me&my Life Reflections with Peter King
me&my health up podcast episode #64 – Transcript
Anthony Hartcher 0:00
Welcome, Me&My health up listeners. It’s your host, Anthony Hartcher, clinical nutritionist, and lifestyle medicine specialist.
This is the first episode of Life reflections, and I’m very excited to be introducing the speaker or my guest. In this first episode, it’s Peter King, Peter King has received an order of Australia for his great work and contribution to society. He has been the chairman of World Vision. He has also been the CEO of many large organizations, including the John Fairfax Group, Pratt Industries, and VanLee, he is an incredibly humble guy, such a lovely guy, and a guy that wants to help and help and continue to help society.
He has done great work in African communities, particularly Rwanda, where he’s helping mentor young kids, and connecting them with people outside of Rwanda, to help them see the bigger picture so that they can grow and develop themselves and get more opportunities than what they do have in that small village of theirs.
It’s great work, he volunteers his time, and that’s all he does these days is really volunteering and helping and contributing back to society, but his career is one that was very much started in poverty, it had really limited education, yet he was able to rise above, all the poverty, the failures he experienced growing up, and all the adversity he experienced growing up, to really just focus on what he had, and to really grow and develop what he had, and he had great people skills, and he really utilize that strength and develop that strength to overcome anything he didn’t have, such as formal education, and he did, he rose to the top of organizations to be the CEO because he valued people along his journey, he discovered religion, his faith, and that became such an important aspect to his growth and development and helping him to where he is today in terms of wanting to give back to others that don’t have much.
So without much further ado, I really would love to introduce you to the conversation I had with this great character, lovely guy, a really close friend of mine, Peter King, Peter King, starts by talking about the interconnectedness of history.
So by reflecting on history, we can see the interconnectedness yet at the time, we can’t and he’s talking about the revolutions we’ve had in history, the French the American Revolution, and he’s relating that back to his life. So without much further ado, here we go. We’re gonna start the conversation with Peter King, talking about the interconnectedness of history, and how now when he reflects back on his life, how interconnected the three phases of his life are, such as when he first started out, it was all poverty, failure, then he connected with his faith, and his faith really grew his career and his belief in himself and now, in the third stage of his career, it’s all about giving back. So here is Peter King,
Peter King 3:32
You look back, but you look forward, and history often tells me and you can work out the influences that history had on history.
And I often say if you’re looking at the American, sorry, the French Revolution. One of the major factors in that was the actual American Revolution and how that came about was that the king was so anti-Britain, that he threw all his forces behind America, and he built up this enormous debt in America in France, and then free he kept on adding taxes and taxes and taxes and eventually the people said, Forget this and that the French Revolution and those interconnections.
I always find it find interesting, then I thought about my own life and how I could interpret it in a kind of similar way. I find that I’ve got three distinct blocks that are very different and yet, very integrated of course because one leads to The other leads to the other and they are not totally independent of each other but my first block was a block where I went through enormous uncertainty, lack of self confidence, very poor up until about 2021 / 22 and I sat down at a point in time when I had experienced failure repeatedly, but during that time.
When I was eight years old, and my three brothers were at a boarding school, my mother worked in a little village shop and my father was the barman in the village. So we had very little money, but the old Dalian Union from the school wanted them to send the four King boys because we had a because the family generally had a history of going to that school, and so they said, and they provided a bursary for all three and my uncles provided the clothing, etc etc, but I was left alone, in the village at the village school and we had 20 kids in the village school, it was a classical Village School, the nearest city we had was about 40 kilometers, and it was a sort of a holiday on a beachside village.
So during the terms, there was nobody around. The school had 20 kids, and we had most of the majority were from farms around the place and so they were very really done I have a friend of my age, who now and again, somebody would come and be in the village for six months, and then go off again, and one day, I went down from the school went home to look for my father, and he was gone, and he literally walked out on us lift my mother, with the four boys just walked out, and I became very insecure.
Because I thought maybe there was something wrong with me. Why didn’t he at least say goodbye? Why didn’t he say I’m leaving? Nothing. He just vanished, and I would go, I used to wonder what happened? Where was he? And so my mother had we virtually have no money and we used to have a woman called Nervas chliba, and I’m giving you the history, and I shouldn’t take too long on this. If I’m just doing the blocks quickly for you. While you’re testing that.
Anthony Hartcher 8:11
It’s all-important to me like so I think, as you said, the history is shaping well shapes the future like I’m thinking, you know, you mentioned, you know, you had that period, early on in your life. You know, when your father left you extremely uncertain, lack self-confidence. You know, you’re reflecting on yourself, and I look at the man who you are today, extremely self-confident.
So much that you know, certainty, so much positivity, so much optimism and, but these events have taken you on a path to get to where you are today, and I think these events are important to hear about because I think these life events happen to us in different stages of our life in different forms.
We can’t control them and it’s how we respond to them, and I think that’s what I’m really an ore about yourself, as you know, someone who’s faced so much adversity throughout your whole life, yet, you’ve bounced back stronger, and, and you’ve got this want to give back because you’ve been in the situation of people that have extreme poverty, no education, and now you want to support them.
So this is yeah, hence why I’m doing this because I mean, or of where you’ve come from to where you are today, and the person who you are today is incredible. It’s remarkable.
Peter King 9:44
Well, I mean, I’m just me, I don’t see that from inside. Looking out, then I’ll carry on very briefly on that first block because what is terribly important, I think is that it was there it was reality. You can’t exclude it from who you are. You can’t exclude it from your history. You can’t just say that’s it, and but you’ve got to learn from it, and I came to a point where I sat down one day and said, How do I learn from this? Is this going to dictate my life? Is this who I am for the rest of my life, there were times when I didn’t even have shoes to go to school, I had to go barefoot and that was fairly embarrassing.
Or, my mother would put cardboard in my shoes. At least I had something under my feet and then I will say to board school, but at which stage just my two elder brothers had left and started working. I was not a good student and I got to year 10, or we call the JC and I failed.
Now to fail, year 10, or JC, or was so embarrassing for me. I have no confidence. My father has left me what’s wrong with me. I used to walk on the beach alone often and I knew that beach totally. It was part of me. I knew it and knew the character of the beach. I knew when it was dangerous. I knew that there was a river there, I would swim up and down the river alone and I knew it so well and I used to walk on the beach and see my footprints and I say I’d love to be able to leave footprints in the sand sometime.
