Battling Crucible Fatigue: The Power of One Small Step #44

Warwick Fairfax

November 17, 2020

Moving beyond your crucible is hard work, even harder when the circumstances that knocked you off your feet seem to linger forever.  How do you get going again when it feels like your crucible is a bottomless pit, a black hole? Crucible Leadership founder and BEYOND THE CRUCIBLE host Warwick Fairfax lays down a roadmap for getting back on track toward a life of significance. “It’s not an easy cycle to break when you’re at the bottom of your crucible,” he says. But it can be done … if you embrace the power of one small step.

Highlights

  • What is “crucible fatigue,” anyway? (2:14)
  • Vince Lombardi on fatigue’s effect on us (7:27)
  • J.K. Rowling’s determination to fight through fatigue with her first Harry Potter novel (9:44)
  • Warwick’s own wrestling with crucible fatigue, and how he moved beyond it (16:34)
  • A roadmap for battling crucible fatigue (26:04)
  • Celebrating each small victory is critical (33:54)
  • Learn through your crucible and celebrate what you learn (37:14)
  • The importance of cultivating an attitude of hope (38:18)
  • Why you need a cheerleading squad (42:46)
  • Parting thoughts from Warwick (48:01)
  • Key episode takeaways (49:30)
  • An excellent first small step to take (51:19)

Transcript

Warwick F:
Welcome to Beyond the Crucible, I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership. Even when life can feel overwhelming and there’s no hope, just take that one small step. It could be apply for that next position, even when you think it’s hopeless, have that one more networking call. In J.K. Rowling’s case, send out one more manuscript to one more publisher, whatever the positive step is, no matter how small each day, try to take one small step. It could be journaling about the kind of position you would like to get, but it’s… The importance of taking one small step at a time each day each week, that is probably the foundation of getting out of the bottomless pit, even when that small step can seem like, well, even if it happens, so what?

Gary S:
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt like you’re in that position, like the crucible you’re in has no bottom. It has no end, that no matter what you try to do next, this has been going on so long, that to try to do anything more to overcome it to move beyond it, so what? Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, the co host of the show and the communication’s director for Crucible Leadership. And on today’s episode, Warwick, answers the so what question. Beyond that, he offers a roadmap for how all of us can proceed through a bottomless crucible as he calls it. Through what we’ve dubbed crucible fatigue, how do you get from point A to point B, when point A and half seems like it’s gone on forever? You’ll find that out on today’s episode. And as Warwick says, it all begins with one step.

Warwick F:
Sometimes, we go through this crucible and it feels like it’s a bottomless pit, it feels like the pit has no end, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You can’t even see a tunnel, you just see this whole sense of darkness. And at the moment, everybody really has had a tough 2020 or pretty much everybody. We’ve had the whole pandemic which seem to go on forever. Yes, we’ve heard recently that maybe there’s a vaccine, that could take quite a while to get out and be widespread, the economy is uncertain, we’ve had a very tough election and that’s divided many people, some happy, some are not happy. Our whole world feels in a lot of turmoil, a lot of division along a lot of lines, including racism and issues of systemic racism. It’s been a very tough year for a lot, if not most people.

Warwick F:
So, in a sense you could say many of us are going through a collective crucible, but crucibles can also be very personal, whether it’s 2020 or not, you might have got fired from your job or passed over for a promotion, maybe you have a loved one that’s died recently or health challenge in the family. So whether it be because of large outside causes or something very personal, there is some days, some months, some years even in which we feel like we don’t have hope. It just seems like there is no way out of the bottom, we just feel like this crucible is like a black hole, it’s going to go on forever. And as we all know, once you get into a black hole, folks with physics majors know that once you get into a black hole, not even light can escape. So we feel like we’re in this black hole of a crucible and there is no end.

Gary S:
If we’ve heard it once in 2020, we’ve heard it dozens, if not more than that times. People saying, “I’m just tired of this. I’m tired of filling the blank of the pandemic and the concern about health and the pandemic and the concern about the health of the economy and the restrictions.” My wife and I were talking to my stepson last night and he was saying he had plans this summer to see his friends and do things and he hasn’t been able to do that. And you don’t realize that sometimes as you’re dealing with your own fatigue, that everybody around you probably has a little bit of that fatigue too. And on any given day and any given year, that can be real. Those crucibles to use your excellent phrase can feel bottomless. But right now, it seems like a great percentage of us, a great concentration of us are feeling that. And in fact, just this morning, I was poking around on LinkedIn and there’s a story, a new story on LinkedIn, about firms grappling with what they’re calling pandemic burnout.

Gary S:
So we’re calling this crucible fatigue, they’re referring at LinkedIn to pandemic burnout. And I’m not going to read the whole story. But here’s some interesting… As we go through this episode, I know the things that you’re going to talk about Warwick, and they touch on some of these very things. As the pandemic stretches on through the fall, bosses say many of their remote employees are reporting depression and uncertainty over what’s next. And many firms are taking actions to head off a surge of employee distress. That sounds like fatigue, doesn’t it? But just a couple of the tips that they offer in this story on LinkedIn. One, and we’ll talk about it in more detail in some different words, but as we move through this episode, encouraging staff to take time off or take self care days. That’s one of the things that LinkedIn is talking about in terms of pandemic burnout, we’ll talk about it in this episode about crucible fatigue. Also, fostering dialogue to share genuine emotions. That’s one of the tips that you have that we’ll unpack a little bit later on.

