Looking Back to Move Forward #50

Warwick Fairfax

January 5, 2021

In this special 50th episode of BEYOND THE CRUCIBLE, host Warwick Fairfax and co-host Gary Schneeberger take a look back at some of the most powerful guests who have shared the trials and triumphs of not just surviving their crucible experiences, but moving beyond them to lead lives of significance. You’ll meet inspiring men and women from all walks of life who have overcome physical, emotional and professional setbacks, failures and tragedies to live lives on purpose, rooted in their passions and talents. From the Hollywood actor/writer/director whose first film flopped so badly it was almost his last to the young woman selling her gourmet cookies out of her driveway, from the motivational speaker who grabbed the brass ring only to realize it was lead to the former NFL quarterback who couldn’t live up to the MVP career of his father but has carved out a post-football calling that helps marriages and families, you’ll find hope and healing in these conversations filled with wisdom and vulnerability.

Highlights

  • The initial problem we thought we had with creating a podcast asking people to talk about failure (4:50)
  • The road map for the episode (9:36)
  • Michelle Kuei’s inner light — Episode 19 (16:07)
  • Ryan Campbell’s journey to hope — Episode 39 (23:30)
  • Mike and David Charbonnet: don’t compare your pain — Episode 5 (29:29)
  • Tim Hauge’s finding of purpose in Parkinson’s — Episode 27 (32:23)
  • Adom Appiah’s pursuit of legacy … at 16 — Episode 38 (35:52)
  • Jim Daly’s helping families after being orphaned and abandoned — Episode 13 (44:10)
  • Sarah Nannen’s refusal to stay in the “widow box” — Episode 30 (51:18)
  • Esther Fleece Allen’s fight to find her new name after emotional abuse — Episode 3 (54:01)
  • Cathleen Merkel’s discovery of her work outside of work — Episode 23 (57:34)
  • Whitney Singletary White’s unflinching pursuit of her baking dream — Episode 42 (1:04:51)
  • Tommy Breedlove’s path to a truly legendary life — Episode 22 (1:12:06)
  • Robert Krantz’s bounceback from his first film’s flop — Episode 11 (1:16:40)
  • Jeff Kemp’s shaking off of the pressure he put on himself to live up to his celebrated dad — Episode 46 (1:22:55)
  • Nancy Koehn: Lessons from artic explorer Ernest Shackleton — Episode 26 (1:33:11)
  • Joseph Badaracco’s perspective on quiet leadership and taking time to reflect — Episode 35 (1:41:11)
  • Sheila Heen’s counsel on navigating difficult conversations — Episode 41 (1:44:44
  • Crucible conversations on perseverance fatigue (Episode 44) and choosing significance over success (Episode 4) (1:47:20)

Transcript

Warwick F:
Welcome to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership.

Gary S:
Well, welcome indeed listener to this monumental, dare I say, episode of Beyond the Crucible. That was, and will soon be again, Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership and the host of the show. I am Gary Schneeberger, the Communications Director for Crucible Leadership and the co-host of the show. And I say monumental because this, Warwick, is our 50th episode. Can you believe it?

Warwick F:
No, I can’t. I mean, it’s hard to believe that we started this a little over a year ago in November. 50 episodes. I mean, who knew? That’s just staggering, hard to believe.

Gary S:
And what we wanted to do, right? Because in Hollywood, when a TV show has a hundred episodes, they have a party and they have a cake. And unfortunately we can’t share cake together right now. But we wanted to mark the occasion with a special 50th episode. And the idea behind the 50th episode that we’re going to go on as we go through is talk about some of the most insightful guests, the guests that we remember perhaps the best over the time that we’ve been doing the show, as you said, for just over a year. And one of the things, Warwick, that I found when I was doing some research, even though I’m not a numbers guy, how many hours of content do you think over the 49 episodes, now 50th, but how many hours of content do you think we’ve had?

Warwick F:
I don’t know. Like 30, 40?

Gary S:
Bravo, bravo. By the time this episode is finished, we will have about 40 hours of content since starting Beyond the Crucible. And think about that for a minute. That consumes the traditional work week. Right? The traditional American work week is 40 hours. We have an American work week’s worth of shows of this podcast, and that’s a pretty good reason to celebrate, I think.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. Yeah, it’s a huge milestone. And obviously we’ll talk about just the diversity of guests and backgrounds and experiences. I mean, I’ve learned a lot as I’ve listened to the folks who we’ve been interviewing and the dialogues we’ve had. And yeah, it’s just been a tremendous learning experience for me and I’ve loved being part of it.

Gary S:
Yeah. To your point about diversity, we’ve had business leaders, community leaders, non-profit leaders, thought leaders, adventurers and academics who have shared the microphones with us. We’ve had a Hollywood actor, producer, writer, director on one side. We’ve had a young woman who sells cookies out of her driveway. There’s such diversity. But the one thing that they all have in common, a couple of things they all have in common, they’ve either been through a crucible or crucibles, sometimes very traumatic trials and tragedies and failures and setbacks, or they’ve been through maybe a couple of crucibles that maybe weren’t as intense, but they have a perspective on how listeners can bounce back from crucibles. And that’s really been, as you look at the portfolio of guests we’ve had, that it all boils down to, right, the vision that was hatched when the show was started of helping people get beyond their crucibles, offering hope and insight on how to do that.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. And it’s just remarkable to me. I mean, you mentioned diverse. We’ve had men, women. We’ve had people of all different backgrounds, races, all different countries, have a huge variety of crucibles from abuse to abandoned orphan to Navy Seal being paralyzed in a training accident, former NFL quarterback, business challenges. A huge variety of diversity in every form of that word. But you’re right, there’s a couple of things that we’ll talk about that is similar in every guest we’ve had. They’ve not let the crucible, as you say at the end of every podcast, not let the crucible be the end of their story, but an exciting new chapter. They have not given up. They have not let a tragedy define them. They have hope. They’ve not let grudges or anger sometimes. Obviously in the case of abuse, there’s a lot of grounds for anger. They’ve not let any of that hold them back.

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
That the traits of what it takes to overcome a crucible are very similar despite the radically different experiences and the diversity of the guests. That was what is probably one of the single most amazing things to me, single most learning points from myself personally.

Gary S:
For sure. And one of the things I thought of right before we got on here, and we haven’t really talked about this in a year. I mean, we haven’t talked about this since we just started. But do you remember back when we first started the show and there was concern on our parts that, oh my goodness. So what makes the podcast interesting is that people don’t talk about failure much. So, we’re going to have content that other people don’t have. But wait a minute, if people don’t talk about failure much, how are we going to find guests? And I remember early on there was a concern on our parts that we were going to … how are we going to find guests? And that has not proven to be a problem. I mean, we are 32 guests into the show so far, and as you said, great diversity in their experiences. And then that common denominator of not giving up, of persevering through the crucible.

Warwick F:
And what we really appreciated about our guests is they’ve been willing to be vulnerable, to go there. I mean, that’s the core of Beyond the Crucible, the core of the book which since the book Crucible Leadership which will be released next year, birthed Beyond the Crucible. But that’s the core idea. I’ve being very open about my own experiences growing up in a large family media business. And after my failed $2.25 billion takeover, the trauma that … maybe trauma’s too strong a word, but certainly the challenges it posed in my life. And I’ve tried to be open and vulnerable about what I went through and what I’ve learned, but I guess I’ve also been very open.

Warwick F:
And one of the things it’s important to me is I don’t want to just hear what happened. I want to hear how they felt in the tragedy, not just to dwell on the pain. So, when they talk about the hope they have now, the listener understands there’s a sort of a yin and yang, two different sides of the same coin of the pain and the tragedy, but then the hope and the joy that’s come later. So, hearing the emotion behind the story is really important to us. And I’d say every guest has gone there. Every guest has been open and vulnerable about what they felt and their emotions.

Gary S:
Absolutely. And in fact, and we’ll hear some of them as we talk through the guests that we’re highlighting here, we’ll hear some of them express that for the first time, in some cases, in having the conversation with us, they’ve realized certain points about their journey back from the crucible.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. Yeah, there’s one thing I wanted to add. And obviously we’ve been thinking about Beyond the Crucible. It’s interesting to look back on how did we get here. How did we get to Beyond the Crucible? And it’s really, as I was reflecting last night, I said a thought quite a bit about vision and how visions can grow.

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
And I remember, as listeners will know in 2008 when at my church in Annapolis, Maryland, where we live from Australia, but we lived here for, gosh, maybe 30 years, a long time. And I was giving a message about my story and like a 10-minute message to illustrate some sermon point. And I figure who could relate to my story? Failed media mogul, nobody knows anything about Australia in the U.S., certainly not about Fairfax Media. And somehow my story resonated and I was open and vulnerable in what I went through, what I learned.

Warwick F:
Then I start writing Crucible Leadership about anchored by my story and stories of my family and some inspirational historical leaders. And then that grew into, well, to sell a book or to get it published, you’ve got to have a brand. So, then I have a great branding and marketing team at Signal that helped with the website and blogs and social media. You came on board with ROAR and helped me with public relations and now just with the book and so many things, with the podcast. Keri came on board to help selling the book and marketing strategy for the book. All of this grew. And then, as you say, about a year ago, we had this conversation, well, how about a podcast? I’d been on some other people’s podcasts.

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
I’m somewhat of a reserved person. So, okay, well, let’s see how this works, and it works. So, the point of the story is, one of the things I’ve learned is visions grow. You started off with I want to get a book published. I guess I need a brand. Well, I guess I need a blog. Okay. Social media. I’m not somebody that posts a lot on social media just in terms of my generation, something I really have an excessive need to do, but I realize it’s important to get your message out, and I want to get my message out, so okay. Podcast. Okay, that’s another good way of talking about your message. So, this wasn’t some big grand plan other than publish the book. So, I think for listeners, when you have a vision, realize it can grow and that’s okay. And your comfort zone can move. And just step by step, bit by bit, visions can grow, and that’s good.

Gary S:
Yeah. And from the perspective that we had starting out that I mentioned that, geez, okay, people don’t like to talk about failure. How are we going to find people to talk about failure? We did. And not only did we find people to talk about their crucibles in honesty and transparency in detail. But one of the things that we have done to help guide us, a roadmap to get us through this episode, is that we discovered what I’ve called a three by three approach to what we’ve accomplished at Beyond the Crucible and how we’re going to go through this episode, and that is we found basically three kinds of shows. We produce three kinds of shows, one each week, here at Beyond the Crucible.

Gary S:
One kind of show is about people’s crucibles. And that’s the vast majority of the shows that we do are people who have had crucible experiences telling their story of how they have bounced back, moved beyond those crucible experiences, and are now pursuing and living lives of significance. That’s the one kind of show. Second kind of show are we added this a little bit later on in the process earlier this year. Actually, since this is January 5th when you’re hearing this, that was later last year. Perspective guests, guests who maybe don’t have the most searing crucibles, to keep up with the metaphor of fiery furnace that melts metal, but they have a great perspective to help people who are coming back from their crucibles understand how to do that. So, we’ve got crucible guests and prospective guests.

Gary S:
And then from the outset, we’ve had these shows, Warwick, that it’s just the two of us having a conversation. And the reason behind that, the reason that we wanted to go there from the start, is based on what you talked about just a little bit ago, is your journey in coming to start the podcast was your own crucible and your own experience in unpacking what you learned as you came back from your crucible. So, having those three kinds of shows has made, I think, for a diverse set of circumstances and conversations, don’t you think?

