What happens to professional athletes who don’t hit the big time? What do they do after dedicating themselves to a dedicated career that all of a sudden ends?
Ryan Gonsalves is a former professional footballer and the founder and CEO of 2ndwind Academy, a platform empowering former elite athletes in their transition to fulfilling careers.
He explains the challenges athletes face when their career ends, the transferable skills professional athletes have and how they can be successful in their career transition.
He also talks about how your identity is intertwined with your career, the types of communication skills you need to be a good leader and how to seek feedback in a new career.
Ryan Gonsalves of 2nd Wind
Website: 2nd Wind
Twitter: 2nd Wind
Instagram: 2nd Win
Ryan Gonsalves is the founder and CEO of 2ndwind Academy, a platform empowering former elite athletes in their transition to fulfilling careers. With a former professional football player background and extensive experience in the financial services sector, Ryan brings a unique perspective to his work. As the 2ndwind Academy podcast host, he invites elite athletes to share their inspiring career transition stories.
Ryan’s journey from professional football to a successful career in the financial services sector has shaped his passion and dedication to supporting former elite athletes in their career transitions. He offers invaluable insights and guidance through 2ndwind Academy and his podcast, drawing from his experience and expertise. Ryan’s commitment to personal growth, professional accomplishments and family life makes him remarkable in empowering others to find their second wind beyond sports.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- [1:34] Why Ryan wanted to coach elite athletes.
- [2:16] The unique challenges elite athletes face when they stop competing in their sport.
- [3:10] The way your career is linked with your identity.
- [4:10] The limited lifespan of being a professional athlete.
- [6:38] The players Ryan Gonsalves played with at Leeds United.
- [7:47] How Ryan became a professional footballer.
- [9:26] Why Ryan wanted to play football professionally.
- [12:47] The goals Ryan had for his footballing career.
- [14:38] What Ryan’s career as a professional footballer looked like.
- [17:06] What it means to be a semi-professional footballer.
- [18:08] How Ryan’s mother influenced his decision to stop playing professional football.
- [19:45] The amount you can learn from life regrets.
- [23:47] The continuous pressure professional footballers are under.
- [27:09] How Ryan transitioned to a more conventional life and career.
- [31:20] The amount of luck involved with being successful.
- [32:36] How to get more luck in your life.
- [35:23] How Ryan got a job working with HSBC in Hong Kong.
- [37:25] The importance of being optimistic about new opportunities.
- [38:52] Why Ryan transitioned from banking to career coach.
- [41:00] How what you value in life can change over time.
- [42:38] How Ryan started the 2nd Wind Academy.
- [43:13] The ways Ryan wants 2nd Wind to grow and expand.
- [44:24] The essential nature of human-played sports as entertainment.
- [45:52] The transferable communication skills you learn as a sportsman.
- [47:25] The value of feedback in the workplace.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
Episode 173: From professional footballer to athlete career coach - with Ryan Gonsalves of 2nd Wind
Jeremy Cline 0:00
What happens to those professional sports people and athletes who don't hit the big time? What do they do when they've poured themselves into this incredibly competitive and tough career, and then it just doesn't work out? That's what we're going to find out in this week's interview. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:34
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the podcast that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. If you want to know how you can enjoy a more satisfying and fulfilling working life, you're in the right place. And don't forget to subscribe to the show, so you don't miss the great interviews we've got lined up. What do you do with a professional sporting career once you're done? A tiny minority might be set up for life from their career. But what about those who don't earn the big bucks and who don't go into something related, like sports coaching? What if for some reason your time as a professional sports person is much shorter than you might expect? My guest this week is Ryan Gonsalves, professional footballer turned banker and founder of 2ndwind, where he's on a mission to inspire high-performing individuals to discover a lifestyle and career they love. Ryan also hosts the 2ndwind podcast. Ryan, welcome to the show.
Ryan Gonsalves 1:26
Thanks very much for having me.
Jeremy Cline 1:27
Why don't you start by telling us a bit more about your coaching clients? So, who they are and what you do to help them?
Ryan Gonsalves 1:32
Yeah, absolutely. The clients that I tend to coach are those who are elite athletes, usually towards the end of their career, or just as they are retiring from their sport. And the reason I work with them is to help them realise what transferable skills they have, what competencies and capabilities they can take from their sporting exploits, and help bring them or unleash themselves into their second wind. That sounded very complex.
Jeremy Cline 2:08
What are the perhaps more unique challenges that these types of people face compared with us mere mortals who weren't elite athletes?
Ryan Gonsalves 2:16
I think the real discerning difference for them is living their career often in front of spectators and audience, thousands, tens of thousands of fans, be it in the stadium, on TV, or through society. What I do recognise is the challenges they face are not necessarily too different from the challenges that people, as you say mere mortals, but those of us who are in normal day-to-day jobs that would face, which is if you dedicate a lot of your time into one particular discipline, it's often very difficult or challenging to be inspired to look outside of that discipline and say, 'Well, if I'm not doing this job, or if I'm not in this particular field, what else could I do?'
Jeremy Cline 3:04
So, it's a question of identity.
