About Jim Longley
Jim Longley is a company Director, while also doing consulting work and mentoring, following a wide-ranging career.
This included 18 years in the banking industry (Westpac and CBA), including in the US and Britain, and in Australia as Head of Government Finance. Ten years in the NSW Parliament included being Minister for Community Services, Assistant Minister for Health, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and the first Minister for Ageing, while still the youngest Minister in Cabinet! Key reforms included anti-discrimination legislation on the basis of age, and the Disability Services Act, among many others.
He was also CEO of Anglican Retirement Villages with over 3,000 residents and 1300 staff, and later became Deputy Secretary of the Department of Family and Community Services, where he was responsible for transitioning the NSW disability services system into the new National Disability Insurance Scheme involving over $3 Billion p.a., 14,000 staff, and 90,000 clients.
Jim has a Bachelor of Economics (Sydney University), Master of Economics (Macquarie University), Fellow AICD, Fellow CPA, Fellow IML. He also completed a Master of Divinity degree majoring in history, theology, and ethics, in 2020.
Jim is married with two adult children, and enjoys tennis, surfing, reading, and violin.
Lesson 1: Act according to you integrity, not personal gain 01m 49s.
Lesson 2: Reflection on experience is more important and valuable than mere experience 04m 43s.
Lesson 3: Every organisation has a boss, few organisations have a leader 10m.21s.
Lesson 4: Your life will be a reflection of your priorities 18m 34s.
Lesson 5: The ten-year rule 24m 29s.
Lesson 6: Pursue the big questions, and never stop 29m 14s.
Lesson 7: Life is not fair, but don’t just ‘suck it up’ 36m 38s.
Lesson 8: Don’t lie to yourself about your own strengths and weaknesses 44m 37s.
Lesson 9: Don’t be a workaholic 47m 48s.
Lesson 10: A life of service is the only life worth living 51m 57s.
Ten Lessons – Jim Longley
Jeffery Wang: [00:00:00] Hello. Welcome to the podcast. “10 lessons. It took me 50 years to learn”, where we dispense wisdom, not just information, not mere facts and no platitudes to an international audience of rising leaders. In other words, in this podcast, you’ll hear valuable insights that you cannot learn from a textbook, because it took us 50 years to learn!
My name is Jeffery Wang, the founder of Professional Development Forum and your host for today. Today’s guest is Jim Longley, a company director, former Australian Parliamentarian and banking executive.
Jim’s career includes 18 years in international banking spanning across the US, Britain and Australia, where he was the Head of Government Finance for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
Jim also had an illustrious career in the New South Wales State Parliament as the Minister for Community Services, Assistant Minister for Health Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the first Minister for Aging. Ironically, while he’s still being the youngest minister in the cabinet in his thirties. He delivered key reforms, including outlawing discrimination based on age, the disability services act amongst many others.
He also served as a CEO of Anglican Retirement Villages with over 3000 residents and 1300 staff. And later became the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Family and Community Services, where he was responsible for transitioning the new South Wales disability services system into the new National Disability Insurance Scheme, or NDIS for short, involving over $3 billion per annum, 14,000 staff and 90,000 clients.
Jim has a Bachelor of Economics from Sydney University, Master of Economics from Macquarie University. He’s a fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, a fellow of the CPA. A fellow of the Institute of Managers and Leaders. He also completed a Master of Divinity degree, majoring in history, theology and ethics in 2020.
Welcome to the podcast, Jim, that’s quite a life of accomplishment and service right there.
Jim Longley: [00:02:19] Thanks very much, Jeff. It’s great to be here.
Jeffery Wang: [00:02:22] So I would like to just jump straight into it then. What is the first lesson that you’ve ever learned in business?
Jim Longley: [00:02:30] So the first lesson is to “Act according to integrity, not personal gain” and it’s really not so much about being good, but knowing what your own true self is and to act according to that, it’s allied to the idea of being integrated.
The idea of integral being whole being consistent. And that’s really what this first lesson is about.
The example for me was really when I was in politics I was I was told that if I wanted to advance or get a promotion or something I really should become a head kicker as it’s so called, you know, the person who is very aggressive who rubbish is other people and so on.
And I said, look, That is not me. That is not part of who I am. I don’t admire people who do that. And it’s not something I want to be. So even though it would have been a way for me to be promoted more quickly, I rejected that because it was against who my best self is. It was not part of my integrity.
And that for me was a really, really important lesson to always act according to who your best true self is.
Jeffery Wang: [00:03:48] That’s a pretty interesting conundrum that you’re in, but how do you reconcile the good that you could have done? If you were to go against your principles and attain a higher position of power, wouldn’t you be able to ultimately do more good? do you believe that they end justifies the means?
Jim Longley: [00:04:04] So look, that’s a classic question. Jeffery, that’s a really spot on. The reality is. Yes, you may be able to do more good in the short term, but you’d end up compromising it in the longer term. And that would end up undermining anything you thought you had achieved.
If you don’t act according to integrity, it undermines not only the ultimate outcomes, but undermines the important thing, which is the process. How you get there is as important as where you end up landing or what you end up achieving.
And being honest, having integrity, aiming for the good of other people, which is what politics should be about is really quite key in that. And so you can’t actually do the trade-off, the end doesn’t justify the means because the ends and the means are ultimately not able to be separated.
Jeffery Wang: [00:04:58] That’s a very profound explanation. And I have to say with the benefit of hindsight, I’ve grown to believe in that as well. I think what I needed was to have enough water under the bridge and enough grey hairs on my head to accept that ultimately the end would not justify the means. So thank you for that.
Jim Longley: [00:05:15] And the temptation is when it’s your own promotion, that’s at stake you think, Oh, you know, perhaps I can shave a little bit off here or skimp something there at the end of the day. It never works.
Jeffery Wang: [00:05:26] And whatever it goes up quickly.
Jim Longley: [00:05:28] It comes down.
Jeffery Wang: [00:05:32] Now I love lesson number two. What you’ve got there was “reflection on experience is more important and valuable than mere experience”. What do you mean by that?