Gary S:
And then offering training or supervising to help people with expressing empathy to others. Again, that’s one of the things we’ll talk about it, you’ll talk about it in a bit of a different way, but you will talk about it before our time is up today. So, I thought that was very interesting as we picked this idea out, we’re not the only ones who are doing it, because here’s LinkedIn talking about it just this morning.

Warwick F:
Yeah, it’s so true. Yeah, for so many of us, we’re just locked at home and I have three adult kids in their 20s and one is working remotely and seems to be okay and other my daughter came back from Australia where she was for a couple years. And she’s doing a grad course and she should be in Chicago, where the grad course is, but it’s all remote and she’s an outgoing person, so it’s just tough to be locked at home. And younger son had to do graduation from college I guess remotely, he wasn’t able to go to it live. So, our lives are just so different. People are getting isolated, I’m sure. Depression and other issues more prevalent now, since people are locked at home. So, life is tough enough, but we’ve got this overlay. So it’s a tough time for many people.

Gary S:
I always like to pull quotes, especially on these episodes when it’s just the two of us. And you know, the listeners don’t know that I’m a huge Green Bay Packers fan. But here’s something that Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers said about fatigue, which is I think, a good jumping off point to begin some more detailed discussion of this subject of fatigue over crucibles. Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” We talked about this idea Warwick that I don’t feel I have enough energy to get on, I just want to stay in bed and pull the covers over my head. And Vince was a little plain spoken, but the idea there really is, it can make us feel like we just want to give up, it can make us feel like we don’t have what it takes to press through.

Warwick F:
We’re kind of… Right. We often use this image in Crucible Leadership, we can feel like we’re hiding under the covers and just not want to get up, just this sense of I’m done. I’ve had it, I’m checking out of life, just going to go through the next 20, 30, 40 years and that’s it. All of us can have times in which we feel like that’s it. When you’re in the bottom of a crucible, it goes on forever. It is tough to get out of that thinking back to the black hole image, it’s tough to get out of that thinking of, “I’m done, I’m worn out, I’m tired, I’ve had it.” That’s not an easy cycle to break when you’re at the bottom of the crucible.

Gary S:
And listeners who’ve spent any time at all with us, know that you Warwick, are a great student of history, that you draw many of your leadership insights, practical tips from some of the greatest leaders in history. And history tells us that what we’re talking about today, there are examples even in recent history, there are examples of folks who have gone through some really hard, bottomless feeling crucibles. Crucible fatigue and yet, as we like to say on Beyond the Crucible, your crucibles aren’t the end of your story, they can be the beginning. In the cases that you’ve written about in the past, there are great examples of folks who indeed have done that. Who comes to mind as you think that over?

Warwick F:
Yeah, it is funny. We do talk a lot about folks in history be it Washington, Lincoln, Churchill, Roosevelt. But one that came to mind as we were thinking about this is somebody I wrote about a little while ago. Maybe a year ago, J.K. Rowling. Whose first name is Joanne, but publisher decided to go with J.K, since she wrote the best selling books, Harry Potter that was targeted at teenage boys, what have you and they thought J.K would be better for that audience. I don’t think boys would really have cared, but publishers go figure.

Gary S:
It’s the marketing and PR guys. It is the PR guys.

Warwick F:
Exactly. So, everybody’s heard of J.K. Rowling and they’ve heard of her incredible success. She’s sold more than 450 million copies of a seven book series, her eight films that she’s done on Harry Potter, she’s done other ones, but just on Harry Potter, they grossed over $7 billion worldwide with a B. She’s had enormous success. So when you think of people who are that successful, it’s hard to think that maybe they went through crucibles, maybe they went through a time in which there seemed to be no hope. And so, we forget about that, but J.K. Rowling, Joanne Rowling, she had that experience. She around 1992, was about two years after she came up with the whole idea of Harry Potter. And it was an unbelievably tough year, it was like her 2020, if you will, maybe multiplied by five or something. Her mother had just died after battling multiple sclerosis since Joanne was a teenager, she had had a difficult divorce from the first husband and she had a young daughter to support.

Warwick F:
So here she was in Edinburgh, Scotland, living in poverty on welfare, she had a young daughter to support by her own admission, she was diagnosed with depression, on the verge of suicide. Again, this is her perspective, life couldn’t have been more difficult. What hope is there for a single mother in Edinburgh, in that situation? And apparently she had a difficult relationship with her dad. So, a lot of these support mechanisms, they weren’t there, at least not from family.

Gary S:
And those are a lot of crucibles that can stack up pretty quickly.

