Significance is the Best Success: Dean Niewolny #93

Warwick Fairfax

November 30, 2021

Most of the time, we define crucible experiences as setbacks and failures. But can success be its own crucible? Dean Niewolny  didn’t think so as he climbed the corporate ladder in his financial-services career. He was focused on not just keeping up with the Joneses, but surpassing them. He had the corner office, the multiple homes, the plane … but he also had a gnawing sense there was more. That he wasn’t living his calling. That changed when he got involved with the Halftime Institute, which helps men and women look beyond their life’s bottom line to its impact. He’s served the organization as an executive and captured the insights of his work helping others live with legacy in mind in his book TRADE UP: HOW TO MOVE FROM JUST MAKING MONEY TO MAKING A DIFFERENCE.

 

To learn more about Dean Niewolny, visit https://halftimeinstitute.org/team/speakers/dean-niewolny/

Highlights

  • The origins of Dean’s drive to success (4:49)
  • How success became an idol (6:35)
  • How his career — and addiction to success — grew (9:42)
  • His tentative first steps toward a life of significance (13:23)
  • How success was its own crucible for Dean and Warwick (21:55)
  • How his wife foresaw his role with Halftime (26:22)
  • How Halftime helps leaders find their calling (30:04)
  • The importance of legacy (33:59)
  • The benefits of having a “personal board of directors” (38:26)
  • The five characteristics of leaving a legacy (40:36)
  • The key to finding a cause to pursue (44:13)
  • Why “halftime” is less an age in life than a stage of life (50:34)

Transcript

Warwick F:

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

Dean N:

Going from success to significance doesn’t mean you have to give up success. You surely, surely can be successful and significant at the same time. I would argue that in today’s day and age with the younger audience, it’s, “Hey, I want to be significant now. I want to make a difference now” so the idea of going from success to significance was a fantastic tagline in the ’90s for the book Halftime, but that’s a little dated in my opinion at this point, but for me, personally, I just started to feel as I got more successful, that every time I got more successful, there was another hill to climb, there was always someone else in front of me, there was always … It didn’t matter what I accomplished. There was always someone else that I needed to try to jump over. I’m like, well, this is just an endless game for me because it wasn’t bringing me happiness, it was bringing me a lot of stress.

Gary S:

Most of the time, we define crucible experiences as setbacks and failures but can success be its own crucible? This week’s guest, Dean Niewolny says that was the case for him. Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show.

Gary S:

In his conversation with me and Warwick, Niewolny describes how not just keeping up with the Joneses but surpassing them fueled his career for far too long. He had the corner office, the multiple homes, the plane but he also had a gnawing sense there was more, that he wasn’t living his calling.

Gary S:

That changed when he got involved with the Half Time Institute, which helps men and women look beyond their life’s bottom line to its impact. He’s served the organized as an executive and captured the insights of his work helping others live with legacy in mind in his book Trade Up: How To Move From Just Making Money to Making A Difference.

Warwick F:

Well, Dean, thank you so much for being here. I love the title of your book, Trade Up: How To Move From Just Making Money to Making A Difference, and the whole notion of Half Time to help leaders of organizations, business leaders, really all leaders move from success to significance, which is sorely needed in our societies.

Warwick F:

Tell us just a bit about your family growing up in Wisconsin and the background which, obviously, you end up at Half Time but what was it like for Dean growing up and your family? Tell us a bit about the backstory.

Dean N:

Sure. Yeah. I am a Cheese Head. I’m a Wisconsinite and grew up in a little town called Wausau, Wisconsin in north central Wisconsin and grew up with a fantastic family, probably a low to middle class family I would say. We didn’t have a lot but we had everything we needed. Two sisters. They’re all back in Wisconsin and while I’m living in Minnesota.

Dean N:

As a young guy, we had what we needed. We were farmers and we worked hard but I always had this dream at a young age of how can I get out there and be the next Warren Buffett or the next Bill Gates? As a young man, I ended up going to a school in Wisconsin and then ended up getting hired initially by Arthur Anderson, I went out to be a consultant with Arthur Anderson, and then went into the financial services industry. A very Midwestern upbringing, family of farmers. It was great.

Warwick F:

Just in looking at your book, you tend to look over the fence or over the other side of the tracks and people were successful and, “Hey, this could be me.” There was just this drive from a young age and athletics was huge for you in high school and college. Talk about … Was that you? Was there any examples in your family? It seemed like almost from birth you just had this drive to … You wanted to make it in life. You weren’t just satisfied with the status quo. Where did that come from, this drive?

Dean N:

Yeah. Great question. I would say I had fantastic parents. My dad is my best friend. Very close to my parents. We were always comparing ourselves to others. We would see others who had bigger cars or bigger homes and nicer things, if you will. I just remember us always comparing ourselves to those folks. As a young kid, it was ingrained into me that I want to be one of those folks, I want to have those things because that’s what we were looking up to. I thought if I can just achieve what they have achieved, and that success and money and material possessions, that’ll bring me happiness. No disrespect to my mom and dad whatsoever but as a young man, it was ingrained in me as I started to look at others that I want to be like those folks.

