Embracing Authenticity #91

Warwick Fairfax

November 9, 2021

Being authentic is not easy; in fact it is hard. So how do you develop that kind of mature authenticity? And what are the benefits when you do? Host Warwick Fairfax and cohost Gary Schneeberger discuss the key building blocks of an authentic life – from having an anchor for your soul to finding true friends, from putting yourself in the environment that fits who you are to doing what you’re good at and passionate about. And be sure to listen for an excerpt from the just-released audio version of Warwick’s book Crucible Leadership: Embrace Your Trials to Lead a Life of Significance about why authenticity is so hard, but also so essential, in moving beyond setbacks and failures in business and in life.

Highlights

  • How authenticity is both hard and essential (1:41)
  • What Warwick’s book was almost called (3:59)
  • A section from Warwick audiobook on the challenges of being authentic (6:28)
  • Why Warwick is particularly sensitive to inauthenticity (13:03)
  • How authenticity can lead to crucibles and harm leaders (15:35)
  • Warwick’s own struggles with being inauthentic (19:41)
  • How to assess whether you’re living authentically (24:35)
  • The importance of having an anchor for your soul (30:03)
  • The value in finding true friends (34:48)
  • Finding the right environment to be you (36:27)
  • The critical value of doing what you’re good at (44:01)
  • Lessons in authenticity from Abraham Lincoln (47:50)
  • Reflective questions on living authentically from Warwick’s book (53:40)

Transcript

Warwick F:

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

Warwick F:

People want to follow authentic leaders. Young people especially, they want real. They want vulnerable, they don’t want some cartoon character with a mask and when you say that you care, they want to know you really care, not because you went to a seminar or read it in a book.

Gary S:

“It takes courage,” the poet E.E. Cummings said, “To grow up and become who you really are.” So how do you develop that kind of mature authenticity, and what are the benefits when you do? That’s the subject of this week’s episode. Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show. Warwick and I discuss today the key building blocks of an authentic life, from having an anchor for your soul to finding true friends. From putting yourself in the environment that fits who you are to doing what you’re good at and passionate about. Along the way, you’ll even get to hear a section from the just released audio version of Warwick’s book, Crucible Leadership: Embrace Your Trials to Lead a Life of Significance, about why authenticity is so hard but also so essential.

Gary S:

I know you’re looking forward to this one because it’s about one of your favorite subjects, because I hear you talk about it all the time when we’re recording a podcast and when we’re not, and listener, that is we are talking today about authenticity. Specifically about the importance of authenticity in moving beyond your crucible, getting through your crucible, surviving your crucible. Authenticity, if you plotted a roadmap along your crucible experience, authenticity would show up as a necessary flag, a pin, in a lot of places along that journey, and Warwick, as we get going here, one of the things I thought was interesting about, and I haven’t thought about this before, but authenticity is both hard when you’re coming out of a crucible. It’s also essential in order to come out of a crucible, and that’s, when you think about it, to be said of a lot of things that we talk about here, right? About humility, about vision, all those things. Vision is hard but it’s important, it’s essential.

Gary S:

But landing here, this is I know a particularly important subject to you, near and dear to your heart, authenticity. Why is that? Why is authenticity maybe not your favorite aspect of moving beyond your crucible, but I know it’s one that you talk about quite a bit.

Warwick F:

I think in a way the world wants us to be somebody else, to be inauthentic, and we tend to be pulled into wanting to please others, to put on a mask, to be scared of who we are and we’ll talk a lot more about that. But when you’re coming out of a crucible, it’s especially tough because you might feel like whether it was setback, failure, maybe something terrible was done to you, the last thing you want to do is be yourself. You might feel ashamed of yourself, embarrassed about yourself, and so the whole concept of being authentic, it’s almost the hardest time is when you’ve gone through a crucible, you want to hide. The real you is in pieces, is broken, typically in the depths of the pit of your crucible. So it’s hard anyway, but in the crucible, it’s really, really hard.

Gary S:

And it’s interesting. Here’s a trivia fact, listener, that you may not know. You probably don’t know because I’m not sure we mentioned it in the 90 episodes that have come before this, but your book, Crucible Leadership: Embrace Your Trials to Lead a Life of Significance, had a working title in your mind at one point. What was that working title?

Warwick F:

It was Authentic Leadership. Back in as listeners know 2008 I gave a short message in church to some sermon illustration and somehow what I shared about my story and lessons learned made folks think, “Gosh, we want to hear more about this story,” and so I started writing the book. So this notion of being authentic, I mean there’s another book called Authentic Leadership that’s more of a scholarly business work, but yeah, that notion of authenticity really was one of the core pieces of why I wanted to write this book.

Gary S:

Which is why, as we’re kind of looking to pull apart the book a little bit, now that the book is out, as we do the podcast, that’s one of the reasons why we landed on authenticity as sort of the first subject that we talk about that comes from the book because it was so important to you, you almost named the book that. Even before you had kind of gotten your hands around the idea of moving beyond your crucible, you were talking about the importance of authenticity.

Warwick F:

Yeah. Absolutely.