Warwick F:
Yeah. She said that she was as poor as possible to be in modern Britain, she felt that she had failed on an epic scale. But it’s interesting, she says that rock bottom became the foundation on which she rebuilt her life. And what’s interesting is, she said a number of things, since about this about just her attitude. She said, failure was a stripping away of the nonessential, she said she was set free because her greatest fear had been realized and she’s still alive and she had a daughter that she adored. Failure taught her things about herself that she couldn’t have learned any other way. She said that later, but at the time, picture J.K Rowling. So, here she is, Joanne Rowling, she’s in Edinburgh, she tended to write in the cafes in the town. And so what she would do is she’d have a stroller with her young daughter in it and as a lot of young mothers and young parents will know, she’d be wheeling her around the stroller, until eventually her daughter would fall asleep, which can take a while.

Warwick F:
The daughter would fall asleep, she’d head into the cafe and then start writing. Not on a typewriter, longhand on a pad of paper, and she’s probably thinking, “Okay, how many pages can I get done before my daughter wakes up? Two, three, a chapter?” Okay, off we go, let’s have another few walks around the block and then let’s go to another cafe and maybe the same one. So that’s what she did. Time after time until that book was finished. Then she went to a number of publishers, she went to 12 publishers, they all said no. The 13th said yes.

Gary S:
And let’s back up so our listeners catch this moment. The book she’s talking about, that she gave to 12 publishers, or a dozen publishers, was it some book you’ve never heard of? This was Harry Potter. This was… When people talk about the most successful books of all time, there’s the Bible and then I think some of the Harry Potter books have fallen under that in terms of sales. So, this was something that was good that she poured herself into and yet it was rejected 12 times.

Warwick F:
Right, because nobody had ever heard of Joanne Rowling at the time. So who was she? And so most people will turn down books even seems good ones. But you could tell yourself, “Well, that’s Joanne Rowling,” but think she’s a single mother, bad divorce, mother died, bad relationship with her dad and here she is in Edinburgh on welfare. There’s not a whole lot of hope to be gained there. But somehow she was able to press on, somehow she didn’t give up hope and just believed in the dream. She just believed in this book and she wouldn’t give up. And we’ll talk later about how that relates to some of the tips. But it’s pretty of an amazing story.

Gary S:
It is. And let’s walk listeners through exactly what that’s like. If you’re feeling right now listener like you’re in a bottomless crucible, you’re having crucible fatigue, be it the pandemic, the economy, personal things. Let’s just unpack what J.K Rowling went through. Sends the manuscript off once, rejected, twice, rejected. Three times, rejected, four times, rejected, five times, rejected, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12 times it was rejected. She could have given up at any one of those times. How many times does it take us… And this is a rhetorical question for all of us.

Gary S:
How many times does it take us to give up on a dream, on something three times, four times? What if J.K Rowling at the third time, the seventh time, the 10th time had given up? The world would have been deprived of what culturally is considered one of the great children’s novel series from that movie series of all time. She pushed through. And because she pushed through, I would say in the language of crucible leadership, she’s living a life of significance.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. Very true. She’s living an incredible life and has a whole volunteer organization to support people, I think others that have gone through some of the experiences that she’s had. So, yeah. She’s had an incredible impact on the world. No question.

Gary S:
It was interesting Warwick, when you mentioned to me on the show here, when you mentioned the amount of money the books have sold. Because you actually use the phrase billion with a B. And one of the skills of a good co host is knowing how to segue and pick moments to segue. So, where the other time I’ve said a few times billion with a B, is your own personal story, your own personal crucible, Warwick, of your takeover of the family media company in the late 80s, the failure of that company slips family control after 150 years and at a loss of $2.25 billion. Big crucible. You’ve talked about that many times on the show, but one of the things that you haven’t really talked about that I’d like you to share with listeners a little bit is, it took a while because it was the late 80s, early 90s when that fell through and it took some time. It took a few years for you to fight through the fatigue of what that crucible caused in your life. Is that true?

Warwick F:
It is. Yeah, as you mentioned, like most listeners would know I’ve been growing up in this large family media business in Australia, newspapers, TV stations, radio magazines, launch this $2.25 billion takeover to bring it back to the ideals of the founder, see the company is being well run. That all fell through almost from the beginning, we had an unsustainable level of debt. I felt like I’ve been put on this earth to spend my whole life in this media company and can do such a lot of good in the community. I thought this was the vision, maybe it wasn’t my vision, but I felt like it was a good vision nonetheless. And then after 150 years and certainly in part due to me, the company goes or passes from family control, goes bankrupt and passes on to other people in late 1990. So here we are in the 1990s and I was not clinically depressed, but I was in a bad way. It’s like, “Well, what is my purpose? Now, what do I do?” I wasn’t poverty stricken like Joanne Rowling, I didn’t have the same level of wealth, but certainly enough to be okay.

Warwick F:
But just emotionally and spiritually, I felt like I’d let my family down, God down in a sense that the company was founded by a person of faith and faith is important to me. I felt like I let my parents down. It was just a tough tough thing. And so, I’ve always been analytical. So I thought maybe I could get a job doing strategic analysis, marketing analysis, anything that’s analytical. And I’d send out resumes to different places in first half of the 1990s and who wants to employ an out of work media mogul? Nobody. I could say, “Oh, I’m humble.” And all went, “Oh, sure. Yeah, right.” And so I was unemployable. It was just… It’s hard to have a hope when you just think of all these rejections which I could understand. So eventually, sometimes desperation makes you take steps that you probably wouldn’t otherwise. In Maryland, where we lived there was a temp agency that looks for temporary employment for accountants and financial analysts.