Warwick F:

It’s kind of interesting because, obviously, I grew up in Australia but definitely respect America and part of what makes America America is the sense of inventiveness, they’re willing to try, they’re willing to fail almost, the sense of you want your kids to have a better life than you had. For 150 years, 200 years, that’s always been the ethos. It’s not wrong to want to better yourself and do well and achieve, per se.

Warwick F:

That notion you grew up with is probably a notion that many, if not most, American families grew up with. Say, “I want my kids … If I didn’t go to college, I want my kids to go to college. I want them to have a better job than I did.” That’s generations of family in every state in the country has that ethos. It’s not unusual in that sense and we’ll get into there’s nothing wrong with success but in of itself, you don’t want to worship it.

Warwick F:

I mean, as you look back, that probably wasn’t that unusual in that sense, your friends that you hung out with, it’s probably you weren’t the only family that said, “Hey, we want to better ourselves and do well”, right?

Dean N:

Sure. Yeah. Absolutely. My son right now is 19 years old and he talks like I did when I was a young kid, “I want to be wealthy and I want to have all these things.” What ended up happening in my life is that that became the center point of my life. That was the main focus. That work was going to bring me happiness if I just focused on that. It was an idol to me. I was obsessed with it at a young age. That becomes a challenge.

Warwick F:

Indeed. Let’s talk about that. An idol is a good word. You started off in finance with Arthur Anderson. You’re thinking originally accounting and you thought, “I don’t think I want to do this. I want to be in sales. I want to sell finance stuff.” Talk a bit about those first few jobs as you … I think there was one, you were, as young brokers do, dialing for dollars. Like 300 calls a day and you were disciplined, you were on it, which is admirable. Talk about those early days as you were working your way up.

Dean N:

Sure. Sure. I did become a stock broker but actually it wasn’t a dream of mine. It happened when I was at Arthur Anderson and the guy next to me said, “You know, Niewolny, you don’t know what you’re doing. What are you doing here? You should go out and get a different job” so that’s when I started thinking, “Well, what should I do?”

Dean N:

I was 23 years old and decided being a stock broker sounds like something that would be really interesting. I knew nothing about stocks, nothing about financial markets and walked into the Merrill Lynch office, way back in 1987, and just said, “Hey, I would really like to become a financial advisor. Do you have a position for me?”

Dean N:

I’ll never forget it, the gentleman that I was talking to was on the way to the Final Four basketball tournament. He said, “You know what? I don’t have a lot of time right now. You seem like a good kid. Come back in two weeks and you have a job.” That was it. That started my financial career with Merrill Lynch in Milwaukee, Wisconsin back in 1987.

Dean N:

You’re right. What happened at the very beginning as a young financial advisor, my boss told me, “Dean, you need to make 250 dials every single day, 50 contacts every single day, and then hand the sheet into me at the end of the evening”, which I did. He said, “If you live two years like no one else wants to, you’ll live the rest of your life like no one else can.”

Dean N:

Of course, this drug being money, for me, at the time, that was just music to my ears. I was just locked and loaded for the next two years. I just dialed for dollars and made the cold calls and became reasonably successful at a young age, at 23, 24 years old.

Dean N:

Yeah. That’s how I started in the financial business.

Warwick F:

Over the years, you started moving up the ladder and I’m sure being a manager and being very successful, you had I think … What? Maybe several houses at one point, the lake house, the boat. Talk about … I mean, that rise, your dreams did come true in that sense. You were successful, you worked very hard, and I’m sure you earned your success but talk about that rise up the ladder from young stock broker to I guess the pinnacle being a manager of a $100 million portfolio at Wells Fargo. Talk a bit about that journey. Any sort of high points on the way?

Dean N:

Absolutely. Yeah. I was financial advisor out in Carmel, California and then moved back to the Midwest and I was encouraged at that time to make a transition from Merrill Lynch to a company at the time called Payne Weber, which no longer exists, but they merged with Kidder, Peabody, and, ultimately, were bought by UBS.

Dean N:

I was encouraged at that time to move to Chicago and go into management. What ended up happening is during that time, one of my crucible moments happened in 1994, right after I moved over to this new organization, I ended up going through a very difficult divorce at a young age.

Dean N:

I had to start over. Here I am, 1994, I’m 31, I’m successful, I’m making money, have all these different toys, married, and pretty soon everything unraveled and I had to start over. As I started over, I moved to Chicago, got into management, started moving up the ladder and did various jobs with UBS. I went down to Texas and then back to Chicago and then became a regional manager and a market manager.

Dean N:

At the same time, as I started to rebuild, I met this beautiful lady, who is my wife, Lisa, and had two fantastic kids. Like you said, started accumulating possessions. We had a home in Chicago and a home outside of Chicago and a lake house and actually I became a pilot at that time and had a little airplane, nothing major, single engine but a little airplane and a boat.

Dean N:

I was thinking to myself, “As I continue to make money and accumulate these things, I’m just going to have more joy in my life and more happiness.” What ended up happening was the complete opposite for me. It was the opposite. I actually had a bout with hives and I was so stressed out thinking, “Well, I have to pay the insurance on that house. I have to get the airplane fixed. I’ve got to take care of the boat”, that I was so stressed out about taking care of my stuff, that in 2006, I just had this moment where I just said, “There just has to be more to life than this.”

