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Want to Align Your Values with Your Actions? They Can Help: Tom McGehee and Jim Stollberg #148

Warwick Fairfax

January 24, 2023

A critical component of Beyond the Crucible’s recipe for discovering your unique path to a life of significance is to develop a strong team of advisers to help you lean into your gifts and passions along the journey, especially in the aftermath of a crucible. This week, Warwick talks to two men serving in that role to men and women all along the age-and-stage spectrum.

Our guests are Tom McGehee and Jim Stollberg, the co-executive directors of Halftime, an organization that helps professionals of all stripes look for moments and experiences in their lives on and off the clock that deepen the sense of purpose with which they’re living. As you’ll hear Jim explain, an essential part of finding that balanced, rewarding life is making sure what you say are your most important values are truly the things you’re spending your time and attention on.

Highlights

  • Tom’s backstory (4:18)
  • The crucible of his son’s addiction and death (6:11)
  • Jim’s backstory (7:53)
  • His career treadmill (10:15)
  • The pain and blessings of their crucibles (12:08)
  • The dangers of wrapping our identities in what we do rather than who we are (25:41)
  • The importance of personal mission statements … and personal being statements (30:15)
  • The purpose of Halftime, and the challenge of updating its vision (32:41)
  • The importance of ongoing engagement (48:32)
  • Jim’s and Tom’s words of hope to listeners (55:59)

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. And 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. And if you act before the end of January, you’ll get 23% off your enrollment. Just visit secondactsignificance.com and use the code 23for23. So don’t delay. Enroll today. And 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.

 

Tom McGehee:

There are an awful lot of people, especially the younger people in the market who want to be successful and significant at the same time. They want to know their business has worth. So we want to help them say, “Okay, do you stay where you are and do something differently? Are you being called to something different?” We want to be in those conversations.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

A critical component of Beyond the Crucible’s recipe for discovering your unique path to a life of significance is to develop a strong team of advisors to help you lean into your gifts and passions along the journey. This week, Warwick talks to two men serving in that role to men and women all along the age and stage spectrum.

Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show. Our guests on this episode are Tom McGehee, who you just heard from, and Jim Stollberg, the co-executive directors of Halftime, an organization that helps professionals of all stripes focus on looking for moments and experiences in their lives on and off the clock that deepen the sense of purpose with which they’re living.

As you’ll hear Jim explain, an essential part of finding that balanced, rewarding life is making sure what you say are your most important values, are truly the things you’re spending your time and attention on. If they’re not, Halftime and its associated group, Thousandfold, will help you identify the disconnect and rearrange the pieces.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Well, thanks guys, so much. I love what you both do at Halftime, and we have a lot of mutual friends from Halftime, guys in Australia, Glenn Williams and John Sikkema, and some folks that have helped at Signal, Cheryl Farr with branding and all, with both of us, a lot of common connections. And just your whole mission of helping folks find significance, not just success. And really, I think there, as you say in Ephesians 2:10, their sort of God-given purpose. I just love what you do, I’m so behind it, it’s sorely needed.

But before we get to Halftime, and you’ve made some changes recently, in helping it to evolve for this next generation. I’d love to hear a bit about your stories, because that’s obviously part of how you ended up at Halftime. So love to start with Tom, and just tell us a bit about your story and some of the background that makes you who you are, and part of the backstory that’s led to where you are now.

 

Tom McGehee:

Well, I’ve ended up in a place that, I’ve helped a lot of organizations with strategy and planning. And I’ve ended up in a place I never could have strategized or planned to take me to. So I don’t know what it says about my strategic ability, but it really is true. I just feel like I’ve got a strong faith, I feel like God’s just led me to a place and His hand has kind of been on me, through good and bad, to bring me here.

My father was a general in the Air Force, was a career US Air Force officer. I was the son he always wanted, I have an older sister. He loved me unconditionally. I had a mom, candidly, who was a little embarrassed to be pregnant at a little bit of an older age. And I came along, and it wasn’t… So I kind of grew up in a house where on one end I was really cherished and loved, and on the other end I was sort of almost tolerated, and not a lot of motherly affection. So you grow up feeling really good about yourself, but still feeling like there’s something you ought to try to earn. And that’s kind of wrestled with me, my whole life.

Went through college and decided I wanted to follow kind of in my dad’s footsteps in the military, went into the Marine Corps, got to do some great things there from worked at, the Marine Barracks in Washington DC where we did all the security, Camp David, we did all ceremonies for the White House. I stood up, I got the command, one of the first special operations company in a battalion in the Marine Corps when that was first formed. Thought I’d have a career, got passed over for promotion, and that was probably a kind of professional crucible. Pushed me out, “What am I going to do now?” And that’s the series of events that have landed me from corporate work, to a consulting partnership, to my own company, to focusing more on ministry, to here.

This whole time, well, I got married right out of college. We’ve been married 43 years, this year. And my wife has just been a helpmate and a steadfast support, really even helping me overcome a lot of my own selfishness, my own doubts, my own things. She’s been at my side, and just helped me through that. So today, we have three adult kids and 10 grandkids, and we’re really blessed. They all live in the Dallas area. We all get together. We had four, a kind of crucible on the personal side, our oldest son died about 13 years ago in a motorcycle accident. And that followed about a 10 year battle with drinking and some drugs, which itself was just sort of this prolonged crucible. That was probably the harder time, because you don’t see an end, and you don’t know what’s to happen. The death, as hard as it is, is finite and now you can kind of figure out what to do.

