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Finding Beauty in the Broken: 7 Strategies to Unfreeze Your Identity #102

Warwick Fairfax

February 3, 2022

Have you ever felt like that a failure or misstep or somebody else’s judgment is still following you around? That your identity, in a very real way, has been frozen in time?  BEYOND THE CRUCIBLE host Warwick Fairfax and cohost Gary Schneeberger discuss Warwick’s new blog that spotlights how to turn a heat lamp – sometimes even a flamethrower – on those frozen negative perceptions from the past that can stick to us in the present and threaten our future.  They discuss several steps you can take to restore your true identity, from recognizing your life matters, to dealing with the lies spoken over you; from forgiving yourself and others to embracing the beauty in your brokenness and using it as fuel for your unique life of significance.

Highlights

  • The perils of “frozen identity” (2:35)
  • Warwick’s years of frozen identity (5:39)
  • The pain behind “Young Warwick” (8:32)
  • How Warwick does indeed “have it all” now (11:33)
  • How to unfreeze your identity, Step 1: Recognize your life matters (14:34)
  • How to unfreeze your identity, Step 2: You are loved (16:48)
  • The power of the “Purple File”: (19:40)
  • How to unfreeze your identity, Step 3: The world needs you (23:50)
  • How to unfreeze your identity, Step 4: Deal with the lie (26:30)
  • How to unfreeze your identity, Step 5: Forgive yourself and forgive others (30:02)
  • How to unfreeze your identity, Step 6: Embrace the broken and the beautiful (38:06)
  • How to unfreeze your identity, Step 7: Remember your mission (44:59)
  • Warwick’s top episode takeaway (53:37)

Transcript

Warwick Fairfax:

Welcome to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership. In the Australian media and some people’s minds, I will be perpetually the 26-year-old young kid who launched this ill-advised takeover until recently, my Wikipedia entry was “naive, idealistic, young 26-year-old launches $2 billion takeover. Could have had it all, messed it up and ends 150 years of family history”. So it’s this, almost this tragic young figure, a 26-year-old. And it is frozen in time, frozen in concrete, if you will.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Does that sound familiar? Not the details of the story. Those are the beats of Warwick’s journey, but the feeling that a failure or misstep or somebody else’s judgment is still following you around, that your identity in a very real way has been frozen in time and not in the most encouraging ice.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show. This week Warwick and I have a wide-ranging discussion about how to turn a heat lamp, sometimes even a flame thrower on those frozen negative perceptions from the past that can stick to us in the present and threaten our future. We unpack several steps you can take to restore your true identity, from recognizing your life matters to dealing with the lies spoken over you, from forgiving yourself and others to embracing the beauty in your brokenness and using it as fuel for your unique life of significance.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

As a guy who creates, who writes for a living, me, I always get jealous when someone turns a phrase and I’m like, “Ooh, that’s really good.” And Warwick has a phrase he’s going to talk about in this discussion of identity, and I’ll point it out. You’ll notice it when you hear it, but there’s some great perspective, Warwick, that you have in this blog about not only the importance of identity, but a different way of looking at identity than we have tended to do here on the show.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. Absolutely, Gary. I mean, as listeners would know, we talk about identity a fair amount, but we talk about it more, don’t get your identity from work, from money, from image, accolades, get your identity from within. And all of that’s true, but here we’re talking almost about broken identity, or as I talk about in the blog, identity that’s frozen in time. This is a bit different. And sometimes it’s you know identity can be actually not our true identity. It can be almost a false identity.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So sometimes we’re perpetually a 16 or 17-year-old teenager in high school. Maybe we missed out on the basketball team. Maybe we were a bit overweight, negative self-image. And sometimes we never really see ourselves grow out of that. Other people might, but we perpetually see ourselves as who we were as a teenager or as sadly, a lot of folks on our podcast who’ve been guests, and I’m sure listeners, have faced during the darkest days of your crucible moment. On that worst day, sometimes we have this negative self-image. Either I’m a failure, I made these huge mistakes. I hurt people, or it may be horrendous things were done to me. And somehow when bad things are done to you, for some people, it understandably causes a negative self-image. So your negative self-image may be rooted in your worst day of your crucible moment. You may be frozen in time from high school.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So really, what this discussion is, how do you get out of that pit? How do you unfreeze this false identity, this identity which is a lie, which can be frozen in time and decades can go by and you just can’t seem to get out of that hole of that negative self-talk and negative identity.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And that’s the phrase that you turned that I’m jealous of, frozen identity. Love that. I read that in the blog and I was like, “Oh, that’s really good. I wish I’d written that.” I didn’t though. You did. And it’s in the blog and you’re right, Warwick, this discussion, we often talk about identity, beware of an overdeveloped sense of identity, right? You get your identity from how many zeros are in your bank account, what kind of cool car you’re driving. That kind of thing where you’re maybe pushing to be bigger than your britches.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