Gary S:

So here’s the great thing about the ever-expanding roster of crucible leadership assets, and that is rather than just listening, especially listening to me as the co-host blather on listener, you get the opportunity to listen to Warwick read from his audio book. Warwick is going to … We’re going to play a section from the audio book. Rather than Warwick and I spending a lot of time unpacking why authenticity is so hard, remember I started the conversation here by saying authenticity is both hard and essential to moving beyond your crucible, there’s a section in Chapter Three of Warwick’s book that’s called why is authenticity so hard. So to really kick off the conversation, here is Why Is Authenticity So Hard, from Crucible Leadership: Embrace Your Trials to Lead a Life of Significance.

Warwick F:

Being authentic is one of the scariest and most difficult things you can be. It flies in the face of our culture and conventional thinking. You could even say it flies in the face of conventional business thinking. Marketing teaches us to identify the needs of the target market, and then design a product and the communication about it to meet the needs of the consumer. Give the consumers what they want and tell them why that product meets their needs. This may work in marketing products, but not in leading people. People want to know who their leaders really are. Being authentic is one of the biggest gifts you can give to yourself and to other people. Simply put, you cannot lead if you are not yourself. People do not want to follow inauthentic leaders.

Warwick F:

However, being authentic, being truly you, takes courage. It is one thing to be rejected while you’re wearing a mask. In that case, people are not really rejecting you, they are rejecting your mask. Putting on a mask is safe. You can craft a mask that appeals to the broadest possible group of people. Do people want you to be outgoing? Then you can be outgoing. Do they want you to be witty and intelligent? Then you can be witty and intelligent. Whatever role is called for, you can play. All it requires is a bit of training, perhaps the right degrees, and observations of people who have the characteristics you desire, and you can be whoever you want to be. But when you are so concerned about being who your target audience wants you to be, or who they think they want you to be, you forget who you really are.

Warwick F:

Consider politics. Candidates poll-test what the hottest issues are for a given election cycle. Then they appear to know what they’re talking about on those issues. This strategy sends the message that real solutions are not as important as appearing to be knowledgeable, credible, and understanding. So whether it is healthcare, energy, the economy, foreign affairs or the great social issues, candidates try to appear knowledgeable and compassionate. Above all, they want to appear to be more knowledgeable and compassionate than their rivals. But many if not most avoid authenticity. As Jack Nicholson famously says in the movie A Few Good Men, you can’t handle the truth. Can you imagine a candidate telling the public what he or she thought the important issues were, even if they were not even among the top 10 issues their pollsters said people were concerned about. It is the ultimate taboo, telling the public not what you think they want to hear, but what you believe they need to hear and being yourself as you do so. Maybe your pollsters are telling you that the public wants you to be compassionate and empathetic, but you’re more of a tough, no-nonsense, tell it like it is kind of person. The pollsters will tell you that if you have to deliver painful medicine, i.e. the truth, say it in a way the public wants you to say it. Don’t be yourself when delivering the bad news.

Warwick F:

The point here is not that cold and gruff wins or that being compassionate and understanding is bad, nor that it is wrong to try to be compassionate. It is that you have to be yourself and do what you believe. That is the hallmark of authenticity. Simply put, it is being who you are rather than who you are not. You might be thinking, “Okay, I buy the fact that you need to advocate for what you really believe in and be yourself, not some other person. So what’s next?” The problem is that being yourself and advocating for what you believe in is more difficult than you might think. Who do you know who stands up for what they believe in, no matter what anyone thinks, and they were truly themselves without a thought of putting on airs or a mask. Think of your friends, your co-workers, and your family. Think of people in the public eye, politicians, entertainers, or people in the media. Think of people in history. How many people can you think of? It’s difficult for most of us to come up with more than a handful.

Warwick F:

Authenticity in leadership is rare. The higher you go in the economic and social spectrum, the harder it is to find authentic leaders. It is easy to criticize leaders for being phony. That is certainly my tendency and though I may be more sensitive to this than some others because of my background, I believe this is a common experience. The challenge is that as a person rises in leadership, the temptation emerges to put on airs and be who others want them to be or be the right kind of person to fit in or get ahead. It is like a virus that creeps up and infects a person. How many times do we read about people who have been changed by success or a rise to prominence? They ditched their old friends from the neighborhood, those people simply wouldn’t fit in, they tell themselves. They wouldn’t feel comfortable in these circles. They acquire the trappings of power and success. The large house, the nice cars, and of course, the right friends. People who are comfortable with the house, the cars, and the new status. Not only do they have these designer friends, but they may also have designer wives. While there may also be designer husbands, it seems to be all too common for a man to make it and then ditch his wife for the younger model, who he believes can better showcase the fine clothes and jewelry he can now afford.

Warwick F:

It is easy to look down on all of this and condemn those who rise to economic and social power, seeing how their souls corroded and how they seemed to sell out to the lifestyles and values of the rich and famous. However, try being in the situation, and withstanding the pressure that can form. I know how tough it is.

Gary S:

Why do you know how tough it is and before you answer that, let me go back to something that you said in that segment from the book, and I didn’t notice it before. You said that you’re sensitive, you personally are sensitive to not believing people are authentic because of your background. Talk a little bit about the way you grew up and how authenticity played or didn’t play into that.