Warwick F:

Talk about that scene. I think you write in the book, was it like the 40th floor of some massive skyscraper in Chicago and you’re looking out. Just talk about that moment. It feels like that’s one of the pivotal moments in your life. It’s like what is life about? Take us through that moment as you’re staring out that window.

Dean N:

Sure. I’m going to back up just a little bit, in 1995, I accepted Christ and started going to a church in Chicago. My first thought was, “Well, if I accept Christ, I have to leave the marketplace and go into the ministry. I’m not supposed to stay in the marketplace.”

Warwick F:

Right. Right.

Dean N:

The pastor that weekend said, “Well, if everyone left the marketplace and went into the ministry, who would be a light in a dark world?” I thought, “Well, I’ll stay in the marketplace.”

Dean N:

In 1999, there was this gentleman that got interviewed, Bob Buford, and I was in the third row and I was thinking, “Boy, that guy is impressive, he’s talking about going from success to significance.” I’m thinking to myself, “Well, I’m all about this success thing. I’m not so sure about the significance piece.”

Dean N:

But then we fast forward six years from there to 2006, 40th floor of the Mercantile Exchange Building, the corner office, all the homes and the airplane, the boat, beautiful wife, kids, and I just looked out the window one day … I shut the door, looked out the window one day, and just said, “God, there has to be more to life than this. There has to be more to life than this.”

Dean N:

It was up to that point Warwick I spent so much time focusing on myself, it was all about me and accumulating things and making me happy and I wasn’t thinking of others. I just remember that day really, really well. I didn’t hear an audible voice but I felt the lord say, “Dean, I have other plans for your life. Start to simplify your life.” That was the episode on the 40th floor. It was a game-changer.

Dean N:

My boss actually reached out to me two weeks later and said, “Would you be interested in doing a book study?” I said, “Absolutely. What’s the book?” He said, “It’s Half Time. I’d like you to read the book Half Time.” I said, “Well, I heard that guy get interviewed in 1999” and that was just perfect.

Warwick F:

What’s fascinating about your story is it’s not a simple kind of Paul road to Damascus moment. It seemed like it was a journey. You’d come to faith in Christ at a church in Chicago a few years before. You’d heard Bob Buford, who for listeners, I think was from Texas and had a bunch of TV stations and was very successful and, obviously, you know better than I do, but lost a son in I think a drowning accident, which turned his life and, gosh, what is life about? You lose your only son. That’s about as devastating as it can possibly be.

Warwick F:

It wasn’t like this road to Damascus moment, okay, I’ve accepted Jesus, boom, you know? Dean Niewolny’s life instantly turns on a dime. I think it’s more realistic because for most people, life doesn’t change overnight. It’s almost like being an aircraft carrier, right? It changes slowly. Just talk a bit about that journey. I think it’s very realistic and it’s more typical.

Dean N:

You’re right. When I heard Bob speak in 1999, and he talked about this idea of going from success to significance, that really did begin a journey for me that I didn’t even realize at the time, that just little by little, I started to look outward and I started to volunteer and I served at a homeless shelter and I helped the homeless put resumes together so they could go out and get gainfully employed.

Dean N:

But God was using that time in my life as building blocks to get me to this point of 2006, and everyone doesn’t need to make a transition like Bob Buford did from the marketplace to the ministry, or like I did. Most people actually stay in the marketplace. But for me, it was a journey. If I look back, it’s interesting, you can connect the dots in how it was a building block kind of effect up to 2006 when I had the 40th floor office experience.

Gary S:

We’re going to get into what significance is and how you discovered that but for the listener who hears this in apposition, the idea of success and significance and thinks, “Success still sounds like it might be kind of interesting”, it’s very rare to be sitting in a virtual space with two individuals who have had after their names, $100 million, in your case, Dean, billions in your case, Warwick, and both of you have come to the same conclusion, that that success didn’t bring happiness.

Gary S:

For people who hear that sometimes and think it’s empty, this idea of, “Success doesn’t really fulfill, that’s not true, success would fulfill me. It was just you had a problem with it”, talk a little bit, Dean, about what was it about success that was unfulfilling for you ultimately. There you were, you were saying that the other side of the tracks is where happiness lies. It wasn’t that. Was there a moment besides your health failure? When did you start to sniff that success just wasn’t what you had made it out to be when you were younger?

Dean N:

Yeah. Great question, Gary. Just to clarify too, I wasn’t personally worth $100 million. I managed a $100 million business. What ended up happening is as I started to be successful and started getting promoted and making more money and accumulating more things, it actually had the opposite effect for me, like I said earlier. It started to cause me to be more stressed than I was without those things.

Dean N:

I really had to take time and think through why is that? What I want to make sure and say here is that going from success to significance doesn’t mean you have to give up success. You surely, surely can be successful and significant at the same time. I would argue that in today’s day and age, with the younger audience, it’s, “Hey, I want to be significant now, I want to make a difference now” so the idea of going from success to significance was a fantastic tagline in the ’90s for the book Half Time but that’s a little dated in my opinion at this point but, for me, personally, I just started to feel as I got more successful that every time I got more successful, there was another hill to climb. There was always someone else in front of me. There was always … It didn’t matter what I accomplished. There was always someone else that I needed to try to jump over.

