Things that successful people do
As much as our pride doesn't like to admit it, learning from others is one of the most effective forms of self-improvement. With this is mind we sat down with business coach, and author of the book 100 Things Successful People Do, Nigel Cumberland to discuss tried and tested lessons from successful business people.
Esquire: Why did you write this book?
Nigel Cumberland: Well, I’ve written books before, but in the course of helping clients that I coach I’d been searching for a tool that would guide them to change behaviours, actions and mindset to help achieve their goals. These could be things as small as losing a little weight or learning to drive, through to being promoted at work, buying a house or retiring at the age of 50. People often have blind spots or are in denial. We do not easily accept problems and aren’t open to asking for help.
These seem to be universal and timeless lessons
Yes, about 20 years ago I spent three months in an Indian ashram after resigning from my job as a finance director in Hong Kong and not knowing what to do with my life. I learned then that it’s all about creating energy and connection. What you focus on can become reality, if you learn to have positive thoughts and live in a positive space. And of course controlling the ego is so important — not rushing to react to certain situations. These lessons that you learn in an ashram or from Confucius or Buddhism, or whatever, are all linked.
Why aren’t these basic life skills taught in school?
They should be, and one day I’d like to teach younger generations. I’ll give you an example of where children aren’t prepared. I was a headhunter for 10 years and I was amazed at how badly people planned their careers. It’s something that kids should be taught early on, because they’re more open, whereas, as adults, we don’t find it easy to seek help.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to make a change?
It’s about being able to put all the pieces together. What are you going to do with your life? What are your dreams? What are you strengths? Think about that first because, whatever you do, money will follow if you are really passionate. My book, and other books like it, help you brainstorm and make those choices more effectively.
How relevant is this to Gulf expats?
I think we are forced to address these questions because we don’t have a social safety net. Also, many of us have costly lifestyles so we really have to get a handle on our money, our career, what we are doing with our day, how much we are saving and where we are heading. And life is much harder generally for today’s generation in many countries than it was for our parents, in terms of house prices, job uncertainty and pensions. So these kind of books are much needed. We all need to review how we are doing.
What books should we read next?
There are certain technical skills we all need, which might pertain to finances, job-hunting or being a good parent or partner. But we also have to be aware of the bigger picture, so books that talk about the meaning of life are useful, whether it’s Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist or Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach or Robin Sharma’s The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari. Different books work for different people, but the point is that people tend to make linear decisions without ever seeing the whole picture.
And what is that bigger picture?
The first line of The Road Less Travelled is “Life is difficult”. And that’s so true. It takes effort, focus and planning. And we’re not perfect, so don’t beat yourself up about things, because that impacts on how you come across to people. All we need to do is improve by a few percent. The last page of my book says, “Whatever happens, life goes on”. We shouldn’t be disappointed when things don’t work out. But life does go on!
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Nigel Cumberland is an author, leadership coach and the founder of Silk Road Partnership, a Dubai-based global provider for executive coaching and training solutions to some of the world’s leading organisations. He graduated from the University of Cambridge, has held senior corporate positions across the world and is a certified Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coach. His new book 100 Things Successful People Do is out now