Warwick F:

Yeah. I mean I’m trying to remember if it’s in this current version of the book because there’s been a few versions going back and forth. But there was one version of authenticity chapter in which it said, “I grew up in the world of the inauthentic,” and it’s sort of a haunting line because when you grow up as listeners would know, a 150-year-old family media business with newspapers, TV, radio, assets, the equivalent of the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal. We grew up in a large house in Sydney, Australia on the water. My parents had parties for visiting dignitaries, prime ministers, politicians, business leaders, visitors from Hollywood. So we had just some of the elite people in society. My mother would throw parties for 300 like it was nothing. I mean these were parties of a scale that when people from Hollywood come to Australia, they’d say, “Go look up Lady Mary Fairfax. She’ll throw you a party the likes of which you’re not used to in Hollywood.” That’s telling you something.

Gary S:

That’s saying something. Yeah, because I lived and worked in Hollywood for several years, so I know exactly how big a statement that is.

Warwick F:

And it’s really as much of the style and that was wonderful. I think that was tremendous. But some of the people there, they were just so concerned with impressing each other. “Oh, I did this big deal,” and, “I met Prince so and so or Count whoever it was.” It was this air of I’ve made it, I’m successful, and I know these powerful people, and I was sort of invited to those parties as a teenager because my parents for the future of the newspaper business wanted me to be at those functions, and ever since then, I just became allergic to the whole putting on of airs to inauthenticity and I’ve always craved the real, not the phony. Still to this day, I don’t have a whole lot of time for people … A lot of politicians irrespective of their political party by definition tend to put on a mask as that’s part of being a politician. So ever since growing up in that environment, I’ve always been pretty allergic to lack of authenticity.

Gary S:

So the book’s called Crucible Leadership. Your consultancy is called Crucible Leadership. Talk a little bit about how authenticity or lack thereof can lead to crucibles and on the other hand can sort of chip away at your leadership. I mean you said in the segment of the book that we played or you read, depending on how you’re consuming this, listener, you said Warwick, “You can’t lead if you’re not yourself.” So how does the idea of authenticity play into both aspects of crucible leadership? The crucible part and the leadership part?

Warwick F:

Yeah. I mean I think lack of authenticity, and you’ll probably get into this more, is really fundamentally a question of identity. It’s this notion that people won’t accept the real you, whoever you are. Maybe you grew up in a certain background and you want to put on this polished tone. I know in the U.K., they talk about learning how to talk in the BBC accent, sort of the polished, upper crust accent, and that’s real. You talk in the wrong accent, at least when I was in college in England in the late 70s, early 80s, it could be a job killer for getting into elite business. Hopefully it’s not as bad, so I get it, I get it. I’m not sugarcoating this, but in general, I think … And hopefully it’s not as bad in America. There is the pressure to conform, but by not being yourself, it can sort of erode your sense of self. You don’t know who you are and you’re sort of striving to be somebody else. You can think, “Okay, I’m going to be happy with the cars and the wives,” because typically there’s more than one for guys that have made it. You just lose your whole sense of self as you’re trying to be somebody else. You just wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and it’s like, “I don’t know who that is anymore.”

Warwick F:

It’s unrecognizable to me and so by lack of authenticity, there’s a pretty good chance you will lose your sense of self, your soul, and whether you start drinking, substance abuse, other failures, bad stuff is probably going to happen if you try to put on some mask and be somebody that you’re not. It’s never good to be who you’re not. The soul yearns to be authentic, and you fight your divine design, you fight your soul, that’s a good way to lead to depression, anxiety, frustration, misery. It’s not good. You could see a psychologist, they’ll never tell you to be somebody else. It’s not a good way for mental or psychological health. So bad things inevitably happen.

Warwick F:

People want to follow authentic leaders. Young people especially, they want real. They want vulnerable, they don’t want some cartoon character with a mask, and when you say that you care, they want to know you really care, not because you went to a seminar or read it in a book and you ask a few questions, but it’s clear that you could care less about the answers. You just ask and say how’s the family, how’s the this, and it’s obvious you don’t care. So if you want people to follow you, especially in times of crisis, you want to be real, you want to be authentic, you want to be vulnerable, so it’s critical to both your sense of wholeness, your sense of being happy, fulfilled, being authentic, and it’s critical in leadership. If you’re not authentic, nobody’s going to want to follow you. Especially in this day and age when there’s so much inauthenticity in some ways, people crave the authentic. As much now as any time in history, so it’s just so critical for yourself and your own sense of well-being as well as to lead anybody in anything.

Gary S:

You talk about being authentic as a leader. You also have talked many times about … And you said it here I believe as well, that when you launched the takeover, you were trying to be a media baron. You were trying to step into the shoes that were left to you from your great-great-grandfather up to your dad. You then realized later on that that wasn’t who you were, that you were more of a reflective advisor than a take no prisoners take charge media person. I’ve never asked you this question, have you ever wondered if the takeover would have gone differently if who you were authentically was that take charge media baron person?

