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At 22, it was my first season on a high-level pro basketball team, and I was one of the lowest-paid players. Two well-respected players in my position were earning 4-8x more than me. If you’re unfamiliar with sports terms, this drastic difference in pay meant I wasn’t expected to receive any time on the court.

Within two weeks, I earned my spot in the starting five and was one of the leading players on the team. We are not defined by our status, previous achievements, or money, and nothing can beat humility and devotion.

At 23, a teammate and a friend collapsed during basketball practice. It was another test to increase my capacity to handle challenges. Everyone around me froze, including the physical therapist, the coaches, and the leading players. For 45 minutes, I was doing CPR until he died right in my hands. The ambulance arrived too late.

At 27, I was at one of the lowest points in my life. I was completely exhausted after playing for two years with extreme chronic pain. I was ending a long-term relationship, and I had no energy to start another season. Nothing in my life seemed to be working well. I decided to take a season off and travel the world alone. Until today it was the scariest decision in my life to put my “success” and career on pause.

At 28, I did a trek in the Himalayas and got snow blindness at 15k feet, while the closest village was still a 3-day walking distance. Snow blindness is when your eyeballs get so burnt by the reflection of the sun in the snow that you cannot see. If you’ve been severely sunburnt, it’s the same feeling just in your eyeballs! I was blind for five days, and it took six months for my eyesight to recover fully. Despite many basketball injuries, this was the most physically painful experience of my life.

At 30, I was involved in a deadly car accident – a head-on collision on a highway in Italy. I broke both of my wrists, lost my next season’s contract, went through another year of recovery, and I had to quit basketball.

At 31, I moved with my wife to the US and started everything from scratch again. I learned how grateful I am for all the tests and challenges I have faced because this transition made me realize that transitions are effortless for me at this point, and fear doesn’t hold me back.

I write all this to show the importance of what it means to start over. As pro athletes, we constantly need to recover and start over. Collectively, these past two years have been asking us to start over in many ways.

For many years I felt like a misfit, an outsider for much of my life and I knew that there must be other former pro athletes who feel this way.

So, I was inspired to create The Dream Team, a conscious community for former pro athletes who are leaders and entrepreneurs that often feel like a misfit or an outsider in other spaces. It is based on these five pillars to provide a sacred and powerful community:

 Leadership that transcends positional power and provides an environment for everyone to grow to their fullest potential.

  1. Self-realization is a path beyond fear, self-doubt, and judgment.
  2. Seeing business as a service to humanity and a creative expression of love.
  3. Space to be vulnerable, messy, and imperfect.
  4. Deep spiritual connection beyond the superficial and transactional nature of many business relationships.

With Heart,

Gil·ad (eternal-joy)