Former NFL Player John Diggs Bounced Back From a Crisis and Found Success With His “Mapineering” Technique

UPDATED: January 10, 2024
PUBLISHED: January 1, 2024
John Diggs former NFL player and founder of the mindmapping technique mappineering

For a long time, everything was just about picture-perfect for John Diggs. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he earned a scholarship to play football at Washington State University and played several years in the NFL. That career ended in 1995, when his right knee was reconstructed—but this was only the beginning for Diggs, who pivoted, swift and nimble as a running back, into a mortgage career. Eventually, he built one of the largest mortgage brokerages in southern California, living the comfortable millionaire lifestyle with his wife and kids. 

“Then everything melted away in the mortgage meltdown. I literally lost everything,” he says, emphasizing each syllable to clarify the scale of the loss. He lost his job, his wife, access to his children. “I was basically forced to move back into my mother’s house and sleep on the couch that I bought her.”

All he took with him in the move were some gym clothes, his bike and a “big-ass box” bursting with all the motivational CDs, DVDs and books he’d accumulated over the years. Many of those books and other pieces of media had helped him achieve the life he’d built before everything fell to pieces. “I knew I had to revisit the information in that box to rebuild my life,” he says.

Nestled inside among the Tony Robbins and Wayne Dyer items in the collection, Diggs found something called The Mind Map Book. Somebody had gifted it to him somewhere along the line, and he’d never really looked at it… until now. And it gave him an idea. He decided to mind map the contents of his big-ass box.

What is “mind mapping”?

If you’re not familiar with the concept, “mind mapping” is a method of organizing and displaying information in a visual way. A simple mind map starts with a theme at the center, and associations connected with the theme branch out from there, with additional branches relating to each idea until you’ve got something that resembles a web. 

It took Diggs three months to read and map everything in his self-improvement box, and by the time he finished, he’d created a visual record of decades worth of wisdom from leading authors and experts on motivation and self-improvement. A few months after that, he’d moved out of his mom’s place and landed a new job with a six-figure salary. 

“It really transformed who I am,” he says. “I went from rags to riches in eight, nine months, and I know it was specifically because of the mind-mapping process.” 

The experience stuck with him, and over time, he continued using mind maps to guide his decision-making and tackle tough challenges. Diggs discovered visualizing information this way gave him a sense of clarity—and he had fun doing it! Eventually, he developed his own spin on mind mapping—which he’s dubbed “mappineering”—that he now shares with others to help them achieve a life they love. 

Get serious about your goals with mappineering

Now, if you are familiar with the concept of mind mapping, you’ll realize the way Diggs interprets and teaches it differs a bit from its traditional applications. 

“Most people that know of it use it for project management, brainstorming, note taking—those kinds of things,” he explains. 

Maybe you’ve had a college professor who encouraged it as a way to visualize a lecture or a boss who sketched one on a whiteboard during a meeting. “Getting complete with issues in your past, or goal setting, or decision-making, or problem-solving—most people don’t use it in that way,” Diggs adds.

That’s why he refers to his methods by the name mappineering—a portmanteau of “mapping” and “engineering.” Rather than a stagnant sheet of notes meant to jog your memory or help you study for a test, mappineering refers to an active set of words and phrases that are applied on a personal level to help people achieve their dreams.

John Diggs’ “I Am” mind map

Diggs says the best and most impactful way he’s found to implement this for self-actualization is to start with what’s called an “I Am” mind map. In this instance, you are the theme of your map.

The idea is to “get clear on who you are first,” he explains. “And what I’m finding is, most people have never consciously sat down and mapped out what’s most important to them in their lives. What are the key components of your life as it relates to health, wealth, success and happiness?”

“I have people start with that because once they get clear with that, then it’s easier for them to set goals that are more in alignment with who they intend to be,” he continues. 

For example, as we enter this plan-making, self-improving time of year, let’s say your resolution is “go to the gym more” or “get in shape.” That’s a good, concrete goal—and a noble thing to strive for! 

But a few days or weeks in, you notice your commitment beginning to falter. Going to the gym doesn’t fulfill you, and when you leave each weight training session, you realize you don’t feel anything but tired. If you find sticking with this goal to be extra challenging, that could be because it doesn’t really align with or complement who you are.

John Diggs wants to help everyone mappineer their way to happiness

Completing John Diggs’s I Am map first helps give people a better sense of who they are at their core and, therefore, what they want. Maybe what’s really important to you is to be healthy, not necessarily to go to the gym. What else could that look like? Could it enrich you more to cook healthy meals at home rather than eat out? Maybe a walk around the neighborhood to jog your brain and get your legs moving would be more practical and rewarding? Or maybe, in your case, “health” doesn’t even apply as much to physical health. Maybe what’s most important to you this year is focusing on your mental or spiritual health. 

Mappineering is meant to give you clarity on the things that will actually bring you joy and, in doing so, give you more control over your life.

This way of thinking can also be the framework that guides your decision-making process more broadly, whether that relates to concrete goals you’ve set or how you navigate your day-to-day life. 

Mappineer your way to success

Let’s say you’ve connected pictures of the books you want to read to the “happiness” section of the I Am map. That’s a visual that might pop into your head as you enter the second hour of a TikTok scrolling session, helping you to refocus your time and energy.

“I’ve also been finding it very useful when life throws us curveballs,” Diggs adds. There are more mind maps and visualization tools on his website meant to help folks navigate particularly difficult times, whether that’s a conflict with a co-worker or loved one or the loss of a job—or having to move back in with your mom.

“When I have people mind map a specific problem, it releases the emotion of that problem,” Diggs explains, “because it’s no longer a first-person issue. They’re seeing the problem in a third-person position.”

Ultimately, mappineering is meant to help you engineer a life you love, not just a life you’re in because it’s comfortable or because inertia brought you there. It all comes back to the themes Diggs saw as he dug through that big-ass box, connecting the wisdom of famous motivators from Brian Tracy to Les Brown.

“I started to see that the ultimate goal that all of them were talking about is that we should love life,” Diggs says. “Love and live our best lives.”

Photo by JLC Imagery.

Cassel is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor, a co-owner of Racket MN, and a VHS collector.