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SECOND-ACT SIGNIFICANCE I: Kari Schwear

Warwick Fairfax

April 5, 2022

In the opening episode of our nine-apart series Second-Act Significance, Kari Schwear recounts how at age 7 she vividly remembers thinking, “Is this all there to life?” – before embarking on a journey of soul-crushing crucibles even as she found success in each of her multiple career stops.

But when she grew concerned enough about her “gray-area drinking,” her research into the subject and passion for helping others overcome it launched a second act she is pursuing with absolute gusto – as a life coach who helps her clients overcome the gray areas in all aspects of their lives, from relationships to careers to how they think and talk about themselves.

To learn more about Kara Schwear, visit www.graytonic.com

Highlights

  • Her 7-year-old crucible — and how it launched her gray-area living (4:00)
  • The trauma of her teenage years (5:01)
  • Finding her faith (10:21)
  • Her first act success that wasn’t enough (12:44)
  • Coming to understand alcohol had become a problem for her (13:49)
  • Why she launched her second act (24:47)
  • Creating Gray Tonic (26:57)
  • How her business expanded to address “gray-area living”  (31:40)
  • The significance of her second act (38:59)
  • Her “whole job” (43:52)
  • The importance of using our pain for a purpose (47:48)

Transcript

Warwick Fairfax:

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

 

Kari Schwear:

Right around this time, I heard the term gray area drinking via a guest that was on a podcast. And when I was walking my dog and I heard this podcast interview, I literally stopped in the middle of the street. It was a warm summer morning, like 7:30 in the morning, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, that’s what I was. I never identified as an alcoholic. I was a gray area drinker.” So I came home. It was like the fire was just burning inside me. I came home and I researched everything I could on gray area drinking. And there wasn’t a lot out there. And I thought if I could share what gray area drinking is with more people, I’ll get them to raise their hand before they get into a deeper addiction.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Did you hear the enthusiasm in the voice of this week’s guest, Kari Schwear? You’ll be hearing a lot of the same excitement and joy, the same sense of fulfillment and significance, over the next several weeks from the guests we’ve lined up for our new series, Second Act Significance. Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show. Kari kicks off our series recounting how, at age seven, she vividly remembers thinking, “Is this all there is to life?” Before embarking on a journey that had its share of soul crushing crucibles, even as she found success in each of her multiple career stops. But when she grew concerned enough about her gray area drinking, her research into the subject and passion for helping others overcome it launched a second act she is pursuing with absolute gusto, as a life coach who helps her clients overcome the gray area in all aspects of their lives, from relationships to careers, to how they think and talk about themselves. Kari Schwear has found second act significance and you can too.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Well Kari, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it. And it’ll be so fun to just hear more about GrayTonic and Question the Drink. But I’d like to go back to a bit of the backstory behind what you do. A bit like movies, there’s always an origin story. There’s always a reason that fuels our passion, that fuels our calling, if you will. And so, from what I understand, you live in the Richmond, Virginia area, I believe, that part of the world. So just talk a bit about your growing up and your family, and you had some challenges growing up. But what was life like in your family growing up?

 

Kari Schwear:

Well, first, thanks for having me. I really am very honored to be here today with you guys. This is going to be so much fun. My childhood was very interesting. I was like most kids, had parents married so forth. We lived in a suburbial house and everything from the outside world looked to be fairly normal. And unfortunately my parents started to disconnect from one another, probably around that age of six or seven. And at age seven was a pivotal point in my life and one of those memories that will stay with me forever. And that memory was being on my driveway of my parents’ driveway in a hot summer afternoon in St. Louis, Missouri, which is very hot and humid in the Midwest, playing jacks. Do you remember that game, jacks? I don’t know if we’re all old enough to remember jacks.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah, I do. I do.

 

Kari Schwear:

So I’m playing jacks and I’m looking up and down the street thinking there’s no one to play with. If this is all there is to life, then I really don’t want to be here. I just don’t see the point of living when there’s not really any exciting things happening. And then my thought was, I’m seven, I should probably not be having these weird thoughts, like who thinks like that? I knew right away that it was a very peculiar question to be asking of someone so young. And that really was the start of what I call my gray area living life really started at that point. And just for fun, that was also of the same year that I declared to my mom that I would become a cigarette smoker. And so I became one. I took a cigarette from her best friend Gladys’s house when she was hanging out with Gladys, having some coffee. Gladys smoked cool cigarettes. Hey, I wanted to be cool. So I thought I’d take one.

 

Kari Schwear:

And then moving on through the teenage years were really, really difficult. They were the years that now my parents are divorced, I’m moving around quite a bit. I went to 12 different schools before I hit my second ninth grade. I was physically and sexually abused by older boys than me. It was a very difficult time in my life. Just always trying to fit in, always being the new kid, always just trying to make friends with people. I was beaten so badly in eighth grade my parents didn’t even recognize me. It was a rough several years. And then fast forward, I meet my husband when I’m in college and he was the nicest guy I’ve ever met in my life, and I wanted to break up with him for that reason.

