51 – Second Half Success
(Here’s an excerpt from Patrick’s book, Second Wind for the Second Half (Zondervan, January 1999) which focuses on men in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who want to reinvent themselves for the second half of the journey.)
A man said, “I see what’s happened to my parents in their later years. They have not finished well. I really want to rethink my life. I want to make sure I spend the rest of my life in a way that counts.”
Unmistakably, the biggest desire of a man reaching midpoint is, “I want the rest of my life to count.” I would like us to consider the questions, “How do you measure success? What determines success for you?”
Imagine three different high school basketball coaches with outwardly similar personalities, temperaments, and coaching styles. A consuming desire to build character motivates the first coach. So he prioritizes everything he does to build integrity, discipline, team work, and leadership qualities into his players.
Winning the state championship animates the second coach. It affects playing time, how he treats players in the locker room, and creates a high performance atmosphere. For this coach winning defines success.
A passion to find scholarships to play ball in college for as many of his players as possible drives the third coach. That’s success for him. He constantly phones coaches to send a scout to see his players.
Three outwardly similar coaches with three completely different inward motivations. These coaches will each obtain a different result with their lives. Ironically, it’s possible to live your entire life based upon a motivation of which you are only scarcely aware. Here are a few shifts in attitude that can create a warmer, more hospitable second half.
FROM WINNING TO FINISHING
Joni Eareckson Tada watched a 50 yard race at the Los Angeles Special Olympics. Six mentally-handicapped contestants lined up at the start. A sunny Down’s syndrome girl with thick glasses jumped up and down. One boy kicked the dirt. Another waved to his family in the stands.
The starter gun went “bang” and the six contestants bobbed and weaved down the track. Suddenly, one of the Down’s syndrome boys hopped the curb and started to run toward his friends in the infield. Joni’s husband, Ken, tried in vain to “reroute” the boy.
Just then the Down’s syndrome girl with thick glasses spotted him. She stopped a few yards short of the finish line and called to him as the other contestants passed her by. “Hey, over here! This way!” When he didn’t come she ran over to where he stood, linked arms with him, and led him back onto the track. Then they finished the race together arm in arm. The other runners, who had long ago finished, greeted them with hugs. The crowd, now standing, alternately fought back tears or cheered.1
By midlife we see that the goal of life is not merely winning. The goal is simply to finish well, and help some others finish too. There is something beautiful about helping others. Success in the second half helps others.
FROM PRESSURE ZONE TO COMFORT ZONE
A 49 year old man explained that over 25 years he had built a highly successful, debt-free specialty magazine publishing company. He had an unusual opportunity to acquire a much larger, complementary publishing company. To make the purchase, however, would require financing. To secure the loan he would have to pledge his existing free-and-clear company and all of his personal assets including his home as collateral.
He was looking for advice. I asked him two questions. First, “David, if you had no obligations, unlimited resources, and could do anything you wanted with your life – what would you do?”
He said, “Pat, I’m living my dream. Every morning when I wake up I can’t wait to see what the day may bring. Actually, I have a management team that pretty much runs the company, so I can spend more than half my time in ministry and community service.”
Second question, “David, why would you want to do this?”
He said, “Pat, there is one and only one reason I’m considering this deal. I have eight ambitious young managers I’ve brought into the business and trained. I’m afraid that if I don’t provide them growth opportunities they may leave.”
“So, let me get this straight,” I said. “You are living your dream, and the only reason you are considering this acquisition is for the benefit of your managers?”
“Yes,” he said. “That’s right.”
I was dumbfounded, but managed to continue. “So, if I understand this correctly, you have spent 25 years to build a well-oiled, highly profitable business that you own debt-free and it’s all yours. You are considering whether or not to risk a life-time of toil on a single transaction that bets not only your company but all of the personal wealth you have accumulated in your 49 years of life.
“Meanwhile, you are doing this at the very moment you are living your dream, and have plenty of free time to devote to other causes. And if I understand you correctly, the sole reason you are doing this is to retain key employees. Do I understand this correctly?”
In David’s defense, he knew he was too close to the trees to see the forest. The reason he asked me to lunch was that he was suspicious about forging ahead. I wonder how different our lives would be if we visualized reading about our actions in the newspaper? Maybe it would clear our heads.
Success in the first half creates a pressure zone; success in the second half finds a comfort zone. God has made us for a comfort zone – a place not found by flailing ambitions and ever increasing pressures.
FROM IN A HURRY TO TAKING YOUR TIME
We had an electrical problem that several service calls could not correct. Finally, the rather large company said, “We’re going to send you our best man.” My first thought was, Now you’re talking. Then, on second thought, Why didn’t you do that in the first place!
When the electrician came out I followed him around like a lost puppy. I really wanted to know what made him their best man. He didn’t seem particularly special. Finally, curiosity got the best of me and I said, “They tell me you’re the best man the company’s got. What makes you so good?”
He chuckled and said, “Well, I don’t know about all that, but when I do my work I take my time.”
“I take my time.” When you lose the physical vigor to repeat your work two or three times, substitute the wisdom of taking enough time to do it right once.
THE NEXT TEN YEARS
Are you in touch with how you measure success?
Can you give a precise statement of what determines success for you? If so, jot it down right here:
What does your statement say about your underlying motivations? Let me encourage you to pause and contemplate two questions . . .
If over the next ten years you get exactly what you want, will it make you happy?
If you keep doing what you’re doing and things work out over the next ten years, will you be able to look back and say, “I’ve led a significant life?”
If yes, terrific. If you can’t unreservedly answer yes, what specifically is missing? Jot it down here:
How can the three ideas mentioned in this article help you find a success that matters in your life?
From winning to finishing well
From pressure zone to comfort zone
From in a hurry to taking your time
1 Joni Eareckson Tada, The Greatest Lesson I’ve Ever Learned, Vonnette Bright, ed. (San Bernardino: Here’s Life, 1990), 171-173.
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men to think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world.
© 1998. Patrick M. Morley. All rights reserved.