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The Gift of a $2.25 Billion Dollar Failure: Warwick’s Crucible Revisited #145

Warwick Fairfax

January 6, 2023

In our first episode of 2023, we’re joined by guest co-host Lexi Godlewski, who interviews the host of Beyond the Crucible, Warwick Fairfax. His face and voice you know, but the deeper parts of his story you may not! Warwick shares new insights, lessons and perspectives on how he moved beyond his crucible and created a life of significance after the failed takeover of his family’s 150-year-old media business. 

As unique as this story is, the message is universal: life’s toughest challenges that could have broken you may just be the blessing that leads you to create the life of significance you really want.

Highlights

  • Warwick’s youth and upbringing (5:04)
  • Why he went to Oxford and Harvard Business School (8:54)
  • Finding his way in America  (10:35)
  • The beginnings of Fairfax Media (12:17)
  • The genesis of the takeover (15:05)
  • Feeling “hopelessly out of my depth”  (19:29)
  • How the media coverage of the takeover affected him (22:10)
  • Journaling to cope with the pressure (24:34)
  • The takeover’s failure and bouncing back from it (26:55)
  • How his definition of success change because of the failed takeover (31:43)
  • The birth of his true calling to a life of significance (33:37)
  • Persevering through the tough times after a crucible (39:31)
  • Surprised by his story’s resonance with audiences (43:38)
  • Where he’s found gratitude (48:21)
  • The “rapid-fire” round (1:00:40)

Transcript

Gary Schneeberger:

We’ve just turned the calendar to a new year. What better time to turn the page to a more fulfilling life. That’s exactly the journey Beyond the Crucible has charted for you in our e-course, Discover Your Second-Act Significance. The three-module video course will equip you to transform your life from “is this all there is” to “this is all I’ve ever wanted.”

Each session is led by Beyond the Crucible founder, Warwick Fairfax, who shares his own hard won successes in turning trials into triumphs. He’s got some high powered help from USA Today’s gratitude guru to a runner-up on TV’s Project Runway. It’s an ensemble of men and women living significant second acts who would command a six-figure price tag if any business wanted to fill an auditorium with them to coach their employees.

But we’ve packed their insights and action steps into our course for a sliver of that cost. If you act before the end of January, you’ll get 23% off your enrollment. Just visit secondactsignificance.com and use the code 23FOR23. Don’t delay in, enroll today. Remember, life’s too short to live a life you don’t love. Now, here’s today’s podcast episode.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

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

For somebody that doesn’t want to be seen being in charge of a massive media company is not a good strategy. Once I “succeeded” it, it was like a nightmare. Face in the media, editorial cartoons, “young jingoist Fairfax”, me dressed as like a Mongol warrior, one editorial cartoon had. “What took more than a hundred years to build, Warwick destroys.” “How do you start a small business? Give Warwick Fairfax a big one.”

Back in ’87 to ’90, if I walked in the mall, people would look at me like, “I’ve seen that guy on TV.” I would be known, it’d be crazy. Once it “succeeded” by late ’87, where we’re in control, it was a nightmare then. The realization is, I don’t want to be here, but I’m here.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

Yes, he was there, but not for long. What started as a searing, costly crucible for Warwick slowly began to change, to grow more hopeful in the years that followed. In this episode, he talks about how that terrible loss has turned into one of life’s greatest gifts.

Hi, I’m Lexi Godlewski, guest co-host of today’s show. To kickoff 2023, I’m turning the tables to interview the host of Beyond the Crucible, Warwick Fairfax, whose face and name you know, but whose story you may not. Together, Warwick and I dive deep as he shares new insights, lessons, and perspectives on how he moved beyond his crucible of losing $2.25 billion in a failed takeover of his family’s 150-year-old media business to then create a life of significance.

As unique as his story is, the message is universal. Life’s toughest challenges that could have broken you may just be the blessing that leads you to create the life of significance you really want.

I am a new voice and a new face on this episode today. First of all, thank you for having me on the show. I’m really excited to be here and I’m really excited about the conversation that we’re going to have today. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Lexi Godlewski. I am on the marketing and branding team for both Beyond the Crucible team as well as the SIGNAL brand innovation team.

Even though you may not have seen my face or heard my voice before, I am very much so doing a lot of behind-the-scenes action here on the Beyond the Crucible team helping with all things social media and all things marketing and branding, and really helping Warwick bring this dream alive. Warwick, I’m so happy to be here with you today. Today, we’re going to be diving into your story and I get the opportunity to interview you.

What I’ve been really excited about in this is that even with how closely I work with you, I know your story and many of the listeners also have heard your story before. But yet, I still have so many questions and so many things that I would love to hear more about because even though you and I have different stories, what I’ve discovered in us working together is that there’s a lot of similar underlying themes in each story. And so I’m really interested to just dive into more of each of those and to hear even more about how you’ve gotten to where you are today.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Great, yeah. Love it.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

Perfect. Are you ready to dive in?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Indeed.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

Awesome. I’m going to kick us off with a deep dive question. I want to know, take me back. What was youth like for Warwick Fairfax?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Gosh, probably the best way of describing it, it really felt a bit like being in the royal family, be it pick your royal, whether it’s Prince William or Prince Harry in Britain. Growing up in this 150-year-old family media business in Australia, which just for US listeners, it was a massive company like, I don’t know, thousands of employees. It had newspapers, TV, radio, magazines. It had the Australian equivalent of the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal.

We had the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age in Melbourne, the Australian Financial Review. It was massive. It was really like growing up and being a Bush or a Kennedy, basically. Everybody knew the Fairfax family, certainly in Sydney. My dad’s name was also Warwick Fairfax. He was knighted, he was Sir Warwick Fairfax. It’s like it was pretty obvious I’m part of the family. I’m Sir Warwick Fairfax’s son, and I went to a private boys school.

The pressure was intense. Everybody knew who I was. Everybody knew where I was going, that one day I was going to be working in the Fairfax Media. Some would know I was probably the heir apparent, at least as my parents saw. So it was sort of this goldfish ball of expectations in which from birth, my path was laid out. I had no choice, at least if I love my parents, if I love my country, if I felt what we were doing was important in the newspapers, in the community, which I did, the right decision was sort of obvious.

How could I not do that? It’d be almost poor analogy in time of war saying, “Yeah, I’m not joining up. I believe in the war and our country is under threat, but I’m good.” That feels kind of the wrong decision. It’s sort like a World War II era. It would be unacceptable not to fulfill what I saw as my duty.