Warwick F:
I’m not an accountant, but I have done financial analysis after I went to Oxford and before I went to Harvard Business School, I worked in a bank on Wall Street and so I did financial analysis. And yeah, as an aside, I have a Harvard MBA, but that certainly didn’t help me get a job at that point, again, former medium mogul. It’s just didn’t do anything for me. Not their fault, but the situation. So I went to this temp agency and said, “Well, I could do financial analysis.” They said, “Well, we have this little program that will test your proficiency at Microsoft Excel.” Well, I’d used that a lot in business school and in the bank, so I guess at the time-

Gary S:
You were pretty good.

Warwick F:
I’m talking about 1996, that was pretty good. They said, “Well, you got a really good score on Excel.” Okay, great. So they found me a job at a sports company that had its US headquarters in Maryland, and needed some help with budgeting. So, I did that over a few months and I must have done a good enough job. They said, “Well, your employer said you did a great job helping out with budgeting analysis and all.” Then they said, “Well, there is a temporary to permanent position at a local company in Annapolis, where I live.” They said a large aviation services company. So I started off there doing financial analysis and after a few months, they offered me a full time job. Now, this is 1996 and at the time what they were offering me was a fair wage for the work that was being done, but I felt like I was probably the lowest paid, Harvard Business School graduate in history at the time. But yet, I was overjoyed. I had a job.

Warwick F:
It was something that I could do, certainly it wasn’t my dream job, a Harvard MBA doing entry level financial analysis for an aviation services company. Nothing wrong with the industry, but it was a first step. And a little bit a little bit, I got more into business analysis, strategic analysis. From there some listeners will know, I took an executive coach who does mid career assessments, gave me an assessment as well. You have a great profile for executive coaching, got into that, got onto two nonprofit boards, including my church board. As I started doing that, people said, “Boy, you have a great perspective on leadership.” I’m thinking, “What do you mean? I’m just asking questions.” So, “Oh, do I have actually something to offer?”

Warwick F:
Because at the time, I would have been like, “I couldn’t lead my way out of a paper bag. Me, lead? Look, what I did. Come on, I have nothing to offer.” But a little bit by a little bit and then, the idea of the book came through a talk I gave in church, somehow what I said helped people and then Crucible Leadership. But where I am now, it’s a tremendous place with a book that’s going to be published next year, this podcast Beyond the Crucible, active on social media, have a whole website Crucible Leadership. But if you think back to all those years ago, when I’m at this temp agency and it’s like, “Oh, you’re good at Excel, maybe we can find something temporary for you.” It seemed like a baby step, a micro baby step, 100th of a baby step. It didn’t seem particularly a glorious step, but it was a step as we’ll talk about later, that led to great things. But I had no idea at the time.

Gary S:
And before you went into that temp agency and had that conversation and found the temporary job, what was it like emotionally? We’ve talked about it many times that listeners probably have not had… Certainly have not had the same details of their crucibles as you have, or as I have. But the emotions are the same. And I assume at some point, in the midst of post takeover and going in and getting that temporary job, you probably experienced, did you not? Crucible fatigue.

Warwick F:
Yeah. It was hard to have a whole lot of energy to do anything super productive. Fortunately, I had young kids at the time and my wife is very loving and supportive, which was huge. I’m so blessed. But yeah, it was just you’re trying to trot out resumes. This was just before the dawn of the internet in the early 90s, I felt like I couldn’t just Google stuff at the time. I would send out resumes and nothing would happen. How do you get the energy and the get up and go to send out a resume when the chances of success are pretty much zero? Objectively speaking out of work, media mogul, Harvard MBA, Oxford, it’s like there is no way. I was unemployable.

Warwick F:
So, there was zero reason for even a speck or a grain of hope objectively. And I knew that. And so you just keep… Fortunately, and this is a blessing. We weren’t on the streets. We had not billions but had enough that we will be okay at least for a while. But yeah, it was hard to get motivation to do a whole lot professionally. Having young kids does distract you in a good way. But to feel like, “Oh, let’s trot out another resume.” Why? What’s the point? It will fail. Which they did. So, yeah. It’s just saps you of energy, fatigue, you feel bad about yourself and then you start thinking, “What an idiot the takeover? Why did I do it? So dumb, so stupid.” And so the fatigue and not clinical depression, but depression can lead to self-incrimination like, “I’m in this spot, certainly, in significant part because of my own stupidity. So then the cycle of, “I can’t get a job, I’m an idiot. I can’t get a job, I’m an idiot.” Yeah. It’s worn out. It’s hard to pick yourself up every day. It’s tough.