And then, of course, the waves would come and wash the footprints. Well, let’s figure so that’s my footprint that’s gone already, and I haven’t even started. Then when my father left we had a, a woman who worked in the house, and then who did the housework and my mother went to her she was a black woman Nerva’s Chiba and said, Nervas, I have no money to pay you. I’ve got to let you go, and Nervas said, Mrs. King.
She obviously knew what was happening. As an eight year old, nobody told me, and all Nervous said Mrs. King who’s talking about paying me she said You and I are going to bring up these four boys. Don’t worry, we will have enough to eat. They were pretty good at growing things and weirdly enough, you work in the shop and I’ll look after the house and she became part of our family. It was amazing.
We just loved her and she loved us and it was an amazing relationship to see a black woman and a white woman in South Africa in those days, but my mother came from a farm I have my first quite a long period time. We lived on a farm in central Africa and when my father had died an angina attack and had to go to the coast and he was a farmer and all my little mates work with the local black fellows, and my mother has always been pretty colorblind. I mean, everybody is so important to her and what brought me to my senses at that time, I think because then I went to boarding school and I had to cope with boarding school.
I had to work out things in my own mind, but not long after my father vanished and by the way, I ran my first company at the age of eight. Wow, when I say that what happened was he was a child, my father used to run a little dairy in the village and so every morning he would get up and organize the milking of the cows and then the distribution and etc, etc. When he vanished, he just walked out and left the dairy and so my mother said, Well, look, I’ve got to get up early to do the shop every morning.
Because at times you would have to go all the way into the town to pick up orders for people who would place orders in this village shop and you would go and fetch them and we had no phone we had no running water. We had no electricity. I mean, we had two bedrooms, that dining room and a lounge. A note we had a kitchen had no bathroom, we bathed just in a tub in the kitchen, and, and so she said you must run the dairy.
So I said, Well, alright, an hour to get up at 5:30 Every morning, organize the dairy, then go to school, then that afternoon, go back to the dairy and then that taught me a lot because I realized I couldn’t do it alone that we had a couple of men working in the dairy, and I had to be part of that team and that taught me.
I’ve often thought about that time. Anyway, to cut a long story short, and you know, there’s so much to this, but I failed. I had a repeat a year, it was terribly embarrassing. I got a job and this is why I’m interested in Rwanda because I understand these. So many of these young people have come out of what I call having a village worldview.
After the genocide, the parents fled into villages, and they stayed there, many of them now highly educated their university graduates, but they’ve still got a village worldview because they haven’t been exposed to the world, and it’s got nothing to do with them or it’s just, that’s where they’ve been, that’s been their first block in the life as it were, and that’s why I understand it, and often, when I’ve spoken to, there was one I was talking to about 70 people, lately young people and one guy said, you know, what do you know didn’t know about our situation.
You white? You have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you’ve had everything you don’t know what it is to be deprived of, and I said, Let me tell you a story. At the end of my story, one gets guy gets up and he said you one of us. I’m one of you and another fella got up and he said, If you can make it so can I said absolutely.
Let’s go now you know and they got really excited. So it was that time though, that I had to go through those experiences. I’ve got a job as an office boy in a company in a company, male ship company that would have mail shipped from South Africa to Europe every week and it was just after the war and all that period were pre-war, depression, the war, and then just immediate post-war. Except for Southwest wasn’t an easy time. I’m in it for everybody, not only for me.
I got a job in one day. The second year, I was called up and had to go to the Navy. So I was in the Navy but I learned to cope and be able to defend myself in all these situations because I had been and been to all of those experiences. You know, I didn’t come out of a bedroom with the big mattress beautiful bed, a hard funny mattress, and that little bed, so could and I could work I could. I could cope with all of those situations, and then a guy offered me a job up in Central Africa. He, they was opening an office there at this company travel company.
So I went up there I couldn’t afford to stay there because I was supporting my mother at the stage. She had retired in the four boys were saving her money. I couldn’t do that. So I went back to South Africa to I thought if I lived with her, and at the same time, gave her the money. It would help.
So I did that and but I worked for a tire company and I had a good friend who worked for another tire company and also those days, you know, people don’t realize in South Africa in the 40s and 50s and 60s, there was a lot of division amongst the whites. They always think of black white, but I tell you, Afrikaans English, they come out of the Boer War and they used to go home and say, you know, my boss is still fighting the Boer war and he’s on that side and he walked in one day and he said I believe you telling you speeding and telling our competitors about our company secrets, and I said absolutely not. I didn’t know what would have done that, and he said Also, you’re not doing a good job, you’re fired.
Now I’d failed in school, I’ve been fired. In those days, you had a travel card that merely said, where you everybody had it where you worked and at the end, there was a one, two and three, one, if you were, if you resigned, that was fine, too. If you were made redundant, it does less fine, because you don’t make really good people redundant. You know, okay, but you may be slow gate three, you are fired and I had a three on my card.
I went, apply for a job as a storeman in a company and the guys saw my screen and he said, Look, sorry, mate, you’re out of here, we not going to take you on? I went home that day. Now, when I was about 15. Not long after my father left, my mother was pretty devastated and I remember she would cry at night and put a pillow over my head in my bedroom because of her being upset.
He actually ran off with another woman, but I never knew that. I only saw him again 10 years later and only then did I know where he was, but he, one day, a Methodist minister came down to kids beach, and got friendly with mom and said, you know, Doris, what you need is to give your heart and life to Jesus Christ and so mom said not been a good Methodist all my life. You know, she said, I’m not talking about the Methodist Church, I’m talking about having a personal relationship with a person and his name is Jesus Christ and so he said, Well, okay, let me try this, her life change like that, she became much more confident, she got over the sorrow and maybe the embarrassment to of having a husband walkout, etc, etc.
I could see the change in her and it made us much more I don’t know settled in the family, but we were fairly I mean, for boys like that and we were all very active than the others played good sports much better than I and one was academically good but the three others were not good but one but the other two, we’re very good at rugby and cricket and when I went to, eventually, the teachers say to me, a Peter they said, your brothers were good at sports, rugby and cricket, usually, what’s wrong with you? And I said, Well, I’m trying but I was never an actual sport. I loved it.