Warwick F:

Yeah. I mean if the company had been successful, it would have been tough, because I don’t know that I ever tried to be someone else. But it’s funny, we’re talking about masks. There was an article that came out in an Australian magazine, it was sort of the equivalent of the New York Times Sunday magazine, that kind of thing many years ago during the takeover years, and the headline was The Man Behind the Mask, and the notion was since I never gave interviews, who is Warwick? What does he think? He’s inscrutable. It’s like what’s really going on inside, and so I was sort of paranoid about people knowing who I was. It wasn’t so much I put on a mask of who I was not. I put on sort of like this opaque mask in which you couldn’t tell what was going on inside. That’s a different kind of mask. It’s just like not giving interviews, just being neutral. Because I was just really afraid, I was in a position of not wanting to make mistakes and yeah. So I in a sense did put on a mask but it wasn’t a mask with another face on it. It was like a mask, just a blank mask with nothing.

Gary S:

Well I was going to say, and readers can see that picture from that magazine cover which is included in your book. You have that photograph of the man behind the mask because that was one of the stinging examples of the way the press covered everything after that.

Warwick F:

Yeah. I mean I think another aspect of really what you’re asking is in a sense I was trying to live somebody else’s life and I’ve talked about this a bit in the book and obviously before. I was trying to live John Fairfax’s vision, which was a wonderful vision, to have a paper that would be non-partisan, the original masthead of the paper of The Sydney Morning Herald was, “May Whigs call me Tory, Tory call me Whigs,” which is basically may liberal call me conservative, conservative call me liberal. That was a wonderful vision to have a non-partisan paper that would uplift the then colony of Australia. But that really wasn’t even my dad’s vision. He inherited that, so I was living somebody else’s vision which is hard to live an authentic life when you’re living somebody else’s life, so I did the whole Oxford/Wall Street/Harvard Business School as listeners would know but I wasn’t living my authentic life, I was living somebody else’s life, somebody else’s vision, and that caused angst, frustration, and I didn’t do it well because when you live somebody else’s life, you won’t do it well by definition. You will feel frustrated and out of place, and I felt frustrated, out of place, and yeah. Every day was like a deer in the headlights, going to work and again we’ve talked about this in the opening line of the speech that I give.

Warwick F:

I talk about walking in December of ’87, when the takeover had finally completed, I walk into the building, walk into the elevator for the first time as proprietor. Everybody knows who I am, my face was on newspapers, magazines, TV, and I’m in that elevator with journalists and other staff of John Fairfax Limited and I’m saying nothing. I’m so uncomfortable. I just wanted to get out of that elevator. It was emblematic of that whole experience of just I wasn’t living my authentic life and it was very painful when the takeover failed ultimately in December of 1990 but in other ways it was a relief. Because I didn’t have to live a lie as people say, to try and be a person I fundamentally was not. So yeah, I can testify how living a life of inauthenticity in the sense that I wasn’t putting on somebody else’s mask, I was putting on this faceless opaque mask that really covered up who I was and what I was feeling and it was miserable.

Gary S:

That is a good time, and I hate to say it after you say that, I was miserable. That’s a good time to kind of turn a little bit and explore … Listeners, as you’re hearing Warwick talk about these things, and you’re thinking in the back of your head, “Am I living authentically? What are my strengths and what are my values and what are my things?” There are, in the book, you talk about this and we can do it in kind of two stages. There’s a first stage of sort of assessing where you’re at. Are you living authentically? Are there ways, what are the ways Warwick that listeners can start today. You talk about one small step a lot. What’s one small step they can take today to sort of assess whether they’re living authentically and then we’ll move on after that, after we sort of assess here’s your baseline, here’s where you’re at, then how can you go and actually move toward living more authentically, but what’s the first step to kind of … It’s sort of an audit of where you’re at, right?

Warwick F:

Yeah, absolutely Gary. So one step is … There’s a number of assessments that can give you a handle on your strengths and weaknesses that form a pattern some have called motivated abilities. It’s not the totality of who you are, no assessment will capture everything, but you’ve got obviously well-known ones like Myers Briggs and DISC, 360s which are very popular in the corporate world which assess what do people above you, beside you and below you in the organization chart think of you. One I like is The Leadership Practice 360. There’s the Enneagram which is another assessment that is a good way of capturing who you are, so all of those provide a good snapshot.

Warwick F:

I think it’s also helpful to ask friends, family, even co-workers who you know well, about strengths and weaknesses and that’s probably a weird question to ask them but it’s … So who do you think I am? If they say honestly, I have no clue, I don’t know who you are, that would not be a good answer, or I used to know who you were, now I don’t know. I talk a lot about successful people. I mean I grew up in a very wealthy background, so it’s a little abnormal. But for those people that have “made it”, they typically grow up with one group of friends, they make it, and they move on to another group of friends. That’s the typical journey. So maybe go back to ask the folks you knew in middle school or high school or friends and say, “So who do you think I am?” You may like what you hear or you really may not like what you hear, so that’s almost more of a character audit in terms of am I being real. So if you ask the right questions and as we often say, be careful what you ask for. Because if you ask those questions, there are people that may be dying to tell you.

