In this blog I share with you, what I believe is the most reflective and important part of the book, The Crucible’s Gift: 5 Lessons from Authentic Leaders Who Thrive in Adversity. Over the last 12-weeks, the role of the crucible, self-awareness, compassion, honesty, relationships, and learning were discussed in various blog posts.

The focus of the book is why owning your adversity is critical to becoming a better leader and more importantly and better person. In an aim to demonstrate this, I share a story about getting a DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol). After my DUI, I spent six months in an outpatient program, learning a lot. At one point the counselor wanted to make a point of self-love and that accepting yourself for who you are as an important part of growth. To make this point, she read an excerpt from the beloved children’s book The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. It was one of the most powerful experiences in the entire program, so I want to share it with you, and I hope it has the same impact for you as it did for me.


“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”


In the end, understanding that we are all our own Velveteen Rabbit will fundamentally change your life. It will allow you to look at your adversity and define it, and not be defined by it. Being your own Velveteen Rabbit will allow you to grow your self-awareness, compassion, integrity, and ability to relate to those around you through shared experiences. However, being your own Velveteen Rabbit only really occurs if you are willing to embrace a learning mindset. So, grow, be more compassionate, live with more honests, meet people where they are at on their journey, and become your own Velveteen Rabbit.

You can pre-order The Crucible’s Gift on Amazon now.

James Kelley, Ph.D.