About Mark Gell
Mark is the partner of a PR Agency Reputation Edge. Mark has advised CEOs, Boards and Heads of State for almost 40 years. He has run strategy, policy and stakeholder management teams in government and Australia’s biggest publicly listed corporations.
He has led the development of company strategic plans and policy with green and white papers and associated legislation formulation, corporate restructuring, organisational repositioning and product development. He has sat on a number of corporate boards as well as industry representative and not-for-profit organisations.
Schooled in the application of property rights, Mark is a believer in freedom of speech and expression as the corner stone of strong democracies.
Lesson 1: Know yourself and your limitations 03m 12s
Lesson 2: Mine for gold 08m 04s
Lesson 3: Listen don’t talk 14m 56s
Lesson 4: Don’t believe everything you have heard 17m 35s
Lesson 5: Ask questions and then ask more 27m 07s
Lesson 6: Go to the first sources 34m 27s
Lesson 7: What would others do in this situation 38m 38s
Lesson 8: Stay Calm 36m 48s
Lesson 9: Ask for help when you need it 38m 59s
Lesson 10: Challenge and debate, don’t order 40m 11s
Mark Gell 10 Lessons
[00:00:03] Jeffery Wang: Hello and welcome to the podcast “10 Lessons it took me 50 years to learn” where we talked to inspirational leaders from all over the world to dispense wisdom for career, business, and life, in order to bring you shortcuts to excellence.
My name is Jeffery Wang, the founder of the Professional Development Forum and your host today. This podcast is sponsored by the Professional Development Forum, which helps diverse young people, of any age, find fulfillment in the modern workplace.
Today we’re joined by businessmen Mark Gell. Mark is the partner of the PR agency Reputation Edge.
[00:00:37] Jeffery Wang: Mark has advised CEOs, boards, Heads of States for almost 40 years. He has run strategy, policy, stakeholder management teams in government, and Australia’s biggest publicly listed corporations. He has led the development of company strategic plans and policy with green and white papers. And the associated legislation formulation, corporate restructuring, organizational repositioning and product development. He has sat on a number of corporate boards as well as industry representatives and not-for-profit organizations.
Schooled in the application of property rights, Mark is a believer in freedom of speech and expression as the cornerstone of strong democracies. Welcome to the podcast, Mark.
[00:01:22] Mark Gell: Thank you. Thank you. How are you, Jeffery?
[00:01:24] Jeffery Wang: Good. Good. Well, you first caught my attention when you publicly advocated against the censorship of controversial ideas or what is more popularly known as the cancel culture.
[00:01:34] Mark Gell: Yeah. It’s something that infuriates me. I I’m, I’m a great believer in. people, having the ability to express what they want when they want, without being censored and without being cancelled. Now, of course there are limitations to that, but those limitations are defined in the rule of law, rather than being defined by people who run big tech platforms, for example, this creeping censorship most recently, which we saw with YouTube with sky news, I believe is, is very damaging. It means that the public over time, and I do stress over time, will get a skewed view of what’s actually happening in the world. And we’re seeing that in America, right?
[00:02:16] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely. And that’s the problem because our lens the world is a lot of the times through these media platforms, right? And that’s why freedom of speech is something that is very near and dear to my heart.
I mean, just a bit of a background. My family left Taiwan; they left their life behind to migrate to the west for the reason that we can grow up in a free society where we can decide our own futures. and that is something that I believe we, we do need to hold on and, and protect.
Now more recently, I’ve noticed that you’ve advocated against the government overreach, the recent round of lockdowns.
You know, these are obviously very difficult positions to hold, given the current political climate. But what I sense in you is the courage to say what you truly believe, and that’s what we’re hoping to bring to our audience today. Wisdom is a bit like medicine, isn’t it? It may taste bitter. Yeah. But ultimately, it’s what you need. Uh, it’s what’s best for you.
So, Let’s jump right into it then.
Lesson, number one, what you had for me, it was “know yourself and your limitations”. What do you mean by that?
[00:03:12] Lesson 1
[00:03:18] Mark Gell: Well, yeah, people really need to take the time out to explore themselves and understand themselves.
And that’s not only about understanding what you’re good at, also understanding what you’re not good at, which is “understanding your limitations” to quote Clint Eastwood. But to me that’s really important. It’s almost like self-listening, you know, who am I? Do I really have the knowledge, the skills, the insights, the view of the world that allows me to lead other people in a certain direction? Or am I limited in that?
And if I’m limited, you know, go and find someone who can help you with that limitation. It’s through that understanding of yourself, which takes listening to yourself, as a first base and then listening to others, that actually helps you in my view, gain insights into solutions that have consequences because every, every way you turn, every decision make has a consequence, but it has consequences that less than might otherwise be the case.
If that makes sense.
