166: “Should I Really Write This Book?” with Sivonnia DeBarros

Navigating A Mission That’s Bigger Than Yourself

“I defy mediocrity. And even if you are the person who thinks that you have it all, but you’re not really doing ‘the work,’ you’re living in mediocrity because you aren’t stepping up to the plate to do what you know you are supposed to be doing.” – Sivonnia DeBarros

Most of us dream of being rich and famous someday. We look up to successful authors and actors, musicians and athletes. But they can easily lose their careers and wealth if they don’t know how to protect them — and especially at a disadvantage are people of color.

This is where attorney Sivonnia DeBarros steps in — helping athletes in particular guide their legacies.

On this week’s episode of “Authors Who Lead,” Sivonnia shares what led her to want to help athletes, how she protects them, and the book that came from it, “What Are You Sporting About?: For Aspiring, Current & Former Pro-Athletes in Business.”

On Finding Her Calling

Within six months of passing the bar exam, Sivonnia knew she wanted to represent athletes, but she started out in family law and representing small businesses instead. But after her son was born, she started thinking about her purpose and the people she was here to serve.

As an athlete herself, she understood the ups and downs of playing a pro sport, and wanted to help them hold their boundaries with family members, and protect their wealth and legacies. She realized that writing a book to specifically help professional athletes was a small niche, and a big commitment for someone already busy with a law career and family.

She went for it anyway.

Writing a book helped establish her authority and, in turn, is actively changing lives. She told me about a reader who benefited from her book, and he wasn’t even an athlete. He pointed out that the information she shares applies to everyone.

“The feedback that I’ve gotten is that a lot of people just didn’t realize that they were possibly bringing their own childhood traumas into their business or potential business relationships,” she said.

Mindset and Building Teams

Sivonnia also urges athletes to build a team around themselves to protect their legacies, including financial advisors and lawyers. While this should come naturally to them, considering they play on a team, many don’t extend this idea to their personal lives.

But when she considered the stereotypes and expectations that surround them — particularly black and brown athletes — she realized the mindset was different. Athletes of color predominantly hail from communities where their sport helped them provide for their families, so they’re completely focused on the sport, while their white counterparts grew up better conditioned for a future outside of it.

Just like the business owners she represented, the athletes would come to her only needing legal advice once something happened to them. She watched as many millionaires made huge mistakes and lost their fortunes. This prompted her to focus on getting these athletes set up for success at the beginning of their careers and dreams.

I coach a lot of creative people from a variety of fields. Most of the time, I’m not talking to them about creativity, but rather the mindset of wealth, success and abundance — and that they need to prepare for those before they lose everything. 

Why Athletes Aren’t Getting More Help Managing Their Wealth

Professional organizations do exist to help educate and inform professional athletes on how to manage their finances, Sivonnia says, and while they have good intentions, there are several issues at play.

First, a good percentage of the athletes feel like they are wasting their time taking the classes. And second, the presentation of the topics might not be engaging or innovative.

At the same time, she said that it is on the athletes themselves — and the people they have around them — to take the initiative on educating themselves and building the right team in order to promote future success.

What Book Would You Write For Non-Athletes?

I noticed in Sivonnia’s book that she had a deeper, underlying message — and that it seemed like she was writing to me, even though I’m not a professional athlete.

I asked her if she were to write another book not geared toward athletes, what would it be? She said she would explore spiritual discernment and authenticity, drawing from her experience of growing up fatherless to becoming a professional. It would be a little scary, she said, since it would include more of her heart and her own stories of struggle.

We all have something in life we are supposed to share along our journeys. For Sivonnia, the movement behind her message is bigger than just helping athletes protect their wealth. It is about pouring herself into others, especially people of color — to show them how to heal and help themselves so that they can, in turn, help others.

Advice On Writing a Book

Sivonnia is adamant on not worrying about what other people will say to us, because that negativity will stop us from following our dreams. The fear of what others think can keep us stuck.

“So just move,” she told me. “That is my advice: Move in spite of everything.”

If you have a message burning inside of you and you’re putting it in a book, remember these greatest takeaways from my conversation with Sivonnia:

  1. Think now about how your life might be bigger — because sometimes, when life gets bigger than you, you might need assistance.
  2. Books are written because you have a bigger mission than yourself or building a business. 
  3. Everyone needs a hero on their side to help, no matter how famous or important they might seem.

What was your biggest takeaway from the episode? Are you writing a book to spread a message? Share in the comments below!

That’s all for this week. Take that next step to finding that mission and write your book!

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