I played one advantage I had was living it kids be throwing a swim for this college and I said, None of my brothers ran for like, and but my other brother was very good academically, and he passed right to HSC, and, and they would say to me, hang on. Don Don was clever, what’s wrong with you?
You see, I was caught a logo, getting caught in the door, and oh, gee, man, everybody used. So I didn’t know where I was and then having failed and being fired, and then when I was fired, and I didn’t get that job, I hadn’t been a Christian long had given and I still wasn’t what was all this about? You know? And that time I went home after not getting that job, and I said, Lord, I’m not one who sees visions, and God doesn’t speak to me other than maybe reading the scriptures and picking up the values, etc, from there.
I said to, I knelt down said, Lord, hang on, what is this about? You know, they would say, if you become a Christian or boy, everything is going to be fine. You know, everything. Wow. I said, Hang on, Lord. It’s not fine, are you real? Are you even there? And I said that day, Anthony, I’m never going to apply for another job again in my life, Lord, if You real? You better give me one. You better find them for me because I’m not going to do it. I’m finding it too embarrassing. My self-image was low, Self-confidence was gone, and you know, a couple of days later, a man came up to me and said a Peter, he said, I hear you unemployed.
I said, Yeah, man, he said, That’s fantastic as it is fantastic for you, maybe not for me and he said, I’m a strong man in a company called African oxygen, BOC British oxygen company and I want to leave urgently and quickly, but my boss had said, you, you’ve got to work out your notice and unless you can find your replacement, and he said, would you be my replacement and without even producing my three, I’ve got a job and I’ve never applied for a job since I’ve always been headhunted.
I’ve never applied for promotion because I said, Lord, You’ve got to do it. If you really, then you know that, that that must be part of the reality of my experience in
Anthony Hartcher 26:06
So as a Christian it gave you incredible belief, and face because you saw it come to fruition in your life. That’s right, when you’re ill in despair and had nothing can feel a complete failure and you and you’re thinking, Well, I can’t do anything else now wants me to thrive under rejected, essentially but if you’re real, Lord, then prove yourself.
Peter King 26:33
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah and that’s exactly what happened and then little after that, I got a job, and would you believe I was offered a job from African oxygen. I happen to hitchhike up to soldier in Central Africa, because I had the memories of the farm in central Africa during the war and I wanted to go back sometime and my brothers had spread out and so I had to make all these decisions by myself because I didn’t have a father. I’ve often said, I wonder what to relax to have a father, you know, say, Dad, what do you think I should do? And, and so I went, I wanted to go back, because I had worked there for a while when I was with Union-Castle, in the travel people.
So I went up there now Anglo American, you, people don’t take Anglo, Anglo American don’t take people unless they’ve got a degree this long. I mean, this is, because it’s such a big corporation. It’s a bit like the civil service, you have to get on, you’ve got to have these degrees and I met a guy and he said, Hey, Pete, I think you’d be good at, in the personnel department and I, thought how do you spell personnel is it two n’s or two l’s and so, I, he said, but I said, What, and then anything about it and he said, I’ll train you.
He said, Okay, yes because we have been taking the view that if somebody offered me a job, and I didn’t do well, it’s their fault, not my their fault and so I took it, and you have no idea. This massive big building now up to them, I had been a storm and even when I was on the travel with Union costs of company and travel company, you always were talking to somebody in an on a counter or something, and I had an office and as I walked out this long passage towards my office and all the doors what, what, what, what are you doing in office? You sit and feet? What do you think? I’ve never done this, you know, it’s a funny feeling and you probably don’t understand that but that was my background of particularly
Anthony Hartcher 29:17
Going into Personnel Management. People. They’re all locked in behind their doors.
Peter King 29:23
Now, your personnel, you sit there and say, Okay, I’m thinking personnel, what do you say? What do you do? I learned farts. Very fast.
Anthony Hartcher 29:34
Knock on lots of doors
Peter King 29:38
But it was a strange feeling and that’s where I can say that throughout my life. Even that early period, that first block down coming to the second block, where I had to work but at first it was an unhappy time because I didn’t know I thought that was Natural, I thought everybody had a house that you bathed in an in the kitchen, you know, then then you had a candle every night, and also was towards the second half of the war.
So we had it would have all our lights out the new way and we had the odd ship, that was sinking, the Germans would go around with the U boats, and we would have rubbish come out and onto the, onto the beaches. So it was an interesting time but it was, yeah, wasn’t all that unhappy, but very difficult. I mean, I don’t know if those two things can live in parallel with each other and, and really have a lot of fun with my brothers when they come down from boarding school..
Anthony Hartcher 30:54
I think a difficult time is bringing us closer together, would you? Yes. Would you agree with that?
Peter King 30:59
Yes, I had a very good relationship with my brother, but brothers, but only one I was really close to because the other one also blamed himself by the way for the breakup of my mother and father’s marriage and my second brother, her second eldest, he also, but not to the same extent, I was confused. I thought maybe there was something wrong with me but I didn’t blame my mother, that the breakup was between them and one brother saw my father come out of a little tea room, where have a village tea room where this woman work and my father saw him looking at him, and gave him money to be quiet about it and well, this is how he read it and so as my father pulled off in the car, my brother threw the money at the car, because he was pretty upset about it but he said, it took me some time finding that money again because he wasn’t going to leave it.
Anthony Hartcher 32:24
Particularly when you’re so desperate for money at that time.
Peter King 32:32
But then I come to the second part and I once sat down around that time and I said, I can wallow in my self-pity, I can wallow in my background, I can say I’ve, I’ve come from a broken home, I can say my father didn’t love me and say we had no money and then wallow in this and I realized that 10 years later, I would still be wallowing in the same self-pity, and I said to myself, it’s my life. Hang on.
Nobody’s gonna worry about whether I’m have come from a broken home or not, or had no money or not. No clothes, etc. Nobody’s gonna worry about that. It’s my life. Now, what am I going to do with it? And I think with my faith, I said, Lord, you gotta help me now, and that’s when I said, prepare me to do the sort of things from now on. I’m going to win. I’m going to and I started studying a little bit and, and that’s when my career took off, with Anglo, I was transferred to Central Africa right into but I wish we hadn’t tended to stay there for the rest of my life and in fact, became a citizen of it was in those days was the citizen of the Federation of Rhodesia nicely, and there were three countries that came together, northern release a Southern Rhodesia, and what was then called Nyasa, land, and Nisa and became Malawi.
