CLIVE CARPENTER: 9 LESSONS LIFE HAS TAUGHT ME

SOFT FINANCE
REFLECTIONS

Clive Carpenter is an international banker with over 40 years of experience in business and finance, much of which has in the highly challenging environments of developing countries.

During his career, Clive has lived and worked in Kenya and Nigeria and, from 1998 to 2003, managed an IFC project (AMSCO) spanning the African continent.

In 2003, Clive established himself as an Independent Director and Trustee, applying his experience to resolving the challenges of doing business in Africa. He sits on several boards and is a Trustee of the Royal Over-Seas League’s Golden Jubilee Trust.

Clive is a consultant to several international businesses and a mentor to several young executives. A while ago, THISDAY asked Carpenter to share his life experiences on key areas of life. Here are his key reflections. Enjoy.

SPIRITUALITY

I wish I had attended church far more regularly and been more involved in church activities over the years. However, there are ways of applying oneself to spiritual matters other than attending church. My way of praising God is through my garden. I am a passionate gardener. I like to feel I am creating a lovely garden for Him and His creatures. One can see so many miracles happening in a garden if you look closely enough. As I say to my friends, if you are looking for God, you can find Him in the garden, if you know where and how to look.

FINANCE

When I was young, no one realised that people would live to be much older than previously and still be working into their 70s and beyond. I wish I had given more attention to setting up a really good pension scheme for my old age. I remain comfortably off financially, but what happens if I live to be 100? The young people of today who can anticipate living to a great age hopefully must give thought to how they will finance that old age. I think there is nothing worse in life than being old, in ill health and being short of money.

HEALTH

‘You are what you eat’. ‘You dig your grave with your knife and fork.’ I have always been very particular about what I eat and drink, even more so as I have grown older. I am a great believer in trying, so far as possible, to eat food that is as God made it, i.e. it has not been processed or, at least, minimally so. I should have taken more exercise in my life, although I have managed to stay trim. Nevertheless, exercise remains very important for everyone. It is a great reliever of mental stress. One needs to balance mental work with physical activity. For me, my main physical activity comes from tending my rather demanding garden on England’s South Coast.

CAREER

I would like to have been a medical doctor rather than a banker. I have always been very interested in medical matters and still am and have many books on the subject, with special interest in alternative treatments using vitamins, minerals and plant extracts. A few years ago, I had a bad case of pneumonia. An ambulance had to be called to my home to take me to the hospital. When the paramedics arrived, I gave them a quick briefing on my condition – tachycardic, hypoxemia, febrile, heart in the sinus, etc. The paramedics could not believe I was not a doctor! I would have enjoyed the challenge of trying to improve people’s health and their lives in general. It would have given me great satisfaction.

BUSINESS

In today’s world, there are so many new rules and regulations, statutory provisions and environmental concerns that it is probably not as easy to succeed in business as it was some years ago. Nevertheless, there are many opportunities, but a great deal of research needs to be done before one proceeds in any particular field. I never got tired of talking about the wealth of opportunities in Africa in particular. It is such an exciting place just now, and I love the enthusiasm of the young people and their work ethic. Tenacity is the key requirement. People give up far too easily.

RELATIONSHIP

I was always too career-focused, I think, and still am to some extent. Quite a few friends have given up on me, tired of me always being busy with business commitments. Especially as one gets older, relationships/friendships become ever more important. It is very essential to work on relationships and give them time and attention just as one would your business interests. I always look at a relationship as being like a tender flower growing in the garden. You have to water it and feed it to keep it in peak condition and to ensure it keeps flowering. That is just how a friendship or relationship is. If you neglect it, it will eventually die.

COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTION

It is so important to give something back in return for all that life has given you. Everyone’s CV should reflect some voluntary work. It puts life into perspective, making you realise how fortunate you are. Nothing makes you feel better than giving another person a helping hand. I undertake several voluntary activities and hope to continue to do so, although I should do more. The greatest benefit is that even if you have problems you will always see others with a far heavier burden than yourself, and that somehow alleviates your own worries and challenges.