Warwick F:

If one person says, “Look, you’re just so fake. I don’t know who you are.” That’s fine, but if all your family and all your friends when you grew up say, “Yep. You’re just a fake. I don’t know who you are anymore,” they’re probably not all wrong. That’s one of the things about a 360. Why 360 is powerful, which is slightly different but it’s all related, it’s if everybody around you, your boss, your peers and those under you say, “You know what, Warwick, Gary? You are terrible at listening to people.” Could they all be wrong? Maybe, but if everybody that works with you says something, my assumption is they’re probably right, innocent until proven guilty. If everybody says or you’re a micromanager or whatever it is, so … All of those things can be very helpful.

Warwick F:

So you use those assessments both formally as well as informal conversations with family or friends, they can give you a lot of data that is helpful and may be painful too.

Gary S:

The thing that you’re looking for there I think when you do that on the plus side and the negative side is those aha moments. We’ve all taken those assessments that you’re talking about, the Enneagram or the DISC test, and it says … I’ll just say for me, “Gary is outgoing and persuasive.” I’m like, “Oh yeah, that sounds like me.” Right? I mean you’ll have reactions when you hear that sounds like me will be your aha reaction or, “What? That doesn’t sound like me.” To your point, if the same four things show up in four different assessments that you say, “That doesn’t sound like me.” Or when you ask four different people, you say, “That doesn’t sound like me,” to your point, as my mom … I mean it’s funny to hear you say that Warwick, because my mom’s best advice to me ever was if one person says you’re a bad word, it’s a difference of opinion. If three or four people say you’re that word, chances are you may be that word.

Gary S:

So that becomes that aha moment as you get that feedback, either through an assessment or through conversations with friends and family, look for the aha moments. Are you agreeing with that? Those are things that are authentically you. If you’re not agreeing with that, those are probably also things, if they show up a lot of times that are authentically you. So look for those authentically you things that are both “positive and negative” and that will help you as you move forward.

Gary S:

Another part of this Warwick is after you sort of do a baseline assessment, there are some things you write about in the book that folks can do to build, dig into, understand more about, build more authenticity. One of the things you mentioned, and this is in Chapter Four in the book, one of the first things you mention is to have an anchor in their lives, and as you talk about that, talk about it from the third person perspective, you’re giving wisdom to people, and then if there’s anything from your own story, bring that in as well.

Warwick F:

Yeah, it’s a good question. I think really, we talk in Crucible Leadership a lot about choice. So when you’ve had a crucible, you have a choice. Hide under covers for the next 30, 40, 50 years until it all melts away, or, “Hey, this was awful, it was unfair, I’m going to choose to find my way back to a life of significance, a life of purpose dedicated to serving others.”

Warwick F:

The same is true of authenticity. It’s a choice. Am I going to choose to be who I am? Now if you’ve gone through a period of self-loathing, it could be because terrible things were done to you or you have a low self-image, I think you need to do some soul work. But I think you need to come to the point where I believe God made us all who we are and scripture talks about we’re beautifully and wonderfully made. So who you are is a beautiful and wonderful thing. So it starts with part of having an anchor for your soul, whether it’s a major religion, like for me it’s my faith in Christ, it could be another religion, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam. It could be another philosophy, set of values. Dig deep into your fundamental values and beliefs. Who is whoever God is or the universe, who have they made me to be, and accept that, honor that, cherish that. I don’t mean some sort of self-worship thing, but it starts with a choice that I’m going to choose to believe that I am wonderfully and perfectly made and I’m different than anybody else, and so it’s okay to be me.

Warwick F:

If you can’t get to the point where you can say it’s okay to be me, then you’ll never be authentic, because you won’t want to be. You will run from it. No assessment will help those who are consumed with self-loathing, and sometimes there are reasons because of terrible things that have happened to you. So it starts with a choice, I guess for me, I never so much put on this mask of who I wasn’t and it was just this opaque thing, and so over time, I’ve realized it’s okay that I’m not some take no prisoners kind of executive. I’m a thoughtful advisor, I do make decisions, quicker than I used to really, I’m probably more decisive than I actually give myself credit for. I think, I’m thoughtful, I’m reflective, I’m not overly competitive per se. I try hard but unlike a lot of guys that want to pulverize the next guy at a golf game or tennis game, I’m not. So there was a period of my life in my thirties for instance where I’d be like, “Oh, how come I’m not like the next guy that likes to play golf and bet a dollar a hole or something?” That’s not wrong. That is the last thing I’d want to do. I just feel so uncomfortable. So it’s, “Well I’m not that good at building decks,” or whatever. So what?

Warwick F:

But not everybody knows how to fix things, but on the other hand, I love talking about history or faith, I mean really a whole stack, music, a stack of different subjects. So it’s coming to the point where you know, it’s okay. Just because I don’t have this desire to pulverize somebody else at golf or tennis doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. It just means I’m different. It sounds stupid and childish. We all have those things within us that we wish we were like the next guy or the other woman. How come I’m not as pretty as that woman or whatever, how come I’m not taller or how come I’m not thinner or how come I’m not A or B. We all have our list of things.