So those are some of the things I think that have shaped my life, all along, from where I started to just being able to now work with really sort of high capacity leaders all over the world that are trying to do more for others, and more beyond themselves. Working with somebody like Jim is just a blessing. When this opportunity came up, I asked my wife if she thought I should take it and she said, “I think God’s been preparing you for this your whole life.” And I said, “Well, at this age and kind of figuring out how you want to finish well, I’ll take that.” And so, that’s me.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It sounded like a yes, right?

 

Tom McGehee:

Yeah, yeah. I’m going to take that run with it. I’m not going to ask twice, here.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

That is awesome. Well, we’re going to dialogue a bit about this in a bit, but I’d love to hear, Jim, your story and your background that kind of, again, probably the Lord used that to lead you to where you are. But yeah, tell us a bit about Jim Stollberg, and just your background and upbringing.

 

Jim Stollberg:

Yeah, I’d love to. And next time, can I go first? Because, listening to Tom’s story, mine’s just not as interesting.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Hey, how do you think I feel? I co-host a podcast with a guy who lost $2.25 billion.

 

Jim Stollberg:

Yeah, I totally get it, Gary.

So, born and raised in Wisconsin. I am a lifelong Wisconsinite. And traveled the world through my career, but never uprooted. And I think that has made, I guess some uniqueness to my life, in that I still have, matter of fact, I just had a call with some friends that I’ve known since I was in kindergarten and first grade. I mean, relationships that go back to my roots, and then all the way through college and so forth.

So, have my family here. I’ve been married to Leslie for 31 years. I am blessed to have a very understanding wife, and two kids that have just recently started adulting. They’ve finished college, and now they’re off on their own, and we’re sort of transitioning into, “What does it mean to be a parent of somebody adulting?” So, it’s all good.

Grew up in a classic, middle class American family. My father was a barber, and my mother worked in the school. And, very loving family. The only thing I would say kind of missing from my young years was, I think… I have a faith, as well. And that was not stirred. We didn’t have a home church. It wasn’t something that was, I think for my parents it was more of a, “that’s a private matter.” It’s an internal personal thing, not a public thing. So that sort of carried with me until the point I went to college, and I went to Marquette University here in Milwaukee, which is a Catholic Jesuit university. And at that point it started to really, I would say claw away at what was happening inside of me. I started to explore more about what my faith could be, and obviously got a great education out of it, graduated with my engineering degree.

And then, realized I was a really lousy engineer. So I went into management consulting. What do you do, when you don’t know where you’re going to go? You go into management consulting. I did that for 10 years, and really accelerated my career. And it kind of put me on, what I later realized, was a treadmill. I had, for whatever reason, sort of a chip on my shoulder. I was the first one in my family to go to college, really the first among my friends, and so I really felt like my career was an opportunity to differentiate myself, to be successful. And I pursued it with a vengeance. And that got me through my early years in management consulting, and then with another firm, doing automation. And it was very professionally gratifying, but it was just sort of consuming my life. So my crucible, I would say, was not so much an event. I kind of think of it as, what’s the metaphor of, how do you boil a frog? You just keep turning up the heat.

My career just kept turning up the heat, and I kept absorbing it. And the way the world works, if you’re successful they keep throwing more titles at you and more money at you. And boy, I loved that. And that sort of defined my, who I was as a person, and didn’t realize how much it was distracting from the rest of my life. And that sort of hit a culmination in 2016. We had the opportunity to sell the company, and that was the event that really allowed me to take a step back and pause, and really dive into what was, “Why am I here?” Essentially. And, “What do I do?” And that was a real catalytic event.

And then there’s a whole Halftime story beyond that, of going through the program, helping me process through that.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So I’d love to hear from you both, you talked a bit about your crucible experiences, because I’m guessing you would not be at Halftime without those crucibles. One of the things I’ve learned, probably over the last few months last year, is obviously listeners are very well aware of me growing up in a 150-year-old, very large family media business, and a $2.25 billion failure. And I’ve begun to see that failure as a gift, as a blessing in some sense, redemption. I never would’ve said that a few years ago, I would’ve said, “Yeah, God has used it for his purposes.” But gift, redemption, blessing? I don’t know. Those are strange words.

I’d love to hear just from both of you, in any order, about your crucibles and what that did to you, both the pain and what you learned. Because it’s typically excruciating pain, I mean certainly for you Tom, you’ve gone through some excruciating ones. I mean, one in particular, but they’re both tough. So talk about both the pain, and what you learned from the pain.

 

Tom McGehee:

It’s interesting, if I think about those two moments and of course, anytime you have a failure, there’s a pain associated with that. So probably a lot of little things, things you wanted or you thought you were going to do or be, and they didn’t work out. But even though one was professional and it’s like, “Okay, so that’s now what’s happened. Now I can figure this out, and what to do from it.”

The other one, with our son, when he was battling his addictions the hard thing was you kept trying to fix it, but he can only fix himself. And as a parent, it just stays with you. And we have a number of friends who still have adult children, for example, that are struggling with different things. And you see, the phone rings in the middle of the night and you see it’s his or her number and you can’t help but worry about, what are you going to hear on the other end when they answer? You wait, you want to hear something good, you want to talk to your child, but you’re fearful of seeing them. That’s a hard, it’s an energy sucking place to be. It’s hard to focus on, I know people that throw themselves into work or throw themselves, but it’s hard to balance that correctly in that space, because you don’t know when it’s going to end.

With both, when he died in a motorcycle accident, he was actually in a halfway house down near Miami. And when that happened, again, as tragic as it was, it was kind of like getting passed over for a promotion. I mean, that’s a finite act. And now you’d say, “Okay, now that this has happened, what do I do?”