Suddenly, Chu is now Zimbabwe and northern Rishi became Zambia and when that Federation broke up, you automatically took on the citizenship of the country in which you were living in domicile, and that happened to be Zambia. So I became a Zambian citizen and I went overseas and my Zambian British passport, it was a funny passport but after independence, President Cohen came to power and said you’re gone. You’re the wrong color. We went all the whites out of Zambia.
So they nationalize the mines and the companies, and even though we said, well, hang on we citizens. Your problem.
Anthony Hartcher 35:16
Just because of your colour, yes, discrimination,
Peter King 35:19
Oh, it was reversed, but nobody worried about it in those days, the reverse they worried about but yes, not the other way around. So I went back to South Africa and, immediately I met a guy who had heard that I was coming back had some experience in personnel, and I must have been about 28, the stage 29. They said, Please come and work on the mines now in the personnel department, and it was interesting because I’ve never been I’ve never managed anybody. I mean, I didn’t have a long list of educational qualifications. and he said to me, the general manager of the mine now the mine had 15,000 people, the general manager on the mine in the bush, I used to often say this God, and just below them as the General Manager of the mine because everybody behaved to him and wow if he ever spoke to you.
He said one day said, I want you to undertake a management development program for all of our senior people. I said, Okay. Well, you know, what is management? What, what is it? And he said, we’ll send you away for a couple of weeks to train you in management, and it was amazing. I mean, I read the Louis L. L. In planning, organizing ed in the contract.
I’ve learned so much from it so much and I was able to come back and say to the General Manager, this guy Excuse me, sir, but you’re not allowed to do that but I could use the training program to tell him I could never say Raul excuse me sir, please don’t do that and we created relationships, in interracial relationships, and all of these sorts of things. It was a fantastic time.
I remember one story, we, had anybody, anybody across 15,000 people, if you assaulted anybody else, whether it was the senior manager, or junior or whatever, they were fired immediately and, and we used to train them and how to deal with people consider everybody to be important, except for kids. One of the senior guys came to me one day and he said, Peter, I’m going to I mean, assault this guy is down underground.
Now. If you go underground, it’s a couple of kilometers down, these mines are very deep and, and, and I’ve been going down and it’s hot, really hot, we have to actually put everybody through a training program to see whether their body will adjust to the heat and if they don’t, they get surface jobs and the risks go underground and so it’s hot, and he went underground, he used to have a fellow who would carry his bags, etc. because he was a senior guy, but they change them around often.
So we chained that fella and he met up with him in the stove. Really hot and he had a big coat on and this guy said the mine manager said a mine Captain he was it. Take your coat off, man. Okay, sir. Thank you all took it off and he thought that’s interesting. So he went down there a few days late, and he had this contract again and he said, I told you this is an instruction. Take your coat off. Yes. So he took it off and now this is ridiculous. He went down again, and he had his coat on? And he came up to us and said. What am I going to do? I’m going to hit this guy. Oh, get him out of my section. I don’t want him.
So we went to this guy and said, hey, you know, it’s hot. He’s told you to take your coat and he said, Do you know that he’s the only time he will talk to me and say good morning is if I wear my coat. Otherwise, he ignores me, but he said to me, my mind can just say hello to him and we solved the problem. So these are the sorts of things that we were having to deal with a lot. I learned so much during that period of time.
Anthony Hartcher 39:53
But what were your key learnings during that cutting that HR sort of roles that human resources are?
Peter King 39:57
Well, I think it came out of my first block, that people are important. People. If you, if you give them the mission or the vision in terms of what they have to do not mean be a big vision, but it has to be that you clearly define what you want and often say even today, people we should focus on output, not input. So, tell the people what you want and allow them to do it be accountable for their own jobs, and they will respond.
If you just tell them all the time and treat them as though they are totally ignorant, then they will be ignorant. If you treat them as responsible people, they will perform, you see. And these are the sort of things that I look back in my own life, and I said, Hang on, these are the things that I’ve had to learn, but also are then started to, you know, be trained in terms of management development.
I was able, eventually, to put all of those things back into practice, but I’ve come up through the HR route and that’s been most helpful for me, and I’ll tell you why because I then I was headhunted, again, from the mines. to a company called Venleer, and you’ve ever heard of them, but Venleer International and it’s a big company and I joined them in the HR area.
They asked me, to move me to Holland to touch base, and they said, We want you to develop a whole HR program. Which I did but I did it on the basis of what does the company need by way of people? And how do we fit the people into that my age, our experiences have never been making people happy? I don’t believe in making people happy, I believe in making people effective and I guarantee they will be happy in content, it’s not happiness, you know, heavy, heavy, heavy, but they will feel satisfied, they will feel as though they are contributing.
When I ran Venleer, eventually and when I came over here, as the Managing Director, I had people come to me and say, you know, for the first time I like to come to work, I feel important and all they did was the operator on a line, they say you are important, you can stop this whole line. If the person next to you is giving you a bad product that you can’t do the next part of it, stop him and talk to him and I’d say Who’s your supplier, that guy who are you supplying to? Who’s your customer, that guy, it’s not the fellow buying out there and you integrate all of these positions together and every person in an organization is important. I don’t care if you’re the sweeper, you are important.
If you’re not important, and you’re not contributing to the results of the organization, then why are you there? Why do you need them? So that’s been? that’s those are the things that I really learned during that period of time.
Anthony Hartcher 43:49
So when did you realize that you’re important in this world like it because you started out with so much hardship, and you lack self-worth, self-confidence, self-belief, and there’s a point where it’s switched and you saw that you could contribute greatly. So
Peter King 44:08
Well, that’s quite an interesting question because I, I’ve always said that, you know, I’ve written a little paper, which I’ll show you later, how to make a vision reality and I’ve talked a lot about having the vision and the vision must be there, but the practical side of getting there.
You’ve got to start working, you know, working it out as to how to get there. If you just had the vision, then 10 years later, you still have the same vision unless you say how am I going to do that? What am I going to do a Baptist and create the vision so that when I was this is a bit contrary to My experience but what I didn’t do was to say, I’m going to work my butt off my competitor is not to be a CEO, I never thought I would ever get to become a CEO.