Dean N:

I’m like, “Well, this is just an endless game for me” because it wasn’t bringing me happiness. It was bringing me a lot of stress.

Gary S:

Yeah. You were constantly crossing over the tracks, right? You were constantly trying to get to whatever was on the other side of the tracks over and over and over again. That’s got to be exhausting.

Dean N:

Yeah. It was for me, personally. For many others, it may not be. Having material possessions and money and all that, there’s nothing wrong with that. For me, what was wrong with it was I made those things an idol. That was my total focus, right? This idea of making money, nothing wrong with that. We need people to make money. Hey, our nonprofit needs money, so make money. You know? The reality is how do you use that money? Is the money for personal gain? What is it really for?

Warwick F:

Yeah. No. It’s such a good point what you’re saying. I have, as listeners would know, a very different journey. Similar experience but about as different a journey as you can imagine and listeners know this. I grew up in about as wealthy a family as you can imagine in Sydney, Australia. A 150 year old, very large media company, newspapers, TV, magazines. Not only did we have wealth but we had status and respect.

Warwick F:

For people on the marketplace, that’s … You’ve won the lottery at that point. We didn’t just have money. We had respect in society. Money, respect, status, what more is there that you want in life? Some people have money but are not respected at all. You know? When you have all of them, you’ve got everything the world says that you would want, and so we had that. We had parties with people from Hollywood, ambassadors, business leaders, and it just all seemed to me so empty growing up, everybody trying to impress each other with the deals they had done and royalty they met or whatever. It just seemed so empty. I don’t know. It never was attractive to me. I was almost inoculated at a young age.

Warwick F:

I’d experienced all that and it certainly wasn’t making my family happy. You know? In of itself, wealthy families have typically lots of problems.

Gary S:

If I can jump in right before you turn into, and say something to our listeners that I think is fascinating by both of the stories that you’ve just told, because it’s very rare it happens on Beyond The Crucible that this is true, in some ways, is it true for both of you that success was its own crucible? The way that you experienced success, the way that you chased it, the way that you wrapped yourself around it, did that become, at some point, for both of you, your own crucible?

Dean N:

I’ll chime in here, I would say, for me, it’s still a crucible, what I’m working on. Absolutely. It was a crucible for me because it was my driving focus, day in and day out. Back prior to going through the Half Time program and what I’m doing now in the nonprofit world, the idea was all about myself and focused on myself. Once I went through the program, I started thinking of others and trying to make a difference with my finances.

Dean N:

I’ll tell you every day, even now when I get up, I still have to pray every morning that that doesn’t become an idol for me, that I don’t focus on it day in and day out. I’d love to say I’m succeeding at that but I’m not. I have to work at that every single day.

Warwick F:

Yeah. I mean, I want to come back to that in a second because that’s such an … Thank you for being so honest about it because that is helpful. Yeah. For me, I guess the pinnacle of success, if you will, is I launched this $2.2 billion takeover in late August ’87 and within a few months, it had “succeeded” and I was controlling shareholder proprietor of this big company at age 26.

Warwick F:

The world would say, “Boy, controlling a multi-billion dollar company at 26, that’s pretty good. Not too many people have achieved that kind of benchmark.” A media company that had the equivalent of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, but yet it was kind of miserable because it was, as listeners know, all about duty and living up to my great-great-grandfather’s vision. I wasn’t even fulfilling my own vision. As soon as we had succeeded, it was miserable. I just did not want to be there. There was no joy. Even though, for me, it wasn’t so much about money, it was this idealistic vision, but I think what you just said about being aware of your idols and temptations, a wise man or woman does that.

Warwick F:

For me, it’s not money but it’s more … My Wikipedia entry until recently was young, hot-headed kid could have had it all and blew it. Do I mind that? Yes, I do mind that. You know, would it be nice if folks in Australia and the media gave me a little ounce of respect one day? It may never happen but do I mind that? Sure.

Warwick F:

With this book that when I first got a copy of that book a number of months ago, like in April, I was literally on my knees in prayer and saying, “Lord, I don’t care whether this book sells one or 10,000, my self-worth is not going to be bound up in book sales.” My sense of, okay, he’s back finally I’ll get some respect here. I don’t want that desire for respect and that desire for redemption in the world’s eyes to define who I am.

Warwick F:

Yes, I’m human, so if a gossip column comes out in one of the Australian papers, as it did a few weeks ago, and it was the snarky stuff like, “Hey, Warwick has a book, which he’ll sell you for a price.” It’s like who sells a book for nothing? It’s like, “Warwick talks about failure. Well, he’d be an expert on that, wouldn’t he?”

Warwick F:

It’s like really? Did I mind that? Yes, I minded that. I’ve gotten over it, kind of, but do I mind that? Yes. Money is not my deal. It’s more respect, redemption. For me, I wouldn’t say idol but know your temptations and when you feel that little negative thought coming, if you’re a person of faith, get on your knees, pray, and say, “Lord, help me with this temptation. Don’t let me have my self-esteem wrapped up in money, redemption, respect.” It’s for my, and your perspective, it’s only in you Lord, not … Yeah. My temptations are different but they’re still temptations, if that makes sense.