[00:04:24] Jeffery Wang: Yep. It’s probably easier said than done though. Isn’t it? Yeah. How do you become aware of, yourself and who you actually are? How do you develop that sense of awareness? Because sometimes when you’re in these situations, you might not be aware of how you come across or how, how…
[00:04:42] Mark Gell: that’s a really good question.
I got a real eye-opener once, I used to work in politics and, um, I went to an end of year function and this person was sitting down, chatting with me and I won’t use the exact language they used, but they said, you know, basically you’re, you’re not a bastard. And I said, well, what do you mean by that?
And I said, well, everyone tells me that, you know, you’re, you’re a real bastard. You know, they use different language. And it was a real eye opener for me because I didn’t look upon myself that way at all, in fact, I actually thought I was a really nice, nice person. and yeah, one of the roles that I used to do in politics, I ran a thing called the Premier’s advisory unit, which was the think tank for government, but also the Premier used to send me in who was Nick Greiner at the time he used to send me in to get things fixed.
if there was an issue on something wasn’t happening. Yeah. Can you go in and fix that? So, I used to go in and, and, you know, bring people together and get things sorted. so, I’d obviously built up a reputation for not being a very nice person. I, I can remember looking back on it. If I ever walked into a lift all conversation in the lift stopped, for example, that was a real eye opener for me, and actually sent me on a bit of a journey of self-exploration.
And I did a lot of work around ontology and, and conversation, and what conversation means, and the meaning of conversation and so on and so forth. I mean, it was very LA at the time. but I have taken what I’ve learned out of that and, particularly around listening, and listening to myself and catching myself out ever since, and I’ve never really looked back, I’ve felt more rounded as a result.
Now that’s not to say that people think I’m… I’m still pretty hard, but I’m very blunt. And I’m very courageous in putting my views out on the table and it has actually cost me in my career for doing it. I don’t think I can live any other way to be honest with myself. And that’s, that’s about knowing yourself and your limitations, you know, being courageous has consequences, I would prefer to have those consequences than, not.
[00:07:03] Jeffery Wang: Yep. And clearly not everyone is prepared to live with those consequences, that’s why some people aren’t prepared to be as courageous as perhaps you are.
[00:07:11] Mark Gell: And look, I understand that last few years I’ve been writing a book on leadership philosophy and there was a person that I interviewed who’s a very successful investment banker, you know, self-made, you know, set up their own investment banks, et cetera, et cetera. and in that conversation, they were talking about how they live by a set of values. Three values. And they won’t compromise off those values. And we came across a situation where, if he was to go forward on something, he would have had to compromise one of those values.
So, we decided not to, and ended up walking away from the business. Now, huge consequence. But had the courage to stick by their own values set, which is actually quite inspiring.
[00:07:53] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely. And I think if you know yourself, you know what you can live with and what you can’t, so there’s no point getting ahead in life if you can’t sleep at night.
So, um, yeah, I think that makes a lot of good sense.
Now, lesson number two, and this could be interpreted in a number of ways, “Mine for gold”.
[00:08:04] Lesson 2
[00:08:10] Jeffery Wang: What exactly do you mean when you say, “Mine for gold”?
[00:08:12] Mark Gell: When you manage other people. Someone used this expression, you know, you should mine for gold in people because everyone has gold in them. And often what you find is that there are layers of conversations that people have about themselves that doesn’t allow that gold to come out.
And if you can listen to this person enough, you will find that gold. And I’m, I’m a great believer in that. I, I had a recent example in the last few years where uh, one of my staff members in one of the roles I had, came up to me and said, oh, look, I’m really interested in a particular area. And I said, well, that’s interesting because I need someone to take on something for me, would you be prepared to take this on? It’s a fairly major project, the organization has never done it before and they said, ah, yes, but you know, we can’t tell anyone or anything like that. And I said, no, it’s gotta be done with integrity. And I said, if you commit to me now that you’re prepared to take that on, I’ll go straight up, I’ll tell the head of HR and we’ll make it happen. I’ll make it happen in the next 15, 20 minutes.
Now that person was left there thinking, oh, what’s the consequence of this? Rather than oh fantastic, and you know, 20 minutes later, they had that project, they owned it and they delivered it.
They did a really good job. That’s an example to me, of mining for gold. It was something that they were passionate about. It was something that I knew they would do a good job. They weren’t prepared to talk to their immediate reporting line about it, but they came to me. And part of the reason for that, I think goes back to point number one, which is knowing yourself and your own limitations.
If people get a sense of that, they will actually come and communicate okay with you. And your side of that transaction is that if they’re prepared to come and communicate to you, you’d be prepared to listen, and to listen to what they’re really looking to do.
One of the things I used to do when I’d go into new organizations was bring my staff together. And I used to say to them, look, if you don’t want to be here, if this doesn’t light you up each morning, when you get out of bed, I don’t want you to come in. I want you to actually find what lights you up and I’ll help you, direct you towards that. I’m amazed at how many people approach me later and say, look, this is what I’m really interested in doing.