Yeah, life for me growing up was a lot of expectations, a lot of fear, very little choice and how am I going to meet this? I’m going to try my hardest to be worthy of the honor that I’ve received and I don’t want to disappoint my dad or my parents. A lot of expectations, a lot of pressure would be one way of summarizing it.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

How do you think those expectations and pressure impacted you as a kid growing up? Because I know from my experience, I felt like I had pressure just to get straight A’s or good grades nonetheless to take over this family media empire that was built. How do you think that pressure and those expectations that were placed on you from the beginning, how did that play into your childhood?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I’d say it made me very cautious, very risk-averse, very careful. It was obvious to me at a young age if I did something dumb like flunk out of high school, DUI, substance abuse, I mean young people, we often do things that aren’t wise or suboptimal as they say that later on we think, “Yeah, that wasn’t very smart.” But you’re a kid, you do dumb stuff. It’s part of growing up. In my case, it’ll be front page in the newspapers, I mean, I just couldn’t afford to.

There was the sense that I was very cautious, very risk averse, worked extremely hard because I felt like I’d come from about as much money and privilege as you can. I was not going to be those dilettante kid that runs around in fast cars and parties. That wasn’t going to be me. I always had a chip on my shoulder. I was not going to be that person.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

Yeah. Going to Oxford and Harvard, were those more so things that were just expected of you to do that you needed that education, so it was just expected that you go there versus your own kind of drive and intuition and desire to go there?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. Yeah, my whole internal desires and wants was a really kind of irrelevant growing up. I’ve had to learn in subsequent decades, it’s okay to pursue a path you want or pursue a life you love. It’s not wrong. It’s right, I think, which we advocate at Beyond the Crucible that yeah, I mean my dad and grandfather and a few other relatives all went to Oxford. It wasn’t a shoe in, yes, there was some legacy component to Balliol College, Oxford where I went. But I always was in the top two or three at school, I got good grades.

At least I felt like I was in the conversation in terms of academically. But still Oxford is not easy to get into. At least they send out, oh I don’t know, alumni material from The Times Literary Supplement, the time that London that, I don’t know, for the last eight plus years running, they’ve rated Oxford as the number one university in the world, which maybe there are other things that look at it differently, but it’s up there.

It’s not easy. But part of it too was I wanted to escape from Australia. Australia doesn’t feel like a safe place because everybody knows me. Still to this day, it doesn’t feel ultra-safe. I just feel like I’m on my guard. And so going to the UK, nobody knew me being … It just Fairfax Media meant nothing.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

It’s funny to hear that you wanted to go to a different country for that fresh start because no one recognized you, because this is one of those themes that I picked up from my own story as well of, I grew up in a small town in New York and at different points in my life too, both when I was going away to college as well as then in my adulthood, there have been a couple of times that I wanted to go to somewhere new to just start fresh because nobody knows you.

There’s a lot of people who find that very scary and they would ask me questions about that before I moved. “Aren’t you nervous? You don’t know anyone.” For me, I actually find that very oddly refreshing that nobody knows you there or nobody really knows your background or knows your name or anything like that. And so I think it’s really interesting to hear that, like I mentioned before, even though we have different stories to hear that similar little theme in there of, I wanted to go somewhere else that I could start to craft my own name and craft who Warwick is in this example. I find that really interesting.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It just helps build up self-confidence when you can achieve things on your own merit. Not because you are somebody’s son or daughter or sibling or whatever it is. Everybody wants to feel like they have their own worth based on their own merit and their own path. I’ve been able to achieve that over the years, I feel like, which has been gratifying and somewhat healing. And so I’m a little less scared and we’re all afraid of something. That never quite goes away, but a lot less than I used to be and a lot more open about revealing stuff about who I am.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

I want to dive into your crucible experience of when you took over the family media company. I’m curious to hear from a high level overview, how did the company begin? Was it started by your great grandfather or even further back than that?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, it was started by my great-great grandfather, John Fairfax. As I’ve written in my own book that came out I guess October 2021, I in part write about him, John Fairfax. He was somebody of great faith, elder in his church, but he was a business guy, worked hard. His kids loved him. His wife loved him, employees. When he died, they even said, “We’ve lost a kind and valuable friend.” I mean nobody says that in 1800s, no unions or that kind of thing.

It was started by him and basically the way it started was he had a small business, a small newspaper in Leamington Spa, in the county of Warwickshire and go figure, which is maybe where the name comes from. He wrote an article about a local lawyer and the local lawyer sued him. The judge ruled in John Fairfax’s famous and the article was accurate. But back then, you had to pay your own court costs. And so he was proven innocent, accurate, and was bankrupted.

At that point he said, “Forget this, I’m leaving England, going to Australia,” and started his own newspaper. Actually some friends at church helped give him some of the money and he ended up growing it to a massive newspaper. But some people have family business legacies they’re not that proud of because how it was started is not so great. This is not that story. This is somebody that I admire above all these characters.

That sense of service to the community and faith to a degree that lasted generations. I mean more the values maybe than the evangelical faith faded a little bit over the generations. But there was this legacy of service and faith. And so it grew from one newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald to a massive organization.

And so one of the things I really admire about the company and certainly The Sydney Morning Herald, the original masthead had, “May Whigs call me Tory, and Tory call me Whig,” which basically in modern language means may liberal call me conservative, a conservative call me liberal. It always sought to be an independent newspaper for the good of the colony of Australia as it then was. It’s just a tremendous legacy. Maybe it wasn’t such a good fit for me, but it made it really hard not to go into when it’s like this, it was so admirable in so many ways.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

Take me through the process now of what happened when you went to take over the family media business.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

What precipitated it was I was in my last year at Harvard Business School in early ’87. My dad died in early ’87, he was like 86. He died of prostrate cancer. Unfortunately back then, the screening in the ’80s wasn’t what it is now. He was incredibly healthy, never had a walking stick. He would swim every day. He could have lived to a hundred. Other than that he was in very good shape.

Anyway, so when he died with 50% of the shares owned by the public, the market and this is the ’80s, felt like the company was in play. The stock price rocketed up. They felt like with the right corporate takeover raid, a few of the smaller shareholdings, family shareholdings sold, it would fall like dominoes. Before my dad died, there was a sense that the company wasn’t being well run. One of the other aspects of the story is some other family members, some of the other major blocks in 1976 threw my father out as chairman, and one of them wanted to be chairman at the place of my dad. I was 15. It was devastating and it was just hard for me to understand how a man I dearly loved, how family members could do that to him. The pressure really amped up on me after 1976. I mean it went exponentially up because it’s like, I really am my parents’ hopes and dreams now for some sort of resurrection.

Anyway, there was this sense the company was straying from the vision it was found. It wasn’t being well run. I guess you could debate that maybe, but that’s what I bought into. That’s what I believe. Once my dad dies, stock price rockets up. Management’s making some kind of, in my mind, crazy decisions. I felt like something has to be done. Being a crusader, I suppose back then, which is not always a good thing, I felt like I need to charge in my white horse and save the day. There’s a lot of bad things can happen when you see yourself in this hero crusader mold.