We’re talking about a different kind of identity crisis in this case. It’s almost underdeveloped identity. You’re not walking in who you really are. You’re you’re stuck in a place where something happened to you, someone spoke something to you, someone spoke something over you. You encountered something and you haven’t been able to shake that negative perception and the ramifications that come from it.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So as soon as you brought this subject up, Warwick, it occurred to me if anybody is an expert or can speak to what it’s like to have frozen identity, it’s you. Because still there are places, and I know you’ll unpack why, there are places who still will refer to you in the context of your takeover of the family media business as Young Warwick. True?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. I mean, it’s kind of crazy. I’m like, now, hard to believe the decades go by over 60. So you don’t tend to think of somebody that’s a little over 60 as being Young Warwick, but my dad was Sir Warwick and I had, I don’t know, three knighthoods in a row in my family. You know? Sir James Redding Fairfax, Sir James Oswald, and my dad, Sir Warwick Fairfax. So growing up, they didn’t seem like such a big deal. It was my father, Sir Warwick, and Young Warwick, kind of heir apparent.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Still in the media in Australia, that phrase will be coined. And so my frozen in time moment, as listeners would know, grew up in this 150-year-old family media business started by my great-great-grandfather. By the time I came on the scene, it was a massive $700 million, 4,000 employee company, newspapers, magazines, TV stations, radio, and newsprint mills. Had the Australian equivalent to New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, major opinion leaders. Launched this $2.5 billion takeover to bring the company back to the ideals of the founder and have it be well managed. Family sold out. Didn’t work out. Three years later, company goes bankrupt when Australia hits a recession.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So that’s the very brief Cliff Notes version, but in the Australian media and some people’s minds, I will be perpetually the 26-year-old young kid who launched this ill-advised takeover, until recently that my Wikipedia entry was “naive, idealistic, young 26-year-old launches $2 billion takeover, could have had it all, messed it up and ends 150 years of family history”. So it’s sort of almost this tragic young figure, a 26- year-old.

 

Gary Schneeberger: Right, right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And it is frozen in time, frozen in concrete, if you will. I’m trying to remember that second Star Wars movie, Empire Strikes Back. Remember when the guy gets frozen and I don’t know if it’s concrete or some metal?

 

Gary Schneeberger: Yeah.

 

Warwick Fairfax: And he’s frozen, and it’s like-

 

Gary Schneeberger: Han Solo. Yeah.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. That kind of like me, I’m frozen in whatever substance that is. And I’m still there in most people’s minds. It’s like, “Unfreeze me, please.” You know?

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And the phrase, Young Warwick, that name, it’s not just design. It was not just designed. Those who hung that name on you, it wasn’t just designed to indicate your youth. It was designed to indicate, as you hinted at right there, it was designed to indicate you were inexperienced, you were in over your head, that you were the whelp, the whelpish Warwick who wasn’t quite ready for prime time when you launched the takeover. That’s where the sting comes in.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

It’s not so much, as you said, you were a Young Warwick in the sense that you’re the son of Sir Warwick, but the way that it was used against you was to paint you as… To freeze you as a failure. And I think that’s…Would you say it has been that you spent some time frozen in that spot?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. And as we talk about and as in the book, there are cartoons, editorial cartoons that really personify this sort of frozen in time, Young Warwick, young, naive, idealistic crusader that kind of fails in a sense. So yeah, there’s one of me as this Mongol warrior. Again, I’m like 26. I’m there as this barbarian attacking the gates of Rome, or I don’t know quite what it would be, and destroying this family dynasty and destroys in a day what took more than a hundred years to build.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And there’s other cartoons, the man behind the mask. I never gave interviews. What’s he thinking? How do you create a small business? Give Warwick Fairfax a big one. All these cartoons help crystallize this sense that my identity is frozen in time. But what happens is while there’s still that perception in the media in Australia, it would seem, then you can’t help but having your own identity frozen in time.

 

Gary Schneeberger: Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Other people’s perceptions become your reality and my internal reality, and so it’s not easy to shake those. I mean, some people have nicknames for decades that they don’t necessarily like, but it goes back to high school or whatever. And they just see you as this screwup from when you’re in your twenties. And it’s like, I’m not that person anymore. It’s like, yeah, no, you always will be the screwup in their twenties who did dumb stuff.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right. Yeah. It’s like, I’m sure there are people listening right now who were told at some point, “You’ll never amount to anything.” Right? Who were told at some point, “That’s why X, Y, Z, Q, P, L, Y happens to you.” Those words, words have meaning and words can hurt. And when those words are spoken, they can sort of bore into our spirits, bore into our soul, bore into our psyche. And we can indeed be suspended in animation, if you will, at that time when those things might have been true for a period of time. But it’s moving beyond those things.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

The name of the show is Beyond the Crucible, and what we’re really talking about here is how do you get beyond the identity that has sort of stuck to the bottom of your shoe as you’re going through life. But before we do move on to the great points you make in the blog about how to move beyond that identity, I want to say this. The joke’s on those people, Warwick. The joke is on those journalists who said, “Naive, young kid could have had it all and blew it,” because guess what? That young kid’s grown up into a man who does indeed have it all, at least all that matters.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