Ryan Gonsalves 3:06
So much so is linked to identity. It really is. One rugby league player mentioned to me, coming towards the twilight of his career, and he said to me, and it just stuck with me, but he said, 'I've spent my whole life telling people I'm a rugby league player, and that I want to play rugby, and that's going to stop.' And that for me was compelling. He said it so simply, so earnestly, and it just made me think, yes, he said that his whole life. I want to be a rugby player. I am a rugby player. And now, what's he going to say?
Jeremy Cline 3:41
And this is something that I've had in previous interviews, it does come up time and again, so you might have someone in my position, a lawyer, who's been a lawyer for 20 years, I suppose the difference is that I can be a lawyer for another 20 years, if I choose to. Whereas presumably professional rugby league player, I mean, they're not going to carry on beyond their, what, mid-30s.
Ryan Gonsalves 4:02
That's right. And look, I think, it's probably remiss of me to skip that bit out, but it is a factor that, when you enter into sport, in the back of your mind, you know at some point it's going to have to stop. And often the reason why it's going to stop is not from your choosing. But it will simply be because someone has become better than you at that particular action, activity, physical exploit that you do. And that in itself is often really challenging, because it's going to stop no matter how much you achieve and where you want to go. Very, very few athletes are in a luxurious position where they can say, 'Yeah, I'm ready. I've achieved everything beyond my wildest dreams. And now I'm ready to hang up the gloves, get out of the pool, leave the court.'
Jeremy Cline 4:13
Yeah, I guess there's really very few sports that lend themselves to any kind of longevity. I mean, I do remember watching, I think it was like a US Golf Masters, and there was one of the old greats who was, I think he was in his late 70s or 80s, and he was still playing, he was still competing. But that's got to be a really rare situation.
Ryan Gonsalves 5:15
Yeah, I think it is. And it depends on the level of physical exertion that you have. So, for many, if it's a sport that requires a lot of skill, then that skill you can hone. The challenge that you face is the ability to repeat it. So, you might be able to do it once. Me at my age, I could probably play a minute or two at the intensity required of a professional footballer today. But that minute is not enough. Can I train? Can I keep going at that pace? So, when you have certain skills, certain things, you throw a football at, I'm trying to think, someone like say, Beckham, or Zidane, and you throw a football at them, and they will still be able to control it. And they'll still have that perfect, natural grace, because that was something that they have trained and practised over years. So, that piece will still be there. Could they do it still if you gave it to them a hundred times? Can they still do that whilst moving at the pace that they used to move? So, that's where generally age tends to get in the way and force an athlete to have to reconsider their career options.
Jeremy Cline 6:27
So, you've mentioned two of the greatest there. When you were playing, when you were a professional footballer, who was your era, who were the great stars at the time?
Ryan Gonsalves 6:38
Well, the Leeds United team that I grew up in was, I guess, one of the greatest or one of the best Leeds United teams, certainly in the modern era. So, in that team was, I've been in Australia now, I have to say the likes of Harry Kewell was in that team. They had Woodgate. We had Jackson. We had Harte. Those were some of the players that were in that particular squad. And we would have been a couple of years behind the likes of the class of 94, so David Beckham, Scholes, Cantona, that era. Now, my time at Leeds United wasn't as long as I'd have wanted, but it was just as a junior, but that just gives an element of the calibre of player that I grew up with as a young lad before moving to sign your professionally at Huddersfield Town.
Jeremy Cline 7:32
So, talk me through how you got to being a junior at Leeds. I mean, how does this come about that you're in this position where an enormous club like Leeds is going, 'Let's give this bloke Ryan a go.'
Ryan Gonsalves 7:47
It starts for me, so my time at Leeds was playing for the City of Leeds City Boys. And for me, it started actually by accident, honestly. I got into the game because I had to go with my older brother. So, my mum raising me and my brother, I wanted to play football because he did, two years older than me. So, I just went where he went. And so, I was always playing up those two years. So, I never saw football as this passion. It was just something I did. It was fun. I enjoyed it. And it wasn't until they moved to maybe on the fifteens, and then so me as a 13-year-old, suddenly went to my own age group. And in my own age group, I felt I'm taller than everyone, or I'm at the same height as everybody, when I run, I'm faster than everybody. Hey, what's going on here? So, suddenly, I recognised there was a physical ability that came about, and I, to an extent, suddenly found myself being invited to go to trials playing through school. And essentially, the way it worked was, I was one of the best players in my school, I was one of the best players in the district of schools, and so I ended up playing or representing Leeds City schools in that regard. And it just flowed therefore, it just flowed from there. But I knew nothing and had really no desire to become a professional footballer at that time.
Jeremy Cline 9:16
So, what drew you then to become a professional footballer, if you didn't have this boyhood ambition to want to play for Leeds United?
