140 characters wasn’t enough to express this experience so far at Harvard business school. The magnitude of what I’m embarking on didn’t hit till I was actually in our first class.  After we made it through our first case study and I was able to take a deep breath, the first thought that came to mind was my speech at Harvard in 2011.  As I look back at my notes of that speech some of the key points were how I compared Harvard students to professional athletes.  My comparison stemmed from the identical pressures of being in a high performance environment and how most of us our terrified of criticism and many mistakes.

In my preparation before my talk I found that the stresses, the pressures, the competition, and the mental anguish that we put ourselves through when trying to impress our professors/ coaches and peers/ teammates are very similar. Growing up we are the best of the best.  We’re  at top of our class, the elite of our sport, and when we get to the level of the Ivy League or to the NFL, you’re now with the best of the best and now that’s very scary.  The playing field evens out and you’re all starting on the same level.

What’s really interesting is how I believed in what I researched before my talk.  I believed it enough to put it in my speech and talk about it, but the feeling of actually sitting in those students seats in the classroom was an experience that was more terrifying,  more pressure, more stress,  then performing in front of 70,000 who are in attendance at the stadium and millions who tune into our games on Sundays.  Sitting in the classroom of almost a 100 students, fighting for a position to show that I am overly prepared, ready to present and defend my recommendations in the class and sitting with the anticipation of Professor Anita Elberse (author of Blockbusters) coming back to me was tougher than waiting for Jay Cutler to throw the ball to me in a two minute drill against the Green Bay Packers down by 7.

Whether you’re at Harvard or playing in Soldier Field, when dealing with anything high pressure it’s important that we have the coping skills to maintain a healthy lifestyle no matter where the pressure comes from or what playing field you’re on.

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  • Damir

    Great job Brandon. It’s not easy to reverse inertia. Truly uplifting to see someone like you take control of your life, remove the things that weren’t working and become a better person. Even more inspiring to see you taking such a genuine interest in helpimg others in this very worthy cause. Keep up the great work and best of luck this season and beyond.

  • Tim Brusveen

    It’s a truly wonderful sentiment. The way you dissect two types of pressure that are superficially the same yet are vastly different at their core presents an excellent binary. You mentioned on Twitter you were looking for feedback so allow me to provide just a bit. I am a fresh graduate with an English degree with an emphasis on writing craft. The content of the post is excellent, there are just a few small grammatical issues (than/then our/are). I’m very familiar with you as a football player but also as a man. As someone who has experienced a lot of the same troubles, your time and your voice are appreciated more than you’ll ever realize. I would love to help you in the same way that you have helped me, even if that means something as simple proofreading blog posts. What you are doing is truly special and I would like to be involved. I have also attached my email address to this post. I hope to be in contact soon.

    Be Well,

    Tim Brusveen

  • Mike Nowak

    Great comparison, Brandon. I look forward to reading more about your experiences in life today, and how you relate it back to what you learned about your struggles in the past. If its ever possible I’d like to sit down with you and add your testimony to my presentation. I started a NPO that raises money for Active Minds, INC called Just A Mile. I also use that platform to speak to high school/college students around the Chicagoland area about mental health and suicide prevention. Please let me know if it’s possible. Thank you again for all that you do. #CrazyStigmaGreen

  • Dee

    l live in North Carolina and I would like to know where can I get some help with my antisocial disorder, eating disorder, and isolation.

  • Matthew Spak

    Refreshing reading your thoughts on the two different arenas, Brandon – and the similarities between them. While I’ve never been in either of them, I can speak from my experiences in a more traditional area of life – that of a middle class father, employee, and household “breadwinner”. I’ve experienced pressure in my life, both financial and work related. The observation I’d like to lend to your thought process is this: pressure is that expectation we place upon ourselves when we focus on things which we have little – or no – control over. We all must learn to allow the things that we can not control to happen as they will, and focus our efforts and concerns on that which we can affect and change. This does not mean we turn a blind eye to what happens around us, more that we understand we are not all powerful beings and others will accept us as we are.

    Thank you for reading.

  • Beth Hanson

    My oldest son told me about your foundation for mental illness, so I looked you up on this website! This is so needed, we adopted a child with severe early childhood trauma and abuse, and mental illness. It has been so difficult to get him services and then there is the stigma. Hoping some of us can work together to change legislation and get help for those suffering with a mental illness and their families.

  • Memoirs Rhonda Johnson

    Hello Mr. Marshall,

    Wow! Thank you for your COURAGE. You are the face that will help educate those who have been lost because of the stigma and shame associated with mental health disorders. I too have a story of HOPE http://www.memoirsof2165 and SURVIVAL. May you and your wife message and your foundation reach the many.

  • JJG

    Brandon- I truly appreciate the work you do on and off the field. Last year was the first time I played ff and you were my top performing receiver, so thank you for that!!!

    More importantly, I want to thank you for what you are doing with your influence, time and resources off the field to help increase awareness about mental health, and support for it. My mother had serious mental challenges that created obstacles for me to be able to establish a relationship with her. I did not know how to engage in conversation with her and many times I felt embarrassed that she was my mother. She spent her entire adult life living on the streets, in jails, mental hospitals and group homes. I say these things only to say that mental illness extends well beyond the individual that is suffering, it affects those closest to the individual and ultimately has an impact on our society. I have been so fortunate to not have some of the same mental challenges that my mother experienced, especially since I have noticed traces of those challenges in some of my younger siblings. I am now very thankful to have had the mother I did, because I am a better person today and have learned more about myself as a result of that experience.

    Thank you again for your service to the community. May God continue to bless your work on and off the field. I hope to be able to meet you one day just to shake your hand and say thank you. God bless.

  • George Anderson

    I just learned of Brandon and his foundation 40 minutes ago from my son Bryan. Our firm, Anderson & Anderson, APC is a major provider of Emotional Intelligence Coaching for impulse control similar to the program that Brandon completed in Boston. We work with adolescents and adults as well as Executives and Physicians.

    It is my hope that Brandon’s success can overwhelm the negatives that are flooding the airways now regarding Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. We plan to repeat and repost everything we can find about Brandon and his incredible story.

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