Jim Longley: [00:05:46] So, look, this was the great temptation of the 21st century, but I’m reminded of the saying by Socrates the great philosopher who said “an unexamined life is not worth living”.
I met this person who’s 25 years old and they’re boasting that as a 25 year old, they had been to 25 countries. And I’m thinking, hold on a second, if you’ve been to twenty-five countries and you’ve spent such a short amount of time in each of them, what have you actually learned? How have you actually grown in that experience? And I found that deeply troubling.
And then I remember this really amazing conversation with this woman who was 104 years old, like this lady, this one was, sparking. She was like, challenging me conversation was brilliant. And she was, bemoaning her 80 year old daughter after being a stick in the mud, someone who really unadventurous and so on, and it really brought home to me, the lesson that, you know, you can have lots of experiences. And really, if you haven’t thought about it, you haven’t reflected on it. If I haven’t said, how do I change and become a better person as a result of it, all this experiences, nothing. It’s like a, you know, a totem it’s like something that really doesn’t have the deep significance.
You know, I’ve had conversations with 20 year olds who have been profound and thoughtful and reflective, deep insight and conversations with 80 year olds, who’ve been really shallow and haven’t noticed anything in all of their 80 years of experience. And of course the opposite happens and modern society, modern age really is all about, get more experience, get more stuff, do more.
We need to stop, think, reflect, and that’s why we actually become a deeper person.
Jeffery Wang: [00:07:45] Absolutely. And, I think what you’re getting at is that substance, right? It’s that deep understanding of what it really means. I could certainly identify with that in terms of the people that I’ve interacted with. People who seem to collect experiences like badges I’ve been to these countries, I’ve done these things.
And yet when you pry into it, you realize they’re a mile wide and an inch deep on anything that they’ve been involved with. And suddenly it doesn’t make for a very insightful conversation in that regard.
Jim Longley: [00:08:19] Yes.
Jeffery Wang: [00:08:20] My question then to you is that, it seems like this is a function of the ability to reflect to introspect and to understand the meaning of these. Now, are people born with a gift of introspection? Or is this a skill that you can learn as you go, as you get older? Are everyone capable of introspection?
Jim Longley: [00:08:40] So everyone is capable of it. I think some people are probably naturally a bit more introspective and reflecting than others.
So my guess is I’m naturally a bit more reflective. But it is something that one can grow and develop recognizing strengths and weaknesses. We’ll talk about later, but recognizing particular characteristics and saying, well, this is a characteristic that I’m a bit light on. I need to develop that.
So I tend to be, for instance not only a bit introspective, but a bit introverted, and yet all of my jobs have required me to be quite extrovert. You know, in politics you have to speak to large numbers of people. You have to interact at a high, a high frequency and so on. So I had to develop some of those skills.
So you can learn these things where you recognize the need for them. And so this lesson number two is about. Recognizing the need and importance of reflection, not just, and that was a great expression. You used, you know, collecting experiences as badges. That’s a disaster.
Jeffery Wang: [00:09:46] Yeah. It doesn’t make for the building of one’s character.
The other example you gave was this twenty-five year old, who’s visited 25 countries and probably never really got to know the intricacies of every one of them. But I recognize that to be well-traveled and to be able to gain such life experiences you, must have to have the means to obtain it.
So generally speaking only children from the most affluent countries can afford to take such a gap year and travel around the world, collecting these experiences. That said. A life of privilege can sometimes blind you to the more important, more fundamental things in life. Is privileged as such a blessing or curse?
Jim Longley: [00:10:36] And again, that’s where this lesson is really important. So privilege can be a blessing where one reflects on that privilege and uses that privilege for the benefit of other people. It’s a curse. If the experiences are collected as badges, as you said if it’s for self-indulgence and self convenience, then it is a curse.
And that’s the choice that each of us faces, whether we have a privileged background or less privileged background or an underprivileged background, it’s actually, what do we do with what we are given?
Jeffery Wang: [00:11:10] Absolutely. So I love that. So that means it’s completely up to you.
Jim Longley: [00:11:16] Indeed. Circumstances do have a big context in that.
Of course we need to recognize that some people come from very, very difficult backgrounds. But ultimately each of us has a choice.
Jeffery Wang: [00:11:30] Absolutely. Now lesson number three. I have to say, I agree with this. “Every organization has a boss, few organizations have a leader”. What is the difference between a boss and the leader?
Jim Longley: [00:11:45] Yeah, so a boss will be a good manager or a bad manager. They might be more effective or less effective in organizing people as resources, but good leadership is always about people. And enabling the growth development and fulfillment of people in a visionary team and a relational engagement it’s about people.
And that’s the big difference between being a leader and being a boss. A boss might get great financial outcomes. For a few years, a boss might have things running smoothly, or they might have them running badly, but the people in the team are not being led. They’re not growing, they are not being developed.
There’s not this sense of vision about where, not just the organization, but where that organization as a team of people can be going. And I, you know, I remember the chief executive of one of the organizations I was at he was an excellent manager. He got great financial results.
But the thing that I thought was really sad in his case was. He had the potential to be a really good leader, but because he was such a good manager and because everyone kept encouraging him as in the management side, he never developed his leadership potential. The vision was never there. The development of people around him was never there.
And I thought that is so sad. And it’s not only sad and is particularly said for the people, for the team of people. It’s also sad for the organization because organizations which have someone that extremely rare combination of being both an excellent manager and a good leader can actually really do outstanding things.
And, that could have happened, but it didn’t because the leadership side kept on being sat upon because he was a very good manager and the financial results were good. So everyone just kept saying, keep doing more of that. Don’t touch being a good leader…
Jeffery Wang: [00:14:06] and fix what’s not broken.
Jim Longley: [00:14:08] That’s Right.
