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Leadership & High Performance with Professional Athlete, Andy Ellis

Apr 07, 2022

 
 
During my interview with Andy Ellis, we spoke about leadership, being authentically you and how to live a life with no regrets. 
 
 Andy Ellis is a professional rugby player, and formerly played with the All Blacks and Canterbury Crusaders. His high performance mindset also applies to his career, as a serial entrepreneur.
 
Andy shared some amazing tips with me during our interview. My top three take aways were:
  1. Don't be a shoulda, woulda, coulda person. Be the person who goes the extra mile, pushes through adversity and really goes after what they want in life. 
  2. Be authentically you. This is how your team builds respect for you. Be honest about who you are and what you believe in. 
  3. Build resilience. It's non-negotiable. Life will most definitely throw some curveballs your way. Be ready for them and learn to bounce back from them.

 

Andy has taken everything he has learnt from being a professional athlete, and applied it to all aspects of his life. Andy truly embodies his values and is unapologetic about who he is. 

 
If you want to learn lessons in leadership, high performance and entrepreneurship then you're in for a treat.

 

 

 

Full Transcript

SPEAKERS 

Andy Ellis, James Laughlin 

Wed, 1/26 6:20 PM • 30:38 

SUMMARY KEYWORDS 

rugby, played, Christchurch, big, decision, bit, thinking, push, connecting, new Zealand, months, opportunities, behaviors, team, people, leadership, rugby players, stage, kids, incredible 

SPEAKERS 

Andy Ellis, James Laughlin 

 

James Laughlin  

Welcome to Lead on Purpose. I'm James Laughlin, former seven-time world champion musician, and now executive coach to global leaders and high performers. In every episode, I bring you an inspiring leader or expert to help you lead your life and business on purpose. Thanks for taking the time to connect today and investing in yourself. Enjoy the show. 

 

James Laughlin 

In today's show, I’m incredibly excited to welcome in a true high performer. A former All Blacks champion rugby player, an entrepreneur, a leader, and a father. Andy Ellis is joining us today. So, sit back and enjoy the great conversation.  

 

James Laughlin  

A massive welcome to the Life On Purpose Podcast, Andy. 

 

Andy Ellis  

How are you? Good to be here.  

 

James Laughlin 

Fantastic, mate so good to connect. Thanks for making the time I know you're over in New York, there's a bit of a time difference between the two of us, but an absolute pleasure to connect 

 

James Laughlin  

Now, tell me so you're a kiwi. Obviously, the accent gives away you're not from New Jersey or New York. So how did you end up all the way over there? 

 

Andy Ellis  

Yeah, well, I was actually playing rugby in Japan, for the last five or six years. And then COVID hit. And the timing was okay with it because I was sort of going to finish up anyway in Japan and hit home and sort of start the next chapter in my life. But you know, my wife and I were sitting there one day before we came back, and we just said, you know, if another amazing opportunity came up, you know, we probably would still have a crack at it. And that would have to be somewhere like living in London or New York, you know, for us to consider that. But if that didn't happen, then I was happy to come back and start the next chapter. And honestly, two weeks later, I got a message in the middle of the night from the head coach of the New York rugby team and asked me what I'll be interested in coming over. I actually thought it was a dream because 10 across the middle of the night, wake up in the morning, and that's still there. So, we had a good chat about it and decided that we would take our young family and come and have another adventure while we still can. 

 

 

 

James Laughlin 

That's epic. Fantastic. You're doing something you love. It's been a hobby. It's been a career, it's been a profession, and you're able to do it in one of the best cities on the planet. 

 

Andy Ellis  

Yeah, and it really hasn't disappointed either. We came over in February, started February, and it's a great challenge here. Rugby's a new sport. But you know, American people they love, they love sport, and they love entertainment, and they love their tribal, so they love getting in behind things. So, you know, it's been great. And you know, it's cool to kind of give a little bit back to you know, let's share some of my experiences, I suppose with some people here and try and help grow it a little bit as well. But that's been great cities incredible. Family loving it. And yeah, the road was a great challenge. 

 

James Laughlin  

That's epic. And you've got so much to offer. When you look at your history, and rugby it's phenomenal. So, I'd love to chat a little bit about that. Because not everybody who lifts a rugby ball ends up in the All Blacks, arguably the best rugby team on the planet. So how did that transpire? Where did that start, you know, in Christchurch as a kid did you know that's what you wanted. 