Never because I didn’t have that background and experience to say you can do this but I wanted to be at that level, the best of all my mates, my fellow people, not not to the negative, but I just wanted to be maybe I had this desire to be accepted, I was too petrified not to be exempt, and to prove yourself and improve myself, so I had to work pretty hard, and that I think, has given me the experience, the ability, and the recognition, but other things happened as well. It’s quite amazing. When I was about 27 / 28, I saved I never thought I would ever travel. I never thought I’d have enough money to go overseas.
I was saved like, Man, when I was in Central Africa, in Cape we in on the mines to go and on a trip overseas, and I went overseas, and that was fantastic. playing Monopoly, but real, you know, you walk down the whole mall, and you saw the real things and I came back by ship and on the way back. I was the most of these ships. Most people are about 70 / 80 but I was young and there were a couple of us young, and we had all these sports programs and I won most of them because not that they were so good but everybody else was too old but there was one guy who we were playing decoys, you know, these stray these decoys and he was crooking and he would walk up in front of me and kick mine and say I have gone two of yours and a man came to me towards the end of the trip, and he said, Peter, I’ve been watching you and I want to tell you that one day you will be successful.
Wow, I needed those little reaffirm affirmations and he said if and he gave me his card, he was the chairman of old mutual, which was one of the biggest companies in South Africa, big insurance Investment Company.
He said, Come and see me. Well, I never took him up because I love what do I know about insurance? I know a little about personnel but not insurance. What do you do? Wait for people to die, and then the pain? And but those little incidents came? I dont know, it was as though God is saying, hang on. You’re important. Not only You’re important to me, God, that I was prepared to send my son to die for you. But But But you’re okay, you know, you will make it and a couple of those situations. Suddenly people would talk to me out of the blue and say, keep going, keep going.
Anthony Hartcher 48:39
Probably at those times when you just needed that encouragement.
Peter King 48:42
Anthony Hartcher 48:43
And it’s probably what you miss when you’re a kid at that father figure sort of providing that courage, man. Absolutely. You can do it, son and that’s yeah, you sort of had that radar out there always and hoping that that guidance would come and that guidance really came in the form of God right. In your life.
Peter King 49:01
Yeah, absolutely and this is why I mean, you know if you have a discussion about God and His he railed what I don’t believe God exists. I often say that’s fine but in life, every decision we make has a consequence. Now, if God doesn’t exist, then you will live your life outside of God and your consequences that if he does exist, you’ve missed out, right? You’ve missed out. It’s though these people say I don’t believe God exists and therefore he doesn’t exist. Hang on. You don’t kill a god off by saying he doesn’t exist.
He exists or he doesn’t exist but it’s got nothing to do with you whether you say you believe, or you don’t believe, but the consequences are very significant if he does, and you say he does and, and so I, you know, I’ve often said, every decision that I’ve taken as a consequence, what are those consequences?
The first block that I was talking about, that’s what I think I learned my values more than the other two blocks because I use those as a building block, to affect my attitude to people, my faith in God, and my commitment to work.
Anthony Hartcher 50:44
Please share those values, what are the values?
Peter King 50:47
The values are that I am important because God saved me and he, he said he son, people that I deal with are important and I’ve, I’ve actually implemented those when, when I was involved in charge of HR in front layer and in other companies. They are reflected in the decisions we took, in management.
What do I mean by that, oh, we had a policy in Vanleer, which we created that we would never employ a person on a temporary basis. If we employ him, it was permanent employment. Why? Because he was important, you had to think of him in terms of his relationship with his family. If after six months, you say, okay, it hasn’t worked out, I’m sorry, you got to go. He’s now going to go and find another job he etc, and the responsibility of him on employing him is ours.
If we make a mistake, there, we have to compensate him and that might hurt local managers but I can assure you they learn fast, too, how to select people better, it’s not just oh, well, I’ll take you on, see if it works. If it doesn’t work, you’re out, no they’re too important and those are the sort of things that I was able, to implement in a business environment because those are the values, and the values are really based on the 10 commandments.
That, you know, you’ve got to honor least your mother, in my case, not my father, but don’t lie, because the consequences I mean, these are not only values that God says I want you to abide by but they value from the 10 commandments that create a good society, a good community, and a cohesive community brings people together and that’s why it’s so important.
Anthony Hartcher 53:28
I just wanted to touch on that point that you’ve brought up a few times about choice and you mentioned you know, there’s every there’s a consequence to every decision we make, just want to reflect you know, when I guess Australia, modern society, quite affluent compared to previous generations, you know, very, there’s, they have a lot more available to them because of the affluence and so they have this paradox of choice in terms of their decision making.
It’s sort of they’ve got this abundance this I guess smorgasbord of choice and, and, and that is often a stress point for these young, this younger generation in terms of art, what subjects do I choose a total? What university degree do I choose? What do I have a break before studying university do I go and travel the world and experience the world because I’ve got the money to do that my parents will give me the money, I can go to this university. I can go to this private school and study these exclusive courses and this is bringing a lot of stress into these young people.
I really wanted to put this in perspective as to obviously the path you’ve walked and that way you had very little choice and it was all about survival and I just what’s your advice to the younger generation today when this stuck in the in this conundrum of what do I do?
Peter King 54:56
Can I just step back for a second and I have an I have meals with my grandchildren and what we discussed is something about like this and I point out that we are born with three parts to us? The one part is your physical appearance, you know, you be your small new, you, you fix it, your son and there’s not much you can do about that but you do, you are able to work at it, train it, make sure you’re fit, make sure you’re healthy and that’s a part that’s terribly important, but that’s the external part of you.
The second part is equally, if probably even more important and that part is your commitment to be somebody, to commitment to do something, it’s kind of who you are. Just that I’m going to win, I’m going to succeed, I’m going to make the right choices. Now you make the right choices, often based on the values that you have got out of your home, or out of your church or youth groups, or whatever it is out of the 10 commandments and that’s the value system that you’ve got to use.
In terms of, hey, I’ve got to study. Now, what do I study? Well, the problem we have now is you’re absolutely right, I can take anything I like and some of them are so vague, and you can’t possibly understand what the thing is that I’m studying, but if it doesn’t work out, that’s alright, I’ll go and do something else because these choices are all here, but if you can come back and focus on your decisions, and you make those decisions based on your value systems, and maybe a little bit about your physical world, and where you come from, etc. But that’s what you’ve got to work out.