For me, I guess the pain of that… And I think we’ve processed my son’s journey pretty well, as a family. It hits all our kids different, hits my wife different. But to have the privilege now, 13 years later, to look back and just see on both events, look back on when I got out of the Marines, and how this whole career of things I never could have imagined opened up. Or seeing out of this tragedy, for home, how it drew actually our family closer together. And it made me… If you have a faith, you have to decide at that moment, is this real or not? You know, can’t just fake it anymore and say, “I’ll go to church, and God loves me, and things are great,” because it’s not. And you’ve got to decide, “Am I bought into this, or am I not?”

And it’s strengthened my walk, which I then think falls into, “What am I doing?” And doing things I haven’t done before, which pushes you into another… You start a positive loop, instead of a doom loop that brings you down. And that’s kind of how I would say it’s played out, to me. There is that sort of Alcoholic’s Anonymous, one day at a time, kind of thing. And boy, a lot of times it’s like that. But I had a Marine that said, “Hey, when you’re going through hell, the worst thing you could do is stop going. You got to keep moving, you got to get through it.” And if you do that and you have a hope for something beyond, and by my faith that hope has really allowed me to get through the short term things, and to keep going.

I find myself now talking about how blessed I am, and it’s not that I’ve forgotten about all that tragedy, but it’s just in a perspective that allows me to feel okay about it.

 

Jim Stollberg:

And Tom, I’ve even had a chance to witness, on a couple of occasions, the unique experience with your son. How other Halftimers who have had maybe something similar in that, how you’re able to use that experience to help them. Which is a real blessing, right?

 

Tom McGehee:

Yeah, it’s a platform nobody wants, but it’s a story that gives you an opening to almost any tragedy. I mean, you can talk… As you would know.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, what you said is so true. There’s a lot there, just in those twin tragedies. When you go through difficult times, as we say on Beyond the Crucible, you have a choice. You can hide under the covers, be angry and bitter. In your case, who would’ve been very understandable to be angry at God. The perennial conversation that I think most people, if they’re honest, even people of faith have, “How could a loving God allow my son to be taken away?”

 

Tom McGehee:

Yeah.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

“Couldn’t He have done a miracle? Healed his heart, changed his ways?” And there’s no good answer to that. Other than, it’s easy to say, “Well, God’s sovereign will.” That doesn’t really cut it when you’re in the midst of agony. I mean, I get the theology, but it’s tough. And then, being passed over in promotion when you want to make your parents, your dad proud. It’s like, “I thought I was going to be,” because I think you’ve said earlier, “in the military for my whole life. What is the deal here? I thought I was doing everything right. I mean, what did I go wrong? Maybe I don’t know enough people in the right places? Or I don’t know, maybe I needed to politic more?” Or, who knows? Everything’s different.

And I love the other phrase you used, about when you’re in hell just keep going to get through it. We did a series recently, last fall, on loss. And a number of folks who lost spouses, and just really challenging circumstances. They didn’t use these words, but they all said pretty much, “You head into the storm, you head right for it.” They all said that, and they had very different backgrounds. And I’ve thought a lot about that, and that’s really another way of saying what you said. And I like just the phrase that you used about your family. I haven’t experienced what you’ve experienced, but I can imagine as best as one can, either that would tear your family apart and tear your faith apart, or it brings them together and gets your faith to a stronger place.

And certainly for me, being a believer, I don’t know, 40 years I guess last year. And when I lost the company in 1990, either that destroys your faith or brings you closure. And for me, I just clung to it closely, like a man on a ship in a raging storm, just clinging to the mast. And it drove me closer to Jesus, drove me closer to the Lord. So it’s just fascinating, that choice. You made choices in both those instances, that you were not going to let it define you or destroy you, neither you or your family. Is that fair, Tom?

 

Tom McGehee:

It really is, and it is a choice. Part of the story, I’ll try to keep it short. The night my son was killed, I had just landed in Orange County, and I couldn’t get home that night when my wife called me to tell me. So I’m in the hotel room by myself, and I hang up the phone after talking to everybody, nothing I can do but wait for the plane in the morning. And as clear as I’ve ever heard God speak, I heard him say, “Tom, do you believe what you say you believe? Because if you do, you need to see this differently.” And that was kind of the defining, it put it into a perspective of, “Okay, is my faith real? Do I believe in this God, like Job that says, ‘Even if he slays me, I will praise Him?'” And so, hung onto that.

Part of the story, I think I actually have it right here, is my son’s journal that a daughter had sent him. One of my daughters had sent him, and when he died, the verse we put on his memorial, little handout for the memorial service is John 11, I think it’s 23 and 24 that says, “He who believes in me will never die, and even if he dies, yet shall he live.” And we put it on there, and about three months later we got his effects back, and this journal was in it. And the last entry he had written was that exact same verse. And to me, that was really like… And this is, I’ll tell people, if you’re in the middle of the junk, you got to look for God to do… You got to look for the miracles.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

As I think about it Jim, your story is very different, but yet it’s challenging in a different way. As you say, like the frog boiling, it’s not like there’s one event. But if you believe in spiritual warfare, which would be a whole nother discussion, in some ways a smart play is not to hit you over the head with a two by four, but kind of just slowly and slowly bore you, until your faith and life is in the direction that you don’t want. That is an effective strategy, and I’m sure you’ve known many people at Halftime, and others.

 

Jim Stollberg:

Yep.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So just talk about, you first wanted to go to college, you wanted to make something of yourself, you’re successful, you’re doing great. And I’m sure people are proud of you, as they should be. But just talk about, there’s an insidious nature to your crucible that’s subtle. And I’m sure it’s pretty difficult to realize you’re actually in one…

 

Jim Stollberg:

So true.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

… because life is going pretty good. You’re doing well, making money. People are saying, “Jim, this is great. You’re doing better than anybody in your family. Good on you,” as we say in Australia.

 

Jim Stollberg:

So true.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So how do you talk about that different kind of crucible you went through, and what you learned.

