Important lessons in life from a voice of experience – Sunday Independent 22nd September 2013


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The late minister Brian Lenihan is among those who inspired Tony Spollen, accountant turned author, writes Tom Lyons – 22 September 2013

Tony Spollen

TONY Spollen takes his seat under an umbrella on a rainy Thursday morning in the back patio of the St Stephen’s Green club.

A few weeks earlier I’d met him for the first time one evening at the same table. Spollen had been with his friend Tony O’Reilly Jnr, the chief executive of Providence Resources.

The conversation then had been casual about Ireland’s oil and gas reserves and whether fracking would ever take off in Ireland.

Spollen mentioned he’d written a new book, 50 Great Lessons from Life (published by Oak Tree Press). O’Reilly Jnr had written the forward to the book, Spollen told me.

After O’Reilly Jnr left, Spollen explained that he knew the O’Reilly family reasonably well.

He had gotten to know Tony Snr, the former rugby ace and chief executive of Independent News & Media, through their mutual friendship with Brendan Gilmore, a financial adviser.

There were other interesting connections too, Spollen mentioned, as he outlined a career spent working beside Irish business luminaries as well as serving on five state boards.

His life experience also included a spell as head of internal audit at AIB from 1986 to 1991.

In the early Nineties, Spollen produced a report that warned the bank of a potential Deposit Interest Retention Tax liability of £100m. This was a stunningly big exposure for the bank at the time, although it seems much smaller today.

The scandal, when it broke in 1998 in the Sunday Independent, led to the establishment of a parliamentary DIRT inquiry and an in-depth investigation by the Revenue Commissioners.

Spollen, however, perhaps understandably, deftly steered the conversation away from this topic, towards his book.

The decision to write a book of life lessons, Spollen explained, had originally been to capture his life experience to help his four children. “Over time, many ideas came to mind and the number of lessons grew and the book came out of that,” he said.

We agreed to meet again a few weeks later to discuss the book in more detail.

At our second meeting, Spollen is initially wary. We had gotten on well previously but his experience of the media glare around the DIRT inquiry had not been an enjoyable one.!

Latest Review

Tony Spollen has written a book for right now: a list of good lessons for immediate application in the post-crash economy. Yet it is also a timeless work, applicable anywhere – a reminder that the enormous upheaval that confronts us is in reality just another milestone in humanity’s long march. There really are more important things than today’s preoccupations.

An antidote to the type of behaviour that disfigured boom-time Ireland, 50 Great Lessons of Life distils not just Tony Spollen’s own life experiences (remember he is an expert in internal audit and combating corporate fraud, reading character as much as accounts), but the eternal wisdom of many human lifetimes. The dinner table advice is particularly noteworthy.

At a time when so many are living under extraordinary stress and strain, it is a clear and simple reminder that a clear and simple approach to life will get you through it better. And it will be better for those around you as well. This is particularly important for the generation of victims of the Irish property crash.

Relaxing, letting go of stress, not holding grudges, the importance of small kindnesses – all these things can help you to work smarter, and live a better, fuller life. To the benefit of all.

And it’s a short book, a quick read, but it leaves behind much to reflect on – a sign of a lot of careful thought. This is a good thing.

Sean Whelan,  Economics Correspondent with RTÉ

More praise …


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What a great way to spend 90 minutes of my life! A person giving a copy of this book to another will be sharing a great and long lasting gift, lifting both the depressed and distressed as well as adding perspective to the happy and well-to-do. Every coffee-table, bedside locker and boardroom should have one. Nothing in life is truly complex, and this book confirms that: just as night follows day. Well done Tony … and thanks. PS I’ll try to remember each day to breathe well and create space! Peadar Duffy, Chairman, Risk Management International

Tony Spollen’s 50 Great Lessons from Life is a wonderful book.  I was immediately engrossed in the simplicity and practicalities in each lesson. I just couldn’t put the book down. I wanted to know more and more. Some lessons seemed like common sense, but when l saw it before me in print, the reality dawned on me that anything is possible, and practically any situation can be overcome. I know l have a better outlook on life after reading Tony’s book, and look and deal with situations that arise in my everyday life in a totally different way. Tony’s personal experiences in life shine through in this book, and his honesty is palpable. Aileen Lawlor, President, The Camogie Association

Tony Spollen has written a wonderfully short book of simple, timeless truths for a better life, both professional and personal. There are memorable stories used that convey the lesson intended but its most endearing quality is its brevity and no nonsense style. The book teaches you nothing, but you learn a lot! It’s a super book.  Danny McCoy, Director General, IBEC

This is a book that has a little piece of wisdom for everyone, both young and old. But what I like most about 50 GREAT LESSONS FROM LIFE is its authenticity. I’ve only gotten to know Tony over the past 36 months, but as I recall our many conversations, they are smattered with advice and messages that form part of this book. Tony is not only an author who is good with words; he practices what he preaches. Fergus Condon, Partner, Grant Thornton

Just as a good whiskey, usice beatha, the water of life, needs to be distilled three times, so you have distilled your wisdom in this book to give us the spirit of life. Sláinte agus saol. Fergus Cahill