 

Kari Schwear:

I thought he is just too nice. What is wrong with him? I was used to being with the wrong crowd, so to speak. And I called up his house, this is before cell phones, of course. This is 1980 something. And I called up his house and his mom said, “Oh, he is not here. But I’m going to tell him that you called. And by the way, Kari, I want to let you know that my son loves you so much. I hope you never break his heart.” And I thought, well, dang, there goes that. I was literally calling to break up with the guy.

 

Kari Schwear:

And I’m like, great, she just took that away from me. But I credit her because here we are, 33 years later, still together and very happy. But this is all part of the gray area of living is what I’m talking about is you aren’t expecting anything wonderful to happen. It’s always this doom and gloom living in this fake world of pretend and being fine. And that was what I was trying to do. I was trying so hard to fit in and just go with the flow and say, my life was fine, and it really wasn’t. That was a big piece of it. And God flows in and out of this whole story, but we can get to it.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. Wow. Well thank you. You obviously had a very tough upbringing. Most folks need an anchor. I think some of us, you and I and Gary, it’s our faith, our faith in Christ. You need an anchor in something. But sounds like growing up, you had parents that just drifted apart. You went to 12 different schools. I’m assuming you were living with your mom through most of your childhood. Was it pretty much visiting him, living with your mom, visiting your dad on every other weekend or whatever the deal is, something like that.

 

Kari Schwear:

Yeah. One year was all with my father. My eighth grade year, my mom had moved back to her home state of Massachusetts. This is all in Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri. And when she left, that was a difficult time too. I mean what’s funny, I look at the situation now with such different eyes through a different lens. I see my parents as human beings, not my actual parents. I see them as John and Nancy. I don’t see them as Kari’s mom and dad, which is extremely helpful by the way. Because if I didn’t see them that way, I harbored a lot of resentment during that time. And now I look at them like, wow, they went through a lot and they did their best and they didn’t realize how much pain I was in.

 

Kari Schwear:

And I think this is a message, this is one of my bigger messages that I like to talk about is that we don’t realize how much of our psyche and our belief system is formed at such an early age, before the age of seven. Neurologically, we absorb so much information into our minds. And we can take that information, we can take an incident as simple and as innocent as listening to your parents argue about money and internalizing that as money causes problems in relationships, and is a disruptor with relationships. And then later on in life, you have problems with a partner regarding money. This is how our brain works. And so I didn’t know any of this. My parents didn’t know. I think most people don’t understand how our brains work, especially as we’re children and we absorb all this information.

 

Kari Schwear:

So I think that was part of it. And part of my healing process now looking back, and God was never part of our everyday life. And at seven, going back to that magical age, I remember, very clearly, having a conversation with my sister who is six years older than me. And she, at that time, was pretty much an atheist. And I said to her, “What do you mean? How could you not believe in God?” And she was like, “Nope, don’t believe in it.” And I thought, well, that’s weird. But I always had this innate ability, I guess, or this innate sense, would be a better description, that there was something bigger than me. But I didn’t know what it was. And ironically, it is because of my sister that I am a Christian today. She went off to college, again, six years older than me. And when she came back, she was a born again Christian.

 

Kari Schwear:

Now this is a girl who dealt with a lot of stuff as well. She was older than me, but she was going through the same thing I was, parents getting divorced, so forth. She was involved with someone that wasn’t a very good person and also had a lot of drug use, which at that point, I was using drugs also at an early age, seventh and eighth grade. And she came back this born again Christian and I thought, who are you? What does that mean to be a born again Christian? I had no idea what that meant. And she said, “I really want you to go to church with me.” And I said, “Okay.” So we went to a church and I ended up just soaking in. I didn’t realize at the time how much I needed it, how much I needed something outside of myself, something bigger.

 

Kari Schwear:

And her particular church did an altar call at the end of the service. And she looked at me and I’m sobbing, just sobbing tears. This was eighth grade, by the way. This was the same year that I was beaten so badly that my parents didn’t know me. I lived with my father this year. And we went up to the altar and I accepted Christ as my savior. And I am just bawling, bawling, bawling. And I realize at that moment, this is what I had been seeking my whole little 12 year old self or 13 year old self at this point. And I accepted Him into my life. But like most kids that age, it was in the back pocket and I didn’t live a quote unquote, Christian life. But it’s okay because the seed was planted. So I think it’s that deeper connection of that faith that has carried me through this whole time.

