Controlling the controllable


Welcome back to Leader Talk! In episode 41 we had the pleasure of chatting to Anthony Koutoufides, former Australian footballer hailing from the Carlton Football Club and creator of KOUTAFIT.

Throughout his life, Anthony has always believed that staying fit and healthy determines one’s overall success and general well-being; that’s why he created KOUTAFIT, his own personalized online program designed to help people to succeed and reach their fullest potential.

In this chat we spoke about the power of your mindset, how success is not an accident and the importance of motivation. 

Want to learn more? You can read or listen to our chat with Anthony Koutoufides on YouTubeSpotifyListen Notes, or Player FM. It’s also available anywhere you listen to your favourite podcasts via Buzzsprout.

Authored by Anthony Koutoufides, former Australian footballer from the Carlton Football Club and creator of KOUTAFIT

The latter half of the 1990s was a memorable time for my career. Within a few great years, I was selected as an All-Australian, I won the AFL premiership with Carlton and I was the club’s leading goalkicker. Things were looking up. Then, at the end of 1997, I got the most devastating news of my life. My father was diagnosed with cancer. Three months later, he sadly passed away. 

It was the hardest time in my life – to accept he wasn’t around anymore, that I wouldn’t be driving my parents to my footy games every week like I had for years, and that he wouldn’t be there cheering for me in the stands anymore. Week by week my football skills crumbled. I knew it was affecting the team, but what could I do? My whole world crumbled.

Eventually, my mates at the club said to me, “we know you’re going through a really tough time, but if you really want to make it, you have to work harder.” Those last five words really stuck with me. I finally realised what a fool I was being. Would my father want to see me drink my life away or would he want to see me go out and play the game I loved in the best way I could? I promised him, and myself, then and there that I would work harder than I ever had and turn things around. 

I experienced the best three years of my football career after that. Even though I’d give anything to have my dad there, that experience taught me a big lesson: life is cruel, but no matter what it throws at you, you can turn things around with hard work and the right mindset. Control the controllable. I take this into all areas of my life. I believe everyone at any stage in life can take it into their lives as well.

Whether you’re a businessperson trying to level up, a sports person like me, or just a person trying to better themselves in general, the only way you can improve is by stepping outside of your comfort zone. It’s the challenges that life puts on us that make us who we are. I think back on the things that were said to me when I was “up-and-coming”. They weren’t nice or comforting in the least – and some people are sensitive to that and that’s fine. However, the tough times and those words of doubt are what make you stronger. No one is born a strong person who can take everything that’s thrown at them, but everyone can become better from it. 

Find something you love and find a goal within that. It might take some time and you may not even reach the goal, but you’ll become such a better person just by trying. Perspective is everything when it comes to facing adversity. That brings me to my next point: mindset.

The power of your mindset
I’m sure a lot of us trying to build our careers can relate to this when I say the first few years of my career were a struggle. I wasn’t sure what I was doing or what my future would hold. In 1994, I had just been dropped and was at a crossroads – I knew if I didn’t do something now I was going to be out of the system entirely. So, when my club encouraged me to see the club sports psychologist, Anthony Stuart, I was all for it. Stuart told me to get a diary and highlight at the top of it three phrases: “I can. I will. You just watch me”. 

I gave it a go and it changed everything. I started to go to training a little bit earlier and stay a little bit longer. Every little effort made a big difference. Two weeks later I got picked to play in a position on the wing and that’s when calendars, sponsorships, promotions, and commercials started transpiring all at once. After three and a half tentative years, it was my psychologist’s words that ended up changing the game.

It’s never about your actual achievements, is it? It’s about acknowledging how strong you were mentally to overcome the trials and tribulations you faced along the way. That is the power of mindset.

When it comes to having the right mindset, it’s so important to hang around the right people. Walking into the Carlton football club, I was walking into an environment of success. This was one powerful team that had been winning premierships for decades. I was surrounded by successful players, presidents, and coaches, which meant that I was constantly observing them, soaking in their mindset and work ethic until I naturally started to implement those things in my life as well. That is why it’s important to choose who you spend time with at work, in your friend group and in everyday life. If you don’t hang around people who share the same mindset that you need for your success, you’re holding yourself back. 

Success is no accident
These days, a lot of business owners emphasise this concept of “work smarter, not harder”, but as an athlete, it’s about working hard to improve day by day. If I don’t work hard, I simply don’t succeed. 

I’ve encountered so many players who had the best talent I’d ever seen but were too lazy to make the most of it. They fell off after two or three years. Then, I’ve seen people who never should have made it with their skills, but they gave every little ounce of themselves so they could. Those people can sit back at the end of their careers and say they achieved over and above what they expected, they did what they could and they’re happy. Wouldn’t it be great if you could say that for your career too? 

We’ve all got it inside of us to do a little bit more. When you feel like you’re working hard, you can always give that extra one or two percent more – and if you think that’s impossible, all you need is your ‘why’ to motivate you again. If you’ve got your ‘why’ then the ‘how’ becomes easy. My ‘why’ was that I just wanted to play AFL and make the most of a sport I loved. If you work hard, the universe will work harder to give back to you.

Motivation comes from within
What many people overlook when they try to find the motivation to work harder or find better mindsets is one simple thing: nutrition.

When I lost my father, I realised the importance of valuing my health above everything else. It might sound selfish to say that, but if you’re not healthy or feeling good, you’ll project that onto everything and everyone else. 

In order to get what you want, you need to have the energy to do so. A lot of people don’t realise that motivation comes down to the basics. Give your body the nutrition it needs, physically and mentally. All this talk of resilience, changing your mindset and working hard is not possible without feeding your body what it needs first. 

If you feel like you don’t have enough time in the day or struggle to get up in the mornings, start focusing on your nutrition and what you put into your body, and you’ll start to feel different. If you start your day with an unhealthy or low-fuelling breakfast, you’re going to have a long day ahead of you. 

Find mentors or coaches to help you. I look after a lot of clients who have changed their lifestyles and yes, they’ve reached their goal weights, but more importantly, they’ve changed their mentality. They are more motivated and feel like they can take on any challenge life throws at them. 

Feeding your body also includes feeding your mind. I try to stay as positive as I can and start my day reading or listening to motivational speakers. The words we feed our brain are what we put out to the universe. Filter and be selective about what goes into your mind because there’s so much negativity out in the world. For every negative thought, we have to think of so many positive thoughts to overcome it. If we focus on the negative, we might just drown. 

The key lessons I took from the AFL are ones any employee, employer or person, in general, can take as well – the world will give you challenges, but you can overcome anything through controlling the controllable; by changing your mindset, working hard, and prioritising you.

Things don’t come easy all the time, but always try to make the most of it while you can. When your time’s up (and you never know when that is), can you say you’ve given it your all?