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.
Male Standard caught up with Landon Donovan to see what life holds in store now that he has stepped off the field; we talk about how to focus on your successes to achieve your next accomplishment, how to look and feel good in all aspects of your life, and what Landon’s secret to success is. Hint: you can use this formula at home to see significant results in whatever you want to achieve. Landon also talks about parenthood, his aspirations, and what it means to be a Neutrogena Men Ambassador. We know you are going to be totally inspired by what Landon has to say, so keep reading!
What do you think is driving the popularity of MLS?
This sport pulls passion out of people. It may be pride for your community, city, nation; our fans understand that passion and want to feel that same sense of pride. It’s really special. What we have now is the same type of passionate fans as Europe, but we are growing the numbers out to create a new movement.
Did you have an ah-ha moment where you realized that soccer was it for you?
I played because I liked to. I kept going through the steps because I enjoyed it. It wasn’t until I was 16, and signing my first contract that I realised that I could do this for a living. I had a moment when I was 15 when I went to try out with the California regional team and I was thinking if these were the best kids in the regional south-west, and I was competing on their level, then I could do this long-term.
How do you stay focused when there is so much distraction?
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.
Why does meditation enable you to 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 would you have for someone who wants to 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 in the moment, and you will only be aware of trying to stop thinking, which is counterproductive. Mnay people wrongly think they cannot meditate when they can.
Do you have a pre-game ritual?
The pre-game routine is very ritualistic, although I knew the ritual so well it was often unconscious. I would go to the locker room and get a water and a Gatorade. I would workout in the gym and then get ready for the game. It became a ritual when I realized if I didn’t do one of those things that something wasn’t right.
Have you ever felt 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 advice would you give your younger self?
Become self-aware. When I was younger, I made a lot of mistakes, and hurt a lot of people, because I was led by my ego. If I had the ability to become self-aware, I probably would have done some of the mistakes, but I would have been able to apologise and see the mistakes, and learn from them. I would have learned faster.
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 stay balanced?
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.
Did you have a bucket list for retirement?
Yes! Many of my bucket list revolves around sport and travel. I went to the Masters. I always wanted to go to the US Open, and I did that this year. It’s been really nice that I could do those things. I went on my honeymoon was in Fiji, which was amazing. The Maldives was quiet literally like being on the other side of the world, and it was sort of a dream. We had a great time.
What does the future hold for you?
Learning is fun for me. I have always had the propensity to learn, so I took a poly-sci class, which I thought I was going to hate, but I loved. I also took a business one class and enjoyed that. I’m currently reading a book about a refugee, which is a sequel. I’m also reading a lot of books on parenting now as a new dad.
Why did you choose to partner with Neutrogena?
I want to work with people and companies who support soccer, players, and who believe in what I stand for. I genuinely enjoy using their products, and they are a joy to work with, so it was a natural fit. For me, grooming is an evening routine. My biggest transition was from never washing my fash (like many men, I was never taught) to now using the correct products on my face.
What is your go-to product?
Neutrogena Men Invigorating Face Wash is awesome. The biggest problem for men, however, is irritation. The Neutrogena Men Razor Defense is fantastic. Between those 2 products and using moisturizers, I have found this to be a simple and healthy routine. Given that I play outdoors, I want to make sure I protect my skin against the sun. Looking good doesn’t hurt either.
What is your Male Standard?
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.
Thank you Landon for taking the time out to talk with Male Standard; we really admire your ability to develop as a man and take on new challenge with a pro-active stance!