Jeffery Wang: [00:14:09] I love that concept. In fact, it sounds like leadership. It’s all about purpose. It’s all about the fundamental question. Purpose and people and the why, there’s always a good saying that managers knows how to do things right and leaders knows how to do the right things
And that’s something that I’m sure we’ll get down to a bit later on in terms of the, philosophies of what those right things are. So the age old question to me is, are leaders born or are they made? And here’s the other question now you’ve mentioned as CEO, that because you’re so fantastic at being a manager that he never really saw the need to become a great leader.
So can a good manager ultimately learn to be a great leader?
Jim Longley: [00:14:57] I think some can, my guess is some probably will find very difficult. Like a lot of other things, we all have strengths and weaknesses. If we identify a weakness, then we can develop it. And I think that is as true of leadership as it is of other areas.
The challenge is in identifying it, because particularly in our society, a good manager, they get away with so much, if the financial results are good, there are no compliance problems. Everybody’s happy. You’ve got no incentive to become a good leader. Being good manager gets you most of where you think you want to go.
So in a sense, you know, someone who’s not so good at managing actually has an incentive to be a better leader, but still good leaders are quite rare. Because we want to get the financial results and now society says they’re more important. People are only there as resources.
That’s just the wrong way to go. Yes, people have a role to fill in an organization, but people are always going to be much more than that. And it is about fulfilling and developing and growing people. It is about having a vision and a vision is so important. And yet it’s importance is rarely understood, especially as it links to people.
Jeffery Wang: [00:16:21] Absolutely. And there’s a good saying nobody ever got sacked for unrealized potential.
Jim Longley: [00:16:28] That’s right. I don’t know that if you’re not a good leader, because you don’t need to develop people necessarily to get good results. And if people have unrealized potential well it’s the problem of ignorance.
If you don’t know, then no one’s counting. And that’s the modern management aphorism.
Jeffery Wang: [00:16:46] Yeah. Which is a sad reflection on the society. Do you believe there’s a dearth of leadership in terms of people that has that vision, people that has that view of the world of what we could be?
Jim Longley: [00:16:59] I think there is, and I think it’s across all sectors.
Lot of people think leadership is on the, you know, the national level only in the government. But good leadership is desperately needed in the corporate sector. Good leadership is needed in the not-for-profit sector. Good leadership is also needed of course in politics and government.
And good leadership will mean it is about people. It is about self-sacrifice. Doing the right thing, even when it does cost you. It is about having a vision, for where your country or nation is able to go, a vision for where your company might be able to go, a vision for where your organization can go, with those people and developing the people so that vision can actually be fulfilled. That’s part of the really exciting thing about a great vision when it’s allied to a real passion for people.
Jeffery Wang: [00:17:51] So I’m going to go down the little rabbit hole here. Why do you think it is that we have such a dearth of good leadership? And I might just say specifically to Australia here is there a system that rewards the wrong behaviors so that it, you know, it basically rewards good managers so much so at the expense of ever promoting great leaders into positions of leadership. And this goes back to your lesson number one here too, act according to integrity, not personal gain. So it seems like we are rewarding short-term transactional leaders over the long-term visionary leaders, and we are now finally seeing and paying the price of not having that long-term orientation in how we select our leaders.
Jim Longley: [00:18:44] Yep. I think that’s absolutely the case. Jeffery, because our society says, well, you’re successful. If you’ve got a lot of money or in other fields you’re successful. If you look good, or you’re successful if you’re socially suave. We don’t see success in terms of that person that has a really great idea and a great vision, and actually let’s get behind that person.
And that person has a really good understanding of how to grow and develop people. Let’s get behind that. Let’s bring that to fruition. And that’s, I think what a lot of the problem is, our society is quite superficial. And so wants something that’s really easy, you know, lots of money, good looks or whatever, rather than, well, actually here’s something that is in the future. Here is something that’s about potential.
And we can’t see that, you know, by definition it is in the future, it is potential. But actually they’re the really, really important things and our society really doesn’t value them enough.
Jeffery Wang: [00:19:53] Mm. So it goes back into what we, as a society value that orientates what we deem as important,
Jim Longley: [00:20:02] Who gets promoted or elected into those leadership positions.
And of course our language uses the word leader for both bosses and real leaders. So that’s an added confusion. We talked about the leader of an organization rather than the boss of an organization then asked the question, are they a good manager or a good leader?
Jeffery Wang: [00:20:23] Yeah. So we have to make the distinction between having power and leadership.
And I think that’s something that as a society we have yet to grasp the difference.
Jim Longley: [00:20:33] Yes, that’s right. And then as individuals, what we’re going to pursue, we’re going to pursue what’s easy and rewarded or are we going to pursue what’s right, and what ultimately is actually the best.
Jeffery Wang: [00:20:45] Agreed. Now lesson number four, I’m going to need you to help me explain this. “Your life will be a reflection of your priorities”.
Jim Longley: [00:20:55] Yeah. So this is a really interesting one. It has a macro dimension and a micro dimension as well. So the problem that most busy people, most people who are doing a number of things is the urgent tends to displace the important and there’s no easy way out of this.
If something is urgent by necessity, you have to deal with it first, before the thing that might be important. The problem is if that accumulates too much, then it can actually start to steer your life off in very unhelpful directions. And we get to one of those across a little later as well.
But look, I recognized early on, you know, that this was a challenge for me cause I like to get rid of urgent stuff. And the problem is if it’s always urgent, then you’ve probably made a mistake. If everything you do is urgent, there’s something bigger, wrong. And so what you need to do is actually prioritize those things, which are urgent and prioritize those things which are important. Then do those urgent things, which are actually urgent and stop, and then start doing those things which are important.
Because if you keep doing things which are urgent, then actually you’ve allowed yourself just to get caught up in minutia, and things which actually aren’t quite so urgent, but they’ve snuck in there. And then they displace the things which are really important.
And if your life is always about urgent stuff and never about important stuff, you never achieve a lot. You never grow as a person. You’ll never relating to other people in a way which is deep, meaningful, and honest and so on. And so that’s what this is. This is about priorities are actually important, both in the micro and in your whole of life trajectory.
Jeffery Wang: [00:22:57] And that certainly sounds like you will need to do a good job of aligning your priorities if you are to have a happy and fulfilling life.
