Ex-NFL player Trent Shelton talks Rehab Time: ‘Greatness doesn't depend on success’

Trent Shelton, former NFL wide receiver turned speaker releases his debut book “The Greatest You”, May 7, 2019.
Trent Shelton, former NFL wide receiver turned speaker releases his debut book “The Greatest You”, May 7, 2019. | HarperCollins

Trent Shelton, a former NFL wide receiver-turned-popular motivational speaker, released his debut book The Greatest You: Face Reality, Release Negativity, and Live Your Purposewhere he reveals his definition of true success.

Shelton, who has over 50 million social media followers and 1 billion viewers to date, the largest of any online influencer, had a long fall from glory after his NFL career came to an end.

Raised as a Christian, he began creating faith-filled motivational videos and tweeting them out with the hashtag #RehabTime to get him out of a dark season that followed losing his dreams. To his surprise, the hashtag picked up and his videos became an inspiration to thousands.

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The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post's interview with Shelton where the world renowned influencer discussed his inspirational talks, many of which are in his new book, and revealed what he’s learned about the true meaning of success.  

CP: What made you want to write The Greatest You: Face Reality, Release Negativity, and Live Your Purpose?

Shelton: One of the main reasons was my community. I just wanted to bring a long format of my content Rehab Time, which is reality, release, repair. It's a three-part process. In this book, you get my journey but also you get the practical steps to be able to help you to become the greatest.

I wanted people to know that no matter what you've been through in your life, God has a plan for you and there's a greatness inside of you. It's not like the world has that person. It's already there because you were created by a great God. So hopefully people that read this book will discover that.

CP: You had a thriving football career that was short lived. Can you share why it’s important not to make those kinds of successes part of your identity?

Shelton: Chapter 2 of this book, titled "What's My Purpose" [is how] so many people think purpose is an external thing. And the thing I tell people is that it's not an external thing, it's an internal gift. Your purpose isn’t something that you must search for in the world. What most people are trying to find is placement.

So [for me], the NFL was a placement, a job is a placement. When you tie your purpose into those things, those things you can lose. So I thought my purpose was football and I lost it and felt like my life was over. So what I tell people now is that you are purpose! You were created with purpose; God set you apart. So now, you can go into the world knowing that you have a placement.

Like Rehab Time, I don't think Rehab Time is my purpose, it's my placement. So if I ever did lose Rehab Time, I still use my life in another avenue or placement to actually better the world.

I just want people to know that all the external things that you think will make you happy or fulfill you, probably won't, it's about an internal journey of really discovering yourself and finding that peace within.

CP: Can you share how you went from hopelessness to Rehab Time?

Shelton: It's a long journey. A lot of people don't know that I started Rehab Time in 2009 so it's been a 10-year process. I started making my videos at that time but it became my actual career in 2011–2012. The thing that I tell people is that when I started Rehab Time, literally, it was for myself, it was my rehab. It wasn't to be a speaker or to be an author, it was literally just to rehab my life. In doing that, I started to share my journey, to hold myself accountable.

If I'm going through this and I'm feeling this, the struggle is universal, then there's a ton of people who are going through these same things. So what I try to do is, I try to make it like super broad to touch people's lives.

CP: Can you explain the three Rs of Rehab Time and how you use them in the book?

Shelton: Forgiveness is a big chapter. When I'm dealing with those things in my life and find it hard to forgive, I'm thinking about, "Well, if I'm dealing with this, so many people are too." So it makes me want a deeper dive to really figure out how to change this and how to make things better.

The three-part process of rehab is reality, release, repair. The book is broken down in that process.

Reality is facing your reality. You never win your war by running from your battles.

Release is releasing the things in your life that needs to be released. Sometimes it's friends, your past, your habits.

Repair is the part where you ask, "What do I need in my life that's actually going to carry me to being the greatest me?"

Sometimes that involves going back in your past and digging up bad seeds that were planted in you as a little kid, that you have to get out of your mindset and your life and replace those seeds with seeds of faith and seeds of strength.

CP: What would you say is the difference between temporary success and real success?

Shelton: Temporary success is an external thing. How many followers you have on social media, it's your bank account, all those things. But those things are just tools and I tell people all the time those things aren't faithful, those things will come and go.

If you wrap your identity around that and you wrap your worth in those things, I can pretty much guarantee that at some point in your life, you're going to lose yourself.

True fulfillment is really living the life God has created you to live. I believe that really helping people and leading people closer to Him and leaving something in this world that will better this world is success!

The word that comes to my mind is actually the last chapter of my book, it’s legacy.

What's the legacy you're going to leave? That's the question that I ask myself all the time. Yeah, I have 10 million followers on Facebook but that's not the legacy I want to leave. I want to leave a legacy that says, "Man, Trent really helped people feel like they were enough. He really cared for people. He really showed that you can live your life for God and still be who you are at the same time.”

I think that fulfillment is key and a lot of people chase happiness but they might be seeking fulfillment. They're different.

CP: What advice do you offer to others who struggle with chasing temporary pleasures in life and how do you discipline yourself not to get trapped with those ambitions?

Shelton: There's a Jim Carrey quote that I love where he says: "I wish everybody can get everything they ever wanted, to make them realize that it's not enough."

So one question that I ask myself very often is a question that a lot of people should ask, which is, "what's really going to matter?"

You're never going to find somebody that will say, "I wish I had more money or I wish I had this or that, all these materialistic things." Every time, people say, "Man, I wish I had more time to love, more time with my family, with my kids and more to give something to the world.

One of my biggest fears is reaching the end of my life and realizing that I wasted my life, that I lived an incomplete life. So you've got to ask yourself that question, "What really matters to you and what's going to matter at the end of your life?"

CP: Looking back, would young Trent have ever imagined himself one day becoming a motivational speaker?

Shelton:  People that really know me, know that even today I'm an introverted person.  I don't really speak much, only when I need to. Out of my two brothers and me, I would be the last person to be a motivational speaker and author. I didn't even like reading books until I turned 27, so to be writing a book is just surreal. That lets you know that for one, God has a plan for you that's greater than the plan you have for yourself.

We live in such a limited mindset. We limit ourselves so much and we go based on the perception that we had for our life or our experiences. Don't limit yourself, really shoot for whatever. I'm a living testament that it really can happen if it's the will God has for your life.

The Greatest You: Face Reality, Release Negativity, and Live Your Purpose and other motivational content is available on Shelton’s website.

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