The third part of who we are is our spirituality. It’s our relationship really with God. Now, some of us ignore that and say there are no gods, I don’t care about that. So it’s all about self, it’s all about me, I’m going to do whatever I like to do and I couldn’t care the impact it has on anybody and that that’s also part of it, that I couldn’t care about the real impact it has on other people because if I had if I had a relationship with God, I’d realize that I’ve also got a relationship with other people and a responsibility and that value system I’ve got to work out and so with my grandchildren, I’d say, you’ve got to work on all of those three, you’ve got to work on your value systems, your spirituality.
Now, I’m not saying that everybody has to be, we’d say everybody should be a Christian, but you might choose not to be, but at least know your spirituality and your value systems and what they are based on and use those and that’s the three-part of you that has got to, you’ve got to work at that.
You’ve got to develop it, you’ve got to, you’ve got to say, Where am I in my three? Have I got the right job in business? That’s, that’s your commitment to your career? Am I training physically to be helpful? But what is it doing in terms of my relationship with my God, if I believe in him, but without my people, if I don’t believe in them, because is that just ignored? And often, we just take these other two and maximize it and that’s where we see success in business.
You know, why it’s selfish, I have succeeded and I came to that position when we were that led us into our third block, actually. When I was CEO of Fairfax, and I left Fairfax, and I got a call from Dick Pret, and Dick said, Please come and run Pratt industries for me, I want to go live in the States and please come and run it and so I took a two year contract and lived in Melbourne and at the end of that contract, I came back I said, Hang on.
I have now lived all over The world because we’ve been there I ran from there to Holland have lived in England, Australia lived up and down Africa. I’ve run companies in America, in Asia, but what’s it all about? Do we just continue to try and accumulate more wealth, we’ll never be really wealthy, I won’t be able to write out a check for a million dollars and give it to will vision or somebody like that, but hey, I’ve got my experience, I’ve got who I am my background and God has been so good to us as a family.
How do we give something back all these experiences having run this multinational company, whereby the different cultures have oftentimes conflicted with, with other cultures, and we’ve had to sort them out, I’m very comfortable with multiculturalism, I love to work and be with different cultures, I’ve set on the floor of a home in India with just a cost who was no sound on the floor, because there was no furniture, one bedroom and talking to ladies and I suddenly thought, those costs people the, the big problem they have is they don’t believe they are worth anything and I was a little like that at one point.
So I understand that not to the same extent because they cost people are worthless and yet, when you talk to them, these ladies and sitting on the floor, they have this same, they love, they hate, if they cut themselves, they bleed, and they want their children to be better off than they are and I thought this is a real privilege sitting here with these people. This is amazing to me. I have worked and walked with, you know, presidents and royalty but that was a privilege and so I’ve been able to work in those different cultures and patronize it.
Why don’t we sit back and just see how can we give back to God? I mean, if we haven’t, you know, a multi multimillionaires? Well, it is but we’ve got enough to live on and live reasonably comfortably. Until the government starts taking our money away from taxes we are moved into my third blog, but all the time you bring with you, your experiences, your values, even your ambitions and we became quite ambitious not to achieve anything right now. I have no ambitions to become anything and in a sense in a funny way.
I can’t, I always have a certain uncertainty about losing everything in going back to where I came from but at the same time, I can’t be fired anymore. If somebody if I’m working involved with World Vision or somebody and they say that’s it like you’re out. Fine, it doesn’t get done.
Anthony Hartcher 1:03:46
Was said uncertainty in a way a driver for you because you didn’t want to go back to where you were. Yeah and so that made you work harder and improve as an individual and you just mentioned that an important one I wanted to touch on was accomplishments, right?
You said, there are no more accomplished accomplishments I want to achieve but you know, when we were talking earlier, and then reflecting, you mentioned, well, I didn’t aspire to be a CEO and you ended up being a CEO of multiple, many companies and I was thinking like today that, you know, the getting back to the younger generation and indeed, just for the younger generation, in terms of, you know, I guess, speaking to people like yourself, who have accomplished a lot, but also given back a lot and really wanting to help the young people not get too hung up on, as I said, this paradox of choice and, you know, make that a big stress point of their life.
It’s, you know if you put it in context of what your life was, then their stress point is nothing So where I’m getting to, is this thing of having this whole goal list or this backup, this, you know, my, my life’s only worth living, if I achieve all these items in backup, this my life’s only worth, you know, I’m gonna chase that sees, I’m a failure. Exactly and, you know, often there’s, there’s, you know, like, it’s like chasing a gold medal, for example, they spend everything and they invest so much time in and if they miss that pinnacle, and they can be missed by milliseconds or, you know, micro millimeters or whatever because you’re dealing with the elite of the elite, they become very depressed, and they think, you know, life’s not worth living.
I just really wanted you to just reflect on that this whole thing of goals and ticking the box and accomplishments, because you haven’t done that you’ve just arrived at where you are today based on you, wanting to improve yourself, improve your self-worth, and not go back to where you were living your values, and you just went on this journey. So, please.
Peter King 1:06:05
Yeah, it’s interesting. Anthony because, you know, some people say, you can be whatever you want to be, go for it and I say, No, you can’t be whatever you want in there that is fictitious, I want to be the President of the United States, or no, you can’t be that but I want to be the best at what I’m doing. I want to accomplish as much as I can within my own abilities and personalities and I’m going to work my butt off to do that.
So in a way, you, you avoid incredible disappointments because you have achieved a lot of people achieved enormous objectives, but not to be a CEO of a major corporation in some way because it’s not who you were meant to be but you can be the best at what you are doing, you can be successful and there’s those little steps that you should and that’s why I used to love going down to the factory floor with them there and talking to the guys on the factory floor and one guy used to say I have now come to work with a little briefcase now he’s an operator, and we gave him a little calculated because we said you on our account to ensure that and we talked about quality and you know people think of quality as in terms of if I’ve got a Rolls Royce, I’ve got a quality car.
No, wrote there’s some Rolls Royces that are will let you down, and yet, you might have a low cost car that keeps going and does what you expect it to be. This is the condition the definition of quality, that’s a quality car or product because it adheres to my expectation. If it doesn’t, then is not a quality and so we say to workers, we are going to produce a quality drum and that drum will meet the expectations of the buyer every time they will not have a leaker and in fact, to the extent that we said that we’re at the end of a line, we there was about eight or nine different activities that you well, then you press a lever and do something else a new model and then we’d have an inspector when I came from overseas to take over.