When my mother and I inherited my father’s shareholding, that gives me a block of shares to work with. Then as I was studying during the day at Harvard Business School, at night I was on the phone to investment bankers in Australia lining up the stake, not everybody does that in business school.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

I can’t even imagine. I was stressed out enough in business, Warwick. Just my exams and the extracurriculars, I can’t even imagine being on the phone with investors at the same time.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It was kind of crazy. Then I come back and graduate in, I don’t know, May, June ’87. In late August ’87, I launched this $2.25 billion takeover. Then everything was public and lots of editorial cartoons, names in the paper. But it wasn’t about power, it really was a sense of something needs to be done and if not me, then who? Just this, I don’t think it was self-righteous, but the sense of hero, something has to be done, it’s my duty.

The money wasn’t relevant. It’s like, oh, if it doesn’t work. Money has never been that important to me, so it didn’t matter that much. It’s just like something has to be done and I’m going to do it. That whole righteous, was there some subconscious thing about what other family members did to my dad? I don’t think I realized it, but it was pretty clear. It probably was. If I hurt people’s feelings back then after what they did to my dad and I should be sorry, why? I’m not saying that’s the best attitude in the world. It’s probably what I was thinking subconsciously at the time.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

Now, you were 26, correct, when the takeover started?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yes.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

I’m in my 20s, so I can only imagine what that must have been like at 26. But I’m curious because before … I have my own business as well and before I started my business and I think the mindset in a lot of people, whether you’re in your 20s, your 30s, whatever, a lot of times is this idea that I’m not educated enough. I still have to go get another degree before I can start this thing. I need to get another certification before I start this thing. It’s like I don’t have enough.

When you were at that age, at 26, did you feel like well-equipped and ready to take it over because that’s how you were groomed? Or was there this feeling like, “Oh, I still want some more experience but I don’t have a choice now I have to hop in and do this”?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, it felt like I didn’t have a choice. No, I felt hopelessly out of my depth, because yes, I was in my last few months in Harvard Business School, Oxford, Wall Street, Harvard Business School at age 26. That’s not nothing. I mean, that’s I guess something. I was intellectually, I think reasonably intelligent. It wasn’t like I was an idiot.

But all of that intelligence in a sense was eroded by emotion and duty and what happened to my father in ’76. Emotion can trump intelligence and common sense any day. These wave of emotions can destroy your common sense, that one lesson learned. I don’t care how smart you are, in the right circumstances, you can make incredibly stupid decisions given the right emotional toxic mix, unfortunately.

None of us are immune. But yeah, I didn’t feel ready per se, but it’s like whether I was ready was irrelevant. My thought was I would bring in some good management, and I did. I bought in a chief executive that increased operating profits 80% the first year. But after interest, it didn’t matter. It’s great that operating profits are doing well. Yes, I suppose I showed the company wasn’t being run as well as it could be. But did I feel prepared? No, I felt hopelessly out of my depth and that sense of feeling out of my depth, once we had control, it’s sort of like I was hit a brick wall of, “Oh my gosh, I don’t want to be here. Why am I here?”

I’m doing this for my dad, I suppose, who had died earlier in the year and legacy in my family, whether some saw it that way or not. But it’s like I was, and still to a degree, am a sort of shy, reserved person. I did not want to be there. I mean you know that whole managing by walking around. I never went to the editorial floor and said hello to the journalists because I was too scared. I just had to try and figure out how to get in the elevator to my office on the top floor.

It was crazy stuff. Even then, there was the big corner office, I mean massive that my father and then my older brother had when he was chairman. I didn’t want that office. I had the chief executive take that office and he said, “You’re really sure, Warwick? I mean, you’re the proprietor,” as they used to call me, the controlling shareholder. No, I’ll take one of the other offices. They’re still nice but a quarter of the size, I didn’t want to be seen. I didn’t want to be …

For somebody that doesn’t want to be seen, being in charge of a massive media company is not a good strategy. Once it “succeeded” it, it was like a nightmare. The face in the media editorial cartoons, “young jingoist Fairfax”, me dresses like a Mongol warriors, one editorial cartoon had. “What took more than a hundred years to build, Warwick destroys.” “How do you start a small business? Give Warwick Fairfax a big one.”

I mean back in ’87 to ’90, if I walked in the mall, people would look at me like, “I’ve seen that guy on TV.” I would be known, it’d be crazy. It was once it “succeeded” by late ’87, we were in control, it was a nightmare then. The realization is I don’t want to be here, but I’m here. Be careful what you wish was my worst nightmare. Ultimately it ended, which in some ways was devastating, in some ways it was a blessing or grace if you will, and some weird combination. It was devastating but it was freeing. It was strange emotions when it finally went under.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

What were some of the thoughts and just emotional states that you were going through during that time period?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

At the time, let’s see, I got married to my wife in May ’89. First couple years I was living with some guys and it was really … I was not in great shape. I mean I have very high perseverance, fortunately I suppose, and faith was there. But even with faith, it was extremely tough. I would come home after a day’s work and I’m living with a few guys who were also people of faith, and it was a little weird. We’d go around and, “Hey, how was your day? What’s happening at work?” And they’d say, “So how about you, Warwick?” “Well, I needed to raise a few hundred more million in debt today. I’m having trouble with management,” it’s just not …

I was like 26 with a bunch of 20-somethings going around the room. My story is a bit different than your average 26-year-old. It was just a different conversation. Look, they tried to be helpful but it’s not like they had decades bof experiences. “Yeah, Based on my experience with my board and I’m a chief executive…” You’re typically not a chief executive or a senior part of the law firm or wherever 26. You just haven’t got there yet.

I had some older mentors that I tried to ask advice for, but basically it was a sense I was in pretty bad shape in one sense, and they sort of patch me up and a few band-aids and off I go into the war again. But in some weird way, I think when life is at as toughest for me, I poured myself more into my faith. I did a lot of journaling then, which I don’t do as much now, but I did a lot of journaling, almost like a spiritual conversations.

It’s a little weird, but just pouring my heart out to God and hopefully, I’d hear some pearls of wisdom back, which you could argue, is it God, is it my inner self? Who knows? But I like to think it was Him. But yeah, I did a lot of journaling. But it was really, really tough those years. I mean there was even one time, which I don’t talk about that much, but we’ve gotten a big court case with our financial advisors who, one of them, a group advised me on the takeover. There was the good financial advisors who I ignored and there’s the ones that kind of advised some of the biggest takeover artists in the country and they said, “Yeah, sure it can be done.” Whether it’s sustainable I guess probably was unanswered.

It was like a hundred million dollar lawsuit because we didn’t feel like they’d earned their fee based on the results of the takeover. And so it was like at one point I was on the witness stand literally for a month, every day for a month. The best trial attorneys in the country were trying to tear my story apart because a lot of money was at stake.