You’ve talked about it many times. Family, you’ve got a Wall Street Journal bestselling book, you’re speaking in places across the country. You have achieved things that you would, I know you’ve said it before, you have all that matters. So that as the Bible says, “What the enemy meant for evil God has turned to good.” And what that label was supposed to make you feel, it’s true, you do have it all, at least what matters most to you.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. I mean, that is well said. You know, we talk a lot at Crucible Leadership on this podcast about a life of significance being the measuring stick for every human, a life on purpose dedicated to serving others. I mean, I’m blessed to have a… I married the American girl who I met in Australia. We’ve been married over 30 years. I’ve got three wonderful kids from 30 down to almost 24 in a few days.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I’m just blessed to have work that I do with a wonderful team at Crucible Leadership, such as yourself and the rest of the team. Between speaking, the book, podcast, I feel like I’m trying to give voice to people’s stories and just really champion that your worst day doesn’t define you. I’ve been on a couple nonprofit boards, including my church, being an elder at my nondenominational church.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. I mean, I am blessed. And my self-image is definitely in a much better place. I mean, scars tend not to go completely away, but I think I have a more realistic, more accurate picture of who I am and what I’m worth. And I believe we all have intrinsic value obviously, as children of God. But yeah, it’s been an evolution. But yes, I do feel blessed, absolutely blessed.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And that’s a great way to sort of move into the next area that we’re going to talk about. And that’s the seven points that you have about how to unfreeze your identity. Because we started out talking about here’s the frozen identity and it’s Young Warwick, and then we come out the other side where you’re living a life of significance.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Now it’s time, right, you’re going to unpack some things that listeners can do to put the meat in the sandwich. Right? We have the two pieces of bread on the side. Now we’re going to put the meat in there, and step one that you enumerate in the blog for folks who are struggling with a frozen identity is to recognize that their life matters. What do you mean by that?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. The starting point for many will be the image is frozen in negativity either because of a mistake they’ve made or maybe some horrific things that were done to them. Either way, your image can be really corroded and you might feel like, what is the point? I’m worthless. Nobody can love me. Nobody should love me. I’m like this leper that people should say, “Unclean,” and just toss out on some garbage heap and I’m not worth anything.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So the best thing to do, I mean, people who really go into negativity can say, “I need to end my life,” or you can really get down a dark space. And so really the first standpoint when you’re thinking about your life matters is that the world needs who you are. The world needs your gifting, your talent, your soul, your very essence. And so by wallowing in self-pity, recrimination, anger, be it at yourself or others, it robs the world of who you are. It actually robs your family, your wife, your husband, your partner, your friends, coworkers.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It robs them of the essence of who you are. Because I think we’re all, as we’ll talk about it in a minute, beautifully made in the image of God. So the first standpoint is your life matters and you are a gift on this earth who, from my perspective, is meant by God to contribute to the world. And so wallowing in self-pity, while it can be understandable, it doesn’t serve you. It does not serve others. It robs people of your gifting and your essence, and that sense of negativity, it also tends to spread. And it hurts people around you.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And coming to the realization and really owning that your life matters is like planting a flag, right? My life matters. I may not have it all worked out after this. I may still trip and fall sometimes, but that recognition that your life matters is the perfect first point because it then leads to the small steps that come next. And the next one, the second step that you talk about in the blog is you are loved.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. You know, I love the image, just to drill on what you just said for a moment, of planting the flag. We talk a lot in Crucible Leadership is that when something horrific happens to you or you make a horrific mistake, rather than hiding under the covers for the next 30, 40, 50 years until life ends, which it will for all of us, you have a choice.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Either just wallow away the rest of your life, or to say, “This was awful. It was unfair, unjust, or I was an idiot, but how do I move forward?” And so that’s really what you’re saying. That plant the flag is the choice we talk about on pretty much every episode of Crucible Leadership is I’m going to make a choice that my life matters and I’m going to make a choice to move forward. It’s a fundamental decision.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And so really, moving to the second point, the sense which I think reinforces the sense of your life matters and builds onto it, I believe that we are all loved by God. I think my Christian faith perspective, like Psalm 139, it talks about we’re beautifully and wonderfully made. There’s this notion that God loves us. We have intrinsic value, every human being, just because of who we are. And beyond just the divine, the eternal, the universal, that sense of love.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I think most of us have at least one person who loves us. Many will hopefully have friends and family who are cheering us on. There’s very few of us that has nobody that cares about us. Very few of us have at least one friend, one family member who just feels bad for us, wants us to get out of that hole, whether it’s of our own making or others. And so we are loved both by God and, I believe, by others.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So if other people love us, including God, maybe we do matter. Maybe our life should matter. Maybe our negative identity needs to change. That’s people that know us well. They love us in spite of our foibles, in spite of our mistakes, idiosyncrasies. It’s not like there’s blind love in which they don’t know us. Oh, they know exactly who we are, but they choose to love us anyway. That should cause you to think positively.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right. There is, interestingly enough, as we’re talking about this subject, in the current issue of Entrepreneur magazine, there’s a very short column in the beginning by a man named Dennis Gillan, who is the executive director of a suicide prevention center. And he talks about he’s a keynote speaker and he suffers from lack of confidence sometimes. And he’s not sure how well it’s going to go over.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

There are times that he says, as we’re talking here, there are times that his identity, his negative self- image is “I just feel like quitting.” This is what he writes in an article he titled The Purple File. He writes this: “When I consider quitting, I grab the file, the purple file. And come back with renewed determination. Then he asks the reader, do you have a similar file, somewhere to put cherished testimonial, comment, a piece of feedback, or kind note from a coworker, something that lifts your spirits and reminds you why you do what you do. I recommend it.”

