Alice youngsters ponder becoming high fliers

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

If anyone in the audience had ambitions to become a corporate high flier they may well have changed their minds.
Bernard Salt, who addressed about 80 young people on the subject at St Philip’s College on Tuesday, sometimes gets up a 3am to write his column for the Australian newspaper, goes to work when his staff clocks on at 9am, puts in a 9 hour day and never parts from his iPhone, 24/7 and 365 days, in case a journalist wants to get a quote from him at 2am about the stock market heading north or south.
Mr Salt spends a lot of time in hotels and aeroplanes to give talks around Australia, has written four books which he says are bestsellers (“they don’t pay well but give you authority”), and is now writing another one, and he’s a partner in the professional services firm KPMG.
To achieve and maintain all this he has had to and still has to “work hard, really hard”.
Those young people from St Philip’s, OLSH and Yirara College who by this time remained fixed on becoming rich and famous got a good idea from Mr Salt about how to get there.
He told them that his rising to fame and fortune from a working-class family with six kids in the Victorian country town of Terang, where he also went to school while most of his present day acquaintances went to something like Scotch College (“you can beat them”), required unshakable self-confidence.
“Don’t be apologetic about where you come from … belief in yourself is fundamental.”
A lot of people would criticise him because they envied him but ha “always stayed the course.”
He never allowed the notion of “I can’t do this” to enter his mind from when me mapped out his life at the age of 15. He is 55.
Teachers were his early role models, he explains, until he found out what they were being paid.
Others he selected on the basis of “what can that person teach me”.
He planned his advancement three to five years ahead and put in place “markers” 10 to 15 years ahead: “I’d like to do that,” he would tell himself.
It wasn’t all plain sailing: Up to age 35 “everybody loves you” but 35 to 45 “are the toughest years … kids, relationships, work, financial pressures”.
After that the skills of building a good network kick in and the movement up the ladder of success begins in earnest, so long as you “work hard, really hard … work harder than everyone else … CEOs at the top of companies are almost possessed by working hard … it is intoxicating.”
There are jobs that are evaporating – don’t waste your time with them, he told the audience: Sales (online shopping will increase); unskilled farm work (ever bigger machines will displace humans); factory work (will go to China); tourism (will continue to decline because of the high dollar).
Get certified skills in mining, health, professional services and education.
Food, energy, water and commodities are “moving forward”.
That, in a nutshell, was the advice Mr Salt gave to the young people.
Their questions gave clues about how many may be keen to follow in Mr Salt’s footsteps.
Q: Isn’t your approach a tunnel vision, not seeing the bigger picture?
A: Blind self-belief worked for me.
Q: Are you sometimes told to relax a bit?
A: There are no half way measures at the uppermost levels.
Despite all that Mr Salt clearly has the best of both worlds: He’s been married for 33 years and has two kids, aged 25 and 22. Once a year they go overseas for a month, to a place of their choice, cost isn’t an issue, a very tangible bonus of success. However, the iPhone does go with him.
Q: Is there a glass ceiling for women?
A: Maybe in the 90s but much less so today. Don’t fall for easy cop-out: “I am a woman. I am an Aboriginal. I am working class. Remember, no cop-outs, no excuses.”
Q: Was he a good student?
A: “Not weirdly so. (General laughter.) I was in the top 5% but balanced and rounded.
Q: Are you successful?
A: Success is to meet your personal goals. You are the measure of you own success.
And that may well be being a wonderful mother, or a great social worker, as Mr Salt happily concedes.
PHOTO: Mr Salt speaking with Year 12 student, Rachel McCulloch. He was brought to Alice Springs by the Central Australian Education Foundation.

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