Gary S:
And the good news for listeners who may find yourselves in the same place right now, your crucible has been going on for longer than you expected it would, certainly longer than you hoped it would. And maybe you’re feeling tired, maybe you’re feeling fatigued, maybe you’re feeling what Warwick just described. What’s the chance of success of this resume or of this effort to start my business up the way that I want to do it? What effort is going to pay off for me to continue to pursue my vision? Maybe I should just stop to use the J.K. Rowling example, maybe I should just stop at the 11th submission of the manuscript. But the good news is, as Warwick described for himself, as J.K. Rowling is testament to, there are ways to fight that fatigue, there are ways to light the engine to help you move past that fatigue, to dissipate that fatigue and move your life toward a life of significance.

Gary S:
And I know Warwick, you have a blog on this subject and you unpack several helpful tips. It really is the way I described it, as I’m thinking about it. It’s a roadmap, if you will, of how to go from I want to lie in bed with the covers over my head to I’m chugging along pretty good toward a life of significance. Let’s walk the listeners through that roadmap.

Warwick F:
Yeah, absolutely. The first one is probably the most important. It’s take one small step, even when life can feel overwhelming and there’s no hope, just take that one small step. It could be apply for that next position, even when you think it’s hopeless. Have that one more networking call. In J.K. Rowling’s case, send out one more manuscript to one more publisher, whatever the positive step is, no matter how small each day, try to take one small step. It could be journaling about the kind of position you would like to get, but it’s the importance of taking one small step at a time each day each week, that is probably the foundation of getting out of a bottomless pit. Even when that small step can seem like, well, even if it happens, so what? Okay, so I go to this temp agency and they think I’m good at Excel. Okay, that seems not super exciting, but okay. But that’s the first thing, is take one small step, because those small steps can seem like a flywheel.

Gary S:
Yeah. And I’ll give you an example of a small step I took. We haven’t even talked about this beforehand. But it just came to mind when I was on my second journalism job. And I’ve mentioned on this show, I think once before that I was a reporter in a newspaper and I thought I was the star reporter, I got a lot of choice assignments and I began to believe my hype a little bit too much, I didn’t try as hard as I could have tried. And the ultimate result of that was I got laid off. And that was in the 90s and it was not the easiest thing to do. Newspapers were still more robust than they are now, but I’m trying to think, “What am I going to do?” And again, before the internet, how do you find about jobs, how do you do this?

Gary S:
And I remember after a couple of weeks of just wanting to lay in bed and go sit by the pool and not do really much of anything, I decided my one step was going to be this. I was going to dress every morning like I was going to work and I was going to treat finding a job like having a job. That was my job, it was to find a job. So I got up, shaved, got dressed in my shirt and tie and coat and sat and worked trying to find a job. And just that one small step changed my perspective. Because my perspective was a guy who was unshaven for four days lying on his bed, feeling sorry for himself to a guy that at least looked like, felt like he was someone who was employable, someone who had a future and that one small step to your point, then led to another small step, another small step and I came up out of the bottomless pit. So, after the small step, after step one which is take one small step, what comes after that?

Warwick F:
Yeah. And that’s a profound example just sort of an attitude change of just getting dressed in your work clothes so to speak. An attitude as well as an action can be so profound. So, I think one of the things that happens is there’s a link between taking a small step and the vision, you may not know what your whole vision is, but as you begin to take some small steps and get some affirmation, you begin to see, “Well, maybe there’s something that I can do.” And the vision begins to grow. My case, when I got into financial analysis, I’m actually pretty good analytically. This is something that I can do. Huh. So, I’m getting some positive reinforcement, which encourages me. I get into executive coaching and I was told I had a leadership voice, just by the questions I asked. Gosh, for me, that’s made so many bad mistakes, leadership mistakes, maybe there’s something I can do.

Warwick F:
And I didn’t think at the time and this is the important point, whether it was when I started coaching, or even further back at the temp agency, “Oh, I’m going to found Crucible Leadership, I’m going to have a book, I’m going to have a podcast.” I wasn’t thinking that, I was just thinking of something to reclaim at least a grain of my self esteem, something positive I could do. But the vision tends to grow. It’s a bit like a flywheel. I think of Walt Disney, who I’ve talked about earlier, he just started off wanting to do animated cartoons with a story that was a bit more interesting than the typical ones in the 20’s, early 30s. But from Mickey Mouse, ended up going to Snow White, going to Disneyland, Disney World and on. The genesis of the dream is all about, “Surely can’t we do animated cartoons a bit better?” That was it.

Warwick F:
It wasn’t this big, long term plan. I’m sure J.K. Rowling didn’t think, “You know what? I really see a billion plus grossing movie series.” This is what’s going to happen. She is just like, “Look, I’ve got this story in my mind…” In her mind she had outlined the whole series of books. But she just wanted to get it published. If she had got enough income to support her daughter and have some modest living, she probably would have been happy. So there wasn’t some big vision, but as you take one small step at a time and you get one small win at a time, back to your example, by dressing professionally made you think, “Okay, my attitude today is better than it was yesterday.”

Gary S:
Absolutely.