Warwick F:

So this whole area of have an anchor, you just got to make a choice to believe that whoever made you, you are beautifully and wonderfully made, and just because you’re different, different doesn’t mean bad. Different, I believe means beautiful in a sense, from a soul perspective. So if you have that anchor, that foundation, you are well on your way to living an authentic life. If you don’t have that, you will find it almost impossible to live an authentic life if you’re filled with self-loathing and self-hatred, as vast amounts of people are unfortunately.

Gary S:

You need to accept those things and that’s where again, if you go through the assessments, if you go through asking friends and family, weigh that counsel, that feedback, seriously, and apply it as it’s appropriate to help you as you move forward. The second thing you talk about in the book about how to dig your way into authenticity is to find true friends. What do you mean by that?

Warwick F:

Yeah. I mean you can find friends who almost in quotation marks who just want to pull you down and always knew you’d fail or … They just kind of don’t encourage you to strive for anything. Or you can find for the rich and famous, the Hollywood people for instance, you can find friends who they just want to be your friends while you’re successful, and as soon as you maybe have a few movies that didn’t go so well or maybe you got fired from your CEO slot, they disappear in a nanosecond. It’s like they walk on the other side of the street and I never knew you, don’t know who you are. Gary who? Warwick who? They just don’t know who you are. That’s pretty soul crushing, if you thought that they were your friends, so you want to find people that are not there to be with the fake you, the inauthentic you. They like the real you, quirks and all. We all have our quirks. That makes us who we are. I would say that makes us beautiful people in the real sense of the word, not the Hollywood sense of the word.

Gary S:

The third point that you make about how you can dig into discover some … Reset your authenticity is to find the right environment. What do you mean by that?

Warwick F:

Yeah. I mean really, it can be as simple as if you’re somebody that kind of likes the country, rural areas, or the mountains, if you need to be in nature for your soul to sing, don’t be holed up in some apartment or some cubicle in a skyscraper in Los Angeles or New York. It’s not wrong, but it may not fit with who you are as a person. If you’re somebody that more likes the buzz and the activity of the big city, then don’t be in the middle of nowhere. It’s not right or wrong. Similarly with the companies that you work with and organizations, if you’re somebody that likes a slower pace of life, and you want to have time to smell the roses and chat to people, don’t work in some New York investment banking firm when you got to work till 10:00 p.m. every night and most weekends. I mean it’s not right or wrong, although I think for family reasons working 24 hours a day is probably not a good way to have a happy family and happy spouse, but that’s a whole nother conversation.

Warwick F:

But you want the environment you’re in to support who you are and from a values perspective, if your values are I don’t know, honesty, integrity, kindness, and you’re working in a corporate deal-making environment, that’s not going to be a good fit and let’s forget value judgments for a moment. You want to have an environment that supports the real you, the real authentic you. Because environments tend to want to mold you into being who they want you to be. Again I come back to Hollywood, such a classic example. It tends to want to mold you into who they think that you should be. So it’s not wrong to want to do that, not at all in any way, shape or form. But find an environment, both physically, location, and in terms of culture, that supports the real you. Don’t try to be a kind of fish out of water, you love the ocean and somehow you’re stranded on a beach somewhere. You know what will happen to a fish, it dies if it doesn’t have water. So your soul will die if you’re in an environment that is toxic to what you treasure and who the real you is.

Gary S:

A while back, you described an elevator ride you had when the takeover of the family media dynasty was successful. On paper it was successful, you were in charge, you were proprietor. But you described that elevator ride as being up there you’re in charge, you’re surrounded by your employees, and you are uncomfortable. Safe to say that was not the right environment, being the proprietor of John Fairfax Limited?

Warwick F:

It certainly wasn’t. I mean at heart, I’m a reflective advisor. I don’t yearn to be in charge. I would rather listen and learn. I love learning about things that I don’t know anything about, which is one of the things I love about this podcast we have, Beyond the Crucible, when we have guests, I’m continually learning about people’s stories that for the most part I didn’t know anything about. So I love that.

Warwick F:

So yeah. I’m a reflective advisor. Being on a board is not a bad fit, writing a book, talking on podcasts and other things we do about how your worst day doesn’t have to define your life and how you bounce back to live a life of significance from your crucible. That’s all a good fit, but being in charge of some massive media company, it wasn’t my vision and it so wasn’t who I was. I don’t yearn to be in charge of some big company making 100 decisions a minute. That’s just not who I am. I think and consider too much. So no, that was just an incredibly bad fit to who I was and certainly wasn’t … The person I felt needed to be in that slot wasn’t me. It certainly wasn’t the authentic me.

Gary S:

And that, more than anything else we’ve talked about I think, is a floodlight on how important authenticity is to your sense of fulfillment, your life of significance that we talk about a lot on this show. Because what you just said was being in charge of a multi-billion dollar corporation. We tend to think money is going to make us all very happy. Power is going to make us all very happy. The key to joy is to have things and to have influence and that’s the other part of the family media company is you had a lot of influence in Australia. That company was an opinion shaper. All of those things weren’t as important to you, weren’t as fulfilling to you, as being who you are authentically. That is a powerful endorsement of just how critical authenticity is, right?