 

Andy Ellis 

There are not many young sailors and crush it to New Zealand that they don't pick up a rugby ball and kick it around some stage in the new use. So, you know, I'm just passionate about it. My dad loved it, too, you know, with the classic New Zealand family, I suppose, you know, we'd get up and watch tennis matches from overseas in the middle of the night. And I knew the national anthem and the hacker when I was about 18 months old. So, you know, I loved it and passionate but now I didn't really ever consider the idea of actually playing professionally, you know, just seemed a little bit too far stretched, you know, I was my, my family, my dad, or grandparents and uncles around, none have a particularly big either, or it'd be rugby players, you've got to be fairly big. So, I end up slotting into that heartache role pretty early on anyway. But you know, look, I went to Princeton High School, which is a good COVID school in Christchurch rugby, not a particularly big focus, I think we're in the second division, more music sort of focus at that school. They used to love to hear great coaches and a great group of guys and yeah, just really enjoyed my rugby through that time. And then I went away, and I play cricket. When I finished school, I went over to the UK and play cricket. I got a scholarship through the Willows Cricket Club in Christchurch and loved it my time there to gain a really good challenge for 17- or 18-year-old to be away from Mum and Dad and try and fend for myself a little bit. Grew up a little bit and then so I love that I came back to Christchurch and carried on with my rugby when I think I think back to that time Rugby was my real passion. I love both cricket and rugby. But rugby was my passion, my love. And although I've sort of been in and out of rip teams I suppose growing up. I really committed at that stage to rugby and got stuck into the local varsity team and my club side and yeah, that's kind of how it all played out. 

 

James Laughlin  

That's brilliant. What I like about that Andy is you didn't say at five years old; I'm going to be an all-black. It's like you went with the life you kind of pivoted as things come up, you took opportunities, and then when the timing was right, you're like, this is what I got to keep get to this. 

 

Andy Ellis 

Yeah, yeah, that's the right man. And I'm lucky to find you to go play with some amazing athletes and skillful rugby players. And like, you could have sworn they were distant for higher honors. But you know, the thing is, and you find this, when you actually get into the old Lexus, a lot of the guys who've got a similar story, it's actually more about how they were able to bounce back from disappointment, what sort of adversity they went through at different stages of their career or life and what sort of resilience I suppose that built up over time. And then because that's ultimately what kind of helps you kick on to that to that next level, you know, being able to deal with those, those really tough situations at times, and push through them and keep bouncing back and keep bouncing back. And I suppose that's kind of a bit of my story, you know, COVID school, very big at Rugby, missed and a lot of teams and then finally kind of got my, my chance under nine teams where I kind of took it. 

 

James Laughlin 

You kept punching like you didn't start, he just kept like, pushing him and moving forward. 

 

Andy Ellis  

Yeah, as I say, you talk to a lot of those boys in there, and the top-performing teams, the stories will be suddenly, you know, a lot of great athletes around there. But your ability to bounce will keep punching, you know, especially when it gets really hard, and it doesn't look like this. There's a lot of opportunity lift. I think that's what we're having I mean; I'll tell you like so you know, I am, I missed out on the category under 19 rugby team. And that was, it was then that I was kind of I remember, I've told the story before, but I remember pulling over on the side of the road by Hagley Park, and I started crying. And I was like, if I haven't made the Canterbury under 19 team, probably rugby is probably not a career or a future for me. And I had a real was a real mono back home, you know, and I had a decision that I could make at that point, I could either go and start getting on the purse with my mates at Uni on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Or I could make a really true deep commitment to giving it a chance, give it everything I could up to six months just give it everything I could have no excuses. I don't want to be one of those old boys down the club room saying I could have or should have or just wasn't quite my, you know. So, it's I fully committed to it. And it's amazing the opportunities that come when you're fully committed. And that's pretty much what happened. I played a play for the Academy under 19 B team. We played New Zealand under 21 team who were preparing for the tournament, you know, because we were the B Team, this battle kick around for them. And I played really well in that game. And that and the coach of New Zealand under 21 sides said I want that, that young halfback to come to the trial next year. And they can return to that now we've got two other topics, the 18. And this coach said I want Nate young, young kids to come along. He's, he's gotten hard. And so yet, so went to the I went to the trial that next year, which was about 4 months later. And from that, I made New Zealand under 21. Team. And then we've been on that tour a couple of months after that I made the Canterbury NPC team sort of three months after that I made the Crusaders. And then at the end of that crusader's year that four or five months after that, I made the All Blacks so like super quick. Obviously from kinda crying on the side of the road and making this decision. Within kind of 18 months, I was running out against a seller and took it in you know? 