Warwick F:
And you could say, “Well, that’s not a win,” because you didn’t get a job, you didn’t even get an interview yet. But that attitude change in itself, I’m sure if you viewed at the time, was a win, even be it a small win.

Gary S:
Yeah.

Warwick F:
Does that makes sense?

Gary S:
I couldn’t envision The big Lebowski that I was lying. And it’s funny it was before The Big Lebowski actually that I did this. But I couldn’t imagine that guy that was sitting in a bathrobe and an unshaven face. I couldn’t imagine him having a job. And I could imagine the guy in the mirror, sitting in front of his word processor, sending out resumes, clean shaven and tie on, I could imagine that guy getting a job. And you’re right, that was a switch that flipped in my head that said, “Okay, I can take the next step.”

Warwick F:
So, that was a key small win. And as we’re doing this and it’s easy to forget, we really need to celebrate each small step. Whether it’s of course it’s hard to go out these days to dinner, but back before, whether it’s that or even just an attitude of celebration. I remember when that job at the aviation services company went from temp to permanent, it wasn’t high paying, but I was overjoyed. I’m a Harvard MBA, Oxford graduate, why would I get excited about a very low paying, low level, entry level job? Because after what I’ve been through, it felt like a big step at the time. But it was a win, I was just over the moon, I was so happy. So don’t take those small steps for granted, celebrate it because that gives you energy for the next small step. Small step by small step, it builds your vision, celebrate each small step and that will produce a flywheel of enthusiasm that will make leaping out of bed actually possible, rather than dragging yourself out.

Gary S:
And I love that at this point we’re through three points, but truly, they’re not really tips, they’re connected points. They’re connected steps along a map. This is a roadmap to getting through crucible fatigue. Take one small step, don’t forget your vision, dial into your vision as you’re taking that step after that step before you take the next step and then celebrate each small step as you go along. That’s point three that you just made or step three that you just made.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. And I think, it’s funny it’s hard to learn or move or grow without moving. Movement is the key, which is why we started off with take one small step. But as you’re moving, you’re going to learn some things about yourself. You’re going to learn about what you’re good at, what you enjoy doing. You’re going to learn like in my case, I’m analytical, I’m strategic. When I started coaching, I realized I love listening to people and helping other people. I found I had a leadership voice, that I had no idea that I had. When that led to me getting on two nonprofit boards, I’m a reserved person by nature, certainly at the time, somewhat shy, because I passionately believed in the missions of those two boards. I found I had a leadership voice, I was able to politely, but strongly express my opinion, which is not the kind of person that I thought of myself.

Warwick F:
I’m not a bomb thrower, I’d rather listen to other people than offer my opinion. So, it’s like, “Wow, really, who knew I actually was able to express strong opinion constructively.” So, the point here is as you go through these small steps, baby steps, as you’re learning more about your vision, as you celebrate it, learn what you don’t enjoy, but learn what you do enjoy and learn about yourself. About who you are, pay attention, reflect as you’re moving, because there’s a lot to learn through each of these steps. Why did that work? Why did I enjoy it? Talk about it to your wife or husband, friends, partner, just learn as you’re going through these small steps.

Gary S:
And one of the things I love about learn through your crucible coming after, celebrate your each small step is that, as you learn, you can celebrate the things that you learn. Right?

Warwick F:
Absolutely.

Gary S:
They’re up inside themselves, they can be self-contained. You celebrate the small step, you learn through your crucible, that’s a small step. But then you can celebrate the things that you learn. What do you like? What do you not like? What are you good at? Maybe have you fooled yourself into thinking you’re better at it? What brings your heart alive? Those are things that then you can celebrate as you learn more and more about yourself. And each one of these points that Warwick is talking about, is fuel that can be added to the engine of your life to help you move beyond that fatigue that you’re feeling in what feels like a bottomless crucible. All right, on to step five.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. And so as you’re making these small steps, your vision is growing, you’re celebrating these steps, you’re learning about yourself. One of the most important things is to cultivate an attitude of hope. There are optimists and pessimists in this world. And I get it, but a pessimistic attitude to life, you have to ask yourself, how does that serve me? How does it saying it will never work, I’m going to fail, there is no hope. I’m almost reminded of Winnie the Pooh, I think Eeyore the donkey, just came to mind. He’s like, “Oh, it’s hopeless, oh, it’s never going to work.” You don’t want to be the Eeyore of your life so to speak. It’s not going to serve you. It’s your choice, but I would challenge you to think about, is this helpful? So, have an attitude of hope.

Warwick F:
So, when I got that first job in the aviation services company I was like, “Okay, this is not my dream job, but I’m analytical, maybe I can move up into something that benefits my skills.” And whether it’s coaching or a number of things I’ve done with the book, just each step, have an attitude of hope, have an attitude that tomorrow will be a better day. It may or may not, but have an attitude of hope, because that attitude of hope fuels movement, fuels progress, fuels success. An attitude of negativity and pessimism, what does that do? It fuels no growth, no steps. So, whether you feel like it or not, force yourself to have a hopeful attitude.

