Don’t Aim to Be the GOAT, Just Be the Best You #61

Warwick Fairfax

March 24, 2021

The Greatest of All Time. Shorthand, GOAT — especially in sports contexts. But the single-minded pursuit of being the best (fill in the blank) in your sphere of influence can invade your professional and personal life, too. And when it does, it can be dangerous. Crucible Leadership founder and BEYOND THE CRUCIBLE host Warwick Fairfax talks with cohost Gary Schneeberger about why we should avoid chasing GOATdom – and, more importantly, how to do it.  Warwick unpacks five insightful steps we can take to decouple our achievements from our identity to help us pursue a life of significance and a legacy we can be proud of. “Truly great leaders,” he explains, “don’t focus on their own greatness.”

Highlights

  • Why being too focused on being the GOAT causes identity issues (4:15)
  • How the idea of being the GOAT dominates sports discussions (6:49)
  • Brett Favre — from GOAT to goat? (12:11)
  • Warwick’s brush with entertaining the idea he could be the Fairfax family GOAT (12:17)
  • Lessons on the emptiness of pursuing GOATdom from THE NATURAL (19:09)
  • The dangers of chasing achievement over all (22:33)
  • The retirement community in Denver filled with unfulfilled GOATs (28:02)
  • Solution No. 1 in avoiding the dangers of pursuing GOATdom: don’t focus only on records (29:17)
  • Lessons from presidents Washington and Lincoln (33:16)
  • Solution No. 2: enjoy the process (36:43)
  • Solution No. 3: have other areas to focus on (40:19)
  • The power of having other interests to help you move beyond your crucible, as well (41:59)
  • Solution No. 4: keeping your identity separate from your profession (44:27)
  • How Warwick has kept the accolades he received on his book in the proper perspective (47:25)
  • Solution No. 5: hold it all loosely (51:58)
  • Summing it up: aim for leaving a lasting legacy (56:51)

Transcript

Warwick F:
Welcome to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership. So it’s not just for these great athletes, it’s very tempting to want to be the best in our field of endeavor, which is not wrong. But it’s getting your whole sense of identity at being perceived by your friends and neighbors and colleagues as being the best in whatever your arena is.

Gary S:
And it comes with dangers. It comes with great dangers of a loss of identity, where if your identity isn’t being the best oral surgeon and you’re not the best oral surgeon, then your identity is crushed in some way. That’s a crucible. One of the dangers is it allows you to, or it leads you to put your emphasis on the wrong things. I go back to The Natural. You put your emphasis on achievement, not relationships. And that’s one of the things that almost passes Roy Hobbs by in that film. He finally does get back together with his high school sweetheart, but a lot of years pass where he is putting his emphasis on trying to get achievement, and he’s missing relationship, he’s missing those things that are truly important that lead to what you call a life of significance. So there are some dangers that come from being wrapped up in pursuing single-mindedly being the greatest of all time.

Gary S:
The greatest of all time. Maybe you know it better in the context, we’re discussing the concept today, by the acronym G-O-A-T, GOAT. It’s a discussion often had over athletes, who’s the GOAT of the NBA or professional golf or pro tennis. We discuss that aspect on today’s episode, but really only as a jumping off point to talk about how this idea of being the GOAT invades our own professional and personal lives, and the dangers it presents when it does.

Gary S:
Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, the cohost of the show, and the communications director for Crucible Leadership. Today, Warwick and I talk at length, not only about why we should avoid the pursuit of GOATdom but how. Warwick unpacks five insightful steps we can take beginning today to decouple our achievements from our identity to help us pursue a life of significance and a legacy we and our children and their children, and so on and so on and so on, can be proud of. As Warwick wisely says about halfway through our discussion, truly great leaders don’t focus on their own greatness.

Gary S:
So, listener, we have a fun episode today, and we’re not exactly sure what to call the episode. Warwick sort of thought it up, and we talked about it. And when we did, we sort of just put the name GOAT syndrome on the show, GOAT as in greatest of all time, a common discussion in the sporting world. Who’s the greatest quarterback, basketball player, tennis player, football player of all time. So Warwick and I the sort of threw out GOAT syndrome. We were going to call Warwick’s blog something about GOAT syndrome, and one of our team realized that there is actually something that’s a syndrome involving farm animal GOATs. So we didn’t want to call it that. So we’re not exactly sure what we’re going to call it.

Gary S:
I came up with this morning while I was getting ready, let’s call it, we shouldn’t be GOAT roping, we shouldn’t be trying to rope in and lasso being the GOAT. That’s not necessarily a great thing. But we will unpack in this conversation why sort of a single-minded pursuit of being the GOAT, the greatest of all, time is not necessarily the wisest thing for your life. And Warwick, what are your initial thoughts on why that’s true, why pursuing GOATdom is not necessarily the wisest course of action for us?

Warwick F:
We’ll unpack more the challenge with trying to be the GOAT or GOAT syndrome, so to speak, is you get your identity wrapped up in achieving that. And even if you’re the greatest of all time, at one point in sports or even in life, the challenge is, your chances of staying there, it’s not always that high. Some people will retain that position forever, but in many cases, they won’t. So it’s sort of an ephemeral goal that risks being beaten by somebody else. Everybody wants to be the best in whatever their field is. And so having your whole sense of identity being wrapped up in the greatest of all time, in sports, or at some field of endeavor, it’s a slippery slope that your sense of self and identity could be shattered. It’s a goal that is probably not sustainable, at least in terms of your inner sense of self-worth and psyche.

Gary S:
And this would probably be a good time to sort of begin the discussion by saying what we’re not saying. And we’re not saying, I don’t think, we’re not saying that you shouldn’t try to be the best you can be, you shouldn’t aim for being the best you can be. But being the best you is different than being the best them. In other words, the idea of a GOAT is to be the best of everybody who ever lived or everybody who ever played this game or did this profession. And that can be unhealthy. Trying to be a better you, working hard to be the best you can be, that’s a good thing. But wrapping your identity up in being the best whoever did x, y, z or q, can cause some problems.

Warwick F:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s nothing wrong with striving to be the best in whatever your field is. Having your identity being wrapped up in being the best of all time in your environment, your profession, or even having your identity being wrapped up in achievement, in goals. Trying hard is good, realizing your whole sense of self and persona is not about what you do. Who you are is a lot more than achievement. And that’s really the root of GOAT syndrome, if you will, is getting your identity wrapped up in achievement, whether it’s the greatest of all time or being the best. So that’s the subtle thing, which we’ll unpack more as we go on.

Gary S:
Right. So, if you’re out there GOAT-roping, if you’re trying to be the GOAT, that’s where the problems can come in. And it’s fascinating to me as we talk about this, so many times in life, some of the best analogies we can make to a situation that we face in our day to day lives is through the sporting world. And the term GOAT tends to be used mostly in sports. People will argue incessantly. There are talk show careers that are made on who is the GOAT in football, who is the GOAT in golf, who is the GOAT in tennis, in hockey, in Jai alai. Who is the GOAT in whatever the sport is, that tends to be where the conversation starts. And that’s helpful to discuss in order to see how difficult it can be to one, establish who a GOAT is, and two, to stay there and how that can sort of knock us off our feet as we talk about as a crucible experience.

Warwick F:
Yeah, absolutely. And three, that we’ve really discussed was in golf, football and tennis. And part of the impetus for this discussion was the recent tragic car accident that Tiger Woods had in California. He was chasing Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major golf championships. Tiger Woods was at 15, Tiger’s now 45, which is getting a little old, frankly, to win golf majors. I think Jack Nicklaus won his final Masters at Augusta at 46 I think. It’s not impossible with modern fitness but it’s tough. It was always going to be tough.

Warwick F:
Tiger’s definitely had his challenges, physically and otherwise. But then this car accident on top of that, which shattered his lower legs, it just made you think, oh my gosh, it was tough before, it’s even tougher now. And so, everybody, including me, just felt so badly for him about what he went through and we all hope he can come back and win more majors. Nobody knows exactly where his thinking is but it’s got to be tough. I mean, he’s got to be thinking, Jack Nicklaus’ record, love to beat it. The morning after the whole car crash has got to be, oh my gosh, now what.

Warwick F:
So that’s kind of was in my mind, and then you have others. Tom Brady recently won his seventh Super Bowl this last one with Tampa Bay before as we know it was with New England.

Gary S:
And that is, by the way, let me just add this, his seventh Super Bowl, just to put that in perspective, there have been 55 Super Bowls. 13% of all Super Bowls that have been won had been won by one quarterback. That is just astounding to me, and that is one of the reasons why people throw the word GOAT around when they talk about Tom Brady.

Warwick F:
Yeah, I mean, obviously you’ve got Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw with four Super Bowls. And not having grown up in this country, you would know better than I do, Gary, about this, some people look at Joe Montana’s stats, but certainly, Tom Brady certainly has a right to be in the mix of being called the greatest of all time, if not lay claim to it. Winning seven is not going to be the easiest, and he’s still going, it’s not going to be the easiest record to break. But who knows?

Warwick F:
In tennis, which all Australians love tennis, there we have a real active discussion about who the greatest of all time, and is in a potential changing of the record. Roger Federer currently holds 20 Grand Slams. He eclipsed Pete Sampras’ record of 14, a number of years ago, which people thought 14, how can you break that? So he’s at 20. Now you’ve got Rafa Nadal that recently also got to 20. And because Rafa Nadal is so dominant on clay on the French Open, if he is vaguely healthy, he has a very strong chance come June when they play that championship in Paris of being considered maybe the GOAT in tennis, he will have broken the tie at 20. You’ve got Novak Djokovic at 18 majors. You’ve got three of the greatest players of all time playing in the same era.

Warwick F:
If you’re Roger Federer, it’s like, well, gosh, I thought I was in good shape. Just my luck to have, it’s almost like being Tom Brady playing against Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw in the same era. It’d be like seriously, really? Not that it’s easy now, but it’s that kind of a deal. But the point of those analogies is being the GOAT is ephemeral. Roger Federer is considered the second greatest player on clay in some ways. But he keeps getting beat by Rafa Nadal, so it doesn’t matter when it’s clay. So the sporting analogy show that Tom Brady of the three maybe has the greatest claim to being the greatest. Records are meant to be broken. It’s tough. And then the whole sense of, we don’t know where these three players stand, they’re different folks. But having your identity wrapped up in that, it’s a dangerous thing.

Gary S:
To the point that you just made about it being ephemeral, I’ve got a statistic sheet here in my hands. When he retired, Brett Favre, former quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, when he retired, Brett Favre was the NFL’s all time leader in passing yards, passing touchdowns and quarterback wins. That’s GOATish statistics, right? He’s been retired for more than a decade, he’s been retired a while now. Now Brett Favre is the NFL leader in most times sacked, most career interceptions, and most fumbles. So, what was GOAT-ish in the good sense, greatest of all time, now is sort of GOAT-ish, in you’re the GOAT, the guy who kind of ruined the game. If you fumbled the most, been intercepted the most, and sacked the most, those are not auspicious statistics.

Gary S:
So, all that to say, if you wrap your identity up in what your numbers are, whether they’re numbers on a playing field or numbers in a ledger, from your career, numbers in your bank account for how much money you make, if you wrap your identity up in those things, those things can change. There’s a story, Warwick, that I’ve heard you tell a time or two, that I want to, as we sort of shift from the sports analogy into the real world. I’ve heard you say on a couple of occasions, and you write about it in your book, Crucible Leadership: Embrace Your Trials to Lead a Life of Significance, coming out this October from Mount Tabor Media.