 

 

James Laughlin 

Amazing! That's phenomenal! 

 

Andy Ellis 

Yeah, so that's when I, you know from talking to young people, it's, you've always got a decision and you always got a choice. You always do. And sometimes it's really hard to make the choice. And it seems like there's not a lot of hope. But you still got a choice to make. And you can kick on and push through those tough times and you'd be amazed what you can achieve. 

 

James Laughlin  

That's phenomenal advice. And I look at life. So, everyone's life is the same. It's a series of decisions. When you get up in the morning, that's a decision do I get up? Or do I hit the alarm? You know, do I eat a healthy breakfast? Or do I have an unhealthy breakfast? So, the decision-making process, and all blocks or any elite athletes that I've had the pleasure of connecting with? I like to learn how they make decisions. So, you made that decision when you were 18-19 and that obviously impacted your trajectory hugely. And so now, as an adult, you're making decisions for your family, for yourself for your business. If we can go back to that decision, that pivotal decision, how did you do what 90% of people wouldn't have done and 90% of people your age would have gone from Hagley Park and drove to the Carlton and had a pint and then what had helped make that decision to go and double and dine, let's do this. 

 

Andy Ellis 

Oh, look, I don't know. Parents probably played a role in that, you know, when I was growing up, you know, not to give up on things easily. Do you know? I mean, I played the piano when I was about six years old. And after a couple of months, I'd had enough of it. Like, I want to kick a ball around, you know, and there's no way Munden leave me, so I was still doing it five years later, miserable, but I didn't, I didn't have a choice. Like, you start something you think probably there's a bit of that deep down really going like, you're going to give up on this. So, you're going to give it a chance. So maybe it's a bit of that, you know, I think maybe my upbringing, but I'm pretty, pretty competitive, too. I like to go I like to give up anyway. So yeah.  

 

James Laughlin  

What about pressure? So, you would have been in like, a little bit of just hypothesizing. But thinking back to that moment, you would have been a little bit sad, disappointed, maybe upset? Making decisions when you're in the heat of battle is difficult. And sometimes you don't make clear decisions. How do you in when you're under pressure, whether you're playing on the rugby field or in business when you're under pressure? How do you make clear decisions? 

 

Andy Ellis  

Well, back then I didn't, I wasn't aware of it. But I've been, I've been really fortunate that I've been in great teams under great coaching and management that have developed processes now to be able to deal with a lot of that stuff. So now if I'm in a pressure situation, whether it's waiting for an Uber to get to the airport on time, or, you know, trying to win a big game, I am breathing. It's important. Always breathe and concentrate on breathing, get oxygen, into my lungs, also have a physical motion or movement. So, for me, I'll push my toes into the ground. If it's on the field, since you know, through my boots in the grass or everyday life, I just sort of push my toes and into the, into the ground. And what that does is it takes your mind off what you're thinking about, or what you're stressing about, or the precious situation and mistake you've just made on the field. And when you push, you do something physical, it actually forces your brain to stop thinking about that, even if it's just for a second because you've got to push your toes into the ground. And then when you come back up into your head, after breath, quite often you're able to just focus on that next process, or deal with those pressure situations. Now, not always, sometimes you have to do it again, you know, the crowd might still be yelling at you, or you might be feeling good on the pump. So, you just same again, breath, push your toes in, back into your head and then focus on that next job and, and more often than not, it's a good way just to kind of shift on to that next stage, and be able to execute on the pressure again. 

 

James Laughlin  

That's brilliant advice. I think of that, as a neuro-linguistic anchor, like having that anchor of pushing your toe into the ground. And that anchors you at a neurological level and allows you to kind of decompressor detach from that situation. I really like that. And it's something that nobody sees you doing like you got a pair of rugby boots on, nobody knows that you're trying to grind yourself like nobody can see what you're doing there. 