That was a tough time and I had people praying for me and somehow I got through it and we settled very favorably to us. But I mean there was some really, really challenging times during those days. Yeah, it was survival to get through the next day. It was literally emotional survival. It was very tough.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

I’m glad you said that because that leads into my next question of mentally, how did you bounce back and recover from this? Especially because it’s something that … It’s not like it just happened in one day and then it was done the next day and you had to now move beyond your crucible. The fallout and the different lawsuits that you had and just kind of the crumbling of this I could imagine took time to really calm down and come to a close. Mentally through all of that, how did you bounce back and recover from it all?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, it’s a good question. Basically, the company goes under, the $2.25 billion takeover ultimately fails, too much debt. Family sold out. They didn’t believe in me or my vision, which why would they after what I did? Australia gets a big recession, newspapers are cyclical, company goes under in late 1990. It still goes on with other management, but there was years of uncertainty and certainly not family controlled.

My wife is American, we met in Australia and got married in ’89. In late 1990, early ’91, we moved to the US. We’ve lived in the US ever since. The first emotions having left Australia was like, I’m out of prison. Hooray, sense of deliverance. It’s just, there was that fleeting sense of relief. But then there was just, I wasn’t clinically depressed, but just the sense of I was very down because we’re all different. But I’m one of these people that if something bad happens, my go-to thought is “it’s my fault”. That’s my go-to thought, it’s my fault. Whether it is or not, I always go to that.

It was like how could I’ve been so dumb? I had a Harvard MBA, how could I think the other family members wouldn’t sell out once I did the takeover, which that was a single biggest thing that doomed it from the start. It wasn’t really necessary. Maybe I didn’t really want to go into it anyway. It was just a lot of recrimination, just trying to get a job as an ex-media mogul was like a resume killer. I mean I can say I’m humbled, but eventually I had to … It was just pre-internet. As I mentioned, I got a job at Aviation Services Company in Maryland where we live in ’96. It was just pre-internet, so they couldn’t really Google me.

Then, somehow I felt okay by kind of dumbing down my resume, kind of didn’t put the ex-media mogul on there anymore. I don’t know, it didn’t really bother me ethically at the time. I was pretty desperate anyway. But in terms of how I came back, I mean the biggest challenge really was to forgive myself. I was young. Part of it was I’m much more objective now with my dad, who I loved and other family members from my perspective at the time, betrayed him, stabbed him in the back, removed him as chairman. He was 74 at the time when they removed him in great health.

At least, yes, maybe they could have talked to him and said, “Hey, we need you to have a little less executive control.” There were things other than what they did. Anyway, there were reasons behind what I did and the sense of duty and loving my father. Over time, I gave myself some grace. But probably the biggest thing, I think when you go through a crucible, you either abandon your values and beliefs or you run towards them. It’s a binary choice and everybody has a different background, and that’s completely fine.

But for me, my faith in Christ, I kind of just headed towards there and I felt like despite my naivety and stupidity, if God had wanted this to work out from my theological paradigm, He would have. Maybe He had other things for me in my life, sort of this sense of not fate, but just maybe there’s a purpose and a plan out there in life. Just this sense from my faith paradigm that God loves us all unconditionally, not because of our stuff or what we do. I think we all should think of ourselves as loved unconditionally and we shouldn’t think that we need to earn our love somehow because that’s not healthy by any spiritual or value paradigm, at least that I would respect.

My faith was probably the biggest single thing, probably … Not probably, but the other thing was, as I mentioned my wife Gale, we’ve been married over 30 years just from a small town in Northeast Ohio. Dad was an oral surgeon, grew up in a very normal upbringing. Dad was a committed Irish Catholic guy, really good guy, a lot of common sense.

She loved me unconditionally and we weren’t poverty-stricken. We didn’t have billions or millions, but we were okay. That unconditional love of her, and then we had young kids in the ’90s. They just knew me as Daddy. The combination of my faith, my family, and eventually finding work I could do and not screw up, but it took … A lot of the ’90s weren’t easy. It took years. A big part of it was just forgiving myself.

I was so young, I grew up with the expectations and the whole thing with my dad and him being thrown out as chairman. It’s just I honestly tried to do what was right even if maybe it wasn’t by some people’s measures. But it took time to forgive myself and give myself some grace. That was the biggest single challenge, forgive myself and give myself a bit of grace.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

How is your definition of success different today than at 26?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, back then, to me success was measured pretty simply, carrying on the Fairfax family dynasty for another generation or more, having the business flourish, editorial independence. Success was producing a quality company that, I don’t know, treated people well, treated the community well. It wasn’t for me about the money per se, but now it’s like for me success is obviously, we talk on Beyond the Crucible a lot about significance, but success to me is not about some family business. Success is not about fulfilling other people’s expectations.

Success is more being true to my own personhood, my own vision, my own values. Doing a calling that I feel led to, contributing to society in some small way. Before, success was about fulfilling other people’s expectations, dynastic expectations, community’s expectations. Now, success is more being true to my own values, my own calling, faith. It’s okay to be me, it’s okay to follow my own calling, that’s not wrong.

It took years if not decades to come to the point where it’s okay to be me and follow my own calling, and my own desires and my own values. It’s okay. For a good part of my life growing up, that wasn’t okay. My life is irrelevant. It’s all about satisfying other people’s expectations and desires and I felt that they were noble desires. I mean, it’s very hard to reject something do you feel is a noble cause that can do good for the community and the country. How do you reject something that’s so good? I mean I couldn’t. Yeah, I look at it differently now.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

What do you think drove you to want to pursue this path of creating a life of significance, of creating Beyond the Crucible podcast, of writing your book? What do you think has driven you to do that when you could have easily stayed – as you mentioned, you liked not being in the forefront, you liked not being the face of everything – when you easily could have stayed in the shadows and just said, “This is my life now, this is just what I want to do,” what has driven you to want to create a life of significance and help other people do the same?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, that’s a good question, Lexi. I think the pivotal moment occurred in 2008. It was in my church, and my pastor wanted me to give some sermon illustration. He was giving a sermon on the life of King David, righteous man, falsely persecuted. He did a tremendous job heading up the army and his boss, King Saul, got extremely jealous. Back in the day if the king got jealous, they could actually kill you. Basically, that’s what he was trying.

Here’s David hiding in The Cave of Adullam saying, “Look, I did nothing wrong. I just did too good and now I’m being hunted down?” He was feeling sorry for himself and wrote a bunch of psalms. And so it’s like, “Okay, fine, I get where you’re going, but I’m not a righteous person falsely persecuted. I’m not David. I brought a lot of troubles on myself, but okay, you want some sermon illustration? Okay, I can do that.”

And so I gave a 10-minute sermon illustration. I’m not Mr. Charismatic speaker, certainly not back then. But I sort of gave, I guess, sermon illustration, a speech about what I went through, the challenges, and because it’s a church, some lessons, I felt like maybe God taught me God loves us unconditionally and doesn’t need our stuff, our achievements if you will.

