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Erica Galindo
Celebrating Food, Faith and Family
Last edited on: June 30, 2017.

“Most of us start our careers hoping to change the world. Then, one day we wake up and our world is about security, admiration, and personal happiness. Those early dreams are compost, and our lives are in a rut.”

CEO of the Halftime Institute, Dean Niewolny’s new book Trade-Up: How to Move From Just Making Money to Making a Difference, takes readers behind the doors at Halftime Institute to explain, to anyone, how to move from just making money to making a difference. Niewolny spent more than 20 years in executive roles with three of Wall Street’s largest financial firms. He finished his career in the financial sector as market manager for Wells Fargo Advisors in Chicago, where he oversaw a $100 million market.

In 2010, Dean traded his marketplace career to become Managing Director, and then CEO in 2011 for Halftime Institute to help more people who – like himself – wanted to expand their own “first half” success and skills into passion and purpose for meeting human needs and making a significant difference. Halftime Institute is the international organization founded by Bob Buford to help marketplace leaders go “from success to significance.”

Many American workers, 60-80%, have no sense of purpose. However, HBR, Fast Company, the NYT, and other publications report that higher purpose is what makes companies thrive and excel.  So how does one find his or her purpose in life?

At Halftime Institute in Dallas, business leaders from around the world each determine their personal purpose and how to use it to help humanity. The results are amazing. Halftime alumni include the following: Rich Stearns (CEO World Vision), Ken and Margie Blanchard (authors, speakers, management experts), Steve Reinemund (PepsiCo), Clark Hunt (Kansas City Chiefs), Mike Zafirovski (GE, Motorola, Nortel), Bob Davis (USAA), Senator Dan Coats (Indiana), Edgar Sandoval (COO World Vision), and Peter Greer (Pres Hope International).

Dean Niewolny, CEO of Halftime Institute. Dean Niewolny and Halftime Institute

Dean Niewolny, CEO of Halftime Institute. Photo Courtesy of Dean Niewolny

Sonoma Christian Home sat down with Dean Niewolny to learn more about his new book, and how God’s people can shift from just making a living to making a life of significance. SCH Editor At Large Dr. Diane Howard reports.

Sonoma Christian Home: What does the title Trade Up mean?

Dean Niewolny: After 23 years in the financial world, in 2006, I experienced a “smoldering season of discontent” that led me to “trade up” to God’s economy to work towards “storing up treasure in heaven” rather than “treasure on earth.” At that time, I went to a woman’s funeral that was attended by about 1,000 people. When I asked why so many were there, I was told that they were there because she had built into the lives of these people. That event created in me a desire to do the same.

SCH: What does Halftime mean and what is a Halftime Huddle?

DN: Also, during that “smoldering season of discontent” I was invited to join a Bible study to go through the book Halftime in what was described as a Halftime Huddle. That study lasted two years.

SCH: You first heard Bob Buford say that service to God comes out of who we are naturally. What does that mean to you now?

DN: We don’t need to re-manufacture ourselves. God has already wired us. We can be at ease knowing that God has gifted us for His purpose. After training at Halftime Institute, 70% stay where they are with new significance.

SCH: How would you define “recasting business skills for human service”?

DN: We can take our skill set and repackage it. This process involves discovering what we are passionate about, determining our spiritual gifts, working on personal mission statements, finding support groups, gaining mentors, having a personal board of directors, and most of all, taking times of solitude with our Lord.

SCH: What do you mean by the statement that “serving God is more than staying in business or going to seminary”?

DN: There are many ways to serve God. Usually, our ministries are right in front of us.   

SCH: Can you give us a brief overview of the process of moving from success to significance?

DN: It does not happen overnight. Times of “smoldering discontent” can nudge us to assess our lives and move us towards lives with more significance. Pausing to consider how to finish the game can lead us to fuller, richer work and lives.

SCH:  What are low-cost probes?

DN: We can start to move from success to significance with “low-cost probes” to explore possibilities.

SCH: Would you share with us examples of how your alumni have applied what they have learned at your institute?

DN: Graham Power of Capetown, South Africa in 1988 applied Ephesians 2:10 (For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life…) to begin Prayer for Africa which led to the Day of Prayer with 300 million praying. Sandy Griffith began going to hospitals to rock the babies of drug addicted mothers. Her service has had a significant impact on doctors and nurses who care for these babies. The significance of our work will not always be grandiose but it will always be valuable.