I said, well, fantastic. Let me reach out through my network and we’ll work out how we can help you out. Another example is in one very large organization that was in 220 countries around the world. And I sat on their senior leadership team. We did our first internal engagement survey and there was this set of yeah, your typical corporate questions.
And I said, look, let’s put a question on there. Work is fun? Yes or no. And, and one of the people in the committee really went me hard, really went me really, really hard. And I said, now I want that question on there. And the question went on there. Anyway, that same person came and saw me about two months later and said, look, I have to thank you.
And I said, why do you have to? I was not enjoying work, and out of that, you made me realize that I need to change my direction and I’ve changed my direction, and I’m leaving the organization, and this is what I’m doing. And I said, well, that’s fantastic. That, that helps people, you know, that helps bring the gold out of people.
When I was in politics, I noticed that there were so many people walking around late thirties, early forties with grey hair that were totally unstimulated that never went outside the box. And I used to sit there and think, well, if you can’t do out of the box, thinking, what are you doing in policy and what are you doing in strategy? It doesn’t make sense to me.
So, in those sorts of examples, those people had so many conversations is the way I term it. You could never, you’d never get to their gold because I would never let it allow anyone to do it. It’s like unleashing the beast within people to get their passion out and so on and so forth.
[00:12:08] Jeffery Wang: So, it sounds to me like a lot of people sort of walking around, hiding in their little shells, almost living a completely inauthentic existence. It could be a number of reasons and I guess that’s what I’m trying to ask, what what’s stopping them from unleashing the beast within? or, you know, sort of letting the real selves out?
Is it because of the lack of confidence or is it because of something else altogether? Fear?
[00:12:32] Mark Gell: Fear. Yeah. I walked into a business environment in recent history, and I came in as the, the boss for want of a better word. And I walked into the office space where all the team were gathered.
There was, no one was talking. Hmm, there was no conversing. There was no, and I also thought, gee, that’s weird. And when I walked in, yeah, I had a squeaky bag and you could hear the squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak with my travel bag. And you know, you could see people looking at me sideways and then looking back at their desk.
And I, so this is really unusual behaviour. The environment, the work environment that had been established for these people is command and control. You’ll do what you’re told you will not question. And that was the culture of that group of people. Well, I changed that up within three months, everyone’s sitting down chatting and, the best ideas come out of debating and questioning, and people being allowed the room to put their view across without having their heads kicked in.
[00:13:34] Jeffery Wang: So, what you’re saying though, is that in order to mine for gold, you’ve got to create the environment where they can surface. Right? Are there any secrets to that? How do you create a culture like that?
[00:13:45] Mark Gell: It’s a really good question, they’ll pick up on it. You gotta be prepared to be criticized. You gotta be prepared to be challenged, and you gotta be prepared for people to sit there and say, Hey, that’s not right. The leader will open that clearing. If you can imagine you’ve got this forest, and on the other side of the forest is Nirvana.
But people can’t see Nirvana because they can’t see the trees. So, you’ve actually got to chop some of the trees down so they can see it. It’s the same sort of thing when you throw something out on the table, you gotta be prepared to say, okay, what do you think? And I did that on a number of times and there was just deathly silence.
And I said, look, surely there’s another way to think of this. I said, I’m not the fountain of all knowledge around this. So please challenge me. I don’t want one solution. I want 10 different ways of looking at this issue, so we can come up with the best solution and I don’t have the best solution.
So, it’s being modest about your own abilities in front of other people so like over time, and it takes time, that people start debating things and expressing views.
[00:14:51] Jeffery Wang: So, you’ve gotta lead by example, which actually is a great segue into
lesson number three, as you were saying, “listen, don’t talk”.
[00:14:56] Lesson 3
[00:15:00] Mark Gell: Yeah, there was this guy that I met back in 1989 when I was in politics and we’re both put on a project together. And we’d go to these meetings, and he had the uncanny ability of not saying much, but about three quarters of the way through the meeting, he would say something so profound that you could just hear all the pennies drop around the room, and people would say, oh, why didn’t I think of that?
It used to drive me nuts because I used to think that why didn’t I pick up on that? We want to express. We want to get our view out on the table, quickly in conversations. What this guy did was he would sit there, and he would listen to what people were saying, but not listening to what was necessarily coming out of here. But listening to, he could work out what was going on in their heads.
Yeah. Listening to the listening, which is very ontological. So, when he said something, it added value, not to the conversation that was necessarily on the table, but the conversation that was going on in people’s heads that they didn’t want to talk about.
It was absolutely brilliant and it, it took me years to understand it. I’ve For the last 30 years have done a lot of self-exploratory work and I continue to do it. And that’s about listening for yourself, but in listening for yourself, you’re listening to others.
And I think it’s a skill that I have now, but I don’t think I’m nowhere near as, as tuned as this individual was.