As I’ve said before, it’s not like there was a bunch of wealthy media moguls or wealthy people in general, just a cross-section of Maryland folks. But people, weeks and months after, came up to me and said, “What you shared really helped me, Warwick.” I’m thinking how could that be possible? I guess by sharing my own brokenness and pain honestly and vulnerably in some lessons learned. It helped people.

At that point I thought, I never wanted to write a book about my story that said I was a righteous person falsely persecuted, I was right, they were wrong, dissing on other family members. I could have gone into great detail about other family members throwing my dad out as chairman, and I could have really gone into great detail about some things.

But it’s like that’s boring, wrong, and it’s against my value set of throwing rocks against other people. I just could never, it was almost like beneath me in a positive sense of that word to write. It was against everything I believed in, so I never did. But if I can write a book about my own mistakes and what I learned and then it grew into maybe lessons from some of history’s greatest leaders, from family members, John Fairfax, my great-great-grandfather, my dad is Warwick Fairfax, some inspirational biblical figures.

But the core of the book Crucible Leadership: Embrace Your Trials to Lead a Life of Significance is how do you bounce back from your worst day? How do you lead a life of significance, a life on purpose dedicated to serving others? The core of that is really my story and what I learned and how I bounced back, if you will.

The journey to writing that book and that talk in church changed everything. Because from, then it’s like I was trying to get it published in Australia and some wanted more, publishers wanted more of a sensational book. But one said, a business publisher, this could have merit, but I think it’s probably better to get it published in the US where it’s more people aren’t coming with an agenda, people don’t have a set of preconceptions. But to do that, you’re really going to need some branding and marketing help. You’re going to need a following, a social media, get an email list.

I’m not an expert in branding, but having a Harvard MBA, I understand conceptually what they’re talking about. And so then through a fortuitous and I would say maybe, I don’t know, God sent, universe sent set of circumstances, I came across somebody that knew Cheryl Farr who heads up SIGNAL.

I’ve worked with the SIGNAL team for a lot of years now. I don’t know if it’s five plus years, maybe a bit longer. They and you have helped me shift from just writing a book to a brand, and we now have a podcast, Beyond the Crucible, with, I don’t know, over a hundred thousand downloads and email list, social media.

I’m getting out my story and the stories of others in different ways. But the whole shift started with that talk in church is if I can use my story to help others. Again, I have very high perseverance and so which can be good and bad. It can be good if it’s in the right direction, bad if it’s in the wrong direction. But writing my story after a couple hours of writing, I had to stop because it was so excruciatingly painful. But I kept going, because this is not about me. I’m writing this book to help others, and if this can help others, then I will get through this. I will get this done. Same with everything else we do, we’re doing it in service of others.

That’s why it’s not about downloads or social media, how much social media following we have. It’s all about, those are benchmarks, but it’s benchmarks for a purpose. It’s benchmarks to help people come back from their worst days, benchmark to say that people have inherent dignity and worth and they deserve to be valued and respected and honored and treasured. We want to help people bounce back and realize that everybody, every human being is worth something. That’s why we do what we do. It’s a sacred cause and a mission, and a mission in a sense of in the service of others. So yeah, that’s where it all started from that talk in church.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

You just made a lot of really good points that I want to highlight really quickly. Number one, I think a lot of people have this perception that after their crucible moment happens to them, after this really hard, difficult challenge that they went through, when they were in the pit, that one day they’re going to wake up and just be like, “I am fine and life is great again and I’m back on track.” But there’s going to be moments when you do step outside of your comfort zone, that those fears or those thoughts or those things that you went through in your crucible can still come up and impact you and affect you.

I think what’s really cool to hear from you is that you experienced that as well when you were writing the book. However, in those moments, you chose to prioritize the service and the mission and the vision that you have created to use your story to impact other people and to help other people and to help them move beyond their crucible. That a lot of times in those moments when those thoughts and those fears and excuses come up, it’s really easy to close the book and say, “All right, I’m not doing this, it’s too hard.”

But when you come from that place of service of, “No, it’s hard, but I’m still going to stay here writing the book or typing the book,” whatever you’re doing, because it’s going to positively impact other people and you come from that place of service, that just goes to show how powerful that is. That it’s not that one day you’re just going to wake up and life is perfect and you’re fully recovered, for a lack of a better term, from your crucible moment.

But it’s this daily decision almost. It’s these decisions to, as we talk about at Beyond the Crucible, to not let your worst day define you. It’s like you have to keep making that choice for yourself over and over that this thing happened to me, yes, and I acknowledge that, but I’m not going to let that stop me now from creating the life of significance I want, from pursuing my vision, from impacting other people. I think those are just two really great points that you made that I want to highlight for our listeners.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, very well said. I mean, often how do you get perseverance to keep going on when life gets tough? It’s really being passionate about the vision. It’s like this as, it’s hard to get passionate about a vision that say it’s all about me and money. I think human beings are wired to get joy and fulfillment in the service of others. You might agree or disagree with that paradigm in terms of whether you like it. I think most major religions, philosophies, have that underlying belief that life is about service of others and the only way to true joy and fulfillment is that path.

Accept the fact that if you’re a human being, it is what it is. You shouldn’t need that kind of motivation. But basically when you pursue something that’s in service of others, it gives you motivation, especially when it’s linked to your highest values. Sometimes, it’s linked to the ashes of your crucible. It’s like this is too important to fail. There are people counting on me. I want to use what I’ve been through to help others.

It gives you motivation to make the choice to keep moving forward. The more you believe in what you’re doing and your vision, the more it gives you motivation to push forward and push beyond your fears. But there’s the realization that it’s not like, “I’m healed, I’m fine. I’ll never have a negative thought.” No, that’s unrealistic. We are not here painting some Disneyland unrealistic picture.

It’s interesting, we recently completed a series on loss, and a number of folks have talked about just this combination of grief and joy, like losing a loved one and just, yes, I still have grief in a sense of the mistakes I made and the family business going under. Yes, I mean life goes on, but would life be better if the Fairfax family controlled it and people thought it’s safe?

I mean it’s going fine now. I could go down a path that’s not helpful to me, and certainly self-recrimination and how could I’ve been so dumb. Once in a while, those thoughts will come up, not as much.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

With everything that you’re building today, with the launch of the new e-course, with telling your story on your podcast, on other people’s podcasts, with the speaking events you do, with the book, with all the different things, are you surprised by how many people, and especially those younger audiences too, when you’ve spoken at colleges and that type of thing, are you surprised by how many people have resonated with your story even though it’s really unique?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, I mean it’s sort of amazing. I think of two incidences in the last few months. I spoke at Seton Hall, which is a university in Northern New Jersey. It’s my second time there to the Buccino Leadership Institute. This year, I spoke in November to a bunch of first years, a bunch of freshmen. They’re just a few months into their college experience, a few months out of high school.