They will have an inspector making sure and they would check every third or fourth or fifth drum and I’d say no, we’re going to get rid of that guy. No, no, you can’t do that we’re getting rid of him because down the line, everybody is going to perform their job to the extent that the drum that comes up will be the best we can do. It will not leak and we did that but everybody we said You’re important that make sure your weld is okay if you want to leak it.
Stop everything and know why it’s leaking. So again, little calculators and like I said, I come to work every morning with my briefcase in my third buy newspaper in my calculator, and I say to my son who’s at university with the computer I also got a little inner.
He was important. It’s there’s an achievement in everybody, we can all do it. We can all do it and the winner is not the guy who parses the post first, the winner is the guy who passes the post every single time.
Anthony Hartcher 1:10:16
Because we’re all completely unique and different absolute different qualities with absolutely we walk at different speeds, we run at different speeds, which, you know, our physical strength is different, as you said, our physical, what we’re given is a gift and we’ve got to appreciate what we’ve given and, and we could just do the best with what we’ve got.
Peter King 1:10:35
Absolutely, absolutely. So that’s why we move from it from success, limited, but success to significance, and that’s why in the last 25 years, I’ve just been volunteering now and saying, Lord, I can give back to you but you’ve given me and you’ve given me experiences, you’ve given me values, you’ve given me the ability to cope with life, not withstanding the stock that I had, and, and so that’s why we do it.
That’s why I’ve been of World Vision opportunity, Northern Beaches, Christian school, Rowanda to help the persecuted. It’s not that I’m you know, important to all. I never expected any of these college rejections or all that do even at Harvard, I remember, I’ll never forget all that. Well, I did the ANP program and at the end, I mean, all my, the competitors, so call them competitors in the class, and they’re all MBAs and doctorates and MBAs BComms another instance and I wasn’t here to tell, I used to be embarrassed about the fact that I had no education.
Now I can talk about it, because it makes no difference and then, at the end of the program, they asked me to make the speech thanking all the professors have done, boy, if you came from, you will never have asked me to make the speech but I wasn’t more important or less important than just, it just you use whatever you’ve got.
You know, the trial is like that Scripture in the Old Testament been Moses in God said to Moses, Moses, Go out and lead the people of, of Egypt, out of Egypt, the people, the Jews, my people and he said, Now, Lord, I can’t do it and he said, What do you get in your hand there? And he says, oh, a stick, Throw it on the floor and see what I’ll show you what I can do with it. So you threw down and became a serpent and you picked it up again and I say to people, what have you got in your hand?
I tell I must tell you an illustration. I say to young people, I’ll give you a wrote a paper for discussions on what are the three fundamentals of development in the third world and in the first one, the one is education. The one is economic and the third one is value.
Those are the three, you can buy health, and you can buy agriculture and get it you know, but those who’ve got those three fundamentals, you can do all these other things and I give them when I talk to a big bunch of young people, and they get it. I say, you know, there was a village, and there was a big house outside the village and there was a wise old guy there, but a lot of people were nervous what they were afraid of this wise guy but the rumor was that he knew everything and so don’t go near him, you know, be careful and there were a couple of those boys and one little fellowship. Look, I’m sorry. Nobody can know everything. Why don’t we test this? So three of them got together and said, okay, and they got a little bird.
And they carried it behind their back and they decided to go to the house and knock on the door and say to the man, I’ve got a bird behind me is dead or is it alive? And if he says it’s alive, wring its neck and say you’re wrong, it’s dead, and if he says it’s dead, I’ll say you’re wrong. sec, we’ve got it, we will really know. So they went up with fear and trembling, and they knocked on the door and they said, sir, but he was a kind old guy, big beard bows and they said, Excuse me, sir, but I’ve got a bird. Is this dead? Or is it alive? And the fellow said, huh? Yeah, let’s, then he said Young man, the answer is in your hands.
So I say to all these people, and you’ll notice the end of my little paper there. We have a discussion group I said, the answer is in your hands. Now, get off your back, forget about your circumstances, you can do it, you can be much better than you are, you can go on a course of a journey, that you can do it and I’ve seen it, and I’ve seen it when I have met with World Vision and opportunity and I’ve seen these young guys come to me, and particularly woman, thank you, thank you for giving me a chance.
Thank you for believing in me that you guys were prepared to give me a loan. Like kids are now going to school, they got food in their stomach, and they now have a chance and you’ve got a chance. Right? Do it.
Anthony Hartcher 1:16:32
Absolutely. Just a couple of final things I wanted to bring up was out of those three phases you spoke about is the one that you thought I was the happiest in that phase. Is there a particular phrase that stands out in terms of happiness?
Peter King 1:16:48
Oh, that’s an interesting question. I think that the level of happiness is defined by the level of satisfaction. As I said, our role in business running a company was not to make our staff happy, if you wanted to make them happy, double their salaries, and they will be very happy for six months and then they want another double salary.
No, if you are achieving something, if you are achieving your goals, if you feel that you’re contributing something. I think that that is the definition to me of happiness. Happiness is no happiness is tea, I’ve done something today. I have, I’ve had output, my input has resulted in output. When I’m running business seminars, I always say don’t expect inputs, expected outputs.
Now you’ve got to have good input to get output but you can have a lot of in other words don’t have efficiencies have effectiveness. Now, in order to be effective, you’ve got to have some efficiencies, but it’s not aiming at efficiencies is what do you want to achieve? And value of people also in terms of helping them achieve? Not to be satisfied, but in a sense to be unsatisfied? And I think show I I’m not sure whether I was terribly unhappy when we were because I didn’t know anything else, you know, I just got up early in the morning and did the milking and ran the dairy.
Anthony Hartcher 1:19:16
You’re making progress and that gave you a sense of importance.
Peter King 1:19:21
Yeah, that’s right. Well, not only did we give you a sense of I had to do it, there was nobody else there was only my mother and myself in their house, and vice gleyber with us and so I had to play my role and that’s why I, that’s why I see. That’s why I focus when we talk about all the organizations that are not for profit. I say let’s be partnerships, not corporations and I’ll give you dozens of papers, the difference between a Corporation a partnership and association and as part of the partnership is when you rely upon each other to do something, and no one person is, is able to do it all and, and I conduct whenever I have a business discussion, I say, Don’t aim for profit. Profit is not what it’s all about.
