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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 June 2005, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Nick Leeson's steep learning curve
Nick Leeson, the trader whose losses brought down Britain's oldest merchant bank, has written a book entitled Back from the Brink: Coping With Stress.

He explains how spending four years in jail and being diagnosed with cancer makes him something of a stress expert.


When I was jailed in Singapore, I went through a very steep learning curve.

Nick Leeson
Nick Leeson can rise above stress (Pic: Sinead Lynch)

I used to be in despair about how I was going to pass four years in one of the world's toughest prisons. At times it was a complete abyss.

But I just didn't understand how hard the conditions were going to be.

I was locked up for 23 hours a day, sleeping on the floor and only getting water for one hour every day.

The guard would turn the tap on between seven and eight. Sometimes the water didn't come. If it didn't come, then you were without water for the whole day.

I used to get angry with the guard, but he didn't have the authority to reason, or to care.

No influence

Things like that used to frustrate the life out of me, but you quickly realise that the only person you really hurt is yourself.

LEESON CHRONOLOGY
April 1992
Moves to Singapore with Barings
February 1995
Barings collapses; Leeson flees Singapore
December 1995
Back in Singapore, this time in jail
August 1998
Operated on for colon cancer
July 1999
Released from jail
April 2005
Appointed commercial director of Galway United football club

You realise that that guard is going to do the same thing until the day he dies.

There was nothing I could do about it and I had to come to terms with that.

I had to think about things in a completely different manner.

I had gone from being someone who had a lot of control over every situation I was in, to being someone who has no influence over anything.

Everything that has happened to me since has been coloured by that - including when I was diagnosed with colon cancer with nine or 10 months left in prison.

Like most people, I link the word cancer to death. And there I was, in jail, diagnosed with cancer.

Floundered

But it was completely out of my control. The only part of it I could change was the way I was thinking about it.

In early parts of my life, I would have floundered in these situations because I didn't have the skills to cope.

Tanah Merah Prison, Singapore
He said the jail was 'one of the world's toughest'

People often ask me why I didn't stop and admit what was going on at Barings Bank when I had the chance. I answer that I was too proud.

But the explanation lies in the fact that we all have innate needs, and one of those is the need for status.

I was always very success-driven, not money-driven. With success comes status with the people you work for, the people who work for you, and even your family.

I would have done anything to protect my status - like an animal protecting its young.

It was completely stupid and foolhardy. Admitting what went wrong and changing or tempering that behaviour was the only way to deal with it.



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