 

Jim Stollberg:

Yeah, thank you. It’s real perceptive, because that’s how I feel. I think that slow boil, I found myself in a situation where, it was something I created selfishly. I can look back on it now and go, “That whole path of success was really all about me.” In fact, I had created this persona of who I was, that I had to live up to. Not only for my family, but for those who know me, all my friends and so forth.

So I was thinking, “I started just chasing the American dream,” which I did. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I think, but the American dream sort of became all consuming. And I got to the point when I was 50, I think that’s about the time when it peaked, some would say maybe that’s the midlife crisis. I don’t know. There’s a lot of events that happened when I turned 50. And I was in a pretty miserable spot. So if you knew me from the outside, and you looked at me, you would think it was all great. But on the inside, I was miserable. I didn’t have the joy that you should have in life, because I was waking up every day consumed by work, and what I had gotten myself into. And I had no idea how to get off the treadmill.

And I think, we do this exercise, and of course I wasn’t smart enough at the time, but I’m better equipped now. If you said, “Hey, list the things in order of what’s really priceless to you in your life.” And I know, today, that list would be the same as it was back then. It would be my faith, it would be my family, it would be my friends. Somewhere four or five would probably be my job, my career. But if I weighed that against where I was spending my time, all my time and literally consumption, it would’ve been work, work, work.

And what that forced me to do is, it really compartmentalized everything else. It was like, “Okay, what does a week look like? Well, I’m flying out on Sunday night, I’m working 60, 70 hours,” and I get back. And I got, “Okay, take the wife to dinner, check. Go to church on Sunday, check.” I had compartmentalized. “Oh, go to the kids’ baseball game or dance recital, check.” I’m getting those things in. But I was literally living out of balance with who I said I was, or who I wanted to be. And I didn’t realize it at the time, it was just this… My life was being, I would describe it as, I was being fed, my ego, my pocketbook were being fed by the career, but it was robbing me of my soul. Because I had nothing left, it was taking all my energy.

And it took an event really to get me off of that, because I don’t know how I could have unwound it. I was so wrapped up in my own success, and my persona of success, I didn’t see a way to step out of it without something happening to me.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Hey Warwick, I want to jump in here because there’s something that’s going on with what Jim and Tom have just described, and in conversations I’ve had with them prior to our recording. And both of you have said, maybe on this episode not in so many words, but you’ve said it in other places where I’ve talked to you. That your entire identity was wrapped up in what you did, whether that was your military career, whether that was just success.

So explain as we begin to move into the next stage of this conversation, where the boat turns and you guys find your way out of the crucibles. Why is that such a dangerous, insidious thing for people to go through? To wrap up your identity… We’ve talked about it many times on the show, but to wrap up your identity in what you do, not in who you are, if you will. Not in what is inside you, but what’s outside you, what’s external, what you do. Why is that such a dangerous, insidious thing?

 

Jim Stollberg:

I think because it’s a false narrative. Go back to my faith. I know what the real truth is, and I was creating something that was different than the truth, and then trying to live into it. And I think, even if it’s something like my story where so much of my identity was wrapped up into my career, most of us end a career. Then what? And one of the things that we deal with quite a bit with Halftimers is people like me, who have dedicated so much of their lives to some professional achievement. And when that ends, many don’t expect it, like I didn’t anticipate it. Their whole identity is different. And to keep that identity wrapped up in that, it comes at a price. I mean, we only have so much time in a day. We only have so many days in a year. You can easily get out of balance.

I mean, if you would have asked me, “How was your faith?” I would’ve described myself back then as Christian, but I look back now, and I was a convenient Christian. I mean, God doesn’t want my leftovers. I gave him my leftovers, because that’s all I had left to give. It’s easier for me to look back, having processed through that, and I’m living a more balanced life and recognizing that there’s so much more, it’s easier for me to understand how to prioritize what I do and where I can sacrifice. But creating that false person, that Jim’s success, is a hard thing to live up to. By the way, the world loves it. This world, they want people like that, because that is the American dream. And it’s like, “Hey great, we’ll throw in another title, and we’ll give you some more money.” And it becomes addictive.

I would admit, I had a success addiction. And to the point where, it’s ironic that I’m on a show speaking of crucibles, because I think I was so far wired around being successful, I had a fear of failure. And so, a lot of what guided my decision-making was a fear of failure. I was never fired from a job. I don’t know what that would’ve done to me, that would’ve been a huge failure. So I would navigate in such a way that I would avoid failure, or a crucible, because I was afraid what that was going to do to my identity. It would break the persona.

 

Tom McGehee:

When your identity is outward facing, instead of inward looking, it can lead to all sorts of problems. Having served in the military, I’ll carry that the rest of my life, and there’s a pride of that. So when you are that, then you think that’s who you are. It’s different, I think, even when you get in the marketplace as a businessman, because suddenly who you are is defined even more by what you do. What do you have? What do you drive? Where do you live? One of your identities, like my being a Marine, it’s a little different. But in my case, could be taken away, because you move out of that.

The other one though, you try to hang onto it so much, by your own performance. And I think that’s the real danger of an outward facing identity is you’re always trying to say, “Okay, I’ve got to earn this, or I’ve got to do more. I’ve somehow got to make my identity better in the eyes of someone else,” rather than looking internally and saying, “I’ve got to make my identity more pure, or real.”

 

Jim Stollberg:

Even coming into Halftime, I had sort of a false expectation that Halftime was just going to help me figure out what to go do next. But it would be significant, not selfish. So one of the things that we do, we work on, is helping you build a personal mission statement. And a personal mission statement is phenomenal, it gives you clarity around who are you called, how are you called to do things in life, to be more significant?