Warwick F:
Absolutely. I’ve really enjoyed just the diversity of the guests and talking about that. But then we’ve had thought leaders, and we’ll talk about some of them later, like Professor Joseph Badaracco of Harvard Business School. And he’s written a couple books that we’ll chat about, Leading Quietly and Step Back. And sometimes as we talk to either guests who have crucibles or perspective guests, they’ll say something, and we’ll chat about this later. But Professor Badaracco talked about quiet leadership versus heroic leadership. And it occurred to me, I grew up with a heroic leadership model.

Warwick F:
So, we ended up doing a perspective, I’m sorry, a conversation between the two of us unpacking more about heroic leadership. And we’ve done ones on vulnerability and significance and a whole bunch of them. So, sometimes there are things that we really want to talk about. Sometimes an idea has come out of a conversation that we’ve had with a guest, and we think we want to explore this more. So, it’s really a great place where we can just go deeper on some issues between the two of us that are just either come from a guest or just come from a thought we’ve had.

Gary S:
Right. And those three kinds of shows, if we back up to the first kind of show, that’s why I call it a three by three, right? There’s three kinds of shows. And in the first kind of show, we’ve identified, generally speaking, that there are three kinds of crucibles. In those crucible shows, we generally big picture, big tent. There are folks who have had physical crucibles. They’ve had injuries, they’ve had illnesses, they’ve had something that has limited them, challenged them physically. That’s the first of the three kinds of crucibles.

Gary S:
There are folks who’ve had emotional crucibles, and a lot of our guests have been there, who’ve struggled with something that happened to them, something that maybe they caused to happen, but it’s more emotional than it is physical. And then there’s professional crucibles, those things that are failures and setbacks in the workplace. And many times, and we’ll discover that as we go through and we start to begin to unpack here in a little bit, some of the guests that have really stood out to us, many times there’s overlap, right? These aren’t rigid, everybody’s in an iron box. Right? There’s a lot of overlap between the physical crucibles, the emotional crucibles and the professional crucibles.

Warwick F:
Yeah. I mean, that’s so true. Because very often I’d say almost always folks that have had physical crucibles, and we’ll discuss this in a minute, they can’t always change the physical side, but the emotional side is also devastating. Coming to grips with, as one of our guests or a number of them talk about, a new normal is how do you emotionally recover. That’s as big a part for those with physicals. So, physical, emotional, even those with professional. Very often professional crucibles have to do with identity. Who am I? Do I have my identity just in my career? So, there is overlap between these three. I mean, there’s the primary crucible, which is how we’ve chosen to separate it, which makes sense. But there is overlap between the three categories, there is no question.

Gary S:
Absolutely. And speaking of that, listener, thank you for listening to our wind up here, for paying attention as we’ve, in the baseball metaphor sense, we’ve wound up for the pitch, because now we’re about to really pivot into talking about some of those shows, some of those guests, and some of those conversations that have really stood out. And that’s been the fun part about planning for this 50th episode is going back and reviewing the content that we’ve created. And we’re going to start talking about physical crucibles, those things that, in many cases, can be the most dramatic, right, because you’re talking about a life that is restricted, is changed. As we say a lot, the trajectory has changed because of a physical illness, ailment, injury, something along those lines.

Gary S:
And the first person, the first guest that we’re going to talk about in that physical crucible perspective, is a young woman named Michelle Kuei. And Michelle’s story, just a brief setup, is that she was in a tragic car accident when she was 11 in Taiwan where she grew up. And what happened to her is that it left her with physical and emotional scars that she’s dealt with that plagued her for 30 years. But her body stopped growing after the crash, and that made her really get consumed by this idea that she was not normal. She was in her thirties, still the height she was, still the body size and type she was when she was 11. And that caused a whole bunch of pain and fear and retreating from life a little bit.

Gary S:
And it was only when she took up hiking that she ended up beginning to burst through that, a 30-year journey. But she took up hiking, and that ended with her, you’ll remember this well, Warwick, she ascended Machu Picchu, and that was when she learned that she wasn’t just normal, which was her goal all her life. She just wanted to be normal. She realized, nope, I’m not just normal, but that she had extraordinary in her. That episode, to me, stands out as one of the most revealing and inspiring that we’ve had.

Warwick F:
Yeah, there’s no question. She is probably one of the most inspirational guests that we’ve had. Because there’s the contrast with the pain, physical and emotional, and her countenance now which is so full of joy. And she’s all about empowering people. And she has her own coaching, Elevate Life Coaching, where she tries to help people discover their strength and inner beauty and overcome the fear of judgment and internal negative self-talk. But what is amazing is this has been decades in the making where she is. A really important lesson for listeners is don’t expect to bounce back overnight, or even in a year or two years, necessarily. It can be painful.

Warwick F:
Now the physical, I don’t know that that changed that much after her accident. She is four foot something. She has crutches. When she go to the grocery store, she can’t reach things on the top shelves. She has to use a crutch to knock it off or have a hopefully good Samaritan help her out, which is just tedious. I mean, that’s not something you don’t do that often. It’s just frustrating.

Warwick F:
But you’re right. That whole Machu Picchu episode, I think we have it. I don’t know if it’s seven, eight minutes on YouTube. It’s really well worth listeners having a look at just that scene. And it’s this Inca town at the top of this mountain in Peru, and the trail is very steep. And there she is and her crutches, and the last part of that journey is like 50 steps, really steep, and she’s climbing up. She can’t use her crutches because it … She’s has to crawl on her hands and knees. And she’s got a whole team with her, people that she didn’t know before, but they’re just cheering her. “Michelle, Michelle.” Kind of like team Michelle, right? Well, actually, that’s what they called it afterwards.

Gary S:
Yep.

Warwick F:
So yeah, just her whole countenance now. And she’s written a book, Perfectly Normal. And so, there was a time in which she felt bad about herself, that she felt like she wasn’t pretty like the other young girls when she was growing up and dating and all of that. I mean, friendships. So much felt like it just wasn’t easy anymore. But now she just has this incredible countenance of joy and wanting to empower people. And yeah, she is really inspirational. The physical was hard, but the emotional, that’s been a lifelong journey to try to combat.

Gary S:
Correct. And I’ve been blessed since that episode. It was our 19th episode. So, I’m not going to do the math cause I’m bad at math. But I’ve been blessed since then to become friends with her, and we’ll talk semi-frequently in email and text. She sent me a great Thanksgiving card that was just so sweet and so kind. And one of the things that she said in that episode that continues to stick in my mind, she said this, “Each and every one of us is a gift to this world.”

Gary S:
And when she came and she realized that, that was really when it all started to fall together after those 30 years of what was kind of an emotional physical wilderness for her. And what she was able to do the moment where she realized that is that she realized that this is how I am and this is who I am. She realized, this is how she was going to look for the rest of her life. She can accept this is how she’s going to look and she can embrace every part of herself, because there’s something else other than what we see on the outside.

Michelle Kuei:
In order to overcome your emotional challenge, many times you have to be able to recognize it. You have to allow it. You have to accept it. And my condition, my physical challenge, was something I needed to accept. This is how I am, and this is who I am. This is how I’m going to look for the rest of my life. I can sit here and not accept it and keep having resistance, keep having that fighting emotion, and keep wanting to understand why has it done to me and keep wanting, exploring in that victim thinking mentality or mindset, or I can accept that this had happened. It’s very unfortunate, but it happened. I can except this is how I look, and I can embrace every part of me because there’s something else other than, greater than, what we see on the outside. It’s not just the physical appearance. It’s not just what we see externally. It’s what’s going on in the inside. There’s a light that’s inside each one of us. That’s what we need to accept.

Gary S:
How beautiful is that?

Warwick F:
It is. I mean, speaking of beauty, really, she has this incredible inner beauty. Her soul is just radiant, is just remarkable. And people know the challenges that she has been through physically. And because she has so much joy, it gives other people hope. It’s like, “How does she do this? How can she be so joyful? How can she accept who she is and what she’s been through?” But she has in so many ways. I mean, she has this inner light that really shines brightly and elevates and uplifts everybody she comes in contact with. She is a true inspiration.

Gary S:
Yeah. Her energy, her optimism, her … I’m friends with her on Facebook and her energy and optimism that she does with her community and just her friends is so infectious. You can be in a bad mood, hop on Facebook, see something that Michelle Kuei’s posted. and you’re like, “Okay, I’m not in such a bad mood anymore,” because she’s just got so much positive energy and so much hope. She offers so much hope.

Gary S:
And that is also the story of another physical crucible guest that we’ve had on offering hope. And that’s really what we try to do with all of our guests who’ve had crucibles, how did they find hope? And Ryan Campbell is another young person, a man in his twenties, who went through a horrific physical crucible and as emerged on the other side encouraging people, offering hope inspiration to them. And he is, you mentioned it early on, Warwick. You mentioned that we had people from lots of different nationality backgrounds. I think Australians number one among the backgrounds we’ve had, and Ryan is a young man from Australia. So, I don’t know if that’s coincidence or you’re…

Warwick F:
Yeah, I wonder how that happened. Who knew?

Gary S:
But Ryan’s story, is so fascinating and so inspiring. He became the youngest pilot to fly solo around the world. But then two years later, he’s living his vision. He wanted to be a pilot since he was a little boy. He’s living his vision. And then two years later, he was in a plane crash, a horrific plane crash, that threatened more than the dream that he started at age six. He was left a paraplegic after that accident. But he fought back physically and emotionally to walk and to hope again, and most importantly, from a life of significance perspective, to help others hope again.

Ryan Campbell:
We started the airplane. You actually have to grab the propeller and spin the propeller with your hands and start it by hand, so it’s a very old technology. And we taxi to the end of the runway. We lined up on this short grass airstrip. Nice and early in the morning to take off and go and look at the beach. And I pushed the power forward, the airplane performed beautifully, and we lifted off the ground, the runway. And the fence at the end of the runway disappeared beneath the nose. And straightaway at about 150 feet over the top of trees the engine failed. And we had a partial engine failure. And within three seconds, despite everything that I could do, we just … I don’t know what I ever could have done different. We had nowhere to go and we ended up in what was a horrific plane crash. And it’s just not explainable how bad it was. And I was cut from the wreckage, placed into a helicopter and flown to hospital, but I was the only survivor.

Gary S:
That story also was one truly inspiring from the start to the finish.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. I mean, his was almost like a double crucible, but he has two huge stories. Here he is at 19 growing up in Australia and just has this dream of flying. He’s wanted to do that since he was a kid and had this idea that he could fly around the world and wanted to be the youngest, which he did. And just that whole journey, getting funding. I remember he wrote a letter to Dick Smith who’s this sort of maverick entrepreneur, owns the equivalent of Best Buy in Australia, and has supported whole bunch of different adventurers, including somebody who we recently had on the podcast, which was so recent was didn’t make the 50 conversation. Lisa Blair who sailed around the Antarctic, which is a whole nother incredible adventure which is absolutely worthy of listening to.

Gary S:
And she also is from where?

Warwick F:
Australia. Exactly. Of course. Australians are so adventurous, I guess. But yeah, so here’s Ryan. He accomplishes an amazing feat, really put himself out there. And then he just had this idea that he loved flying vintage airplanes, so the biplane. You have twenties, thirties, kind of 1920s, thirties planes. And he had somebody with him helping them give joy rides. People want to go up in planes like this. And it was just this incredible bad luck, really, that he’s a very accomplished pilot, he’s in this old plane, and somehow the engine cut out.

