Harvard for Tony Nicholson (Drake 2004)


Congratulations to former Head of School Tony Nicholson 倪腾 (Drake 2004) who's been accepted into Harvard Business School whilst continuing his work as an actor, producer and personal fitness trainer to some of the world's top executives.

Tony, who has been living and working in China, was recently interviewed by the RHS Bubble pupil newspaper. Tony gave pupils insight into the resilience, drive and determination of an inspiring alumnus who overcame adversity.

We are proud of the example Tony and our alumni set our pupils. This is what is means to be #partofRHS

You can read Tony's inspiring interview in full below:

What was it like growing up in Oman?

Oman has a wealth of culture and history, and my childhood was incredible because of it. The country is interconnected with so many places around the world—especially England. In fact, I found out about RHS via friends from Oman going to school at RHS. CCF is cherished, and there is an emphasis on discipline that I have seen few other places—even though honesty and integrity are so vital in today's world.

What was your most memorable moment at RHS?

So many—becoming Prefect, Head of House, Head Boy, participating on all the first teams. Championing these accomplishments was the culmination of years of hard work, perseverance, and relentless focus. Every day, I had the diligence to believe in myself—and it paid off. I have to lend credit and honor to the professors, too. They've guided thousands of minds, and the world is better for it.

Do you still remember any of the traditions? Which stand out?

Divisions. Traditions of presentation and leadership within the military are timeless and follow you through every facet of life. Today, I lead large groups of people, and by large, I mean thousands of people. Commanding an audience comes from immense confidence, and I credit that skill to RHS. Being a Prefect, Head of House and then Head Boy taught me everything about leadership.

Right now, Drake is a co-ed day house. Do you remember much about what Drake was like as a house back when you were in it?

When I came to RHS, living in a boarding house with others was completely new for me—and back then, it was all boys. You have to learn to get along with all personality types to get chores done and live well. I know I'm a stronger person for having been part of Drake. I'll put it this way—there's no way I could have survived my initial dive into living in China if it was not for Drake and RHS.

What was it like being Head Boy in 2004, and how was Miss Polson as a Head Girl and a friend?

Every moment gave me a chance to grow intellectually as Head Boy. The leadership skills I garnered as Head Boy pay dividends today as a prominent figure in the Chinese health and wellness space, and as an actor. I would say the same for Miss Polson—who I know as Liz. She is proof that women are powerful leaders. Liz has inspired me and changed my life. Today, I hire more women than men. Liz brought so much care and effort to everything she touched that I have spent my professional career tracking down people just like her to work with.

What intrigued you the most about China and what made you want to live and work in China?

I was blown away by two things: first, the language was ornate and beautiful. Second, the population of China is the size of Europe, America and the Middle East combined—and yet, they speak one language. After spending time in the Middle East, Europe, and America, to think there was an equally expansive place to explore was a marvel to behold. China felt like the future, and I dove in head first.

Were there any struggles adapting to life in China? Do you have any tips for those looking to work or study abroad?

I arrived in a provincial town in China that had never seen a foreign student, and sat in the middle of a class of 13,000 people. That made learning Chinese and adapting fast priority number one. But that sense of immediacy was a strength in disguise. The key to studying aboard is to embrace total immersion. If you're in a situation where it's sink or swim, you'll learn to swim, guaranteed.

Your Wikipedia page alludes to some darker moments in your personal journey. Is there any advice you would give on coping with adversity?

That's a fantastic question. I wish I had the wisdom I have now back when I was at RHS. The Internet is clogged with motivational sentiments, but very little of it approaches how to triumph over adversity because that's so much harder. My father experienced cardiac arrest in front of me. In a matter of moments, the man I looked up to—the Royal Marine, my best friend, my guide in life—was gone.

My advice for turning trying moments into opportunities for growth is to control how you react to what happens to you. If you feel like you need help, reach out for it. Find a mentor or coach who can objectively look at your life and give advice. The chaos of life obscures our ability to see the bigger picture. Channel your energy in a positive way. For me, that was sports and the gym. For you, it may be meditation or a spiritual connection that brings clarity to your life. Just remember this: tough times don't last, but tough people do.

Being a sports coach and fitness expert, do you have any fitness tips and tricks for anyone willing to improve their own physical fitness?

I believe in being open and honest. At RHS, it was a running joke that I went to the gym constantly. Today, I'm inspiring an entire nation to work out. I can fill a room with thousands of people doing 'Tony's 8 Minutes' and I get to partner with major names across all industries. You can see everything happening in real time on Instagram @tony_nicholson and it's clear how much people respond to a simple baseline health regimen. George Hood, one of my clients, is 60 years old, and just set the world record for the plank at 18 hours, 10 minutes, 10 seconds. The sky is the limit so long as you're willing to start. Do it now. Do it early.

In what ways has being at RHS helped you become the person you are today?

I could fill a book. RHS helps students exceed normal human limitations. RHS is all about transcending yourself and becoming greater. I was fortunate enough to have top grades coming in to RHS, but I learned quickly that I could go even higher, and push myself academically. I wasn't the most athletically gifted sportsman on the field, but RHS taught me to work hard, and now I'm a health and fitness champion. RHS taught me to be a leader, present myself well, and treat others with compassion. All of these skills have paid off with limitless success as an adult. I feel that RHS has empowered me to go anywhere and achieve anything.

We couldn't help but notice how many badges you had back then, especially sports badges. Would you perhaps have considered yourself a 'gym lad' when you were at RHS (Miss Polson may have had a hand in this question)?

You have to take pride in your work. There's a sincere difference between stepping forward with care, and being arrogant. If anything, I would say being humble is one of the most valuable things in the world. Just like a General wears his or her badges, you should have the confidence to honor your badges. Today, I have gone from being nicknamed 'Keeno' to having people write me, saying they were inspired by how I wore my badges. In the same way, I was a gym lad without a doubt. The whole purpose of the body is to support the mind, and I knew that if I was physically fit, I'd be supporting my intellectual nature in the classroom. Everything is connected, which is why I follow the sentiment, 'How you do anything is how you do everything'.

Here's one last thing—write your goals down. I've never told anyone this secret. In year 9, the first goal I wrote down in this little, yellow book I'd hide under my bed was that I wanted to be Head Boy like James Sladden. Remember how tough people last? There's no limit to what you can do if you commit your whole self. That's how I know my time at RHS will serve me all throughout life. We'll see what the next chapter brings.