[00:16:28] Jeffery Wang: Yeah, and I can certainly relate to that, our job is not to make sense of what people are saying, our job is to make sense of what they’re thinking. Because people can talk at max 120 words per minute. They can think at 900 words a minute, and I’m making sense of that 100 out of the 900 that comes out it’s what’s missing. And that’s our job to make sense of
[00:16:52] Mark Gell: And. Look spot on.
It’s often there’s more in the unsaid than there is in the said.
All organizations are a bunch of conversations. That’s all they are. Now if you want people to get on with the conversation, then if you do it really well, you define the light on the hill, and they will make their own way towards that light.
But if you don’t define it well, they will question, I’ll have their little water cooler conversations about how bad things are and so on and so forth. And that’s, that’s the litmus test.
[00:17:23] Jeffery Wang: And this is something that I’ve only recently come to realize as well. And that is the power of the truth. And I’m surprised actually, now that I reflect in hindsight how little truth is told. Again, a great segue,
because lesson number four, “don’t believe everything you have heard”.
[00:17:35] Lesson 4
[00:17:39] Jeffery Wang: Now a sense, a bit of a cool story behind this one.
[00:17:41] Mark Gell: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting. When you talk about truth. I could draw for you on a piece of paper. a round circle. a spherical thing, uh, a bunch of people, put a dozen of them up on a piece of paper and I’ll say to people. Okay, point to the circle and you’ll have someone who will point to the perfectly spherical circle.
And they say, that’s the circle. Then you’ll have someone else who will look at the sphere and say, no, that’s a circle. And then you’ll have someone else who will point to the bunch of people talking, saying, well, that that’s a circle of conversation. There’s no truth. There’s no true answer. And there’s no false answer that they’re all correct answers.
That perfectly spherical circle is a mathematician who says that, you know, the radius has got to be the same throughout the circle. Whereas someone who who’s trained in graphics will say, well, the spheres, the circle as well, where someone who’s trained in conversation will say, well, there’s a circle of people having a conversation.
There’s no true or false things. So, this is why questioning is so important because you know, someone will say something to you and people will take it as truth, and they’ll take it as truth to the extent that anyone else who questions what is said, they’ll get aggressive towards, rather than actually just questioning.
Okay. How do you interpret that as being your truth, versus how someone else interprets it as being true, because there is no such thing as false, falsehoods or truth or whatever. And a classic example of that is when a crime is committed, and you will have four or five witnesses and they’ll all have different versions of the truth.
That’s why justice isn’t perfect. It can’t be because it’s, people’s interpretation of what the truth is based on a whole pile of factors that they’ve built up and lay it up over their lifetimes. So, when someone says something is being the way it is, don’t believe in it, test it, ask questions around it.
We’re seeing this around the world now with the COVID pandemic. take masks. I think Dr. Fauci first said, no, you don’t need masks, because of the nature of the micron size of the, uh, the, the, uh, the micro drops or whatever they call it. Um, and then he said, yes, wear a mask. And he said, no, two masks, even possibly three.
Then it went back to once you’re vaccinated, you don’t need to wear masks. Now that they’ve got, you know, 50% vaccinated and they’ve turned that into a conversation of the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated, which is very cruel, very cruel indeed. So, you know, don’t believe everything you’ve heard, make an assessment.
Look for the evidence, look for the facts when someone says something is so, is it so? And when we live in a world where people are just taking information as is, particularly off social media, which is extremely dangerous. We live in a pretty warped sort of world and yeah, to take it a few, few layers deeper than that.
When you look at Twitter, 80% of conversations are 10% of the Twitter universe, I call them twits. And they’re arguing amongst themselves. I only go onto Twitter because you can actually find out what’s happening in the world faster on Twitter than you can on any news source, which I find quite bizarre.
I don’t listen to what people say, because what they say is quite ridiculous on both sides of politics. It’s the same as news. You know, I get up 4 30, 5 o’clock and I start watching international news. I’ll watch CNN, I’ll watch CNBC, I’ll watch Fox. I’ll watch all of it. And you know why? Because you’re trying to get a full spectrum of what’s people’s views, not what’s real, not what’s fact, not what’s fiction.
What people’s view of the events are. And I think that’s what people are missing on. All that’s been reported are people’s views on events.
[00:21:52] Jeffery Wang: Okay. So, if I could play that back and try and understand what would be a practical approach to try and search for the truth. I mean, what you’re saying is that there’s no such thing as absolute truth.
What you can get is as many perspectives as possible, so that you have a feel of what the, what the reality might be. And so, you can grapple with it. That would be your approach, right? So, keep your open mind, don’t take anything as gospel, what you have is probably the best understanding of the aggregate perspectives that you can collect, and what you should be is to improve on your understanding by collecting as many perspectives as possible.
Is, is that kind of what you’re saying?
[00:22:32] Mark Gell: There is no such thing as truth. And as soon as you start from, there is no such thing as truth. I mean, people spend their lives looking for the ultimate truth. Good luck. I mean, really good luck. Let me know when you find it.