Warwick F:

Let’s talk about Half Time and your book Trade Up because I think this is fascinating. There is one story in the transition that … I don’t know. Your wife, her name is … Your wife’s name is Lisa?

Dean N:

Lisa.

Warwick F:

I don’t know whether she’s a prophet but I guess she was at one point, which is just crazy. Talk about that prophetic moment that she had about your role in Half Time, which at the time seemed like crazy stuff, right?

Dean N:

Yeah. Yeah. It did. I think she’s a prophet. Anyway, what ended up happening is in 2008, I went through the Half Time program after having this 40th floor office experience. One thing I realized at that point is I’m going to figure out what God wants to do through me one way or another. We read the book Half Time, went down to the Half Time program, which was fabulous.

Dean N:

But at that point, I was still working in the marketplace. We transitioned from Wachovia to Wells Fargo Advisors and I was working there in Chicago overseeing that business. Lisa loved southern California, still loves southern California, and Chicago. She knew those two places on the map. I said, “Why don’t we go to Laguna Beach? They’re having a Half Time event. You can enjoy California and I can enjoy Half Time.”

Dean N:

We went together and I had an interaction with a gentleman from Bob Buford’s organization there that day and he came up and said, “Hey, Dean, I really would like to get to know you better. Do you mind if I come up to Chicago and spend a little bit of time with you?” I said sure. At that time, Half Time was looking to get into the financial services a little bit and partner with some financial services organizations. I thought, “Sure. Come on up to Chicago.”

Dean N:

Well, that night, we go to bed and three o’clock in the morning, and this is not like my wife, whatsoever, by the way, woke up at three o’clock in the morning. She’s sitting straight up. I said, “What happened?” She goes, “I just had a dream.” I said, “A dream about what?”

Dean N:

She said, “The dream was about we’re moving from Chicago to Dallas, Texas and you’re going to become the CEO of the Half Time Institute.” I said, “Lisa, that’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.” I said, “They probably want me to come to talk about the financial services industry” and that connection. She said, “No. You’re going to become the CEO and we’re moving to Dallas, Texas.”

Dean N:

Well, I knew when she said Dallas, Texas that that had to be from the Lord because it wasn’t from her. That’s not where we were thinking of moving. Nonetheless, he came and four months later, they offered me the position, as you mentioned earlier, of managing director of Half Time. I said, “Lisa, see, I wasn’t the CEO. I was the managing director.” Then a year later, they changed it and said, “Now you’re the CEO.” Yeah. It was a dream that she had, that’s why we’re here.

Warwick F:

Talk a bit about Half Time because not everybody will be familiar with Half Time and then, obviously, that leads into your book. What is the mission of Half Time? What’s its vision?

Dean N:

Sure. The vision really is to help men and women around the world identify what we call their Ephesians 2:10 Calling. Ephesians said we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works that he has prepared beforehand. We believe that everyone has good works, that the lord has given to them, and Half Time helps men and women all over the world identify what are their strengths, what are their spiritual gifts, what are their passions, and we connect them into those things.

Dean N:

We really teach, coach, and connect individuals around the world into their 2:10 Calling, as we like to say.

Warwick F:

You know, one of the things I found fascinating in your book and I can relate to this, that a lot of churches and places, somebody, some businessman or woman comes to faith and it’s like they don’t know what to do. Maybe they start being an usher or setting chairs and there’s nothing wrong with doing any of that but the question is from God’s perspective, is that the best use of their gifts for the kingdom, setting chairs or being an usher? Again, it’s not about it being beneath you but it’s kind of what …

Warwick F:

It’s funny. I guess there is a story in my life that really directly relates to I think to me what’s a core, from what I understand a Half Time concept is just lean in to your gifting and I would say God-given passions and calling. There was a time, as listeners would know, I was … Back in the ’90s, when I was not doing too well, just after this whole company went under and I felt like I had let God down … The founder of the company was a strong believer. When you feel like you’ve let God down, that’s a pretty crushing crucible for a believer.

Warwick F:

Anyway, I ended up working in an aviation services company doing financial and business analysis because I’m pretty analytical, I can do that. I remember in 2003, I felt like the Lord telling me, “You are playing small. You’re not honoring me with all the gifts and abilities that I’ve given you.” It wasn’t so much that it was beneath me but yet I had more to offer, so then I got into coaching, a couple of nonprofit boards, including my church board and then from there, Crucible Leadership, which is a whole other story.

Warwick F:

That was a pivot point for me feeling like the Lord saying, “You’re playing small. You’re dishonoring me because you’re not using all of the gifts you have for the Kingdom.” That feels like … I didn’t know it at the time but it’s sort of a Half Time way of thinking, wouldn’t you say? In terms of Half Time’s philosophy?

Dean N:

Absolutely. Yeah. You know, Warwick, I like to say volunteering is something you get to do, your calling is something you have to do. Very rarely do folks take the time to really understand what is their true calling? God gives us and provides us with strengths and spiritual gifts and abilities, and I believe he wants to use those and plug them into areas of need and, like we say, things that Jesus really cares about, the orphans, the widows, the prisoners, others.

Dean N:

When I was younger, I volunteered, like I said, for a homeless shelter, which was fantastic. I loved it. I enjoyed helping them put their resumes together. But my skillset and my ability allowed me to do more than that and make a bigger impact. It’s the leverage impact. I agree with what you’re saying.

