A Very Wise Man Told Me This- It’s A Truth About Business And Life

David Gonski is a fixture in the Top 10 Most Influential People in Australia annual rankings. He’s on multiple boards, is much sought after as an advisor and is generally considered a very wise man. So when he laughed out loud at something I’d said, and then gave me a one sentence, sobering  piece of advice, I listened. It’s a gem- and vital in business. This is what he said.

Let me be clear. I don’t know David Gonski. But I did manage to get a meeting with him once, where we sought his support in referring clients to our fledgling business (and to his credit and our deep gratitude, he did do exactly that. That major client is now a dear friend and a Possums reader from his bastide in Provence).

So- back to Gonski. A corporate shareholder in my business at that time had the year prior purchased a competitor of ours, and I was still upset about it, believing this broke an agreement I had had with the then CEO not to invest in competitors to my business. I told Gonski about this. He laughed, and then gave the advice that stings still today. He said:

“Staying pissed off is a luxury in business.”

I listened. I had to. It was David Gonski saying it for Heaven’s sake. Most of all, I reflected upon it. And over the years the wisdom in it resounds.

Of course things will happen that upset us in business. People quit for a competitor, they steal a client or person or two, someone breaks their word, lets you down, or lets themselves down. You feel hard done by, betrayed, disrespected or damaged in some way. Egos get hurt, business can suffer for a while.

The trick is not to brood on it: not to keep that angst and resentment with you.

Of course sometimes someone does something so outrageous that you simply cannot forget or forgive. There are those exceptions. But Gonski’s words are wise. Staying pissed off is a luxury in business. We all operate in small ‘communities’ and the people we know will come around again, either as a client or as a colleague again- or in some shape or form. Angst is simply lost energy, and depletes us.

I make it a priority to – with the passage of time- reconnect with those who have damaged me, or I have damaged. To reconnect, and rebuild. It is not easy. Sometimes it does not work out. But usually it does. And good things come from it.

Challenge to you

Who do you have ‘bad blood’ with in business? List them. Now- which of those relationships would be better ‘repaired’ rather than left as they are? Prioritise them. Make a few calls. Because, quite simply, staying pissed off is a luxury in business.

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10 Responses to A Very Wise Man Told Me This- It’s A Truth About Business And Life

  1. Tony Spencer-Smith July 25, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    I love it when brilliant people like David Gonski sum up an important point in a short, sharp sentence. I think it is no accident that bright people often use words with power and precision – it reflects the incisiveness of their thinking. Warren Buffett is a fine example of this.

    Here are two Buffettisms I like:

    “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

    “ In the business world, the rear view mirror is always clearer than the windshield.”

  2. Sam July 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    Ha! Brilliant. Thank you Chris (and David) for the sage advice. We try to run a very honest business and I have laid awake at night resenting clients who I believed had not been quite so honest – such a tremendous waste of energy (and good sleep time). So yes I will try and reconnect with these clients (well the ones who pay their bills anyway).

  3. Justin Di Lollo July 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    This is great advice to those of us who make the transition from politics to business. In politics you brood, and brood and brood. You STAY pissed-off. While this approach might work well in Parliament House, it can’t work in the world of business. Those of us in the lobbying industry should pay attention to this week’s post. Read it twice!

  4. Shaughn Morgan July 25, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    It is always necessary to know when to remain pissed off and when to realise that being so is counter-productive. Be annoyed – yes – (and perhaps not forget) but it must pass as you may encounter the same person(s) again and (maybe) again – and you want the outcomes to ensure the business grows and does not stagnate. As stated above, very sage advice.

  5. Sandra Renowden July 25, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    How true Chris…the world is way too small to stay pissed off for too long and more importantly life is too short. Forgive, forget…move on!

    Must remember to reconnect with a couple of folks I’ve been brooding about lately!

  6. Margaret July 27, 2012 at 1:12 am #

    Staying pissed off is a luxury in life! It takes awhile to realize that sometimes. But really most of the time it’s a #firstworldproblem we’re pissed off about.

  7. Paul Spon-Smith July 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    Mmmm – in a fashion I certainly agree with the subtext of David’s reply.

    However, the one thing that we all value in our business and personal lives is integrity: doing what we said we would do.

    I have built a multi-million dollar business based on the hard work of people who trust me because I do what I promised. I don’t do business with those who break a promise, only a fool would.

    It’s often easy to win a race by cheating – it’s all too common: sad don’t you think?

  8. Erin Loh July 29, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    Thanks for this post, Chris… it’s so very true!!


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