“At that time, there was a small business in Nazareth called Joseph and Son. Joseph was a carpenter and handyman and his son, Jesus, was his apprentice. They worked together for local customers and also on major projects like the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem. Joseph was Jesus’ father, his boss and his teacher.”


George de La Tour • Saint Joseph charpentier • Paris, musée du Louvre


I once wrote in an earlier book: “I am an author and a motivational speaker. I am also a scientist. The two main features associated with this kind of job are teaching and travel … As you would expect, my niche market has consisted of aspirational thinkers. Those middle-class people who desire a better life and who want better things, especially those who are able to do something about it. I’ve taught parents, educators, scientists, employees, entrepreneurs, CEOs, preachers, politicians, artists and elite sportspeople. The reason aspirational thinkers require motivation is because they know they can do better, they want to do better and so they seek out teachers who might be able to show them a better way.”

But, who teaches the teacher?

From my own experience, every teacher sits on the shoulders of another teacher and, in my case, that teacher was my father, Martin Joseph Peter Hewitt-Gleeson, who was one of the wisest people I have ever known.

Martin Joseph Hewitt-Gleeson, Count de Saint-Arnaud (15.11.1919 – 09.08.2003)

Martin Joseph Peter Hewitt-Gleeson, Count de Saint-Arnaud (15.11.1919 – 09.08.2003)

Dad had a great deal of life experience. At 19 he enlisted in the Australian Army to serve in WWII. He survived in two theatres of war, in the Middle East and in New Guinea.

Before the war he won scholarships for a classical education at St Kevin’s College in Toorak.

He was a bibliophile and read everything from Marcus Aurelius to Patrick White, and had a great deal of general knowledge and common sense. He had a natural noblesse oblige which I believe he got from his mother and was well known for his spontaneous generosity, his cheerful demeanour and lively sense of humour.

He was also very lucky.

He survived bowel cancer, completely cured, and other narrow escapes. He lived a good life for 84 years.

Dad was a clever survivor. Through a great depression and a world war and he was a lifelong chronic asthmatic.

Survival is clever and requires intelligence. Long term survival endows wisdom and this is a very clever thing, indeed. From the hard-won accomplishment of longevity emerges broad experience and special knowledge. It cannot be taught. It also offers a deep appreciation of the role that sheer random luck plays in long term survival.

The experience of surviving for a complete generation through childhood, adolescence and adulthood endows knowledge and perspective that a young brain simply cannot match.

To achieve 50 years of survival, through two or more generations, allows the brain to build a database of experience which offers a perspective of history, an understanding of long term consequences, a faculty for prediction and a wisdom that cannot be acquired in any other way. It takes half a century. Yes, dad was wise but he was forever a lot of fun.

He used to always say, “Nobody’s perfect!”.

My dad also taught me a lot of other things and, like anybody’s dad, he had his famous sayings. Sayings which he repeated many times and which I now find myself repeating, too. Here is a list of ten of my dad’s famous sayings:

• Life is more important than work. Work is only urgent.

• When you’re not sure what to do, son, just go to the beach!

• The best trick is: there’s no trick.

• Mind your own business and if you do that you’ll be so busy you won’t have time to mind the business of anyone else.

• Say something nice or don’t say anything at all.

• Use your head. It’s the little things that count.

• Things are rarely what they seem at first sight. There’s always a better way of looking at things.

• Make it fun and you’re more likely to want to do it.

• Don’t whinge. Just fix it or forget about it.

My dad was definitely not a motivational speaker but I still use lots of his sayings in my own work as a teacher. Why not do a list of ten of your own father’s famous sayings that are worth repeating?

Jesus of Nazareth

I visited Nazareth about 25 years ago and tried to imagine what it was like when Jesus lived and worked there. In the case of Jesus, it seems he also sat on the shoulders of his father, Joseph of Nazareth.

Although I’m an atheist I’ve always been interested in the story of Jesus. Not so much from a spiritual or even an historical perspective but mostly from a professional point of view. Jesus was a motivational speaker. He, too, was a teacher who travelled. His audience, too, was mostly aspirational thinkers.

At that time, in Galilee, there were many such gurus. There were no warring tribes of Israel anymore. There was a brisk trade in both goods and ideas. There was the relative stability of Pax Romanum. There was the occupying Roman military yielding the paypackets of legions of young soldiers full of denarii to be spent on R&R along the picturesque seaside.