Ryan Gonsalves 9:26
I enjoyed it. And so, because I enjoyed playing, I enjoyed playing at school, I then went and played club football, I enjoyed playing for my local club Beeston. I then enjoyed playing for Leeds schools. And then, when Leeds turned around and said, 'Look, schoolboy, we've got a team, it's not you', I was like, 'Oh, well, I kind of still want to play.' And it was a family friend who came to me and said, 'Well, hey, have you considered going to trial at Huddersfield? They're one of the local teams, only the division below. There's a great opportunity.' And I just thought, well, I've enjoyed playing at that high level where I feel pushed, so I should continue to go ahead and do that. And so, it wasn't really a strong desire to say, hey, my whole life, I wanted to be about football. It was very much about the fact I enjoyed playing the game, I enjoyed the environment that we had as youngsters, and I enjoyed winning. And that naturally led itself to me playing at Huddersfield. And I remember it vividly, we just played a game against Chesterfield towards the end of my under-16 career, so it must have been May, just about kicking off to go into GCSEs, and the head coach, Kevin Blackwell, came over and he said, 'Gons, we want to offer you an apprenticeship position.' And it was a muddy field, and I was busy washing my hands of all the mud. And he said, 'Gonzo, this is a big deal.' I was like, 'Yeah, yeah, I know, I am really happy.' But I was washing the mud of my hands, and I was like, I've got to get the mud off my hands first. I was probably the cleanest defender that you'll ever meet. And so, that sort of took over my whole thinking at the time. And it wasn't really until after that conversation, that moment, finishing my exams and starting, that I was like, 'Oh, wow, this is good. My job is, I'm doing something I enjoy every day. Ah, I like that.'
Jeremy Cline 11:32
It's interesting, hearing like you kind of fell into it, rather than it being this driving, you know, something you'd wanted to do at age 11. You were just following your brother around and then kind of getting spotted and then getting spotted again, and then someone's saying, 'Ryan, we'd like you to do this for your job.'
Ryan Gonsalves 11:50
More than fell in, I think, in the end, I did jump. So, there was an effort that was required. So, at a young age, the trouble for me to go from Leeds to Huddersfield for training. So, there was an intention on doing my best or being my best. And that was an environment where I could do that. So, it wasn't necessarily that I was attracted to being a footballer itself, but I was attracted to performing, I was attracted to setting standards. And that's where the love came, that's where the energy came from. It wasn't this, hey, I want to be a footballer, great, I've been a footballer. But it was much more, I'm good, I'm enjoying, and this is great, I want to do more of this. How do I do more of this?
Jeremy Cline 12:36
When you're 16 years old, just finished your GCSEs, you probably don't give much thought to the future. I mean, you're just this wide-eyed kid. But when you first started your apprenticeship, do you have any ambitions at that point?
Ryan Gonsalves 12:53
Oh, look, I had, what emerged eventually was being captain of England, and lifting the World Cup for England. That was what I set out to achieve. And I had these desires, I think we already knew the World Cup 98 was going to be in France. And I thought, wow, what if I could be 21 and be like this young player playing for England. And so, I had that sort of vision that I then became a bit more anchored to. And that, I remember thinking, when I was going through preseason, I was playing, and I started to look a lot more at who players were. Because you have to remember that, we're talking the early 90s, mid-90s, me as a footballer, we didn't have as much information as you do today about who's playing and all of their attributes and everything. So, I was guided much more about what I saw. And so, who are the players that I could see, and how often did I get to see football and sport? And I didn't have, I'm going to say an aspiration to look at the, you know, I didn't go to Elland Road every week, which is Leeds United home ground, and watch them play and fall in love with the magic of that. And so, it was very much about me, sometimes I say selfish, but I enjoyed what I was doing, and so I just wanted to keep enjoying that. And that medium for me at the time was through football. And that was wonderful.
Jeremy Cline 14:29
Why don't you just briefly take us through how it then panned out, so what did happen over the next few years?
Ryan Gonsalves 14:36
Yeah, sure thing. So, I could say, at 16 left school, went joined Huddersfield Town on the apprenticeship, loved it, fell in love with the town, fell in love with the club, and fell in love with being a footballer and finding that passion. After apprenticeship, I then signed professional terms with them. At the end of my professional contract, so that first contract, it wasn't renewed, I wasn't offered an ongoing contract, and that then gave me a decision point, could I continue to go on trial with other clubs around the country. And in the end, heavily influenced by my mum, I opted to go semi-professional, and go to university at the same time. And so, from that point, about 20 years old, I was then playing semi-professionally and went to university, went to the University of Huddersfield, in order to, I picked marketing and French for the fun of it. And so, that's where I ended up studying and playing, very challenging time for me, which we'll certainly be able to come back to. But then, because I had a language, I was then offered the opportunity to study and work overseas. So, having never really travelled overseas, I then went ahead and did that. And that's where I then would go to the nearest club that had floodlights, and knock on the door, and say in French, 'Can I come along and play?' Of course, they would generally laugh at me, who's this person with bad English? What do they think we are? We're not just some amateur club. But I would then trial, and obviously, I'd do well. And so, that enabled me to then start to play my football in the lower leagues, or non-leagues in France and Belgium, as well as playing across the UK, so in England, and then also spending a season in Wales. And that's really how it continued to when I was about 24, 25 years old, when the uni had finished, and it was time for me to make a bigger decision about what do I do, and I chose to sort of leave football and those aspirations behind and move into, I guess, a more normal or more consistent workforce.