But one of the other things we do that I think gives balance to that, because quite often, a mission can be a lot like success. Living a life of success, insignificance can look a lot the same. We try to compliment that with a being statement, which is, “Who you are really called to be?” And when I think of that, that’s way beyond just what I go do. It’s who am I, as a husband, as a father, as a friend? So really getting clarity on who we’re called to be is really important.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

What you just said is so important, and I want to transition really, to what you guys now do as co chief executives of Halftime, and how you got there. And it started by a famous founder, Bob Buford, and you try to, as all organizations need to evolve and grow, and want to hear more about that.

But just the whole issue of identity for me, as listeners know, is being a Fairfax, and this 150 year old family media business that had as about as much power and money as you could want, but it also had respect. Now, from the world’s perspective, what more is there? Power, money and respect. That’s the trifecta. You’ve got it all. The community, whether it’s left, right, whoever it is, everybody respected the Fairfax family as people that were really producing quality newspapers that were serving the nation of Australia. You had respect, honor, admiration, money, power. We had it all. So yeah, there was a lot of identity wrapped up in that.

But I remember when my father left as chairman of the company, that sounds kind of biblical, was thrown out by some other family members. Invitations dried up to embassy functions and big functions. It’s like, “Well, you were invited based on your title, not who you are.” That’s sobering when they say, “Jim, Tom, you were invited to this, we’d actually like you not to come, because we didn’t invite you as a person.” It’s not personal, but it seems extremely personal at the time.

So, I want to make sure we get into what you guys do now, so talk about Halftime, how it’s evolving. But how you got there and what you guys’ collective vision is, moving forward. Because it’s tough to take on the reins of an organization that has a lot of respect, and a lot of success, and say, “We love Halftime, but we want to kind of evolve it a bit.” It’s like, “Say what?”

 

Jim Stollberg:

Yeah. Oh yeah.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

“You’re desecrating the sacred cow. What would Bob Buford think?” And obviously he’s, love his book, but he passed a number of years ago. So just talk about how you got there, and what your vision is so to speak, for Halftime.

 

Tom McGehee:

I think one of the things that’s made this really a great balance with Jim and I is, I knew Bob. I was able to, he was there for me because his son had… He’d lost his son. He was there for me, when that happened. He was there to help me mentor starting my own company, working. He was the conduit for which my company was able to spend time working with nonprofits and churches, as well as Fortune 100 companies. And I knew him well. I actually designed the very first Halftime sessions, 20 years ago, for him. So I’ve got a history of knowing Halftime, working with him and then being around him all this time.

Jim comes in through the Fellows Program, with really fresh eyes. And so it’s really been a nice blend, as we’ve looked at who were we, who are we and who do we want to be? And when we took the job, we started, both of us, they had called me back into the sphere to help create a new global strategy. Jim was on the board and became part of the design team, and we were working together on this strategy. And one of the things we said was, and we were given the permission, we said, “We’re going to question everything. Including the idea of, ‘Has Halftime run its course?’ It’s 25 years, maybe it’s not supposed to be a full-on ministry, anymore. That’s an option.” So as you pray through that, and you look at things, it’s become a very… There are an awful lot of ministries that do similar things, now. Back when Bob wrote the book, he was pretty much the pioneer in this area.

So we really had to take a look at where are we now and where do we want to go? And I do remember, I got a call from Linda Buford, Bob’s widow. And I’ve known her for a while, but I really appreciated… She called me and said, “Hey, I understand you’re looking at a lot of things. And even if you had to change the name, and it was no longer Halftime, Bob would be okay with that because you need to do what you think is best, to carry this on.” And I was like, “Wow.” That was just… I mean, there’s a brand there, we haven’t changed it. We’re going to hold onto that. But how do you take something that, it’s got some baggage to it but it is really well known, and how do we build on that? And we’ve tried to do it, but we had a board of directors and stuff that gave us the option to look at all of that, which let us think out wide, and then come back to what we thought was a balanced approach for the future.

 

Jim Stollberg:

And as Tom said, unfortunately I never had the chance to meet Bob, although I think I really feel like I know Bob, just from being around so many people whose lives have been influenced by him. But I came to the table with very fresh eyes, when I finished the Fellows Program in 2020, it was February 2020, the mentor who originally gave me the book years and years ago, prior to that, was on the board and asked me to join the board. And I thought, we have this term we call low-cost probes. You don’t have to over commit, but test things out. And I thought, “Joining the Halftime board would be a great low-cost probe.” It didn’t end up staying that way, but it was an opportunity for me, I think to give… At the time my perspective was, how could I give back to Halftime? Because I’d had such a phenomenal experience.

As I said in my bio, it was transformational for me. And I know we’ve transformed thousands of people’s lives, but I also felt like there was more. That there were some things, like for example, when our program ended. It was February of ’20. It just ended. It was like, we were all together, I had a great cohort. There was about a dozen of us, and we just had an incredible experience together. And then it ended. And I thought, “Well, why does it have to end? Why not, if our lives are really transformed and changed,” I realized I joined a program, but in the essence, I really came to realize I joined this journey that’s never going to end for the rest of my life. And for me, what really touched me was, how can we help serve the journey? Warwick, you mentioned Ephesians 2:10, that’s been our foundational scripture of helping people find their calling, which we do an incredible job at.

