Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Joe Hildebrand -

writ­ten many books… but I was re­jected by ev­ery­one in Aus­tralia and world­wide. It felt very personal. My mis­take was in how I re­sponded to this. I was so an­gry, and jeal­ous of other pub­lished au­thors. I saw my­self as noth­ing be­cause I only felt pow­er­ful when I was writ­ing.

“I had a strange child­hood in which I had no real power, which is why I es­caped into these imag­i­nary worlds I cre­ated through my writ­ing. My mum had six chil­dren of her own and would also foster kids. So there’d be 12 or 13 chil­dren in the house, and some­times you’d want to hug your mum but you couldn’t, as there would be a trau­ma­tised kid who needed her more.

“It made high school rough. Some of these kids had been ne­glected so they might also have lice or ring­worm. I’d get all this, too. So I was this weird kid with nits who came to school in a minibus full of chil­dren, and who liked to sit by her­self and write sto­ries. I thought, ‘If I can’t get pub­lished and be­come a writer, then who am I?’ I def­i­nitely felt shame.”

Michael Bier­cuk, a quan­tum physi­cist and as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at The Univer­sity of Syd­ney, says he looks back “with self-dis­gust” at the way he in­ter­acted with his col­leagues dur­ing his stint at a man­age­ment con­sul­tant firm in the US. “My mis­take was pro­found,” he says. “I did what [some­one with] a PHD in sci­ence would do; I spoke hon­estly about our or­gan­i­sa­tion’s short­com­ings and pro­vided so­lu­tions I thought would im­prove the business. But I com­pletely failed to un­der­stand the lo­cal work­place cul­ture or how my com­ments might be per­ceived by oth­ers, es­pe­cially peers and su­per­vi­sors. It be­came me parachut­ing in with the so­lu­tion and ef­fec­tively say­ing, ‘All of you have been wrong all along.’ That was what my fail­ure was. De­spite an ed­u­ca­tion from some of the best uni­ver­si­ties, I was never taught the fun­da­men­tals of business in­ter­ac­tion or so­cial psy­chol­ogy. My col­leagues saw me as a trou­ble­maker and some even con­sid­ered me a traitor to the firm.”

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