Cover of Dean Niewolny's new book 'Trade Up' Dean Niewolny and Halftime Institute

Cover of Dean Niewolny’s new book ‘Trade Up.’ Photo Courtesy of Baker Publishing Group.

Dean Niewolny says in Trade-Up: How to Move From Just Making Money to Making a Difference, By no means does God’s purpose for you mean leaving your job. Mike Ullman, CEO of JCPenney, was called to serve people as he rebuilt a company. Scott Boyer stayed in pharmaceuticals, building a business to help fund essential medicines to the rest of the world. Whether your current work becomes your mission or you move into one, the joy is in knowing God made you for it. …”

Here is what business and faith leaders say about Trade Up:

“Trade Up can help you move from a life of getting to one of giving.” –Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The New One Minute Manager® and Lead Like Jesus Revisited –Margie Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager Balances Life and Work

“Few things in life satisfy me more than watching high-functioning women and men use their market skills and experiences to move the purposes of God forward in this world. And very few books clarify the route from here to there. Trade Up delivers on that objective. I highly recommend it.” –Bill Hybels, founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Church

“A practical, step-by-step guide to finding your calling. A must-read.” –Diane Paddison, founder of 4word; author of Work, Love, Pray

“Dean’s story is compelling and challenging, and his message is universal: how to live a life of significance to others—really the only life worth living. And it works. The Halftime message changed my life.” –Tomas Brunegård, president of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers; former CEO of Stampen Group; chair of Leadership Network of Scandinavia

“Most of us start our careers hoping to change the world,” Niewolny writes. “One day we wake up and our world is about security, admiration and personal happiness. Those early dreams are compost, and our lives are in a rut.”

The end of career dreams, though, can also open new priorities and new possibilities. Trade Up packs stories of men and women from every age and life stage, varied careers, who inject new meaning in their current work or turn to new work with more meaning. Trade Up readers learn what those leaders learned: how to assess their current situations, know their own interests and hopes, identify next steps and move past success to fingerprint-specific significance.

Trade Up provides hope and practical help for anyone at any age seeking purpose in work.

The Halftime Solution

Bob Buford, founder of Halftime Institute, first wrote about the journey from success to significance in his 1996 book Halftime. He tells why the second half of one’s life can beat everything the person has done so far. Here are some of the reasons he says that can happen: 1. You’re more focused now. 2. You’re ready to live out your own agenda. 3. You can gain control of your life. 4. You have more resources. 5. There’s more for you. 6. Mentally and spiritually, you’re tougher. 7. You are less fearful of what you can’t do.

Dean Niewolny says, “The majority of us, however we define success, come to a time when having it for its own sake pales next to the real trophies of true direction: our effect on other lives, a chance to make a difference. And it’s never too late, or too early, to get it.”

Dean Niewolny learned that he could make money, but could he also make a difference? Dean wrote Trade-Up: How to Move From Just Making Money to Making a Difference, like Bob Buford before him, to help others find significance beyond success.

Dean says that wherever we are in our careers, if we are restless for more, we are in the right place.  Dean’s journey, and 20 years of Halftime wisdom, throws light on our journeys, too.  In Trade Up, Dean takes readers their “Halftime”—when they pause to consider how to finish the game—to a fuller, richer work and life.

Dean Niewolny says that whether we stay in our work field or enter a new one, when we learn what we are made to do, everything changes. He says that we belong to something far greater than ourselves and that we have a significant place in that great plan. In his book, Dean tells a story about how Don Stephens found significance when he founded Mercy Ships—a state-of-the-art hospital on water that brings surgery and healing to “the forgotten poor.” Don found the courage to build Mercy Ships after Mother Teresa asked him three questions: “Why were you born? What is the pain in your life? What are you doing about it?”

Dean says that if we need something more, we can learn now how to discover it. See more about the Halftime Institute’s process of discovery on Halftime Institute.

Dean, who lives in Texas with his family, speaks at events around the world, encouraging business leaders to channel first-half achievement into a second half defined by joy, impact, and balance. His book, Trade-Up: How to Move From Just Making Money to Making a Difference, is available from Baker Publishing Group.



To learn more about this author, please visit Dr. Diane Howard


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