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I read that article this last weekend and I created… Here’s my purple file. And I went through, and you’re in here, by the way, for the nice thing that you wrote in your signed copy of your book to me. But I went through, like I’ve kept a lot of cards through the years from when I left jobs and people were wishing me well. And this is just the first thing I pulled out of this purple file. It’s a high school graduation card that’s 40 years this year that my brother who passed away in 1995, but this was back in ’82, this is what he wrote me. Just one little bit that he wrote me:

 

Gary Schneeberger:

“I want you to know, win or lose in life, I’m never prouder at any time as when I can call you my brother and best damn friend I have. Thank you for making my life with you so happy.” That’s from my brother who is no longer with me. He’s been gone for almost 25 years. That’s amazing stuff. When you talk about, you’ve got one person who loves you, you’ve got people, coworkers, those kinds of things. When Dennis Gillan talks about these things in his article, this is the lifeblood of shattering that negative identity that can stick to you, I think. Fair?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Oh, absolutely. Those are almost sort of markers of grace. I’m reminded of when Moses, who spent 40 years in the desert, he would instruct the Israelites to erect memorial stones as a way of just remembering God’s grace and providence. And so those sorts of things, I mean, I have three adult kids. We have at least two out of the three are writers. We write birthday cards, as listeners know. We say positive things about whoever’s birthday it is.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

You look at all those cards and they write in detail about why they love me and what have you. Obviously, the stuff some very kind folks wrote me endorsements to the book, I mean, those things matter. And you remember that and it’s hard… It’s funny, I often say, It’s easy to remember bad things that people say about you. It’s not easy to remember the good things because we tend to want to dismiss it. It’s like it doesn’t compute.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So we’re like, with our negative self-image, but that’s why I think what you’re saying, this purple file is because we forget those things. And reading them, it’s like, maybe I’m not perfect, but maybe I do have value. And so it’s such a good idea, that purple file concept.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah. And if the concept that we’re discussing here, and it is, is frozen identity, a purple file, the stuff inside this file is a heat lamp that melts that frozen identity-

 

Warwick Fairfax: Amen.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

… and brings you back to a place where you understand, okay, I’m not all those bad things that I’m thinking about myself right now.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It’s not positive, happy talk just for the sake of it. These are accurate assessments from people that know you. So it’s bringing you back to reality is what that’s doing.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Very, very, very wisely said. Okay, the third point, three of seven, after your life matters and you are loved is the world needs us. What do you mean by that?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So it’s really a progression. So you start with the decision, okay, my life does matter. God loves me. Other people love me. The sense that because we’re all uniquely made with talents, abilities, and experience by God, from my perspective, we have a unique set of combination of gifts and talents and experience that not one other human in the billions of humans on the planet have. Every person is unique with a unique set of characteristics, gifts and talents. So the world needs that.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

What would life be like if we didn’t have some of the people that, whether it’s Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln. You look at Abraham Lincoln went through a pretty tough life. He lost a mother, I think, when he was extremely young and a woman that he loved early on before he married his wife. He lost several elections. I mean, he could have just gone away and hid and said, “You know what?” And he had suffered from melancholy, which is in modern language, we’d call it depression. He could have said, “You know, I’m a loser. The world’s against me. God’s against me. Look at the tragedy with lost kids and a mother and lost elections,” but he didn’t give up.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

He kept pressing on. He just had this sense of drive, hope, and a sense of calling. The world needed, America needed what he had to offer. He believed, not getting too much into Lincoln, he believed in fighting against the spread of slavery into new territories which had become states. And from there, he evolved into slavery is wrong and a moral sin, if you will. But that’s that sense of the world needed his gifts and his calling to oppose slavery.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

If he’d just wallowed in melancholy, I mean the world would not have had an Abraham Lincoln, which who knows what would’ve happened in this country with slavery. It’s almost scary to think about it, but I’m not saying, almost none of us will be Abraham Lincoln, but the point is he didn’t wallow in his melancholy. He fought that and fought negative self-image to contribute in a powerful way to the world. That we all in our own small ways or big ways can have a massive effect on folks.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right. And what you just said about Lincoln, not believing his negative self-image, that was fueled in some part by what people said about him too. And that moves nicely into your fourth point, which is deal with the lie. Right? Lincoln got criticized. He was the backwoods guy from Kentucky and then Illinois. And he was never going to amount to anything. He kept getting underestimated, underestimated, underestimated. Point four, deal with the lie, what do you mean by that?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Whether a crucible is your fault or not your fault, whether it’s abuse or huge mistakes or just this, they think of you as a screwup from being a teenager or in high school, it’s realizing, and this is a choice, it is a lie. It is not who you are. Yes, we’ve made mistakes, but just because you’ve made mistakes doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. There are very few people that you can say are “evil.”

 

Warwick Fairfax:

There’s some in history that maybe are worthy of that name, but most of us are not. Most of us have just made mistakes or had bad things happen to us. So part of it is to deal with that, and that may mean help. I think for many of us, I’ve certainly had some, you might need help from a therapist, a counselor, a psychologist, maybe from close friends, mentors, family members. And just to say, “I have this negative self-image and I don’t know, why is that?”