 

Andy Ellis  

Yeah, and you know, it kind of makes sense to doesn't think about it. It's hard for you to be thinking about something when your brains telling you to do something else, you know, and you'll actually see it to that on the field. You know, if you have a good look at all black boys that someone makes an error, they'll have a hell of a moment, someone, sometimes just let some touches shoulder some will give themselves we hit on the head you think they're saying or what have you done, but actually, they're just as the process to shift on and move on to the next stage. So, most of the guys these days have got a process that they can work through to kind of shift their minds into the next stage.  

 

James Laughlin  

That's brilliant. And in your time in the All Blacks who would you say was a great role model or someone that modeled behaviors, leadership behaviors that you're like how I've learned a lot from that individual? 

 

Andy Ellis  

I mean, again, I've been so fortunate to play with some of the great players in recent decades really. And coaches to like the coaching ones. Wayne Smith really stands out to me as an incredible coach and his behaviors like his work great to be the best as San Paolo but it's not it's not by accident that he knows almost where the games going before it's gone there. He studied so hard; he doesn't miss me. He watches spit every game there is, breaks it down figures out where the opportunities are and why they are. He can present it well. So, his hard work and that side of things. And he kind of always tries to lead the way he tries to go places people haven't been yet. And so, he's always pushing the boundaries and always say things he said, I don't know if that's enough, that's a great call. And sure enough, six months later, it's kind of where the game's gone, or you know what's happening. So, learn pretty quickly to just trust Him on that stuff. So Smithy was a big one for me in terms of his behaviors and his work, right. And we thought about pushing the boundaries. You know, the other great leaders, you know, like my good mates like Richie and DC Radio those boys, just so tough and determined for excellence, but you just stop going is just not going to get in the way that they're so clear on where they want to go and how they're going to achieve it. And to see their work as just a thing to behold, it really isn't. I'm talking about little behaviors too they just at first and on, Richie was always the first out on the field didn't matter. In fact, I thought it was raining and it was miserable. He'd make sure that he was out there running, he'd run about three laps before anyone else got out there just as just to show like, it's all right, boys, you know, come with me never needed to say but you always knew. Because like DC, you know, snuck down to the gym late at night to do extra sessions. I mean, he kicked it, it'd be down a day off and probably wasn't even supposed to be taking out 100 shots a goal, you know, just because he wanted to be the best, you know, I don't know how you to train it. But it's just the way that the boys go that they work, I suppose it was always inspiring seeing that. 

 

James Laughlin  

Desire, you know, that clear vision, as you said, they knew that what they were buying had this desire, I look at all of you guys who have played an elite sport, and I don't see one leader and then lots of followers, I see like, all these individual, high-performance leaders within a team. And you've all got those same attributes in different ways. Have you used those leadership skills and brought them across to the say, the corporate world or the entrepreneurial world? 

 

Andy Ellis 

Well, I think it's been a real development. And right since I started playing professional rugby, as well as you've almost gone away from the model of the captain as such too he's the guy that kind of flips the coin but it's a really strong leadership group that will actually drive a lot of the standards and behaviors and the team and everyone will have a different turn at leading through the week and chipping in and a team huddle, it's not looking at the captain, let him talk, it's, it's the group that's all really aligned. One of the things I look for in my lady, my lady is around leadership is it's really got to be like that, the true you. It's going to be what you truly believe in and what you stand for. And a lot of those are the values that you've been brought up with. As a young person. And if you're really true to a lot of those values, then it comes out as being really honest and really genuine when you lead. And so, for me, I just try and stay true to that stuff. And that's how I chat and lead, and the beauty is everyone slightly different too, so you get a nice mixture in the leadership groups. And so certainly, I think that's something that that transfers really nicely to the business world you know, I feel like some of my characters, but you know, I'd say that I'm extremely competitive from very kind. Courageous, kind, caring, I love people, I love connecting with people and chatting with people. So, getting to know them and getting to know their families, I really, I really enjoy that, that side of teams. And so, I can drive that on a rugby team but also when I'm away from that and involved in you know, a couple of the businesses I've got really love meeting new people and understanding their story and, and some of those behaviors are trying action to and the business world I'm pretty competitive, pretty relentless to actually get up. So, I keep I like to think I keep going until I get something to say yes, I think some of that stuff and when you're your true self, around your colleagues or your teammates, then that's how you get your respect. And I think it's okay saying it's really easy to read, read books on leadership and then try and emulate what it says you should be. Thinking that can be seen as Bob sometimes see-through, say that that's probably what I've learned through leadership, and anyone could do it the right if you're your high school kid or your and old man, you know, lady, you can care and be true to yourself and get there to speak through leadership. 