But what we felt we were called to do is, how do you help them, not just find it but live it out? And living it out means community, and more connections, and living intentionally. And so that’s the big change from, “Hey, just come and do a program and then go forth and prosper.” Really, really be engaged, and stay in this community, around the world.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

That’s so well said, Jim. I know one of the things you’ve done with the rebranding is, the old one was, From Success to Significance. The first half of your life is for success…

 

Jim Stollberg:

Exactly.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Second half of your life, which… What does that mean? 40s, 50s, you retire. “Gee, I’ve got money and flexibility. I really want to use it for the Lord now.” And I remember thinking, in all honesty, there was something about that just, “Eh…” I’ve read the book many years ago, and I thought, “Eh…” I try not to be judgmental, there was something about it that’s like, who am I to judge? But I feel like you’ve kind of, because then what do you do if you’re a 20, 30-something, that you want to seek God’s purpose in your lives? So talk about-

 

Jim Stollberg:

You do what I did, you put the book on the shelf, and you pull it out 20 years later. That’s what I did.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So talk about that. And I love what you said, Tom, about what Linda Buford said, who was so gracious. Obviously, I think you saw some of that. So talk about what the mission is now, and how you made that transition without people saying… Because there had to have been a few people that are saying, “Hang on, I don’t think Bob would’ve liked this.” And really, Tom could’ve said, “Well, I’ve known him for decades. I think he would have.” But I don’t know getting in arguments won’t get you there, but talk about that transition. Because you’re not trying to make Bob Buford wrong, but yet you’re also trying to encompass people who were younger than 60 or 50, to be direct. You want to cover everybody.

So how did you make that transition, and how would you define who you are now, versus who you were there? It had to be difficult. Anytime you try and make a transition from a famous founder, that’s not easy to do well, without antagonizing a lot of people.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I know that well, from my own professional experience.

 

Tom McGehee:

I think, one of the things when we had those conversations, is to separate the essence from the way it’s presented. So the essence of Bob Buford, when he started, and I got to see it. Before there was a Halftime ministry, there was Bob Buford who wrote a book. It touched people’s lives, and they flew into see him, and he didn’t want anything from you. And so he didn’t charge you anything, he was just helping you go do what you do, and it was a movement that was created. And so part of what we thought about is, over the years, because now it’s got to be self-sustaining, that it had withdrawn from being a movement into being a program. That we could sell, and measure numbers, and things like that. So part of it we felt was, we were actually trying to get back to what it was that Bob started, which was more of a movement.

At least, that was the spin we put on it, because that’s what we believe. That we really want to reach out. And so when we rebranded the Halftime logo was the word half, and then it had a line, and then it had the word time. If you look at it now, it’s just one word, because we wanted to get rid of the first half, second half, sort of success and significance. And talk about a Halftime, like in sports, is just a moment when you say, “You know what? I should take a pause here, and decide where am I, and what is it I feel called to do?” And then get back in the game.

And that’s kind of how we’ve tried to position it, so we started in addition to Halftime, building off the programs and the ways we help people do that, we’ve created a thing called Thousandfold. And we describe Thousandfold as a global impact community inspired by Halftime, because we didn’t want it to be Halftime alumni. We didn’t want it to be something we owned. We wanted it to be something that could potentially be a conduit to connect to all sorts of things happening out there, to give its members access to other members and resources and ideas, to help them do whatever God’s calling them to do. So we hope we’re leveraging both, and we’re kind of getting back to what it was, but still holding onto the essence of who we are. And trying to apply it in a way that is applicable, to your point, to somebody who… It’s not just Bob’s story, Success to Significance was Bob’s story. Built a company, sold it, went and did this.

Especially today, there are an awful lot of people, I suppose younger people in the market, who they want to be successful and significant at the same time. They want to know their business has worth. So we want to help them say, “Okay, do you stay where you are, and do something differently? Are you being called to something different?” We want to be in those conversations, not, “Once you’re done, give us a call. Before you move to Florida and take up the country club, give us a call, we can help you out.” We really want to move out of that space.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Well said. Jim, what’s your take?

 

Jim Stollberg:

And I would just add, I think the response has been real positive. So we wanted to make sure that we would honor the legacy of what Bob created with Halftime, and again, it’s got great brand equity. And our friends at Signal helped us to understand that. So how could we build on it? But also maybe reposition it, as Tom said. It’s not just a one-and-done. You get one shot at Halftime, when it’s Success to Significance. What if we think of it as a pause, of when you can take some time to process things. You could have multiple halftimes in your life, depending upon different events.

But then, have this constant of Thousandfold, of this community that surrounds you, that’s of like-mindedness. That can help you accelerate, help you deal with whatever you need to deal with on the ongoing journey, not just in a one-year program. And so that branding was something that we really wanted to make a bigger tent, because we think it has potential to be bigger than just Halftime.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I love what you’re saying about the way that you’ve defined Halftime, it’s not like it’s cut in two. But it’s funny, I tell everybody who’s a guest on the show in describing how Warwick and I interact as host and co-host. If we were a sports commentating team, he’s the play-by-play announcer. I’m the color commentator.

Let’s go into a sports context with you guys, and Halftime. How many times do we hear during the broadcast of a game, about halftime adjustments? That’s what half time is for in football, that’s what half times for in basketball. The coach is making adjustments. What maybe could have gone better in the first half? How are we going to change it to make it go better in the second half? So I think that is something I think people can get their arms and their minds around, hopefully, pretty easily.

 

Jim Stollberg:

And there’s also timeouts. So think about when you’re calling a timeout, when something’s not going right, what do you? You call a timeout, and you process it. And I think in the essence of what Halftime does, we can help serve in those timeouts, as well. It doesn’t have to be just the halftime of life.

 

Tom McGehee:

So one other example, in September we published a book, Women at Halftime, that was written by two of our women coaches. And if you think about a woman, a lot of our Halftime experience, programs and stuff, have been aimed at men and women who really have led a corporate kind of track, a business track. Well, in this case, what about the woman who started down that track and then maybe she decided to stay home for a while? Raise the kids, or something, and now she wants to get back engaged. Or maybe she worked on something, and… The point is, she’s taken a different track sometimes but is still in the place of saying, “I’d really like to find out who I am.”