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I said, “Well, that’s because of maybe the divorce, your parents, or maybe it’s because of the mistake. But that’s not who you are. Remember all these good things you did? Remember the people you helped?” In a sense, it’s almost like the purple file you’re talking about in which people actually give you specifics. Remember, you did this and this and this and this. Remember that person you helped and that person? “Oh, I guess I’d forgotten that.” Well, how can you be such a bad person, given all the things that you did that most people will never know.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I’m sure way back when, I know you’ve obviously had some challenges, as you mentioned a couple podcasts ago. You could have talked to your dad, your brother, some close friends, and they’d say, “Gary, don’t you remember, you helped this person and that. Remember when you did this and that?” Well, your lowest moments, you’re not thinking about that. Right? So deal with the lie, whether it’s counseling or friends or family or both, but you can’t help anybody until you help yourself.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It’s almost like, yeah, it’s a both/and, external and internal, but you’ve got to deal with the internal, with the internal lie, because that cripples your ability to move forward and help anybody else. If you think you’re a screwup and a leper, how in the world are you going to have the energy to help another living soul? You’re not. So you got to deal with the lie and don’t believe that negative self-image. There are specific steps you just got to be willing to take, make the choice, deal with the lie.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I have a phrase I use for myself that gets at both of the ways we talk about identity. And I say, “I am less than my greatest achievements and I am more than my worst failures.” So that helps me from believing my own press too much and believing my own worst critical reviews too much. When someone says to you, “You’ll never amount to much,” that’s a lie, because no one’s seen the future and knowing that you’re never going to amount to much. They’re passing judgment on you. Deal with that lie and move beyond it, as you’ve said.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Point five in this very good blog, which you will be able to find, if not now, listener, shortly, it will be up at Crucibleleadership.com. Point five is to forgive yourself and forgive others. Boy, we spend a lot of time talking about forgiveness on this show. Don’t we?

 

Warwick Fairfax:
We do. And honestly, that wasn’t in the book, at least not the original book I wrote.

 

Gary Schneeberger: Really? Wow.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Maybe it is, but it wasn’t a big emphasis, put it that way. Maybe I’m just forgetting, but who knows? But I think let’s put it this way: it’s grown to a lot more prominence through the podcast, interviewing people, and as you and I have dialogued, thoughts come to mind.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So basically, you’re dealing with your negative self-talk and not believing the lie that your life matters. But at a certain point to not believe the lie, you have to deal with the lie. Which is in my case, I destroyed a 150-year-old family media business. I caused friction within the family, lost billions of dollars, made life unstable and uncomfortable for 4,000-plus employees. You know, if you want to take it to its extreme, because of all that instability, maybe even hurt the nation of Australia in some way. I don’t know. It depends how big you want to make the lie.

 

Gary Schneeberger: Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

There’s sometimes kernels of truth in these things. It’s just the lie magnifies them massively. So part of it is forgiving yourself. Like in my case, look, I was 26. I meant well. I was young, idealistic. My dad had just died in early ’87. There was instability in the family for decades before I came along. I listened to the wrong advisors. There’s all sorts of, these aren’t excuses, but there are reasons why.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And so part of it’s like, you know what? You tried hard. You were young, idealistic. Forgive yourself. Sometimes, for instance, those who’ve been abused, when we talk about forgiving others, you could say, “Well, what was done to me was unforgivable.” And I understand the concept, but you forgive others, as we often say here on Beyond the Crucible, because you’re worth it. Because by not forgiving others, it’s like drinking poison. It’s just this anger and bitterness stops you moving forward. And I don’t see how anger and bitterness allows you to have a positive self-image.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I mean, there’s no room for positivity left in your soul because it’s consumed by anger and bitterness and rage. It’s all negative, destructive thoughts, which I don’t pretend to understand. But when you’re angry about others because of what they did to you, you can somehow, because of what they did to me, I’m somehow worthless. Somehow that concept, one follows the other. So for you to see yourself as having worth, you’ve got to be able to forgive others. Because again, you don’t excuse the act. You don’t condone the act, but you forgive them so that you can move forward.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

In that sense, you could say it’s self-centered, I suppose, but whatever it takes to move forward. But forgiving yourself and forgiving others, if you don’t do that, in the podcast we’ve had a hundred episodes. Not one person that we ever had on this podcast who’s moved beyond their worst day has ever not forgiven others or themselves. Not one, not one of them. Every one has forgiven because that’s the only way to bounce back from your crucible, or at least put it that way, if you don’t do that, I can’t see how you will bounce back because it’s absolutely critical to be able to move forward.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And I’ll add in another aspect of that thinking of forgiveness as sort of a 360. There’s forgiving others. There’s forgiving yourself, but there was this incredibly insightful guest two weeks ago, me. Kidding. But I was a guest two weeks ago. And one of the things I said when I was going through Alcoholics Anonymous, that was asking for forgiveness. That was a key part for me coming to a place where I believed I was worthy of forgiveness, me forgiving me, as other people forgave me for some of the things I did.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Again, nothing criminal, but I was just not a very moral, ethical, kind, nice guy. Other people forgave me that, and that helped me as well. So I think it’s a three-headed thing. It’s forgive others, absolutely. Ask for forgiveness, I think, is also critical. And then forgive yourself. I think those three things work in harmony.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. It’s so well said. And you know, when you ask for forgiveness from others because of things you’ve done, hopefully they’ll say, “Look, I forgive you.” But sometimes they won’t. They say, “Oh. You can say what you want to say, but I’m never forgiving you until the day I die,” which is pretty difficult to hear. But even asking forgiveness, there will be some healing that comes from that even if they don’t forgive you.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Not everybody will. Because you feel like, I’ve done the right thing, I’ve acknowledged what I did to that other person. And you feel like, I’ve done what I can. I’m not responsible for people’s response. I’m just responsible for what I do. So even if not everybody forgives you, it still is freeing in a sense, the sheer act of asking for forgiveness, if that makes sense.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Absolutely. AA talks about it in this way. All you’re responsible for is your side of the street. So you’re asking someone for forgiveness for what, as AA puts it, making an amends for what you have done to them, toward them that hurt them is just sweeping up your side of the street. You can’t hold yourself responsible for their side of the street. Just doing that, you’re absolutely right, can make you feel like you’re in a much better place. As I said on the show a couple weeks ago, it’s amazing when you ask for forgiveness, how many people will forgive you, who will say, “Absolutely.”