FUN TIME

I’ve never been very good at having fun. I am rather too serious, according to my friends. All work and no play‚Ķ. It is important to make time for fun or, at least, activities that have no link to one’s work. This brings relaxation and well-being. However, it is a delicate balance. Too much fun can so easily spill over into all types of problems. Everything in moderation!

MIND DEVELOPMENT

This can come from many different activities, of course. Reading, attending seminars, and having a good mentor. I think for me, it has come from travel. I am fortunate enough to have travelled quite widely, especially in Africa, and I have learnt so much through that. Travel really does broaden the mind. I love studying different cultures. I have certainly learnt so much from African culture.

THREE MISTAKES I MADE

  1. Being too trusting of others. The business world of today is a dog-eat-dog world, and there are many ruthless and unscrupulous people that one has to contend with. When I was younger, I think I was too trusting of people who took advantage of my willingness to work very hard for not too much in return. Always ensure you have a watertight contract covering your business dealings with adequate reward for what is achieved. Learning to say ‘no’ when necessary is also important, always sticking to your principles.
  2. Not appreciating the need to build my network/contacts at a younger age. I firmly believe that who you know is more important than what you know. It has taken me many years to build my current extensive network of contacts, and I wish I had worked on this when I was younger. If someone has never met you, it is unlikely they will contact you or wish to engage you in business. You need to be well-known in your field of activity. Get out there with your business card and introduce yourself! This is not just for your benefit but can make you valuable as an intermediary.
  3. Sometimes using work as an excuse to avoid socialising. When I was younger, I think I was too work-focused. I am not a naturally sociable person, shy in fact, and looking back, I feel I used work as an excuse to sometimes avoid going out and meeting people. Friends and family are a very important part of life and should not be given a lack of attention because of the demands of one’s career.

THE BEST THREE BOOKS THAT HAVE HELPED YOU IN LIFE

A difficult question as reading is an essential part of my life and I have so many books at home that I have had to have several new bookshelves constructed to hold them. I have now progressed to electronic books to save space!

My three books are:

The Bible. What can I say? So many lessons to be learned from reading it; so many things to think about, and a book that one could never tire of, but return to again and again as you proceed along life’s rocky road. It puts everything into perspective.

Roget’s Thesaurus. Such an essential tool when it comes to composing an important letter or e-mail. Someone else once said of this book, ‘This must surely be the most indispensable publication ever compiled.’

No More Champagne, Churchill and His Money (David Lough). The amazing story of how Britain’s most celebrated modern statesman lived most of his life on a fiscal cliff edge. The book reveals the scale of Churchill’s risk-taking combined with an ability to talk himself out of the tightest of corners. So many lessons can be drawn from reading this book – the interplay of private man and public figure, politics, greed and money. Being great does not always equate with being rich!

ONE GREAT LESSON

You raise yourself by raising those around you. When one is young and ambitious, it is not easy to accept this advice, but as I have grown older, I have come to know it is correct, and I now preach it to those I mentor. Humility is a great attribute, and I do not claim to have it myself, but there is great satisfaction in raising those around you, and you then come to realise that it is they who will push you up life’s ladder and not yourself through arrogance and self-promotion.

Each mistake or setback is an opportunity. If life never held challenges, setbacks, disappointments and even disasters for us, we would never learn or develop. Sometimes, there need to be unfortunate developments to direct us to a different course or to change our mindset. I try to see such setbacks as opportunities, and so often they are, although a considerable time may elapse before that becomes obvious. One door closes, another opens!

QUOTE

I never got tired of talking about the wealth of opportunities in Africa in particular. It is such an exciting place just now, and I love the enthusiasm of the young people and their work ethic. Tenacity is the key requirement. People give up far too easily.

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