My wife is going through this now. “Who am I, outside of being a mom, a grandmother and a wife?” And it’s like, “Okay, how can we serve that person, just as well as we can serve people who are right in the middle of doing what they’re doing, but they don’t want to wait to do something significant until they’re older. We’ve got 25 years of experience, can we figure out how to package it, where we can make it available to help people where they are, when they need it?” That’s our intent.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I love what you’re saying, Tom and Jim, just your courage to help Halftime evolve. Obviously, I’ve never met Bob Buford, but I’d like to think he would say, “What you’re doing is making my vision relevant to this generation, and to more people.”

And obviously you would be in a better position, especially Tom, to know that. And I love that concept of pause, because you could be 18, 25, 35, 45, and you hit moments in time. A young person might say, “Well, my dad was a lawyer, I’m in law school. But I don’t know that I really want to be a lawyer. Maybe I like sculpting, or something.”

 

Jim Stollberg:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And it’s like you’ve come to a bit of a mini crucible. “Do I disappoint my parents? Do I keep going?” So you can hit pauses at any stage of life.

 

Jim Stollberg:

So true.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And just helping people realize, living a life of significance, and from a Halftime perspective and mine, living a life in line with God’s purpose. That’s a conversation that can never happen too soon. The earlier, the better.

 

Jim Stollberg:

I love that. And for me, it’s personal. I think, based on my own personal experience, what I described to you. Two things. One is, if I can help others, this is why I’m here. If I can help others process and transition through what I went through, that’s a gift for me. But second is, if I can avoid someone doing what I did, who read the book at 25 or 30, whatever it was, and then ignored it. And to help those people. I’m working with my son right now who’s turning 25 this year, on the classic, “Don’t do what your dad did.”

 

Tom McGehee:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I’m sure you look back and think, “Gosh Jim, if somebody had come to you when you were 35,” somebody that you respect, it would’ve had to have been. And said, “Look, you’re successful. The sky’s the limit, but you can be successful, and maybe have purpose, significance. Let’s talk about that.” That would’ve been a wonderful gift, if you’d met somebody at 35 rather than 50, or whenever. And you’re trying to help people in that stage…

 

Jim Stollberg:

Correct.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

In addition to the whole pause, which can happen at any time in life, I love what you both saying, Tom and Jim, about the whole concept of community. Amongst other things I’m a certified international coach, federation executive coach, and coaching is really about an ongoing engagement, in a sense. Studies show you can be trained at some great training, and corporations spend millions of dollars, but typically it only lasts a few weeks. And then the knowledge fades, and you go back to how you typically operate. So it’s not a good investment.

Companies are evolving now into a model of training and coaching, that’s more today’s corporate America, at least in the best areas. In a sense you’re doing that, in that you provide great training, but with this whole engagement and Thousandfold model, it’s like, “Okay, I understand I want to live a life of significance. I want to live a life on purpose. What’s God’s purpose? And this has come up, and should I leave or not leave? Because maybe this is God’s plan, maybe it’s not God’s plan.” And what do you do, in the day-to-day trenches, so to speak? That’s where that community can make all the difference to taking peoples’ …

 

Jim Stollberg:

Completely.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

… life to a whole other level. So this is, I don’t know Bob Buford, but I would’ve thought he would say, “This is awesome,” right?

 

Jim Stollberg:

Yeah.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I guess you probably can’t help but ask that question. But does that make sense, both of you?

 

Jim Stollberg:

Absolutely. Trying to discern that on your own? I can’t imagine trying to go through this on my own. There’s just no way I would’ve ever been capable of figuring that out. And my cohort as an example, was so helpful I think, to each other. We helped each other, and we still do, to this day. Helping you think through some things, and process it, because you’re not alone. So yes, the coaching is really a core element, as well as some of the content. But the cohort, really you’re surrounding yourself with a peer advisory group, if you think about it that way. And, who have no vested interest other than your interest, which is a really beautiful thing.

 

Tom McGehee:

And along those lines, I was thinking from the crucible idea, I think a lot of time even churches or ministries paint this idea that somehow if you get into that kind of work, your life somehow will be grand, and you’re not going to have any problems. And I mean, crucibles come up all over the place, and you’ve got to work through them.

The community idea, we had a Thousandfold call, I think it was Wednesday morning I was on it, and one the guys on there was talking about he lives up in Ohio. And he’s still doing low cost probes, he’s not sure what’s next. That afternoon, I got a call from a former Halftimer who said, “Hey, we’re looking for an executive director for a ministry in Ohio. Do you know anybody that might…” And I’m like, “I don’t know if this is meant to be or not, but when I meet this guy in the morning and you call me in the afternoon, I’m going to at least put you guys together and let you talk about it.”

And what we want to enable are those kind of interactions, all over the place. And that’s the hope. Because you can be out there, if you’re on a journey to really discover who you are and what you would be at your best, and how you could be most fulfilled. If you’re not careful, that can be a lonely journey. You start to turn too much inward. And the hope here is that we can connect you to others on the same journey to help you do it in community, because we’re relational beings. I think it’s the way it should be done.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

This is the time in the show where I normally say, “That sound you heard is the captain turning on the fasten seatbelt sign, the plane’s going to land.” But come on, we’ve been talking about Halftime all the time. We’ve been making sports metaphors. So I’m going to say, the time has arrived, and I’m going to say this because I have a fellow Packer fan in this call with me, in Jim. I’m going to say, it’s the fourth quarter and the two-minute warning has just come upon us.

