Nicholas McCarthy – Pursuing dreams beyond hurdles, by left-handed international award winning concert pianist & motivational speaker

Listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify!

“I don’t really want to play scales; I want to play music!”

Nicholas McCarthy

One of my favorite quotes from Nicholas McCarthy: “I don’t really want to play scales; I want to play music!” – Perhaps this is just what I was thinking at the age of 12 when I decided to stop my piano lessons!

I love classical music and started playing piano aged 5, till the age of 12 when I decided that riding my pony and enjoying the outdoors sailing and windsurfing were more fun than stepping up my game in music theory and practice. Wild spirit growing up on a beautiful French island … 

My beloved grand-father, who is now in his 80’s and has been playing piano since he is 5 years old, had warned me I would probably regret stopping. And he himself was nostalgic of our “4-hands” practice times. I of course later regretted, and rekindled with my music practice by learning classical guitar, but time is of the essence and other hobbies or endeavors often take over. 

However, my love for classical music has remained constant.


Our guest in this episode is Nicholas McCarthy – such a remarkable man – fantastic artist and human being …

Nicholas McCarthy was born in 1989 without his right hand and only began to play the piano at the late age of 14 after being inspired by a friend play Beethoven.

Nicholas was told he would never succeed as a concert pianist.

Of this experience, he said: “It was soul crushing because that’s all I wanted to do – I could feel it would be an uphill struggle, but it made me more determined, I’m quite a stubborn character” .

Fortunately, the doubters were wrong. His graduation from the prestigious Royal College of Music in London in 2012 appeared in press around the world, as he became the only one-handed pianist to graduate from the Royal College of Music in its 130-year history.

Nicholas is a champion of the left hand alone repertoire, that first came into being in the early 19th Century and developed rapidly following the First World War as a result of the many injuries suffered on the Battlefield. 

Nicholas performed extensively throughout the UK including major venues including The Royal Albert Hall, as well as internationally.

One of Nicholas’s proudest moments was performing with the British Paraorchestra at the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic games where they played alongside Coldplay and gave a rendition of the Paralympic anthem in front of an audience of 86,000 people and half a billion worldwide viewers.

His ongoing commitment to encouraging new audiences to classical music along with his work with young people through music education is ever present in his schedule.

Motivational speaking engagements have seen Nicholas speak for a wide range of schools, businesses and institutions. One of the most enjoyable of these was his TED Talk at The Royal Albert Hall.

He has since then  spoken and worked with some of the biggest businesses in the world including Goldman Sachs, BNP Paribas, THALES Group, ITV and many more. Nicholas takes pride in researching and getting to know every client’s business to distinctively customise all presentations and corporate seminars. Attendees leave every event feeling motivated, inspired and most importantly, armed with the tools to stay motivated and to operate at peak performance.

Beyond, Nicholas is passionate about inspiring the next generation and over the past decade has developed a series of exciting and inspiring workshops that he regularly delivers to schools and educational institutions across the country. He has developed his dynamic series of workshops around varying themes including inspiration, imagination and inclusion. Nicholas’ ability to relate to children of all ages along with his youth, spirit and humour make for an engaging and enjoyable session that leaves the class inspired, challenged and ready to look at things in a completely different way. He shares experiences of his own struggle and successes whilst telling anecdotes of people and places he has been involved with along the way.

In this episode we speak about Nichola’s journey, willpower, tenacity to overcome challenges and hurdles along the way, how he thinks about negativity and failure, his rituals including to optimize his energy, why he believes anything is possible with hard work and tenacity playing the long game – and more!

This was a mind-blowing – and fun- interview, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks for listening!


  1. When we are teenagers we have a lovely naivety believing that anything is possible, and sadly it then fades away
  2. If we visualize becoming what we dream of, it can quickly become our reality
  3. If we fake the first beginning bits, then the natural comes through, and we can generally make it
  4. Focus on the long game and think about the longevity of your career with patience vs. becoming a star who can then fizzle out
  5. Dare to be a trail blazer and to carve out a path for yourself even if it doesn’t fit into any classic boxes
  6. Diversity is not diversity without disability. For the future CEOs to realize that people with disability can bring a lot of things to the table, it needs to start young
  7. Time management is about the quality of the output not the quantity, listen to yourself, your energy and how you feel to be self-aware of how you can condition yourself to do deep work
  8. Feeling down or having a moment of low self-worth can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy if we don’t catch it – allow yourself a short period (half a day) of feeling disappointment, sadness or other human negative emotions, but then change your mindset and bounce forward. We don’t live in the past, so we need to keep moving to turn what could be a spiral of negativity into a spiral of positivity
  9. There is nothing more valuable than time: we can always get money back, but time is our most precious resource. Living intentionally is also spending our time intentionally


If you are ready to create a more intentional and regret-free life and career that unlocks your unique potential and lights you up, start here!

Want to stay in the loop for all future We Live One Life Podcast episodes?!
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify!

gold-we live one life