It was supposed to be his ticket to a better life. Certainly a more financially secure one. But just like that, it was ripped away from Dan Cross … In a single tackle, he was abruptly woken from his dream of playing in the NRL.
Instead, Dan found himself washed up as a 20-year-old with a broken body and broken dreams. While he’d been showing flashes of brilliance in reserve grade for Parramatta hist destiny changed that night on the playing field.
The average NRL career is 43 games … but following his accident, Dan didn’t get to play even one!
So he packed his bags and headed home to the Sunshine Coast.
It was a journey that was quite familiar to him by then after his mum escaped to Queensland when Dan as a child after one outburst too many by his dad.
But this isn’t a story about that.
It’s about a shattered sporting career that was turned into a hugely successful business one and then flipped on its head again so Dan could be there for his wife and children more.
That winning feeling
Dan’s first job was a lottery agent!
He was 10 years old and used to sell 100 paper tickets to his neighbours for one dollar and when he picked a winner out of a hat, they got a $50 note … which he’d borrow from his mum.
She got her money back and Dan kept the profits, which he promptly spent on footy boots.
“Mum blamed money as the reason so many bad things happened to us,” he writes in new anthology book, Yise Guys.
“Being rich, I believed, would take away the pain and result in overall happiness.”
And that’s why he saw a career as a highly paid NRL player as the solution to all his problems – not just the financial ones.
When that didn’t work out, he was at a crossroads.
Failing via success
Dan wouldn’t kick stones in the aftermath of his “football retirement”.
He went on to run a hugely successful sales and training business in his 20’s, transacting more than $200 million for his clients over a decade. He was making more money than he probably would’ve as a professional rugby league player.
But life wasn’t so rosy at home. He had a wife and two children at the time who he barely saw.
He’d become married to his job.
The rock bottom moment came when he was at an awards night in 2018 and being named company of the year! But as he was walking onto the stage to give a speech, he looked at the table reserved for his family … and saw it was empty.
“They’d chosen not to come,” he writes.
“I broke down on stage in front of everyone.
“I had failed via success, something no one talks about. I was a business operator whose ego was too intertwined with the success of my business.”
That’s why he started The Life Academy, helping other business people recalibrate their lives and achieve a much healthier work-life balance.
“My view of entrepreneurship had shifted,” he says.
Putting pen to paper
Dan recently shared his story in Yise Guys.
The book gives men, like Dan, the chance to reflect on their own lives and perhaps pass on some lessons they might’ve learnt along the way.
Dan found it a really cathartic experience and actually locked himself in a hotel room for two days while he sat down to write his chapter.
“My family is now the centre of every decision I make,” Dan writes.
“Life is the same as rugby league: if for some reason you experience defeat, remember that tomorrow the game starts again.”
Dan’s still only in his early 30s, life has been good to him, so has business.
But he doesn’t measure success by his bank balance anymore.
He might run The Life Academy these days … but he’ll always be a student of it too.
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