 

Kari Schwear:

And I believe 100% Warwick and Gary, 100% that I was meant to go through all the things I went through, and there’s so much more that I haven’t said yet. So much more that I believe I was meant to go through all of that for me to be in this place today. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have such a passion for my life and a calling on my life. And I truly believe God has called me to do this work today. But it all had to be part of the plan. It had to be the setup. It’s like the greatest setup you can ever imagine in history, right? Is your own life looking back. As opposed to it happened to me, it happened for me.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So you carry on with life and you’re obviously somebody that’s intelligent, successful. You end up being, I think a dealer in a Porsche dealership. You’re earning six figures. Life is going well from the outside. You’re married and family imagine, and life is awesome. But yet, there was this other side that you were drinking. Characterize it, because you view it a little differently than some because some people think it’s all black and white, it’s all, “Hey, everything’s hunky-dory,” or you’re quote unquote, an alcoholic. But yet hence GrayTonic, your perspective’s a bit different. But from the outside, you have a wonderful husband, life seems like it’s been redeemed. In theory, life’s pretty good. But yet, I’m guessing, obviously drinking probably went back a lot of years too, like some of the other things I’m guessing. Talk a bit about that. There’s a flip side beneath the surface that people maybe aren’t quite realizing about Kari.

 

Kari Schwear:

Oh yes. Well, the drinking actually started in my 30s. I’m now 55 to give some context of how long this was going on. So in my 30s, I was a food and beverage manager at a country club. I was in the restaurant business for a lot of years. Anybody who works in the restaurant business knows that you drink after work, that’s just what you do. Well now, I’m the manager, so can’t drink at work anymore. But I was the wine buyer for the restaurant. So I became very well educated on high end wines and became very much of a wine connoisseur, wine snob, whatever you want to say. And Rob was starting to notice that I’m now drinking a glass or two in the evenings at home when I wasn’t working.

 

Kari Schwear:

And he raised an eyebrow to that, and he said, “I’m noticing that you’re now drinking at home. What’s up with that?” And I’m like, “What’s the big deal? Everyone does it. They do it in Europe. Everyone drinks every night in Europe, so what’s the problem?” Trying to make light of it. And he was hyper super focused on it because his mom was an alcoholic and unfortunately abused some pain medication as well. And so he was very well versed on what addiction looks like. So he was aware that “Uh oh, my wife is now having a couple drinks and it’s becoming habitual.” Well, right around that same time, we moved to Richmond, Virginia from Pennsylvania. And that move was very stressful, as you can imagine, finding a new job, which wasn’t a problem at that point. Fast forward, I’m in the medical field now at this point.

 

Kari Schwear:

And I knew getting a job down here in Richmond would not be a problem. Matter of fact, I had quite a few selections to choose from 10 years ago, 11 years ago. But it was very stressful. I moved my kids out of school. The whole new community, trying to make new friends, trying to build a house, the whole nine yards, that the drinking became even more so. So instead of that one or two glasses, now we’re talking a consistent two to three, mostly every night. Not all the time, but a lot. And then I would play the game with myself of like, oh, I’m going to take a month or two off of drinking and would do it successfully. And then I would barter with myself, like I’m only going to drink on the weekends, not during the week.

 

Kari Schwear:

And then the weekends turned in to be Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, instead of just Friday and Saturday. There was always these games I was playing with myself. And I started to question my relationship with alcohol, like, why am I drinking? So those internal voices started happening probably in 2014, still in the medical field. I really was in what we call the contemplation stage of knowing that I should probably do something about it, probably take this a little bit more seriously than what I am, but wasn’t quite ready to make that shift. So a lot of people that are questioning anything, it doesn’t have to be drinking, anything in their life, will stay in this contemplation stage until they almost feel like they’re forced to make a change. Because if there’s no rock bottom or there’s no repercussions that’s happening, or there’s nothing that is forcing them to quit or make a change, well then why should they, right? It’s like accepting what is, accepting well nothing’s happened, so I’ll just keep doing it. And this was a little bit of my attitude.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I want to just dwell on this a bit because we all come from different paradigms. I personally don’t drink, but not because of religious reasons. I just don’t like the taste and it dulls my senses, and I don’t agree with it. But my wife does, just at dinner. In fact, my kids are all adults. So having a glass of wine at dinner is what we do other than me, and that’s all good. I grew up with parents that would drink wine. My dad especially was exceptionally moderate in his habits. He would drink a glass and a half of wine at dinner and a glass and a half at lunch, never anymore, like a metronome. And that was it. He would never drink spirits or gin, vodka, anything.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So for a lot of folks that say, “Well, there’s nothing wrong with having a glass or two of wine at dinner.” In Europe, in Australia probably has, I think it has the highest wine consumption per capita of almost any country in the world. And so there are people that drink wine and enjoy it just as the whole wine pairing thing, and whites with whatever it is and reds. But yet, it sounds like you weren’t this massively heavy drinker, downing, I don’t know, glasses or bottles of vodka. To the outside observer, it sounds well, what’s so wrong with what Kari’s doing? I mean, couple glasses of wine, I realize your husband’s sensitivity given his family background. But yet, I’m sensing there’s nothing wrong with drinking wine per se.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But I think what you’re getting to, which I think listeners really need to understand, it’s the why. So for those who drink wine, because they feel like it makes the food taste nicer, great. And everything’s hunky-dory in life, but it sounds like with you, there was a reason you were drinking. And the reason from your perspective wasn’t good. Is that the thrust of it, if you will? Because to most observers, are saying, “I don’t get what the problem is. A couple glasses of wine at dinner. What’s wrong with that?”

