Listen, do you want to know a secret and do you promise not to tell?

One of Charlie's colleagues used to be fond of saying "Just between you, me and the gatepost ..." as he passed on another secret that he should have been keeping. Finally an exasperated Charlie said, "If it's a secret, then I don't want to know." To which the colleague replied: "No, no, but I want to tell you."

One of Charlie's colleagues used to be fond of saying "Just between you, me and the gatepost ..." as he passed on another secret that he should have been keeping. Finally an exasperated Charlie said, "If it's a secret, then I don't want to know." To which the colleague replied: "No, no, but I want to tell you."

In an ever-shrinking modern electronic world, not only have the goalposts moved, but so has the gatepost. It seems that it's harder and harder to keep a secret.

In building a $2 billion advertising business in Australia where many of the clients of our company were competitors with each other, it was essential that we all had secrets and kept them. And from the very beginning, keeping a secret and developing trust was the only thing that could be relied on if we were all to survive and succeed. And so we did.

Business people at all levels know about trust, and it's the same between countries. John Howard had a strong bond of trust with George Bush. John Kennedy, after a very rocky start, established a trust with the president of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, that got them through the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962. And the world breathed a sigh of relief. Kennedy went on to establish great trust with the American people that can still be seen in the depth of sadness that persists today as they mark the 50th anniversary of his assassination. John Howard developed a trust with the people he called "the battlers" - Australia's middle class. They trusted him with the economy and our relationships with our neighbours. And so he had 11 years of power.

But sometimes secrets can bring people undone and many times when I had an executive approach me and say "We've got a problem here, what should we do?" I'd say "Why don't we just tell the truth?" Invariably, it would work.

President Richard Nixon should have learnt the lesson. After all, Watergate was a basic bungled burglary. "Too much alliteration!" Louise screams. But, in fact, it wasn't just alliteration; it was Nixon trying to keep a secret.

There should be no secrets between trusted people, businesses or allies.

However, when you really need to keep a secret from your competitors, then take a tip from the best. The famously secret recipe for the soft drink Coca-Cola was invented by Dr John Pemberton in 1886. More than 100 years later, it is still known only to a few employees. The formula was stored in a vault at the Trust Company Bank in Atlanta, Georgia, until 2011, when it was moved into a purpose built chamber as part of the company's permanent interactive exhibition, World of Coca-Cola, in Atlanta.

And in another southern American state, Colonel Sanders mixed 11 herbs and spices together and rubbed them on a chook. That original recipe is kept in a vault in KFC's headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, along with vials containing the 11 herbs and spices. For additional security, two companies, unknown to each other, produce half the recipe each.

But there's no information available about how and where Google keeps its secret algorithm that has powered its search engine and its consequent domination of the online world.

However, when it comes to national security, the most famous secret about breaking secrets was the British deciphering machine Enigma that decoded German and other enemy communications during World War II. National security is important if countries are at war.

And of course the Australian triumph in the world of great secrets is Vegemite. The original secret recipe is still being produced by Kraft Australia and the billionth jar was sold five years ago.

There's a couple of secrets that I would like to crack, Louise muses. "Where do lone socks go to and why do coat hangers multiply ... and is there a relationship between the two?"

But if you're going to try and keep secrets, you better go and look for a gatepost and a big one.

"What for?" Louise asks.

"To hide behind," Charlie says.

Mmmm, I guess some things will always be just the other side of the gatepost.

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