Letter to My Younger Self: Nigel Cooper, Zibrant

Nigel Cooper, chairman at Zibrant, looks back at his 18-year-old self, leading him to ponder what he would change if he had his time again.

Cooper advises his younger self not to believe that business success is a replacement for personal happiness
Cooper advises his younger self not to believe that business success is a replacement for personal happiness

Dear Nigel,

Calm down, don’t panic, but it is your future self talking. There are no narcotics involved in this experience and you will not be appearing on You’ve Been Framed anytime soon.

It’s August 1981 so I guess congratulations are in order for your A level success, well done my boy. Now put your fears about leaving home away and get yourself off to university – trust me they will be three of the best years of your life.

Your life will turn out for the best, but there will be choices and you won’t always make the best or easiest decisions. At times the road will be challenging, but stick with it and it will all come good.

At 52 you will write a cheque for £2.9m to buy the events company you work for – and despite popular schoolboy rumour and misinformed 'Tomorrows World' opinion, a loaf of bread does not cost £1m in 2015 and people do still go to work. Just for the record, robots do not do all the work, people do not have more leisure time and we are still waiting for the much vaunted paperless office. Oh, by the way, you might want to place a bet on Wimbledon winning the FA Cup in 1988 – yes I know they are a non-league team, but trust me on this one!

So how did you get here and if you have the choice (which you do, young self) would I recommend you do it all again? Well, you do have choices and some of them are not the ones you think you have at 18. For example, remember "Thickie" Hargreaves, who left school at 16 to become an apprentice plumber? Well, turns out plumbers are in short supply in the 21st century and good ones can earn £100k a year ("k" means thousand – we don’t deal in hundreds anymore) that’s probably like £50,000 in 1981, so "Thickie" is probably driving a Jaguar at weekends. Do I recommend training to be a plumber? Well it would probably make your life simpler and at times easier, but you would miss out on some incredible experiences and great people along the way.

What do I wish I had learned earlier? It’s all about people. At times you will be under pressure to deliver for the people you work for and you will, every time, without question. It will become your most defining trademark. But don’t ever let yourself believe that business success is a replacement for personal happiness. Don’t worry, your friends and family will always be more important to you than business, but it won’t hurt if you tell them once in a while, especially when you are away from home 100+ nights a year.

Before I go, one final tip. In mid 1986 you are going to spend 18 months selling typewriters, the number one office product on the planet - don’t bother son, as much as you find this hard to comprehend, even in 1981 someone had a master plan to make them obsolete.

Good luck my boy, you get plenty of it so try to enjoy the ride – it will be a lot of fun if you allow yourself to appreciate it.

All the best. 

PS – don’t forget to lump on Wimbledon.

PPS – Darth Vader is Luke’s father – I know, too much information - I've just ruined the best story line ever!

More: Letter to My Younger Self - Sharon Richey, Because

Letter to My Younger Self - Lizzie Carver, MCM Creative

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