What I learnt from Matt Toomua
I really enjoy interviewing athletes like Matt Toomua, there’s just so much to talk about because he keeps himself so busy outside of sport and also understands that while being a professional athlete is a great achievement it’s not the only thing that will define him in life.
His interest in business has seen him pursue an MBA degree which complements his investments in several cafes. Time management and juggling his relationship all challenges from the other side of the world where he now bases himself in the UK.
With his wife being the ultra talented Ellyse Perry, they form one of the most talented sports couple’s in the world, however don’t get confused by his laid back nature off the field, when he’s on it he’s a fierce competitor that loves to put a big hit on a sizeable opponent.
Australian Rugby was blessed to have the likes of Matt, Chris Lealiifano, Kurtley Beale & Quade Cooper come through at the same time; I can only imagine how good it would have been to see them play against each other at School Boy level. They would have learnt a lot considering they were up against the All Blacks in a period of time where they had one of their most successful line ups of all time.
My conversation with Matt had some great take home points for you to try and implement in your own life.
Listen to the entire episode on the player below or continue for my key takeaways from the powerful chat.
TIME MANAGEMENT & FOCUS
“Be clear with what you want. I'm clear with my sports in terms of how long I have left and what I want to do post sport. I’m doing my study now, while It can be hard to put your head in the book after running around all day and your exhausted, knowing why you’re doing it and what it can lead to post career is pretty important and it helps my rugby having to test myself mentally and you develop ways in terms of doing it, setting a time, when to sit down and when it’s time to relax you make the most of it opposed to sitting on your phone for an hour or two”
Some great points here about being crystal clear about what you want and your goals. This will lead to the motivation to do things when you don’t really want to. It could be a side project or learning a new skill, but pushing yourself to do a little bit each day can lead to big rewards. It’s that motivation to do it instead of taking the easy option of watching TV or scrolling through social media that will separate you from everyone else.
LEARNING EMPATHY FROM CHRISTIAN LEALIIFANO
“The comeback was obviously amazing, you often hear of people passing away or who are sick and they are the most charismatic and nicest people ever. Christian is just one of those guys, when it happened to him, you know his disposition and you just know his going to get through things. I did my knee at a similar time to when he got diagnosed with Leukaemia, and his asking me “how are you going, how are you going?”I’m like I’ve got a sore knee I’m not having chemo therapy. When he did come back for the Brumbies and a club match to play with his brother, it was pretty special, you get emotional especially here on this side of the world you want to be there but it was pretty cool”
Empathy what a wonderful gift and what an example with Christian facing a life threatening disease but being more concerned about his friend than himself. That ability to put others first is one of the kindest gifts you can give. I feel we can all get stuck in selfish mindset and attitude, but true fulfilment can be found when we look after others.
SETTING UP LIFE AFTER SPORT
“Your career is obviously very short, I also wanted to test myself in a new environment I’d been at the Brumbies for 9 years and it was at the end of the World Cup Cycle and I was keen to do something else, whether in France or here in England. The financial side you get paid a lot better up here, your career is only short so you want to take advantage of that and set yourself up post career. There is quite a few things but the change of environment as well, it gives a bit of a kick and a step and motivates you as well. You realise it’s probably a good thing to find something you’re interested in, you hear stories of lot of fellers who end up done and not sure what they are going to do, so you don’t want to end up like that”
Matt’s ambition off the field is quite impressive; he really gets the idea that the career of an athlete is a short one and the importance of having goals and ambitions away from it. While the money was a consideration, just remember it takes him totally away from the comfort zone of home and his wife, family and friends. At the same time living in a new country, making new friends, travelling and the potential for new business contacts are all part of his new journey.
“I like doing things under the radar a little bit. When you’re younger you want to be captain because you see it as an achievement. The more you grow up you see it’s more about the team, what you can offer the team to be better”
Again empathy is a huge characteristic of a strong leader and the ability to put team before the individual. From speaking to a range of athletes you get the sense that a leader in the team isn’t just the person with captain across their chest. No surprise to see who has influenced Matt in terms of leadership:
“Christian Lealiifano’s a brilliant leader, one of our captains at the Brumbies Ben Mowen said that quite early. He’s been through a lot, a boy wonder talent when he was younger. He had a few issues with family and all that, then got injured & came back. It really instilled some resilience in him, some perspective with what’s important with the team and the fact he’s not a selfish player, his always concerned about others, the team and the bigger picture, you can train those things but a lot of that was who he was as a person, his got so much empathy which I think is important for fellers in leadership positions”
SUCCESS THEN & NOW
“When you’re 18 you want to be the best player in the world and it’s quite outcome based. When I was 18 I looked up to Jonny Wilkinson and Dan Carter and you want to be that bloke but as you go on, reality hits you & you get a better understanding of things. For me instead of comparing yourself to others you want to maximize your potential and use your time in a pretty special environment. You start thinking about family, post career; a big thing that motivates me now is setting me and my family up for when I am done. For some people it's about getting a number of caps, for me it’s about the experience, coming to another part of the world, the culture, new friends and new business contacts”
It’s interesting how the mindset changes as we age, from buying cool cars and wanting to impress our friends and the opposite sex to learning lessons through life and finding that the simple or little things are what brings true fulfilment.
“Playing in the World Cup was huge but sometimes it’s the smaller things that resonate for me. Julian Huxley in 2010 when he came back from a brain tumour, he returned and I was part of that game. There’s quite a few moments and I guess you realise how special rugby is because its gives a guy like me opportunities to travel, that really I shouldn’t be able to do. Seeing what Christian over come is a bit more special than the more obvious accolades”
Again the smaller things in life are what it’s all about, empathy seems to be a great recurring theme in this podcast. I think Matt’s being modest in the opportunities that have now arisen, but it’s great to see him grateful for what has occurred.
THE FIB THAT TURNED TO OPPORTUNITY
“I was a 10 my whole life really, then Christian got injured before an All Blacks game and they were looking for a 12. My coach asked if I had played 12 & I said yeah of course, but I hadn’t since I was like in under 11’s. So my first test at 12 against the All Blacks was kind of based on a stretching of the truth. But that’s kind of me; I’ll accept that and figure out a way to do it later”
An interesting revelation on his inside centre debut. That’s truly testing you and getting out of your comfort zone. When opportunity knocks its vital to take it with two hands, while he hadn’t played the position in years, the ability to believe in yourself is a huge component of success.
5 PEOPLE HE WOULD INVITE TO A PRIVATE DINNER PARTY
Always interesting to see who the guest would invite to dinner. The only rules no family or friends, but can be anyone dead or alive. Matt’s selections:
“Gary Vaynerchuk, Louis Theroux, Ricky Gervais, Christopher Hitchens, Roger Federer”
It’s great to see Matt continue to evolve both on and off the field and it’s quite refreshing to see his success not splashed on social media for a change. While social media has its many benefits on promotion and business, I do feel it is an overused tool that can create some negative feeling and anxiety.
I hope other players can follow Matt’s lead and continue to evolve off the field. Time runs out for everyone eventually and the transition from my observation of the athletes I speak to can be a tough one particularly if sport is all they know and they have not constructively used their spare time.
Be sure to follow and support Matt on his journey:
Enjoy the show and if you have any feedback or want to chat about the article please send me an email at Tristan@talkingwithtk.com