Here, I’m not Mr. Charismatic Speaker. Yes, I’ve had help crafting a pretty good speech, I think. But I shared honestly what I went through, some lessons learned, how I bounced back and people are just locked in. They’re not looking at computers or devices, they’re locked in. We have a time where we ask people to share their own kind of vision and something that would be something beyond themselves, a life of significance. Then one small step, and we hand out cards, which are really good that you and the SIGNAL team have helped create.

As they’re writing down those notes, minutes are going by. I mean 2, 3, 4 minutes, heads are down, they’re writing. I had to feel like, “Okay, we got to keep moving here. I can’t stay here forever.” Then the questions they’d ask, how were relations with your family, I mean, penetrating questions.

People coming up to me with some high school kid that I guess he was sitting in on what like a college visit. He said, “I had an ROTC scholarship all set up, but because of some physical injury, that was gone,” because you have to be obviously to the ROTC … Military candidate, you’ve got to be physically fit. He was looking at Seton Hall and he was sharing with me in a few minutes – because there’s a lot of people waiting to get their book signed – I didn’t know him, and he’s sharing his story about what he went, not in a bitter way, but just almost this is not going to define me kind of way and pressing forward. I was just amazed that people in just a few minutes of sharing their stories with me, they don’t know me at all. I mean, I couldn’t be more different. I’m from Australia. Here’s an African American kid from Northern New Jersey. I mean our backgrounds couldn’t be more different. But yet he’s pouring his heart out to me in a few minutes. I mean, it just blows me away that things like that happen.

Then actually a little bit before then, in October, I was at my, I guess, 35th reunion at Harvard Business School. I was asked to be part of a group of people that was sharing in about, I don’t know, 10 minutes or something, their story. Harvard Business School people, their late 50s, early 60s, they’re typically very successful. They’re not people that by and large are people of my faith per se that, I don’t know different perspectives, but it’s a cross section of successful business people.

So many people afterwards said, “Thank you for being vulnerable,” because typically CEOs business leaders are not vulnerable at all. And they said, “What you said, man, that meant a lot to me.” I mean, you could say, “Oh, we’re a fellow alumni,” but yet, I don’t know. I guess I have a different value set. I don’t think of myself as your typical CEO. I guess I’m not really a CEO type. I think of myself as quite different in a lot of ways. I think differently.

Younger audiences, maybe they’re older audiences, but I’m just amazed how by sharing openly and vulnerably about what I went through, somehow people can relate. I mean the power of vulnerability for a purpose, as we say, being humble about it all. Yeah, it is amazing to me how people seem to relate to a story that I feel like is the most unrelatable story you could ever share.

Hey, I made a $2 billion takeover that failed of a 150-year-old family media business. It’s not like sharing stories of cancer or loss or what have you, which are all too common. I mean, this is the most unrelatable story you could ever think of. Somehow, people can relate to it. It still boggles my mind. It makes no sense. I mean, I have some idea why, I guess, but at one level it makes no sense. But somehow people are able to relate to it. It’s just kind of crazy in some weird way.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

With the perspective that you now have, do you feel blessed to be able to now build something that is aligned with your design and with your vision and with the mission that you feel passionate about?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I do. I mean a lot of people write about gratitude and I talk about it. It’s not the central thing of what I write about, but I do feel very blessed, very grateful. In so many ways, I’m freed from the whole family business. As I recently said, it’s really grace, it’s deliverance. I was in this gilded cage living somebody else’s life, not even my dad’s life. I was living my great-great grandfather’s life.

I was living the life of somebody five generations before. He died in the 1870s. I was born in 1960s. That’s close to living the life of somebody that died almost a hundred years before I was born. It’s just crazy. I’m delivered from all that. I can be who I want to be. I can live the life that I love, that I feel called to, that I’m extremely passionate about.

I’m grateful for that. With my dad having three marriages and my mother two, the whole divorce thing was something I was always paranoid about because I did not want to be another … I saw the effect it had on my older siblings. I mean, it’s never good. It certainly wasn’t good in my family. To be married to my wife, Gale, now 33 years, I mean, it’s not one day that I don’t say from my paradigm, thank you Jesus, thank you God.

Nobody’s perfect, but she is just very giving, non-judgmental, selfless. Actually when she has an issue, she tells me, which I love it. She’s not what some people are like, they don’t tell you. I’m so blessed. I love it when people say, “Yep, I have an issue. Here’s what it is.” I’m so blessed. I’m blessed by my three kids that are like 31 to 24, 2 boys and a girl.

I mean, I’m grateful for what I do at Crucible Leadership. I’m grateful for the whole team at SIGNAL, Cheryl, yourself, Christina, Blair, everybody. Gary with podcast and public relations, the team at Content Capital who help produce the podcast. Casey and Matt, I mean, I’m blessed that all of the people we have on the Crucible Leadership team. I mean, there’s not one day that I don’t say, “Thank you, Lord. I’m just so grateful for the life I have for my family, from the work I do,” and it’s hard for me to believe. How could all of this have happened?

I mean, it’s not like I’m not an intelligent, but it’s like how could all of this be brought together? I don’t believe in coincidences and accidents. I believe maybe there’s some hand up there from my faith paradigm that organizes this. But yeah, I just feel blessed. I feel overwhelmingly grateful for the life I have, my family. I’m just filled with gratitude every day, which by and large, I guess to listeners out there, rather than have a daily list of what you want to complain about, it’s probably better to have a daily list of what you’re grateful for. It’s a bit more healthy.

I don’t do it mechanistically for that reason. I just feel blessed and grateful. I just felt overwhelming blessing, overwhelming gratitude every day. I’m just very grateful. I’m very thankful.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

Isn’t it interesting to note with the perspective that we have now, that you needed the worst day to happen to you in order to get to this point where you are building something meaningful, where you are thankful for all these things, where you are excited to show up and build your business versus trying to avoid the journalists in the elevator or that type of thing? I find it really fascinating with stories like yours because that’s the piece that’s so resonant with so many, is that it’s because we chose to not let our worst day define us that we were able to live these lives of significance and experience more fulfillment, more joy, more purpose.

I think one of the other pieces that you mentioned too, and I’m happy that you did that really resonates with so many that listen to your story, is how you were freed from that cage that you were put in. Because even if we did not grow up in the same environment that you did, I know for me, I was placed in my own metaphorical cage of what other people wanted for me, of what other people expected for me. My journey has also been how do I free myself from that and how do I live a life that’s authentic to me and my design and my vision and what I want versus just the life that other people tell me I should live or what I should do.