Jeremy Cline 16:57
Okay. Before we come on to that, there's a couple of things you said I'd love to pick up on. First of all, what does semi-professional actually mean?
Ryan Gonsalves 17:05
It means that I trained, or that you train three times a week, and those three times would be, let's say, turn up for training at six, seven o'clock, and you would train for two hours in the evening. And you do that three times a week. And then, you play on a Saturday. That was in the fifth tier of the English League. And what that meant is, your games were still across the country, it's just that you're not getting paid full time for that job. Now, 20 years old, honestly, the money that you earn as a semi-professional, I suspect, had I been living differently, would have been enough just to survive, it's absolutely fine as a young person. But for most of the older ones, they have to have flexible jobs, where they can leave work at 4pm, get to training, maybe get to an evening away match as well. So, there's a lot of flexibility that's required.
Jeremy Cline 18:00
You talked about having been heavily influenced by your mother in this decision. Can you talk more about that?
Ryan Gonsalves 18:05
Yeah. Well, interestingly, when they told me that I wasn't getting a new contract, it was a weird feeling for me, because I had kind of just thought, 'Oh, this is it now, I just lock up and play, and I'm going to have a great time. This is awesome.' So, when that happened, my mum, who had been sceptical of this, my mum and dad, both born over in St. Kitts over in the West Indies, migrated across to England, they had a very challenging upbringing in 70s Northern England as young black children. And so, for me then to be in this football career, and looking at the abuse that players had at that time, my mum was never really a fan of me going down that route and putting myself in a position where 40,000 people could be hurling abuse at me. So, when the contract wasn't offered, she really looked at that and said, 'Okay, are you going to go to university? Are you going to now study?' And kind of drew a line under it. And because she's a very strong influence on me, and still is to this day, I took that as, oh, okay, maybe, maybe I should stop. This doesn't need to be a full-time thing for me anymore. And I can do it part time. And hey, do you know what? I enjoy playing football. I'll still play four times a week. That's great. And that's essentially how I then applied and was lucky enough to get into university.
Jeremy Cline 19:41
There's always a danger playing what-if games, but do you ever think what if?
Ryan Gonsalves 19:45
Oh, 100%. You know, I think many people say you can live life without regrets. I think for me the regret there, so that for me is one of the regrets. That is one of those what-if moments for me. And I think of that because, whilst it's a regret, I think you learn a lot from regrets with that right view. And that for me was, I wish I knew more about the game, I wish I knew more about the opportunities that were opened, that were there for me to take before I had made a decision. And that today is something that I live by. Because as I reflect on not pursuing or continuing to pursue full-time football, I saw the players whose abilities I'd look and think, oh, well, yeah, they've developed, but I remember I was ahead of them in terms of development and ability and cognitive ability in the game. Had I continued and just dropped down the league, continued to play and develop, would I have come back and play to that level? Was that in me? Physically, was I capable of doing that? And obviously, I think yes. How can I go through that thought process and think no, I wouldn't? So, it's something that I look at now and think, 'Ah, what could I have done differently?'
Jeremy Cline 21:03
So, you're playing semi-pro in the UK and in Europe, you've just finished university, and you mentioned then, or actually, no, before we go into that, there was something else you wanted to talk about, which was the challenges in this sort of semi-pro university life. So, tell us a bit more about that.
Ryan Gonsalves 21:21
Yeah, it was probably one of the hardest moments of, as I look back, probably one of the hardest moments of my life. I was out, I was living by myself. My pro career at Huddersfield had ended. I started university. And because I was someone who always thought, well, you got to do your best, what's the standard? Okay, I need to at least hit the standard and move forward. So, I was going to university and studying, as I should have done, lectures at 9am, I was playing football, then training at 7pm. And then, I thought, hold on, some of these students, they have jobs, I need to get a part-time job as well. So, I got a part-time job working at the Marriott Hotel in Leeds. So, I was still playing semi-professional football, being a dedicated or diligent student, and working in a hotel bar. I'll admit, I worked on Sundays and Monday evenings, so they were very chill, very chilled out time. I couldn't deal with anything too busy. But what it would mean is that I was more tired than I'd ever been before. And the hardest bit was my football deteriorated. From loving the game and being able to put my everything into it, all of that passion, all of that energy, I couldn't, because I was tired. Because I still had to get up at 7am to get across to Huddersfield for a nine o'clock lecture. I was exhausted. I wasn't always in a car, so I was doing public transport, and my days suddenly became 15 hours, 18 hours. And the hardest thing for me was, why am I not improving in football? What's going on? And for a brief moment, I fell out of love with the game, because suddenly I was like, well, I'm not enjoying this, I'm not playing well. And I got used to being a footballer, as brief as it was, and being an excellent footballer, and trying to be an A star student and a good barman and a top footballer, just took its toll. And I saw myself becoming average in the things that I was doing,
Jeremy Cline 23:40
And playing the what-if question again, if you had your time again, what would you have done differently?