[00:22:47] Jeffery Wang: You’ll never get there.
[00:22:48] Mark Gell: Um, that, that was what was so clever about Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy? Yeah, the answer to the ultimate question was 42. I mean, it just highlights the ridiculousness of the question. You know, what is truth? I know this is a table because we call it a table. I know this is a microphone because we call it a microphone.
Okay. Physical items in the world of physics can be defined and have truth. But when people say that something is true and someone else says, no, that’s not true. It’s just matter of opinion, it’s not about truth or falsity. It’s not that people are lying, and others are telling the truth. Doesn’t exist that way.
It’s all in conversation. And if you start from the premise that there is no truth, guess what? You relax and you start listening. Cause you’re not listening for the truth. You’re just listening to what people think, and in listening to what people think and you’ll have your own moral judgments based on what you’ve been brought up on.
And so, so on and so forth. I mean, a classic example is the pronoun debate. I couldn’t give a stuff, if people want to call themselves his, her, horse, tree, carrot. If they want to, that’s fine. They had the right to do that. They can self-express and call themselves whatever they damn well like.
But as soon as someone says, this is truth. No, it’s not. So that’s a really good example of conversations where people try and collapse a conversation with truth or a concept of truth. And this is why you don’t have to believe everything you’ve heard. So, if someone says, well, I’m this, or I’m that or okay, fine. If that’s how you want to exist in the world, that’s, that’s your choice. You’re free to do that.
That’s why I get annoyed. When people go off at people doing that well, how does it affect you? And as long as it doesn’t affect you, that’s okay. And the only way it’s going to affect you have people suddenly say, it’s true.
In other words, if people turn around and say, there’s no biological difference between a male and a female, for example, The truth is because we know this, because of biology that in 99.9999% of the population or whatever the statistic is, there is a biological woman and there is a biological man, and it’s only through conversation that people start labelling people other ways, but you know, when you’re born, you are, that’s why there’s this whole birth certificate debate. The people putting a gender on birth certificates are not, these to me that’s not good, because that is going against biology.
so, what are you going to put on the birth certificate? it?
[00:25:30] Jeffery Wang: Okay. Just to play devil’s advocate then. You know, you’re saying that there is no such thing as absolute truth. But then there is, you know, biology and then there’s facts.
What are we talking about here? Are there such things as absolute facts? Potentially, or, or verifiable facts? And yet, you know, you’ve got people’s perspectives on those facts?
[00:25:50] Mark Gell: There are effects on both sides of every argument. Now I can easily go and get six arguments on climate change that say climate changes is manmade and I can get six facts to say it’s not. Now. Who are you to believe? On the precautionary principle, when it comes to climate change, everyone wants a better environment. You know, we want a better environment for our kids to grow up in and so on and so forth. When you have situations where 30 years ago, people said that, you know, islands were going to disappear by now and, and, and set it as fact, and a whole pile of policy frameworks would develop the round that, and that’s how the world operates.
Science is not when people say that’s what the experts say and that’s, that’s the science, well, science is about questioning. Science isn’t about saying that something is so. Science is saying, here’s a hypothesis that something is so, let’s go and test that. But is there such a thing as a biological man and a biological woman?
Yes, there is. And there’s a lot of evidence of that. I’ve yet to find a biological male that could actually bear a child.
[00:27:03] Jeffery Wang: Okay. And, um, I think I’m going to struggle to find a segue then to go to the next lesson,
which is lesson number five, “ask questions, and then ask more”.
[00:27:07] Lesson 5
[00:27:12] Mark Gell: Well, that, that, that comes off. Number four. People got to learn to ask more questions and have the bandwidth to be allowed to ask those questions is probably more important. When you get into to a world where people in authority in inverted commas. So elected officials, regulators, start telling you that this is how it is, then you start to say, well, actually there are, there are alternatives here.
And, and a good example in my working life, I was, I was made redundant, but in this particular instance, I was taxed 62% on my redundancy.
Right. Which is crazy. I actually rang the Chief of Staff of the Treasurer at the time. And I said, look, I’ve been taxed. You know, there’s a loophole. And I’ve been taxed 62%. And he said, well, that’s government policy. And I said, whoa, can I quote you on that? And he said, what do you mean? I said, well, I’m going to go to the media, and I’m going to tell them that you tax unemployed people 62%. He said, that’s not what I said. I said, yes, it is. You said it was government policy.
So yeah, there, there, there are ways of, testing things and questioning things. And the way I approached that particular debate is I said to them, look, if I, as an individual, jumped through a loophole in the law, and the government decides to change that law or that regulation and backdates it, I’m suddenly a criminal. But if the government finds a loophole and jumps through that loophole, they’re not criminals. It’s valid.
So how can you have those two conversations exist in the same universe? So, this is the question about asking questions. Can’t you see that that is implausible, to do that. They actually changed the, the, the regulation and the law as a result of those conversations, and shut the loophole,
[00:29:08] Jeffery Wang: The power of asking the right questions, isn’t it?