 

Kari Schwear:

Yeah, yeah. And that’s a very good perspective by the way. And you are correct. So a lot of this is about the why. We have to look at the why. And for me, it wasn’t a celebratory type experience. It was more like, man, I had a really crappy day at work. I’m coming home and I need to do something about this. It really became habitualized to my day. In other words, you get up in the morning, you brush your teeth, you go to the bathroom, you drink some water, whatever. It was like, I come home from work, I pour a glass of wine, I make dinner, I have another glass with dinner and then sometimes I’d have another glass. And sometimes I’d be like, well, what the heck? There’s only a half a glass left in the bottom, I might as well just drink that too.

 

Kari Schwear:

So when I started realizing that I wasn’t just using wine because I enjoyed the taste of it and wanted a glass with dinner, that it became a crutch for me, it became a way for me to cope with a job that I strongly disliked. It was a way for me to cope more importantly, this is really what it comes down to, the crux of my drinking was that I didn’t like myself. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I had zero self confidence. I, yes had a very strong faith, still have a strong faith, but it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t see what God sees. All I saw was this broken person. And because I carried, this is a really big piece of the puzzle here is that for so many years since seven, all the things that happened to me as a child was exactly that in my head, it happened to me. I was a victim.

 

Kari Schwear:

I wore that victim badge so proudly, like you don’t know what I went through. And people that have gone through trauma will use that as a way to justify a lot of the self-sabotaging behaviors. Not consciously, by the way. All this is done unconsciously. Our brain is so powerful and has the ability to really, really find ways to remind us, unfortunately. It’s PTSD, to be honest with you. A lot of it’s PTSD and trauma, that’s so deeply rooted. So every time we have an experience that pops back up, unless it’s healed, unless it’s an area that we’ve healed, we’re going to keep experiencing this. Well, I didn’t have any knowledge of self development at this point in my life, just six years ago, I’m talking about. If I had a bad day and somebody didn’t say something the way I wanted, I took that as this is why this happens to me, it happensall the time to me.

 

Kari Schwear:

And I’m just a rebel, I’m a rebel, I’m a bad kid. I had all the labels. I had all the self negative talk. I’m the troublemaker. I’m the one who always is expected to be in trouble. I’m the one who never quite makes the Dean’s list. I’m always the short end of the stick, but I always seem to skate by somehow. That was my mentality on everything, even in my professional life. Even when I was successful in my jobs and my careers. This is my seventh career. I was successful in all of them. But it was more or less like, I can’t believe I made it this far, like lucky me.

 

Kari Schwear:

And that’s really what I saw of it. So I had all this internalization going on in my head, this back and forth inner chatter that was running a lot of my decision making, which neurologically is how it works. Our feelings really are coming from our thoughts and because we feel the feelings, we don’t think about our thinking. We feel the feelings and those feelings drive us into an action or inaction that produce a result that reinforces the original belief that the thoughts are stemming from. So this is the circular thinking loop that we do in our minds.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. I want to shift to GrayTonic. But before we do, I want listeners to really hear what Kari is saying. I’m reminded the image of baptism, which is an outward manifestation of an inner transformation. That’s what you always hear. And I elder at a nondenominational church in Annapolis, Maryland. So we do baptism. And so I’m familiar with all that. But it sounds it’s similar in that this was an outward manifestation of inward hurt, of inward trauma, of inward unresolved. You never completely 100% heal from trauma. Certainly, there are scars and echoes.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But it’s one thing for it to be a scar and echo, this more felt like ghosts or whatever analogy you want to use that was unresolved and was still affecting you and your decisions and how you viewed yourself. Does that make sense? It just felt like that’s what was going on. And I guess if that’s true, the question is you made a big pivot, a roundabout that time. I think you’re working at a Porsche dealer and life felt a bit blah, or as you put it, meh, which I guess is meh, not quite sure how you spell that. But something like that.

 

Kari Schwear:

Yes. Yeah.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But it felt like there was a pivot and there was a shift from Kari is being governed by the ghosts and all the trauma and the damage that was done to you and other things that went on. But somehow, there was a pivot that shifted things, but below the surface that were no longer going to govern and drive. Somehow, you got out of that prison that you were in of being a victim, the bad girl, I always screw up, all of those negative self-talk. Somehow you got out of that. So tell us about how you got out of that prison and how those negative thoughts beneath the surface, which was driving the drinking from your perspective, how did you make that shift? Because many don’t.

 

Kari Schwear:

Oh, yeah. Such a good question. Well, after I decided that alcohol needs to exit my life, I went the traditional route of figuring that out through Alcoholics Anonymous. Great program. I learned a lot. It was really an awesome place to go. However, because I did not identify as being an alcoholic and I didn’t feel like it was the right fit for me, I left the program after about four months and I did all the things, the big book, the 12 steps, the sponsor, all those. And it did provide me some insight, which was good. It wasthe seed I needed to keep me going. But I realized it wasn’t my long term game. And again, I had a problem with saying, “Hi, I’m Kari and I’m an alcoholic.” It really was a label that I was not willing to accept, nor did I feel like I was.

