My grandfather, Paul Toose was a brilliant man. He was a Major in the Army at 23, a QC and a NSW Supreme Court Judge, created one of the largest legal communities for South East Asia long before the internet existed, he held Chairman of the Board at numerous companies and was highly sought after for his wealth of experience, knowledge, insight and general brilliance.
Needless to say, I was in the company of greatness my entire childhood (despite not fully appreciating it until later) and I know for a fact his influence on me was not only defining but a one-in-a-million privilege. However he was more than just ‘Judge’ as he was known to his friends. He was a father of four, a loyal and loving husband of 50+ years and a kind hearted, generous man. He never raised his voice, he didn’t swear, he didn’t lose his cool and he would always listen and respond in thoughtful and objective prose.
He was a best friend, a staunch supporter and he always kept a calm disposition. I will never forget the day he passed away and to see my grandmother on the floor with an empty look in her eyes as if she had just lost her own heart. I was 18 and I was just starting to come out of my shell as a man and starting to comprehend and apply all the valuable lessons he’d taught me. Now at 28, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think of him, reference him and quietly hold back a few tears in humble appreciation for the huge importance and influence this man had in my life. I wish I could tell him what I was doing, to get his advice and most of all to determine whether he was proud of the path I was taking. To win the approval and gold star from this man with his qualities, was enough for me.
I do hold something unique in my family though and this is his first name. He was also called Paul and so it’s with great pride and honour I will ensure to never tarnish or cheapen our bond and his legacy.
So I’d like to share a couple of his lessons that have guided me recently and hope they have some meaning for you. There are many many more but right now, today, these are the two that most come to mind.
1) Courtesy costs nothing, good manners even less
My grandfather was a very respectful and honourable man. When he was appointed as a NSW Supreme Court Judge, he cancelled and closed all his commercial investments and dealings to ensure that he would remain impartial when faced with making rulings.
At the time his colleagues thought he was mad and no doubt in his career he never made as much money as they did but he always told me that he knew he slept well at night and knew he would always be objective to the end.
He would often tell me the importance of being respectful and polite in social situations because it was the most powerful currency of all yet it didn’t cost anything more than my diligence and decision to be polite.
For much of my life, I have always thought about the things we do in life that don’t cost money but can have the greatest impact of all – happiness and fulfilment. Being nice to people, complimenting, smiling, being polite etcetera are all things we can trade and we don’t need a penny to do it.
2) You don’t make right or wrong decisions but rather the best decision based on the information you had at the time
Sitting in the NSW Supreme Court ruling on people’s lives, assets, relationships and futures, I was always fascinated about how one would make such heavy decisions and not ever wonder whether they had made the right or wrong decision. After all, he was being paid and required to make the big decisions. Life changing decisions. Then again, if others could make rational and equitable decisions, they wouldn’t have been standing before him!
When I was eighteen years old not long before he died, I remember talking with him about making a decision regarding my job. At the time it was so mild compared to the decisions he had faced in the army, in business and in the courts but at eighteen it felt like a heavy determination for me to make.
He looked at my calmly and explained that decisions always need to be made in life and so understanding how powerful decisions were made, would hold me in good stead for my future. He went on to explain that not making a decision, was still making a decision.
He encouraged me to be bold and resolute in my decision making and to be successful I’d need to fulfil one responsibility – to gather and find all the information I could access at the time to make an informed and educated decision.
At that point, the decision would be ‘right’ based on the circumstances and knowledge I had at that time. Should the result later not work out in my favour, I couldn’t get upset as it was often proved to be unfortunate due to new information coming to light. Information I couldn’t be expected to know particularly if I had searched for it earlier and not found it.
It wasn’t a way of abdicating my responsibility but rather quite the contrary. It was the secret key to making powerful, progressive decisions rather than spending my life abdicating my right to making a decision and having it made for me or worse – not at all!
The impact of his wisdom wouldn’t fully hit me until nearly 27 years old – nine years later when I was faced with the crossroad of my career.
I’ve made some huge decisions in my life since I was eighteen and sitting at my grandparents dining table that Sunday morning before work. I’ll never ever forget my grandfather, his generous and kind nature and the softly spoken yet most profound words he spoke to me.
I will continue to work hard and hope to be as brilliant and noble of a man as he was. I want to ensure my friends, family and colleagues always have the same quality of respect, love, wisdom, objectivity and positive empowerment from me that he gave so generously his whole life.
I love you Deedee and miss you so much.