Warwick F:
And as he puts it, if the engine and cut out 20 seconds early or 20 seconds later, he would have been fine. He could have either not taken off or he could have glided down, but he was over trees and there’s nothing he could do, and it wasn’t his fault. But the passenger that was in that plane died. So not only did he have physical challenges, he had to accept the fact that the person that was within his plane died. Objectively, he knew that it wasn’t his fault. There’s nothing he could do. It’s an old plane, things happen. But he had to the physical. I mean, he can walk now, but as he puts it somewhat humorously, he kind of walks like he’s had a bottle of Jack Daniels I think is how he expresses it.

Gary S:
Yeah.

Warwick F:
So, it looks like it’s had a few too many. And so, he’s still not a hundred percent, so to speak. But he is functional, and he just talks about having a mindset toolbox to overcome crucibles. And his whole way back of feeling sorry for himself in hospital and looking out at somebody else in the rehab clinic who is just trying to move one little finger just like a little bit.

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
And he’s thinking, “I’m feeling bad about myself. I can do more than move a finger. And this guy is looking at me, like looking through my soul, saying,” as we say in Australia, “Hey mate, what are you complaining about?” Now he didn’t say that, but the look said everything. And Ryan, you want that look meant. It’s like, “Okay, good point. It’s not great, but I’m not where this other guy is.” So, his ability to bounce back from that somewhat physically, but especially emotionally. And he still enjoys flying. He tried to fly a helicopter which one road a bit too far, but at least he can fly. His whole attitude of hope, similar in one sense to Michelle Kuei. He has this hope, the sense of optimism, despite what he went through.

Gary S:
Yeah. And what you just said, Warwick, about him comparing himself to that other gentlemen in the hospital with him reminded me of another physical crucible guest that we had. It was actually two guests. It was a father and son, both of whom were former Navy Seals. And I remember that it was Mike and David Charbonnet are the guests. There were our fifth show very early on. And quick rundown of their story. David Charbonnet was the son who followed in his dad Mike’s footsteps, joined the Seals, and then he was hurt in a parachuting accident and he was paralyzed. And while he was telling that story, Warwick, I don’t know if you remember, but while he was telling that story, you were telling your story. And I was trying to make a point about how no matter where, your crucibles can be similar. Even if the circumstances are different, the emotions are often the same.

Gary S:
And you made an offhand comment that your crucible certainly wasn’t as devastating or I forget the words you used as David Charbonnet’s might have been. And Mike, his dad, stopped you and said, “We should never compare our crucibles, never compare our pain, because what’s the most painful for you is the most painful for you.” So, the idea that the flip side to what Ryan did was to say, “Geez, I don’t have it as bad as that guy.” The idea of saying still knowing that your crucible, your pain, is your pain and not to just dismiss it, to live through it, to accept it, like Michelle did, to take it, to realize it’s there, to accept it, and then move on, I think is an important bit of what we’ve been able to draw out of guests as we’ve talked to them.

Warwick F:
No, that’s so true. I mean, it was inspirational what Mike Charbonnet shared, that your pain, your crucible, you can’t compare it. It’s every bit as painful. That was a remarkable episode because you had both father and son Navy SEALs. Mike thought about his son, that his son was subjectively maybe could be one of the best SEALs ever. As a Navy SEAL, you don’t make those comments idly. And so, that was Mike’s perspective. To see his son just paralyzed and his career dream gone was tough, and it was obviously tough for the son. But physically, there was only limited ability to overcome that, but he’s now heading up a vet rehabilitation clinic in San Diego and sort of latest technology to help vets have the best movement they can. And so again, using his pain for a purpose, and that’s also inspirational. David Charbonnet could have given up on life and felt very angry and bitter, but he didn’t. He’s using his pain to help others and help other vets. Yeah, I applaud him for his life and how he approaches it.

Gary S:
He is living a life of significance. Another guest that I think of when we talk about this subject of physical crucibles is a man named Tim Hague. Tim is one of the few people, it’s very rare, who was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease. Tim was a nurse, so he kind of knew it was coming even before. He felt the tremors and he felt some things, and he knew that’s what it was and the diagnosis was confirmed. He was 46. He was active and he was vibrant, and suddenly this disease began to attack his body and slow him down and make it hard for him to do things that he had taken for granted.

Gary S:
One of the things he said at the end of that show that I think was so inspirational was he had to believe there was something good in it for him as he processed early onset Parkinson’s. He said he had to believe there was something good in it for him. Otherwise, it doesn’t make any sense. What he was saying was, “The lessons of this crucible, I have to learn them and apply them because that will be good for me, and then by extension, good for others, helping others.”

Warwick F:
Tim Hague was also incredibly inspirational. He’s a person of faith, Canadian. Because he’s been a nurse for a very long time, as soon as he started feeling that tremor in his left toe, he knew, as you say, he knew immediately what that was, Parkinson’s. Didn’t need to go to the doctor. Obviously he did, got the whole tests, and started a simple process of figuring that out. But obviously, you’ve got to be angry, frustrated. It’s like, “Really? 46?” I mean, that hardly ever happens to somebody so young, but he did not let it destroy him. He knows all the data. He knows the actor Michael J. Fox has helped raise millions, if not billions, of research into Parkinson’s that so far has not really found a cure. I mean, in his perspective, all the best will in the world hasn’t accomplished that much objectively. Not that there hasn’t been a huge amount of effort, but there’s not been much forward progress in significantly finding a cure. But yet, he has turned his challenge and he’s not let it get him down. He won the Amazing Race Canada, which him and his son did.

Gary S:
Awesome.

Warwick F:
How is that possible with Parkinson’s and that kind of disability to win? I mean, that was a miracle. It’s a whole nother story worth listening to podcast for more details, but he now helps other people with Parkinson’s disease. While there is no cure, with the proper diet, exercise and mindset, you can be more functional. You can have significant difference in your functionalities which I didn’t realize. And so, he is really helping a lot of folks with Parkinson’s have the best quality of life that they can. So again, a real inspirational figure. I don’t sense he’s not happy that he has Parkinson’s, but it’s not destroying him. He’s not in a well of bitterness that’s eating away like acid at his soul every day. That’s not him. Really an inspiration.

Gary S:
He’s a young man, Tim Hague, a young man with an older person’s ailment, disease. This leads me to segue into our next area, which is emotional crucibles. Because among all of the emotional crucibles we talked about, when I think of young man and doing something that you tend to only think happens to folks who have a little bit more tread off the tires, I think of Adom Appiah. Adom is a 16 year old young man, one of the most remarkable people we’ve talked to because his perspective on things, his maturity in dealing with his crucibles and his perspective on how to come back from that is so far beyond his years. I’ve never heard you in an interview, Warwick, say wow or just be blown away by what a guest says more than I heard you in that interview with Adom.

Gary S:
It all started for him when he grew up in eighth grade. He finally, after dreaming for years, he wanted to be in the national spelling bee, but he got knocked out of the national spelling bee early. This thing that he’s dreamt of for maybe half his life or a third of his life, because he’s only in eighth grade at the time, he’s dreamt about it, he studied for it, he’s done all of these things, but he got knocked out early. Now, how many people who in eighth grade, how many young people… I’ll raise my hand and say, when I was in eighth grade, if I got knocked off of something I wanted really badly, I wasn’t going to do what Adom Appiah did.

Gary S:
Adom didn’t feel sorry for himself. He didn’t have a fit. He didn’t sulk. He didn’t blow up. He turned his attention into consoling the other kids who’d also fallen short. He reached out and helped those who also had their dreams, their young dreams crushed by that experience. And that just started a series of events in his life that has led him now at age 16, he’s the author of two books and the founder of a very successful fundraising nonprofit called Ball4Good. He’s already, at age 16, living a life of significance that is focused on building a legacy of service to others. And that is impressive at any age, superlatively impressive at 16.

Warwick F:
Absolutely, Gary. I mean, Adom is one of the most inspirational guests we’ve had because the amount of wisdom he has for his age, I’d say the amount of wisdom he has for any age was just mind blowing. It’s a combination of wisdom and maturity. I mean, it’s just here he is at a young age, eighth grade. This whole spelling bee thing, it wasn’t just a whim. He’d been dreaming of this for a couple of years or so. I mean, this was something. It was a goal, a dream. He was passionate about it. He worked hard. All you have to do on that spelling bee is miss one word and that’s it. Yeah, he was frustrated. It wasn’t like he didn’t feel those emotions, but it didn’t take long, as you say, for him to shift his thinking to console the other kids. I mean, what kid does that? I think he was still in middle school at that time. I guess eighth grade, he would have been. I mean, it’s just stunning.

Warwick F:
As you say, he writes two books Bouncing Back from Failure and then Kids Can Change The World. I mean, how many people do you know who have written two books before they’d even finished high school. It’s just absolutely staggering. As you say, he started this whole nonprofit Ball4Good. He’s got a lot of very wise people on the board. He’s done everything the right way to get the smartest people, but he is so mature. When you ask him, somehow the word legacy came up and I was almost embarrassed to ask him about it.

Gary S:
Right. What happened was he was talking about how his dad always had told him the importance of just doing you, it’s the way that he put it, and that what you need to do to make your legacy one you can be proud of. This is what he said about his legacy, “I just want to be able to help definitely more people than I’ve helped now.”

Adom Appiah:
My dad always tells me the importance of just doing you and doing what you need to do, what your legacy should be. And so, he’s taught me how I should listen to others, how I should take into account what everybody has to say, and then pick what I believe to be important and ingrain that in my life.

Warwick F:
Another amazing word. I don’t think I’ve heard pretty much any 16 year olds mentioned is legacy. What do you want your legacy to be? That’s something people think about on their death bed. It’s typically, “Man, I made lots of money,” or whatever happened and oops, “I neglected my family. I was so driven.” Whether it’s in any field of endeavor, business, sports, the arts, but you’re thinking about legacy right now. I mean, do you have any inklings of what you want your legacy to be? It’s probably a massive question, but since you brought up the word.

Gary S:
I bet you do. I bet you do.

Adom Appiah:
I have some broad aspirations as to… I just want to be able to help definitely more people than I’ve helped now. I want to be able to get to a point where I can consider myself a true philanthropist and be able to allow people to benefit, be able to help with the issues of the world and whatever way I can, whether that’s in leadership or in financial contributions. I just want to be able to say at the end of my life that I was able to make a difference. I was able to help.

Gary S:
For any young man who’s 16 to already have helped people at the extent Adom has helped people by getting through Ball4Good a professional basketball player, Zion Williamson, to be part of the celebrity basketball team. He wants to be able to get to a point where I can consider myself a true philanthropist. I mean, that’s amazing.

Warwick F:
It really is. I mean, not everybody thinks about legacy, but very few folks in high school think about legacy. It’s just too soon. You’re thinking about getting through high school, perhaps college.

Gary S:
Girls, boys.

Warwick F:
Yeah, a job. But I guess legacy ultimately, I guess, is defined when you’re on your deathbed, what do you want your legacy to be? He thought about that. As you say, he wants to be thought of as a philanthropist. He said that at the end of his life, he wants to be able to say that he was able to make a difference. I mean, he knows what it is. He’s not defined by how big that is. I think in not so many words you realize it’s just changing one life is enough. He just has such mature perspective. He already has a handle on what legacy means and what he wants his to be. I can’t think of anybody else his age who was that mature and that thoughtful and is even thinking about legacy, let alone have a very well thought out perspective on it. I mean, that’s why it was so amazing. His maturity and his wisdom was off the charts. It was mind blowing. It was just hard to believe.

Gary S:
For him to be able to deal with that emotional crucible of, and we discovered this with a number of guests, sometimes the most emotional, the hardest crucibles, the trials and tragedies of their lives happened very early. We have had other guests who didn’t get on the basketball team when they were growing up, and that was in eighth grade and it still haunts them. It still was an issue that they had, a sticking point that they had to get over. For that crucible that Adom went through at that age to lead him not five years down the road to realize, “Aha, I need to help people,” he realized within minutes. Rather than going back to his room at the hotel for the spelling bee and sulking, he must started helping other kids and he’s continuing to do that.

