You’re in the Second Half.
You might want to stay-up on Friday night, so you can feel it: you’ll be finishing the first half of 2017, and all of your plans for this never-again year will be re-evaluated by your current status. If your objectives have been achieved – or, are within sight – you might throttle-back and relish your good fortune. If headwinds have slowed your progress, it might be time to double-down and pick up the pace.
If strategic assessment at the halfway point makes sense in a calendar year, it’s no wonder that the same evaluation can become a preoccupation in the mid-section of life.
Almost 25 years ago, I was presenting at a conference for high-capacity Christian couples organized by my friend, Bob Buford. My talk – a TED-styled address, before TED – was titled, “How to Win in the Second Half of Life.” When Bob and I talked later, our conversation explored that concept – that the first half and second half are often remarkably different – and potential for a halftime reset. When Bob sent me the draft of his signature book a year later – Halftime: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance – it was his thoughtful and provocative visualization of a life well lived. That book – followed by additional musings addressing this powerful concept – launched ministry initiatives led by me (The Master’s Program) and, later, by Bob (the Halftime Institute).
For some, early success can result in a midlife opt-out, choosing to enjoy the benefits achieved from first-half wins and to “retire young” – the ultimate achievement for a huge demographic. That trophy can become toxic for some who find themselves surrounded by the trappings of victory… and then feeling trapped. Success in youth is great… but, what if there’s more?
John Sculley became CEO of Pepsi-Cola at 38, and – in the next six years – made Pepsi the largest selling consumer packaged goods brand in the USA. With the average lifespan for American men born in 1939 estimated to be 86.2, halftime would be just after one’s 43rd birthday. That’s when Steve Jobs posed the question to Sculley: “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?”
Sculley left Pepsi, and became the CEO at Apple. Together with Jobs, they launched the Macintosh. The next few years brought upheaval – Jobs left, Apple stumbled, Sculley left, Jobs came back – but the motivational power of new pursuits, bold visions and managed risks were embedded in the DNA of these now-historic entrepreneurs.
Jobs is dead; Sculley is still making waves at 78. You can web-search him; you won’t find him in an assisted-living facility, under the care of institutional custodians. His most consistent title in recent years: “Co-Founder.” New ideas – new initiatives, new enterprises – continue to define his life, far beyond the vital horizon that marked the finish line for most of his contemporaries.
Sculley’s memory of his developmental days – at mid-life – is instructive: “I’d only been at Apple a few months and I was hearing Steve Jobs and Bill Gates talking about their ‘noble cause.’ I had just left one of the most competitive markets in the world (at Pepsi), and I had never heard about having a noble cause in business. For me, it was about gladiatorial competition – someone wins, someone loses. But here were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, two young guys under the age of 30, talking about their noble cause of empowering knowledge workers with tools for the mind, making them incredibly productive and helping them to change the way things were done in our world…”
It reminds me of another firebrand, who recruited a dozen mid-lifers in the 1st Century with the same kind of mind-blowing challenge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life…” (Matthew 28:19)
You can finish the first half in the lead, but the game isn’t over until the second half is finished. Are you watching your game clock tick down? Are you selling sugared water… or changing the world?