He was one of Ireland’s highly-rated tennis players but since his retirement in 2015, James Cluskey has gone on to new ventures including and setting up his own business Tennis for Wellness, an idea that came from close friend Richard Branson.
James developed a passion for Tennis at a very early age and remembers writing down his goal at 10-years-old to play in the Davis Cup. His dream would come true as he represented Ireland in the Davis Cup on numerous occasions between 2006 and 2014. James also spent four great years playing college tennis in Louisiana State University in the United States, an opportunity that helped him become the number one ranked doubles player in Ireland at the time of his retirement in 2015.
Not knowing what was next for him James decided to volunteer for the Necker Cup, Richard Branson’s Pro-Am tennis tournament. From just going to the Virgin Islands to help out and get advice from business people, little did James know that it led to an amazing opportunity to become Richard’s tennis coach. It just goes to show that once you put yourself out there, you never know who you will meet.
In the past couple of years, James made the transition from professional tennis player to businessman. He is currently head of sport at Mason Alexander to advise athletes on career transition and he also founded his own business as well. James admits it is tough starting out in something completely new but he is very passionate about his new career and has the goal to become an entrepreneur. As he says himself “watch this space.”
You can listen to James’ full podcast at this link and you can also download it on iTunes.
Here are some key learns to take away from James’ podcast:
1. You never know who you will meet. After retiring from Tennis, James did not know what was the next move for him. After hearing about a yearly Tennis event on Necker Island, James decided to go volunteer helping out at the event, where he met Richard Branson. With Richard’s tennis coach Josh Gilmour going away on holiday, James was asked to fill in as Richard’s tennis coach and everything began to fall into place for him. Just put yourself out there, try different things and get to know people. You never know who you will get talking to and the amazing opportunities that will come along as a result.
2. Give your time as best you can to other people. One of the things James has learned most about his time with Richard Branson is to give your time to other people as best you can. He describes Richard as a very helpful and friendly person. He also felt like Richard had all the time in the world to listen to him and help him out in anyway that he could. We are in a culture where everybody is really busy and in a rush, but take a step back and get to know the people you meet. We can learn so much by just having a conversation with them.
3. Surround yourself with the people you want to become. Going over to Necker Island for the Tennis tournament, James actually saw it as a great opportunity to meet other businessmen and take their advice on board. He was also surrounded by quality coaches during his playing days and has been very privileged to work with them. It is the successful people who are more ready and humble to help you. Manage your environment: avoid those negative thinkers and surround yourself with the successful people that you want to become. Getting those right people around you will help and guide you to become the person you aspire to be.
4. Don’t be afraid of new challenges. After retiring from Tennis, James felt like he was starting at the bottom all over again when he made the transition to working on the sports desk with his new company. He admits it was tough to go from travelling 300 days a year to being in one place at the same time. It can be tough to take on new challenges and a new job, but don’t let fear hold you back. After all, Action cures fear! James is still learning the way in his new role but he is passionate about building the sports desk and helping others make the transition.
5. Listen! Don’t try to listen to reply but really listen to what the person has to say. Once such example was when James joked with Richard that people over 6’6” on Virgin Airlines should get a free upgrade. However, Richard really listened and took the idea on board and on Instagram a few weeks ago, James saw that Richard upgraded the tallest person on one of his flights. What James considered to be a throw away comment, turned out to be a great business idea for Richard. Really listen to what other people say, it might even spark a great business idea for you.
6. Work hard, but also have fun. There is no doubt that lots of hard work and dedication will get you to where you want to be, but also try to make that journey as enjoyable as possible. It is also key to do something your are really passionate about. James fell in love with tennis at a very young age and also had the chance to train in Louisiana State University, which he describes as some of the best years of his life. James lived his dream of playing tennis and there is no reason to doubt you too can make a career out of doing what you love. It will take a lot of hard work, but also try to make it a fun experience too.
Do you agree with my takeaways from James’ interview? What inspired you most from his podcast? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
To celebrate What I Know Now’s 1 Year Anniversary, I will be hosting a live podcast on Thursday 28 September at the Hamilton Building in Trinity College Dublin. Sign up now to attend for FREE at this link. Hope to see you there.