“In my next chapter, my ambition is learning to be me- a regular human with no status and being able to find happiness in that.  It’s all part of the process. Whenever I am upset or frusterated, I remind myself of the bigger picture and that I have people around me who care.”

26 year old Calvin Newell, Jr. is a college graduate- the first in his family, and a manager for Bridgeman Foods,Inc. Until recently, he was also a professional basketball player, a successful star with TV-air time and fans cheering for him.

After graduating from University of Central Florida, Calvin was offered a spot on a professional basketball team in Montenegro – a dream come true for a kid out of Philly who grew up seeing a career as a professional athlete as the only way out of government supported housing and into a clear path of success. While he was excited about the opportunity in Montenegro – he began to think – ‘Is this all there is for me? Should I be continuing to chase this dream forever?’.

Other stories written about the basketball star, Calvin Newell Jr. – have quite a different spin – full of excitement about the success he reached and praises for being a kid who beat the odds. While this is impressive, we are interested in his process after basektball that has proven to be the most difficult and also rewarding challenge he has had yet.

Accepting the season (of basketball) was over, and being honest about the dissappointment that comes with that was the first step of his new journey. Calvin has made it a point, through the support of his mentors – to face this new challenge of redefining success and ‘designing his life’ in this next chapter head on. He is now putting everything he has learned and fought for to a test – which to us makes him an even more powerful inspiration and intriguing role model than he was as a professional athlete.

He shows us that it’s okay to feel miserable for a while – but the quicker we accept the situation and move on – the better.

He is a great example of how creating your best life is not a ‘one-dream journey’ but an on-going, life long process.

 Let’s begin with a flash back to your childhood…

I grew up in a rough neighborhood in Philadelphia. We lived in a section 8 government supported home and my mom worked two to three jobs and had eight kids. In my neighborhood there was only two ways for you to go 1) Become a drug dealer and subject your life to crime or 2) Succeed at a sport with hopes it could get you to college. Many wanted to be like the drug dealers because they had the nicest cars, the prettiest girls and the best clothes. I looked up to the professional athletes and dreamt about becoming one. I had already seen my brothers in and out of jail and I was scared of the police – so I focused on my basketball.

What kind of help, motivation and mentoring did you get? 

– As a sophomore in high school, I met Sine + The Lopez family and was invited to their house. I was this shy boy from the rougher neighborhood coming into this family where everybody talked and expressed themselves more than I was used to.  Lots of people cared about my basketball, but no one ever focused their support on me graduating high school and going to college. Pernille and Jason made me express myself- they supported me in my studies and made basketball come in as a number two priority. There is more to life than basketball, I was told.  I had always done okay in school but couldn’t really see what I would gain from getting a degree.  They pushed me to broaden my perspective. As lots of other kids with my background- I didn’t have parents who made me see the bigger picture. That’s what I look for now, this is how I survive – I look for the bigger picture. Pernille showed me to do that. Seeing the big picture is good especially when I let myself down. It means I can say to myself – ‘failing today might lead to success next year’. I don’t worry so much anymore and I am no longer afraid of failing.

What has been your biggest challenge after your professional basketball career?

– For me personally, it is dealing with my ego and pride. When you have been on national TV, played in front of 50,000 fans, and they see you do well- it gives you status. But they see you as ‘sports-guy’ Calvin rather than who you really are. When you no longer have the spotlight- you also see who people around you truly are. Some people act the same towards me and it’s those people that have taught me to always treat other people the same no matter what status I think they have.

I am thankful that I was able to realize early on that there was more for me other than my place on a basketball team and that I learned to focus on more than just doing well in the sport. Now I express myself more, although sometimes quietly and under the radar – and I try to stay focused on the future.  My focus has become more about how to grow the success of ‘regular’ Calvin – focusing on figuring out who I really am and what success looks like now that i’ve taken basketball off the table.

Has your view on success changed?

– I guess I see two types of success. With my background, having lots of money in my pocket is still ‘success’. To a certain point, it’s about the nice car and the best clothes. I have also focused more on finding another way- creating a nice home base and family for myself. I am now investing in getting more experiences and knowledge. Showing the kids from poor backgrounds that there is an opportunity to take another road – whether you are lucky enough to make it to college through sports or not. I see success as being able to bring something back to my friends and family.

In my next chapter, my ambition is learning to be a new more grounded person- learning to be me- a regular human with no status and finding happiness in that.

It’s all part of the process. Whenever I am upset or frusterated, I remind myself of the bigger picture and that I have people around me who care.

I guess I am operating with short term and long term success. It’s about finding out who I really am and letting people in enough so that they may still get to know and like me even if I am no longer the ‘coolest’ guy in the room.

How was leaving behind the sports career?

– It was sad. I was sad. It was a bad place to be because up until then, that was what made me feel like somebody. In the situation it felt like giving up hope- it was very emotional.

Pernille and Jason continued to stress that I had to keep the bigger picture in mind, and now I feel good. I am not scared. I still have my days feeling low about it, but I catch myself and move on. I have learned a lot and am still always learning. It’s a good and strong feeling to know that I have the tools to deal with things in my new chapter. Getting where I am today has been a difficult road, and I have lived under a lot of stress and fear of failure and letting my self and my family down. Through the mentoring and support from Pernille and her family I have realized that I am more than a basketball player- I am a successful man.

What is your best advice to others?

– For other people starting the journey and who are scared too- I can only say; just jump – you just have to jump. You can’t be stuck in one place with one idea of success. Don’t be scared of people or new challenges.

Through the work I have done, I have come to this philosophy; I will always figure things out. Put me in any situation and I will make it work. It’s like a new survival mode I am confident living in now.

In any chapter of life – you need to assess the situation for what it is and then figure out how you can make it work out for the better- and what you can do to move yourself in the right direction.

I also use what Pernille has taught me in my management style at the restaurant. How she operates is how leadership should be. She has taught me to use my own position of power to position others for success and empower them.

I like that I can pass this empowerment on to others.
I feel strong and powerful knowing I am putting my degree to use and creating a life for myself. I am an example that excelling in one area can be great and exciting, but that you can do big picture things when you take responsibility for your life and continue to work hard.


The Good Life Designed online course provides you with tools to deal with all the things, Calvin talks about. Assembling your best life is not a privilege for the few, it’s a responsibilty for the many.

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There is no right or wrong way to design your life. There is only YOUR way. All life designers are so different, but when we talk about the work involved, we are very often similar and share the same doubts and fears.

Do you have a challenging and inspiring life designer stories to share, we would love to hear from you.

Please email: Karin@goodlifedesigned.com