 

Kari Schwear:

So I left the program and I worked with a coach that I used to work with, he’s a physician, that we worked together in a medical practice. And I really trusted him. I was the only female that he had worked with at that point. He only coached men and he said, “Kari, I don’t work with women.” I’m like, “No, you need to work with me. I need to have you as my coach.” And during those three months that I worked with him, they were not enjoyable, to be honest with you. It was hard work. He was tough on me and it was exactly what I needed.

 

Kari Schwear:

And this is where the big pivotal point comes in. He said to me on one conversation, “Kari, I think one day you’re going to start your own business. I think you have everything it takes to be an amazing coach. And I think you’re going to share your story with the world.” And then I busted out laughing and said, “You are smoking something serious over there, dude, because that’s never going to happen.” And I was serious. First of all, I’m not leaving my job because I love my job at Porsche. By this point, I’m at the Porsche dealership. And I was making great money and I thought, well, coaching, okay, I might be able to think about that as a possibility, because I was already coaching some people that left AA when I did, and were coming to me for advice and solace and so forth.

 

Kari Schwear:

And then to share my story with the world, oh, that’s where I drew the line. I’m like, there’s no way. I was so private. I had everyone fooled that my life was so perfect. There was no way I was about to go be vulnerable and have anybody see the real Kari. So that was not going to happen. Well, God had other plans. And as I like to say, God’s plan is the plan and my plan is just a plan. And I believe that this coach was given the ability, through God, to plant these seeds for me. It was about a year later, so I’m in church, and they’re talking about starting a small group. And I said to my husband, “I’m going to start a small group.” And he goes, “Okay, great. What are you going to start it on?” I said, “Well, I’m going to do something around drinking.”

 

Kari Schwear:

Now, right around this time, I heard the term gray area drinking via a guest that was on a podcast. And when I was walking my dog and I heard this podcast interview, I literally stopped in the middle of the street. It was a warm summer morning, like 7:30 in the morning. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, that’s what I was. I never identified as an alcoholic. I was a gray area drinker.” So I came home. It was like the fire was just burning inside me. I came home and I researched everything I could on gray area drinking and there wasn’t a lot out there.

 

Kari Schwear:

And I thought if I can share what gray area drinking is with more people, I’ll get them to raise their hand before they get into a deeper addiction. And then this could be my contribution and then, okay, sure, then I can share my story. Because by this point I had a couple years, I was two years alcohol free at this point. And I thought, okay, well at this point, I don’t care who knows I drank too much at one point, like whatever. And right around that same time, I said about the church, the church poo-pooed the idea.

 

Kari Schwear:

They actually had a recovery group at the church and they didn’t want to have a competing small group. It’s a small group, right? I’m like, “Are we not here to spread the love of Christ?” I’m confused. So I was really upset over it and I left the church over it. My girlfriend called me later that day and she said, “What’s going on?” I told her. She said, “Kari, why are you allowing the church to dictate what you’re going to do? You already have so many people that are following you, that you’re helping. Girl, you need to start something on your own.” And I said, “Yeah, I’ll show that church I don’t need them.” And that was exactly how this business got started. I was on fire. I was on fire so much that I could sleep for a week straight. There were so many ideas flowing through my head.

 

Kari Schwear:

You know, when you first become an entrepreneur, you’re like, “Oh my God, I’m going to conquer the whole entire world.” I’m thinking all this crazy stuff. I bought 14 domain names within a week, and I just went crazy. But I settled on GrayTonic because I love the word tonic. By definition, it means medicinal drink of course. But it also means invigorate, strengthener, boost, pick me, up all these beautiful words. And I thought, yeah, I could be the tonic to someone who’s in the gray. And that’s literally how the name GrayTonic came to be, and that was three and a half years ago and here we are. I credit my coach.

 

Kari Schwear:

I credit God for the church saying no to me. By the way, I’m back at that same church. I’m glad that happened. I’m glad it happened exactly the way it needed to. And then I just really delved deeply, even more so into the self development world, became a certified life coach, or almost certified in NLP, I’m almost done with that, trauma training, motivational interviewing, all this certification. And every possible chance I get, I‘m learning something constantly. So it’s just been my world that I live in right now, yes.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

One of the things I love about your story Kari, is that from this idea of gray area drinking, you’ve expanded it to gray area living. And your assistance that you offer, your insight that you offer, your hope that you offer to clients and people is not just in the area of drinking, but maybe you’re handcuffed to a job that is not rewarding, maybe you’re in a relationship that is not mutually satisfying. That gray area concept and the idea of tonic coming to make it better, to soothe it, to propel you forward, that applies not just to drinking, but to other things. I imagine, and especially for a series that we’re calling Second Act Significance, this new act in your life. There’s enormous significance to you, I imagine, in not just focusing on drinking, while that is where it started and that’s important to you, but these other very fulsome areas of life. There’s got to be great satisfaction for you in that.