Warwick F:

Talk about how Half Time does this. You know, we talk about this a bit in Crucible Leadership. Let’s say a leader comes in, they’re probably still on the fast track, initially, but they’re curious about Half Time and about Jesus and all. How do you begin to turn that ship in terms of finding their calling? Talk a little bit, at least, at a high level, some of the elements that Half Time does to try to … As that newbie CEO type comes in and is all about focus on success, but yet they’re curious about the lord and you try to turn into what’s the Ephesians 2:10 work that God would have for them. How do you do that? It sounds like not an easy thing to achieve or to accomplish.

Dean N:

Yeah. Most folks who come through the program are at that point that I was at, that smoldering discontent state trying to figure out what is my life really all about? Most successful leaders, not all, but most successful leaders that I’ve encountered really struggle to have close relationships, close friends, and they’re lonely. If you’re a CEO or a leader and you’re struggling through a crucible issue, who do you go talk to? You’re not going to talk to your staff or your team.

Dean N:

Most come ready to really figure out what does God want to do through me? What’s the next season look like? All people want to leave a legacy and have an impact and make a difference. When they get there, we have different exercises that really allow that person to be vulnerable and open and safe and we go about it in such a way that once they get authentic and real, we start talking about the head journey, which is, of course, the head journey has to do with we decide what we think we’re going to do or what we’re good at but then there’s a heart journey. There’s the holy spirit, there’s the guidance from God who guides you. It’s the head and heart journey.

Dean N:

At first, you’re right. When they get there, I would say most are struggling through something, they’re unhappy, they’re at this point where, “I want more to my life. I want to make a difference. It may be initially they’re struggling in their marriage or with their kids or don’t have relationships there.” We help with those things to help them get free and then get clear and then get going as we like to say.

Dean N:

It’s a very interesting process that if someone comes in and they have an arrogance about them and they’re not ready to be coached and they’re not in that season, it is difficult. You’re absolutely right. But most are ready to do that.

Warwick F:

You have a couple fascinating things. I think you talk about also in your book, the whole 80th birthday party experience, what do you want your legacy to be? That’s such a powerful question. Talk just a little bit about that whole concept of legacy and that 80th birthday party image, because it’s a fascinating image.

Dean N:

Yeah. It brings back scary memories for me, quite honestly. I remember what ended up happening, I was working at the time still in the marketplace, and I actually did go to a funeral for a lady who was a teacher and there was 500 or 1000 people there. I was like, “Why are so many people here?” They said, “Well, it’s because the impact that she had on their lives, the difference she made.”

Dean N:

I was sitting in the pew thinking to myself, “Well, if today was my funeral, one, would anyone show up? But secondly, what would they say about me?” That was a very scary thought at the time. When I got to Half Time, they do an 80th birthday party exercise, I guess now we should up it to 85 or 90, but you’re invited to your birthday party, your wife or good friend takes you out or spouse takes you out and 200 of your closest friends are in the room and there’s a microphone up in the front of the room and, one by one, they walk up and talk about the difference you made on humanity, not on yourself. What difference have you made on humanity? What difference have you made on others? What would you like to hear?

Dean N:

I remember when we went through that exercise, I was like, “They would say, ‘Dean is successful, making a lot of money, he has all these different toys” but the impact I had on others or humanity was very minimal at the time. It’s an exercise, as you think forward, at the end of your life, what do you want your legacy to be? What impact have you had? That’s the 80th birthday party exercise.

Warwick F:

I love that. One of the things I sometimes talk about, obviously, in the world of finance, you talk about ROI, but I often think what about EROI? The eternal return on investment. You know? I wonder if the time is like what’s my EROI? What kind of impact am I having for the kingdom? Would I invest in me? At that age, that would have been an interesting conversation at that time. You know? Would I get the buy this stock or not buy this stock from a kingdom perspective?

Dean N:

Well said. I never thought about it that way but you’re right.

Warwick F:

One of the other things I love about Half Time is you talk about having a personal board of directors that will ask good questions but these are people that know you, I think you mentioned your wife, your coach but within Half Time … Talk about that whole concept. Most people do not have a personal board of directors that have the backstage pass, the freedom to say, “Hey, Dean, Warwick, there’s a problem here.” You know? Who sets themselves up for those conversations? Nobody. Talk about why that’s so powerful.

Dean N:

Yeah. The personal board of directors is critical. I think it’s right up there with coaching that we do at Half Time. The personal board of directors … To have those cheerleaders when you need those cheerleaders, when you’re down and you’re struggling, you need cheerleaders around you. When we talk about the characteristics of someone who finishes well, there’s five things and one is have a group of encouragers around you.

Dean N:

The personal board of directors, for me, personally, has been life-changing. I identify four personal board members, if you will, and any good company, of course, has a strong board. For my board, I actually have someone when I’m having marital issues or issues with my children, there’s someone, he’s a pastor that I would reach out to for that and if I’m having challenges maybe around business, there’s someone that I chat regarding that.