Is profit important of course, it’s important. Of course, you’ve got to make profit but profit, if you see it as a measurement of doing things, right. If you focus on profit, you can go out of business because you have to cut out often parts of the organization that you should have in order to achieve something better but no, but if your aim and see hang on am I doing things right? And that will result in profit? If, but don’t aim for profit, aim for doing things, right, and so it’s that philosophy that I try and move people away from the normal management development programs, and even when I in not, for-profit organizations, hang on. You’ve got to be effective mate, you’ve got to be output orientated, and even though profit is not the same driving force.
Anthony Hartcher 1:21:35
Just the final comments, I guess the final question is, you know when you’re talking about happiness, you refer back to progress and feeling you making progress, conscious, positive contribution, you’re important.
The other aspect of that was giving back. So giving back to the community, because you’ve been grateful to receive this and therefore that’s my feeling that I should do the same back to others that are a less privileged list of their disadvantage, you’re just to give them an opportunity like I was giving you an opportunity with life.
So I wanted to reflect back on the support people in your life because you didn’t have a father figure, he left very early. You know, you had a wonderful housekeeper and a wonderful mother, you’ve had other people come into your life that has, you know, made a difference and, for me, this is reflected, I guess, it’s the element of gratitude and we know that the more grateful we are for things that we have, the happier we are and so I just wanted you to reflect on and express that gratitude towards those support people who have been so wonderful to you, to enable you to do and be the best Peter King you could ever be.
Peter King 1:22:54
Yeah, it’s, it’s, there have been? No, I think, my, my, my, my spiritual faith has carried me through many, many crises and not understanding what was happening, but just to say, there is a God, you are in control. I don’t know where it is, or can’t see it, but hey, I’m just going to believe in this, and, you know, I, my one brother, Don, who we both went into business.
My eldest brother became, he couldn’t pass exams at school, and yet he became Deputy Commissioner of Police in the British colonial police force. So, but he was a, I hardly very rarely saw him. My brother next to me, Robin, went into more cars, he was in business, but he was in wool and skins and bought and sailed and traveled the world doing that sort of thing.
Whereas Don and I went into corporate life, we were corporate people. He became a director of rare minds and Barlow rand which is a mess of big companies in South Africa, and so when we talk to each other, we would understand each other, we just, we just understood what we were talking about, without ever and so he was very supportive and every now and again, somebody will come into my life.
A very good friend who is really in his 90’s now he had COVID in South Africa, came out of it without any difficulties and problems and we became great, my buddies when I was still single and he said, you know, Peter, don’t worry about achieving things, you will, is it you will achieve it, achieve something, whatever that is and, and so I don’t know, people have come into your life when you needed it, I think and encourage you.
I think also I’ve just had to rely on my faith in the reality of God, now, I might die and God doesn’t exist. Well, I’ve had a great life. If I do die, and God does exist, I hope that he will give me a little house somewhere. If I said he didn’t, he didn’t exist, and then I lived my life and rejected Him, then I would much rather be in my position, than in that alternate position of not existing him, not happiness existed.
So, but there have been there, there’s no doubt about it, you can find them and pick them. The pastor of a church has encouraged you, and it’s a lot of disappointment. Sure. Sure.
Anthony Hartcher 1:26:26
Yeah. I, I really appreciate the time you spent chatting with me and I’ve learned so much in terms of that really making people feel important, that’s really stood out for me and making no matter who they are being nonjudgmental about who they are, and seeing them playing an important role and helping them realize that level of importance.
You certainly did that extremely well in organizations, organizations, hence, you know, the from top down, the organization works so well because everyone knew what their role was, and the importance in the overall scheme of things, and hence why the clogs turned so well and the output was fantastic and as a result, the byproduct the profits were off. And so..
Peter King 1:27:13
It’s interesting, you know, that when I came to Australia, and I can honestly say that it wasn’t me. I can honestly say it wasn’t me but when I was MD of Folio Australia, we doubled profit every year and that’s when they said really, really come and take over the executive director for the group but it’s the people we didn’t fit in Fairfax, by the way. We do that in the VFA.
Anthony Hartcher 1:27:42
It’s incredible how you just focused on the people and
Peter King 1:27:46
Focus on outputs focuses on the people Yes.
Anthony Hartcher 1:27:50
Because that’s the organization’s made up of people.
Peter King 1:27:53
Anthony Hartcher 1:27:53
Peter King 1:27:54
Anthony Hartcher 1:27:55
So it’s not the machines.
Peter King 1:27:56
I always say I really employ people better, that can do their jobs better than me because I can’t whether I’m there, or what do journalists do? etc.. etc
Anthony Hartcher 1:28:12
Yeah, absolutely. So understanding your strengths, and focusing on that and I think that the areas that you’re not great at finding someone that’s really good at that and surrounding yourself in this great team of people, yeah, yeah.
Peter King 1:28:27
Coming back to that concept of profit out and say, the CEO doesn’t make a profit. He’s not even accounting for profit because profit is the strange consequence of, as I said earlier on doing things, right, but each person must be focusing on their job, and it’s not profit, its output for what they have to do sales, manufacturing, distribution and even the accountants I say, accountants don’t produce a lot of figures go to the people in the line and say, what information do you need to make your job easier and better? And I will give to you that’s output. No boy have I got good accounts you look how much information nobody does anything with it, but I’ve given it to you.
Anthony Hartcher 1:29:27
The real servant leader mentality. It’s you know, it’s not that it’s all about me, it’s I It’s the team and usually, you serve the team, the organization and through being that servant leader, you really rise other people and as a result, the organization works great.
I think the other one you know stood out for me is focus on incremental personal progress and be happy with that, that elements of giving back are important. So once you have to give, and, and you’re always going to have something more than someone else.
So you can always give something absolutely throughout your life, but you don’t have to wait until the end of life. So thanks again. I really appreciate it.
Peter King 1:30:13
Well, I hope so. Little bit beneficial.
Anthony Hartcher 1:30:17
Absolutely. I can guarantee that so I really appreciate your time and yeah, I’ll certainly be sharing it with many and, and hoping more and more people can benefit from your words of wisdom.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai