Forget Success; Aim to Win Instead: Shawn Harper #74

Warwick Fairfax

July 6, 2021

Shawn Harper has learned from his crucibles – which include extreme poverty as a boy, suffering from learning disabilities and being kicked out of two schools – that the only way to move beyond those challenges is to move through them. What he discovered on the journey changed his life – leading first to an NFL football career and now professional fulfillment as a business owner and sought-after motivational speaker. But don’t call him a success. That’s a word and a pursuit, he says, that’s rooted in image, not reality. It’s something you chase but never achieve. So for Harper the goal is winning, which he defines as pouring yourself into your hopes and dreams and making a difference in the lives of others where and when you can. In Crucible Leadership terms, that means living a life of significance.
To learn more about Shawn Harper, visit www.shawnharper.org
To explore Crucible Leadership resources, and to pre-order Warwick Fairfax’s book, CRUCIBLE LEADERSHIP: EMBRACE YOUR TRIALS TO LEAD A LIFE OF SIGNIFICANCE, visit www.crucibleleadership.com

Highlights

  • Sean’s early life … and crucibles (3:40)
  • The power of realizing he could win — a different outcome than success (6:40)
  • Moving beyond being mad (9:25)
  • What winners do (12:39)
  • Similar views on failure from Sean’s and Warwick’s books (16:52)
  • The dangers of drawing your identity from what you do or have done (22:56)
  • The distinction between winning and success (25:45)
  • How the success model blocks your calling (32:37)
  • Lessons in legacy from the funeral of his mother (35:53)
  • Live your legacy today (41:33)
  • The crucible of image (48:21)
  • Sean’s key message to young people (51:54)

Transcript

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

Shawn H:
I was not going to be defined by the pain. And I was going to take the power from the pain. That is the only thing really that separates a superhero from normal people, outside of talent, is that they see the pain, they see the villain, they see the buildings being blown up, everyone is running one way, and they decide to run the other way into it. That is it right there. The calling card to greatness is adversity. And you have to make a decision. Do you run from it? Do you cower away from it? Or do you set your sail, and it seems like it’s impossible, but you fight through it? You fight to it, and you fight through it.

Gary S:
So, which way do you run? When you’re hit by crucibles do you keep the pain and loss at arm’s length, or do you lean into the lessons those setbacks and failures can teach you?

Gary S:
Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show and the communications director for Crucible Leadership. This week’s guest, Shawn Harper, has learned from his crucibles, which include extreme poverty as a boy, suffering from learning disabilities, and being kicked out of two schools, that the only way to move beyond those challenges is to move through them. What he learned by doing so changed his life, leading first to an NFL football career, and now professional fulfillment as a business owner and sought-after motivational speaker. But don’t call him a success. That’s a word and a pursuit, he says, that’s rooted in image, not reality. It’s something you chase, but never achieve.

Gary S:
So, for Shawn, the goal is winning, which he defines as pouring yourself into your hopes and dreams and making a difference in the lives of others where and when you can. In Crucible Leadership terms, you’ll discover in this conversation with Warwick, it’s his way of describing and living a life of significance.

Warwick F:
Well, Shawn, thanks so much for being here, and super excited to have you, and love talking about your book, The Winning Edge. And you have a particular, different definition of winning. You’re a business leader, speaker, author, and former NFL player.

Warwick F:
So, before we get to all that, I’d love to hear a bit about the backstory, the origin story of Shawn Harper. Kind of where you grew up. And I know you mentioned you grew up in Columbus, Ohio, which, as you know, I mentioned I’m from Australia. My wife actually is also from Ohio, but nearer Northeast, Ohio. Youngstown. So, her family were all obviously Browns fans, being that part of Ohio. So, yeah. Just tell us a bit about Shawn Harper, and how you grew up, and your parents, and yeah, just sort of the backstory.

Shawn H:
All right. Okay. So, I’m going to make an attempt to not only explain my story, but I’m going to have it to segue into the whole winning concept. And before I go any further, thank you guys for having me. Thank you for this opportunity. And I pray that it would be a blessing, that it can not only affect, but infect thousands.

Shawn H:
I was born and raised on the South Side of Columbus, Ohio. And most people, when they think of NFL professional athletes or even business leaders, they have this concept of this person being all-star, all-AAU, all-intergalactic universe, and all that stuff. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Shawn H:
I had to repeat the first grade. Learning challenges throughout my entire life. Documented with four to five learning disabilities. Single-parent family. We weren’t poor; we were “po”. That’s a big difference. It’s a different level of being in poverty. The whole government cheese. It was really bad. And stuttering my entire life. Could not complete a sentence until college. Being kicked out of two schools because of disciplinary issues.

Shawn H:
I wasn’t a bad boy; I was a mad boy. And there’s a big difference between bad and mad. I just relished the opportunity to just vent the anger of not having a father, being in poverty, not having opportunities afforded to me, or thinking that I can never achieve these opportunities. It feels like you’re just being emotionally emasculated at that point or in that juncture of my life anyway.

Shawn H:
After being kicked out of my second school, I went to Independence High School in Columbus, Ohio. I was a sub-average athlete. Barely started. I wasn’t even honorable mention all conference. I was the guy that would get the participation trophy. I was the butt of everyone’s jokes. Just hit with adversity, after adversity, after adversity.

Shawn H:
The thing about adversity that I love is that it can break you. It often breaks you. But it also can make you a record-breaker. And the difference is your perspective of the challenges and of the adversity that you’re going through.

Shawn H:
I was headed off into the sunset of just being a sub-average, impoverished young man. And then the phone rings. The phone rings and there’s a junior college, a two-year school in Mason City, Iowa. And the coach is like, “Shawn, I want you to come to Iowa to play football.” And I’m like, “I’m from the hood. I’m from the South Side of Columbus. And you want me to go down to the corn fields? Literally, between two corn fields. You want me to play football?” Click. I hung up.

Shawn H:
Something happened in that moment though. The dream of one day playing professional sports began to germinate, began to move, and it’s like, “Call that coach back.” And I said, “Coach, if you’ll have me, I’ll come.”

Shawn H:
And I go up to Mason City, Iowa. Like 26,000 blonde hair, blue eyes. Everyone’s last name is Schneider. I mean, like-

Gary S:
Hey, wait a minute. That’s close to Schneeberger.

Shawn H:
There it is. German.

Gary S:
Hey, man.

Shawn H:
I’m sitting here and I’m like, “What in the world?” But in the moment, after the first season or towards the end of the first season, I had this epiphany and it went something like this. You’re right. I can’t be successful. I don’t have the grades. I don’t have this. I listed like nine things that I was lacking. You don’t have that. You’re not even starting now. It’s not going to happen. But I can win. And the moment I said that, it was like my body, things began to switch on, there’s lights, and wait a second, that’s a different perspective. Success is blocked, but winning, you can win.

Shawn H:
And when I made that connection, not comment as much, but the connection, I began to connect with the DNA of who I am and, in my opinion, who every human being is, and that is that they are born winners. One out of three, four million sperm cells, you’re the one that fertilized the egg. You are the winner. Which is why we love gambling. Well, I don’t, but people do. Which is why people love sports. It’s because they love to win. It’s not about success; it’s about winning. That has been hijacked. And so, my new model is now, if life is a game, you play to win.

Shawn H:
And once I adopted that, I began to move through different avenues to MacGyver life, MacGyver opportunities. Went to Indiana. Draft Day in NFL. Third pick in the fourth round. Opened up companies. Began to speak. And I used that winning perspective and the winning mindset from the locker room to the boardroom.

Warwick F:
Well, I mean, that’s an amazing journey. I mean, for a lot of folks, they’re probably thinking, “Yeah, you said you weren’t a bad kid; you were mad.” I can, I wouldn’t say understand, at least not experientially because as I mentioned I’m from a pretty privileged background in Australia. But when you grow up with a single parent in a tough neighborhood, I could understand why it’s like, “Life isn’t fair,” you know?

Shawn H:
Right.

Warwick F:
It’s like whether it’s poverty, injustice, all of the things that I’m sure is sadly very normal, how do you get over mad? Because some people, they stay in mad, and they never get over mad, and they say, “This isn’t fair. And this isn’t right,” which is a true statement. It’s not fair. It’s not right, being a single parent growing up in a poor neighborhood. But how did you change from mad? Because not everybody does.

Shawn H:
Right. So, once you make the statement, “This is not fair,” now you have to make a decision. And the decision is, do you settle with the fact that it’s not fair and you create excuses and you become a victim? Or do you say, “You know what? It might not be fair, but I’m going to make the best out of it. And I’m going to win.” And you become a victor.

Shawn H:
Oftentimes, adversity, the pressure, the pain is fuel. And if you push against it, if you fight against it, you begin to take and extract power from it. And then you begin to move through it.

Shawn H:
One of the worst things that I’ve seen is to give a person a huge win in life or “a huge success in life”, maybe $12 million or instant fame, and they haven’t earned it. They haven’t fought through the process to appreciate it, or the adversity is so tough when they get there they can’t deal with it because they weren’t primed as they were coming up through the process. Stop aborting the process.

Gary S:
I have probably, and I’m not exaggerating. If I am, only a little bit. I probably have 25 quotes of yours written down on pieces of paper here. And one of them, and I can’t find them right now because there’s too many pieces of paper and the type is too squeezed together. But you said, either in your book or in an interview, you said that we’re not born winners or losers; we’re born choosers.

Shawn H:
Yes. And so, I have to actually redact that because…

Gary S:
Oh, okay. Well, it’s breaking news.

Shawn H:
Yes. Well, no, I have been saying that for about two years now because I’m a winner, and I just now have to manifest and to move in, and to behave like I really am. And that, to me, is probably one of the greatest steps to achieving greatness in life is your self-concept.

Shawn H:
Who are you? Because let me tell you something. If you don’t know who you are, you’re who they say you are. And once the world can brand you and label you, it has all authority over you. “You can never grow past your name”, which is why in the good book, this is why in the word of God, when God wanted to do something extraordinary, the first thing he did was tell them what I’m going to do, and then he changed the person’s name.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. Like from Abram to Abraham; Sarai to Sarah. I mean, there’s a lot of examples.

Shawn H:
Saul.

Warwick F:
Yeah, Saul to Paul. Exactly. And so, what was the key moment for you as you were growing up, maybe it was junior college, where you went from being mad, this is unfair, to you know what, it may be unfair, but you changed your self-concept, you changed almost the definition of winning? What was that key moment in which you made a shift in your thinking, a significant shift?

Shawn H:
Okay. So, after, I’m Shawn, this is who you are, you’re a winner, let’s go for it, I began to do what winners do. And one of the things that I’ve noticed that winners do is that winners separate themselves. They always separate themselves. That’s what makes them a winner is that they are distinct.

Shawn H:
And so, I’m in Columbus, Ohio, and I’m like, “This is what I want to do. I have to go back to school.” And so, I packed my bags. I went back early. I went back like four months early. I’m in a hot, sweaty, stinky college dorm room. And I’m practicing twice a day. I’m taking summer courses. And I’m practicing twice a day. I left Columbus, by myself in a dorm room, and I practiced twice a day.

Shawn H:
When camp time came around, I was so much further ahead. I studied the plays. I learned the schemes. I learned the offense. Then I took 22 hours in one semester. That’s crazy. 22 hours in one semester. I was able to graduate a half semester early, which made me more marketable to Division I, which I was going for, Division I schools. You’d get me six months early. And that is the strategy and the tactic that I took was separation.

Shawn H:
I wrote 200 colleges. Well, truth of the matter, I wrote one letter and I xeroxed it 200 times. I signed it though, just to make myself, this is who I am. I put myself out there. The phone began to ring. I had more options. And winners focus on separation.

Warwick F:
Wow. And so, was there a mentor? Or what led you to make that decision when you were in junior college in Iowa, that I’m going to go there early, I’m going to look at the playbook? You made a decision. Was there any outside influence? Or you just said, “You know what, today’s the day I’m going to change the course of my life”?

Shawn H:
I was going through a breakup, and I said, “You know what? I’m out of here. I’m out of here. I’m going to focus on going to the next level. I’m going to focus on me. I’m going to get myself together.” And I packed my bags. I jumped on a Greyhound business. 22 hours. And I landed back in Mason City, Iowa.

Warwick F:
And would you say that’s when you changed your self-concept, where maybe life’s not fair, but I’m not going to be a victim, to use your words, I’m going to be a victor?

Warwick F:
I mean, you mentioned before, life’s about choices. You made a choice. You made a profound choice. And that’s one of the things that comes up a lot in Crucible Leadership that… we’ve had folks, like a Navy SEAL that was injured, became a paraplegic in a training accident. We’ve had victims of abuse. We’ve had business failures. Every kind of crucible. And some things like physical challenges, some things you actually can’t fix, but the attitude… that’s a good example, where that’s never fair when you suffer a physical challenge. That’s never right. But yet, they’ve all changed their mindset, in your words, their self-concept. And so, in that sense, using your definition of winners, they’re winners because they make a choice not to be defined by their circumstances or their crucible.

Warwick F:
And it sounds like that’s what you did, right? You were not going to be defined by your background. You were going to choose your own path and your own self-concept.

Shawn H:
Right. I was not going to be defined by the pain. And I was going to take the power from the pain. That is the only thing really that separates a superhero from normal people, outside of talent, is that they see the pain, they see the villain, they see the buildings being blown up, everyone is running one way, and they decide to run the other way into it. That is it right there is that the calling card to greatness is adversity. And you have to make a decision. Do you run from it? Do you cower away from it? Or do you set your sail, and it seems like it’s impossible, but you fight through it. You fight to it, and you fight through it.

Gary S:
This is a perfect segue into something that I’ve wanted to do since I read both The Winning Edge by you, Shawn Harper. And Warwick has his book, Crucible Leadership, coming out in October. And I wanted to read just a couple of snippets about failure that you both write about. It’s like you’re looking at each other’s homework or something.

Gary S:
Here’s from your book, Shawn, what you wrote about failure. “Failure is your friend. Failure is where the lessons are learned. Failure is where you make your adjustments. Unfortunately, people run as fast as they can from failure. They shield their lives from failure. They won’t grow and experience the opportunities. They’re taught not to fail.” You add, “You must be willing to fail. If not, you can’t grow.”

Gary S:
Warwick writes in Crucible Leadership, “Failure can be of great value. It can be the most refining time of your life. Difficult experiences can change you. In a sense, they can make or break you. Choose the path that makes you better, more whole, and a more resilient version of yourself. Failures and setbacks, your crucible moments, can feel like insurmountable obstacles, causing you to feel stuck or lost, but they can also offer an introspective inflection point that moves you toward more effective leadership and a life of significance.” That’s the life, that’s the path you both are on. And that you’re encouraging others to be on. Fair?

Shawn H:
Fair. In order for you to win, in order for you to play the game, you have to be willing to lose. And that right there is the question that you have to ask yourself. If life is a game, you’re going to play the game to win. When you step on that court, when you step on that field, it doesn’t matter how prepared you are, how much shape you’re in. What’s the odds in the back of your mind there is a chance, are you prepared to lose? When you invest, you don’t invest money you’re not willing to lose. Are you prepared to lose?

Shawn H:
And listen to this. The more you’re willing to lose, in some instances it makes you a very powerful and dangerous person. It makes you very powerful but dangerous because if you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. It’s like, “You know what, I am willing to lose this.”

Shawn H:
Now, what it’s like is, is you’re around a table full of people who are playing poker. And that person grabs six or seven chips. And they take both hands and they push them in the middle and they say, “I am all in.” And what do you do with that? “I’m all in. I’m willing to lose. Are you?” Woo. Then the lessons that you can extract from that, the techniques, the strategies, the relationships that are developed in that. We love the mountain top, but there’s water in the valley, baby. The lessons that you learn from that it’s…

Shawn H:
Listen, the average millionaire, according to Google, has filed for bankruptcy 3.2 times. If you look it up on Google and say “Google millionaire”, it says 3.2 times they have filed for bankruptcy. They have failed according to the world standards.

Shawn H:
In our educational system, I’m going to take a shot at it because they have conditioned us to fear failure. “Joe, you got a ‘F’ on your test. You don’t get a smiley face. Oh, too bad. You’re bad.” Versus, “Hey, we have a great learning opportunity here.” When I failed the first grade I had to repeat the first grade. Man, it was horrible. For years, I carried that. I carried that for years. We don’t value failure. And yet, that’s how we learn how to walk and ride a bike.

Warwick F:
Wow. I mean, that is so profound because a lot of people fear failure. And when they fail, they’re also not willing to learn lessons.

Warwick F:
I’m sure you know way more about football than I do, but you’re an offensive lineman. And let’s say you’re up against some all-pro, which I’m sure you’ve been many times, and they get by you and the quarterback gets sacked. Okay, well, that’s technically a failure. Well, you could say, “Well, okay, I’m up against one of the greatest pass rushers in history. And, of course, I’m going to get beat,” rather than, “Okay, I got beat. What lessons do I need to learn about technique and positioning?” And it’s like, “Okay, I got beat that one time. Well, it doesn’t mean I’m a failure, but what can I learn? What lessons can I learn from it?” Rather than some people, when they fail say, “Well, gee, I was up against so-and-so, all-star pro. Of course, I got beat. There’s no lessons because, heck, nobody could block that person.” That would be a different way of looking at it. But you choose the first path, which is, “Okay, if I got beat, I lost that game. In sports, very few people have won every game in high school and the pros have ever played in. That’s almost impossible. You’re always going to lose at some point.” So, you lean into failure.

Warwick F:
So, talk about what did that look like in your life in terms of not being afraid of failure, embracing it, leaning into the pain, and learning from it. How did that look for you?

Shawn H:
I’m still afraid of failure. You know what I’m saying? But you just do it anyway. I’m nervous about some stuff. I’m nervous about investments, but you do it anyway, you know?

Warwick F:
Right.

Shawn H:
Yeah. I mean, no one… which kind of leads into a totally different area, but it’s like we fear death, but that’s where the growth is. Failure is death to your reputation, death to your brand, death to your perceived value. But in that death, there’s life. And you have to go through it. You have to go through the canal of death to see the life.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. I don’t know if this gets into winning versus success, but I know for me I look at it as… my failure, which in my case was sort of epic proportion, $2.25 billion failure in a sense of… that was the value of the takeover. The 150-dollar company ending on my watch. Maybe it’s my faith perspective, but I don’t look at that as… that $2 billion failure doesn’t define me. Yes, my Wikipedia entry is young, hot-headed kid, could have had it all, but lost it. That’s kind of what it says. For me, as a person of faith, my self-worth, my persona is based on God loves me unconditionally for who I am as a human being, not for my achievements. So, I try to separate my self-esteem from what I’m actually doing. So, whether I win or lose in any particular event, that doesn’t define me. I’m not defined by a game or an event. Does that kind of make sense? How would you look at it in your terms about not letting failure define you?

Shawn H:
That’s why the self-concept is so important because that is something that you’ve created, you’ve defined, and you protect. That is something that nothing in this world’s operational system has authority over is I am a winner. That happened before I was born. I’m a winner period. That’s number one.

Shawn H:
And what we do is that we tend to, or our society tends to, encourage to define what you do as who you are. And they try to create that distinction or that connection so tight. And you know what? I’ve struggled with that as well. And I have to push back on that because now it affects your decisions. It really affects your decisions. Do you keep the company? Do you let the company go? Do you do this or… well, you know what? If you’re willingly going to sacrifice yourself because it’s who you are, well, then dag gone it starts to mess with your decision-making.

Shawn H:
But the second thing about winning is, is that you don’t have to win all four quarters to win the game. You don’t have to win the first half. You could lose until the last six or seven minutes in the second half. That’s been done in the Bible throughout. And so, with you, with me, with other people, it’s like the game is not over. The game’s not over.

Shawn H:
And plus, if the game is over and you don’t see to proceed victory, we’re running a relay. So, I done handed this bad boy off to tons of people. And they’re running. And catch them if you can.

Warwick F:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), no, absolutely. So, I want to ask about this. You use this fascinating distinction between success versus winning. And life’s about winning, not success. Now, how do you see the difference between those things?

Shawn H:
Okay. So, as I mentioned earlier about you are created to win. So, if you think about the games that we played growing up, they were win-lose games. The whole thing was based off of, “Hey, win kickball. Lose kickball, badminton.” Everything is win/lose.

Shawn H:
And then around the third or fourth grade, by the time you find out that Santa Claus is not real, they introduce another concept and this concept is called success. And this concept is basically not about win or lose anymore. This concept is about something that’s not static; it’s moveable. You can shift it.

Shawn H:
And then they do what I think is probably the most damning of all, they define what success is. And then they tell you how to achieve it. So, in the US success is money and wealth, for the most part. Recently, it’s likes and popularity on social media. But up until then, it’s money and wealth and fame. And this is how you get it: primarily through education. And this is what you have to do. And you have to live here in this subdivision or in that subdivision. And you know what? Being a missionary, it’s a noble idea, but you won’t be successful being a missionary. Being a pastor, let’s just be a doctor or a lawyer. Let’s have some prestige because that is what society deems as success.

Shawn H:
The problem is, as I mentioned earlier, is that it’s not static, which means that I could have $4 million in Columbus, Ohio. I’m doing okay. I’ll take $4 million downtown Manhattan, I’m probably average. You take $4 million to Dubai, you are broke.

Shawn H:
And so, now, since it’s not static, which means that it’s a moving carrot. You’re always chasing the carrot. You’re always trying to become what you really are. You’re chasing. You’re trying to become.

Shawn H:
Winning is the fullest expression. It takes away the become, and it focuses on the believe in the being you are. So, you manifest who you are. Winning is the fullest expression of who you are mentally, socially, emotionally, financially and, to me, most important, legacy. That’s the fullest expression of who you are.

Shawn H:
Success focuses on production. Winning focuses on reproduction. It is congruent with nature. You have a talent. You have who you are. And you reproduce that. You encourage. You reproduce that. You, sir, you’ve gone through adversity. You’ve gone through challenges, both of you probably. And now you’re reproducing it with the lessons that you’ve learned.

Warwick F:
Yeah. I love what you’re saying. I mean, you often hear the phrase “moving the goalposts”. Well, success, it’s like you think you’re in the end zone, but you’re not. They just moved it 50 yards. And it’s often the case that success is defined by other people. So, in business, okay, you made a million. Well, what about 10 million? What about a billion? It’s like gee, you may be doing well, but you’re not at a Bill Gates level or Jeff Bezos.

Warwick F:
In sports, there’s always somebody better, quicker, faster. I’m a big tennis fan and Roger Federer fan. He’s won 20 majors. Well, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are on his heels. Rafael Nadal, they call him the King of Clay. He’s playing in the French Open as we speak. Absent something incredible, he is likely to win the French Open, move to 21 Grand Slams, and beat Roger Federer. So, it’s like if Roger Federer’s ego was defined as being the greatest of all time, which in tennis means the most majors of all time, then he’s in trouble. Or in football, it’s like how many Super Bowls have you won? Have you won any? If you’ve won some, have you won more than any other player that’s ever played? And even then, then you start debating, well, maybe it’s easier now than it was. And you never win that debate about the greatest of all time. There’s always somebody who says, “Yeah, but… ” yeah, but. And so, if your image is defined on that, you’re in trouble

Shawn H:
And what makes it really sad is two things. Number one… well, three things. Most of us, including myself, I’m like really praying about this. Most of us will lose our calling because God didn’t call our image; God called our identity. He has you here for a season, and he has you here for a reason. That’s number one.

Shawn H:
Number two, when we pursue the success game, we tend to sacrifice the other three or four that I mentioned. We sacrifice our health. We sacrifice our relationships with our family. We sacrifice so much to achieve one or two or three things.

Shawn H:
And the last is that we lose so much. We lose a lot of time. And time is the one thing you cannot get back. We lose it because we’re chasing a carrot.

Warwick F:
You know what you said is, again, forgive me for keep saying this, but so profound. I mean, I’ll probably use the “P” word a few more times, but yeah. I mean, identity versus success and calling. I mean, in a faith perspective, we get that, but there’s a lot of people that don’t. Every once in a while, I am amongst other things certified executive coach, and people will say, “Hey, I just sold my business or I left my job. I’d love to just chat as a friend.” And say, “Okay, that’s fine.” We’ll have lunch. And I’ll ask them, what are their skills, and what are their passions, and usual stuff. And then if they’re a believer I’ll say, “So, how does what you’re thinking of doing, how does that fulfill a kingdom purpose?” which is a faith-based way of saying “calling”.

Warwick F:
What saddens me is 9 times out of 10, not only will they not know how what they do will fulfill a kingdom purpose, they won’t even understand the question. It’s as if I’ve just said, “Explain to me quantum mechanics or nuclear physics.” They’ll be like, “What did you just say?” And in a broader sense, it would be saying to people, “Tell me what your calling is.” I mean, how many people do you know, if you ask, “What is your calling?” I feel like a lot of people are like, “I don’t know. Never thought about it,” you know?

Shawn H:
Right.

Warwick F:
I’m a doctor. I’m an accountant. I’m a football player. I’m a missionary. Okay, but whatever. But what’s your calling? You know what I’m saying? I mean, that’s not something people think about.

Shawn H:
Wow. It’s unfortunate because the success model hijacks their worldview. And once your worldview is hijacked, it’s like you have on glasses and you see everything through those lenses. So, now it’s to the point where calling and purpose and destiny is not even in the picture. You can’t even see that. Christianity or faith period is something that is like an accessory to a nice jacket versus being the pulse or the-

Warwick F:
Yeah. It’s something you do on a Sunday, but it has nothing to do with what you do the rest of the week, you know?

Shawn H:
Yeah, yeah.

Gary S:
What’s fascinating to me about this conversation, if I can jump in, what’s fascinating to me about this conversation, and because we’re in the area of football a little bit, I’ll pull out some football analogies. You guys are both talking from the same playbook. You’re using different plays out of that playbook, but you have the same, let’s say, offensive coordinator. God has directed you both down this path.

Gary S:
Shawn, you talk about winning. Warwick, you talk about a life of significance. You both talk about the importance of leaving behind a legacy. And you both talk about things that can steal that, that idea, Warwick, for you, of being the G.O.A.T. can rob you of those things that lead to a legacy you can be proud. What you talked about, Shawn, the success and chasing the money and the prestige, that saps your relationships, that ends up ultimately in the end sapping your legacy. Warwick, you say it’s about a life of significance. Shawn, you say it’s about winning. You guys are both… it’s the exact same playbook; it’s just different plays within it.

Gary S:
And I think, I hope, listeners, you’re catching that, that despite their different backgrounds, their different crucibles, their different experiences, they are both mapping out plays, if you will, of how you win, how you have a life of significance. Lean into that. Learn from that. And apply that in your own life.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. I mean, as you’re talking, and I love the word “legacy” that you used, Shawn, and Gary just mentioned. It occurs to me, if somebody, a family member was to give a eulogy for you or me or anybody, it’d be interesting to ask, “So, what would a winning legacy look like for you?” And that begins to backtrack into calling, and what does that look like?

Warwick F:
And I’m sure you have in your mind what a winning legacy would be like for Shawn Harper, for when your kids are there giving your eulogy. And you want them to be proud of you. You want them to think, “You know what? Dad was pretty awesome. Yeah, he was a good football player, but he was a whole lot more than football. And this is who my dad was,” kind of thing. That’s what we all live for rather than, “Okay, he won some Super Bowl rings or he didn’t,” or, “He was all-pro offensive lineman or not.” It’s like they’re not going to really care about any of that stuff. It’s going to be a bunch of other things that they would define as a winning legacy, don’t you think?

Shawn H:
Yeah. In fact, I just had that experience about four days ago. I attended the funeral of my mother. We buried her this past Saturday. And the place was packed. And she was 82. 82 years of age. But the legacy…

Shawn H:
And I gave a story on social media about that, about me having the first major meal without my mom. And I’m sitting in the kitchen, this is funny, I’m sitting in the kitchen, and I’m looking at this pot. I’m looking at this pot. And I’m like, “Why am I keep… I keep staring at this pot?” And I realized that I don’t know how to make the gravy. But my mind races back to when I was six years old, and how I would sit in the kitchen, and my mom would make gravy and other things. And she would talk to me all day.

Shawn H:
And I just replayed the moment, replayed the flour, replayed all the ingredients. And I was able to make the gravy, once I was able to move past the grief. And that there’s grief in the gravy. And that gravy is the legacy. Edith Harper is gone. There was never a cookbook. And it was nothing she never taught me. I just watched. I watched. I can soon learn to do it, if you’ll let me see me done; I could watch your hand in motion, but your tongue too fast may run. I watched her make gravy. I watched her live life. And now I’m teaching my son how to cook now. And I’m allowing that to come through.

Shawn H:
So, at the funeral, the winner, the people who win, or to measure the win, is when you look around at the people and you see a little piece of Edith Harper in everyone around. You know what? The legacy continues from her mom, to her, to my kids. That’s the win.

Warwick F:
That’s amazing. So, when you think of your mom, what were some of the elements of, I guess you just outlined some of it, but her legacy? I mean, she didn’t grow up with a lot of money, but yet she left a powerful inheritance in the broad sense of that word, in the spiritual sense. She was wealthy in the kingdom, perhaps. So, what were some of those aspects, would you say, of her legacy?

Shawn H:
One of the greatest aspects of Mom’s legacy, and as you know I am a believer, is that she taught me about the spirit realm. She taught me about prayer and about warfare, getting up three, four o’clock in the morning, praying through things.

Shawn H:
I remember, after my father divorced my mom. That’s the first thing. The second thing is, is that she cried out to God. She said, “God, how am I going to make it?” And she said God told her, “If you give 20 bucks to the poor every single month, I will take care of you and all your six/seven kids. They will never want for anything, if you take care of my kingdom.”

Shawn H:
And so, she made me cognizant of the spirit world, how you sow, how you give, how you pray, how you forgive. She taught me the keys or the rules of the kingdom, which has allowed me to navigate life to the point where people are like, “How the heck are you even at this juncture?” It’s not me. I know the system and I know the rules because Mama taught me the rules.

Gary S:
I’m going to jump in, Shawn, only because my father died two weeks ago. So, I know what you’re talking about when you talk about sort of the terrible tenderness, the savage sweetness of those kinds of moments. And my dad, very similarly to what you just described your mom as doing, she wasn’t necessarily… she wasn’t pulling you aside and saying, “Here, Son, here’s how you cook.” You watched her. She spent time with you.

Gary S:
My dad, similar kind of situation. And part of what we’ve been talking about here is that when you chase success, your time goes there, your time is pulled away from your loved ones, and that can degrade that legacy in the eyes of children. The thing that stands out for me about my dad, as a Christian man who spent the early 2000s in church, in evangelical churches, that was the era of the men’s group, the men’s retreat. And men would always get together on the weekends. Men would get together. They’d haul off, they’d steal our watches, and we would sit around. But one of the things that happened in there is I always heard men say, or I frequently heard men say, “My dad never told me he loved me. I didn’t know my dad loved me.”

Gary S:
And I didn’t… I mean, I had some issues with my dad in certain areas, but I didn’t have that one. My dad told me, from the moment I could understand what it meant, that he loved me. And he spent time with me, but he also, he showed me and he told me. And that made all the difference in the world in who I became in terms of being okay with my emotions, being able to express love for people, being able to do that. That’s his legacy.

Gary S:
His legacy is my relationship with my stepchildren. That’s where that comes from. And he didn’t set out to do that. That wasn’t on his to-do list. He just spent time with his son. And that is what is so important about this discussion, is take the time to focus on the things that are going to matter when everything else burns up, as the Bible says. That’s where legacy is born.

Shawn H:
Yeah. I have never talked to an individual, 70-plus years of age, and had him or her talk about their portfolio and net worth. They always open up pictures, “These are my grandkids. This is this.” They always focus on things that we should have focused on in our 20s and 30s. And I don’t want to be that person. And I don’t want anyone listening to be that person, to take the last four or five years of their life with maybe oxygen or living in a home somewhere, talking about wisha, coulda, shoulda. That regret is… man, there’s… wow, the pain of regret is like a slow churn in your soul. You don’t want-

Warwick F:
Yeah. That’s one of the things we talk about is live your legacy today. There’s a song that obviously everybody’s familiar with, the Cat’s in the Cradle by Cat Stevens. And it’s a haunting song because the refrain is the son says, “Hey, can we spend some time, Dad?” “Aw, we’ll do it soon. We’ll do it soon.” And he’s always busy. And then the son grows up. And the dad’s older and says, “Hey, Son, I’d love to spend some time… ” “Aw, Dad, I’d love to. The kids. And I’m just rising in my career. And I’m sorry, but what we’ll do it again soon, Dad. We’ll do it again soon.” You don’t want to be that dad, where you spend no time with your kids. You’re not doing the things that you love.

Warwick F:
And so, whether you’re 70 years old or 20 years old, think about what legacy, how you define your life, significance, what does winning look like to you, and live that today. Don’t define success based on what other people think it should be.

Warwick F:
If you’re a football player, maybe it’s winning Super Bowls or maybe it’s like, “I want to be the best I can be, but if I win a Super Bowl, great. If not, that’s okay. But my self-image is more than football or more than business. It’s I’m going to play. I’m going to do my best, but I’m not defined by other people’s expectations.” I mean, does that kind of make sense in terms of legacy?

Shawn H:
All the sense in the world. And unfortunately, the state of the world, I put it all on the fact that we didn’t care about our legacy.

Warwick F:
Right. And it’s funny, people chase success. There’s that old fable, if you will, of the anthill, where ants are crawling all over each other to get to the top. And one ant says to the other, “What are we doing? Where are we going?” He says, “I don’t know. It must be good because everybody else is climbing to the top.”

Warwick F:
And you get to the top, and it’s like individual success is never fulfilling. I mean, I’ve had big failures, but my undergrad was at Oxford. Worked on Wall Street. And then graduated from Harvard Business School. Well, Oxford, Harvard Business School. Sounds good. And I suppose I’m proud of it in a way, but does that make me happy and more fulfilled? Not really. I mean, it’s a thing.

Shawn H:
But see, that in itself is your ministry. And also, it’s my ministry because we’ve tasted it.

Shawn H:
They are selling this. They are branding this. They’re packaging this to 99% of all the people. “This is where you have to go. You got to go to this university. And you have to make it to this. You have to be at the tip. And once you get to the tippy, tippy, tippy top, you get to meet the wizard,” right? It’s just like… Or, “Once you make it to the NFL, wham, you have it. That’s the life. Let’s push everybody towards that wealth.”

Shawn H:
And I’ve tasted it. And you’ve tasted it. And now we can turn back and say, “It’s not what it’s cracked up to be.”

Warwick F:
Well, I mean, you would know better than I, but how many NFL players, some make obviously enormous amounts of money and they lose it. They have the cars, and maybe the girlfriends and the wives. And you wonder how many of them feel fulfilled and joyful. Maybe some do, but it’s like it feels like fool’s gold. Yeah, they may have more money than they… but it’s like are they really happy and fulfilled in the broad sense of the word? And I don’t know, it’s almost sad. Do you know what I mean?

Shawn H:
Yeah. It’s a whole new level of fear now because now you have to keep it. And now, everyone else is watching you to make… are you going to keep it? Or how can I exploit it from you?

Shawn H:
But to have that level, to actually be at that level, and then to come off of the mountain unscathed and say, “Hey guys, they’re not going to tell you this, but I’m going to tell you,” and you’re going to tell them, us, that it’s not in that. It is in your family. It is in your relationships. It is in your health. It is in this, these moments, living in the now. This is what it’s all about. I’ve already been behind the wall. I’ve seen the wizard. He’s a little man. So, stop spending your entire life on the yellow brick road.

Warwick F:
It’s being. It’s being; not doing. I mean, one of the things that I mentioned, which sounds crazy, and fortunately my publisher is a person of faith, and understands. I have a book coming out in October, Crucible Leadership. And I’ve said to him, “Look, I don’t care how many books I sell. If it’s zero or 10,000 or 100. What I feel called to do is be faithful, do my level best to obviously hopefully make it successful.” I have a great team, including Gary. But my goal is not book sales; it’s to be faithful to the calling that God has put on my life. I’m not going to be saved by a book. It’s a book. I’ve spent 12 years writing it. I mean, blood… It includes pain and suffering, but my self-image is not going to be defined by book sales, you know?

Shawn H:
Right.

Warwick F:
That’s got nothing to do with my image. I mean, I’m doing my level best to try and make it successful, but it’s just trying to… how do you help people understand that their self-image is not based on book sales or football game wins? Or how do you get people to open their eyes and have that maybe Paul-Road-to-Damascus moment? How do you get them to see you that?