Dean N:

I have four to five folks on my personal board of directors but they have carte blanche. They can say anything to me, and I want them to say what’s on their heart. It might not be what I want to hear, but it’s probably what I need to hear, right? I don’t mind them sharing. It’s the person at 3:30 in the morning, if I have a major issue is going to answer the phone and be there. You’re right, most don’t have that but it’s really something that’s vital to have for sure.

Warwick F:

Yeah. Just keep you on the path you want to be on. You mentioned those five things. I think it’s the five characteristics of leaving a legacy, those are the five you’re talking about. Just give us a little overview of those five because you mentioned I guess a second one is maybe cheerleaders, the personal board of directors, but talk about some of the other five.

Dean N:

Sure. Health is critical. The five characteristics of those who finish well really has come out of countless hours of coaching over the years. Tens of thousands of hours. The five that have come out of that, believe it or not, number one, those who succeed and win and leave a legacy have taken care of their health. It’s hard to go and live out your Ephesians 2:10 Calling if you’re not healthy.

Warwick F:

Indeed.

Dean N:

You need to be healthy. They’re flexible. Flexible, meaning as we get older and I’m surely guilty of this, I’m getting old and stodgy, I don’t want to make changes, I don’t want to make adjustments. My son just had a football game that was changed 10 miles away and I was complaining about them changing the site. I was not very flexible. But those who are flexible absolutely succeed.

Dean N:

Then you have, I already mentioned it, the encouragers, those folks around you who are encouragers and, of course, your spouse and others. You want to identify those folks. The fourth would be your family. Put your family number one. This was a big learning for me. When I went to Half Time, I remember Bob Buford asking me, “Where is Lisa in all of this?” I said, “Well, I don’t know where Lisa is but I know I need to get going and I’ve got to figure out my 2:10 Calling.” He said, “Dean, whatever you do, just stop.” Putting others’ interests ahead of your own. Then, of course, your calling, figuring out what is your Ephesians 2:10 Calling, what’s God’s calling on your life, those are the five.

Gary S:

I was going to say speaking of calling, one of my callings as co-host of Beyond the Crucible is to know when the sound I hear in the distance is the captain turning on the fasten seatbelt sign to indicate that we’re getting close to when we’re going to land the plane. We’re not going to land it yet but it’s time to gather our peanut bags up and get ready to give them to the flight attendants to throw away.

Gary S:

Warwick, in the time we have left, I know you have some questions you want to ask, Dean, go ahead and do that. Just wanted to fulfill my calling as the co-host.

Warwick F:

All good. All good. I guess as we wrap up, there’s so much in the book that we can’t get to and I’d encourage all listeners to get Trade Up: How To Move From Just Making Money to Making A Difference. I love the phrase that you and Half Time use, it’s not just from success to significance but success to significance to surrender. I mean, oh my gosh, that’s a powerful concept.

Warwick F:

I wanted to just … This may be a last question. I think it’s the first chapter, you ask these three incredible questions like is there not a cause? Is there in you a sweet spot? What is your giant, which is kind of the smoldering discontent. Just that notion, is there not a cause? I guess that’s relating to calling, right? I mean, that’s like the first question you start out with the book. You use the example of David. Talk about … I love that phase, is there not a cause? Just talk about that phrase.

Dean N:

Most folks, or a lot of folks, feel they don’t have a passion around anything and what we find out is everyone’s passionate about something, everyone is passionate about some cause. We do an exercise where we ask folks, why don’t you read the USA Today for a week and come back to us and let us know what makes you mad, sad, or glad. What really catches you?

Dean N:

This idea of having a cause or something that you really care about, that you’re passionate about, everyone has it but it takes time to uncover it. It’s not a weekend seminar where all of a sudden it just kind of pops up. Now it can happen that way but usually it takes time to uncover it.

Dean N:

The second part, I think folks sometimes make it too complicated. We have a lady that went through the Half Time program and she said, “You know what I love to do? I love to rock babies.” She rocks babies of drug addicted mothers in Houston at a hospital. Another gentleman went through and his passion was prayer. He wanted to see more prayer and he invited a few folks to pray and that has turned into the global day of prayer. His passion was prayer, her passion was rocking babies. Everyone has a passion.

Dean N:

I remember something that really stands out to me when we had a group in and a gentleman said, “I’m really not passionate about anything” and about 30 seconds later, he starts talking about, “I just wish everyone could go to college. I don’t know why some get to go to college and some don’t.” Right there was his passion.

Warwick F:

Right. Right.

Dean N:

Education for everyone. The causes, they’re not a cause. Everyone has a cause. Everyone has a passion.

Warwick F:

And within that cause is somebody’s God-given calling. As we say in Crucible Leadership, you want to align it with your divine design because our belief is God doesn’t make mistakes, so if he designed you a certain way, he wants you to use that for his purpose, so you link up your design, your God-given passions with calling, in our world often that can come out of a crucible. It doesn’t have to but I don’t want anybody ever to go through what I went through, whether it’s abuse or could be a cancer survivor. All in there is calling.

Warwick F:

Maybe the final observation, for me, at least, is as I’ve found that I’ve used my brokenness and gifting for, I’d like to think, a Kingdom calling, there’s some level of not just joy but healing. It makes it easier to go through the pain and I guess as we close here, have you found that?