[00:29:11] Mark Gell: So, I didn’t lambast them. I asked them the questions, but sometimes, I mean, yeah, that was 20 years ago. What I have found is that the, our public services, which they’re not public services anymore, they have become a lot more authoritarian in the last 20 years. And I had a recent example where I had a property.
The property was given an E3 zoning, and said, this is a wildlife corridor. And I said, what, including the house? And they said, yes, including the house. I said, well, that’s great. I said, do you want me to open the front door and the back door? So, the animals can just go straight through the house?
And they said, well, don’t be ridiculous. And I said, I’m sorry, but it’s just as ridiculous as putting a house into a wildlife corridor, I’ll tell you what, why don’t I provide them with bed and breakfast while I’m at it? And I said, now you’re getting stupid. And I said, no, it’s a valid question. Why have you got a property?
And yeah, from a property rights point of view, these sort of arguments are really important. So, you know, questioning things and, and, and pointing out to people how stupid some things are in terms of the consequences of actions. that’s what you need to do. You need to ask questions and then ask more questions, not say you’re a bunch of bloody idiots for putting a house into a wildlife corridor.
So, think through the practicality of this, just open all the doors and windows and just let the wildlife come through.
[00:30:34] Jeffery Wang: I agree with you. So, on the flip side of that question then, why are they so unable to think that way?
Is it because they’re intellectually lazy? Is it because they’ve just got, you know, they don’t want to invest their own time and effort into understanding the issue? Or are they tribal? Or do they just want to double down on whatever it is that they decide is, or whatever their opinion is?
Why is it that people don’t apply the principles that you speak about into everything they do?
[00:31:04] Mark Gell: Fear. It’s purely based on fear. What are the consequences if I stick my hand up and ask a question? Am I going to look stupid? Am I going to look bad? Is it a stupid question?
You have to establish environments that people are comfortable in those environments debating things and raising questions and asking things and, expressing themselves. Most people don’t live self-expressed lives. You know, I’ve got kids, you see kids fully self-expressed. You see kids, doesn’t matter what colour they are, or whatever, playing with each other.
Over time what happens to them is their heads get filled with conversations from so-called mature adults that has them start to fear. And it’s out of that fear that we don’t get the best product.
And when you look at society today, we’re going down the path of fear. I mean, one of the, you know, that ad that came out recently about COVID 19 in New South Wales was based on fear. Fear does, does a number of different things. It makes people pull their heads in. So yeah, if the objective is to get more people vaccinated, don’t create an atmosphere of fear, because what you’ll do is you will harden the views of those that don’t believe in vaccination because, well, I’m just gonna lock myself in my house.
I’m not going to get vaccinated because I don’t want to be that person like that on the hospital bed. Now that’s counterintuitive thinking, but that’s how that that’s how people are thrown. Because one of the fundamental things that people have is fear.
Now, how do you manage that? you set up an environment where you’re not going to look bad. This is about if I was putting an ad campaign together, I would have turned around and done a completely and utterly different way.
We’re in this together. I know we’re all scared. We need to work our way out of this. And we believe, we don’t have perfect knowledge, but we believe that getting vaccinated it’s going to help us.
So, the faster we all get vaccinated, you know, the faster we can get our freedoms back, for example. So, people don’t ask questions because they’re scared to. It’s fear, it all comes down to fear and a leader’s role is to take that fear away to let the fear subside.
So, solutions can be found to whatever the issue is that you’re looking to deal with. I noticed that particularly in crisis management situations, typically in large corporations, you have a crisis management team. They’re not tested until you have a crisis. Now you’ll do exercises. And when you do those exercises, everyone’s fine, they do their role.
But in an actual crises, I’ve just seen people go to tears. I’ve seen people who just freeze. They don’t know what to do. It’s quite fascinating because their real-life fear comes out. It’s no longer a process based on a book. This is a real-life situation we have to deal with here. What do I do? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t want to make the wrong decision. So, it’s based around fear.
[00:34:17] Jeffery Wang: We get plenty of people who knows what to do in a particular process, but when push comes to shove and when your values are being challenged, that’s when the character really comes through.
[00:34:27] Lesson 6
[00:34:27] Jeffery Wang: Lesson number six, “go to the first sources”. Now, do you mean to fact check? Do you mean to go and research for what, what are we doing here?
[00:34:36] Mark Gell: I would have called it fact check three or four years ago, but I won’t call it fact checking now. Look, it’s going to the original source material.
Um, and even original source material is a reflection that someone had at a point in time on a certain events. but it’s better than going to 10 conversations about that original source material. so as, as a discipline, yeah. When people say, oh, here’s an interpretation of data. I, again, I had a really good lesson on this in life, worked for a bank.
I did some research around a new product that we’re looking to launch. The research, you know, we did a whole pile of different focus groups. Two out of seven people said, yep, I’ll take that product on, the marketing people set up product, not going to go anywhere. Five of the seven said, no, blah, blah, blah.
