11 Life lessons from one of Britain's best-loved actors, Michael Caine 11 Life lessons from one of Britain's best-loved actors, Michael Caine Skip to content

11 life lessons from Michael Caine

Regarded as one of Britain’s best-loved actors, Michael Caine’s career has taken many twists and turns – from struggle and rejection to praise and awards. In his book, Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life he examines his life and outlines the lessons he’s learnt from success and failure. We’ve listed 11 of the ‘lessons’ to be mindful of to help achieve success.

Forget rich and famous; find what you love

“I didn’t dream of being rich and famous. That wasn’t my goal. But I did, at a young age, find something I loved to do: acting. In a life full of good fortune this was the biggest piece of good luck I ever had.”

This may come across a little jarring as often you’ll hear people say “I just fell into recruitment!” The lesson here is to understand what you love about recruitment and use that as your strength to help you be the best you can be. At its core, recruitment is problem-solving. The payoff is surges of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that controls your brain’s reward and pleasure center. But dopamine quickly fades, hence the highs and lows. For longer-term reward focus on what you like about the role itself. By focusing on actions that contribute to sales, you’ll still continue to receive plenty of dopamine but won’t fixate on the highs and lows.

You’re always auditioning

“You’re auditioning when you’re checking in with the receptionist when you’re in the waiting area, when you’re grabbing a cup of coffee. You never know who’s watching your performance.”

One part of candidate interview prep focuses on handshakes and maintaining eye contact. But too often these can seem rehearsed and obvious. Many interviewers will ask reception to give their viewpoint on how the person greeted them and behaved. To be authentic you need to be yourself, but you always need to be respectful and courteous. Figure out how you can apply this to how you interact with people on a daily basis and where you can make improvements.

Know what you convey

“Do you have a good sense of what you convey? Do you know your strength, and play them up?”

In his book, Caine talks about reinventing himself but playing to his strengths so be too authentic. In recruitment, there’s a number of different personality types. If you’re generally quiet and calm, use that as your strength. Similarly, if you’re like to lead from the front, do so. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than someone trying to be something they’re not. People will see through it straightaway. Understand your strengths and use them to your advantage.

Keep going

“Even when I achieved stardom, I could never quite believe that each film would not be my last.”

You’re only as good as your last month is a phrase every recruiter knows and the parallels are similar. For every ‘The Italian Job’, there’s a turkey. Caine stresses that he kept going out of “anger, fear, determination and necessity.”

Just say yes

“Success comes from doing. The best way to keep doing enough of the right things is to keep doing a lot of things. Don’t wait for your chances; go out and take them. Don’t spend life sitting off to the side, waiting for the perfect script, with the perfect director at the perfect fee.”

This can be interpreted in a lot of ways, from opting to go for promotion to taking on more responsibility in your role. However, the theme is to take chances and embrace new ideas to develop your career.

Whatever it is, give 100%

“Your contribution is what you can control so, however big or small it is, you have to make it as good as it can be.”

Part of working as a team is sharing your forecast for the month. This will differ with some months being higher than others. No matter ‘however big or small’ it is, explain what the forecast means for your monthly and annual personal and team targets. Team members will offer advice and support if you can prescribe what the problem is that you’re trying to solve.

Learn your craft

“I can’t empathise this strongly enough. You have to learn your craft. Whatever it is you want to do, you have to put in the hours to learn everything you’re going to need, starting with the basics.”

Part of “find what you love” is learning, and importantly continually developing your craft to become an expert. Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers introduces the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours.

Be prepared to fail

“I learned lessons by making mistakes – but I only make each one once. Nothing has the power to etch a lesson deeper into my brain than making a mistake and then getting up and trying again and doing it a bit better.”

Any time you fail, you can learn from it. Devoting time to reviews and post mortems will help identify where the failure occurred. Once identified you can work through processes and strategies, individually or as a team, to help future actions.

Be dependable

“Talent will get you only so far. You need to add in boring old reliability of you want to endure. Your life can be disorganised, but your work can never be.”

Aside from simpler behavioural changes you can make to become less disorganised, being ‘dependable’ can mean constantly working towards a longer-term goal. Dependability can be associated with our other feel-good brain chemical; serotonin. In contrast to dopamine, serotonin is associated with alignment to a larger purpose and long-term accomplishments.

Do your research

“We can probably all benefit sometimes from trying to understand what is going on in other people’s heads.”

Understanding and matching is one half of recruitment. The other half is being a subject expert. Knowing your subject creates the opportunity to work with the right people and understanding how they think and feel will help achieve goals.

Learn your lines

“Confidence comes from experience plus preparation”

The goal of preparation is to go from the chance of something going wrong from high to remote. So, everything you do from writing an advert to meeting a client and reporting needs careful preparation. Remember – fail to prepare, prepare to fail.


Recruitment is a blend of art and science. It’s problem-solving, talent spotting and communication underpinned by data. No matter where you are on your journey, these ‘lessons’ are full of wisdom and insight.

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