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S2E7 Transcript: From the Marines to CEO: Tom's Inspiring Career Path and Insights for Success


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I'm a reflection or meditation to say not just who am I and not just what was I made


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for but what is it I'm called to do today? Welcome to the meaningful jobs podcast season


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2 I'm your host Adrian and today we are extremely honours to welcome Tom into the podcast how are


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you Tom? I'm great thanks for having me. Can you first of all maybe talk us through your background


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and what you're doing now? Sure so background has kind of been all over the map after university


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I spent I'm American I spent 12 years in the US Marines as an officer I got out when in the corporate


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world became a partner with Ernst and Young consulting ran then left ran my own company for


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about 12 years and I'm now the co-CEO of the Halftime Institute in Dallas. That's you know


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quite a big change from the Marine to the corporate world you know to your own business


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because I've heard a lot of stories about you know Marines or you know armies or vets who


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struggle to actually wait until I'd see officer that works so could you tell us how you manage


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such you know a smooth I don't know if it's a smooth transition but at least you made it in the end


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that's right well you know it's a continual transition I mean I'm you know I'm old enough


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now to look look back more than I look forward and and yeah I can see just kind of a path of


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continual sort of refinement on who I am and being able to do what I feel called or made to do right


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and so now I'm as excited as I've ever been every day when I wake up what I get to do and


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kind of had the same feeling in most of my career paths but but but just more and more


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figuring out who I am what I feel like again I was created to do and then coming into a place


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that allowed me to play to that more and more so it was really sort of an evolution you know it's


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definitely had its ups and downs but but it's you get to be on a good trajectory


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so how did you get into the Marines in the first place so uh my dad had been a career


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Air Force officer and I was at university I was I was familiar with the military I was at university


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I was not sure what I wanted to do I was studying to maybe be a school teacher and a friend of


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mine had gone through a program where he was able to go in after college as an officer of the Marines


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I didn't know it was an option who I realized it was and I was a pretty average student I still


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wanted challenge in my life I wanted some adventure and then it looked like a pretty good way to get


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it so yeah well it must be an adventure but you know was a good one or a bad one yeah well in my


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case it was all good I you know I made four six month deployments I missed the birth of two kids


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I was in a lot of combat units but I never saw combat I was just in during a time where there


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wasn't much fighting and you know looking back on it was really kind of protected and glad I


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didn't have to you know and so so got to do some you know meet some great people do some exciting


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things travel the world and was able to do that without getting shot at so it's not bad


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but were you stationed all over the world because I heard you can actually choose right


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yeah so I was stationed mostly on the east coast of the US in North Carolina was the main


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Marine base but we deployed to the Mediterranean for deployments to the Mediterranean so


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was was you know around the Middle East around southern Europe those trying to places


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I see I see so you know after being in the Marine for 12 years how did you get into consultancy


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because I don't think it's I don't think because I think you went to EY right but I don't think


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these big four consultancies are set yeah so so it was a path to get there so so I


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I was I was up for promotion a major and I got passed over for promotion when that happens you


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can you can stick around a year and try again but I just really felt that was kind of a leading to


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get out but I'm pretty good at strategy and putting pieces together and and Ernst and Young at the time


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was starting a new outsourcing practice and they were looking for a handful of individuals to join


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directly as partners to start this new global practice and I was fortunate enough to do one of


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those so that that got me into consulting and then from there I discovered kind of a niche around


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collaborative work and around collaborative strategy that I just really fell in love with


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and eventually then started my own company just to focus on that type of consulting right right so


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what are the challenges you would say transitioning out and over a Marine


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and yeah you know any transition is always a challenge of trying to figure out I think there's


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two big challenges the first and they kind of go hand in hand the first one is


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what is what what what what you've got with the skills the things you've done are they gonna are


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they applicable in your new role and where you're going is that going to be a value and are there


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things that you did or habits you had that you need to drop behind right that's one that's one


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decision you need to make uh the the second part then uh is to say every new every new uh new thing


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you try there's gonna be a depth yeah yeah you know and you've got to be ready for it and you have


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to in fact embrace it if you don't have some dip in performance you're not gonna grow to another


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level and so you have to just be ready to not be you know typically you're you're almost at the


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top of your game and then you start something new and it's a little scary to not be at the top of


