Today we’re speaking to someone who truly understands a life beyond business. As CEO of the Halftime Institute, Dean Niewolny has been empowering people to find fulfillment in their lives outside of work.
Dean has lived through his very own crisis too. Having spent 23 years in senior exec roles across Wall Street, he can remember staring out of the window one day and wondering what it all meant. That feeling of emptiness persuaded him to sign up to the Halftime Institute as a client, and it wasn’t long before he was given the opportunity to cross over to the other side and become a member of their senior management team.
What a meaningful conversation we had – it’s well worth a listen – but if you’re pushed for time, read on for the summary of the show…
What does the Halftime Institute stand for?
Based on Bob Buford’s book, ‘Halftime: Moving From Success To Significance’, the institute offers guidance to people like Dean who find themselves at a crossroads in their career/life. As the title of the book says it is geared towards finding ‘significance’ rather than the endless pursuit of ‘success’.
People find themselves working with The Halftime Institute after they experience what Neil called “smoldering discontent”… They have achieved success in today’s terms but still feel like something is missing. They are on a search to find more meaning in life.
What does ‘halftime’ mean?
The concept of halftime started when Bob Buford woke up and had a “success panic” in the middle of the night. He had an epiphany that he was addicted to the kill and the thrill of the deal. He found himself asking, “What’s this all for? Is this it?”
Halftime is not a time of crisis but a time to reflect. It should be a catalyst for purpose, impact, and growth.
Dean has seen the definition of what halftime means change significantly during his time in the business. When he started, it normally meant the literal halfway point in somebody’s life, i.e. at 40-65 they’d look to identify significance. Now he sees people begin the quest for significance ranging from their late 20s to their 80s. It also used to be very male dominated, but now the split is only 60/40 male to female.
How do people reach the awakening?
In the case of many business owners and highly successful business people, it’s a significant event like a death in the family or an illness. In Dean’s case it was the realization he was in a state of ‘smoldering discontent’.
Can significance only be achieved outside of work?
Not at all – this is a common myth that Dean is desperate to bust. The obvious thought in many people’s minds is to throw away their career and do something conventionally worthy like open a homeless shelter, but it is distinctly possible for people to use their existing platforms to find better fulfillment. According to Dean, 70% of people who complete Halftime programs actually stay where they’re at. They simply find ways to reach significance with what they already have.
How do you find your significance?
Dean tried to do it on his own and it was a disaster. He advises you to take a pause in life, ‘figure out your strengths, passions, gifts and what makes you sad, glad and mad.’ Dean says it’s essential to have someone walk you through the journey. There are also great benefits in doing it as part of a group because sharing the journey with somebody else at the same level is a great motivating factor.
What are the main obstacles that prevent people from finding their significance
In many cases this is unfounded. Very rarely will people go through a program of change and be thrown into anything uncomfortable, but the fear of this often prevents people taking the plunge.
The above can manifest itself in others close to you. The concept of challenging the status quo can provide insecurity in the family home.
3.) Identity crisis.
At the point of thinking ‘there must be more to life than this’, there can be a conflict between who you want to be for yourself and who you think you need to be for those close to you.
Wise words for the road:
“How can we use our 8-cylinder engine to do good instead of our 4-cylinder engine?”
“People who have a lot of stuff are often the most unhappy”
“Don’t leave what you’re doing until you’ve exhausted every idea you can think of that is associated with that”
“It’s about identifying what you love to do and building margin in your life in order to go do that”
Get in contact with Dean:
Dean Niewolny spent 23 years in executive roles with three of Wall Street’s largest financial firms, finishing his career in the financial sector as market manager for Wells Fargo Advisors in Chicago, where he oversaw a $100mm market. While in Chicago, he and his wife, Lisa, traveled many times to Africa and, seeing the abject needs of widows and orphans, made life changes that enabled them to get involved, such as helping to complete an orphan home and a Hospice home in Durbin, South Africa.
In 2010, Dean traded his marketplace career for Halftime to help more people who, like him, wanted to expand their own “first half” success and skills into passion and purpose for meeting human needs and making a significant difference. Dean joined Halftime as managing director and in 2011 became chief executive officer. He speaks at events around the world, encouraging business leaders to channel first-half achievement into a second half defined by joy, impact and balance.
Having grown up playing sports—eventually in college and semi-professional baseball—Dean still enjoys coaching youth sports, especially his son’s little league teams. He and Lisa have two children and live in Southlake, Texas.
“The appetite for significance is at an all time high, yet most people have no idea where or how to identify their gifts and talent—and to connect to their passions. And that’s my love for Halftime. Nothing satisfies more than to help a man or woman say, ‘This is what God has for me to do.’” — Dean Niewolny, Halftime Institute CEO