#RealityCheck: Datuk Nicol David shares the secret to her success, staying positive and more


By Rachel Au

#RealityCheck: Datuk Nicol David shares the secret to her success, staying positive and more


Throughout April and May, we’ll be curating a series of IG Live sessions on @buromalaysia with tastemakers, influencers and rightful experts in various industries.

Our purpose: To make staying at home, isolation and social distancing just a bit easier, as well as connecting all Malaysians riding out the current C/MCO. We’ll share meaningful—and important—conversations and entertain with creative challenges.

Missed the episode with Datuk Nicol David? Fret not cos you can watch it now on our IGTV. We’ve also transcribed some of the key questions she answered below.


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Being in quarantine can be tough for most and we saw many people cope by keeping themselves busy like baking, making workout videos etc. Has it been easy for you and what was your quarantine routine like?

“To be honest, I was quite happy because I was travelling so much over the last six months and so, I finally had time to rest. It has been good to be able to stay put in one place for a while. To catch up on things, do my training and basically staying active because otherwise, I’d go crazy. I’ve been staying sane by exercising—I do it about five to six times a week.

“I think we take things for granted because before this, we could just drive out to buy something but we can’t do that now. You can’t walk out now without wearing a mask and if you want to meet your friends, you do it via Zoom, which is still good because we can stay connected. But otherwise, I’ve just been keeping positive and busy with work online. So, yes, it’s been fine actually. I’ve been cooking and cleaning the house (laughs). I’ve also been taking some online Spanish classes since the quarantine started and it has been fun—two-hour sessions, three times a week. Especially since I’m in Columbia now but I’ve always wanted to learn the language too so this is my best opportunity.”

Generally, the key to staying sane while under quarantine or partial lockdown is to have a schedule or routine. But it might be difficult for some. How can people find ways to be motivated right now?

“I totally feel the same as everyone. You’re in the house. You have a schedule. But you have days where you don’t want to get out of bed because you’re feeling low. Emotions hit you quite hard in these times and it’s okay to feel them. It’s okay to be angry, frustrated, sad or even bored stiff. Be aware of it. I think people who ignore these feelings end up having it hit them harder. If you feel it through the day, talk about it, write it down—just feel it. Then, after a day of feeling blergh, you wake up the next day and feel a little more okay. “I got through that, now I just want to push through this day.” Think about good things you want to do, listen to upbeat music, dance a little, watch a cool movie—do anything that makes you happy just to get you going.”

Yes, agreed. Embracing the feelings instead of rejecting them is definitely the first step because otherwise, you’re constantly battling with yourself in your mind, which is even harder.

“Also, the people around you. For example, you could be taking it out on your family without realising it and you could potentially get into that routine. You really have to acknowledge what’s happening. If you don’t feel good, tell your family and ask them to give you some time. And then, you get out of it but you don’t get into that mode of putting people down or imparting negativity on others. That’s how I feel would work best”

It’s all about communicating so people can understand you better as well.


Now, on a similar note (though not quite, at the same time), you’ve mentioned in some interviews that one of the things you don’t miss after retiring was the intense training, day after day, and understandably so, it was tiring to some extent. And yet, you achieved a 20-year career streak. This pandemic too has been a real test for everyone, day after day. In your experience, how does one build a strong mindset to get through challenges each and every day?

“It was purely growing up in a great environment with my family, always seeing the positive side of things and being grateful for what I have—like a squash centre to play at, my sister to train with, and just generally, the people around me. They’ve always given me positive reinforcement since I was young and when I turned professional, I had to get a sports psychologist to strengthen that tool that I had; which is to keep everything positive and minimise the negativity in my mind. That way, when I go for competitions, my mind is blacked out from doubts. It’s obviously difficult but I made sure to make plans for different occasions and players, and prepared for what could happen. That was the big thing to keep a strong mindset: to turn the negative into positive and if you can do that, then your mind is really set to take on anything.”

“Consistency is key.” This is one of your many amazing feats and it’s similar to a quote you recently shared on your Instagram in relevance to your success. What is the key to consistency in whatever we may do? And how did you do it?

“Actually, consistency is the result of what I did. It’s not the key to my success but it’s funny because a lot of people interpret it that way. Because I’m consistent with my wins, results and achievements but it’s actually what I did that made those things consistent. What is really the secret or the key to my success is ‘improvement’. And I want to improve myself every day.

“Even when I was number one, I felt like I wasn’t good enough and had to keep improving day in and day out; because there were so many areas that I had to work on be it my squash techni ues, physique, mental strength, so I always had to work harder. Everyone was always changing—my opponents were changing their tactics and finding ways to beat me and I was always under the receiving end, getting the pressure to perform and do well. I was, in some ways, obsessed with improving myself and wanted to get better every day and stay at my very best, because if I do that, I’m ahead of the rest.

“I think that is the key to what made me consistent and I think people can do that. If they work on the small details, keep to their path on what they want to do to improve themselves and get better bit by bit, it will happen. Everything else becomes a little blur when you have a goal and set your priorities strongly in front of you.”

Now, what is something you do when you feel overwhelmed?

“For me, I take some time to breathe. I also have moments where I have to realise that my heart is pumping, my adrenaline is going—but just take a breather. If you’re overwhelmed, like I always say, acknowledge it and speak to someone that’s close to you. Tell them that you’re not feeling good, what’s going on, and then find the root of it. Personally, when I’m overwhelmed, it’s because I’m fearful of failure, not being the best, and embarassed that I could be incapable of doing something. However, it’s only normal. I think everyone has that and it’s okay.

“Just know it, talk to someone and most importantly, ask for help. Ask for advice. Maybe write it down and find solutions to make it work for you next time. But really, breathing is really helpful. I do some breathing techniques to help.”

We are currently living in the “New Normal”—what does the “New Normal” mean to you?

“It would probably be a community that is more considerate about others. A community that cherishes their freedom and space when they have it, make the most out of it and appreciate nature and their loves ones. Also, to continue to be active and staying healthy. All of these can become so much more important but at the same time, we’ll be living in a regulated way. I think we can learn a lot of things from this experience and hopefully, we won’t take too much for granted after this.”

Due to the pandemic, a lot of people might feel like they cannot control a lot of things. What advice or message of hope would you give to them to stay positive and sane during this period?

“A lot of things are out of our control and the more we focus on that, the harder it is to accept the things coming our way. First, we need to accept that tough things are going to come about. We just have to find solutions to work through it. We have two choices: either we go negative all the way or take the positive route. It’s really that simple. One path leads you to feel down all day. But if you work towards the positive side, it’s always going to have a better outcome because you’re making an effort to see what you can face head-on. Also, instead of negativity, be around good people who want to do something bigger and better. It needs everyone’s contribution. You can’t change someone. I can give advice but it’s what you choose at the end of the day that will make your decision better. So if you can see the benefits of keeping to the right frame of mind and have a strong mindset, you’ll come out of this so much better and stronger.”

For more updates from Datuk Nicol David, follow her on:

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Don’t forget to check out the rest of our BURO. Hangouts: Live episodes here.

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