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your game anymore because you're trying to you know like like when I started my own company it was


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very different than working for a big you know a big firm so I only those two things if you can


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weather that uh you can you know keep moving so Tom so you were talking about you know how you


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completed your marine training and transitioned out to the corporate world could you through you


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know some of the difficulties you face and your you know career trajectory after out of being out


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of the marine yeah so so a couple of things happen you know throughout my uh life I mean the marines


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was a was a um getting out I was passed over from promotion so it was not my choice well


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it sort of was I could have stayed in and tried and I decided no it was really time to move on


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and do something else so yeah so I was confronted with something I wasn't expecting I thought I'd


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do a whole career like my dad had done in the Air Force and and um but but as I got out you know I


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I was able to I got hired by EDS which is a large IT outsourcing company and I was working on


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100 million dollar outsourcing deals really large outsourcing deals quickly realized I was not a deal


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guy you know I just don't really think that way and and so that was a uh that that was a time in my life


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where where I was I didn't feel sort of you know I didn't feel the work was meaningful I didn't feel


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fully alive I felt kind of like I was going through the motions and uh but what I discovered is I


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might not have been really good at deals but I was pretty good at strategy and putting things together


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and you know then that led to the next next step in the career when Ernst & Young was looking to


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start a new new practice and that fit my skills better right I see um you know I've got you know


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some corporate friends as well who do struggle a lot or they tell or they tell me stories about


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their colleagues struggling a lot um despite being you know in a really prestigious uh company um


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what advice would you have for people who might be at a really stable job at a good company


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yeah isn't finding any meaning in what they do we know it's so so jumping ahead a little bit but


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I think it fits here at the Halftime Institute we help people really kind of find and live out their


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calling right and and what we would say is that you need to get free or excuse me get clear get


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free and get going yeah so the first thing is about getting clear on who you are what your


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strengths are how you like to work what your passions are your gifts your abilities when you


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get clear on what you feel you are made to do then you can get free from things holding you back


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and then you can get going so if you're at a big job yet you know the the question is does it really


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fit who you are right right and and and if if you if it doesn't then you're probably never going to


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be happy but can you find meaningful activity maybe outside of work that case right you need the job


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you're able to stay there but you're able to work your schedule enough that you can find something


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meaningful outside or if you're fortunate enough you're able to find a job that will maybe it didn't


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have the title and the prestige you wanted but it'll still give you the lifestyle you want but


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allow you to do something that really fits who you are it is more meaningful for you so it's


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it's always a bit of a balance and it's not an necessarily an either or thing you know there


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are a million different ways that you can you can have a job and then have a passion or you know


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you don't have to like quit you know quit corporate world and and and you know work for nothing


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in a non-profit right there's a lot of ways to be able to do both but I think that's that if you


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don't know who you are though then then you can find yourself just being drawn from one opportunity


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to another and think maybe if I if this one has a bigger title or a bigger paycheck that'll make


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up for how miserable I feel that it almost never does right right um I think you know a lot of


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people they do think about you know their meaning of work and life um you know on a frequent basis


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but when ask them to make a change then most of the time they stay in the conference zone so


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you know um perhaps you could talk a little bit about you know the time institute or you know your


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own ways of um you know approaching a situation where somebody has to make a big decision in their


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lives um how would you go about it so so a couple of things again you know sometimes it can be a


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hard conversation to um really take a look at yourself you know what do you what do you feel


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is important what do you what do you feel um you were made for you know if you had a had a purpose


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what would what would that be those kind of things so if it sometimes it's it's scary to ask yourself


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that question because once you asked it um Bob Buford who was the founder of halftime said there


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was a french poet I don't remember his name but he said when you when you discover your destiny


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if you don't do anything about it it will follow you like an accusing shadow right that's so so so


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so the first thing is are you willing to kind of confront that and say you know I I I met a guy one


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time um and he had just been laid off he was older in his 50s had been laid off from an engineering


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firm and he said you know I he said I'm not sure what I'm gonna do but I'm kind of glad to be free


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I never wanted to be an engineer and I was like well gosh you've been one 15 years well why and he


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said well my dad was an engineer that's what the you know instead of thinking you know who he was


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what he wanted he was just he was just going down going down that path so so the first thing you