When we presented it to the MD, the MD said far out, if you gave me a product with two it’s, two out of seven people said, yes, I’ll take it. I’ll take it.
You know, which was a really interesting interpretation of the source material. So go back to the source material, understand the source material and look at it from our whole pile of different directions.
Because out of that, you’ll start to understand that there are different ways of interpreting data.
[00:35:45] Jeffery Wang: Okay. That’s, that’s very useful perspective to have.
Lesson number seven. “What would others do in this situation”?
[00:35:48] Lesson 7
[00:35:52] Mark Gell: that’s an interesting one. Because to do that, you’ve actually got to get out of yourself.
So, this is coming back to knowing yourself and your limitations. If you want to actually question or stand outside yourself, then the obvious question you ask yourself is, what would others do in this situation? Because that then gets you out of your own head.
Often what happens when you’re put into situations, you’re thinking from in here, rather than stepping back and saying, okay, I need to step back and look at this. I need to calm down.
And which is the next point. How would someone else look at this? Is this a way they would, would go forward with this?
Would they be prepared to put up with those consequences if I go forward this way? So, it it’s, it’s a technique, that is valuable in providing you with the ability to move on when you’re stuck in situations. Stay calm.
[00:36:47] Jeffery Wang: Stay calm.
So, lesson number 8, “stay calm”,
[00:36:48] Lesson 8
[00:36:51] Mark Gell: Staying calm. I’m probably really bad at that. There’s something that’s in, built from it inside me that goes from zero to a hundred in, in a very short space of time. I find sometimes I actually just have to go for long walks or, or actually just go and lay down, and just allow myself, you know, in particularly stressful situations.
But yeah, and most of these around personal situations, by the way, they’re not around professional situations. uh, you know, we’ve been through some very, very stressful family situations in the last five years, you know, including myself through extreme sports and my wife having cancer and so on and so forth.
So, you often have to just go away and reflect, and you can’t reflect through anger. You can’t make decisions through anger. Because your anger response comes from fear, because you’re in a situation you’re not used to it. You immediately go into fear response, and you’ll immediately pump adrenaline.
You’ll immediately, the anger starts to hit and often you’re not going to make the right sort of decisions in that space.
You burn people, you burn relationships. I’ve done that many, many, many a time in my career.
This is my Achilles heel is around staying calm. I’m still trying to get to the source of what, has me go from zero to 100 very quickly. You know that anger, I mean, bullying, for example, is something that really, really angers me. I get very angry when I see someone getting bullied. Now I don’t know why, but things like that really angers me.
You have to stay calm.
[00:38:26] Jeffery Wang: Is there a strategy developed over the years that help you do that?
[00:38:30] Mark Gell: Uh, walking, talking to particular people saying, look, I can’t think my way out of this, I need help. In other words, I can’t create a clearing for myself to be able to think clearly about this. So, can you help me?
I’ve got some very, very, very close friends who have been there. You really know who your friends are when you go through a crisis. and you know, I’ve got one friend in particular who, you know, really is really good, really, really good person.
[00:38:57] Jeffery Wang: Well, it sounds like a story for
lesson number nine, “ask for help when you need it”.
[00:38:59] Lesson 9
[00:39:01] Mark Gell: Yeah. You got to ask for help when you need it. You got to put your hand up. Don’t be a hero.
[00:39:06] Jeffery Wang: How do you know when you get to that point,
[00:39:08] Mark Gell: When you can’t think straight. When you’re put in a situation, you can’t see your way out. When you feel the anger. When you feel the fear. It’s a combination of things.
[00:39:16] Jeffery Wang: So where do you go for help? Are we talking about family? Are we talking about friends? Are we talking about professional help?
[00:39:23] Mark Gell: Help is anyone, anybody that actually can help you see your way through the conversation that you can’t get out of, that’s in your head. Now that could be family, it could be a professional. It could be a mentor.
It could be someone that you don’t even know. I’ve had situations where I haven’t been able to get out of my head and I’ve gone for a walk and, you know, I’ve gone to a coffee shop and had a coffee and sparked up a conversation with people in the coffee shop. And it just clears my head.
Why? I don’t know. Is there an absolute formula or an absolute strategy? No, but don’t be afraid to talk about things that you need to talk about. Don’t bottle it up.
[00:40:07] Jeffery Wang: Sounds like very good advice. Now our last lesson,
you’ve got lesson number 10 “challenge and debate, don’t order”.
[00:40:11] Lesson 10
[00:40:16] Mark Gell: Yeah. There’s a difference between, you know, really good debaters or people who will listen to someone else’s argument on something and then ask questions.
They will not say this is the way it is, or this is the truth. And how can you say that? These are the facts. no, they’re your facts. They’re not necessarily my facts. There’s a, an interesting line that a, uh, a guy called Ben Shapiro uses out of the States called “facts don’t have emotions”.