Gary S:
That is inspirational. That is a pointer to everybody who goes through a crucible of any type, particularly an emotional crucible, that you can move beyond your emotional crucible. One of the first things you can do is help others, right? What’s the best way to stop thinking about your own problems? Go focus your attention on helping somebody with their problems.

Gary S:
Another guest who as a young man, as a young boy who we had, who dealt with an extraordinarily difficult emotional crucible was Jim Daly. Jim Daly is the president of the nonprofit ministry Focus on the Family. Full disclosure, I used to work for Jim and I’m a friend of Jim’s. I used to say about the kind of man Jim Daly is, about the kind of man that Jim Daly, the kind of leader Jim Daly is. I would tell people that I would follow Jim Daly into a burning building simply because he told me to, he asked me to. I wouldn’t need to know why we were going into the burning building. I would know because I know his character, because I know his dedication to helping families. I would follow him into that building because I knew I would know that his reason for going in was a good, selfless one focused on helping others.

Gary S:
But what Jim unpacked for us when we talked to him, his emotional crucible, incredible that he leads this global nonprofit organization that helps keep families together, helps families thrive, given what his own background was like, abandoned by his alcoholic father at five, he lost his mother to cancer four years later and had no one to turn to but his four older siblings. He spent time in foster care, where he dealt with what he called unreal, a family named the Real family. Jim names them, they are the Real family, and he said they’re actually the unreal family. He went through so much loneliness and so much pain and so much dejection, and yet he pushed through it. Perhaps not in minutes like Adom did, but it took a period of time, he also found himself in a position where he wanted to help other people. And that’s what he’s doing today as the head of Focus on the Family.

Warwick F:
Yeah. I mean, a number of people have heard of Jim Daly, the CEO of Focus on the Family that has a worldwide ministry, a faith-based that does a lot of good for families, but they don’t always know the backstory, which obviously working with him you knew, but I didn’t, and just being abandoned had an alcoholic father, mother dies of cancer. On the day of his mother’s funeral, his stepfather just walks out on him and his siblings and he was the youngest. I mean, he’s just abandoned. And then you think maybe there’s hope in foster care, and it wasn’t very good. So he had a really tough life, but somehow he didn’t let that destroy him.

Warwick F:
I think first maybe positive influence, I think was a football coach of his in high school. And that to have a positive role model in a male figure was something he hadn’t experienced. Somehow there was a turn in his life and ended up going to college and working his way up in the corporate world before the opportunity came to come to Focus on the Family, but he had about as tough an upbringing as anybody I know. It was really, really grim.

Gary S:
In our conversation, he offered, I think a great piece of advice to people who have children about if they’re going through difficult times, what do you do?

Jim Daly:
So, one piece of advice I have for people is if you’re going through difficulty as a parent, let your kids in on it in an age appropriate way. For me, I had to go from having a normal, dysfunctional family to all of a sudden learning one Saturday morning that my mom had died the night before. It wasn’t expected. I wasn’t anticipating it. I couldn’t read the signs and put it all together. So it was a jolt to me to learn that the person who was the most loving, kind person in my life, all of a sudden was gone. I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye to her.

Gary S:
I mean, that is really good advice, isn’t it?

Warwick F:
Absolutely. I mean, he didn’t have a really positive role model of people doing that to him, his stepdad saying, “Hey, your mom has died. Let’s talk about this.” Not only did they not have a conversation, he just left. So it was as bad as it could be. So obviously, with his own kids, he’s being more open. There is an age appropriate way to talk about challenges you’re going through, but just not talking about challenges with your kids, it is just not helpful. I think psychologists would tell us kids want to be told something. You can’t tell them nothing. But he’s remarkable to me. One of the most remarkable things about his story is he’s not a bitter, vindictive or angry man.

Warwick F:
He could have been angry at his alcoholic dad, at his stepfather, at his foster family, but he’s not. I mean, it doesn’t mean that he condones. We talk about that quite a bit on Beyond the Crucible. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone poor or abhorrent behavior, but he keeps moving forward. I asked him about that and I can’t remember his exact words, but it was something that you just move forward. You don’t let that get you down. He’s somebody that I’m sure reflective, but he doesn’t reflect about all the pain. He keeps moving forward and trying to help others. He’s forward-focused, focused on helping others.

Gary S:
That was episode 13, listeners, so you can go back and you can hear it because one of the things I did, I remember now, as we talk about it, one of the things I did in that show is I drew everyone’s attention to the fact that even as he was talking about these really traumatic things, there was a joy to him about the other side of those traumatic things. In other words, he wasn’t overjoyed that his mother had passed away. He wasn’t overjoyed that he was abandoned or that he had trouble in foster care, but the lessons he learned from that and then how he applied those lessons in his life as the head of Focus on the Family, there was joy in his voice. He laughed. I mean, there are a few people I’ve met in my life, let alone worked for, who laugh as much as Jim Daly and as robustly as Jim Daly. And that’s an important thing, that authenticity of who he is, that finding the joy in the difficult moments of your life is-

Warwick F:
It is.

Gary S:
… extraordinarily important.

Warwick F:
I think for him, and we talk about this also quite a lot in Beyond the Crucible is in order to bounce back, you’ve got to have some core of beliefs, values, something inner core. For him, he’s a very strong man of faith, faith in Christ. That’s probably one of the cornerstones of him. But wherever you get it from, you’ve got to have some internal core of convictions and belief that can help fuel your path back, that can, from his perspective, help him forgive. So he’s got this joy, but there’s an anchor in his soul that fuels his joy, I guess is the point. So find your anchor, whatever that may be-

Gary S:
Right. There you go.

Warwick F:
… everybody has to find their own, but you got to have one.

Gary S:
Right. One of the big principles of crucible leadership, for sure. A couple of other guests, Warwick, that we’ve had on, again, who really struck me, who have gone through emotional crucibles, one of them was Sarah Nannen. The title that we put on Sarah’s episode was simply Lean Into Your Pain. Her story was that her husband, she was not just a military wife, but an officer and her husband was a military pilot and he died in a training accident. She went through some difficult crucibles. But again, as she talked about how she came out of those, there was joy in her voice, but it was not easy. It was kind of double crucibles for her as well, wasn’t it?

Warwick F:
It was. I mean, she had four children under six, the youngest just a few months old. When you see in the movies, you see those two military folks coming up your driveway. And as soon as she saw them, just like in the movie, she knew exactly what it was about. They were going to tell her that she is a naval officer and they were going to tell her that her husband, a fighter pilot, was killed in a training accident. Obviously, she goes through incredible grief. I mean, she loses her husband. She’s got young kids. How is she going to survive this? But she is one tough person in the best sense of that word. She is a survivor. Part of obviously, how do you move on from something like that? I mean, it takes years. But the other crucible was, as she puts it, people put her in a widow box.

Warwick F:
They expected her to be this grieving widow for the rest of her life because if she really wanted to honor her military hero pilot, she should put her life on hold and permanently grieve, permanently weep, not move on, not find another relationship. Nobody would probably ever say that to her. It was a look in their eyes. It was almost the expectations. People mean well, but she was not going to be in that widow box. So she has moved on in her life and relationships. She really has a mission to help other widows, whether it be through military widows or widows from other causes, not just be put in that box and move on. It’s not just possible that she puts it to overcome that kind of crucible. It’s possible to thrive. For some you use the T word thrive, it feels like if you’re thriving, you must not have loved your husband. May won’t say that, but people think some very bad things, unfortunately, and she refuses to accept that. She doesn’t apologize for thriving. It’s not dishonoring her husband. So she also is a true inspiration.

Gary S:
Yeah. Also inspirational, and I tend to know all of our examples here in the emotional crucible category, another friend of mine, Esther Fleece Allen. She was our first guest, the first person who we ever interviewed on Beyond the Crucible. Esther’s story, which I knew well, but still learned some things in our conversation, Esther’s story was that she had a traumatic childhood of abuse and abandonment, but she rose above that as she moved beyond the crucible. She carved out a successful career as a speaker and writer, and we actually worked together for a spell.

Gary S:
But then, the father that she feared who had abandoned her when she was young resurfaced in her life and stalked her. She realized that the successful life she’d built was a bit of a defense mechanism to avoid processing her pain. She has focused herself now to lament on those crucible experiences, to feel them completely, to, as the title of the Sarah Nannen’s episode says, lean into your pain. Esther Fleece Allen learned to lean into her pain. From that, she’s been set free of some of the pain that she experienced that led her to kind of, as she put it in her first book, to fake fine.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. I mean, Esther Fleece Allen, kind of like Sarah Nannen, she’s a fighter, she’s a survivor. I mean, truly, truly impressive. As you mentioned, abandoned by her parents. Later on, father stalked her. I mean, in high school, what’s amazing is she was raised by parents of friends at high school. She’d go from place to place, and I think she was getting straight A’s, active in high school. I mean, how is that possible? I asked her about that and says, well, I mean, she, wasn’t going to let this define her, destroy her. She’s one of these people that just, I guess they talk about fight or flight, she was absolutely on the fight side. “I’m not going to let this get me down. I’m just going for it.” But as she was doing all of that, that really led as you know better than I, her first book, No More Faking Fine.

Warwick F:
On the outside, she was seen to be this high achieving young woman. She’s going for it, getting it done. But on the inside, there’s still the pain that maybe she was pushing down. And so, she realized she needed to deal with it. I love her new book, Your New Name, which is really obviously a faith perspective, Your New Name, from her perspective faith, Your New Name, and Jesus, so to speak, but it’s almost like you’re not defined by your narrative that you grew up with. You’re not defined by the story of abandonment. You can chart your own course. You can have your own new name. So her ability to jump, to survive, but like Sarah Nannen, to thrive and deal with the pain, the emotional pain, and just have this light and this joy is also truly remarkable.

Gary S:
Hopefully, listeners, what you hear when you hear these stories of the way in which these individuals have bounced, not back from, through their crucibles. It maybe doesn’t take just a couple of minutes like it did for Adom Appiah. Sometimes it can take 30 years like it did for Michelle Kuei, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is significance at the end of the pain. And that’s what we’ve discovered through our first 49 episodes of Beyond the Crucible.

Gary S:
Another guest, Warwick, as we switch now into professional crucibles, those things that happened to us in our working life, another guest who offers that example and perspective of light at the end of the tunnel, that perspective of moving beyond things that held you down for a long period of time is Cathleen Merkel. Cathleen Merkel grew up in communist East Germany, and she was taught that her value came from doing what others expected of her, working hard, not upsetting the established order of things, but then the Berlin Wall fell and freedom came and she tentatively stepped into that in ways that weren’t always great for her.

Gary S:
She pursued professional goals and personal goals with a passion, but they didn’t satisfy her in the way that she thought they would satisfy her. She had some issues with her staffs and her bosses told her some things that we don’t like to hear from our bosses. It sent her reeling a little bit in her early professional career, and that professional setback, that professional disruption led to some challenges for her.

Warwick F:
Yeah, I found Cathleen Merkel just a remarkable woman. She’s somebody that is very driven. I mean, she grew up, as you mentioned, in communist East Germany and you think sort of German work ethic, go at it, very driven. So she was in her 20s, 30s, just working her way up the corporate ladder doing amazingly well, but it was kind of like, “I’m going to get this done no matter what.” And she was kind of walking over people. She was almost, from her perspective, being too German. She’s giving people feedback very directly, very bluntly. “This isn’t working. I need you to do this.” She had a boss say to her, “You need to tone it down a bit. People don’t like you.”