Shawn H:
Well, you have to destroy the word “image” first. It’s the image that you have to destroy. See, once you are void of identity, then you subconsciously develop an image. And now, whoever has the power over the image has power over you. So, now, image is external; identity is internal. And it’s supposed to come from the eternal, right? So, check it out. When you develop a strong sense of identity, the image loses its power. So, the world has a vested interest of destroying your internal identity in the hopes that you would spend all your energies, psyche, resources to have the image. And once you live an image-based life, then the world system has you because it’s all… yeah, it’s all external.

Warwick F:
One final beat on this. Because I think from our perspective, your identity, if you’re a person of faith, need to be based on God. And the the Bible is very clear on that.

Warwick F:
If you’re not a person of faith, you’ve got to connect your identity with your fundamental beliefs and values. Most people’s beliefs and values, they’re typically not, I don’t know, greed, money, whatever it is. Typically, people aren’t living what they believe themselves. Whatever you believe, your fundamental beliefs, you want your identity to be tied to that, not to success.

Warwick F:
And you’ve just got to make… as you said, life is about choice. You’ve got to make that choice. Are you going to define your life based on success or winning in the sense you use? Is it going to be defined on identity, ideally tied to God or some other fundamental belief? Your identity is what the game’s all about, right?

Shawn H:
It is.

Warwick F:
The ultimate winning and losing is, you going to win the battle of identity or lose it? Well, it’s your choice.

Shawn H:
That’s where it is. All actions stems from thoughts. All thoughts come from your belief. And your belief is nestled in, as Maxwell Maltz says in the book, Psycho-Cybernetics, in your self-concept.

Shawn H:
And since we’re talking about God, we’ll take it one step further. In order to really be your self-concept, your being, it’s what you are belonged to. So, it’s become, belief, be, and belong.

Gary S:
We have arrived at that point in the show, gentlemen, where I normally say, “The captain’s turned on the fasten seatbelt sign,” but because I have a former NFL player as our guest, I’m going to say, it’s the two-minute warning, guys. We’ve got just a little bit of time left before the final gun goes off. I sound like I’m doing an announcer voice. That’s weird.

Gary S:
I’d be remiss, at this point, Shawn, if I did not give you the opportunity to tell listeners how they can find out more about Shawn Harper, and your speaking, your books, everything that you do.

Shawn H:
Okay. Real quick. Shawnharper.org. Shawn with a “W”. That’s my website. @shawnharperspeaker. That’s Instagram.

Shawn H:
Now, if you go to shawnharper.co, and I’m going to take this down soon. If you go to shawnharper.co, the book that we’ve been talking about, you can get a free download.

Gary S:
Here it is.

Shawn H:
Just-

Gary S:
It’s The Winning Edge.

Shawn H:
Put your name and email in. You’ll get a free download of that book. It will be sent to you.

Gary S:
Warwick, take us to the final gun.

Warwick F:
Well, Shawn, thank you so much. I just love that your concept of winning, identity, legacy, and not success. I don’t know, maybe as you’re talking to young people, maybe it’s football players or just young people in general, what’s kind of the message that you want them to hear as they’re beginning their life? What’s the key takeaway that they need to learn to map out their life, would you say?

Shawn H:
Wow. The key takeaway that I would have from a motivational perspective is resistance through persistence, is that you got to keep fighting. Get back on the bike. That’s how we learn how to ride bikes is we keep falling off the bike. You get back on the bike.

Shawn H:
From a spiritual perspective, it’s get to the belong stage. It’s where I belong to God through his son, Jesus Christ, which changes my worldview, which changes my perspective. It’s not about what I can get; it’s more about what I can give. It doesn’t come to you if it can’t get through you. Live your words, life and your words and your actions as a seed. Everything you do is a seed. And you’re responsible for that harvest.

Gary S:
I have been in the communications business long enough to know when the last word has been spoken on a subject. And Shawn Harper just spoke the last word. And that sound you heard was the final gun going off. The game’s over.

Gary S:
Here’s the good news. Shawn Harper won. Warwick Fairfax won. And hopefully, listener, you believe that you’ve won as well. Been blessed by this conversation.

Gary S:
Warwick and I have a couple of favors to ask you, as we bid ado. One, tell your friends about the show. If you’ve liked this conversation, please let your friends know about Beyond the Crucible. You can also subscribe on the podcast app that you’re listening to the show on right now so that you can never miss, you will never miss a conversation like our conversation today with Shawn Harper.

Gary S:
And until the next time we are together at Beyond the Crucible, remember this. Your crucible experiences are real. They’re painful. We know that. They can, as we said at the outset, they can knock the wind out of your sails. We talk about that a lot.

Gary S:
Shawn described some very traumatic things that he went through. If you listened on a podcast app and didn’t watch on YouTube, pop over to YouTube for the first 10 or 15 minutes of the show. Watch Shawn’s face when he’s talking about some of the things he went through as a young boy. He’s smiling. He’s describing some traumatic crucible experiences, but he’s smiling because he’s come out on the other side. He’s come out beyond it. He’s seen that that didn’t define who he was.

Gary S:
And that’s the message that comes from, we hope, this episode and every episode of Beyond the Crucible. And that is this, that your crucibles do not define you. They are not the end of your story. In fact, if you learn the lessons of your crucible, if you lean into that failure, that pain, and find out what it is that you’re supposed to walk away with, more knowledgeable about, and apply that to your life going forward, your crucible experiences, far from the end of your story, they can be the beginning of a new chapter in your story. And that new chapter can be the most rewarding chapter yet because where it leads, the final period of the final sentence of that chapter, leads to a life of significance.

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