Jim Longley: [00:23:07] Oh absolutely. And even in the small thing, I realized that I’m not so good on administration type stuff. So this is a weakness of mine I can do nothing about, or I can try and do something about, so I actually went to this one day course on how to be a better administrator and, um, you know, moderately senior at this stage, so I have to do it secretly.
But just some of the fairly pragmatic, simple little tips that I got from that day, I still use and are still really helpful. And what they do is they enable me to get through the administrative urgent stuff quickly and efficiently, get it off the table. So I can then actually get over to do the important stuff, which by the way, I usually enjoy more as well.
They’re refreshing, they’re building, they’re growing, stimulating and so on. And you’ve got time for them once you actually got a good way of getting urgent stuff out of the way.
Jeffery Wang: [00:24:05] Absolutely. And you know, one thing I learned in a time management course is that if you don’t do the important stuff, then everything becomes urgent.
Jim Longley: [00:24:14] You did that course as well Jeffery?
Jeffery Wang: [00:24:17] That’s right now. Well, here’s a very well known methodology. So there is this idea of a what’s called an Eisenhower matrix where you know, you’ve got four quadrants. Quadrant one’s what’s important and urgent. Quadrant two is what’s important, not urgent. Quadrant three is urgent, but not important. And quadrant four is not important, not urgent.
Now I think my personal challenge is knowing what goes into quadrant three, which means these are the things which are urgent, but not important. And so in other words, these are the things I’m literally just going to let burn. I’m not going to do. As it comes into my inbox, I will have to make a decision that I will not be addressing this.
Now this is an extremely painful process, especially for younger people who have yet to come to grips with their own order of priority. How do you decide what is important?
Jim Longley: [00:25:15] So each person ultimately can only decide that in their context and the circumstances and so on, and what’s urgent and important for one person will be very different from another person, even in very similar situations interestingly.
So things which are urgent, but not important. I find a lot of urgent things often actually, aren’t that important, but if they’re not done and got out of the way, they will trip you up. So the trip up factor is something that I have as part of my evaluation of is this an urgent thing which I have to do or can get away without doing.
So if it’s going to come back to bite me, if it’s going to have a negative consequence, that’s going to be costly, then yes, it’s urgent. It needs to be done. If it’s urgent, but nobody’s going to notice it actually will have no impact. It tends to move in into the category of nice to do, but not essential in which case that deprioritizes that in terms of urgency.
And so when I was talking about prioritize the urgent, you know, go one, two, three, four, five, so on, that should push those things down that list. And frankly, if you’ve done the top three urgent things for the day, skip to the rest of the list and go to the important list. That’s a good day, like,if I get three urgent things done, and I’ve started doing some important stuff. That’s a good day! And if you’ve got more than three urgent things that you think need to be done. Then you really ought to have a look at how am I evaluating these because you’ve got too much there.
Jeffery Wang: [00:26:51] That’s very good and valuable advice.
Lesson number five is a little bit cryptic. What is the “10 year rule”?
Jim Longley: [00:26:59] Yeah, so the 10 year rule is something that I have observed over time. What I had noticed is there are some people in leadership positions, you know, so don’t say leaders, and some people in leadership positions have been there for five years and they’ve got an edge, there they’re new enough in the role, that they’re still exploring and developing and growing and wanting to do stuff. But they are not at the comfort stage.
Then there’ve been people who are in the top leadership or boss position. They’ve been there 15 years, sometimes 20 years, too many times longer than that. And you know, like the edge is gone, yeah, they can do the job efficiently. Like they do it very efficiently, super efficiently because they know it all. They’ve done it all.
And it’s now all about their comfort zone. They’re not about advancing the agenda. They’re not about having a deep vision. They’re not about growing people. They’re all about optimizing the management outcomes. So they have a comfortable life.
And you know, if you’re working for someone like that, you need to recognize they have moved out of being a leader. And they’re in a position of how do you maximize their comfort zone. And it’s really sad to see that.
Whereas people who have still got that edge, they are not in their comfort zone. They still make mistakes. Like making mistakes is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. Like the person who’s been a manager or the boss for 15 and 20 years, they’re not making any mistakes anymore.
And the person is not making any mistakes anymore, is not doing enough new stuff.
Jeffery Wang: [00:28:58] Not growing anymore.
Jim Longley: [00:29:00] That’s right. So, you know, I was in parliament for 10 years. Yes. Under my theory of the 10 year rule, because I was moving into really, quite a different role. I could have stayed longer, but there are too many people, frankly, in parliament, too many people in corporate senior positions, as well as in, not for profit senior positions, they’ve been there too long.
And it’s not that they’re bad people. It’s not that they’re doing a bad job. It’s just that they’re no longer leaders. They’ve become a boss who’s managing ultimately for their own comfort, not about the benefit and not for the growing of their team.
And you know, the 10 year rule, I don’t know why it’s 10 years, I’d have to say Jeffery. Why isn’t it seven or 15? I don’t know. What I’ve noticed is like up to about 10, some people its eight, for some people its twelve, up to about 10 years, people seem to have enough edge between the five and 10 year mark people are really hitting their strides. That’s oftentimes the maximum period of contribution. Beyond 15, it’s so rare to see it, as to be extraordinary. Yep. There are exceptions to the rule, but they are very rare.
Jeffery Wang: [00:30:12] Absolutely. I guess another way to say this is that you’ve got to stay in that just a bit outside of your comfort zone. So you’re still growing, you’re still on the edge. You’re still pushing boundaries.
There is still that fire in the belly that drive for you to make things better. Right. Because ultimately that’s what leadership is all about. And so 10 years is roughly the mark where that happens. And like you said, there are exceptions, right? So I know that Steve jobs was able to reinvent Apple many times with iPods, iPhones, iPads, and, you know, unfortunately his leadership was cut tragically short or else if he’s still around, I’m sure there will be still plenty of new things to invent and change the game.
So certainly there are exceptional people that stay hungry, stay curious.