Warwick F:
Now, interestingly enough for her, her boss was a woman. So it wasn’t like, “Oh, some male boss saying to some woman, ‘Oh you need to be more nice.’ ” It was a woman telling her. Yeah. So that, she couldn’t really dismiss that. It’s just somebody that just doesn’t get it. And so she really took that to heart and there was a couple of crucibles there. One is just how she hated feeling like people were scared of her. Maybe I don’t know about didn’t like or somebody scared of her. Nobody wants people to be scared of them who works for you. That’s not good. But she realized she didn’t have a life. I think she went on a trip with some folks to Indonesia. I think it might have been Bali, I believe. And she realized she had no life. It was all work. She had no social life, no vacation. Everything was work. She came to a point in that trip when she realized she didn’t know who she was. She was just this driven workaholic, if you will.

Gary S:
Right. There was a moment in that interview, Warwick, there was a moment in that interview that it still impresses me so much about the way that you drew out of her what she was going through. It impressed her too, because she actually, at some point, I think in the interview stopped and said, “I’m going to write that down,” because some of the insights that we were discussing, she was like, “Oh, that’s good.” But she talks about the importance of having friends around her. It wasn’t just about work. So she packed herself up with friends and she let her emotions out with them and it led to an extraordinary turning point, where she said she started nourishing her body and her soul again.

Cathleen Merkel:
I started nourishing my body and my soul again. I had life coaching sessions. I had nutrition sessions, Ayurvedic, that sounded very German, Ayurvedic food and massages and all of these things, and I had a lot of meditation sessions in yoga. But the most important thing was I was surrounded by kindness, unconditional kindness, which I haven’t really received a lot or I didn’t quite know what that was. I started simply being myself. I remember when I left after three and a half weeks there, one of the guests said to me, “My goodness, it’s beautiful to see the real you.” I was literally standing there in tears because I could feel those walls we’re gone. I was just feeling so amazing about myself.

Warwick F:
So did you feel like in that moment, that for the first time you met Cathleen Merkel, that you didn’t really know who she was, so this is who I am. Who knew? Maybe I can smile. Maybe I can forgive myself if I make a mistake. It’s like, that must’ve been a strange experience to meet yourself in a sense, the real you for the first time.

Cathleen Merkel:
It was strange and beautiful. I actually got goosebumps listening to you describing me. It was just absolutely stunning. And I was crying because I was just so full of gratitude and joy about it. Suddenly it felt like a rock fell off my shoulders and it felt light and easy. And life started feeling just super easy.

Gary S:
That for me is one of the most meaningful moving exchanges we’ve had on the show.

Warwick F:
It really was because I think a lot of people are there. They work hard. They’re driven, especially in 20s, 30s, 40s, you’re working your way up. You want to get the brass ring. You want to kind of be CEO, vice president, have a good life, none of which is wrong, but she was very driven and she realized, what is this all for? It’s easy to get caught up in the kind of conditional love. Oh, maybe people will like me or love me if I’m successful and that kind of mindset. And as she was in Bali with some friends, they didn’t know the corporate Cathleen Merkel. She found, I think, as she put it, the real Cathy, and she didn’t know who that person was, she was meeting herself. And it’s like, this person can laugh. Can have friends, can have fun. And she was enjoying herself. And she realized it was okay to be Cathleen Merkel. She didn’t have to be Cathleen Merkel, the corporate success, watch out she’s coming because she might snap your head off or something.

Warwick F:
And so that really changed her whole life. And so now she coaches and trains women leaders in particular to not just be successful, but have balance. And it’s not just about, you can be successful and work your way up the corporate ladder, but you can have balance and have joy. And that’s really her mission, especially to get women leaders, not just success, but joy and balance. And so that’s a very important message. And her whole countless now it’s full of joy. She’s a very joyful person. Yeah. She works hard. She is driven, but she’s joyful. And that’s an important message I think for all of us.

Gary S:
And it’s also the story, interestingly enough, of another guest who had a much different kind of professional crucible, and that’s of the things I love about Beyond the Crucible in general, and about us taking time here for a 50th episode, to revisit some of the themes and some of the guests and some of the insights that they have, because there is no matter how different someone’s crucibles are in detail, in execution the way they’ve affected you, how you react to them and then how you overcome them. There’s so much similarity across those lines.

Gary S:
And the guest I’m speaking of in this case is Whitney Singletary-White, episode 42 listener, if you want to check that one out. Whitney’s story just fascinated me. I found Whitney, I did a Google search, I think, for a professional setback or something like that, her name popped up in a story that was in the newspaper in Berkeley, California. And Whitney at age three, she baked her first batch of cookies and she laughed as she told the story on the podcast, she uses as one of her secret ingredients, mud. And her grandfather was so encouraging, he ate it and said, “Yeah, that was pretty good. It’d be even better if there wasn’t any mud in it, but good for you.”

Gary S:
And that led her down the road to want to have a bakery. And she worked hard to make that happen to the point that she developed her own kind of cookies. Her business is called Nuttin’ Butter Cookies. And that’s because there’s nuts. They’re all nut-based cookies. And she talks in the show about all these different exotic kind of nuts. And neither one of us ever heard of. And it was great, but her professional crucible came when first, she got assaulted while she was baking from her home in her apartment, then that got resolved and she got a storefront and she was finally stepping out. She was doing it, but it was early 2020, the spring of 2020. And we all know what happened. Then COVID-19 hit and she had to shut down, and that led her to begin selling her cookies out of her driveway. And the pluck that she demonstrated there was just amazing to me and the spirit, boy, she’s a formidable person for sure. Isn’t she?

Warwick F:
Absolutely. I mean, Whitney Singletary-White is also an inspiration. I mean, she grew up in Bakersfield, California, I guess it’s pretty hot. And she pretty much said there’s not a whole lot to see you there. And she now lives in Berkeley and that story with her grandpa, that was just so amazing. I mean, it’s interesting as she’s part of a life with a mom with two small kids, a single mom, and she just had this dream of cookies and of just every kind of nut cookie you can imagine. And she said many of the nuts we’d never heard of. I think obviously, pecan, sesame haven’t really had sesame cookies before, but she just had this dream and she wasn’t going to give up. She also was very resilient. She finally gets a store in Berkeley and then COVID hits.

Warwick F:
And not only do they have to close, I think the landlord didn’t want to let her out of the lease, which is… And then he says, what can I do for you? Well, how about letting me out of my lease?

Gary S:
How about being a human being, and let me out of my lease-

Warwick F:
Yeah. Which I’m not quite sure that ever got worked out. So then she’s got to go back try to sell cookies in her apartment building. And as you mentioned, she ends up getting beaten up from, I think, the people across the road and aided by some of the folks in her apartment building, badly beaten up. And then if things aren’t any worse at some point during all of this, she gets a flu injection that was not done well. And her arm was out of action for a long time. You can’t bake without two arms. So she’s had a lot of stuff, but yet, like some of our guests, she just has this grit. She does not give up. She has this ability to overcome.

Gary S:
Right. And she said of all of the succinct expressions of what it takes to move beyond a crucible, of all the people who’ve said some things that are great takeaways for listeners to grab onto and hope through in their own crucibles. She said something that toward the end of that show Warwick that was just so on-point, and so honest and transparent and real when she said that, “Help can come from the most unexpected place.”

Whitney Singletary-White:
Help comes in the most unexpected places when you least expect it, at that moment when you feel that you really can’t go on, there is always going to be that one person that you wouldn’t expect to do it we’ll reach out and help you. And I find that you can’t really fail if you don’t keep trying, because once you give up, you failed, you’re done that’s over. But if your you’re like, “I still got it, I could still make it.” You could still get that little bit in there. You can still push through just enough. It’s hard. It hurts. But once you get past that moment, you can sit back and go, I made it. I overcome that. I’m no longer feeling that pain anymore. I’m finally where I need to be. You could get yourself out of it. We got to pull ourselves out of the mud sometimes and dust off the mud, we’ll walk through was drying on and cracked up in those pants and flake it off and get going, was just sometimes you just have to do it.

Warwick F:
It is remarkable when you’re really going for it, and you’re not letting things get you down is amazing. In the era of COVID, there was limitations on how much you can get from the store. Well she bakes cookies. So she needs a whole bunch of flour, eggs, butter, the whole deal when they were rationed. But she had a bunch of friends saying, “Look, I can get some extra, I can afford to get you a little bit of extra, and I’ll just drop it off.” And all these people came out of the woodwork trying to help her.

Gary S:
Right. It’s like at the end of it, It’s a Wonderful Life, when everybody shows up and gives George Bailey…

Warwick F:
Yeah, exactly. But her attitude is really remarkable. She has this phrase in which she says, “You can’t really fail if you just keep trying, if you don’t give up.” So she never gives up. And that’s how she defines not failing is just keep trying. And there were times when it was bad, when she was really hurt, and injured, from being beaten up and her two little kids said, “It’s okay, Mommy, don’t give up.” And I guess, she must have told the kids that a fair amount. And her ability in some very difficult circumstances just to keep going is just remarkable. She’s even won over the local fire department and-

Gary S:
And the police department.

Warwick F:
Police department. I mean, they love her cookies so much as she puts it, she has free security. Just come by and says, “Hey, Whitney. Everything okay. Do you need anything?” It’s like-

Gary S:
The police department has traded donuts for her cookies. Absolutely.

Warwick F:
Oh, yeah. Nobody’s going to mess with her. They kind of know that she has friends in the right places. So truly remarkable woman.

Gary S:
And as we round out having discussions about the crucible guests that we’ve had on, a couple other folks that we’ve talked to over the last year plus, who experienced professional crucibles come to mind for me, one of them, Tommy Breedlove. Tommy Breedlove is a really, talk about a go-getter, here’s another go-getter. He had some crucible moments, physical and emotional violence when he was young. But he moved beyond that and he was killing it in corporate America. He was the guy with the gold cufflinks, I think he says, or platinum or whatever, precious metal they were made out of. And he wasn’t just on the fast track. He was ahead of other people on the fast track. And yet, while his career was skyrocketing, his personal life wasn’t doing as well. And he found himself one night, didn’t know how he got there, but he was lying in a ditch in his native Atlanta. And he was trying to figure out how he got there both physically and circumstantially. How did he end up there? And the way that he came back was through what he calls, learning how to live a legendary life.

Warwick F:
Yeah. Tommy Breedlove is also a remarkable person. I mean, he grew up in a blue collar neighborhood in Atlanta. It was not the easiest neighborhood. Now, looks at himself that he was a bully when he was a young age, which that’s a hard thing to live with. Nobody wants to be a bully, at least not when they’ve had some more perspective. He ends up getting in prison. And somehow he bounces back from that. It was one individual, I think an African-American older man in prison, that just kind of helped inspire him. And so he works at this financial services firm and you’re right. As you say, he was killing it. He was doing really well.

Warwick F:
But he got to a point where it’s like, is this all there is? And he told his boss, “Look, I’m going to resign.” And he said, “You’re nuts. You’re going to make a staggering amount of money an enormous amount of money. Do you know how much you’re giving up?” And he did. And he basically said, “My soul is not for sale.” And he realized that there’s more to life than just success. He believes in success. That from his perspective, a legendary life is more about living a life on purpose, thinking of others, balance, self love as he puts it, which is really taking care of yourself. And that’s been a challenge for Tommy just because of how he grew up with, you can get into the scenario where many are, oh, if I’m successful, then maybe not only will other people love me. Maybe I can love myself. And somehow they feel like being successful, which it never really solves. Never really helps that.