Gary S:
You say in the book and I’ve heard you say before that while you were going through the period where you were the heir to the family media dynasty, you were told by family members, by your parents, that you had the ability, you could be, if this goes right, Warwick, if your running of the company goes the way it could go, with your experience at Oxford and at Harvard Business School, with the way you’ve prepared yourself for this, you can be not just a great leader of the company, you can be one of the great Fairfax’s, perhaps the greatest Fairfax since the founder of the company, your great, great grandfather, John Fairfax. That had to have been a lot to live with.

Warwick F:
Yeah, well said. That’s true. I mean, as I think I’ve said elsewhere, I made the mistake of working hard. Growing up in a wealthy almost aristocratic family, I sometimes jokingly feel like, it does feel a little bit like the royal family, it doesn’t feel like you had a whole lot of choice but to go into the family business. But I jokingly say that I made the mistake of working hard. So I got grades in school, I went to a good private boys school. Got into Oxford where my father, grandfather, elder brother has gone. Worked on Wall Street, got into Harvard Business School. So, all of that kind of working hard to do my duty and make my parents and family proud, that made people think, gosh, I mean, he’s intelligent, he works hard. Could he be one of the great Fairfax’s since the founder, John Fairfax?

Warwick F:
And so while humility is very important to me, that sense in my mind, I think it started affecting me in the sense, gosh, maybe I could do a whole lot of good for Australia. Maybe my name would be known generations to come. The thought did creep into my brain. And then you had some people around the time of the takeover, well-meaning believers saying, gosh, we’ve been praying for God to raise up somebody in the heart of the media for 20 years or more. And you’re an answer to prayer. Gosh. I could be one of the greats since John Fairfax, I’m an answer to prayer, I could have an impact on my country.

Warwick F:
Even somebody like me where humility and faith is so important, it starts seeping into your psyche and consciousness. So when the whole two billion plus takeover ended, it’s like, well, now what’s my mission? It’s almost like, you get too old to play football and now what do I do? Well, that mission’s over, that goal, that dream. It was a tough thing to deal with. So there’s some part of that GOAT syndrome in some sad way that I can identify with. Having your whole identity wrapped up in a goal or a persona, or what people are saying about you, about who you potentially could be.

Gary S:
And is it safe to say, I mean, you’re crucible, you lost the family business, 150 years in the family, gone. Price tag of $2.25 billion dollars, gone. But is it safe to say, even with that, that it was the sense of failure, the blow to your identity was even just one tick harder because of that? Did whatever bit of GOAT syndrome, GOAT roping, whatever bit of that seeped into you, did that make it even that much worse, even just a click worse, that failure?

Warwick F:
I think it was. It was a failure of epic proportions, and while it wasn’t so much the money because money has not been a driver for me, the sense of, gosh, the impact I could have had on the company, bringing it back to the ideals of the founder, have it be run well, the impact through newspapers on the country, that sense of what might have been and what could I have done, it’s sort of like unfulfilled promise. Somebody that may have been an incredible high school football or basketball player suffers a devastating injury, and they never know what would have happened in college, or professional, what might have been. And so, you have to live with the what might have been. And that’s not uncommon unfortunately. Because of the expectations others were putting on me, and I was putting on myself, that sense of what might have been just added to the difficulty, the bitterness almost, that feeling of failure certainly.

Gary S:
And that feeling that you had, that’s why we’re talking on Beyond the Crucible on the podcast that deals with how do you bounce back from crucible experiences. That’s why we’re spending so much time talking about great football players and tennis players and golfers and all of that. The reason we’re talking about that because it can affect us in our own pursuit of our professional dreams, our professional goals. And those are the dangers. Your identity gets wrapped up, not just in what you do, but in being the best there ever was in what you do. You and I’ve talked a lot about, in the movie, The Natural, with Robert Redford, there’s a great scene that you love in that movie. Describe that scene what happens and why that then applies to all of us in some way, what happens to Robert Redford’s character?

Warwick F:
The Natural is one of my favorite movies. It’s about a young guy from Nebraska that kind of makes a mistake, a woman that just is somewhat psycho, and she kind of basically injures him. And so, his promising career seems to be over. He comes back and, they don’t tell you, but I’m guessing somewhere in his 30s, with the mythical New York Knights team. I think you have a jersey.

Gary S:
I have a hat, a jersey, a T-shirt, I have the whole-

Warwick F:
Which I think is so cool. Anyway, just because he’s an honest guy that won’t kind of play ball with people who want to bet on sports, he ends up getting poisoned and he’s in the hospital. And the woman that he knew from when he was growing up played by Glenn Close, he’s in the hospital bed, and she is at his hospital bedside trying to comfort him. And Robert Bedford’s name in the movie is Roy Hobbs, that’s the character he’s playing. And he just says to Glenn Close, “Things really didn’t work out the way that I had hoped.” And she says, “What do you mean?” “Well, I just thought I would be one of the great baseball players of all time. I’d walk down my hometown and they’d say, there goes Roy Hobbs, the greatest there ever was.” And she says to him, “Well, Roy, but then what?”

Warwick F:
He looks at her. He does not understand the question what she’s saying. So you’re the greatest of all time. Well, then what? What’s after that? Almost not so what, but is that all there is? He cannot fathom the question that Glenn Close is asking him. I’ve thought about that a lot. And that’s just a perfect scene that epitomizes GOAT syndrome, that sort of there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was. Could be, there goes, John Smith, Mary Jones, the best there ever was.

Warwick F:
I guess the point of this episode is not just about great athletes or sports heroes. It could be, maybe you could think, gosh, maybe I could be the best lawyer in my town, the best surgeon, the best real estate person. Maybe if you’re a student, maybe I could be the best high school basketball player, swimmer, diver. In whatever arena you’re in, there is a temptation to say I want to be the best in my field, in my area, so that all my friends will say, gosh, there goes Joe, there goes Susan. They’re the best at what they do. They are the best. They’re the best I know personally. They’re the greatest.

Warwick F:
So it’s not just for these great athletes. It’s very tempting to want to be the best in our field of endeavor, which is not wrong, but it’s getting your whole sense of identity at being perceived by your friends and neighbors and colleagues as being the best in whatever your arena is.

Gary S:
And it comes with dangers. It comes with great dangers of a loss of identity, where if your identity is in being the best oral surgeon and you’re not the best oral surgeon, then your identity is crushed in some way. That’s a crucible. One of the dangers is it leads you to put your emphasis on the wrong things. I go back to The Natural. You put your emphasis on achievement, not relationships. And that’s one of the things that almost passes Roy Hobbs by in that film. He finally does get back together with his high school sweetheart, but a lot of years pass where he is putting his emphasis on trying to get achievement, and he’s missing relationship. He’s missing those things that are truly important that lead to what you call a life of significance.

Gary S:
So there are some dangers that come from being wrapped up in pursuing single-mindedly being the greatest of all time. And that’s why we’re having this discussion, and that’s why we’re going to pivot here in a minute to start talking about ways in which we can cut short that pursuit, that all encompassing pursuit of being the GOAT. By cutting that short, we can avoid some of the pitfalls and the heartache that come from it.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. I mean, I think it’s really two things. One is trying to avoid the pitfalls of getting into the GOAT syndrome. But then sadly, others, me to a degree, we’ll have times in which maybe, I wasn’t ever the GOAT perhaps, but I guess I had my expectations of trying to make a great contribution to the company and the country. But for those who are legitimately in conversation about being the GOAT in sports or in business, once you’ve had a fall from grace or you’re no longer in the mix, that’s hard to deal with too. So it’s really both the ones, maybe you’re on your way up, or how do you avoid the GOAT syndrome pitfalls. And if you’re already on top of the mountain and have fallen, what do you do then, how do you recover? So it’s both almost like vaccination, if you will, before you get the disease, and if you have the disease, how do you recover? It’s kind of both.

Gary S:
And when you’ve roped the GOAT. When you have achieved GOATness, not only is it ephemeral, but it’s not fulfilling. Here’s a quote from 17th century French poet, Jean de La Fontaine, said this, “Neither wealth nor greatness render us happy.” It can be not just fleeting, but it can be not fulfilling in the sense of you can get it and it’s not, it’s Glenn Close saying, and then what? Is that all there is? There are other things that are more important than just being identified from the outside looking in as the greatest of all time.

Gary S:
And we just had a guest on the podcast a few weeks back, Hank McClarty. And Hank talks about this. Hank was in many ways, close to the GOAT in his financial services career. He was on the cover of magazine, his firm’s were ranked in the top 10, 15, whatever they were. Hank, by his own description said he started drinking the Hank Kool-Aid, believing his own press clippings, and his life collapsed. He spent more than two years living with no direction and no job off of credit card points in a hotel relying on the free breakfasts. Not only was that not his identity, his identity was gone. He didn’t know what to do but he didn’t have a job, he didn’t have a direction. And what he found was significance. He was able to rebuild his career as he talks about in the episode. He rebuilt his success. But more important to him, based on gratitude and humility, he was able to build significance. And that’s what not focusing solely on being the GOAT allowed him to do.

Warwick F:
That’s absolutely true, and that’s a great example, the sad thing is, for those on the way up, there’s this myth that once I get to the top of the mountain, then I’m going to be happy and fulfilled. And the reason you feel stressed is because you haven’t succeeded in your goal to be the greatest in whatever field it is. I’m reminded of that fable, if you will, about there’re an anthill, and the ants were crawling over each other to get to the top. And one ant says to the other, “So, why are we doing this? What’s up there?” And says, “I didn’t know, it must be amazing, because everybody else is headed up the top of the hill.” And it’s like, yeah, I don’t know why we all try to be the number one financial advisor in the country, or the top real estate person or the top surgeon or the top this, I don’t know. But once I’m there and everybody goes, wow, this guy, this woman, they are the best.

Warwick F:
You want to realize that that’s ephemeral because sometimes, you might be spending your whole career to get there, and you’ll get there later in life. And by then, I wouldn’t say it’s too late to turn, but your years to change the whole legacy deathbed experience as we talk about. There won’t be as many. That’s almost the worst case scenario is reach the peak of success in business or in some other field when you’re over 50 or over 60, because you spent your whole life chasing being the GOAT and it’s like, well, now what.

Gary S:
And this is a danger, we haven’t talked about this in advance, we haven’t talked about it since you first brought it up, but you mentioned one time, when we were going through some stories to film a video for Crucible Leadership about some retirement community somewhere, where there were all these people who had had these great careers, and they were just so unhappy. Am I remembering that right?

Warwick F:
You’re right. I think it was outside of Denver, a bunch of wealthy folks, and that achieved success, but now they’re in some retirement home, and it’s like, well, now what. Probably mention it later, you’ve mentioned before about the whole headstone deal. It’s like, what do you want your legacy to be, and when you’re on your deathbed, you’re thinking about what people are going to say at your funeral, it’s typically not Joe, Mary, they were the wealthiest, the most successful, the best athlete, the best this. That’s not how you’re going to want your family and friends to remember you. It just is not.

Gary S:
It’s ephemeral and it’s fleeting. It’s ephemeral and it’s fleeting. And that’s why significance is neither of those things. significance is not ephemeral, it’s not fleeting. So, how do we, those of us who are listening here today, how do we avoid the pitfalls? How do we solve, what’s the solution to being so wrapped up in pursuing GOATness that we end up falling victim to its more insidious aspects? What are some keys to how we can avoid those things happening to us?

Warwick F:
I think the first one is, don’t focus solely on records. Records can’t be a benchmark of how we’re doing, especially in sports, wins, losses, stats. But rather than focus on records, I think some of the best athletes do that, focus on day to day improvement. Just focus on how can I be better. If you’re in business, what can we do today to serve our customers better? What can we do today to improve our product? If you serve your customers well and improve your product, you’ll probably make more money.

Warwick F:
Some of the most successful people in business know this, if ever you ask a CEO, well, what’s your vision, what’s your mission? To increase revenue 20% for the next five years. Smart business analysts will say, really, that’s it? That’s not a vision, that’s not a mission. The smart ones will say, it’s really to serve our customers, to treasure our employees. Some of the best companies like Southwest Airlines, their whole mission, what started them in Texas, was to unite families, bring families together by bringing the cost of an airfare at an affordable level at a time when air travel was incredibly expensive. That was their mission. Well, they’ve done fabulously well and been very profitable for many years.

Warwick F:
But that wasn’t the goal. The goal was really not about numbers. It was about a thought of bringing families together. The best companies, the best organizations are focused on, not so much on the records, but day to day improvement that’s really anchored by an altruistic mission, or vision.

Gary S:
And that’s the best way for an individual to live in pursuit of goals as well. One of the things I thought about as we were talking about this episode was focus on goodness, not on greatness. Focus on how you can be good, how you can do good for people, not on being great for yourself. I think that shift in things can be an enormous boon to your joy, not your happiness, happiness is circumstantial, and it can be rooted in success. But joy is internal. If you’re focused on bringing goodness to the table, not gathering greatness for yourself, I think that is one of the first prerequisites, one of the first steps toward a life of significance.

Warwick F:
I think that’s very true, is really, it’s what we talk a lot about when we talk about a life of significance, which at Crucible Leadership we define as a life on purpose dedicated to serving others. So it’s not about your own stats, your own record. It’s about the team, it’s about serving your customers, your employees. I think of Jim Collins, his book, Good to Great, which is really a great testament to what we’re talking about. He wrote it a number of years ago, but basically, he analyzed companies that had 15 years of reasonable returns, and then 15 years of incredible returns relative to the stock market.

Warwick F:
All of the leaders he looked at were what he calls level five leaders, in which they were driven, but they were humble. And when he asked these leaders, so what accounts for your success? He says, well, gee, I don’t know, I’ve got a great team. They’re almost humble. They didn’t say, well, I’m brilliant, I work hard, I’ve got a good strategy. We’ve got a killer app. I mean, whatever it is, it was just a humble sense of, it was outward focused, it was other focused. We have a good team. The truly great leaders are like that. It’s not about their own personal success, it’s about the success of the team. And serving their customers, serving their clients, serving others. There’s this altruistic other centeredness. The success, the numbers, that’ll all come. That’s a byproduct of their heart, which is other focused.

Gary S:
Another quote I’ll throw at you, Anne Frank said this, “Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness.” That’s exactly what you just described. It’s not about “success.” It’s what do you bring to the table, what do you offer other people that you’re interacting with in the area of character and goodness. What’s another step?

Warwick F:
I was just going to say, just before, you triggered another thought by saying that.

Gary S:
Good. That’s my job, to trigger thoughts.

Warwick F:
As listeners will know, I love history. And two of the greatest presidents as historians would view would be Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. And their greatness wasn’t in their numbers. Yes, George Washington defeated the might of the British army that was the greatest army on the face of the earth in the late 1700s. That was an amazing stat, to defeat the greatest army in the world. Abraham Lincoln won the Civil War, at tremendous cost. So their stats were pretty good. But yet, you look at somebody like Abraham Lincoln was clearly very driven, very committed to the cause of preserving the Union and abolishing slavery. But he was humble, it was about the team. He didn’t want accolades for himself. George Washington was a man of great character, great self-control. And he wasn’t focused on his own accolades, some of his generals and people almost wanted him to be a dictator at one point when the war looked like it was almost over. And he said, no, this is not what it’s about. We’re about creating a democracy.

Warwick F:
So, the greatness of the two greatest presidents was really the greatness of their character. And that’s why they’re remembered, not just because one won independence for America and the other one preserved the union. It was really their character that was their greatness to your point.

Gary S:
And it’s not impossible, it’s certainly not antithetical to be the GOAT and to have great character. But if you’re caught up in pursuit of GOATness, if you’re caught up in pursuit of being the GOAT, sometimes you can take your eye off the ball, to go back to the sports metaphor, to take your eye off the ball of character. And that’s what our guest last week, Hank McLarty, talked about. He was pursuing success, success, success, and he lost some of his character, he lost some of his integrity, he lost some of his humility, and that cost him dearly.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. Truly great leaders don’t focus on their own greatness.

Gary S:
Right. Great place to move on to point number two of how we can avoid some of the pitfalls of trying to single-handedly become the GOAT, pursue the GOAT. What’s another way that we can sort of short circuit that and avoid that pitfall?

Warwick F:
Yeah, I think another way, and you hear athletes talk about this a lot, the great ones, is enjoy the process. It’s about getting better each day, but it’s like, enjoy the training. If you’re a football player, enjoy watching film. The truly great players, they love getting in the gym, they love watching film, they love trying to get just a little bit better. And what’s interesting is with these great players, if they’ve done their utmost to train, to prepare, to improve, if they lose, it’s like nobody likes losing, certainly great athletes don’t, but it’s like, well, I did my best. The better man, the better woman won today. The great ones are often humble in victory and magnanimous in defeat, because, yes, they want to do well, but the focus isn’t on, okay, the sheer act of winning. It’s they’re focused on the process of what do I need to do to be the best that I can be.

Warwick F:
It’s the training, it’s the little things. I’m sure, and you would know better than me, Tom Brady, probably practices endlessly. I think somebody that listeners wouldn’t know here, Steve Smith, is a cricket player in Australia and considered one of, if not the best in the world at the moment. He’s had his challenges. He practices incessantly, more than any other player on the planet, he’s just obsessed. He’ll be in his hotel room with his cricket bat, you’ve heard of shadow boxing, will be like shadow practicing. It’s just like move after move after move endlessly, 100, 1000 times in his hotel room. Does he ever sleep? It’s like he’s obsessed with every little part of his technique. And it’s all about the process. The great players are all about the process. So that’s another key is don’t focus on the result, just focus on each day, how can I get better? How can I enjoy the training, enjoy the practice. Enjoy the process.

Gary S:
And that’s not just obviously for sports. That is in your professional life, that is in your leadership life. Enjoy the process of having people entrusted to you to lead, enjoy the process of being able to lead that.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. It’s helping them improv, delegating. Certainly I know in Crucible Leadership, whether it’s a book cover or anything we’ve done, there might be like 10 meetings to get to a good result. I’m impatient by nature, but it’s like, you’ve got to realize, this is the process, to get a great result, you’ve got to have a good process, keep the team on board, listen to good advice, and just enjoy the process. Even if that’s difficult, for a lot of us, good things come with patience and a good process. I’m not into bureaucracy, but I have come over the years to realize a good process is the key to a good result. It’s critical.

Gary S:
The next step that people can take to avoid getting caught up in the negatives, for lack of a better phrase, GOAT syndrome is what?

Warwick F:
I’d say having other areas to focus on. I mean, one of the ways that it helps to have your whole identity separate from being the greatest in sports or in business or the arts, what have you, is have an outlet. It could be being with family, it could be hiking, running, painting. I think of, certainly it helps with stress. I think of Winston Churchill in World War II, and certainly some consider him to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest Prime Minister in British history. He was a very good amateur painter. So when he had to make incredibly tough decisions and things were looking very dire in the midst of World War II, he would get away to the country, and he would paint.

Warwick F:
So, having an outside relief, not just for stress, but just don’t have your whole sense of self-worth, your whole sense of self wrapped up in your profession. Have other outlets. It could be community groups that you’re involved in. Some people may be the coach of their kids sports teams and middles middle school, or what have you. Just have other areas that are outside of your main profession, I think really helps to provide a bit of balance, and frankly a bit of sanity.

Gary S:
The word that comes to mind as you talk about that, and the next point, point four, is having perspective. Having perspective. And I think it applies, having perspective on this whole question of being the GOAT and pursuing GOATdom. But there’s also having perspective on your crucibles. When I heard you just talking about your family and thinking about, and really spending time with your family. I think about in your crucible with the loss of the family company, your family, you were married, you had children. That perspective, that other areas to focus on, helped you get beyond your crucible so it can help you avoid the GOAT syndrome and some of the trappings of that, the negative trappings of that, but can also help you get beyond your crucible to have that perspective, right?

Warwick F:
There’s no question. When my kids were young in the 90s, after the whole takeover ended, just being able to play. I have two sons and a daughter. So boy, girl, boy. With my oldest son, those first few years, being able to throw a baseball or kick a soccer ball, or just the simple things of life, it just was immense joy. When I was working in the aviation services firm, I’d come from work, and like a lot of dads and moms would appreciate, they’re looking in the window of our house, and you’re walking down the path to the front door and it’s like, Daddy’s home, and they kind of run up to you and give you this massive hug. It just gives you a perspective. They don’t care that gosh, daddy’s lost this $2 billion company. They didn’t understand that at the time. They were too young. It’s hard for them to relate to too much even though they’re in their 20s.

Warwick F:
But those simple things about being able to play with your kids. I remember one year when my oldest son was 10, I co-coached his soccer team. Coaching sports is not really my gifting, but they were desperate and needed somebody, so you kind of, I don’t know, do what you need to do. It was okay, it’s just not the sweet spot of my gifted-ness. But all those things with my young kids at the time, it just gave you a perspective that they didn’t care about all that stuff that I was involved in. It’s just those simple things in life, being able to play with your kids, taking a walk in nature, it’s like, it gives you a broader perspective, than everything being thought of of what you do.

Gary S:
And another perspective generating point is your next point about keeping your identity separate from your profession. I’ve heard you say this often on Beyond the Crucible in your blogs. Why is that so important to stave off some of the negative consequences of pursuing at all costs being the GOAT?

Warwick F:
It’s so easy, we’re all human, unfortunately, and it’s so easy, especially if you start doing well, think maybe I am the best basketball player or the best real estate person or the best surgeon. Let’s say you get some awards and magazines, top surgeon in Maryland, Wisconsin, Illinois. There are professional publications that come out, and your name is there, one of the best. And that’s tough. And so, you have to realize who you are is not about what you do. It’s really more rooted, as we say in Crucible Leadership, in who you are as a person, your inherent value.

Warwick F:
We believe that, I think of Psalm 139, which says, we are beautifully and wonderfully made. Just as human beings, we have inherent value and worth that has nothing to do with what we do. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful wife, and she loves me not because of what I do, but because of who I am. And even in those first few years after the takeover, that never wavered. Now, I realize we’re not all blessed, we all have different family situations. But that helps you realize, who I am is not wrapped up in John Fairfax and some takeover. It’s more wrapped up in who I am as a person. So that’s really key is, you are so much more than your success and your profession. You are so much more than that. You have intrinsic value as a human being in terms of your character and who you are. That’s really the most important thing that people have to really get their head around. You have value in yourself.

Warwick F:
I almost think sometimes when people achieve is because they have an inherent feeling of lack of self-worth. I don’t know that this is always true, but it can be, an inherent maybe, a little bit sense of worthlessness or you should value who you are as a person. If you do that, it will make the fall from the pinnacle, which is maybe not inevitable, but records are meant to be broken. It will make it easy if you see yourself having value as a human being.

Gary S:
Yeah. Some of it might be tied to, you have to prove yourself worthy. You have to prove yourself worthy so you accumulate this record, you do this thing, you do that thing. And that becomes who you are. I want to run a real time experiment here. We have not talked about this. But you just said something when you were talking about keeping your identity separate from your profession, about accolades that came in. And we just went through a process.

Gary S:
Again, I mentioned earlier that your book, Crucible Leadership, is coming out in October. And one of the things we did on your book is we gathered endorsements from a wide swath of folks, people we’ve had on the podcast, people who are business leaders, people who are theologians, people who are business school professors and business school educators. I read those endorsements of your book, 28 of them, 29 of them, at the end of the day, we had 29 of them. And there were some incredibly positive things said about you. As someone who has just gone through the experience of having deep words of affirmation about your work presented to you, how do you keep your perspective in that moment? Help the listeners and the readers who are eventually going to grab the book, help the listeners process how to do that, because I just watched you do it and it was beautiful to see.

Warwick F:
That’s a really interesting question. I think part of what kind of occurs to me is, I mean, my faith is my life. As listeners know my faith in Christ is a bedrock of who I am as a person. I never want to go back to believing the press clippings or believing oh, I could be one of the great Fairfax’s. I’m human, I don’t want to be like, oh, look at this book, look at Crucible Leadership, Warwick’s back, redemption. I mean, I’m human, we all have our temptations. And so, if ever I start looking at these things and go, boy, that’s pretty, and I’m grateful, I’m unbelievably grateful for the very kind words that a number of people, many said, there. Almost it’s like a mantra, it’s like it’s all you Jesus, it’s all you, God. I just bring it right back to Him saying, it’s not me, any gift I have, it’s ones that God has given me. And the good fortune and the good team, good circumstances, the resources I’m blessed with to be able to do what I do, it’s all the Lord.

Warwick F:
So it’s really my faith helps me, if I ever I get tempted, I’m human, it’s like, it’s not me, it’s you, Lord. I just sort of open my hands and just say, it’s you, Lord, it’s not me. I’m just trying to be a faithful servant. I just turn praises back to him. That’s kind of what I do. It works for me. Whenever you feel like your temperature rising a little bit, your arrogance, your believing your own press clippings, that’s when I just turn to my faith and say, it’s not me, it’s you, maybe working through me. I don’t know how that translates more broadly maybe, maybe it’s my family, it’s my team. I’m just trying to be faithful here. I think there’s a way of looking at it more broadly a bit. That’s kind of what I do.

Gary S:
And that’s helpful. That’s a real world application of keeping your identity separate from your profession, and specifically, your achievements within that profession, because that’s where I think the GOATness comes in, it’s your identity is tied up not just in your profession, but your achievements in that profession. And when you write a book and you get endorsements from people, it’s easy to think, wow, I have achieved a lot. And to be able to tamp that down and recognize that you are more than that, that you’re more than your achievements. We’ve talked about it before on the show a lot. We are all more than our best moments and more than our worst moments. We all sort of live life in the middle. And that is true I think for pursuing GOATness. We’re more than how many Grand Slam titles we’ve won, how many Super Bowls we’ve won. And that is what really matters in life.

Gary S:
We’re getting to the point where, since we’ve talked so much about sports, I’m going to say the clock is winding down or something like that. I can’t think of a good metaphor for, captain’s turned on the fasten seatbelt sign. We’re going to land the plane here shortly. But you have one more point that I think is really critical for listeners to find the strength, to really take strength, find the strength to turn away that desire, as you just described it, the heat rising up, of wanting to embrace and pursue and even grasp at being the GOAT. And what is that final point that you have, Warwick?

Warwick F:
It’s hold it all lightly. Records come and go. Maybe you’re in the prime of your athletic career or the leader of the organization. But it won’t last. Records will be broken. And if you’re the CEO of your company, newsflash, you won’t be CEO forever. You’ll retire, you’ll get replaced. You might be asked to leave. I remember when my dad was, he was chairman of John Fairfax Board, before he was thrown out by some other family members in 1976. And as chairman of the large media organization, he would be invited to government functions and embassies deals, consular things. I think I remember my mother telling me that when he was removed as chairman, not only did those invitations not come. In some cases, I think he was told you don’t need to attend. The invitation was withdrawn. That does happen. Unfortunately, anybody that’s been in some area of success, there might be some who have experienced that. Well, you’ve got to hold all these records lightly.

Warwick F:
Of the three people we spoke about, one of the folks I most admire because I love tennis is Roger Federer. And I don’t know his psyche, but he sure seems like he has a pretty balanced life and has his head on straight. He has a nonprofit that helps underprivileged folks in Africa. He has a young family, I want to say he has two set the twins, which is kind of crazy. I think he actually blew his knee out one time helping bathe his kids and took him out for six or nine months. If you’re going to blow your knee, that’s probably not a bad way of doing it, right?

Gary S:
Absolutely.

Warwick F:
Recently he was asked because he’s tied with Rafa Nadal, and now they’re probably got to beat him in that record in the next few months, what he thinks of it all. And Roger Federer says this, as he’s talking about playing against some of the most incredible players of all time Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal. And Federer says this, “But all records are there to be broken. The guys are unreal,” in other words, his competitors, Djokovic, and Nadal. “We all know that. I hope they keep on going. I hope that they do everything they possibly want and they look back with no regrets. We want to leave the game with no regrets, and I think from that standpoint, we all sleep very well at night.”

Warwick F:
I don’t know whether they do but you sense that Roger Federer does. He loves the game, he’s like 39 years old, which is ridiculously old for a tennis player. Why does he keep playing? As that saying goes, for the love of the game, he honestly loves playing tennis. He wants to do well, and if he’s not the greatest of all time, his record is broken, which undoubtedly will be, he seems like he’s about as much peace with it as any athlete is, as any elite athlete is. So there’s something about him that really impresses me. I feel like of all the athletes I know, he handles the whole GOAT syndrome about as well as I know. Maybe his psychologist, if he has one, says actually there’s the real Roger Federer nobody knows.

Warwick F:
But as far as anybody knows who watches tennis, everybody feels like gosh, this guy, not only does he handle it well as is good character, and what’s the result of that, pretty much everywhere he goes, everybody cheers for him. People love him, not just his grace and ability to play tennis, but who he is as a person. It’s okay to be cheered for the right reasons, which is not just about his tennis, but about his character. If you’ve got to be cheered, let people cheer for you as a human being.

Gary S:
And that is true, not just of folks who are playing sports, that’s true of all of us in any field of endeavor that we’re involved in. As we wrap, Warwick, let me say a couple of things. One, all of the insights that we’ve discussed on the show today, you have in a blog that folks can find on crucibleleadership.com. So if you want to revisit any of these posts and sort of look more deeply into some of the points that we’ve made, Warwick’s perspective on them, you can read them at crucibleleadership.com under the heading of blog. You can find that there.

Gary S:
But there is a a summary of all this. You had these five points, but it all leads to kind of one great big summary of what our goal should be. And I’ve often thought of this in the last couple of months, in particular, as we talk about a life of significance, that what you’re about to talk about, legacy, seems to be like the the postscript to a life of significance. We live a life of significance and we leave a legacy. But how do all of these points when they add together, why is legacy such an important true north to go for?

Warwick F:
In some ways, people talk about living life backwards, when you’re on your deathbed, when you’re thinking of your kids and your spouse, giving your eulogy, if you could write it for them, one of our folks, I think it was Mike Valentine talked about what would you like your eulogy to be like, which is an amazing comment that he made. It probably won’t be about fame or success, it might be about being a mom, a dad, brother, sister, maybe about serving the people that you worked with, serving the people in your community. How do you want to be remembered by your kids, grandkids, and friends and neighbors? That’s kind of in part what we talk about legacy? Well, how about living your life today in accordance with what you would like the eulogy to be like, in accordance with those last moments of consciousness before we pass? You don’t want to be going oops, I blew it. I’m on my third or fourth marriage, my kids hate me. My employees think I was just the worst jerk imaginable. That’s one legacy. Do you really want that to be yours?

Warwick F:
And so, now’s the time to leave a legacy that you can be proud of. And that’s why we talk about a life of significance because to live a life well lived, to leave a legacy you can be proud of means to do that, I think from our framework, you have to live a life of significance, which is a life lived on purpose dedicated to serving others. When your life is other focused, when it’s built on a foundation of character, of values, of faith in something beyond yourself, that’s a life that you can be proud of. And ultimately, we only get one life, and it may be short or long, we never know the day, it’s just one of those uncertain things in life. So how about living a life today that you’ll be proud of tomorrow and that your kids, grandkids and family members will be proud of as they gather for your eulogy. Live your eulogy today.

Warwick F:
And if you do that, you probably won’t be so focused on being the GOAT in sports or business or the arts, or whatever field of endeavor. You’ll be more focused on other people, about, yes, using your talents to benefit others, working hard, but it will be more other-focused rather than self-focused. That’s really part of what it means to leave a legacy you and certainly others can be proud of.

Gary S:
And to tie the idea of legacy up in the idea that we talked about here, this idea of being a GOAT, we’ve talked about this before, and you alluded to it earlier, arguably the GOATs of country music, of rock and roll music and of jazz standards music, and that would be Johnny Cash in country, Elvis Presley in rock, and Frank Sinatra in jazz and standards. These were the GOATs in these musical genres, but their tombstones, their legacies, two of them don’t even mention that they were musicians at all. Johnny Cash has a psalm on his, Frank Sinatra simply has, “The best is yet to come,” a lyric from one of his songs, on his. Elvis Presley doesn’t mention that he was a recording artists, but the main things about how he was a son and he was a father, those very things that you talked about, having other things to focus on, having a perspective.

Gary S:
If anybody had the right to go out to as the curtain closed, since they’re all performers on their lives, as GOATs and to really trumpet their GOATdom from their tombstones, it was these three gentlemen, and none of them did it. They all focused on those other things you talked about, those other things that bring joy to life, that bring meaning to life, their families. That’s what they focused on. And I think that’s a great place to kind of tie the bow on the package of our podcast here today.

Gary S:
So listeners, thank you for joining us. Until the next time we’re together, remember this because it’s true, your crucible is painful. We know that. Warwick knows that. I know that. We’ve been through crucibles as well. But it is not the end of your story. In fact, your crucible moment can be if you learn the lessons of that crucible, and you apply those lessons moving forward, your crucible experience can be the jumping off point to a new chapter in your story. And it can be the best chapter of your life because that chapter will lead you toward two things that we talked about on this episode. And it won’t involve another one. It doesn’t lead you to GOATdom. It leads you to a life of significance and it leads you to a legacy you can be proud to leave.

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