of London.

The prospect of connecting with my family has reignited a flame inside of me and upon my arrival, I’m greeted by people that are to become a huge part of my life for the next 3 months and beyond.

Straight away Australia gives me a new sense of perspective.

I’ve just stepped foot on the other side of the world and have been welcomed into the home of a family who is relatively unknown to me. The love and warmth I receive are quite overwhelming. Can life really be THAT bad?

But I’m reminded of my failings each time someone asks me what I do. Someone soon identifies the holes in my armoury and decides to help this man in need.

That person is my older cousin Milton.

His enthusiasm and zest for life are infectious and he shows me what it’s like to live again. He’s a glass-half-full kinda guy that can see I need picking up. He’s the man about town with a network of friends that help me embrace the city of Melbourne as if it’s my own.

It makes me feel important again.

His commitment to living with freedom and daily words of wisdom has a profound affect on me and I feel a renewed sense of belief and hope.

He’s a mentor, a wise man and my soul brother. Someone that appeared in my time of need as if by magic.

But it’s only a start. I return home a happier version of myself but encounter more struggles.

Over the course of the next couple years, I visit Australia twice more and it’s on my last trip where I had the breakthrough that was to change the course of my life forever.

***

Australia makes me feel safe. It’s the world away from the reality I face back home in London. Since my first visit I had flirted with a couple of jobs and had pursued ventures that feel like they have set me back a few years.

All my friends have degrees, good jobs and a clear plan for the future and I feel like I am on a hamster wheel to nowhere. I only have one passion but haven’t the courage to take the necessary action partly because I’m being discouraged and because I don’t believe in myself.

I can see the flaws in the physical training I have received in my life and want to become a personal trainer to help others become healthier, fitter versions of themselves.

Milton, my cousin, mentor and wise man could see what I was battling with. If I am to make something of this I have to stop living in a way that is expected of me and make my own rules.

It’s clear to him that I am always trying to please others and on the way home from another night on the town Milton decides to let loose on me with a speech worthy of the TED stage.

It’s like he’s just opened my mind, taken out all the garbage and pressed a master reset button. No one had ever spoken to me in that way but it was the most enlightening experience of my life.

It takes me a few days to process what had happened but life has changed. I have changed.

London is calling and finally, I have something to look forward to.

In August 2006 I receive my diploma in personal training and sports massage therapy. Wouldn’t it be great to one day work with professional football players and Olympic athletes I ask myself?

Little did I know what lay ahead for me.

To be continued…

Mario.