In 2007, I achieved my childhood dream of becoming a professional athlete. But two games into my rookie season, this dream quickly ended when I dove into a wall to catch a pass during an Arena Football League game.

I quickly went from “living the dream” to broke and living on my sister’s couch for the next year while recovering from surgery. Not only was I left with a broken body, I was broken in spirit.

As an athlete, my identity and growth came from competition. It was there, in the midst of training, struggle and victory, that I felt at home. But now things had changed, which meant I had two choices: I could adapt, or become just another person with a broken dream.

So I chose to get a new dream…

Lewis Howes Member

A good friend and mentor of mine, Vice President of Innovation at Deckers Stuart Jenkins, encouraged me to find my next opportunity on LinkedIn.

I’d never heard of LinkedIn before, but I quickly saw the value a platform like this could be for professionals, so I began spending countless hours every day on LinkedIn, learning how to take full advantage of every tool, and connecting with professionals all over the world.

Editor’s Note: Do you have a success story to share? Leave a comment on our LinkedIn Company Page. If you need more inspiration, check out our Member Stories blog series.

That’s when I discovered the power of LinkedIn Groups and created the Sports Industry Network.

Within a year of creating this group, Sports Industry Network reached over 10,000 members, and has since grown to over 110,000 members. I started providing resources for sports professionals in the group, hosting live events to connect them offline, and sharing interviews of members at SportsNetworker.com.

But I didn’t stop there. My next move was to help local business owners and entrepreneurs connect, so I began creating a series of local business groups around the country and hosting live events to  help people within my LinkedIn groups build stronger relationships by connecting offline.

And that’s when it hit me – I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

I didn’t know what my business would be quite yet, or what products I would create, but I figured as long as my focus was adding value, I couldn’t go wrong. So I took my knowledge of LinkedIn and decided to begin with that.

I challenged myself to meet as many people within my LinkedIn groups as possible.  I figured the more professionals I knew, the more value I could provide others by becoming a connector and sharing how to leverage LinkedIn.

One connection led to another, until I found myself catching a last minute flight to Las Vegas to attend an event called Affiliate Summit, which Jim Kukral, my newest acquaintance at one of my LinkedIn groups, recommended I attend.

It was at that event I was introduced as the “LinkedIn King” to Joel Comm, New York Times Bestselling author and online marketing expert. And by the end of that conversation, Joel had booked me to present a brief webinar training for his audience.

Before I knew it, I once again found myself in unfamiliar territory – online workshops (or webinars).

I remember being extremely nervous during that first webinar (as I was a terrible public speaker at the time) but I reminded myself that even though I was speaking to my laptop, my message was being heard by hundreds of people.  And it was a message they needed to hear.

At the end of the webinar, I quickly checked my e-mail to see if anyone had taken me up on my offer – and what I saw, changed my life forever.

My inbox was full of purchase orders.

I had sold over $6,300 in training material, designed to help business owners improve their social profile, leverage their network, and connect with other influential people.

All I can really say is, “I was hooked.”

I was hooked on educating people and teaching them how to help increase their business by generating more leads, traffic, and sales through social media and online marketing.

Since then I’ve created a 7-figure business, wrote a couple books, published a number of best selling social media training courses to help small business owners with LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube, been featured in the top media outlets, spoken all over the world, began The School Of Greatness (one of the fastest rising podcasts), helped people take online relationships offline with OverNear and have found my way back to professional sports in 2012 when I represented the USA national team in the Olympic sport of team handball.

I know I’ve been blessed, and I had my fair share of luck (both good and bad), but I’ve never stopped hustling.

None of this could have been possible, however, without a focus on providing value to others – and leveraging LinkedIn.

Editor’s Note: If LinkedIn has helped you transform your career or business, please share your story with us. If you need more inspiration, check out our Member Stories blog series.