Warwick F:

I’ve certainly made massive mistakes and it sounds like you’ve made some things that maybe you would look at as maybe sub-optimal choices in other words, maybe mistakes, but does it make it easier to deal with when it’s like, okay, I’m living my Ephesians 2:10 Calling, and … Do you know what I mean? Sometimes we can be our own worst critic and it’s like, okay, I was young, I made mistakes but it’s when you’re using your gifting in service of others, maybe it’s a little easier to forgive yourself a little bit, if that makes some degree of sense.

Dean N:

Yeah. Yeah. I’d even add to that that sometimes the pain in your life, ultimately, turns into your calling. It has for you, and it has for others. Who better to guide and coach than someone who has been down a path that you’re struggling with? It may be divorce, who knows what it may be. Yeah. Sometimes pain turns into this opportunity to help others and, ultimately, find joy in the pain that you had before because you’re serving others. For sure.

Warwick F:

Absolutely. You come across some maybe 30, 40 something person in the world of finance who is just killing it and has got the fast car and the boat and the houses and is doing great. Who better to talk to that person than Dean Niewolny? It’s like I’ve been there. You know? I was you. You don’t want to be doing that in 20 years time. You’ll have no relationship with your wife or kids. Trust me, you don’t want to be there.

Warwick F:

You would be the perfect person to minister to that person, right? You know?

Dean N:

Yeah.

Warwick F:

Well, thank you. Thank you for what you do and I love what you do in Half Time. Just your book Trade Up: How To Move From Just Making Money to Making A Difference. Really, I want listeners to hear we’re not against success. You just don’t want success, as you very well put it, to be an idol. Success is fine, if you use it for the right purposes. You just don’t want to worship it. Easier said than done.

Warwick F:

Half Time is a great organization. They will help you understand in the practical ways how to move from success to significance and, ultimately, to surrender. I mean, it’s all the Lord’s and we’re just here as managers and his servants. That’s the ultimate destination spiritually and in terms of joy and fulfillment. Thank you so much.

Dean N:

Yeah. Thank you, Warwick. Gary, thank you.

Gary S:

The flight manifest would say that this is the time for the captain to actually land the plane but I have radioed the cockpit to just delay that a little bit because I want to make one thing clear to our listeners from you, Dean, and that is this, I think when people hear the name Half Time, they’re like me, they may not be very good at math but they can divide things in two and they go, “Okay, Half Time, if you’re supposed to change your life from success to significance, Half Time means if the average life expectancy is, let’s say, 85, there I go, I give myself a number 84, you go to 42, it’s at 42 that you’re supposed to do this.”

Gary S:

It’s not exactly that specific. You’ve described it, it’s not so much an age Half Time, as it’s, what? How would you define it for people to help them understand?

Dean N:

Sure. It’s a season of life. It’s the season that you’re in. Half Time, the sweet spot used to be the 45 to, let’s say, 60 year old. What we have seen is that now 20 somethings and 80 somethings, are in that season of Half Time. It’s not defined by age. It’s defined by the season of life that you’re in. You can have smoldering discontent when you’re 27 years old. We just had a gentleman go through our program who is 27. He was trying to figure out what’s next. We had someone who was 83.

Dean N:

Great question, Gary. The Half Time does sound like it’s 45 years old or whatever but it’s really much broader than that.

Gary S:

That sound you just heard was the captain putting the plane on the ground. Last words have been spoken on this conversation. Listener, I have a different ending than I normally do here and that’s this, because we just kind of expressed this idea, maybe we’re listening to this going, “Well, I’m 27. I don’t have to worry about this.” What Dean just said was it’s for anybody. It’s a season of life. It’s never too early. I think everybody on this conversation would agree, it’s never too early to begin thinking about how you can live your life, pursue your purpose, to help others to live your life of significance.

Gary S:

I would say that the learning, your homework assignment here regardless of whether you’re 24 or 94, your homework assignment here is to go back and to listen to the section where Dean talks about those five characteristics of people who finish well. They know their calling, they’re living their calling, they have cheerleaders, what Dean described as a personal board of directors who can speak truth to them, they’re really focused on their family, they have taken care of their health. It’s really hard to live your life with significance if you have to live your life marginally because your health has suffered. Especially in your earlier years in life, take care of your health. Then finally, the flexibility, so that when they change your son’s sporting event to 10 miles away, you’re like, “Okay, great. I get to spend 10 more minutes in the car to chat with my boy.” That’s the way to look at it.

Gary S:

Listener, thank you so much for spending time with us on this episode of Beyond The Crucible. We hope you have learned some things here that will, indeed, help you as you look to move beyond your crucible. We really encourage you to remember, as you think about what we’ve discussed on this show, what Warwick and Dean have discussed, hopefully, it’s come through loud and clear that your crucible experiences are painful. We know that. We have two men here who have described their crucible as different crucibles, some similarities but different circumstances but the emotions are the same and they’re painful, painful things.

Gary S:

Here’s the good news, your crucible is not the end of your story. In fact, if you learn the lessons of that crucible, if you apply the lessons from that crucible to your life moving forward, it can be the leaping off point to a whole different and a whole better life. Far from being the last chapter in your story, your crucible can be the beginning of a new story, a new chapter in your story, and the best one of all, because where it leads, by the time you get to the final period on the final page, where it leads is to a life of significance.