15 August 2022
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Bonfire of the Vanities

Maureen Jordan
30 July 2009

This week, I had the privilege of sitting in on the first webinar in a series our company is involved in with CPA Australia. The series is called On The Pulse hosted by Peter Switzer.

The first guest, David Gonski, is (among many things) Chancellor of the University of New South Wales, chair of the Australian Stock Exchange and chair of Coca Cola Amatil. David graduated in accounting and law and eventually moved into merchant banking.

The content of the interview is pure gold and if you know a CPA, or you are one yourself, then I recommend you listen to it.

Peter asked questions that prompted David’s thoughts on leadership. He says that he works on these skills every day and the way he does that is by listening to people, seeking advice, checking and being careful about making decisions. These tips are great, but more followed. David uttered words that I can still hear. He said: “You can’t play at business, you’re either in it or out of it.”

Sometimes I think women do too much playing in the business world. Too much talk about equality and not enough action. Sometimes even too much playing the girl game and not enough focus.

“Focus on where you’re strong,” David says. “Know what this may be in you, and your business, and focus on that.”

We women often get distracted and lose focus. We talk too much and don’t listen. We concentrate on the trivia. We don’t let things go but keep the axe sharpened if someone slights us, carrying old wounds far too long. We flaunt our sexuality too much rather than knock out our rivals with pure ability. This is what I mean by the girl game.

Peter asked David another question which evoked more pearls. He asked David what he knows now that he didn’t know when he was a much younger man. Here is part of his answer:

  1. Not every problem can be solved.
  2. Sometimes a solution may be totally correct legally but the ramifications on human beings have not been taken into account. You can’t play with people’s lives.
  3. Vanity is a curse. A person who learns to keep their vanity in check is a valuable person indeed – to themselves and the community.


Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could build a bonfire and progressively toss all our vanities, our excesses, our distractions, our preoccupation with trivia on it, to walk away a stronger, more focused woman in both our business and personal lives, living in far better communities.


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