Warwick F:

Yeah. I mean for me and frankly, it gets into another subject, I don’t think power and money make too many people happy but there is a personality maybe that could have been happy in that but yeah. I mean it was miserable and so when I moved to the U.S. in the 90s when my kids were small, just being with my young family and throwing a ball or going to ballet recitals or whatever it was, that would fill me with … I would enjoy that, being an executive coach, helping people accomplish their dreams, writing. These are all things that I enjoy and over time and this wasn’t a one and done thing, it took years, not just to come back from my crucible, but to accept that I am who I am and it’s okay to be me. It was not an easy journey, we talk about the way back from the crucible. The way back to it’s okay to be me, like I’m at the point where I don’t worry about golf games and competitions and I tend not to sign up for those things, I don’t enjoy it. It stresses me out, and so I’m okay with that. There are other things I enjoy doing.

Warwick F:

So the journey to authenticity, a bit like the journey back from a crucible, it can take a while to say it’s okay to be me and take those steps. It’s not self-love, but it does come back to the identity, it’s okay to be you, but it just takes a while because most of us don’t grow up in an environment where we think it’s okay to be me. Because when you say it’s okay to be me, that means by definition you are secure and self-confident in the best sense of the word, and there aren’t too many secure and self-confident people in the true, soul sense of that word. It’s another side of the coin to authenticity. It’s a journey to really being willing to be a true authentic self.

Gary S:

Yeah, and I know what you mean when you say it’s okay to be me, but really, it’s better than okay to be me, right?

Warwick F:

Right.

Gary S:

It’s essential to be you, it’s the road to significance to be you. That’s one of the first cobblestones on that road. The last of the four things that you talk about in how to kind of build authenticity, to kind of lean into it, is to do what you’re good at. You tease that a little bit, you talked about it kind of, you touched on it in this last section about the right environment, but do what you’re good at. Unpack that a little bit for listeners.

Warwick F:

This is a phrase and I think it was a former chaplain of the U.S. Senate, Dick Halverson, at least that’s what I was told, and the phrase is something like this, “Don’t do what you’re merely good at. Do what you’re great at.” That sounds a bit arrogant, but I believe frankly from a divine perspective we’re all made by God a certain way. So when you fully live in line with how you are made, your true authentic self, I believe that we’re all great at some things, and for me, I feel like I’m a good writer, I think I am pretty good at asking questions, I reflect, maybe some degree of wisdom in certain areas. I’m good on boards because I listen, I reflect and ask probing questions, so there are things I like to feel like in some sense that I’m good if not great at. It’s hard to say that about yourself, but I think that’s true. So don’t just do things that you’re good at. Do what you’re great at. Like I had training because I worked on Wall Street in financial analysis. So if I wanted to in the two non-profit boards I’ve been on, I could have been on the finance committee. But I avoid those like the plague because I’m not interested in finance.

Gary S:

Right.

Warwick F:

But just because I have knowledge doesn’t mean that’s truly who I am and just because I’m good at it technically, I don’t enjoy it, and so I’d rather have people that actually enjoy numbers and finance. When it comes to the full board, I’m happy to ask questions because it’s like I do understand this stuff. But I don’t want to wallow in it if you will for hours and days. So I feel like we’re all great at something. We all have certain gifts and abilities. I believe God doesn’t make mistakes. So if he’s given you certain gifts, abilities and passions, those are God given and the more you lead in light of that and be that person, that true authentic self with your passions and your God-given abilities, especially, and this is the other key in crucible leadership when you use the gifts and abilities and passions in service of others for a higher purpose, what we call a life of significance, that is the path to joy and fulfillment. If you try to be who you are not, the inauthentic self, the mask, that is a way to misery.

Warwick F:

So you want to be filled with joy and be fulfilled. Be your true authentic self with your gifts and abilities and your God given passions in a way that serves others. I mean it’s really that simple. If you need a motivational talk for why be authentic, don’t you want to be the real you? You know you do. You know you want to be you. Wouldn’t it be nice if your friends said, “You know what, Gary, Warwick? I like you just because you are, quirks and all.” Isn’t that a wonderful thing? They like the real me? Like really? And you’re somehow using the real you in service of others? That’s the way to joy and fulfillment, and who doesn’t want joy and fulfillment.

Gary S:

Well one of the things that is the authentic me as the co-host of the show is to point out when the sound we hear is the captain turning on the fasten seat belts sign indicating that we will be landing the plane soon but not quite yet. We have a little bit more time, listener, to explore this topic, this important topic of why authenticity is so important to both leadership and to moving beyond your crucible, and one of the examples you give in the book Warwick, in the chapter on authenticity, is … We’ve talked about it before on the podcast for different reasons, but he’s one the leaders that you admire I think is Abraham Lincoln. So how did Abraham Lincoln manifest authenticity and what did that allow him to do as a leader?