At this time as we take a break, as we take a little bit of a timeout here, I would be remiss, guys, if I didn’t give you the opportunity to let people know how they can get in touch with you and some of the things that you offer. And also, to ask you this question, as you tell people how they can find you. What would you say is the question, as people hear this, as our listeners hear this. What question that fires in their mind is one that you can help with? If they’re getting that question, they’re hearing this stuff, it’s stirring some things up in their spirit about what they should do next. So let people know how they can find you, and what are some of the things they might be thinking that you can help them with?

 

Jim Stollberg:

Well, so the easiest way to find us would be, you can go to Halftime.org or thousandfold.org, and they’ll cross-reference each other. But it’s got quite a bit of information out there about what we do and what we can provide, and how you can get in contact with someone.

Regarding the question, we often refer to this sense of smoldering discontent, which goes back to the book, when Bob wrote it. So if you’re feeling… It’s funny, I have this story, this guy that we went to it and did a session with. And he said, “I don’t really identify with smoldering discontent, but I got this feeling like God has something more for me. And I’m not quite sure what it is, and I need to figure that out.” And I said, “You just defined smoldering discontent, so you did get it.”

So I think it’s that, it’s an inner feeling, it’s an inner sense that things just aren’t aligned. That maybe there’s something more, or something different from where I’m at today. And that is probably the big, broad theme of what we help people think through and process through, in Halftime. And it’s very powerful, and it’s a very intentional process, and we give people permission and the tools and the surrounding, with other people, to process that.

 

Tom McGehee:

Maybe the only thing I’d add is, one of the things that we now talk about, and we’ve been talking about it for years, we’ve kind of honed in on the ideas. We like to work with people to help them get clear, get free and get going. And I think if, again, the smoldering discontent. “I want to get clear on who I am, and what I’m told to do. I want to get free of the things that are stopping me from doing that. And then I want to get going, and I want to get about it.” And with Thousandfold and Halftime, both, we think we’ve got a full ability to support that.

And one of the things we’ve learned is that sequence is really important. If you try to get going first, you kind of trade one treadmill for the other. You can run a ministry or nonprofit and work more hours than you did when you were in the corporate world. Or if you try to get free first, it seems like you just never do. “I need a little bit more, I need something. But boy, I’m going to do it.” But if you get clear, then it becomes something you can’t not do that. There’s an old French poet Bob used to quote that said, something about, “Your destiny will follow you like an accusing shadow.” If you come in touch with what you think your destiny is, you can’t not do it. I feel called to that, and I think we’re fairly uniquely positioned to help you think through that and move forward, and it’s certainly our heartbeat to help men and women do that.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Just as we end, there might be a businessman or woman that could be anywhere from 20s to 50s to 60s, and maybe they’re successful, they’ve got good grades, life is good. Maybe they’ve had some speed bumps, but they’re just… Maybe they don’t even have time to think. What would a word of hope, or maybe a word that would actually stop them in their tracks and make them think a bit? So that they’re not coming to you at 85, and they’re on their deathbed and, “Gosh, what do I do now?” That’s not your target market, people at that point. I mean, you’ll do whatever you can, but you want to hit them a bit earlier than 85, I’m guessing. So, not judging here, but what would a word of hope or a word that maybe would stop people in their tracks, so that they would think about life and Halftime and God’s purpose?

 

Jim Stollberg:

That’s a great question. The thing that comes to mind, for me, is intentional. If you feel that smoldering discontent, you have to be intentional about following up on it. My personal lesson learned is, I was really good at suppressing that and just filling my time, continuing on that treadmill. And it wasn’t until I was intentional about a freedom of jumping off that treadmill, that things changed. And now I look back at it and say, “Why did I wait so long?” I got over the regret of, “Boy, if I’d had done this 15, 20 years ago, it could have changed my path.” But you can’t get hung up on that. But I would really want to encourage people of, there’s no time like the present to start, because there will never be the perfect time to do it.

 

Tom McGehee:

Yeah. Bob interviewed me a number of years ago for a book he was writing, and in my quote, I had forgotten it until now. As I said, “There’s the risk you can’t afford to take, and there’s the risk you can’t afford not to take.” And if you’re in your 20s, and you’ve got little kids in diapers, you’re probably full-on. It’s hard to think of more, but that season, you will move on from that. And if you just keep putting it off that, like I said, “When I get to this stage, I’m going to think of something more about me, or more about what I’m called to do,” rarely does that come.

I love Jim’s word on intentionality. There are things you can intentionally… You can begin reading books now, about who are you, and what do you think you’re called to be? If you can’t do anything else about it, there are ways you can start to be intentional at any stage of your life, to live this life of something that’s significant, something that’s really fulfilling and gives you the abundance that you were created for.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

That sound you heard, listener, was the final buzzer indicating that our conversation with Jim and Tom has come to its very rich and very robust conclusion. Until the next time that we are together, we ask that you remember the principles that you heard in this conversation, and that is, we understand for sure that your crucible experiences are difficult. They hurt, they can linger after you’ve gone through them. But if you learn the lessons of them, if you keep, as Warwick says often now, keep going toward the battle, keep going toward the storm. If you keep doing that, one foot in front of the other, baby steps, keep doing that. That is not the end of your story, that crucible. In fact, it can be the beginning, the launching point, dare we say Halftime, a pause, as you move forward. Because what ends up happening, if you follow that path, is you will reach the best story of your life. Because where it ends, is at a life of significance.

If you enjoyed this episode, learned something from it, we invite you to engage more deeply with those of us at Beyond The Crucible. Visit our website beyondthecrucible.com to explore a plethora of offerings to help you transform what’s been broken, into breakthrough. A great place to start, our free online assessment, which will help you pinpoint where you are on your journey beyond your crucible, and to chart a course forward.

See you next week.