Interviewee Name: David Gray
Company Name: DSG Associates
Avil Beckford: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Avil Beckford: How do you integrate your personal and professional life?
David Gray: The concept of integration is an interesting one. In my opinion, there can be no distinction between who you are as a business leader or as an individual on a personal basis. In other words, your ‘Self’ has to be an integrated whole. Otherwise, by definition it would be impossible to lead with integrity and conviction. However, one’s personal life is one’s own. In an era of celebrity worship this concept of the private Self can be a difficult one for some people to grasp. My solution is to advise people that I am available as a Coach during a quite broad number of hours. Beyond that, my time is my own.
Avil Beckford: When you have some down time, how do you spend it?
David Gray: I spend my down time reading, walking my dog, Eddie, and doing mundane household chores. I find all of these activities quite relaxing and conducive to engaging in a meditation of sorts.
Avil Beckford: What are five life lessons that you have learned so far?
- Be humble
- Listen actively and intently.
- Practise empathetic understanding.
- Reflect intently.
- Act decisively.
Avil Beckford: What process do you use to generate great ideas?
David Gray: I try to cast a wide net in the initial research and planning phases and then take everything I have learned and turn it on its head. This combination of broad search and contrarian analysis tends to enable new and innovative thoughts to emerge.
Avil Beckford: What’s your favourite quotation and why?
David Gray: “Seek first to understand and only then to be understood” from Covey’s “7 Habits.” I find that the world can be understood with any degree of accuracy only if one first casts aside one’s own inevitable prejudicial perspectives.
Avil Beckford: How do you define success? And in your opinion what’s the formula for success?
David Gray: Success for me is defined in terms of relationships. One is successful if one tries to give back to others more wisdom, more empathy and more joy than one takes for oneself. We do not define our own reputation, our personal brand. Other people do this for us. And so, if our self-awareness and our reputation are to have any real congruency, then success can only be defined on a social rather than an individual basis. Our success is inextricably entwined in what we give to others and what we share of ourselves with others, rather than what we take for ourselves and what we hold on to of ourselves solely for our own enjoyment.
Avil Beckford: What are the steps you took to succeed in your field?
David Gray: I worked, and continue to work half days. Sometimes it’s the first half of the day, sometimes the second. Sometimes I break the day into quarters. But I always try to work at least 12 hours a day. Except on Sundays. Then I generally only work six hours or so. In other words, I worked hard and continue to do so. However, one can only really work hard on a sustainable basis if one truly enjoys the work. So the first key is to identify your life’s work, your true mission or ‘vocation’ as it used to be called. After all, each of us is only here for a very brief period of time.
Avil Beckford: What advice do you have for someone just starting out in your field?
David Gray: Figure out what you want to do in the way of a career. Meantime, while life throws other opportunities your way – which probably on the surface appear to have very little to do with that desired career – work like the devil himself to succeed at whatever work you are doing at any given time. There is no such thing as bad honest work. Nor is there any such thing as undignified honest work. So work hard and prosper.
Avil Beckford: If trusted friends could introduce you to five people that you’ve always wanted to meet, who would you choose? And what would you say to them?
- Sir Winston Churchill: Thank you, thank you, thank you Sir, for staying the course throughout the wilderness years when lesser men succumbed to grovelling group think.
- Robert E. Lee: What were you thinking when you decided in favour of the Southern cause? Far too many men died and far too much unnecessary suffering was caused by this fatally flawed decision which prolonged the failed Southern War of Secession.
- Prince Charles Stuart: Stay in France. The Highland Scots have sufficient problems without your intrusion into their already difficult lives.
- Julius Caesar: Beware the Ides of March!
- Socrates: Just drink the damn hemlock old man! You have poisoned enough young minds with your hypocritical musings – and will continue to confuse a sufficient number of older ones over the course of human time.
Avil Beckford: Which one book had a profound impact on your life? What was it about this book that impacted you so deeply?
David Gray: Joseph Campbell’s, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. This book brought me face-to-face with human mortality and our shared human journey, thus making clear the urgent need to become oneself, identify and follow one’s own ‘bliss’ and make a contribution to the human family, regardless of how humble or great that contribution might be.
Avil Beckford: You are one of the 10 finalists on the reality show, So, How Would You Spend Your Time? Each finalist is placed on separate deserted islands for two years. You have a basic hut on the island and all the tools for survival; you just have to be imaginative and inventive when using them. You are allowed to take five books, one movie and one music CD, and whatever else you take has to fit in one suitcase and a travel on case. What would you take with you and how would you spend the two years? T he prize is worth your while and at this stage in the game there really aren’t any losers among the 10 finalists, since each are guaranteed at least $2 million?
David Gray: The movie would be, The Natural. I would seldom watch the film as I have already seen it at least three times. But it would act as a constant reminder to focus on whatever is both relevant based on my own gifts and yet ‘doable’ based on circumstances at any given time. The five books would include The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss so as to retain my sense of humour; Cervantes, Don Quixote (Penguin Classics) to ensure that I remember the absurdity of civilization; Foucault’s History of Madness so as to understand the process as I would surely go slowly quite mad; Kodokan Judo: The Essential Guide to Judo by Its Founder Jigoro Kano to give me a structure that might enable me to retain some degree of physical fitness, as well as the anthology, The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged so as to nurture my soul even as my brain inevitably went a bit sideways.
Avil Beckford: What excites you about life?
David Gray: The possibilities for self development and testing one’s own capabilities and limits.
Avil Beckford: How do you nurture your soul?
David Gray: Quiet reflection, exercise, and good wholesome food.
Avil Beckford: If you had a personal genie and she gave you one wish, what would you wish for?
David Gray: Enlightenment.
Avil Beckford: Complete the following, I am happy when…..
David Gray: I am happy when…I am doing what I do best…practising Leadership Coaching.
David Gray: I am unusually direct in speech, as I consider trust to be a condition most quickly built upon a foundation of honest communication. At the same time, I take pains to be empathetic and non-threatening in my overall approach.
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