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And just one more thing I want to add as part of this, because it’s important transactionally when you’re talking about forgiveness to close that circle. So many times someone will come up and say, “Oh, I’m sorry.” And our response will be, “Oh, no problem. Whatever.” To me, that’s denying them closure.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

In other words, if someone says they’re sorry to me, I want to say back, I want to close that loop for them and say, “I forgive you. Yes, absolutely.” Not just, “No problem. It’s no big deal,” because in some way that doesn’t complete the transaction. It’s they’re making themselves vulnerable. They’re apologizing. We ought to at least say, “Yes, thank you. And I forgive you.” Because I think that then makes moving forward even a little bit more easy.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

As I’ve written the book and obviously said it to pretty much every family member I’ve had, I’ve had other people that were on the other side of the takeover that things were rocky way back when say to me, “You showed a lot of courage and vulnerability in writing that book.”

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Well, you have to believe that meant a lot to me that somebody that was on the other side that wasn’t feeling too warm and fuzzy to me at the time would say that, yeah, I had courage and vulnerability and basically admired… Because I don’t sugarcoat things. I talk about my own mistakes and don’t throw rocks at others. But that’s part of the healing. You know? Yeah.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

What you just described, the way that you got forgiveness from others, that’s a flame thrower to the frozen identity of “Young Warwick.” I mean that will melt that frozen identity like that. That’s the kind of stuff we’re talking about that can really propel us forward. All right.

 

Warwick Fairfax: Indeed.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Another place we can go to propel us forward, point six in your seven-point prescription for ways to unfreeze your identity from a bad place is to embrace the broken and the beautiful. What do you mean by that?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I think as humans, and this is certainly definitely a faith perspective from my Christian faith, is we may be broken, but we’re beautiful. And again, it’s funny, we had a sermon just this last Sunday from our pastor. I think it was II Corinthians and it says, “We have this treasure in jars of clay.” Basically, treasure being God’s light, so to speak, and jars of clay being our broken bodies.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I remember also we did a blog, I don’t know if it was a year ago or more, in which we had a picture of a vase that was broken, but it was glued together with gold paint or that kind of thing.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

That’s so funny because I’m going to talk about this after you’re done talking about it. I’m going to add some more detail. So please, go on, go on, go on.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Oh, so just the sense of we’re broken but beautiful. In some sense, I think from my faith perspective, God can use our brokenness to help others. So in my case, I was broken by my own failures and circumstances, but it gives you a sense of compassion for others. It wants you to help. And it gives me a calling to help shine a light on other people’s worst days and how they bounce back to offer words of hope and healing, so to speak, to write the book I wrote.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Very often with maybe how many guests we’ve had, 80, 90-plus on the podcast, so many have used their worst moment, whether it’s failure, abuse, to reach out to whether it’s other cancer survivors, other survivors of abuse, other people who’ve failed in terms of businesses. They’ve used, to use that oft-used phrase, their pain for a purpose. So some, even amidst the ashes of the broken of your worst day, there can be ways that beauty can come out of that and you can use that as a light to help others. So yeah, we can often find our calling out of our worst moments, as hard as that is to think about.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And what you were talking about, Warwick, and I have a note right here to talk about it. In the blog, The blog was October 19th, 2020, called Beauty and Imperfection: Vulnerability for a Purpose. But what you were describing is the Japanese art of Kintsugi. And I’m going to read what that is. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold, built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Every break is unique. And instead of repairing an item like new, the 400-year-old technique actually highlights the scars as part of the design. Using this as a metaphor for healing ourselves teaches us an important lesson. Sometimes in the process of repairing things that have broken, we actually create something more unique, beautiful, and resilient.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And I have a personal story I want to share about that. So I don’t have a lot of art. But years ago, a couple decades ago, I bought these things called poet’s bottles. They’re very intricate, delicate, three bottles. And they’re etched with the words, faith, hope and love from I Corinthians. That was why I got these three bottles and I have them on a stand in our kitchen, on a nice lighted stand from the bottom.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And one day when my in-laws were over, I was playing with the dog. I was trying to show how the dog plays catch with a big ball. And we bounced it to the dog and the dog hits it with her nose. The dog hit it with her nose and it went into the kitchen and it knocked over one of those bottles. It broke the love bottle. It fell on the ground and it broke. I was devastated. My stepdaughter, Alyssa, who is an artist, picked up every one of the broken pieces I had put in the garbage and this is what she did with them.