Warwick F:

Abraham Lincoln, as some would know is voted by historians as the most famous but I would say the most respected president in U.S. history. Lincoln was somebody that didn’t put on airs. He became president I guess around about April, March, April, 1861 as the Civil War was about to begin, and he was from the then backwoods of Illinois, it was considered the West back then. He was not particularly well-educated in the sense of schooling, he was self-educated, he read a lot of books, he was a country lawyer doing the rounds in Illinois, and he would just share, even with his cabinet, these homespun stories. Instead of making a point, he would go on for probably 10 or 15 minutes with some story and his cabinet members’ eyes would roll and here we go, the president’s going to give one of his stories again, and off he’d go. But he was who he was. He was authentic, he was probably one of the most self-confident and secure people that’s ever been in office, probably by a wide margin. If you said to him, “Mr. Lincoln, I think your policy here is wrong,” he’d say, “Well you’re probably right, but tell me why you think that.”

Warwick F:

His presumption is, “I’m going to listen to you and you got to have evidence,” but he was just very authentic and obviously he had other characteristics of just strength and certitude in a time when … One of the darkest days in American history with the Civil War, but he was so real. He didn’t put on any airs. What you saw is what you got. I mean he was one of the most authentic people in American history and you could see the goodness of his soul too, which was sort of remarkable. He didn’t try to be some East Coast fancy person. He grew up in a small log cabin so to speak as folklore in a sense tells us. He was very authentic, and okay, he wasn’t some fancy sophisticated East Coast person. He didn’t care. He was who he was, and initially, some of those East Coast elite people looked down on him, no question. Including his own cabinet, most of them were his rivals for the Republican nomination, but over time, they began to see the real Abraham Lincoln, the authentic Abraham Lincoln was a great man, was a great person, so he won them over.

Warwick F:

But initially, they just said, “Who is this guy? Where’s he from? Illinois, which is way out west.” Yeah, but it takes courage to be authentic, and he had certainly plenty of courage.

Gary S:

That is an excellent way to land the plane I think. It takes courage to be authentic. I mean if you had to summarize what it is that we’ve talked about here, it takes courage to be authentic. It takes courage to stand up and say, “Yes, I am a guy and a guy stereotypically is supposed to know how to fix cars and I’m with you.” I mean my way of fixing cars is to say how much is that and then I write a check. That’s the way that I do those things. It takes courage to be authentic, and you can build that courage muscle by doing some of the things that we’ve talked about on the show today, right?

Warwick F:

Yeah. I think it starts with identity. If you’re a person of faith, think of it this way. Or even if you’re not a person of faith. God loves you for who you are, warts and all. It doesn’t mean if there are things you need to make right in your life and stop hurting people, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to fix some of those things. That’s got nothing to do with authenticity. But the fundamental person that you are, God loves you because of who you are. Hopefully you have a spouse or some friends and family that love you for who you are and they know the real you. So it really starts with saying God loves me for who I am, hopefully I have some friends and a spouse, a partner who love me for who I am. That is then a foundation to say, “I am going to make a decision that it’s okay to be me, and I’m going to be the real me and I’m not going to put on a mask, and if some people don’t like it, they can move on.

Warwick F:

Move on, I don’t need people who don’t like the real me.” I’m not talking about the stuff that hurts people, I’m not talking about that. But I mean the true you, not some of those other things. But the real you, you don’t need those friends that you don’t like that. Surround yourself with the people that do like who you are and find a way to use who you are in service of others and a passion that you feel like will make the world a better place. That will support your authenticity, so it really as we often say in crucible leadership, it begins with a choice. Choose to be the authentic true you. Choose to be the authentic true you today. It starts with a choice.

Gary S:

The plane’s on the ground. Way to land the plane, Warwick. That’s an excellent exhortation for listeners to … It’s okay to be you. Remember that. I’ve never done this before, this is the second week in a row in which I’m going to end the show not with takeaways but I’m going to give homework to you, listener. Sorry, I hate to be … I’m sort of authentically like your high school English teacher, because in each chapter of his book Crucible Leadership: Embrace Your Trials to Lead a Life of Significance, Warwick has reflection questions and there are three reflection questions at the end of Chapter Four, which I think are good for you to kind of lean into as you reflect on what we just talked about on this episode of the show.

Gary S:

Question one is what are your strengths, weaknesses and personal values? So dig into that as we talked about here. Ask some other people about that. Take some assessments, some things that help you get to the bottom of that question. Second question, in what situations or scenarios might you be putting on a mask rather than being your authentic self, and then this, this is critical. Why do you think you do that? Identify the situations where you may be masking up and then ask yourself why do you think you’re doing that. That requires to use one of Warwick’s favorite words on the show, some real soul work to honestly answer that question. To authentically answer that question of why do you think it’s more comfortable for you to wear a mask in those situations. Then the third question, how can your authentic self inspire and help others, and that really is the focus of why we do Beyond the Crucible. It’s to help you find that way to inspire and help others, to lead what Warwick calls a life of significance, a life on purpose in service to others.

Gary S:

So listener, until we meet again next time, do remember this. We understand, we know, hopefully it’s come through in our conversation today, that your crucibles are difficult. Those experiences can be very traumatic. But we also know this to be true. They are not the end of your story. In fact, they can be the start of an entirely new story that can be the best story of your life. Your worst day of your life can turn into the best day of your life, because as you learn the lessons from that trauma and tragedy and setback and failure and apply them to your life and move forward, the destination that you reach is a life of significance.

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