But for the large majority of us that’s lost their drive, it’s time to move aside and let somebody else lead who has that vision, who has that drive. And that is what will set up the best outcome for everybody.
Jim Longley: [00:31:10] Yep, absolutely. And, you know, stay curious is a wonderful expression there because that says you’re not in your comfort zone.
And to recognize if you’re going beyond the 10 year mark yourself the probability is against you being the exception. There might be one in 50, you know, Steve jobs might be a one in a hundred leader of a large corporate, but so many who’ve stayed on. You can just see the trajectory levels off.
Jeffery Wang: [00:31:44] I agree, which is sad because that’s probably what’s causing the, the dearth of leadership that we see today.
Jim Longley: [00:31:53] Yeah. It’s a vicious circle. That one.
Jeffery Wang: [00:31:55] So lesson number six, this is very profound. So get ready for it. “Pursue the big questions and never stop”. Now, this is a, this is not a Monty Python sketch, what do you mean by that?
Jim Longley: [00:32:10] Yeah, so the meaning of life, the universe, God, and everything are always the most important issues and they really need to be pursued throughout life. It’s important because those big questions, those big issues, give context, they give meaning, they give significance, and they’re also about transformation of self, community and nations. And it’s about deepening for your own life, as well as deepening more broadly.
And when people stop, you can see for a lot of people, oftentimes there is a period when they will pursue the big questions. Some people at a younger age, some people are at their older age and then for some reason, a lot of people stop.
And I just think that’s really, really sad because deepening is an ongoing process to which there is no end. We can always become a deeper person. We can always become richer. We can always be transforming. We can always understand context and meaning and significance, in ways which are beneficial in ways which are important.
And that’s an ongoing journey. It’s just really foundational about keeping everything hanging together there. I set myself a goal of reading, at least one serious philosophically challenging book at least every two months. And to then have a highly engaged conversation, with some friends who have either read the same book or who are similarly interested in the key issues raised there.
And that’s about not only an intellectual stimulation, it’s actually about challenging your heart, challenging your motivations, challenging your directions. It’s really a significant, and comprehensive and deep approach. And that’s why it’s great to do that.
You know, reading Richard Dawkins’ book, “the God delusion”, that was a very interesting book, it was very popular at the time. He said a whole bunch of stuff, I agreed with some of it. I disagreed with a lot of it. But just the process of engaging with it is really, really significant. So one of the things Richard Dawkins said in passing, I think in that book was he thought it should be compulsory for all school education for all school students, to read Shakespeare and the Bible as part of their general education about literature philosophy and the big issues.
And this is Richard Dawkins, you know, the noted famed atheist and it was very significant, the conversations we had, as it’s about deepening yourself and challenging yourself. Always.
Jeffery Wang: [00:35:02] Yeah. I love that and I’ll have to say it took me a while to understand that. And I must admit that I’ve probably only come to that realization recently that you do need this.
More recently, Jordan Peterson has a great book out the “12 rules for life”. And, and one of my favorite rules is rule number seven, pursue what is meaningful rather than what’s expedient.
Now had I read that rule a couple of years back. I probably wouldn’t have understood what that meant. But now I can relate that to what you’re saying here, in terms of pursuing the big questions, because ultimately the big question is what gives you meaning in life. You know, people think that they should be pursuing success in the conventional sense, whether that be money, whether it be fame, status, power, or the usual stuff, only to realize that when they get to the peak of that mountain, that it does not provide them that feeling of fulfillment, of meaning, of the satisfaction that they think that they would by getting there, they realize that the worldly successful, not ultimately fulfill you. And then later on, they realize that it’s the other things, it’s pursuing the big questions, it’s about finding that meaning in your life, it’s about things such as service to others and the mastery, you know, things that ultimately give you that meaning, now clearly I think, you were of that journey probably a long time before I was.
And my guess is that because you’ve had relative success earlier on in your career, you were able to sort of see through the emptiness of the worldly success. Would you have come to that realization early if you didn’t have that earlier in life?
Jim Longley: [00:36:45] Um, I think in my case, I probably would have, because from a very early age, I was asking sort of those big questions around, you know, what is truth? How did you establish meaning? I was reading Plato, the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible, the parts of the Koran in English translation, other philosophers and so on.
And I was doing that my early teens, Because I’ve always been deeply interested in those questions and indeed it was pursuing those questions that actually led me to go into parliament and politics and so on as a way of service. And so for me, that was really very important. But again, you know, we all discover different things at different points in our lives. It’s not about saying someone did this early and others do it late and one’s better or worse than the other. It’s about, well, are we on that journey and things like that, it’s good to do more of it, wherever we are on that journey.
Jeffery Wang: [00:37:51] But I suppose being the devil’s advocate, a lot of people would say, well, it’s easy for you to say, if you haven’t experienced the success and wealth, how would you be able to know that’s not ultimately fulfilling?
A lot of people are still under the illusion that , if only I had this amount of money, if only I was rich and famous, if only I was important and powerful, you know, I would not feel as empty as I do now. But without the benefit of having been there is there a way for one to learn what is truly fulfilling and meaningful?
Jim Longley: [00:38:23] Um, so there’s experiential learning. Um, you don’t have to experienced something to know whether it’s good or bad. I don’t need to put my hand in the fire to know that it’s going to hurt me and burn me. I can understand that the fire is hot, and it has a temperature that is sufficiently high, that it will cause me injury and pain. So I don’t do it.
If you’re reading the deep philosophical and religious works, if you’re reading the deep thinkers, if you’re having conversation with people, I would speak to older people and they would be saying, look, money and fame and power is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Um, and then when I get to a number of those positions, I realized they’re right, I went in there with my eyes open, and recognizing that my goal for going into parliament was not to become famous, it was actually to serve people and that changed my orientation in how and what I did whilst I was in parliament.
Jeffery Wang: [00:39:24] That’s very profound. And, and I think, I’m with you, I’m with you in terms of that one.
Well lesson number seven. Now this one, I think it requires quite a bit of explanation. I’m not sure if I understand what you mean, but you said “life is not fair, but don’t just suck it up”.