Ryan Gonsalves 23:46
I would have gone, the overall it comes back to what I've done after I was released, I think I would have gone on trial. I would have played somewhere else. Because now I recognise, I love moving, I love being overseas, I love new environments, I actually thrive in those opportunities. So, I would have done that. That would have been a decision point that I would have made. I would have done that differently. Even bigger than that, what I didn't realise when I was a footballer, is that you're on trial every day. Every training session matters. And so, if you do not perform on Wednesday, you're not picked on Saturday. Easy. That one training session when they're looking for, oh, can Ryan do this, I wonder, if you don't perform at that moment, often you've lost that chance. The chance may come back, it may come there if you're lucky. But you're on trial every day. And that's a pressure that I never put on myself. But it's also a pressure I wasn't aware of. It wasn't until afterwards that I started to realise, oh, I was on trial that day. That day when they moved me up to train with the first team, I didn't realise I was supposed to put my whole effort in and play like this was a great opportunity. I just thought I was making the numbers.
Jeremy Cline 25:15
There is a certain naivety of youth, isn't there? Because I remember when I started my legal career, and I'm a trainee, I know nothing, even what I qualified, I knew nothing. And I was having a conversation with someone about it. And I suppose presumably, in a few years' time, they'll start looking for whether I've got the sorts of attributes for partnership. And the person I was talking to looked around at me and said, 'No, no, no, they're looking at this now. They are assessing you now for whether you've got the potential to be a partner in this law firm.'
Ryan Gonsalves 25:48
Yeah, yes, it is. And it takes that conversation or that realisation to go, oh, right, do I have time to do something about that now? Do I want to go there? Do I want that? And, yeah, I get it. And to me, it was a naivety, because I played for fun. And so, I really enjoyed my team, I really enjoyed supporting other members in the team to develop, and one chap, a former teammate at the time said, he said, 'Yeah, I remember, it was to a fault.' Sometimes there's too much about, on the team, hey, we're all going to win, we're going to come up together and drive forward in this way. Which really worked for the team. So, the team did well. But at times, as he said, it was too humble. And he was probably the first person to say that to me, and that's only a few years ago. And it was a shock. I was like, all those moments of thinking, hey, we're just playing, this is great, with the team, let's go ahead and do this. And the realisation, okay, the realisation was many years ago, but that realisation of, you're on trial every day, how are you going to cope with that?
Jeremy Cline 27:02
So, when it comes to the switch to, I think you called it a real life or a more conventional life, I mean, what does that look like for you? What happened then?
Ryan Gonsalves 27:09
Well, during my university, I did a lot of coaching over in the US. So, I would play football and study. And then, in the northern hemisphere summer, I'd go to the US, I would coach for that season. That opened my eyes to a level of socioeconomic status, for want of a better phrase, that I had never seen before. I saw houses, I saw cars, I saw school football fields and facilities that I just didn't really know existed. Okay, we had bits and things on MTV, Cribs and things like that, that we started to see as we grew up, but I hadn't really appreciated the way that people lived and what wealth or, some privilege, but mostly wealth would bring to you. And that opened my eyes up then to, wow, hold on. Is that what I would want? Okay, what jobs did these people do? How did they afford this lifestyle? And that started to trickle into my mind in terms of, okay, I can keep doing football, but there's something else out here, I need to figure out what that is. So, when I did graduate, I moved with my girlfriend now wife to the south of France, randomly, but we moved to the south of France, to Lyon, to be precise, but we moved there because I started to realise that my university degree wasn't going to get me one of the jobs that helped me to live the life I saw over in the US. And so, mentally, I kind of went to this point of, it seems as though the best thing to do after university is to go and live a life somewhere and just enjoy yourself. So, my wife and I moved, worked for the AA down in France in their contact centre for a while. English, French, bilingual translation, English car driving through France breaks down, they phone me, I phone a French mechanic, essentially that's the base model. And after a while, I then started to realise, okay, well, what's next? France was a very challenging market for me to get a job. And so, I wrote, and I'm going to say an apathetic covering letter and CV to GE Capital, who were recruiting at the time, they were recruiting on one of the European management leadership programmes. And one of the things was, I've done a business degree, I speak another language. And I think my covering letter was something like, hey, I'm living in France, attached is my CV, I speak French. And I got the job, obviously, and that then propelled me into this, because GE being an American company, propelled me into this wonderfully rich learning environment. It was an environment where they took what they saw as talent, and they were trainers, they would teach us leadership skills, teach us different technical abilities in terms of how to do a balance sheet, how to look at that, how to start to reflect on the way business is done. And what I found was, I found myself once again in an environment where talent is developed. And suddenly, I was moved around every six months, around the world to a different rotation, to a different job, to a different competency, where I could see a different way of living, a different way of doing business. And it was wonderful. I am forever grateful for my GE experience, because it taught me so much about how to code leadership, and what that looks like. And that's something that really, really stuck with me. And it was a fascinating time of life.
Jeremy Cline 30:56
Really interesting. I just feel people are going to listen to this and think, 'He fell into football, and now he's falling into this leadership management programme with this apathetic covering letter saying, oh, yeah, I speak a little bit of French, and suddenly, he's on this amazing training programme.'
