At 21, LaVar Arrington was selected No. 2 overall in the 2000 NFL draft — and his multi-million-dollar contract with the Washington Redskins made him a millionaire overnight.
Today, nearly two decades later, he wishes he could give his younger self some advice: Money changes everything.
"When you show up at Redskins Park and sign that piece of paper that officially makes you a millionaire, everything is going to change," the former football star writes on The Players' Tribune. "Because money changes everything." Particularly when it comes to relationships, he adds. As a high-earning professional athlete, "the unfortunate reality is that a lot of people are going to want a piece. So your definition of friend is gonna have to change. "
You have to learn to separate your friends from "tagalongs," says Arrington: "If you're going on a trip and someone wants you to pay for their ticket … guess what? That's not a friend. That's a tagalong." The people who ride your coattails are only going to slow you down, he writes, which is why he would tell his 21-year-old self to "audit your inner circle."
"When it comes to your pool of friends," he continues, "narrow and deep is better than wide and shallow."
Who you surround yourself with matters more than you may think. "Successful people generally agree that consciousness is contagious, and that exposure to people who are more successful has the potential to expand your thinking and catapult your income," Steve Siebold, who spent years studying rich and successful people, writes in his book "How Rich People Think."
"We become like the people we associate with, and that's why winners are attracted to winners."
Arrington, whose career was cut short at age 28 when he tore his Achilles, retired in 2007 and has since opened a restaurant, a training facility and a sports management company. Most recently, he started coaching high school football.
As a professional athlete-turned-entrepreneur, he has one more piece of advice for his younger self: "Stay away from anybody who claims to be bringing opportunities your way. Because there is no such thing as a can't-miss investment, or easy money, or a sure thing."
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