Jim Longley: [00:39:43] Yeah. So it’s easy for a lot of people to come to life and think, well, life should be fair. And, arguably perhaps should be, but the reality is, life is not fair. Injustice occurs. There is unfairness, wrong things, bad things happen. They happen to us and they happen to other people.
So the question then is how do I respond to that unfairness? Now, some people will say, well to the unfairness that happens to you, just suck it up. And if it happens to other people, well, either ignore it or do the minimum you can get away with. So your conscience isn’t a problem. And that’s really very much the modern approach.
They won’t say ignore it cause that doesn’t sound nice. But you do the minimum that your conscience can get away with. Um, well, I’m trying to say here is when there is unfairness both to you or to other people, that’s actually an opportunity, to grow in courage and to grow in compassion. When it happens to you growing courage, and when unfairness and bad things happen to other people, grow in compassion. Don’t do the minimum.
The important thing is to remain vulnerable, in politics, a lot of people would say to me, Oh, you must have a thick skin, because in politics, you always being criticized, Oh, you did this wrong, did that wrong, did something else wrong? Like, you can never do it right in politics. It doesn’t matter. My adage was, in politics, 50% of the people are going to think you’ve done the wrong thing most of the time, and most of the people that are gonna think you’ve done everything wrong half the time, so you’re always never going to win. And in politics you also see a lot of really bad things, a lot of bad things, which a lot of the general public aren’t even necessarily aware of, and so the tendency is to say, protect yourself, develop a thick skin. That’s the way out. I specifically did not do that. I’ve said, yes, it would be the safe way out. It would be the self-protective way out, but it was not the right thing to do.
There’s a need for all of us, particularly in our society. We’ve got the media deluge of things happening all the time. A lot of which is bad and we grow used to it. We grow a thick skin. We find ways of ignoring it or bypassing it. We have to remain vulnerable to remain human. And it’s really, really important that we do that.
When I was Minister for Community Services, like I would be encountering sometimes the most tragic and painful human circumstances. And I would choke up, and you know, because I was in a public setting, it wasn’t appropriate for me to cry or whatever, but at a later point in time, like I would absolutely let out the fullness of it, the impact on me, because it’s important that. We remain human, and that was important for me.
And that’s the way you get motivation to actually do something about it. Real compassion. Isn’t a cry, shedding a tear, real compassion is actually what can I do to help that bad situation? What can I do to help that person in that terrible circumstance? And you know, the media is so often poisonous, and they’re so often hypocritical. They all point to everybody else doing wrong stuff. They never ever point to their own dishonesty. They never ever point to their own wrong stuff. And they often make these situations far worse, but we have to resist that temptation to become thick-skinned and impervious. So that’s what I’m saying there, life is not fair. Don’t suck it up. Remain vulnerable, grow in compassion, grow in courage.
Jeffery Wang: [00:43:45] Well, that’s a lot deeper than I expected. Um, I, I do agree with that. You must have felt some level of disillusionment, having been in politics for so long watching people sell their souls to in pursuit for power and abandon their humanity in the process.
And it must feel like at times that you’d probably be the only one, or in fact, you probably feel that unless you abandon your humanity, you will not be in the position of power to do anything. And yet power is a means to an end so that you can be of service. So you can do something about the unfairness of life, but what is the solution? How do you keep going despite all of that? And did you find your answer in faith?
Jim Longley: [00:44:34] Absolutely. Some of the answer is in faith and indeed a well-grounded faith provides a foundation to actually pursue compassion, to pursue courage. And that is very, very important.
Media portrayal of politics is itself quite poisonous and, in some dimensions far worse than the reality. Most of the people that I engaged with in parliament were generally decent ordinary folk, trying to do an impossibly difficult job, in very difficult circumstances, usually made more difficult by the media.
And most of us as the general public now, Are not aware of just how perverse so much of the media is. And it really, really difficult. They will put a slant on a story that is not quite untrue, but it’s really not true either. And so people think, Oh, this is the circumstance. Whereas in fact, it’s that, so that makes it a lot more difficult.
You see a lot of great people in the community struggling against the odds and you do everything you can to help. Sometimes you just don’t have the capacity. Government is not unlimited. The taxpayer’s funds are not infinite. Those are funds that have come from people who have worked hard.
And sometimes that is not recognized itself. Oftentimes there is a need for genuine innovative solutions. On the number of times, as a minister, I’d have people come to me and they’d talk to me about a problem. I’d say, look, I think that is a serious problem. What are some ways you would think about how we can help improve that situation?
And oftentimes they themselves didn’t have a particularly good idea. They knew what the problem was. They didn’t know what necessarily could be done about it. Sometimes they would say, and sadly, these days, all too often, they’d say, Oh, we just need more money.
And you know, I remember on one occasion, I said, particular group came in, I said, so we’re at a hundred million dollars being enough to make a big difference on this. And they said, yes, look, that’d be fantastic. I said, we just gave an extra a hundred million dollars in the budget and you didn’t even notice it. Money is often not the key solution, but if there are some really good, innovative ways forward, you will find the money will come.
And that’s the thing, which is very impressive. If people have got an innovative and useful way forward, that actually has a serious chance of making an impact, then the money can usually be found if not all in one big dollop in a go, over time, certainly. And that’s where we’re seeing and you’d have some knowledge and expertise in this area as well Jeffery, like the idea of impact investing, is something that’s growing in awareness. So that area is really very exciting in some of the things that are being able to be done.
Jeffery Wang: [00:47:35] Absolutely. And I do believe that the free market incentives have an incredible amount of power to solve some of the world’s worst problems.
And like you said, impact investing has got to be part of that solution.
Moving on to lesson number Eight. Now, I think I agree with this one. “Don’t lie to yourself about your own strengths and weaknesses”.
Jim Longley: [00:47:58] Yeah, this is always the embarrassing one. We always want to kid ourselves.
