Industry greats open up about their secrets to success in a new book


British Olympians, fashion entrepreneurs and philanthropists share their tips to a happy and successful career in A Few Wise Words




As the world battles with the consequences of coronavirus, a new book, aptly titled A Few Wise Words, is setting out to recharge the spirits of young people with their sights on success.

Compiling stories from 22 extraordinaries in the world of business, sport, philanthropy and more, the book, edited by Peter Mukherjee, shares personal stories and tips at a time where it’s never been needed more.

From British Olympian Ben Ainslie to society soprano Danielle de Niese, Tatler picks out the most helpful tips.

The Royal Ballet’s Kevin O’Hare on reuniting the company on stage

Stephen Fry

‘We live in a fantasising society where everything looks easy and children are told lies from a very early age. The only way your dreams come true is if you fight to achieve them, and that fight involves what Winston Churchill called “blood, sweat, toil and tears”, and that’s the brutal truth.’

‘Not only am I not goal-orientated, I’m actually dead against them, unless your goal is actually to find fulfilment in life. As soon as you start setting goals to get this promotion or that car, or live in this house, in that suburb, you will never be satisfied.’

‘If you go into a bookshop, all the help you will ever need is in the literature section, the poetry section, the science, biography and history sections. You will learn more about who you are and what you can achieve by reading Shakespeare’s sonnets than anything else.’

Sir Ben Ainslie

‘My advice to any young person is that you absolutely have to find something you are passionate about. If you are not passionate about it, then it’s not right for you. One of the keys to success, therefore, is to keep looking until you find that thing. It’s hard work – and there are simply no shortcuts.’

‘Mix with people who are older and more experienced than you. Interacting with other people will help to build your confidence.’

Martha, Baroness Lane Fox CBE

‘I don’t believe young people should get too obsessed or worry too much about having to find the right career for themselves at an early age. So the age-old notion that you might “go into accounting” or “go into retail”, and then remain there for the whole of your career, this is actually a complete nonsense these days. Just stay calm but remain active. Approach everything with a testing mindset, have lots of different experiences and be open-minded.’

‘Hard work is an absolutely vital ingredient for achieving success. Things don’t just happen because you are there. You need to know your subject inside out, you have to show up and be present and be a fully active part of things, and that is all about hard work!’

‘It’s simply not possible to be friends with a hundred people, to read a hundred books a year, go to the theatre every week and spend time with your kids, while also dedicating yourself to running a business. Something will have to give. Precisely how you balance that is down to you!’

Joanna Lumley OBE

‘You can never fail if you are polite. Politeness opens all kinds of doors, it’s astonishing.’

‘If you’re feeling inadequate, don’t indulge it. Get hold of it and shape up a little.’

‘Whenever you are in doubt or in trouble, ask for help – and kind people will always help you.’

‘Grannies have nobody in their heart but you, so they are bound to tell you the truth!’


Danielle de Niese


‘I am a great believer in patience, to never take shortcuts, and that ‘slow and steady wins the race’.’

‘So a large part of self-doubt for any performer is caused by simply knowing how nerves can undermine you. And by far the best way to anticipate these moments of self-doubt and to reduce your nerves is to spend as much time as you possibly can on preparation and practice. The harder you are prepared to work at it, the more resilient you will become.’

‘Education doesn’t stop when you leave school. I still have a teacher now, and I will still have a teacher in twenty years’ time. If you are professional and dedicated to your art, and want to be the best you can be, you never want to stop learning or improving.’

‘Short-term goals are also just as important, even if it’s just one step away, so why not set a goal for tomorrow? When a young person starts thinking about these short-term goals, it helps them to think about the future.’

A Few Wise Words edited by Peter Mukherjee is available from 16 November with Amersham Publishing


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