Warwick F:
But he has a more balanced life, he genuinely loves himself. And the healthy sense of that word, he speaks. He’s written a book, Legendary. He has true friends. He has an inner counsel, if you will, to help him stay on the right track. And he has a good life, a life on purpose, a legendary life. But yeah, he is an inspiration for those who were just going flat out in the corporate world, you can be successful, but you can be more than successful as we say, you can be having a life on purpose, a life of significance.

Gary S:
Yeah. And it’s interesting that so many people that we’ve had on the show have asked various forms of that question that you pointed out to Tommy asked, and that is, is this all there is? So many people have achieved some goal, dream, whatever it was, but it wasn’t as fulfilling as they maybe thought it was. I remember one guest, I forget who it was now. It might’ve been Cathleen Merkel where I said, “You reach for the brass ring and you realize it’s lead.” And we’ve had folks who have experienced that in a variety of different ways. And that’s, I think, a resonant point that a lot of us can identify with. Is that what we think we want once we get it, or isn’t exactly what we want. And sometimes the crucible can be “Success itself.”

Warwick F:
There’s the parable, if you will, of the anthill, where all these ants are kind of crawling up all over themselves and the anthill to reach the top. And one ant says to the other ant, “What’s up there?” I don’t know, but everybody else has going for it. So it must be good. And it’s only once you reach the top, it’s like, is this all there is, but on the way up, you just crawling all over yourself and all over others. Success is fine, but success in it of itself, which is a big theme of Beyond the Crucible and Crucible Leadership doesn’t satisfy. So certainly he is a testament to that.

Gary S:
And the last professional crucible that we’ll go over here is Robert Krantz. Bob Krantz is a Hollywood filmmaker, actor, producer, writer. He is sort of like Alan Alda, if you remember when you watched the old mash episodes, Alan Alda did everything. He acted, he wrote, produced, directed. Bob Krantz does that. And he just a year ago produced a film called Faith, Hope & Love. It’s a dancing movie with a woman whose name I can’t pronounce. I believe her first name is Peta. I believe isn’t she Australian as well.

Warwick F:
She is, of course. We try to get Australians into every episode if we can.

Gary S:
I think that’s fabulous. I did not realize that. We need to do it. Episode 51, will be about all of the Australians we’ve had on the show. But Bob Krantz did this movie Faith, Hope & Love. And I remember I was so impressed by it that I reached out to him to be on the show because his character in the movie and its semi-autobiographical, the movie, his character in the movie goes through some crucibles. And I figured out, Bob Krantz must have some crucibles and indeed he did. But what I remember about that Warwick is I sent you a copy of the film, where I arranged for him to send you a link to the film. And you told the story. I mean, tell folks how your entire family, which is hard to do for an entire family, but they all loved it. Right?

Warwick F:
They did. And yeah, I mean, I have two boys and a girl in their 20s and it’s hard to find… The boys like action movies, my daughter more comedy, romantic comedies, my tastes are pretty broad. Don’t like horror, but anything else I’m pretty much good for, my wife has pretty broad tastes, but there was a message of faith. There was dancing. It made you laugh. There was a story of redemption. I mean, it had everything in there. You laughed, you cried. It had everything in there. It was very inspirational. It was a terrific movie. And Netflix picked it up. I don’t know, it was something at one point it was on the trending movies on Netflix or most popular. And it’s really a terrific movie.

Gary S:
And his story, his professional crucible was early in his career as a hyphenate, as a Hollywood hyphenate, writer, director, actor, producer. He wrote a film, again, it was a semi-autobiographical film and it was to his mind and to the people that he showed it to in his circle, it was a fabulous movie. He had the backing of some names in Hollywood and he’s all set up for a screening with some studio executives, which is the motherlode in Hollywood. I worked in Hollywood. It’s the motherlode of Hollywood to get studio execs, to come to your screening and to see your movie. And while he’s doing that, something happens that’s extremely crucible-esque, what happened?

Warwick F:
The project stopped. I think the bulb blew-

Gary S:
The bulb.

Warwick F:
I think he might have even asked the folks, okay, so you got spare bulb. He might’ve even done that in advance. So yeah, we’re covered. We know we’re doing, and of course, they didn’t have a spare. It was horrendous.

Gary S:
Yeah. And what happened when that crucible hit, his movie did not get picked up for distribution. And that led him that, and a personal crucible involving a dangerous pregnancy that his wife who had triplets a very touch and go pregnancy that his wife had, the combination of those two things. His wife did indeed have the triplets. And Bob decided the professional crucible made it somewhat easier to make that decision to stay and make sure he was present because he almost lost those three children. He wanted to be present with them and he didn’t make a movie for about a decade. So his professional crucible, which began when the bulb burned out, undone by a bulb, then some personal crucibles hit. He didn’t make a movie. Faith, Hope & Love was his first movie in 10 years. That again, is a story of sticking with it, having perseverance and pursuing your vision in spite of what life might throw at you in between.

Warwick F:
And it’s also another story of just kind of anchoring your vision in your values. He also is a person of faith. And for him, I think I remember him almost having this proverbial conversation with God is like, if my kids survive, I’m going to be present. It was almost like a conscious decision.

Gary S:
That’s right.

Warwick F:
And he did, now, he’s a driven guy. And as you know better than I, in Hollywood, if you’re going to make a movie, it’s pedal to the metal, there’s not a whole lot of spare time, you’re at it. And so he probably would not have been present. So for somebody in Hollywood that loves making movies to take 10 years off from making movies to sacrifice them for his kids is remarkable. I think they’re either in college maybe out of college by now, but he has a great relationship with them because he was present.

Warwick F:
Another message is you can’t sacrifice your soul. It’s sort of like that song I often think of by Cat Stevens, Cats in the Cradle. You don’t want to be that person when it’s like, “Oh yeah, I’ll be there soon, son.” I mean, you don’t get those years back. And so he made a choice and if you have a belief in the almighty, I feel like somebody up there, honored that, because Faith, Hope & Love is a great movie. And I think he’s doing pretty well considering what he’s been through, but that was a conscious choice. I’m not going to sacrifice my family. And it was a miracle that he had those three kids, the doctors multiple times said to his wife, “You’ve got to terminate this because your life’s in danger,” countless times she said, “I’m not doing that.” That was her choice. I’m not doing that. And so he was going to honor his wife and honor his family, and he was not going to sacrifice them for some career goal.

Gary S:
Right. And his life of significance has become those three boys. And now producing quality values, laden entertainment, that is not just for the choir. It’s not just for the Christian choir. As you pointed out, not only was that movie Faith, Hope & Love on Netflix and did well, but he signed a two-year deal with Netflix to produce more content. So that is how overcoming moving beyond his crucible, he’s led him to a life of significance.

Gary S:
I love what we’re going to talk about next Warwick. And I haven’t told you why I love it, because I just realized why I love it. Why I love it. We’re going to move now listeners into the perspective guests that we’ve had on the show in our first 49 episodes, as we continue our discussion in our 50th episode of some of the highlights of Beyond the Crucible. The two folks who we’re really going to spotlight here actually represent, I think, the things that you and I sort of love the most or really like the most in pursuits. We have one guest, right? Jeff Kemp, who’s a former NFL quarterback and I’m an enormous football fan. And we have another guest, Nancy Koehn, who’s a professor at Harvard Business School, which not only you graduated from, but she’s a historian who writes about leadership and you love history and leadership.

Warwick F:
Absolutely.

Gary S:
So this should be a really fun one for us to go through. Jeff Kemp, interesting guy in that, Jeff Kemp is a second generation NFL quarterback. He was a second generation NFL quarterback. His dad was Jack Kemp. Jack Kemp was a superstar in the old AFL, the American Football League. He was a MVP of that league for the Buffalo Bills. He won an AFL championship. He was All-Pro, the AFL’s version of whatever All-Pro, all-star team was at the time. He was distinguished as an NFL quarterback. His son, Jeff goes to Dartmouth, gets out, does not have the same story about his NFL career. Jeff Kemp does have an NFL career, but it does not match the distinguished career that his dad had on the field. Adding to what could have been pressure on Jeff Kemp is that his dad Jack, listeners may remember of a certain vintage, listeners may remember that his dad, Jack Kemp, was a congressman from New York for a long time, was the first President Bush’s, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, I believe.

Gary S:
And then after that, Bob Dole’s running mate for the presidency and the race against Bill Clinton and they lost, but he was a presidential candidate who debated Al Gore back in the early ’90s. So your father is someone who’s accomplished all this on the football field. You go into football. And then when he gets out of football, he accomplishes all of this other stuff. Jeff Kemp ended up as an NFL quarterback to be more of what some would call a journeyman. And then he played for a number of different teams. He was never… In his 20 years from his early days of playing as a young man to when he left the NFL, of those 20 years, he was only a starter at the start of the season one time, he says in our episodes.

Warwick F:
Yeah. I mean, Jeff Kemp is an interesting guy. It’s funny, I grew up in Australia, obviously didn’t play American football, but I could relate to him in the sense that as listeners know, I grew up in a prominent family. My dad was knighted in fact, my father, grandfather, great-grandfather, all were knighted in their own right. My dad has the same name as me. He was Sir Warwick, the company was a great mess. He had generations of very prominent people that accomplished a lot and who admire, not just… Yeah, they were wealthy, but they were admired for who they were and what they did.

Warwick F:
So I could relate in a sense. And as you point out, football star that his dad was. Congressman from, you mentioned Buffalo, New York, housing and urban development secretary under George H. W. Bush. Running mate with Dole, ran for president in ’88, the guy was driven. And just to make matters, almost worse for poor Jeff, everybody liked Jack Kemp. He was a good guy. He was driven people on both sides of the aisle. They liked him, they admired him. The guy had a heart, he cared. He was a good and great man in the best sense of that word. And he never purposely tried to push his kids, we talked about being a Kemp, and that had some sort of iconic meaning. And he was almost overzealous in his support. And just a message for parents, don’t overdo the cheerleading because he’d be like, “Hey Jeff, you did great.” But Dad, I sat on the bench of that NFL game, I did nothing, but you did it well. Okay. What’s that mean? Sitting on the bench.

Gary S:
And you look great in warmups.

Warwick F:
Yeah. I mean really? So he kept cheering him. And so he didn’t intentionally try to pressure his son, but obviously, his son doesn’t have nearly the football career that his dad did and eventually, his run ends and that was sort of depressing that he was let go. And that was a tough thing to come back from. And he’s written this book, Facing the Blitz, which similar to, in one sense, facing crucibles. And he talks about how blitzes they don’t have to kind of define you. And it’s very a interesting how his whole concept there.

Gary S:
Yeah. And one of the things about Jeff Kemp that was interesting is that all of the things that we talked about not “Measuring up in the eyes of some people to his dad,” those could be really crucible experiences for people, but he didn’t really take those as deep crucibles. His dad never put pressure on himself. He puts some pressure on himself, he said, but he got through that. And he learned this idea of combating the blitz, which in football is when the entire defense runs after the quarterback and tries to bury him. That’s what crucibles feel like. And it was fascinating to hear you both talk about that. But we brought Jeff on because his perspective that he expresses in that book, Facing the Blitz, is really something that all listeners can get some great insight and inspiration from.

Jeff Kemp:
Every person out there has been blitzed. They’ve been cut. They’ve been rejected. They went to junior high. They know what it’s like to be on the losing end of that conditional performance-based value system, making fun of your pimples or your size or your voice, or whatever. Everyone goes through crucibles. I want to remind people. You want to remind people. Gary wants to remind people. You are not alone. Others have been in it before. And the worst thing you can do is hide your emotions from other people, hide your pain, drowned it, and self-medicate it, or pretend it didn’t happen. The worst thing you can do is say, “I’m a victim. It’s all about other people.” Because you’ll never grow, if you don’t look at what your part in it was, which it wasn’t, I’m the worst guy in the world. I deserved to be benched or I deserve to have cartoons against me.