 

James Laughlin  

I think that's really powerful, particularly anybody listening that's an aspiring leader, or as a current leader wanting to kind of be more authentic is, you know, it's the answers are not in any books, you know, there's some good strategies and books might be some good examples. But leadership is on the field, whether that field is grass, or whether that field is in the boardroom, like actually getting in and having a really tough day and hitting adversity and facing COVID. And getting out the other side as an athlete, or as a CEO. 

 

Andy Ellis  

Absolutely, yeah. And when you've got a process to figure that out, like what I've talked about, you sit down and you go, what do I, what do I stand for? What do I really believe in what's really important to me, and you can write those things down? And then if you drive those things really well, then you do a really good job of it because you believe in it. 

 

James Laughlin 

And with leading, I always learned, you know, leading starts with yourself learning to lead yourself. So where are you heading, so what's the next three to five years look like in your life? 

 

Andy Ellis 

Well, I'm in New York again, next season. So that little finish up in June, or July. And at this stage I'm on I'm really loving it here, I'm meeting some incredible people in the city and the energy and kind of what you give you kind of get back in the city to have found that the big way to which is, which has been inspiring, actually, we're going to see like this. So, you know, I'm not jumping into anything too quickly. I'm keen to win until my rugby time's up. If it's July, I'm keen to give myself six months to just kind of take a big deep breath in and get my feet back at home. And really have a good think about what I want to do next, you know, I've got some good, some really cool opportunities, but I want to make sure I get that, right. So, I know how important goal setting is and putting a plan in place, but I'll decompress a little bit after I retire from rugby and then come up with a route clear plan after that. 

 

James Laughlin  

That's brilliant. But to me that shines a light on your decision-making process. Like inadvertently, we just uncovered the decision-making process and that is, hey, sometimes creating space, and detaching gives you the clarity of thought to make really good decisions and goals. That's fantastic, man. 

 

Andy Ellis  

Yeah, yeah. And like I, I love rugby, and I love being involved in it. But I've been involved in its 15-20 years now, you know, like, full-on professionally. So yeah, just a step away. Big deep breath. You know, I've still got great friends and rugby circles. So, we'll keep connecting, but just figure out what that's going to be involved in rugby then great if it's something another, another adventure in so bit, but I think it'd be pretty clear when I give myself a few months to figure that out. 

 

James Laughlin  

I love it. And for those listening who don't know, Andy's also very entrepreneurial and is involved in satellite internet, like TIX, essentially internet and very rural places in New Zealand, giving lots of kids and families access. He's also got an incredible Wagyu beef company, and arguably one of New Zealand's top products. If you go to the top restaurants around Auckland and Christchurch. It's an incredible product. So, what else have you got on the cards there that you're excited about? 

 

Andy Ellis  

Now the kind of the big two sorts of focuses back home. But you know, like, I'm really fortunate to have great people involved with both of those companies as well. So, I can be off flip-flops floating around New York. And now I'm putting in some really hard yards, but they're two companies that I'm really passionate about in both being startups. So, it's always a little bit of an emotional title and tells me. 

 

James Laughlin  

Of course, the 100%. And what I love about that is you're not talking about me, you're talking about we you're like, hey, it's a team thing. We've got good people that are we're doing it together as a partnership. So, it comes back to looking at leadership as we versus me. 

 

Andy Ellis  

Yes, but I suppose so. You know, it's a good way to approach it. And that just is the truth too. You know, it is. 

 

James Laughlin  

I got one last question for you before we wrap up, and I know you've got a couple of children. So, I want you to think about your kids and you've got to give them one piece of advice. And they come to you, and they go, Dad, how do I lead a life of purpose? What would your advice be to them? If they asked you that question, how do I lead my life and lead it with purpose? 