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needed to be willing to ask yourself the question and and then once and and it's usually not a uh


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a a loud direct answer I know I was going to do this it's usually more of an iterative process


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I like like like halftime somebody came to me and said uh I you know I'm thinking about I I just


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I got something on my heart for orphans in Africa yeah you know well as they start to explore it


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you realize is it orphans or is it Africa is it orphans or is it the poor is it the poor or is it


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the hungry is it and as you explore if you're open I I just think you know things get revealed to you


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that let you focus in on oh this really touches my heart yeah and then once you kind of have a


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way of doing that are there things we talk about doing a low-cost probe right are there are there


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little things you can try that will both help you refine your thinking and see if there's a


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possible platform or way for you to live out that passion before you take the big jump with what you're


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doing you know so it's a process right and and it's one you can take intentionally but it takes a


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little effort to do it you know it takes a little self-reflection and then takes a little effort


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but just a bit of sharing um from myself I do usually try and tend I tend to take 15 to 20


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minutes every day in my life just to think about you know my meaning what my career trajectory is


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going how can I help people through my role and based on your personal experience it can be quite


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difficult to sometimes take the time out not think about anything and just focus you know on your


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greater you know purpose in life did you did you try and you know do the same thing before


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yeah so so one of the things I um I in back when I was in high school I started sort of


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spiritually searching and that's always been a part of my life and so as I as I ran into adulthood


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faith became an important thing to me right and so kind of a daily you know a daily time of reflection


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or meditation to say not just who am I and not just what was I made for but what is it on call to do


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today right you know make these sort of divine opportunities right I think it was John Lennon


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or something that said said life happens while you're planning what to do next right you know


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and and and when you think about career paths and you think about your job and you think about you


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know making your quotas or making the monthly numbers or whatever it is you get on such a treadmill


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with that that if you're not intentional off to take some time to step back from the noise of the


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day and think of wow what not daydream about what I could do but think about what would what would


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a meaningful life be like and and you know if you're not even considering that then it's very hard


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to think about what you might do that would be meaningful yeah yeah um yeah taking time out


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was definitely really important I think we have we have a we have a one of the programs we have


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there's a there's a two-day gathering where we bring people into a city where there's been a


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number of halftime people that have started different ministries non-profits businesses and


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they they get to see all of them and and the people that are in that program are typically


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very busy business executives and they've done these they've they've blocked out the day and a


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half to come see what's going on in the city yeah and we asked them would you like to come in the


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day before for an optional silent retreat for a day right right almost every time these these


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executives business owners senior officials every one of them jump on the ability to have a day of


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silent retreat right right because they just don't get that it's hard to do it themselves but if we


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say if you'll come in we're gonna give you a day just to reflect and think it becomes a one of


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the most valuable things they do often wow okay so actually most of them say yes when yes the


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vast majority do okay that's a that was really a surprise to us you know yeah but but it really is a


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you know it's again there's such a frantic pace and we are we and when you're not at work which


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you can carry 24-7 carry home with you do all those kind of things you the you're continually


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bombarded with information right you can just stay at a surface level of stuff yeah yeah and


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not step back to go wow what's really important to me you know and if um the half time uh Bob


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Buford wrote the book 25 years ago and and his personal journey is he was very successful he


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said I've been successful I want to be significant you know and and what we'd say now is you know


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half time in the sports vernacular the way we'd say it is half time isn't it should just


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be it should be a time in your life when you can just take a pause yeah and say if I keep doing


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what I'm doing am I gonna end up where I want to be that's a puzzle you know you asked yourself


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that question you first have to decide well where I want to be yeah yeah you know and then and then


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you can start to see okay is this gonna get me there and and and again a discussion we we we


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have a tool we call a roadmap which is kind of like a life plan that guides and two of the boxes


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you fill out yeah one is what is your personal mission statement what do you feel like you were


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made to do yeah and the other is what is your personal being statement who do you want to become


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and if you spend some time thinking about those two things it becomes a powerful motivator right


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I mean if you just if you right now took out a small card you wrote on there I my mission is to do


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this and you stuck it on your screen you'd look at it every day and you'd think is that really what


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my mission is and if it isn't how do I change it and now the process has begun right right and then


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if that's the one I want to do then you can do the same thing with who do I want to be you know


