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To Be Rather Than to Seem – A Personal Journey of Authenticity

Warwick Fairfax

November 28, 2018

A World Lacking Authenticity

When you grow up amidst wealth and power as I did in a large family media business in Australia, you don’t always see a lot of authenticity.  Amongst the rich and powerful, there can be a temptation to be who others want you to be.  Outgoing, confident, in charge.  Someone who has all the answers.  Someone who can appear caring, but has the ability to not linger too long in any one conversation.
It is this experience that drives my passion for authenticity.

Putting on Airs

One of my highest values, along with humility and integrity,is authenticity.  One of my most important goals in life is to be who I truly am, who I was designed to be.  I don’t want to pretend to be anyone else.  Like anyone I have my strengths and weaknesses.  I have character traits that I am grateful to have and some I wished I didn’t have.  But regardless, I want to be who I am.  I want to be authentic.
I am reminded of a motto of the private boys school, Cranbrook, that I attended in Sydney, “Esse quam videri,”  which means ‘to be rather than to seem.’  Growing up I often saw examples of ‘to seem rather than to be.’  People putting on airs to impress others and to create the appearance of self assured success.
It touched a deep nerve within me.  I did not want to be like that.  But who was I?  It look me years to figure this out, to figure out who my true self was.  It is not that I ever tried to be someone else.  But growing up amidst the spotlight, often being around famous and prominent people, I was somewhat shy and diffident.  Besides who I was and who I wanted to be seemed to be irrelevant questions.  My calling in life, my duty was all laid out and was clear.  I had to prepare myself to one day take a leading position within the large family media company.  So I studied hard and did well in school.  I went to Oxford like my father and other relatives before me, worked in banking on Wall Street and graduated from Harvard Business School.  All to prepare myself for my future role.
But after my failed takeover bid, when I ended up losing control of the family media company, and moved to America, I started asking some difficult questions.  Who was I?  Was it OK to be me?  What should I do now?

Who am I designed to be?

It has been a journey to fully understand who I was and who I was designed to be.  In my case, it took quite a while.  First to understand how I was wired, how I was designed.  I was not the hard charging take no prisoners executive that I felt at the time that the family company needed.  I am more of a reflective adviser.  I would often prefer to listen and understand than to pontificate.  I would rather advise and consult than be the leading figure in the middle of the action.
And second, to value myself as I was designed. It was tempting to feel bad about my gifts and talents, that I did not measure up to what was needed in the family company – that my design was lacking.  But over time, I have realized that being a reflective adviser — rather than a hard charging corporate executive — was unique and valuable. There is peace in knowing your own design and that peace can give clarity in how to best apply your design.
So now, I try to lead a truly authentic life in light of my design.  I try to be who I am.  I serve others and lead a life of significance, though my writing, my executive coaching and through the advise I give being on two non-profit boards.  I try to be involved in organizations whose missions I truly care about.  I seek out opportunities where my design as a reflective advisor is beneficial and valued.
I am now at peace with who I am and do not yearn to be someone else.  But it has been a journey.


Are you truly being authentic to how you were designed?

Can you accept that it is OK to be you and not someone else?

What calling that you are passionate about would be best served by who you truly are?

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