I think that’s the piece that’s resonant with so many, because no matter what background you grow up in, that is so common that other people are quick to just put their expectations and their dreams for you onto your shoulders. It’s a process of how do I undo this and how do I live a life of significance that’s authentic to me?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It’s so true, Lexi. I mean, certainly in some ways the greatest gift I’ve ever received was that pit of despair in my takeover days. As I look back on it now, there’s no way I ever would’ve left unless I’d been forced out because my sense of duty, my love for my dad, my respect for the whole legacy, I’m wired to like “my life may be sacrificed for some greater goal, so be it.” I’m not saying that’s a healthy mentality, but I’m wired that way. The duty sense, that sort of values twisted in a way that’s actually not that helpful. Even good values can be twisted in unhelpful ways, unfortunately.

But I feel like there was some cosmic hand, be it God or what have you that’s like, “I’m going to get you out of this one way or the other.” I don’t know, is that true? I don’t know. I like to think maybe it is. But yeah, the only way I could have been freed from this family business was, and the fact that I met an American girl, met Gale, if I’d been stuck in Australia, it would’ve been grim. It’s like all of these things came together to help me be freed from my gilded cage.

It’s in a sense that that pit was a gift because it’s the only way that I think could have got out. I think more broadly to your point is we all have, from my perspective, the God given right, universe given right, almost obligation to be true to ourself, true to our design, true to our own values. We all have this inner voice. One could debate where it comes from, but this inner sense of calling, we need to listen to the inner voice, that inner spirit that’s calling you to something beyond yourself.

If it’s self-serving and all about you, probably not the right one to listen to. That’s not your best self. But the one that’s in service of some higher goal, that’s the one you want to serve. Look, sometimes our parents and friends, they mean well. Sometimes not, but sometimes they do. But you can mean well but still cause damage, if you will. There’s that terrible phrase, the path to hell was paved with good intentions. That could be overstated, but there can be truth in a lot of aphorisms, if you will, adages.

One can honor and respect, if you’re a young person, parents and say that, “I really want to follow my heart.” Now, if you’re trying to follow something that has nothing to do with what you’re good at, that might be, “Hey, I want to paint but I don’t have an artistic bone on my body. I’m a mathematician.” That’s silly. But assuming, as we say in Crucible Leadership and Beyond the Crucible, it’s got to be something you feel like it’s part of your wiring.

But let’s make that assumption. Follow your calling. The universe, God, I mean, however you look at it, it’s being true to your true self. You think of there’s a lot of people that won’t be helped if you don’t follow your calling. There are some people that nobody will reach other than you. Is that really true? I don’t know. I like to think so. Who’s to say? Friends, neighbors, people you come in contact with professionally.

I think you owe it to yourself. You owe it to your higher purpose, to be true to that. You don’t have to wait till your 50s and 60s. It can start when you’re 8, 18, 28, it doesn’t really matter. But be true to who you are. It’s almost like a sacred calling. If you want to think obligation, sacred obligation, I don’t like the word obligation much but if that’s a word that works for you, be obligated to something that’s who you are.

And so I’d like to think if you explain it well with humility, that those who love you will hopefully understand over time. If they don’t, that’s not your responsibility. It’s not up to you to meet other people’s expectations. One can hope and pray that they will listen, but ultimately, you can’t be held hostage by other people’s expectations.

This is a common one with dads, for instance. The dad maybe was a so-so basketball player or baseball player, and they want their son or daughter, often the son, because that’s sort of the dad mentality of psychosis, if you want to put it that way. Maybe psychosis is little strong, but forgive me. But the dad mentality saying, “I want my son to be the standout football player and basketball player that I wasn’t.”

They may not want to do that, but they live through their kids, in this case, the dad living through their son. That’s very normal. But it’s not necessarily right. Let your kid’s son or daughter be who they want to be. Don’t try and live through your … Maybe you feel like you made suboptimal choices. Maybe you don’t have that ideal job as a lawyer or a doctor, whatever you think is ideal. So you want your kids to be that. I get that, but you don’t live through your kids. That’s wrong. Free your kids.

I’m not perfect. I’ll try and do that with my own kids who are 31 and their 20s. I want them to do what they want to do. I never tell them what to do. I just want them to live their own calling. I really try and live the talk, if you will. I think they actually feel that way that I’ve always supported them in what they do. I mean, that’s actually something. I’m okay with being proud of that one.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

That is a blessing that they have parents who allow them to do that versus putting their own dreams and everything, perceptions onto them. That’s great. What I found too, from my personal experience is that even when you pursue your dreams, I have found that a lot of times when I pursue that authentic calling, a lot of people don’t get it at first, and they don’t understand these crazy ideas that I have to pursue. However, once they see you pursuing them and how much it fulfills you, how happy it makes you, the impact that you’re making with that, their mind starts to change a little bit.

What I have found from my experience, I don’t know about you, Warwick, is then people start to come around a little bit and they’re like, “All right, what’s Lexi doing? Because there’s something that’s working. And maybe I should do a little bit more of that too.” They come around eventually.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It makes me think of that movie with Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams, “build it and they will come.” It’s almost like go down that journey and maybe they’ll come as in come around. I think that’s true. I mean, that may or may not happen, but it does sometimes, especially with well-meaning people who care about you. But you cannot let other people’s expectations hold you back.

Many people, I guess one of the other things we talk about, and just as a side note, you want to surround yourself maybe it’s family, maybe it’s friends who believe in you and your vision. Those who say, “You know what, Lexi, this is crazy. You’re an idiot.” You can’t really ditch them if they’re family. But if they’re friends, maybe you don’t call them so much. I don’t know if you unfriend them on Facebook, but basically you don’t associate with them because that’s not serving you.

Those who say, “Yeah, I think what you’re doing is great, Lexi, and this is awesome,” you want more people around. I know that sounds simple, but so often we don’t do that. We need people to believe in what we’re doing, our own little support group whoever you are.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

Definitely. As we wrap up this episode, Warwick, I have a little surprise for you that I’ve prepared. I have prepared a quick fire round with five questions for you. Now the questions are a little bit deeper. However, what I’m looking for is just the first answer that comes to mind. Just a short, sweet, first thing that comes to mind. All right. Are you ready?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yep.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

From your journey, what are you most proud of?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

My children. The fact that they’re the first generation in five generations to grow up in a relatively normal upbringing. They have values. They all have faith. They work hard. They’re responsible. They’re the kind of people that people want a hire. They get it done. They’re humble. They’re not running around looking for fast cars. The fact they’ve grown up. They’re living not just my values. They’re living the values of my great-great grandfather, John Fairfax.

That’s the ultimate legacy. When you see them living your values of humility, integrity, work ethic, it fills me with immense gratitude. I’m so proud of them. Other than my wife, that’s pretty much close at the top of the list of what I’m grateful for and what I’m proud of.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

Amazing. That’s beautiful. All right, next question. What’s one thing you would want to tell your younger self?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Have some grace. Forgive yourself. You’re young, you made mistakes. Look, there are things I could have told myself I probably wouldn’t have listened to like, “Hey, do you really want to do this takeover?” I mean, I’m a certified executive coach. I know how to ask questions. I could have said, is this about you? Is this about your family? Really, is this what you’re passionate about? I don’t think I would’ve listened.