 

Kari Schwear:

Oh, absolutely. And I’m glad you brought that up because a lot of my clients, when they come to me, it is not because of drinking. That might be one of the things that they’re doing to deal with their stress and their unhappiness and their deep rooted trauma that they might have in their life. But they might be saying, “Hey, Kari, I really need help with all the stress I’m under at work or my wife and I aren’t getting along or my spouse, or I’m really having a hard time in my relationships,” whatever it is. We have gray areas in so many places, like you said. It could be that, like you said, handcuffed to a job or just being in an unhappy marriage. And honestly, that’s part of my story too is three years ago, I found myself, after 30 years of marriage, telling my husband, I don’t know if I want to remain married.

 

Kari Schwear:

I was really falling out of love with him. And there was a lot of things that were happening with me during my process of self development that brought me to that place of, I don’t know if I want to strap in for another 30 years. And so we worked really hard through that time. And I, again, believe that I was meant to go through that period with Rob, because to be where I’m at now, which is I can help couples with their gray areas.

 

Kari Schwear:

Now, I coach the individual, but we bring the partner in for a couple sessions and I have a process to do that, that really makes a significant difference in the life because now they can see each other in a way that they’ve not seen before. That’s a beautiful thing about a coach. A coach is able to look into the future and see the blind spots and see things that the client could not see exactly what my first coach did for me. He saw the potential in me. He saw things that would fulfill me and that would make me feel like there was a purpose and a passion for my life that I have never felt, starting at age seven. Why am I here? Because if this is all there is to life, I don’t see the purpose. I can honestly say now that this is the reason why I’m here, is to do this work, 110%.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. What you said is so profound and yeah, thanks Kari, for just reminding us that there is a broader picture. Sometimes life can feel very gray, like it’s overcast, all the buildings are gray, life is gray. It’s almost like the Wizard of Oz before they turn the color on. It’s just life is just boring. It’s black and white, it’s not all the colors of the rainbow. And for many people, they’re stuck in this dead end job. If anybodywants to think of what is gray living really like, there’s a film with Tom Hanks that didn’t really go anywhere, but it’s called Joe Versus the Volcano. And that opening scene where he goes through the mud into the bowels of this dark building, he has this it bitty little colorful lamp. And the whole thing is just boring, gray, awful.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It’s like you’re going to prison every day. It’s the most vivid illustration I’ve ever seen of what a gray life is, in a sense. And so for many people, it may not be drinking, but they might be unhappy in their marriage, they might hate their job, hate their life, hate themselves, all of the above. And so how do you get out of that gray living to where you love your spouse, you love who they are, you love yourself in the best God honoring sense of that word? You love what you do. If you’re a person of faith, you feel honestly that this is a God given calling, or if you’re not, a universe calling. So it sounds like you’re trying to be who your coach was. You’re an advocate for people to find their calling, to get out of the gray into just a colorful life where they love themselves and love others. Is that a reasonable summary of what you do?

 

Kari Schwear:

That’s a great summary. That is a phenomenal summary. And you know what? I have to say, there is a client that would be an awesome guest for your show because he is the epitome of just that, and how he’s touching millions of lives at this point with the work that he does. And it’s just incredible to see what God can do in someone’s life. And when you think about who was actually called for greatness in the Bible, it wasn’t the most honoring upstanding citizens that were called. It was the lowly, undeservable or recognizable people that God was calling up to the stand to say, “You know what? You’re the chosen one.” Just look at the story of Saul, now Paul. You can’t make this up, right? God purposely picks people that you would not expect. Even Jesus, the way that he came into the world, it’s an incredible story. We don’t always think it’s going to look like that, but that’s exactly how it is. And I’m actually very honored to do what I do. I have to pinch myself like, wow.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. I think God uses the broken for his own purposes, absolutely. So talk a bit about GrayTonic, and I know there’s Question the Drink. People come to you and they say, “Kari, maybe I drink a bit too much. But it’s not massive. But yeah, I don’t do it for the right reasons. I hate my job, hate my life, hate my marriage, hate myself.” As their coach, what are some of the things you do to try and turn the Titanic away from hitting the iceberg kind of deal? Because it’s either they’re on the iceberg or about to hit it. There’s always, there’s better, but there’s often worse. If you keep going the direction you’re going. What are the things you do as their advocate to help turn the ship around so it’s not going to crash in the iceberg and go down?

 

Kari Schwear:

Oh, yeah. Well, it depends if I’m working with a one-on-one or in a group, because a group is set up a little bit differently and that’s really surrounded towards drinking and some behaviorals. But with the group and with my one-on-ones, the first thing is let’s hold up the mirror and let’s really start to dive deep as to why you’re doing this. There has to be more than just an interest. It has to be knowing what that why is because your why is your anchor. Your why is the fuel that’s going to keep you going. But it also has to be of deep value. It just has to be your grounding force. It has to be that shining North Star that is just keeping you moving forward. And without a strong foundational why on how and why you want to change your life and the differences, it’s not going to be very successful.