Jeff Kemp:
No, but you know what? There’s lessons that I learned. And you have to accept your own personal responsibility. Maybe it was a divorce you went through, even thinking it was 90% her, your math is probably off, okay. Maybe you were cut or sacked or benched, or fired by some company. And you think that was the worst manager or worst CEO ever. Maybe they weren’t that perfect, but there might be something you can learn-

Warwick F:
Absolutely.

Jeff Kemp:
So what I’m saying is embrace the crucible, embrace the blitz, get honest with God and honest with other people about it and learn everything you can about yourself, and what life is truly about, because your life is not about your win-loss record, your statistics, your bank accounts, the applause of the world, how many Twitter followers you have, that is pretty much a bunch of BS. And it’ll take you down a wrong road. You’ll lose your identity, living for image and living to gain and earn your identity is a very losing equation.

Warwick F:
Yeah, it’s really remarkable. I mean, you don’t think of embrace the blitz or embrace your crucible. I mean, who thinks that way, but I mean, in football terms, which I have lived here long enough to understand something about it, but you would know more, but you might have a play in your mind. And then you see all these people lined up and you can see the blitz is coming while that play clearly, probably won’t work. So you need to change the play and be adaptive. And so he uses that as a metaphor for life that you might get blitzed. And maybe his dream was to be an NFL star quarterback, Joe Montana or somebody like that who he actually played on the 49ers at one point, and quarterback when Joe was injured. Well, he’s not going to be in the Hall of Fame like Joe Montana, but he changed, his vision is now different.

Warwick F:
Obviously, it’s an author speaker. He spends a lot of time as a person of faith, and working with families and parents and men, just in terms of how you face blitzes, how you overcome them, how you be good parents. So he has a passion for what he does now. And so his vision has really changed from just being an NFL quarterback. He has his own vision, and he’s also somebody with tremendous joy. And you don’t feel like those expectations are on him anymore, you feel like he’s at peace with who he is, what he achieved and what he didn’t achieve.

Warwick F:
I mean, it is somewhat in the same vein, I’ve had to come to peace with, I didn’t have a successful stint in my career in media. I wasn’t the all-star media person. That’s not my legacy. My Wikipedia entry is not particularly good. Young man could have had it all blew it. It’s almost like the journeyman quarterback thing, maybe worse, I don’t know. But certainly, it’s not like the all-star, but you have to come to peace with that. That’s okay. I have a good life. I love what I do now with Crucible Leadership. So that’s a huge lesson for folks is maybe that initial dream didn’t work out, but that’s okay. There can be another vision that may even fit better. And so he is inspirational in his own way.

Gary S:
Absolutely. Our next discussion guest, the next person we’re going to talk about, from a perspective perspective… That’s fun to say: a perspective perspective, is Nancy Koehn , and this one, Warwick, I’m not going to put you on the spot. I’ll just put it out rhetorically. If I had to sort of say, who is the guest that Warwick was most excited to interview, I would tell people if people asked me that, that professor Nancy Koehn would have been that person and we actually… That conversation was so good. It was so engrossing, so riveting, so detailed that it actually took… It was a two-part episode, but Warwick, you know this far better than I do. She’s a Harvard Business School Professor. You’re a Harvard Business School graduate, so tell folks a little bit about Nancy and why we had her on.

Warwick F:
Nancy Koehn, as you mentioned, she’s a Harvard Business School Professor, but she’s a historian. And what she does is talk about historical leaders in a way that’s relevant to MBA students today. So if you will, what lessons do current leaders in a corporate or nonprofit world, what can they learn from historical leaders? And so, she wrote this incredible book, Forged in Crisis, in which she talks about a number of leaders, Ernest Shackleton, Abraham Lincoln, former U.S. President, Frederick Douglas, also lived around the time of Lincoln, the great African-American abolitionist. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a German Lutheran pastor that opposed Hitler and was executed for his opposition. Rachel Carson, who founded the modern environmental movement and fought against DDT and those sorts of very harmful chemical sprays, but what’s interesting is Shackleton, he’s somebody that was this polar explorer in the first couple decades of the 1900s. It was like the space race. Everybody wanted to be the first to get to the North Pole, South Pole, do it for king and country, a number of different countries, Norway, U.S., and England.

Warwick F:
So here’s Ernest Shackleton and he wanted to lead the first expedition to go across Antarctica. So he leaves at around about 1915 or thereabouts, and he’s all for king and country, and he’s somewhere in Southern Argentina, nearest place to go to the Antarctica and all the weather reports say icebergs, ice floes are as bad as you’ve ever seen, like forever. Going now would be suicide, but because he’s so driven, so anxious for glory, frankly, he goes, when all the advice says, this is madness. And of course, what happens, his ship gets trapped in ice and they’re there for months and months, and there’s no radio. This is like 1915. So he has to combat the thought that my crew is probably going to die and it’s my fault because I was so impetuous in glory hunting that I left when everybody told me not to. And his story is so remarkable because he’s able to really push that behind him and move ahead. So that’s a pretty tough crucible when your team may die because you were stupid and impetuous in glory hunting. That’s a tough thing to deal with.

Gary S:
Nancy Koehn does a remarkable job in Forged In Crisis in talking about the crucible itself and then the lessons of what came out of the crucible. It’s a two-part episode. At the end of the second part of that episode, you summed it up with her and asked her a question to say, What are the two or three things that Shackleton did? Because not all of the people who listen, and I would say not many of the people who listen to our show are going to circumnavigate Antarctica. So, what are the takeaways for people who go through crucibles that Shackleton’s life reveals?

Warwick F:
What are the two or three things, why Shackleton holds so many lessons for CEOs, leaders of nonprofits, leaders in the COVID-19 crisis that we’re all going through, corporate leaders, governmental leaders, when everything is so uncertain, what are the key nuggets, would you say, that we need to learn about Shackleton?

Nancy Koehn:
Well, just to present them in uncharacteristically succinct form, you have to step into the fear. You take this step. Courage is not the absence of fear, as Mandela said, it’s the willingness to walk into the fear. Square your shoulders and tighten your core and realize you are still standing and can take the next step. And then other people behind you can take the first step. So step into the fear, feed and water yourself, and your people carefully, both emotionally and physically and mentally. Keep your fingers tightly on the pulse of the morale of the people around you. Learn forward, face forward and learn. Let go of what was and what didn’t work in the past, learn from it, and then move forward, especially in crucibles and crises. There’s just too much at stake to spend a lot of time rehashing the past.

Nancy Koehn:
I said on a Charlie Rose interview I did several years ago when my book came in, I said, “I learned and Shackleton learned that why is never the question. Why me? Why this? Why the suffering? Why the calamity? Why the failures? It’s never why, it’s what can I make in this wreckage, and how can I redeem, reclaim, and just as a crucible, it’s about high flames, literally, and its ability to reshape things. How can I be forged into something better and stronger and more committed to service?”

Warwick F:
Yeah, well said. Really, the first thing was okay, we’re here. I blew it. I was an idiot. I have some experience with that thought of, I blew it, I was an idiot, with the take over. Fortunately, I didn’t almost kill people, but he moved on because he realized his mission changed. His mission was then, I’m going to bring my crew back alive. I’m not going to lose anybody. Now, the chances of him bringing his crew back alive was like one in a million or one in a billion. It was a really, really tough goal, but he was determined. He made sure he rationed food. He kept morale up. He gave everybody jobs. He was very focused on their emotional wellbeing. He laughed with them. He was very thoughtful and resolute. But as you said, he stepped, as Nancy said very well, he stepped into the fear. He didn’t avoid it. He was courageous. He thought through things and he didn’t dwell in the past. He didn’t dwell on why did we get, he moved forward. The mission has changed. I’m not going to cross Antarctica. That mission is dead and that was a huge mission for him. That was a vision, a dream he was passionate about. Okay, that’s gone. That’s over. My new mission is to keep my team alive and I will do everything I can to make that happen, and because of his resoluteness and perseverance, he got all his crew back.

Warwick F:
What is remarkable about his story? This is all happening in the middle of World War I, somewhere around 1919, 1920, when the war was over, some sadly were lost in World War I because weeks after they got back to England, one of them joined up and was killed. These are patriotic folks, but a bunch of them, when he said, “I’m going to get back to Antarctica.” They said, as they called him boss, “I’m signing up, boss.” What kind of leader, when he almost kills people, they survive, say I’m going back with you to the scene of the crime. That’s almost insanity, but it shows how much they almost worshiped him and what a leader he was, a truly remarkable man.

Gary S:
And a couple of other guests we’ve had in the perspective area of shows and as long as we’re at Harvard, let’s stay there.

Warwick F:
Indeed. Indeed.

Gary S:
There’s a couple more Harvard folks. One of them that we talked to for a perspective episode was Joseph Badaracco, who wrote a couple of books that really speak to some important ways to deal with, move beyond crucibles. Talk a little bit about why Joseph Badaracco was an interesting guest for us.

Warwick F:
He has a recent book, Step Back, which really talks about how important it is to reflect, which in the busy life that we live, so many leaders and their all connected to phones, emails, constant messaging, there’s so much going on that people don’t take time to reflect. And if you’re just like some Energizer Bunny that’s always acting and not reflecting, you probably won’t make good decisions. Action is important, so is reflection. It’s almost like the lost art of reflection, but the book that really intrigued me was his earlier book from almost 20 years ago called, Leading Quietly. And I remember reading an article about it and then I read the book, and what was amazing is, a lot of us, including me, we grew up with the heroic leadership model. Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln or superheroes and movies, and great men, great women doing incredible things.

Warwick F:
He’s written a book about a whole bunch of folks in let’s say, middle management, that we never would have heard of, just taking those quiet day-to-day steps to make a difference, even though you’ll never read about them in Businessweek. And that was haunting for me because I grew up wanting to be… Maybe not wanting to be, but thinking, okay, I can be the savior of the family business, bring it back to the ideals of the founder, have it be well-run, be like this crusader or Charge Of The Light Brigade thing and Crimean War in the 1850s, a whole other story, but sort of this hero type, and I realized that heroic model of leadership is often dangerous, treacherous, and is often not helpful. So his model of leadership is different and I found that very compelling, convicting, haunting even.

Gary S:
Yeah, and the idea of the importance of reflection, one of the things that struck me before we talked to him is you really can’t… We’ve talked a lot here and on the podcast, we talk a lot about the importance of learning the lessons of your crucible. What’s in there that you can learn and apply to moving forward beyond the crucible? And there’s really no way to learn the lessons of your crucible if you don’t reflect on them.

Warwick F:
Absolutely, and one of the things he talks about is the difference between ruminating and reflecting. And I’d never heard about this. I never thought about it. Ruminating is, oh my gosh, I’m an idiot. Why did I do that? I’ve spent some time ruminating. I fully understand the concept of rumination, but reflecting is like, okay, I was an idiot or maybe that wasn’t fair or that was awful, but what can I learn from it? What lessons can I learn? How do we move forward? And in general, as we’re trying to build our vision and make it reality, where am I do I have the right team? What lessons do I need to learn? What’s the next step? You got to reflect and act. It’s a cycle. And what he talks about is you can take, maybe it’s on the way to work, maybe it’s while you’re working out. We all have times, if we really think about, where we can consciously say, “Okay, I’m going to use this time to reflect” So yeah, very profound stuff from him.