Ryan Gonsalves 31:17
They could think that. I think, for me, there was a lot of luck, right? There's a lot of luck. Why did I go to the south of France? I went to the south of France because I realised, because of the university I went to, I wasn't going to get the job at the big consulting firm or marketing company or anything like that, because I need to be at the right uni. So, I was like, 'Sod it, I'll go to France.' And what GE wanted was someone who's spoken the language. And I was like, well, you know, I'm living in France, I'm fluent. What more do you want? Oh, that is what you want. Oh, right. Okay. Well, that was good. So, I'm glad I went and lived in France for a year, lived on a campsite, it's awesome. We had a great time.
Jeremy Cline 31:59
There's that expression of it, it's something like luck is where preparedness meets opportunity or something like that. So, I wonder if there's something in there. You'd put yourself into a place where actually this came around, and it was what they were looking for, even if you hadn't realised that at the time.
Ryan Gonsalves 32:15
Yeah, I just lost you right at the end there.
Jeremy Cline 32:19
So, if luck is where preparedness meets opportunity, you'd kind of set yourself up by putting yourself in an environment where, even if you didn't know it, you were actually setting yourself up for this opportunity where you were what they were looking for.
Ryan Gonsalves 32:33
Yes, absolutely. I fully agree with that. And for me, I think there was so much about following that thread of enjoyment, or that intersection where what you enjoy doing is valued. And I enjoyed being in France, I enjoyed playing for a local football team, I enjoyed speaking French, that was valued by any English holidaymaker who travelled through France or Europe at that time. And it really worked. And so, it goes the same, I think, when I was in GE, that my hand was up, if they said, 'Hey, who's ready to go work in France', and that's how I initially came over to Australia, was an opportunity to come and work over here. And indeed, the gentleman who hired me happened to be on a tour through England at the time. This is maybe four or five years into my GE career, where I was indoctrinated with Lean Six Sigma and process improvement and that leadership ethos. And he's a football fan. So, my interview was, he was on his way to Anfield, and I said, 'Ah, yeah, I remember playing at Anfield, it was brilliant, I got to touch the sign as I went out, and this was it.' And so, I got the job. Now, I know I didn't get the job just because it was a former professional footballer. But there was an engagement, we've got on the same level, were able to talk about it, which, as I recognise now, it meant I was memorable. It meant, yeah, I spoke to five people about the job, oh, the footballer, I remember him. And everybody remembers the footballer, whether it's good or bad. In that instance, it was good. So, ultimately, I then was able to move from England, specifically from London at that time, over to Sydney. And that's what began my career over here. And that was because they just bought a business, and I was brought in to be the cross sales, to help with that integration, that merger, that integration that took place, which worked right the way up to the GFC kicking in and GE turning around and saying, 'If there's a global financial crisis, we don't want to be in it. Let's sell, let's begin selling our mortgage and finance businesses.' And so, my and I and our eight-month baby were made redundant, our visa became null and void, and we were essentially being shipped back to England, which was not the original plan.
Jeremy Cline 35:21
How did that resolve itself?
Ryan Gonsalves 35:23
Well, it resolved itself by actually a rugby player who said to me, 'Ah, someone's looking for a young chap to go to HSBC, based out of Hong Kong.' He didn't want to go, because he was known as a Wallaby, as an Australian rugby international, he was like, 'There's nothing for me in Hong Kong. It's all here. Why don't you chat to them?' So, having never been to HSBC, having never been to Hong Kong before, my wife and son, we figured, you know what, let's just take the risk, how bad is it going to be? And it's just so happened, the hiring manager was a former GE employee. And so, when I spoke with him, he latterly said, once I was employed, he said, 'We interviewed so many people, but you came from GE, I was from GE, I knew you would know exactly, you would work hard, because that's the work ethos that you have in GE, I knew you'd think of it in a process way, in this way, I knew you'd do that.' And so, it was it was a done deal. We had to go through the interviews, but it was a done deal. That began a 10-year or nine-year Hong Kong love affair, where, again, at HSBC, I landed at the right time. I joined the Asia team just at the time when globally HSBC was shaking, and was thinking where on earth do we do mortgages around the world, why do we have mortgage businesses, what are we doing with that? And they came across to Asia, I did a presentation, and my future boss was at the presentation, and he thought, 'You delivered it really well, I thought you'd do great if I just threw you into Mexico and had to talk to them about mortgages and why HSBC is a good thing. So, I came to you and asked you if you wanted the job.' And I was like, 'Sure, how bad could that be, travelling around the world?'
Jeremy Cline 37:25
I really like this how-bad-could-that-be attitude. I think that people do have a tendency to immediately think of what can go wrong, and they think of what's the worst that can go wrong. And then, they convince themselves that it's going to happen. Rather than thinking, okay, well, what's the worst that can happen realistically? And what would I do with it? And they don't also think about the counter to that. Well, okay, yeah, but if this all goes right, what could that look like?