 

Andy Ellis  

Estate. But I think, and hopefully, I've touched on a little bit here is to kind of be really true to yourself. And whatever those values are, or characteristics are. But let that kind of shape you a little bit, figure out what, like, take time to write them down. Kids are young, 7 and 11. So they are not there quite yet. But they will. And we'll continue talking about the sort of stuff, what's important to them, and what their passions are, what they're really into, and then really try and help them believe that they can get on that track, whatever that is. Yeah. And so was a little bit about the start a little bit puffy answer. But I think what I'm trying to say is, understand what's really important to you what, what you believe in, and what you care about, and try and try and find something that that you can go to work every day and really love or care and do and really love. At this stage, my son? Sounds pretty keen on being some sort of sports business at the moment. It's American football. Hey, that's what you want to do mate, are you going to come 

 

 

 

James Laughlin  

all the way? Yeah. Oh, that's beautiful advice. I'm 

 

Andy Ellis  

Sorry. We talked about kids. One thing that I've always got some advice early on, because at the Crusaders, actually, someone came in and talked to us. But they said the language that you use for your children is really important. And so always really remember that. So, we always, I always say to my kids now, like, if they do something really good, I'll say well, you should be really proud of yourself. And it's so easy to say I'm so proud. I'm so proud of you son. And it's like, you know, this, this was great. That was great. It should be you should be really, to really proud yourself. And I've seen over other times that it's actually really powerful now. When the kids when the NFL chip and chases and catches on the fall, or whatever, he'll say to me, man, I'm proud of myself Dad. It's so good. You're not doing it for me, you're doing it for you. And don't get me wrong, there's definitely an element that you kids need to need to feel like, you're really proud of them. And of course, you give them that love, and you tell them that it's just a little thing that I reckon I think about their kids, it's the stage, that's something that's kind of helped me as a parent to push in that I can see coming through the kids that really self-fulfilled, you know? 

 

James Laughlin  

To me, that's really powerful. And to be empowering your kids like that. Really have self-love, self-appreciation, self-belief, and be proud. You know, those things are really great ways to develop resilience against future mental challenges. We've all got, you know, mental health, whether it's anxiety or depression, we all experience different challenges in life, and to be showing them from you know, a very young age to be proud of themselves. That's, that's incredible. They're not doing it for you. They're doing it for them. 

 

Andy Ellis  

Yeah, you know, I'm certainly no expert in this stuff. But I was just something that an expert had come in and told us so that when the kids really low and something we kind of driven and I feel is made up has been a really cool thing we've been able to drive with kids certainly come through. 

 

James Laughlin  

And that's another thing that just thinking to your time in the Crusaders and professional sport, you get access to incredible experts. And the same when you're in the entrepreneurial field, you get to rub shoulders and have lunch with experts in different fields. So that's another trait of a high performer like yourself is that you listen, you listen, and then you take action on the little nuggets that are applicable to where you're at. 

 

Andy Ellis  

I've been so fortunate to have that. But both great players and coaches and management around but also you right the people that they get in a game present and help with mental skills or with opportunities outside of rugby, whatever it is really fortunate. And yeah, it's been great because I love having a crack. So, most of the time on I'm all alone, you know, so pretty much anything. So yeah, it's been good, fun, and very, very fortunate to meet a lot of these people on my journey. And that's something I encourage young rugby players or young sportspeople to is to, is to try and jump in as much as you can when you win. Yeah. I mean, don't get your you've got to with business opportunities and stuff. You got to take time and go through that stuff the right way. But I mean, just in general, you know, is this a transfer using more than you say now is a good approach it 

 

James Laughlin  

Great advice and it's good for your kids to know they can get good things to crack and try things and experience things? I want to say a massive, massive thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to connect and I look forward to once you get back in New Zealand and connect in person. 

 

Andy Ellis  

Sounds great man, please come on anytime bud  

 

James Laughlin  

Now cheers! You take good care.  

 

 

Andy Ellis 

Thanks, bro!  

 

James Laughlin 

Thanks for tuning in today and investing in your own personal leadership. Please hit that subscribe button. And I'd love, if you'd leave me a rating and review. I've got some amazing guests lined up for you in the coming weeks. And leaders. It's that time to get out there and to lead your life on purpose.