 

Warwick Fairfax: Oh my gosh.

 

Gary Schneeberger:
So there’s the love bottle.

 

Warwick Fairfax:
Why don’t you describe for the listeners who may not be able to see, so what is it you’re holding?

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah. I am holding one of those poet’s bottles. It’s the love bottle and what my stepdaughter Alyssa did was glue it back together and then use gold paint to seal up and highlight the cracks.

 

Warwick Fairfax: Wow.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And the most beautiful part of that story is that she said when she did it, the most beautiful part of that story is she said, “Because love is never completely broken.”

 

Warwick Fairfax:
Wow. Boy, wow. Wow.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about embracing the beauty in brokenness. And that’s exactly what this bottle symbolizes and what you were talking about earlier symbolizes.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I just want to highlight what you’ve said. I mean, that’s such a wonderful illustration. I think our brokenness doesn’t necessarily make us weaker. It can make us stronger. If we, to use what we say all the time, if we embrace the crucible, if we learn from it, use it to help others, it can give us a strength, a courage, a calling that we never had before. So it can be broken and beautiful and stronger than ever before.

 

Gary Schneeberger: Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:
You know? It can make you stronger. It’s a choice, but it can make you more resilient.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And the thing that I said after she did this and she gave it to me is I said, “You know, before, when it was in its perfect state, it was something I liked a lot. Now it’s something I treasure,” because of what she did to piece… I mean, the beauty that she put into this is far, far, far greater and more meaningful than the beauty that the artist even put into it when he made the bottle.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So what you’re saying is it was beautiful before, but now that it’s broken, it’s far more beautiful than it was.

 

Gary Schneeberger: Right, right. Yep.

 

Warwick Fairfax: That is awesome stuff.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah. It was so funny when you brought up that. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to talk about that too.” So I actually pulled the bottle out here and I’ve been all nervous the whole time because I talk with my hands a lot and I don’t want to knock it over. So let’s move on to point seven. So we’ve gone through the first six points.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

The first six points, just to go through is one, your life matters. Two, you are loved. Three, the world needs us. Four, deal with the lie. Five, forgive yourself and forgive others. I added into that, ask for forgiveness from others, because that helps as well. Six, embrace the broken and the beautiful in your life. And the seventh point, Warwick, that you make in this blog on Crucibleleadership.com is to remember our mission. Unpack that for listeners.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So we talk probably as much as anything on this podcast, Beyond the Crucible, or in Crucible Leadership about living a life of significance. It’s what life is all about is a life on purpose dedicated to serving others. So part of getting over the lie, of changing our identity is rewiring our brains. A lot of people know far more than I do about neuroscience, but it’s not easy to rewire our brains, to rewire our identity.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But part of that is, yeah, you want to deal with the lie. We’re broken and beautiful, but what’s the mission? What’s that unique calling? For many of our guests, the root of their missional calling often comes out of the crucible they’ve gone through. It is for me. Crucible Leadership came out of my experience at losing a $2.25 billion 150-year-old company. How do you bounce back from your worst day? How do you lead a life of significance?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

The book, the podcast, everything we do all came from that. So it’s as you find that mission and you begin… It’s not like a one and done. I mean, okay, the book’s done. We’re going to be thinking about things for this year and who knows whether we’ll have online courses or all sorts of things we’re thinking about in Crucible Leadership. You keep moving forward, moving forward. And that mission, as you walk into it, it provides healing.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

In the fall, Gary, you were with me everywhere I went. I was speaking and the dialogues we had. As we were at Seton Hall, at Taylor University in Indiana, a Christian school where my kids were. We were at some business groups, XPX in Maryland and North Carolina, ACG, also in North Carolina as part of that. All these things we were at, and especially with the young people, they had a line of folks waiting for me to sign their book. Books just went when people said, “Oh, you know, the students are busy. They won’t all take your book,” which is fine either way.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

The questions they asked when you felt like, I’m actually helping some real people here. And it wasn’t so much about, “Oh, look at me. I’m wonderful.” Because my attitude in terms of dealing with that is all glory be to God, all glory be to God. Whenever anything good happens, I proverbially or physically get on my knees and say, “Glory to God.” But those sorts of things make you think, you know what, there was some purpose in this pain. There’s some meaning to what happens, and that provides a level of healing and a level of healing to your identity.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Absolutely. And I think it also adds gravitas to the counsel and the wisdom that you give to other people. In other words, I love the fact that Young Warwick and all that that is meant to symbolize by those who stuck you with that nickname, it’s because of Young Warwick that those kids at Seton Hall were in line waiting for you to sign their book and waiting to talk to you. It’s, again, I go back to what the enemy intends for evil, God uses for good.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Those things, that frozen identity thawed out, you can bring it into the present then and you can refer to it. Not live in it, but refer to it. And that gives you authenticity and gravitas and experience to allow you to speak into people’s pain today. That truly is fuel for a life of significance once you get that identity unfrozen and you set it right. When you can refer back to it and draw lessons from it, that’s what we talk about all the time here, that learning the lessons of your crucible is the fuel for your life of significance.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. I mean it’s so well said. I mean the person I am now, I wouldn’t have been that person without what happened to me. I mean, you refer to that phrase, I think it’s from Genesis 50. They meant it for evil, God meant it for good, referring to the life of Joseph, who was a young man was full of himself, had this coat of many colors. “Hey, look at me. I’m the favored son.” I mean really unwise stuff.