Um, but it’s interesting. There are a lot of people who think, look, I have no weaknesses, I’m pretty good at this. I’m pretty good at that. I’m pretty good. I don’t really have any weaknesses. But then there are some other people who, at the opposite end of the scale, andthey think, “Oh, you know, I’m actually pretty bad at everything”.
Both ends are wrong, we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. And that depends obviously on people’s personality and so on.
The reality is we all have strengths and weaknesses. And it’s important that, we develop and learn from both of them. It’s very easy to think, I’ll play to my strengths and I’ll ignore my weaknesses. Or at the other end, I’ll spend all of my effort developing my weaknesses and to bring them up to par and not worry about the strengths.
The reality is there are a lot of pragmatic, ordinary requirements of life, which mean, look, I’m pretty good at doing this and this. So I should actually play to those strengths, and that’s often where our job might be. So like earn a good income to provide for myself and my family and community and so on, but I have some weaknesses, you know, as I’ve said earlier, in my case, administration was a bit of a weakness, so you actually develop that. That’s important. At a personal level, that we have strengths and weaknesses as well. So one of my weaknesses is perhaps I have a slightly lower EQ as it’s called these days. Because I now have a bit of awareness for that, you can do a little bit about it, but it’s not a vast thing. But what I do make a particular effort of trying to do, is to ask people how they’re feeling. It may not have occurred to me first off to ask that, but because I know it’s a weakness, I therefore try and compensate by asking howthey are feeling?
And then also to try and think about, well, how am I feeling? Cause sometimes we forget, this idea of self care is important. We need to look after our own selves, need to make sure we get enough rest. We need to make sure that if we’ve got feelings of anger or hurt or whatever, that they are properly dealt with and handled, and so our strengths and weaknesses by learning about them and exploring them. Again, we grow as a person, they should be seen as opportunities to grow and develop and you know, it’s a bit embarrassing. But it’s actually really healthy.
Jeffery Wang: [00:50:26] Well, I do think the challenge though, is to be aware of them, right? It takes a lot of EQ to know that you struggle with EQ, so you must be doing all right if you’re aware of that fact to begin with.
Jim Longley: [00:50:39] That is part of the place of having close and trusted friends. You actually want friends who you trust enough and who trust you enough that you can have some honest conversations, without it being hurtful or damaging or whatever, and developing that trust is actually really important.
These days we’re also fortunate to have, there are some various personality profiling things. Some are good and some are not good. So, you know, one must make that warning. Some are pretty bad in fact. But one of the ones which I found quite useful is Myers -Brigg, and you know, on the Myers-Brigg I’m a INTJ, one of those says that I’m quite introverted.
Well, when I did that, I hadn’t been particularly aware that I was introverted, because I’d always been in public facing, high public speaking roles. So, you know, I knew I was a bit introspective, but once I knew I was introverted, that helped me to understand that I actually needed to take time I’m out on my own, a great insight. So to learn a weakness or a particular characteristic means that you can actually grow and develop as a result of that.
Jeffery Wang: [00:51:59] Absolutely. Lesson number nine. I have to agree with this one. “Don’t be a workaholic”.
Jim Longley: [00:52:06] But do you do it? Do you do it?
So we hear a little bit more about that these days, which is good, people who are not nine to five, but six till 12 as in 6:00 AM to midnight. So again, I’m reminded of the saying by Socrates, which said “beware the barrenness of a busy life”.
The problem with people who are workaholics. Is that everything is about work. They become shallow individuals. They don’t develop good and healthy and deep relationships with other people. The visionary capacity usually declines as well. Interestingly, contribution to the community and the family suffers, personal growth suffers.
And so being a workaholic where work is not only the top priority, but it’s the second, third and fourth priorities as well is really, really unhealthy. Politics is a classic area where you see workaholism because it is so intrusive, and the media would phone here at 6:00 AM, what’s your comment on the latest hot issue.
And I’m like barely out of bed and getting the newspaper, whatever it is seeing what the newsfeeds are and seeing what the issue is, let alone having some useful thing to say about it. And then 1130 at night, someone will rush in with some terribly urgent file or something. So it can be really intrusive.
If it is intrusive, take simple, pragmatic steps. And you say, it has to be a certain level of priority before it interrupts before or outside of certain business hours. If there’s paperwork to be signed, it can be done the next day and it can be done between particular hours. Where it’s intrusive, put boundaries around it.
And the problem of being busy, busy is just not good. You need to take time for yourself, your family and people who are important in your life.
Jeffery Wang: [00:54:08] How do you do that in a culture where almost you’re worshiping busy, right? As, as some sort of virtue, because people think being busy is being productive, is contribution, in reality, I do think that there is a whole lot of useless work, I suppose, in terms of
Jim Longley: [00:54:25] made work?
Jeffery Wang: [00:54:26] For wanting a better… yeah. made work,
Jim Longley: [00:54:28] low priority work. It’s stuff, which is not important in three days time, nobody will even remember it, it has no backwash from not doing it.
Really there’s a lot more of that stuff around than we care to admit, and just need to say terribly sorry. That’s not the priority. Actually having some quiet time alone is more important. Having some special time with your partner, your spouse, with your family with good friends.
But also just time alone is really, really important. And being busy is not healthy. It is not good
Jeffery Wang: [00:55:06] Especially for an introvert
Jim Longley: [00:55:08] Especially for an introvert. Yes. I suppose I’m even more sensitized in those terms, but even for an extrovert, in fact, potentially it’s an even bigger risk for an extrovert because it will potentially fill that need.
On one occasion I took some time alone, and reflected about this problem of being busy. And so I wrote this poem called “busy, busy”.
Busy busy. Time never stops. There is more to do, more to do, the busy busy God wants more. There is more to do. The busy busy God needs more. There’s more to do, more to do. I want more. There’s more to get. I need more. There’s more to get. More to do to get more. The God busy busy never stops. Never stops. Never stops.
There is more to do. More to get. Does the God busy busy never stops. Never stops the God busy busy. I can never stop the God busy busy. Busy busy is always God. Always more to do. Never stops. Never. Stops. Busy busy. Never to be is to be busy busy.