With the client government in the capital city of Tiberius, there was also a large middle-class of public servants—scribes—who were educated and employed and who could afford to have aspirations of their own. These bureaucrats lived all along the  Galilean seaside in the pleasant towns of Ammathus, Magdal, Gennesaret and Capernaum all rather neatly spaced at 5k intervals.

It seems the Galilean coastline was enjoying a busy schedule of motivational talks, political gatherings and the competitive spread of ideas and Jesus was in the right career at the right time.

But how did Jesus get started?

In his book Jesus of Nazareth (Vol III), Pope Benedict XVI writes that Jesus “thought and learned in human fashion”.

In other words, like all children, Jesus learnt mostly from his parents. Cardinal George Pell agrees, “Parents are the best teachers”.

Through observation, repetition and imitation Jesus’ first and most influential teachers were Mary and Joseph of Nazareth.

jm_200_NT1.pd-P7.tiffHis father must have been a very wise teacher because when he was 12 Joseph took Jesus along on his annual Passover visit to the Temple in Jerusalem.

This is the first time Jesus was tested as a student and he passed with honours.

After three days sitting among the teachers and listening and asking questions Jesus amazed them all with his understanding of the law and his answers (Luke 2.47).

His father, Joseph, is described in the Bible as ‘a just man’. He dedicated himself to his upbringing and so Jesus learnt not only how to talk and read and write but, as his son and apprentice, Joseph also taught Jesus how to think and solve problems and design and innovate with the use of tools.

Also how to maintain and grow a small business. How to behave and work and play at the side of his father and mentor, Joseph, for the first fifteen years of his life. From all accounts Joseph was a wise dad, too.

Again the priceless value of a father’s wisdom.

Wisdom is to see other points of view. It includes the sagacity of patience to see beyond one’s own immediate viewpoint and the wisdom to see the viewpoints of others involved in situations: your partner’s viewpoint, your children’s, your children’s children, your neighbour’s, your customer’s, your enemy’s.

Wisdom is the ability to see consequences, immediate, short term and long term. It is the ability to look back over history and to see forward into the future. To understand cycles, passages of time, the passing of fashions, eras, eons and the many possible futures including extinction, the possibility of no future at all.

The wisdom of Joseph emerges from the hard won, labour-intensive experience gained from having to solve life’s wide range of random and unexpected problems and having survived through multi-changing environments over several generations and for an extended period of time.

There are no records at all of the sayings of Joseph as he wrote nothing down. His son Jesus was the same. Neither of them produced any written works as they favoured the oral tradition. So we have to speculate based on the balance of evidence that does exist.

Joseph, obviously, was not a Christian nor a motivational speaker but his sayings were taught to Jesus and passed on by him. No doubt there were times when Jesus paraphrased Joseph. Other times when he repeated his dad’s words verbatim. Because of that, here’s my list of ten of the likely famous sayings of Joseph of Nazareth:

• You be merciful, son, just as your father is merciful to you.

• Give to the one who asks you. Do not turn away the one who wants to borrow tools from us and if anyone takes what belongs to us, do not demand it back.

• Once upon a time a man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and left him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road and when he saw the victim he passed by on the other side. Later, a Levite, when he came to the same place he saw him and passed by. But a Samaritan, on seeing the injured man immediately took pity on him. He went and bandaged his wounds with oil and gave him wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn and provided care for him. The next day he gave two denarii to the innkeeper saying, ‘Look after this man and when I return from my trip, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

• Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

• Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Give to everyone who asks of you and if someone slaps you on one cheek then turn to them the other. If someone takes your coat then offer them your shirt. 

• Do to others as you would have them do to you.

• If you only love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you only do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you only lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be a child of the Most High, because he also is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 

• If you want to learn public speaking remember no-one is greater than your cousin, John.

• Remember always to be like a little kid.

As we all know, Jesus went on to become one of the most famous teachers and public speakers in all of Western history. His sayings are gospel. They are repeated again and again down through the centuries.

At the end of the day, he turned out to be a great credit to his father and teacher, Joseph of Nazareth.

Francis and Joseph

Pope Francis and the road map of a St. Joseph pontiff