Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and culture.
“The appetite for significance is at an all time high, yet most people have no idea where or how to identify their gifts and talent—and to connect to their passions. And that’s my love for Halftime. Nothing satisfies more than to help a man or woman say, ‘This is what God has for me to do.’” — Dean Niewolny, Halftime Institute CEOThe path to contentment and joy. Dean Niewolny spent nearly a quarter of a century as a Wall Street high flyer, capping his career as market manager for Wells Fargo Advisors in Chicago. It was during his tenure there that he and his wife Lisa traveled several times to Africa where their encounters with poorest of the poor caused them to become involved in the building of an orphanage and a hospice in Durbin, South Africa.
In 2010, Dean left his high-power, high-prestige position to devote more time to helping those in need. That, it turns out, was where his true passion — and heart — is. As a result, he is now CEO of The Halftime Institute where he encourages successful business leaders to channel the first half of their lives where achievement is the goal into a second half defined by joy, impact and balance. This philosophy led to his new book “Trade Up: How to Move from Just Making Money to Making a Difference.”
I recently had the opportunity to ask Dean some questions about the book and his philosophy for living a meaningful life.
JWK: Dean, what led you to write Trade Up?DEAN NIEWOLNY: I wrote Trade Up because purpose, for most people, is missing in action. And yet it’s what we all crave. In the U.S., more than 60 percent of workers say they have no sense of mission or meaning. And yet purpose makes us healthier. It makes lives and businesses run better. In almost every sense, the game-changer is purpose.
JWK: Who do you hope benefit’s from reading Trade Up? What’s the purpose of this book?DN: For you to know who Trade Up is for, it helps to understand what I do. I’m CEO of the Halftime Institute, a 20-year-old organization that helps business people shift from just making money to making a difference. It’s not as obvious as it seems because we get bogged down in other parts of life. To make that kind of move, a person needs to know himself, know God, and have a plan. At the Halftime Institute we lay out a time-tested plan that helps people navigate the journey. Trade Up explains those plans for readers at any stage in life to put into practice. It’s the how-to for anyone who says, “I’ve chased a paycheck long enough; what I crave now is significance.”JWK: How important is it to have a have a sense of personal purpose?DN: Most of us are just trying to get from day to day, week to week. Then we wake up one day and wonder “why” we are scurrying around and what for. Without pausing to define purpose we take our cues from other people, from society, the culture. We need to know what God created us to do.
JWK: How can a person discover that purpose?
DN: Begin by reading Trade Up and then engaging the Halftime Institute. I advise working with a coach because it is important to have a plan that is proven and time tested. Building a relationship with someone who has been there and understands the journey is essential. Very rarely does one get there on their own.
JWK: In Trade Up, you talk about “smoldering discontent.” What is that?DN: Smoldering discontent is living with dissonance between your daily situation and a sense that God is calling you to something else or something more.JWK: When have you experienced “smoldering discontent”?DN: Picture a guy in a beautiful office on the 40th floor of the Chicago Mercantile building, he has reached his career goals, but he’s staring out at Lake Michigan knowing that there is more to life than just hitting the next goal. That was me. That was my definition of smoldering discontent. I knew I had to make a change.JWK: When you talk to groups, you have what you call “the three disruptive questions.” What are the questions, and how do they work?
DN: The three questions that I give groups basically hold up a mirror to help people know what matters to them. They are found in Chapter 5 of Trade Up:
1) Cost accounting: What is all your winning costing you?
2) Asset protection: What do you have that is priceless, and what are you doing to protect it?
3) Metrics: If you were living a perfect life, two years from now, what would that look like?JWK: In Trade Up, you also have another powerful question you call the 80th-birthday question. What is that?
DN: The 80th birthday exercise goes like this . . . Imagine you walk into a restaurant and see 100 of your closest friends, family, and business associates there to celebrate. As the evening progresses, one by one they each take a turn at a microphone to answer a question about you. The question they answer is, “Beyond your family and friends, the greatest impact you have had on humanity and the Kingdom of God is . . .?”
At that 80th birthday toast, what would you hope to hear? If you can do the work to articulate your end, then you can better direct the moments between now and getting to it. What impact would you have had on those you care about most? What impact would you have had on the Kingdom? We must keep the end in mind.JWK: Does a life that matters always require a big change? Does everyone have to become a missionary?
DN: A life that matters often amounts to a change of perspective and then a clear action plan to live it out. A renewal. Many people stay in their current work with a renewed sense of purpose and direction. They go from a life of going through the motions to having a clear sense of how they can and want to contribute in their current work, which is fulfilling. Sometimes it’s other kinds of change, but positive, life-giving change doesn’t automatically require you to sell everything and move to Africa.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11