Learn from the Experiences of Others: Interview With David Gray

 Avil: What’s a typical day like for you?

David: A typical week-day starts around 7:30 am with a breakfast of home-made muesli.  I very seldom miss breakfast.  While I eat, I respond to emails. Then it’s off to meet my clients.  When possible, I grab a quick lunch.  Then in the afternoon the consultation process continues with my clients.  In addition to my own practice http://www.davidgraycoach.com I work on large firms’ Career and Coaching delivery contracts, so there is seldom a dull moment.  By 7 pm I am usually home and enjoy spending a couple of hours with my wife, Anne, sharing a laugh while we cook and eat dinner and then settle in for a couple hours of reading or TV.  By 11 pm I am back at the computer responding to emails.  By 1 pm I am generally in bed. 

Saturdays and Sundays are catch-up days.  I might see one or two clients on a Saturday, but for the most part I enjoy doing domestic chores (yes, I am that rare male who actually enjoys doing cooking, laundry etc., as I find it very relaxing.)  For exercise I swim at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre at Spadina & Bloor where I am a member.  I try to fit some yoga in at the Yoga Sanctuary at College and Yonge, and I do a stretching and Pilates routine.

  Avil: What does it take to succeed in your field?

 David: To be successful in my field one typically needs empathy, compassion, a conscientious work ethic and a background in HR.  However, to be truly outstanding one additionally needs a great degree of life history in a variety of business settings as well as a high degree of intuitive and innovative intelligence in order to be able to work with people from numerous diverse backgrounds who are each struggling with very individual career and life challenges.  In a word, one needs wisdom.  And typically, that can only be accumulated over a long period of time after encountering a variety of challenging situations in one’s own career and life. 

Avil: What are the three greatest threats to your business success?

David: Fear, procrastination and indecision.  I focus very consciously and creatively on potential available solutions to whatever current challenge I am facing in order to banish those threats.

 Avil: What do you observe most people in your field doing badly that you think you do well?


David: I tend to think way outside the existing structures and definitions concerning how to help people break-through to new levels of consciousness in both their business and personal ways of dealing with challenges.


Avil: Tell me about your big break and who gave you.


David: My big break was convincing my wife to marry me.  That relationship has been the foundation for all of my business success.


Avil: Describe one of your biggest failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success?


David: My biggest failure was in not recognizing or having confidence in my own potential as a young adult.  As a result, I worked at manual labour and other mundane jobs while other fellows were going to graduate school.  Eventually, I wrote the LSAT (pre-law exam), scored in the 93rd percentile and realized I was actually quite bright. That gave me the confidence to do an MBA, go into Business & Technology consulting and then enter the Leadership and Career Coaching fields.


Avil: What has been your biggest disappointment in your life – and what are you doing to prevent its reoccurrence?

David: Not having children.  My antidote is to live my own life to the full.

Avil: What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?

David: The toughest decision I have had to make was to walk away from a friendship of many years that had turned sour.  To this day I feel the loss, but despite my best efforts there was no way I could discover to turn the situation around.

Avil: How did mentors influence your life?

David: Mentors have influenced my life more by their actions and their own ways of conducting themselves rather than by any specific mentoring per se.

Avil: What’s one core message you received from your mentors?

David: Establish trust by being principled and doing what you say you will do.

Avil: What process do you use to generate great ideas?

David: Take the situation, consider the conventional wisdom and then try to turn it on its head and see what comes up.  In other words, think in a consciously contrarian style.

Avil: Which one book had a profound impact on your life?

David: Hero of a Thousand Faces by the great mythologist, Joseph Campbell.  He taught me to ‘follow my bliss.’

Avil: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are five books that you would like to have with you and why? Give a brief summary of each book



  • Don Quixote, by Miguel De Cervantes:  The first modern novel, this book revolutionized the imaginative approach to the then core myth of Chivalry, itself a central concept in most European’s self-construct.  This book reminds us never to take at face value the assumptions of the society in which we happen to live because of vagaries of our birth in a particular geographical space, social context and time. 
  • The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History, by Philip Bobbitt.  An erudite and sweeping review of European history until the 19th century and then an analysis of world history in the 20th and early 21st centuries viewed from the dual perspectives of Law and War.  This book provides a context within which to grasp the complex geopolitics of the world we currently live in. 
  • The Poetry of Robert Frost: All eleven of his books – complete, edited by Edward Connery Lathem.  This book reminds one that the only life worth living is one including a degree of reflection. 
  • The Measure of a Man: a Spiritual Autobiography, by Sidney Poitier.  This book teaches a man how to live as a man.  In a day and age when men are increasingly out of touch with their essential masculinity, Poitier’s story of his personal challenges, triumphs and philosophy of life reads like a melodic breath of very fresh air. 
  • Lincoln’s Melancholy:  How Depression Challenged a President and Fuelled His Greatness, by Joshua Wolf Shenk.  A biography that reads like a detective novel. The real Lincoln is far more fascinating and inspiring than the manufactured American myth of the man.  Like Poitier’s book, this one provides insights into what is possible to achieve and, far more importantly, what it means to live life as a man who is true to his own vision, come hell or high water.  Interestingly, in Lincoln’s case it was the hellfire of a bullet, whereas for Poitier it was a near-death experience with high water.

 How do you resolve the challenges in your life? If you had to live your life over, would you do things differently? How do you define success and what is your formula for success? To find out David’s answer to these questions and a lot more, click here to download the entire interview.

Let us know what you think. Do you agree with David? Which aspects of his interview resonates with you the most?

About David Gray: David has advised executive clients based in Canada, the UK, Europe and Asia.  In addition to his own consulting practice, David serves as President of the Board, Toronto Chapter of the Association of Career Professionals International (ACP International), and is a member of the Strategic Leadership Forum (GTA).


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