 

Kari Schwear:

And the next part of that is really understanding that there’s a difference between goals and intentions. And I focus a lot on intentions. I don’t actually like goals. I think goals are great to check a box and they’re future based and yippee, yay, we can cross the box off and feel like we’ve accomplished something. But intentions are the daily fuel and the motivation that we need and those little micro wins provide the daily effort that is needed. And part of my program’s called Everyday Effort Equals Expansion because what we’re trying to do is to expand into the next best version of ourselves. And one of the guys that I follow that I just love, love, love, his name is Ed Mylett, on one of interviews, he stated that the day he dies and he’s standing with God, he wants to be looking at a reflection of what he says would be his twin brother, the man that he had the potential to live up to.

 

Kari Schwear:

And he wants to have that reflection back, that he has lived up to his God-given potential and that he was used in every possible way, that he was every year rising to a new level and the best that he could be, both self development wise, but also spiritually. What more can we do for God’s kingdom? What more can we provide? And I just love that. And for me, that’s what I live by. And with my clients, yes, I am a Christian. Yes, I very much coach on Godly principles. But I’m not the one who’s beating them down to say, “Hey, you need to believe in God.” Instead, what I do is come at it through the back door, just like gray area drinking is a back door way in to say or gray area anything is to say, “I might want to explore this a little bit further.” It’s an invitation.

 

Kari Schwear:

So a lot of it, my job as a coach is to show the insights and the possibilities. And I like to describe I myself as the bumpers in a bowling alley. Like if you go to bowl, I’m those bumpers that are just bumping you back into the middle of the lane. So you can hit the targets and fully expand, and hit all of those pins where you can fully expand into the best version of yourself, which sounds so cliche. But it’s true because if you would’ve told me just six years ago that I would be in this position right here right now, I would’ve told you, you’re absolutely crazy. But yet here we are. So God’s plan is really the plan. And I think if we can relax and rest into that and surrender to that, is when we allow things to happen. So a lot of it is a self-reflection, and of course I do that through some other modalities a whole lot more, but that’s the high level version.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

That sound you heard, listener, is the sound of the captain turning on the fasten seatbelt sign indicating that we have begun, but it’s going to be a slow descent to landing because we have some more ground to cover in this fascinating conversation with Kari.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

There’s something about what you’ve been saying, Kari, that I can’t get out of my head. You talk about… This gives me the opportunity to say something Warwick says pretty much every episode, when he says listeners will be familiar with, and then he tells a bit of his story. Listeners be familiar with a bit of my story in that I have an alcoholic background myself and I did go to AA for a longer period of time than you. But I sort of came to the place where while I loved the program, that didn’t really do it for me, didn’t work entirely for me. But the idea of why I drank to change the way I felt, the way that you talked about it to change the way you felt, I can see in what you’re doing with clients now, you’re dealing with, you’re helping them change how they feel, but in much more constructive ways. Is that a fair assessment?

 

Kari Schwear:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I’m the pattern disrupter. But while we’re making the patterns into new patterns, we can literally change the way that we think by creating new neural pathways and disrupting all that. But it’s also building the confidence that they need. My whole job is to build that self love and purpose and passion inside of those clients. And when I can do that and I know I’ve become successful, doing that is when I know my work has been well received. And that’s really the goal of what I do is to help them see what’s possible for them.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And that leads to this last question, I promise I‘m going to throw it back to you Warwick after this last question, and something I’m going to have Kari do. The last question then becomes the series is all about, it’s called Second Act Significance. And it’s all about how, what we were doing before might have been great in its own way. Maybe it wasn’t, but what we are doing now brings us much more satisfaction and significance. Is that true for you? How would you describe what you were doing before with the jobs you had, the Porsche dealership most recently before this, are you living a more significant life, a more satisfactory life now? And why is that?

 

Kari Schwear:

100%. More satisfactory because I’m not numb to what’s going on around me. I’m no longer hiding behind a mask. I’m no longer living in this guilt and shame of something that I did that was wrong or that I didn’t measure up. Those voices of I’m not enough, they’re diminished. Are they gone completely? No. That is something that I think all of us as humans will occasionally have to look at and question and say, what is the truth here? And so for me, when I have those voices come into my head, I have to ask, is that what I really believe? Do I know that that is really the truth or is there something else that could be true? And when I realized that we have internal stories in our mind that create these feelings for us, that’s what gets us into trouble.

 

Kari Schwear:

So for me, it’s always circling back to what is most important, understanding my why, understanding the reason why I was chosen for this. And this is not about me. This is truly to bring hope and joy and peace to others that I’m doing God’s work, that He has meant for me to do. And so when I take myself out of the equation and I make it about the person, then I know my direction is correct. And then when I take my eyes off of myself, that allows me to show up more vulnerably. And I think that has been a gift too. Like I said, there was no way I’d share my story publicly. And yet, now there’s pretty much nothing I won’t share.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I would be remiss at this point, if I did not give you the chance Kari, to tell listeners how they can find you online and read your blog and learn more about your services. How can they do that?

