History shows the difference one life can make
Reading time: 4 minutes
One of our Lord’s great promises is found in the Gospel of John: “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly. (Jn 10:10)
Ashley Goldsworthy, as evidenced by her memoir, lived — and continues to live — an abundant life.
Originally written for the benefit of his grandchildren, Goldsworthy rightly recognized that his contribution to myriad areas of public life deserved a wider audience.
Edited by The Australian‘s Tess Livingstone, Goldsworthy’s account gives an insight into Australia’s recent history through the lens of her contribution to, among other things, public service, property, computing, education, to politics and the Church.
“When Goldsworthy became CEO of Jennings, Australia’s largest construction company at the time, he had no knowledge or skill in property or construction, but what he did know was how to eradicate the ‘inefficiency…”
In the preface, Goldsworthy describes himself as an ordinary man with no particular talent, albeit possessing a very strong work ethic, great perseverance, and integrity – secrets to succeeding in the seven different career paths his life would take.
His life is a great testimony to the contemporary idea of transferable professional skills, such as leadership, communication, common sense and clear thinking; skills that transcend narrow specialization.
When Goldsworthy became CEO of Jennings, Australia’s largest construction company at the time, he had no knowledge or skill in property or construction, but what he did know was how to eradicate the inefficiency (he terminated every committee, “whether I heard of it or not!”) and used his great negotiation skills, talent scouting and foresight to triple the company’s profit.
Most notably, Goldsworthy was responsible for developing Southbank in Melbourne, one of the largest and most successful CBD upgrades in Australia’s recent history.
The book includes a wonderful anecdote of how he significantly negotiated with the Victorian government over a stalemate over the height of development. The government believed this would obstruct the view of the Arts Center spire.
Goldsworthy, without hesitation, offered to pay to increase the height of the spire (not knowing the cost or what was possible).
He managed to get the “ok” and the arrow did not increase in size.
As a leader in so many different fields, Goldsworthy’s insights into leadership are worth noting.
There are four basic requirements, he says: integrity, a willingness to disrupt, generalist skills, and an unwavering belief in one’s own infallibility (yes, a healthy ego is a requirement).
In many ways, Goldsworthy’s approach to leadership is old-school, but it’s one that doesn’t shy away from accountability and is healthily indifferent to governing in committee.
Unexpectedly, after leaving Jennings, Goldsworthy found himself in academia as Professor of Leadership and Dean of Business at the fledgling Bond University on the Gold Coast.
“Goldsworthy is an unabashed Catholic and has contributed mightily to the Church.”
He accomplished a great deal in this role, and his thoughts on education in general are prescient. He laments that universities have become obvious “sausage machines” in a “staggering drive towards the uniformity of mediocrity”.
Goldsworthy also denounces the decline of the humanities, where many are dedicated to “promulgating anti-Western, anti-liberal and anti-democratic ideologies”. He sees signs of hope in Campion College and the Ramsay Center that defy the trend.
Goldsworthy is an unapologetic Catholic and has contributed mightily to the Church.
He was proud to be the first Catholic to be National President of the Liberal Party.
He was also determined to defend old-fashioned Catholic truth, especially about morality.
Goldsworthy was the founding president of Marriage Alliance, created to defend traditional marriage, during the national debate on same-sex marriage.
In the chapter describing the importance of his faith, he describes the many changes in the Church and society during his lifetime, some for the good (less bigotry), and some for the bad (a loss of “salt” in Catholic practice and devotion).
In a brief review, it is impossible to do justice to the amount of Goldsworthy’s accomplishments.
It begins with a poem that asks, “What difference have you made? It’s a question that may seem a little trivial, but Goldsworthy’s life really made a difference.
There have been real concrete achievements, especially in the civil service when information technology was barely developing.
“This is a fascinating and easy-to-read memoir, with a preface and introduction by George Cardinal Pell and John Howard.”
Then there are achievements in business, construction, education, politics and governance.
There are also the achievements through numerous philanthropic efforts. But, in his words, the most important chapters of his life involve his beloved wife Shirley and their children and grandchildren.
This is a fascinating and easy-to-read memoir, with a preface and introduction by George Cardinal Pell and John Howard.
The extraordinary life of Ashley Goldsworthy testifies to the importance of Catholic civic contributions to the betterment of society.
It is a life worth reading and sharing. Highly recommended.
Ordinary type, extraordinary lifeby Ashley Goldsworthy, Foreword by Cardinal George Pell and Introduction by John Howard, Paperback, published by Connor Court, 396 pages $44
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