Ryan Gonsalves 37:55
Yes, I agree with you. I think that is often the case, whilst it's not like we can, I think what I've learned is, for many people, we can see the downside, we look at that negative, yet we don't allow ourselves the ability to mitigate that negativity, and to say, 'Okay, well, that's the worst that can happen. Geez, no, I can't do it.' And then, it's like, well, actually, if this happened, or I did that, would that result in a better outcome? If I put in these actions, or I spoke to this person, either I go through that really quickly, or I really do just love the positive. I'm often looking at myself as an optimist nowadays and think, yeah, I do see the beauty and opportunity in people and just think, 'Oh, wow, that would be great.'
Jeremy Cline 38:46
So, as we sit here talking now, what does professional life look like for you?
Ryan Gonsalves 38:52
So, today, I've recently transitioned out of banking, and that is borne by me recognising that I had another purpose. And that other purpose was to help other athletes to transition, to transition with better outcomes is the way I look at it. And that really came about because 10 or so years ago was my cohort, who had gone through the full gambit of professional football, were retiring. They were coming to me, they were asking me questions, 'Hey, you've been out of the game. How do I get a job? How do I do this? What does that look like?' And whilst it began with me just chatting to them and talking, just listening to what they were saying, I started to realise more recently that maybe the passion or the impact that I can have isn't in banking, isn't in financial services and supporting them in that way, but it's coaching individuals how to live their life better. And with that, my passion, my tribe, where do I feel most comfortable is speaking with those with that athletic background, athletic experience, or indeed athletic mindset, and helping them to transition better into careers after sport.
Jeremy Cline 40:11
And you talked about your own transition? Is this now a full transition? Is the coaching now basically what you do full time?
Ryan Gonsalves 40:18
Yes, it is. So, I'm now a full-time coach, full-time career coach. So, I did additional training, I seem to be addicted to academia, it seems. But I did, again, more courses but really very focused on career and lifestyle transition. I find doing that full time for me has really opened up my thinking, opened up where I place my energy in supporting individuals or supporting athletes as they move forward.
Jeremy Cline 40:51
Just thinking back to that person who went over to the States and saw effectively what money could buy, where's that person now in relation to your own journey?
Ryan Gonsalves 41:02
Well, I think the person is still me, it's still there. What I recognised that I was seeing in the US was families. I coached a lot of travel kids. The way it was structured was, we stayed with families. So, whilst I was in Chicago or doing Chicago Fire type camps, I would stay with a host family. And what I recognised that I saw was that family, together in a nice house, chatting and sitting around the table, driving nice cars and moving around together, and the parents being able to put a lot into their children. Whilst my mom is absolutely awesome and raised my brother and I wonderfully well, she had to do a lot of work, so couldn't sit with us as often as she wanted to. And so, for me, the way I translate that dream, actually, it wasn't the car, it wasn't the house, it was that there were people in the house together, there were people being driven around in that car together. And so, that person is still me, and that's what I love doing with my wife, the one who moved to France with me 20 plus years ago. And we've now got our three boys. And so, I'm lucky enough that through my job now, off to running 2ndwind, I'm able to afford that flexibility to spend that time and to force my teenage children to sit around the table and talk to me.
Jeremy Cline 42:33
And 2ndwind has been going, roughly how long have you had that business?
Ryan Gonsalves 42:38
So, as an entity, 2ndwind academy has been up and running for two years. It began as a side hustle, or it began as a coffee conversation. It then became more coffees, it then became whilst I was working in banking, or New South Wales Treasury and the Treasury team, after that became a one day a week, and I reduced at part-time hours in the corporate world. And then, earlier this year, I was able to jump full time.
Jeremy Cline 43:10
And what are your ambitions for the business?
Ryan Gonsalves 43:12
At the moment, I'm helping individuals in generally small groups, small groups of athletes come together. I also work at the club level with some of the top rugby here, some of the top rugby and football clubs. Really where I want to go or would like the business to do is have a broader impact. So, rather than helping one to six, how can I help more people, more athletes, because athletes continue to retire, and it's how can I help more of those in an efficient way, so they can simply be inspired, and inspired, guide and connect, they're really the words that I look through for individuals that I'm working with, be inspired to go out there and find that second wind, be inspired to go out and find something else that they're just as passionate about, and want to put their energy into doing, and importantly recognise that's not just a job, but it is that holistic perspective of career, which includes the way you live your life as well.
Jeremy Cline 44:18
And it's interesting what you said there, athletes will continue to retire. There's a lot of talk at the moment about the way that things like AI are going to impact jobs, careers, the world generally, but I feel like sport is always going to be there, because there's this visceral connection, people want to see people doing the faster, higher, stronger. Yeah, AI may affect trading methods, it may affect the technology, but ultimately, it's going to be this watching people doing this. And so, yeah, it just feels like it's going to stick around.
Ryan Gonsalves 44:55
I think COVID gives a good example as to what life is like without any sport. And as people around the world, we struggled without that, many people struggled without that entertainment. And whether you love the sport or not, people around you love the sport, and you knew it was better for them to be able to go and watch it and see it. And so, I agree, and I look a lot at the future of work and what those future capabilities are, and I think for athletes, they find themselves in a good place that they can entertain, they can motivate and inspire the general public and population. And then, after that, they are every day developing those future skills, future capabilities that will be relevant in that workplace of the future.