 

Kari Schwear:

Thank you for asking. The best way is through my website, GrayTonic. And by the way, gray in the US is spelled G-R-A-Y. I think we’re the only country that spells gray with an A, but it is A-Y, GrayTonic. And then if anybody is interested and wondering, “Am I a gray area drinker?”, there is a quiz on my main website, GrayTonic. But I have another website dedicated to gray area drinking, and that is grayareadrinking.com. Again, G-R-A-Y. So either website, grayareadrinking.com or GrayTonic is a great way to learn more about me, my services and the things that I offer and more about the group program if that’s something that is of interest, because it’s an awesome group.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

All right, Warwick, I’m done. Take us in.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

All good. All good. I love what you’re saying, Kari. One of the things you said to us in advance was the hardest lessons in life are in the storm. You say sometimes, basically the key is to know you have to go through and not around, that there’s almost an unopened gift. There’s a blessing in the storm. And I love what you say in that because I can relate. I don’t know if it’s true for everybody. It might be. But sometimes one of the keys to being able to deal with the dark in the past, the damage that has been done to us, the mistakes that we’ve made, and this is not an original thought, is to use our pain for a purpose.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

When you’re using your pain in service of others, when you’re sharing your story and others are saying, “Kari, you’re speaking to my soul. That was me. I feel a little bit better today. Maybe everything isn’t solved, but I have hope. I honestly believe the first time in my life I’ll get out of the gray, I’ll see some color of my life. I have hope for my marriage. I have hope for my life.” It feels like at that point, boy, what I went through was awful, but I can see God’s plan. I can see God’s hand. And certainly, in my life, it’s very different but similar in the way that I talk a lot about what I went through on my own podcast, but other people’s podcasts, the losing 150 year family business, disappointing myself. I felt like I let God down because it was founded by a believer. I go into all this detail and it does get easier.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I talk about it a lot, as you talk about it a lot. So just talk about for listeners there sometimes can be beauty, amidst the pain. And by sharing it, that’s also a path back to the healing. And that leads to maybe that one last question you said, what would you ask us? And that question you say is with all that you’ve gone through, would you change anything if given the chance? I have a feeling those two thoughts are connected, if you will. There was some purpose by what you went through and it’s able to provide you some healing, I’m sure. So talk about that and the would you change things if you could?

 

Kari Schwear:

Yeah. I feel sorry for that little girl, what she had to go through. I really do. I almost look at my younger self as a separated person from me. I’m not that person. I look at it through a different lens now. And because I’m able to do that, would I choose to go through it again? And the answer is only knowing what I know now and the impact that I get to provide is yes, I would. I almost think of anytime anybody goes through something really hard, if it’s for the greater good of God’s kingdom, then how could you possibly say no that you wouldn’t experience it again, as painful as it was. So I think it’s taking the mess.

 

Kari Schwear:

And listen, I think every listener could attest to this, that we all have something in our life. We all have some sort of, whether it’s little T trauma or big T trauma, we have some sort of trauma or experience that has helped shape us. And instead of looking back on it saying, wow, that happened to me, that happened for me because now you can see that gift, the blessing. And there’s really four types of blessings of failures, as I call them. And it’s a learning, a set up, a redirection. And when we can look at that, we can find the purpose behind it, then it makes sense. And then we’re like, “Oh yeah. Okay. I get it now.” So yes, the answer is yes.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So I have been in the communications business long enough and co-host of this podcast long enough to know when the last word’s been spoken on a subject and Kari just spoke it. There’s something, listener, I want to present to you. If you enjoy the show, if you enjoy the content, if you enjoy the things that we talk about here, these are all things that came out of Warwick’s experiences. And there are more ways to experience Warwick’s experiences. Couple of things come to mind. One, you can purchase his book, Crucible Leadership: Embrace Your Trials to Lead a Life of Significance. Go to our website, crucibleleadership.com. That Wall Street Journal bestseller book is available there. You also can book Warwick to speak at an event that you’re holding or having. You can also find how to book Warwick as a speaker for your event on our website, crucibleleadership.com.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So until the next time we’re together listeners, remember that your crucible experiences, we know, we’ve talked about it here, we all know how hard those things are. Kari did a meaningful and moving job in talking about her own crucibles and how painful they were. But she also talked in great depth with great hope about the other truth, and that is if we learn the lessons of them, if we apply them to our lives moving forward, they can be truly blessings. They can be truly things that lead to a life of significance. And in the context of this series, which we’ve just kicked off, when we pivot away from those things that maybe cause us crucibles and we move into something new, we move into something fresh. We explore what we’re calling Second Act Significance. That’s where the depth and breadth and height of our lives of significance can truly be found.