Gary S:
Yeah. And along those lines Warwick. One of the things that my wife and I have started to do in the midst of the what can feel like a bottomless crucible, the collective crucible, I believe he called it at the top of the show here. One of the things that we begun to do in the last month is every morning when we wake up, I went to the dollar store and bought like one dollars worth of five enormous things of slim ribbon. And every morning when we get up, we slice a bit of that ribbon off. And I’ve pulled an old vase from underneath in one of the cupboards and we put it up near where we have family photos in our bay window in the living room. And every morning we get up and together we take a little snip of that ribbon which is used to wrap gifts and we say out loud, thank you, today is a gift. And we drop that ribbon into that vase to remind ourselves that even in the midst of whatever crucibles we’re facing, this is going to be relevant after the pandemic has passed.

Gary S:
But right now with the pandemic going on and some of the tensions going on in the culture, today, being alive today, having the opportunity to take a small step, having the opportunity to have hope, all of that is a gift. And that for us is a tangible way to tell ourselves when our eyes open first thing in the morning, today is a gift. And if we think about it in that way, that will breathe that attitude of hopefulness that you’ve just talked about.

Warwick F:
There’s no question. In fact, there’s a link between some of the last few… The last tip I have which really I hope leads into gratitude is it’s easy to have an attitude of just complaining and being… I don’t want to say ungrateful, but just what’s the point, but being grateful for every small step. It’s like, “Okay, thanks for the interview. Okay, I got that manuscript out to one more publisher.” Well, at least maybe they said no, but maybe they gave some constructive feedback. Maybe there was something in there that was going to help you in the midst of the no. When I was going through those difficult years in the 90s, I was so blessed. I had a very supportive wife, not once not ever cut down on me, because she understood what I was going through. She was always supportive, never negative ever. I had young kids who I was daddy. They didn’t know or care about what was happening in my professional life, which is a bit grim. So, being grateful for a loving wife and wonderful kids, we can always find a way to be grateful. People talk about having an attitude of gratitude.

Warwick F:
Maybe there are some who might say to themselves, “I have nothing to be grateful for.” But I’d say the vast majority of people can think of something. I’m glad I’m alive, I’m so grateful for this because both hope and gratitude, they fuel energy, they fuel momentum and you want to turn that flywheel with these steps. You need to feed it. How do you feed it? With optimism, hope and gratitude. And really a final step that really links hope and gratitude or helps fuel them is, it really helps to have a cheerleading squad. You can surround yourself by negative naysayers like Gary, Warwick, we always knew you’d fail, it just makes sense you’re in this position. Everybody knows you’re hopeless. Well, that’s a strategy, but I would say, don’t talk to those people. Even if they’re right to a degree, even the most nastiest negative person might have a grain of truth in it, which is why it typically hurts. If there was no truth in there, you wouldn’t care. But surround yourself and hopefully it’s a spouse, partner, kids, people that believe in you.

Warwick F:
Friends, we can all choose our friends. People that believe in you. You don’t need people to tell you what to do. Well, that’s good, but which can mean that was okay, but you’re long way short. They keep moving the goalposts, that’s not really a cheerleading squad, that’s like, I’m never going to get the end zone because they keep moving the goalposts no matter how much I achieve, It’s never good enough. That’s not the right people. They may be well meaning, but you want people to celebrate each small win and say, “You know what, Gary, Warwick? That’s awesome.” You got an interview, or let’s say it’s Joanne Rowling.

Warwick F:
Joanne, maybe she’s chatting to some of her friends at the cafe, her daughter has gone to sleep and she’s taking a break from writing and they’re saying, “Joanne, it’s okay, I know that was the 10th rejection, but we believe in you, this thing will get published, keep going.” For we know she had some friends that actually supported her. So, that is so valuable. Find those people that will support you, that will believe in you, that will help increase this attitude of hope. That will help foster the sense of gratitude in you. So, that’s huge. It’s another important step. Hope, gratitude and a cheerleading squad that help that flywheel. It’s all about keeping that flywheel going. That is really the key. One small step at a time, get that flywheel going and then eventually, success will happen not maybe in the sense that you think about it or plan for it, but that is the way out of the black hole, out of the bottom of the mine shaft. Just keep going one small step at a time in a supportive environment.

Gary S:
As you talk about a cheerleading squad, one of the things that comes to mind for me and we hear it all the time and we’ve talked about it on the show before. Surround yourself with people who will tell you not what you want to hear but what you need to hear. But one of the things that makes those people valuable, is they know that sometimes what you need to hear is affirmation, sometimes what you need to hear is applause, is encouragement. Yeah, there may be times, there certainly are times, even in the midst of a bottomless crucible, in the midst of your crucible fatigue that you need to hear “hard truths.” But the wise people, the good cheerleaders on your squad are going to be ones who will recognize the time to set that aside, the constructive criticism aside and just applaud you for those things that will help you move the next step that you have to take. The first step is important and the next step. Continuing to take the next step after that step, the 12th submission, the 13th submission of the Harry Potter manuscript. That’s important.