Jeremy Cline 45:43
As you look back on your career today, what are perhaps the two or three top lessons that you think you've learned?
Ryan Gonsalves 45:52
You see, normally, I answer that in a way, but the way this conversation has gone, it makes me think I should answer it, I probably discussed things now that I don't often, or at least, I don't think about them in that way. And so, it makes it interesting. However, I should answer, rather than just stand here and think. But one of the biggest things I learned was how to communicate. I recognise, I frequently found myself as captain on the football team. And as I've moved off the field, I found at home in GE, in all these other places, found myself in senior leadership positions. And one of the bits that I've recognised is how to communicate effectively to motivate individuals, from the shout, from the pat on the shoulder, to going in and really understanding the intrinsic need of that individual. And so, for me, that communication and engagement is something that I've really learned through sport, and recognise that's been a common thread from when I was 13, right through to where I am today and beyond. So, that communication is probably the biggest of the lessons that I've learned.
Jeremy Cline 47:14
And in terms of resources which have helped you, books, podcasts, quotes, anything like that, any that you'd love to give a special shout out to.
Ryan Gonsalves 47:25
Yeah, yeah, there is, actually. One of the biggest challenges that I've faced, that athletes face when we leave sport is feedback. We just don't get it anymore. I used to get feedback, when I did a wrong pass, my manager would shout at me, or at least the fans would tell me straight away that the pass was bad. And that's brutal and honest. Right? Everything you do, you're told. At the end of every day, you get that feedback. So, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, their book Thanks for the Feedback for me has been absolutely amazing. And it must be a decade old or so, but Thanks for the Feedback is without a doubt one of the most important books that I've read. Because it just helped me to shape direct feedback quite well, but also how to ask for it. I often describe myself as a needy employee, in that I'll do a presentation, the presentation went well, yeah, it went really well. They sold it, it was great, they're buying it, great. Well, how do we do it better? No, no, they bought it. We're done. Yeah, but we're going to do it again, and how do we keep improving and get to that next level? So, yeah, Thanks for the Feedback is probably a good resource that I'd go with.
Jeremy Cline 48:52
Brilliant. I will check that out. Because one of the things about podcasting, as you will know, is, unless someone leaves a review, it's really hard to get feedback, because you have absolutely no idea who is listening to you, where they are, why they're listening to you, really how much they're listening. So, yeah, getting any kind of feedback is really challenging.
Ryan Gonsalves 49:11
Yes, yes, it is. It is. Like you said, as long as we enjoy our conversation, then we're in a good spot.
Jeremy Cline 49:20
Ryan, this has been an absolutely fascinating conversation. I've loved discussing your story. Where would you like people to go if they want to find you?
Ryan Gonsalves 49:27
One of the best places to find me is going to be on LinkedIn. So, as I am at that intersection of leaving sport into the professional world, LinkedIn, find me as Ryan Gonsalves, or look for 2ndwind.io on there as well. You'll find it on LinkedIn.
Jeremy Cline 49:45
Brilliant, as always, links in the show notes to this episode. Ryan, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story, and best of luck with 2ndwind in the future.
Ryan Gonsalves 49:55
Thanks very much. Thanks for having me.
Jeremy Cline 49:58
Okay, hope you enjoyed the interview with Ryan Gonsalves. Ryan's was a fascinating story, and the thing that I took away most was, when faced with these big decisions about where he was going to live and what he was going to do, he asked himself the question, 'How bad is it going to be?' And I just love that attitude. Because you can get so tied up with fear about, well, what happens if this just doesn't turn out? And then, if you examine it, and you ask yourself, well, just how bad can it be, you discover that, well, you know what, if things don't turn out, well, it's fine. You'll figure it out. You'll move on to something else. And what people also forget is the flip side of that, never mind how bad is it going to be, how good could it be. What happens if this does work out? What could that look like? How exciting could that be? It's definitely worth considering both sides of the equation, and not just fixating on what could happen if things go badly wrong. There's a term, asymmetric risk, which is where the downside and the upside don't really equal each other, and the downside might be a bit of a downside, but the upside could be huge. And so, taking the risk in order to get the possibility of that upside really makes it worthwhile. So, I definitely encourage you to look at both aspects when you've got any big decision in front of you. If you head to changeworklife.com/173, that's changeworklife.com/173, then you'll find the show notes with a full transcript, summary of what we talked about, and links mentioned in the interview. And what would be really helpful for me would be if you'd leave a review for this podcast, preferably on Apple podcasts, but if that's not something you use, then wherever you get your podcasts from. Reviews really helped people to find the show and to tell them that it's something worth listening to. So, if you haven't already, please, please, please just take a couple of minutes to leave a written review. Five stars is always welcome, but if you think that the podcast doesn't deserve five stars, well, get in touch with me. There's a contact form on the website, get in touch and tell me why not. In two weeks' time, we're going to be talking about relationships. Relationships at work, why they matter, and what you can do to improve yours. It's a really interesting interview about what's actually a really important topic. So, if you don't want to miss that interview, make sure that you've subscribed to the show, and I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.
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