Gary S:
We’ll move from Harvard Business School Professor Joseph Badaracco to Harvard Negotiation Project Lecturer and Harvard Law School Lecturer, Sheila Heen, another prospective guest who talked about another thing that it seems to me is not possible to move beyond your crucible, unless you do this, unless you’re willing to do this. And that is have difficult conversations. You really can’t, as a leader in particular, as a leader who is facing a crucible experience and trying to move past it, move beyond it, you’re going to have to engage in some difficult conversations, aren’t you?

Warwick F:
Absolutely. She has two interesting books. There was the one that she co-wrote, Difficult Conversations, and then she has another one, which is, Thanks for the Feedback. Thanks for the Feedback is intriguing because so often, we’re taught by HR and other folks, okay, how do you give feedback well, but she was talking about how do you receive feedback well? Even if it’s not particularly well given. That was a fascinating discussion, but really this whole notion of difficult conversations, many folks avoid it, whether it’s your boss or people at work, and if they do it, it will often be done really poorly, like yelling and screaming is not a good way to have a difficult conversation. You will almost certainly won’t be heard. I don’t know if it’ll make you feel good or not, but it will accomplish pretty much nothing with almost a hundred percent certainty, guaranteed.

Warwick F:
She talks about really, three paradigms, what happened, the feelings conversation, the identity conversation. We can always argue about, well, it was your fault. That was my fault. And you can debate about what happened. You can get into this whole intellectual debate. You’re almost having a court case. You can go there, but really what she focuses on, focus on the feelings, make sure the other person feels heard. I hear what you’re saying. Obviously that was devastating to you. It doesn’t mean to say that you agree with what they’re saying, but you acknowledge the feelings and realize, well, maybe part of it, they have a sense of identity that’s wrapped up in their position, so her whole notion of how to have a difficult conversation well, it is so good. Well worth listening to the episode and reading her book, Difficult Conversations. Great stuff.

Gary S:
Well, that brings us and I’ve been waiting all show to say this. That brings us to the moment where I can see the fasten seatbelt lights come on. The gather up your peanut bags, we’re getting to the point it’s almost time to land the plane, but we’ve got one more section before the plane touches down. We’ve got one more section to go through, and it really is, I see it as the bookends to our conversation. And that is episodes that we’ve had in our first 49, this being our 50th, it’s conversations between me and you. It’s conversations about some of the key principles of crucible leadership, and what I like about what we chose is the two we’re going to focus on, as they really are the bookends, from my perspective, on what crucible leadership’s all about.

Gary S:
The first one we’ll talk about was an episode on perseverance fatigue and the idea there, Warwick, is that if you’re going to get through a crucible, you got to have perseverance. What we’ll talk about after that, after we talk about perseverance fatigue is, we’ll talk about one of our first episodes, episode four, which was about significance over success. And I end every episode talking about how crucibles aren’t the end of your story, they’re the start of a story. It can be a most rewarding story because it leads at the end, if you learn the lessons of your crucible, to a life of significance. So this is truly a great place to land the plane, but let’s talk first about this idea of perseverance fatigue. You say something in that episode that even when it feels overwhelming and there’s no-

Warwick F:
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. That 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?

Gary S:
Why is taking one small step so important to getting beyond your crucible?

Warwick F:
Yeah. There are times in which you’ve been through a crucible and maybe you’re in the middle of it and you can feel like you’re in the bottom of the pit. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. If there is, it’s another train gonna hit you. Things seem grim. There seems no hope. And so, it can seem like, well, what’s the point of taking one small step? I need to take a gigantic leap, but one small step, so what? I’ll still be at the bottom of the pit, but really one small step can lead to another small step. It could be, maybe you were fired. It could be, okay, well, what other jobs can I take just thinking about that? Maybe you’re dealing with a family illness, maybe going to have a walk with a friend just to get your mind off things, and just recharge the batteries a bit.

Warwick F:
Those are all really important. So the power of one small step is, it doesn’t seem much, but one small step can lead to another, and pretty soon there’s a flywheel, whether it’s bringing a vision to reality, getting through a crucible. The power of one small step cannot be underestimated to just help you move in a positive direction. Sitting and ruminating and saying, “Oh, woe is me.” That’s not really going to get you anywhere. Taking one small positive step, no matter how small, that is a step to getting out of the bottom of the pit, and that is a step towards having hope.

Gary S:
Yeah, and I think if we went back and we went through all of our guests, let alone all the guests we’ve talked about today, and we looked at their stories of bouncing back from their crucibles, moving beyond their crucibles, we would find a one small step that they took. We would find, I think that’s probably true of everyone.

Warwick F:
Oh, I’m sure it is. Maybe with Ernest Shackleton, it’s like, okay, here we are, we’re stuck in the ice. Well, let’s get the crew off and let’s get them in tents. I think one time, he had some strange game, animal, vegetable, mineral, some weird game to make people laugh, a little like charades or whatever. Well, that doesn’t seem like a big step. Let’s have a game. How’s that going to get his crew rescued? It’s not, but it’s going to take their minds off things for maybe half an hour or an hour. It’s a small step, but it’s an important small step.

Gary S:
And what ends up with small steps, you put them together like a puzzle. You put one foot in front of the other as the Christmas special so resoundingly says. If you put one foot in front of the other, soon you’ll be walking out the door and soon you’ll be getting through your crucible. Soon you’ll be on the other side.

Warwick F:
Soon you’ll be helping to have your vision become reality. One small step.

Gary S:
And what that is, the other side of the door, when you get through the door, your vision becoming a reality. The goal that we talk about, the goal that you talk about and have talked about at Crucible Leadership since the outset, even before this podcast existed, the goal that we’re after is a life of significance.

Warwick F:
The first step is to leading a life of significance is understand what your fundamental beliefs and values are.

Gary S:
And that is a critical point for listeners to understand because you said it just now. A life of significance is individual. Your life of significance is rooted in who you are. It’s not what society deems necessary to do. It’s what you, what your vision and what your values and beliefs inform you to want to accomplish.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. Absolutely. And so, that’s really the key first step is just, well, it’s a couple of things in leading a life of significance. You’ve got to understand your fundamental beliefs and values, and that’s what we often talk about in crucible leadership. You want to understand how you’re wired, how you’re designed. We’re all wired a different way. And again, we’ve talked extensively on this, but basically to lead a life of significance, you want to feel like you’re using the skills and abilities that I would say you’d been divinely given for a purpose that you feel off the charts passionate about that’s in line with your fundamental beliefs and values, and you feel is accomplishing something significant. Those things will all line up, by definition. If it’s something tied to your values and beliefs, well, then you will feel it’s important and it’s hard for that not to be significant if the vision is coming directly out of those values and beliefs, and in some fashion helps other people. It will line up if you follow that path.

Gary S:
Why is a life of significance the true North, that which we’re aiming at as we look to emerge from a crucible?

Warwick F:
It’s funny. One of the things we don’t do here is say, Crucible Leadership, a life of success. And there’s nothing wrong with success, but success in of itself, doesn’t satisfy, doesn’t bring you joy. There’s not one person that we’ve had on this podcast that can say, success alone, in and of itself, made me joyful and fulfilled. Not one person. We’ve had about as diverse group of guests in experience, life, nationality, background, experiences you could possibly imagine, and I’m not against success. Success is fine. Being able to have a nice vacation, a nice house or a nice life for your family, nothing wrong with that. That’s good, but it doesn’t bring happiness in itself. Significance, we talk about significance as really… A life of significance is based on your fundamental beliefs and values. It’s something that you’re passionate about. It’s really a life significance, is a life on purpose dedicated to serving others.

Warwick F:
That’s really what a life of significance is, and it’s when you bring joy to others, that’s when you have joy in your own eyes. Whether it’s David Charbonnet seeing a vet getting a little bit more movement than he or she could the previous day. Okay, that’s positive. When it’s seeing Cathleen Merkel, working with women leaders saying, “Boy, I can be successful and have a life, a balanced life and have joy,” that brings Cathleen Merkel joy. When Michelle Kuei inspires people with hope that you don’t have to be defined by your narrative. You can be perfectly normal, even in your differences and in your hardships. That sense of when you see the light in somebody’s eye, when you see hope in somebody’s eye, it brings you joy. It gives your life meaning. And when you think of the legacy concept and you’re on your death bed, okay, I’ve helped people. I brought joy to other people. Hopefully I’ve brought joy to my family. A life well lived. I’m at peace. We all want to be at peace at that point in our lives. We all want to feel, okay, this is a life well lived. And that’s what a life of significance is all about.

Gary S:
So as we wrap up episode 50 of Beyond the Crucible on a discussion of living a life of significance, how has it felt for you in the 49 episodes that we’ve finished before this one? With the feedback you’ve gotten from people, who’ve heard it, with being able to talk to people, having people say that they never really thought about their story like that until you asked them that question, how has the experience of this podcast and the first 49 episodes fueled your own life of significance?

Warwick F:
In a couple of ways, I’ve loved getting to know a whole lot of people, pretty much none of whom I knew before, and just hearing about their life of significance, hearing about what they went through, their experiences, just learning from them, learning from all of the things they’ve been through. So just, I feel like it’s almost one massive PhD course in terms of the human spirit, of how you combat adversity, how you combat terrible things that happen in your life. All of them bounce back from so many different kinds of crucibles and they have joy. All of them are leading lives of significance. All of them are focused on helping others. So, just seeing the triumph of the human spirit and using different ways maybe, but they all have hope, that was inspiring. I love, as you say, going for the heart. What were you feeling?

Warwick F:
When we were chatting to, someone we haven’t talked about as much, Lisa Blair, everybody wants to know about how she survived sailing single handedly around Antarctica. Very few people ask her about what was it like to be a young girl growing up in Australia being bullied and overcoming dyslexia, reinventing yourself, having more confidence. People don’t really go there, but I wanted to know, well, who is Lisa Blair? Not just the person you all read about, at least in Australian publications. So with every guest we want to know, who was the real Sarah Nannen? Who was the real Cathleen Merkel? Who was the real Ernest Shackleton? Who was the real Robert Krantz. We want to know who they really were, what they thought and felt. And so, if that hopefully brings some insight and hope to other people, one of the things we say here is, we’re dealers in hope. We like to offer hope, and if that offers people hope, then this is a worthwhile mission. So, I feel like I’ve learned a lot from their stories of love, being able to share those stories with others, and it’s given me hope personally, more hope. Not that I didn’t have some before, but it’s fueled that even more. So, it’s been an honor and a privilege to be able to hear the people’s stories and to share them with others.

Gary S:
Well that, Captain Fairfax, is a perfect landing of the plane. Listener, thank you so much for spending, what we know is a little bit longer time than you normally get to spend with us, but this was a celebration. We were having a party here talking about truly a milestone, 50 episodes of Beyond the Crucible, and what we hope came out of this discussion, what we hope you take away from this discussion is, what we say at the end of the 49 episodes that came before it, and that is this:

Gary S:
We know. We understand because we’ve been through them ourselves. We know your crucible is painful. We know that those traumas, tragedies, setbacks, failures change the trajectory of your life, but we also know from our personal experience and from what guests have shared on the show, that those crucibles aren’t the end of our stories and that pain is not the last thing that we’ll feel, that if we learn the lessons of our crucibles, and if we take one small step at a time moving forward, armed with those lessons, to pursue a life on purpose, to pursue life beyond the crucible, we know that the next chapter of our lives is going to be more rewarding, that our crucibles are not the end of our story. They are in many ways, the beginning of our story, and it’s a great new story because it leads where the GPS takes us to. The end of the line is a life of significance.

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