Warwick F:
That’s so true. If you were writing a job description of your cheerleading squad, one of the things you hear about people in the business world and giving feedback, they talk about the three to one ratio, three affirmations to one constructive criticism. And some people think they’re helping you by just shovelling all over you in a massive pile, all of the things that you need to learn and do. And they all may be true, but you can’t handle all of it at one time. And it’s often not helpful. So, stress the affirmation, maybe ask a question rather than making a point. Is this the direction you want to go? Do you think this… How well does this fit with your gifts and skills? There’s a way of rather than sledge hammering a person, gently guiding and nudging.

Gary S:
Correct.

Warwick F:
And ultimately, it’s their life and you could be wrong anyway. So, don’t think like you know everything. The odd word of wisdom is fine, but as you rightly say above all what they need is to move and they can’t move without affirmation. Affirmation and support is like the oil that greases those clunky wheels, the flywheel that gets it really spinning. So, major on the affirmations, minor on the constructive criticism in small little doses.

Gary S:
Just as we don’t need internal Eeyores, we don’t need external Eeyores.

Warwick F:
That’s true. What you don’t need is a cheerleading squad that will say, “You know what? We knew you could never do it. We knew you’d always fail.” That’s like surrounding yourself with people that are tying ropes all over you and chains. You don’t need to be chained down. So yes, those people should not qualify, they should not be hired for your cheerleading squad.

Gary S:
Absolutely. One of the things that I say at the end of every episode Warwick is, it’s time to land the plane. So we’re going to land the plane here in a bit. What as the captain of the plane, what are some parting thoughts you’d like to leave listeners with about this idea of fighting their way through what feel like bottomless crucibles, fatigue from crucible experiences?

Warwick F:
No matter how bad it feels, no matter how hopeless, how dark, how much of a black hole or deep mine shaft, the most important thing to ask yourself is this, what one small step can I take today? What one small step, no matter how small it is, can I take today? It all begins with a small step. All the other tips, the cheerleading, the hope, gratitude, vision, learning from your crucible experiences, learning about yourself, it all begins with what one small step. That is an attitude of the will, tell yourself I am going to take a small step today. I am going to do that. It all begins with one small step.

Gary S:
Well, I have been in the communications business long enough and I’ve used enough plane metaphors on this podcast to know the plane’s landed and that’s the last word that we should share for today from the mouth of both the founder of Crucible Leadership and the one who’s lived through it. I usually often close the episode by running through some takeaways. And I’m just going to read through this list of takeaways from the blog that Warwick has written on this subject of how to fight through fatigue in a crucible context. So, usually I give one, two, three takeaways, here we’re going to give seven takeaways. Step one is take one small step. Step two is, don’t forget the vision. Step three, celebrate each small step. Step four, learn through your crucible. As you’re going through your crucible, learn the lessons of your crucible. Really important. Five, cultivate an attitude of hope. Six, have a cheerleading squad. Seven, cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

Gary S:
Those sevens steps taken roughly in that order, but you may find as you’re walking through it, there’s a different order that works for you. But one of the things to remember as you’re taking these steps, these aren’t disconnected tips in the sense of try this here, try this here, try this here, maybe do this, skip that one. What Warwick’s laid out for us here is really a roadmap, where each time your engine gets a little more fuel, the flywheel gets a little more energy and it pushes you through the fatigue that you’re feeling about your crucibles. And the beautiful part of that is once you’re past that fatigue, once that dissipates like black clouds being lifted, once you’re through that, that’s when you really begin to walk on that road to what we call a life of significance. On that subject, listen to one way that you can take a first step, the first step that you can take if you’re unsure of what that first step might be is go to crucibleleadership.com and there we have a life of significance assessment.

Gary S:
You can answer very few questions, a few questions and you will be given tailored just for you, some results that will tell you as we’ve talked about this journey on the road to a life of significance. We’ll show you where you are on that journey. We’ll also give you some insight into your personality type as you’re going through this. Where are you at personally? Are you an imagineer? Are you a world changer? What’s the qualities of your personality where you’re at on the journey? So you’ll find out where you’re at, you’ll find out who you are, as you’re at that point in the journey. And then most importantly, you will be given some tips, you will be given some takeaway tangible action steps you can take to continue the language we’ve been discussing here to continue powering yourself through the flywheel down the road to the life that you want to live. The life that you want to live that’s on purpose and dedicated to helping others. So until the next time that we’re together, thank you so much for spending this time with us.

Gary S:
Thank you for trusting us with your crucibles, for turning to us and to Warwick’s insight and experience and aptitude to help you along the way of what the next step will be. And remember, as you take that first step, which then will lead to the second step, which then will lead to the third step. And if you’re like J.K. Rowling, it could lead to a 13th step. That’s good. Remember, as you go through that, that the crucible that you’re in right now, even though it may feel bottomless, even though it may feel like you’re fatigued by it, remember that that crucible, no matter how long it’s been going on and how tiring it’s been, is not the end of your story. That crucible can be the beginning of your story. And it can be a great beginning of your story. Because once you learn the lessons as you continue down that road, that road that you’re on leads to something that you can’t put a dollar figure on, that will bring you the most fulfillment that you can find. And that is your destination will be a life of significance.

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