[00:40:47] Jeffery Wang: Facts don’t care about your feelings.
[00:40:49] Mark Gell: Yeah, they don’t care about your feelings. It’s quite a good line because it’s, you know, I’m not attacking you. I’m not, this is not personal, but as soon as you start ordering someone, it becomes personal. challenge, and you challenge through asking questions or saying, you know, have you viewed this through this lens?
Have you viewed this through that lens? Uh, there is another way of looking at this? look, I hear what you’re saying, but here’s a set of facts that don’t necessarily align with the facts that you’ve put forth. So, you know, how do, how do we explain that? And then, you know, people who go to the order side of the debate say, well, you’re wrong.
Well, no I’m not wrong, and I’m not right. I’ve just put forward some counterfactuals to what you’ve actually said. That’s all. It’s the ability to dance with conversation, and having that ability is quite rare. and often it puts people off. People don’t understand that you’re dancing with the conversation.
And often people who dance with compensation can turn conversations into quite humorous conversations, around very serious matters, without people realizing that they’re being humorous.
[00:42:00] Jeffery Wang: And so, does that get the result that you, you after when you, when you can have that dance?
[00:42:05] Mark Gell: You’re not burning people. Hmm, you’re respecting what people have to say without burning them, without making them wrong.
As soon as you make someone wrong, they get on the back foot, and there is no right or wrong, in conversation. There’re just points of view. And if you get some freedom around that, you will listen better. You will be able to sidestep things that people tried to use to hook you. So yeah, some people will not take disagreement with their views at all. And if we don’t disagree with each other, we will never agree with each other. And if we don’t disagree with each other, we will never get to better solutions. And that’s pretty fundamental in society if we want to continue to move forward, not backwards. We have to respect the rights, the views of others, and be prepared to openly debate our own views of the world.
[00:43:11] Jeffery Wang: Yeah. And you don’t necessarily have to agree at the end of the day either. You can, you can agree to disagree. I certainly believe that we need to disagree better as a society as a whole.
I think what you described above is people who basically think that their opinion is their identity. And so, when the opinion is challenged, they think that they are being challenged. Um, and that is something that I believe as a more mature person, we should be able to separate, because our opinions do change over time.
We, we evolve as a human being, as we get older, as we get more understanding of the world, as we get exposed to different perspectives and different facts, um, we have a much more nuanced understanding of the world. And so, we shouldn’t paint ourselves into a corner. And in fact, that’s something that I think younger people tend to be more prone to, to be stuck or to be ideologically committed to a position that really fundamentally is not who you are.
[00:44:09] Mark Gell: Well, it’s interesting you say it because you raise a really interesting philosophical point. We don’t exist in the world based on who we think we are. We only exist in the world based on what other people think we are. So, our existence, you know, you can have an opinion, but that opinion’s not how other people think about you.
Other people look at your body language, how you enter a room, what you smell like as well as what comes out of here. And often what comes out of here, is not what’s in here. So how you exist in the world, is not how you think you exist. And once you start to get some understanding around that, you start to realize, oh, there’s some freedom in that.
[00:44:54] Jeffery Wang: Indeed. Indeed. Well, I didn’t expect that we’d be getting as deep as this, but, uh, I certainly absolutely enjoyed that. As we do with all our guests at 10 lessons, we’re going to throw you a curly one. So is there a lesson that you have unlearned. And what I mean by that is something that you have taken to be ironclad true when you started your career and then later on through your 50 years, you realize that, uh, is just not the case.
Is there something that you have unlearnt?
[00:45:24] Mark Gell: Oh, absolutely. I’m right.
[00:45:26] Jeffery Wang: You mean you’re not.Wow. Okay. Why do you say that?
[00:45:36] Mark Gell: Because I used to go into meetings and debates and things like that. Like I’m right. And you’re wrong. That was my stance. I, you know, you got to let go of that.
[00:45:44] Jeffery Wang: How did you learn that lesson,
[00:45:46] Mark Gell: By doing a lot of work on myself. And the thing that opened me up to that was that person that I had drinks with on that Christmas, who basically said that I was a bastard without having ever met me before.
And then first thing they said is you’re actually a really nice person. And I said, everyone tells me you’re a bastard. That really opened my eyes up to that because I reflect back on that period, and I used to, you know, I used to work really hard at getting all the data together to back my arguments, to make sure that I was right.
Sorry. I’ve got all the data, here’s all the evidence. I’m absolutely right. And that would be my stance going into every meeting. So, when you’re right, you don’t allow other people to speak. You don’t listen.
So, I had to give that up. I’m still wired that way, which is interesting. So, I’ve actually gotta consciously not do that.
[00:46:39] Jeffery Wang: Well, uh, well, I guess that’s why this is wisdom, right? And now you’ve got this appreciation that you didn’t have when you are starting out. So, um, you know, that’s certainly very, very insightful. So, on that note, we’ll finish today.
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