To be busy busy is never to be. Ever to be busy busy is never to be. Never to be busy busy is ever to be.
Jeffery Wang: [00:56:17] I feel stressed just listening to that, but it is so on point isn’t? It is just so on point.
Jim Longley: [00:56:25] Busy busy always wants to be God and we have to resist and say no.
Jeffery Wang: [00:56:31] Absolutely. And lesson number 10, our final lesson. “A life of service is the only life worth living”.
Jim Longley: [00:56:42] So again, our society keeps saying, I should be getting more wealth myself. I should be getting more skills. I should be looking good. I should be doing more things. It’s all about me. That’s what our society is saying. And I’m saying that’s wrong.
Really, if you live all for yourself, then as the years go on, you recognize that is empty. And there’s just nothing there. But if your purpose of your life is to serve other people, to help other people, to work for and with other people, then that service is actually the time when we become more fully ourselves.
It’s ironic that if we become selfish and self-centered, then we actually start collapsing in on ourselves. But if we serve other people, if we help other people, then we actually grow and expand and develop. And it’s one of those incredible things. It will be difficult. Service is not easy. It is of its nature self-giving. It is putting other people’s priorities, things which are important for other people ahead of what you might want to do. Because service is about some element of self-sacrifice. And indeed, it was one of the reasons I went into parliament and going to parliament was just incredibly demanding and the hours are excruciating.
Pays a bit better today than it used to be, but it is still not brilliant for people in comparable jobs. And that’s the thing the media never ever tells you about. They also never tell you the financial costs of being in parliament are horrendous. So for me, the financial costs alone going to parliament have been astronomical.
But I knew a lot of that before going in. And I said, no, this is an area where I can actually serve, where I recognized there was a level of need in that service. And in parliament, because we’re a democracy, because political parties internally are democracies as well. Other people are validating that, in fact, yes, I do have something legitimate and worth offering in that venue.
And there are different areas, working for a not-for-profit organization, doing community work, which is unrecognized.
These are areas of important service and they are the things which give life, meaning, they give purpose, they give context. And they actually have a lasting impact, because as we help other people, the flow on effect from them to other people again, is significant. And that’s really important as well, because that then flows on continually.
Jeffery Wang: [00:59:29] I agree with that, but how did you come to the realization that service to others is what ultimately fulfills you?
Jim Longley: [00:59:38] I was fortunate in that, I had been fairly actively involved in community stuff, working with people with disability. Whilst I was still at high school and university, before I started work, before I did any other things.
And again, of the earlier things we’ve looked at in terms of reading the great works of philosophy, literature, religion, understanding, tell you that, other people have had the experience where if it’s all about you, it evaporates.
And then as you see different examples and our society, sadly has too many examples of where you, you look at someone whose life has all been about themselves and you think, I don’t really want to be like that. And you look at some other people who have really led a self-sacrificial life. You say, that’s what I want to be like.
You can see from the example of other people, the examples that you want to follow, and the examples you don’t want to follow. And that tells you pretty quickly that actually people who have lived a life of service. They are more beautiful people, there’s a depth to them. There’s a quality. There’s a wisdom. Things which you really think are great. And by contrast you see other people who’ve got the fancy cars, and the fancy clothes, and the fancy makeup, and you think like they’re so shallow, they’ve got nothing to talk about. Their thinking is, you know, what was on, um, the latest social media thing. Have they ever had an original thought in their life? And you think, no, no depth and richness, and these are the things that, that are really worth aiming for. And that’s all about service
Jeffery Wang: [01:01:25] And you almost feel sorry for them.
Jim Longley: [01:01:27] Oh yeah. Really sad. Really sad.
Jeffery Wang: [01:01:31] Well, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom today, Jim, I did expect this from you. I expected the most profound, deep philosophical lessons knowing you for a couple of years now, Jim. So thank you so much for taking your time out.
Now, just for the bonus lesson, I’m going to throw you a curve ball. Is there something that you have unlearned? And what I mean by that is something that you absolutely believe to be ironclad true when you started your career and learned that wasn’t the case later on.
Is there something that you change your mind about that you just held to be gospel when you first started?
Jim Longley: [01:02:10] I probably thought that within society. If something bad happened, you could probably correct it. At some point, I am now of the view that some bad things will happen that are probably not able to be corrected.
So sometimes an injustice will occur and, it will go through to the keeper. And our society doesn’t pay quite enough attention to some of that stuff and it is wrong. But sometimes time will move on, or the processes will take too long or too difficult and expensive to actually correct some injustices.
And that’s is a sad learning,
Jeffery Wang: [01:03:06] I was hoping to end on a positive note, but I look, I’ll try and put a positive spin on that. So hopefully somebody listening to this podcast right now will take that mantle of leadership into their very own hands and make it their own personal responsibility.
Hopefully being inspired by you.
Jim Longley: [01:03:24] So we’ll perhaps if I can come with a positive one then, so there is very little that you can’t actually make a difference in. And whether it’s a big issue or a small issue, if we actually focus on what we can do, we can actually make headway.
and I think that is an important thing. Whereas at the beginning of my career, I probably would have said some things are going to be not within my skillset or not within my timeframe or something, but the reality is we can actually all make a big and positive impact, on just about anything we really set our minds to.
Jeffery Wang: [01:04:08] Hear hear.
Well, thank you so much for your time.
Jim Longley: [01:04:12] Great thanks so much Jeffery, and thanks very much for doing these podcasts. I think they’re fantastic. Great learnings to be had in them and commend you on doing that.
Jeffery Wang: [01:04:22] Appreciate it. Thank you. You’ve been listening to the international podcast of “10 lessons it Took me 50 Years to Learn” produced by Robert Hossary and sponsored by the Professional Development Forum. This podcast is sponsored by PDF, which helps diverse young professionals of any age to find fulfillment in the modern workplace.
PDF provides webinars, social media discussions, podcasts, parties, anything you want, anything you need, please visit us on our website www.professionaldevelopmentforum.org, and the best part. It’s all free. Stay safe, everyone