Sometimes, you’ve got to go through the pain and there’s no shortcut, unfortunately. That I think would’ve been a bit of a waste of time, although I could have tried. What I probably would say is, this is not all on you. This is decades if not more in the making, maybe more than decades. You tried your best. Yes, you made some mistakes and bad decisions, but give yourself some grace. Forgive yourself. That’s probably the thing I’d say. It’s not all your fault. It’s not all your fault. It’s not all your fault.

I probably have to say that a million times before it got through. Still, it wouldn’t get through but give yourself some grace. I mean, some people need to be told, you need to be accountable. I needed the other speech. I don’t need that speech for me. I need the speech of give yourself some grace. Forgive yourself.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

Beautiful. Number three, is there anything you wish you could go back and do differently?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

A lot of things. Not do the takeover and all, but I wouldn’t have got out. I mean, a lot of things I would’ve. The conundrum is if I’d done things differently and stayed in the family … Well, I could never have left, but not done the takeover, bided my time. One day I would’ve had enough shares to be manager, director or chairman, but that life would’ve been a massive gilded prison. It would’ve been an awful life.

I mean, what it would’ve done to my kids? Could I have been the father I am now? I mean, I don’t know. Even if I tried, they would’ve grown up with those expectations. That’s the problem is could I have done things differently? Yes, but the outcome could have been actually worse if I’d done things differently. It’s a weird irony. If I’d done things differently and not done the takeover, it could have been worse.

I could have been wealthier financially. Though were extremely comfortable, I could have been wealthier financially. Gale, my wife certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed it. She grew up in a small town in Ohio. She has no desire to hobnob with the rich and famous and the throw parties for 500. That’s just not really what she enjoys. It would’ve been worse for my kids.

Yeah, if I’d done things differently, it could have been actually worse. It’s hard to answer that question.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

It’s crazy to think about how a lot of times the thing that you think isn’t working out for you is actually a part of everything working out for you. When you hear that back and you’re like, “Well, Gale wouldn’t have liked being in that environment anyway, and my kids would have grown up differently,” and all these different things, it’s really just interesting how that thing that we think that isn’t working out for us may actually be a part of the bigger picture of everything working out for us.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

In some sense, that worst day that you feel like is awful, sometimes in the bigger picture, it can prove to be a day that really serves you and key to living the life that you love, a fulfilling life.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

Yeah. Next question, what’s the number one thing that helped you move beyond your crucible?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

That answer is my faith, my faith in God. I think for all of us, when you go through a crucible, it can either push you away from your vanities and beliefs, which is very understandable, or it can push the other way. I was like, as I’ve sometimes said, a man clinging to a mast of a ship in a raging storm. That faith in God and just that sheer fact that I believe He loves us all unconditionally, that all of us from a broader bottom perspective, are loved because of who we are, not what we do.

As somebody said, we’re not human doings. We’re human beings. We all inherently have value. That paradigm shift that I’m not worth something because of my inheritance, or my heritage or John Fairfax Limited. I’m worth something just because I’m a human being, we’re all inherently valuable. That paradigm shift that God loves us unconditionally and the value set that goes with it, that was the single biggest thing that I kept clinging to that helped me come back. It was a single biggest force to help me come back from my pit.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

I’m so happy you said that because that’s such a beautiful reminder that so many of us could use more often. All right, last and final question. What’s the number one piece of advice you have for listeners who are in the pit of their crucible moment right now?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

This may be your worst day, but life can get better. Not always the circumstances, obviously for people with physical tragedies, those physical impairments won’t necessarily get better. I do realize that the circumstances don’t always change, but yet I think life holistically more generally can get better. It’s hard to understand that in your worst day, it’s hard to believe that. But even if you can believe it 1%, or maybe 5%, which would be pretty massive on that day, tomorrow may be better. Maybe next year, maybe next decade, somehow life can get better.

Somehow this pit that I’m in, this crucible can serve a higher purpose. Somehow, there can be blessing from it. I could have gone through a lot of anger and bitterness. “Look at what I did. I’m worth nothing. I don’t deserve to live in the planet.” I could get down in anger at myself, anger at other people, bitter at myself, bitter at other people. I could have gone down that cycle. But okay, this was awful. But how do I use this in service of others? How do I make a choice to get out of bed and make one positive baby step forward?

If this is your worst day, it can get better. Your pit of despair, your pit of agony can serve others. But really it comes down to a choice. Am I going to choose to try to move one baby step forward? Maybe you don’t have enough energy today, but maybe tomorrow, maybe you’re going to need some friends to help you make that step with you and for you, maybe. But it can get better. It can serve others. Just think of what one baby step am I going to choose to move forward with, however difficult that is.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

Amazing. Just drop the mic Warwick. That was amazing. Is there any other two cents that you would like to share with our audience before we sign off for today?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I’d say just as we always say in Beyond the Crucible, your worst day doesn’t have to define you. You are inherently worth something, and this is something that others people have said. Live a life of gratitude rather than have a list of, “Oh, woe is me. I hate my parents, I hate my friends. I hate my life. I hate my job. I hate my town. I hate, I hate, I hate, I hate.” You can write that list, and some of it may be pretty understandable, maybe justifiable in some ways.

But how about especially in this holiday time of Christmas, New Year, Hanukkah, how about writing a list of gratitude? How about saying, “You know what? Things aren’t, everything isn’t terrific, but we can … Typically, most of us can think of some things that we’re grateful for. Maybe there are some things about our parents we get frustrated about, maybe some things about our parents we actually like and admire.

Some people have parents, which horrific situations, I get it. But for most people, their parents and friends are a mix of good and bad, mix of things they love, a mix of things they don’t like so much. That’s most people’s situations. For most people, I would just say, well, really for everybody, but some are easier than others. Just think of, what am I grateful for today? Because gratitude increases energy, increases passion. Actually, it’s a good. It’s also smart because it fuels you with energy to move forward.

Having daily gratitude list or just thinking of list of thoughts we’re grateful for every day, it’s a very helpful thing.

 

Lexi Godlewski:

Awesome. Thank you, Warwick. I just want to reiterate to the listeners what Warwick had said of remember that your worst day does not have to define you. If you are in that pit of the crucible moment, then you can choose to create a life of significance. You can choose to pursue and create a life that you love.

Just remember, your worst day does not have to define you. I love that sentence. I think it’s so powerful. Warwick, thank you so much for having me as a guest on your show and for also sharing your story with all of us again. This was just a really special moment for me to be able to hear even more about your journey and your story and your background and all the different things.

Thank you so much. And to listeners, thank you for joining us today. This is Beyond the Crucible, and I’m your guest co-host, Lexi Godlewski. We’ll see you next time.