 

Gary Schneeberger: Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Gets thrown into a pit by his brothers, sold into slavery in Egypt. Goes through a bunch of trials, ends up being basically the prime minister of Egypt. So clearly, despite his, it certainly wasn’t all his fault, but some of his unwise behavior that caused a lot of jealousy, God used that. And so I look back and I could have been, I don’t know, a couple billion dollars wealthier. I would’ve been in this family business, a bit of a gilded prison. I don’t know how happy I would’ve been.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But what I’m doing now, none of that would’ve happened without that. The life I lived, just the sense of fulfilling and having a wonderful family. My kids don’t get to grow up with the whole baggage and bondage of family business stuff, which you know, is tough to grow up with. So yeah, I mean, I am blessed. We had a resilient series in which a number of guests, one in particular said, “What I went through was a blessing.” That woman, Stacey Copas, who was injured at 12 in an Australian above- ground pool diving accident.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It’s hard to fathom that, but there’s this sense of reframing it to say, “Maybe it was a blessing.” Maybe it was a gift, what I went through, because it enables me to be who I am, to write what I write, to have a passion and hopefully compassion for people, to want to help people bounce back from their worst days to live lives of significance, gives you a mission and a calling. And that does change your identity.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I’m not perfect in that sense, but I don’t see myself as Young Warwick, screwup, messed everything up. I say, “Yeah, I made some mistakes, but I have a mission in which I’m caring for others.” I’ve served on some nonprofit boards. I feel like I am making a difference in the world in my own way. I go to historical figures a bit too much, perhaps, and none of us are going to be, almost none, like a Lincoln or a Roosevelt. But Franklin Roosevelt is just the case study in how tragedy turned his life around.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

He was this young guy of aristocratic New York wealth, life of the party. Everybody loved him, eye for the ladies, outgoing person. It’s hard to see how he could contribute much to the world, this rich kid who everybody liked at parties. Then he gets polio and he is, I don’t know, what, late thirties or something, somewhere around there. And it fundamentally changes him. He had to come back from what at the time was like a death sentence. You were meant to hide away and a bit like a leper. You weren’t meant to be seen in society.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Well, then he becomes president in the depths of the Depression. Well, a wealthy, rich kid, how would he be elected in the Depression? How could you relate to anybody’s suffering? But because of what he went through, it’s like, look how Franklin Roosevelt, it’s so hard for him to walk. When he says, “All we have to fear is fear itself.” The gravitas of those words came from people that had at least some sense of the tragedy that he’d gone through. There’s no way that the Roosevelt of World War II or the Depression would’ve been that man without that tragedy. There is no way in the world. I can’t imagine he would’ve been elected president.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So again, it’s not to say you or anybody else is going to be like a Roosevelt or a Lincoln, but tragedy can transform us into something that can be a real gift to the world, whether everybody knows about it or hardly anybody does. It can give you a mission that can be transforming both for your identity and to help other people’s lives. So it can be huge.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Absolutely. Since the two historical examples that you’ve used in this episode are both presidents, I’ll say that the commander of Air Force One has turned on the fasten seatbelt sign and it’s time to put the leader of the free world on the ground. But before we do that, what’s one, if you’re going to pull the best highlight, the best advice, the best counsel, wisdom, experience that you have here, what would you want to leave? What do you want to leave listeners with before we go?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I think as we often say, if today’s the bottom of the pit, is your worst day, it begins with one positive step. And so if I had to say, well, what’s one positive step? I’d say it starts with don’t believe the lie. Don’t believe that you are a good for nothing screwup that shouldn’t have been born. That today is the day you need to end your life. I mean, it depends how far you want to go. Don’t believe the lie.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

You are broken and beautiful. You are made for a purpose. The eternal, I believe God, loves all of us. So don’t believe the lie, the enemy. If you believe in spiritual warfare that some do, don’t believe the lie that you’re a screwup, you never should have been born, all that kind of talk.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Begin to think, move in a positive way. If God loves me and if there’s at least one other person on the planet that loves me, maybe my life is worth redeeming. Maybe I can move forward, even if it’s in a small, positive step. All it takes is one little drop of grace and the flower can grow. Just one little drop, a positive thought of grace, and you’ll be able to move forward, no matter how small that step is. It begins with don’t believe the lie.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And there you go. Air Force One’s on the ground. I can hear Hail to the Chief. We’ve landed the plane for sure. So listeners, thank you for spending this time with us as we’ve talked about this extremely important subject of how do you unfreeze your identity from the bad place it may be in from some of the setbacks and failures and traumas and tragedies that you’ve been through. And do remember, as you’ve been through those crucible experiences, that they are not the end of your story.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

This podcast exists to reinforce that idea that your crucible is painful. We know that, but it’s not the end of your story. In fact, if you learn the lessons, if you follow, as Warwick talks about here, some great tips on how you learn lessons from what’s knocked you down and you apply those to your life, that can actually be the beginning of a new story that will be the best story of your life, because where it leads you is where it’s led Young Warwick Fairfax, to a life of significance.