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and you start to think about that and writing it down and thinking about it and growing over time


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that that's what that's what gives you a piece and a I think a joy in life that that you know it


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runs over any particular job or accomplishment or those kind of things so based on your experience


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in in these retreats what are the most significant changes you see in you know the CEOs or executives


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who participate in them you know they are they're all over the map some uh some it becomes a very


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spiritual journey they they find themselves in a in a place that that either they had not been


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before or maybe they were when they were young and they've reconnected with that for others it's a time


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of clarity I can think of one woman who was a very successful executive and and just just realized


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for her it was time to move on wow okay where another one had a real kind of an inspiration um he's


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he's a real estate developer and he realized there was a lot of good he could do through his real


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estate company right so for example he buys these hotels he's in Nashville or he buys these old


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churches actually he's turned them into hotels right every night somebody stays there pays for a


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homeless person to have a night in the shelter wow okay so see he used all his real estate skills


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his platform he already had to have make a significance in this you know a significant impact


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in his city versus somebody who who say left and went to a nonprofit and started to do something


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else so it right right the the other thing I guess the other thing that happens in almost everyone


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is they begin to reflect on the relationships in their life beyond what they have beyond what


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they've done uh what are what are the relationships that are important to them and you know how


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how are they really trying to steward them or protect them right I mean you know usually you're


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busy you know you've got all these protections you've got insurance for this and you've got you


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know you know you've got savings accounts for that and you get everything but but are you as


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intentional with a relationship of saying you know this is this really is a big deal this really is


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important and a lot of a lot of very successful people myself included have put family and


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relationships on the side to go achieve whatever it was I was driving to achieve I think that kind


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of universally that that hits most people well can you share your personal experience of you know


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put how negative it was towards your life and other people's lives when you put yourself in the


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center and your families and relationships aside yeah it's it's a great you know when when I was in


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the Marines and and this is a pattern I picked up from my dad the the sort of mission comes first


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right and you know I had to deploy I missed the birth of two kids while I was deployed my wife


00:22:20,000 --> 00:22:25,520

I've had a great wife we've been married next month we've been married 46 years wow congrats


00:22:25,520 --> 00:22:32,560

congrats thanks she stood by me a long time um but you know that kind of mission comes first


00:22:33,600 --> 00:22:38,480

you kind of understood it when you were in the military but I get out and get into business


00:22:39,280 --> 00:22:46,160

and I took that same idea right the business comes first you know so like we'd go on vacation and


00:22:46,160 --> 00:22:51,040

she would drive with a family down to the beach and I would always stay for some meeting and then


00:22:51,040 --> 00:22:57,760

fly down and meet them you know because I had something else I was doing or or uh you know you're


00:22:57,760 --> 00:23:06,640

you're um it it fortunately or and and I will give my wife all the credit for this our family


00:23:06,640 --> 00:23:13,760

has been strong and stayed together and we uh um she supported me and and and the kids I don't


00:23:13,760 --> 00:23:18,160

they don't feel like I neglected them and that was really because she was so strong with it but


00:23:18,160 --> 00:23:23,600

there's also been a lot of time when when I was there but I really wasn't there right right you


00:23:23,600 --> 00:23:30,480

know long vacation but I'm on my laptop for a few hours a day that's sad it is sad and it doesn't


00:23:31,040 --> 00:23:37,840

it sometimes it's not the big blow-up thing it just you look back and realize you've missed a


00:23:37,840 --> 00:23:44,400

lot of little things you know yeah and so so I think that's the you know it's a challenge anybody


00:23:44,400 --> 00:23:52,480

who is um is driven yeah for all the right reasons you know it's gonna face those kind of challenges


00:23:52,480 --> 00:23:59,600

so so um you know how did you come to the realization that you had to do something


00:23:59,600 --> 00:24:05,280

of Elvis and you know fix the problems you had it you know um I I would I would honestly say I


00:24:05,280 --> 00:24:11,040

keep coming to it right so now I'm running a non-profit but I can I can run off and be just


00:24:11,040 --> 00:24:18,800

as busy and yeah example one thing a little story with my wife on the roadmap we have these columns


00:24:18,800 --> 00:24:25,360

of things that you want to focus on areas of action for the year last year I had a column that was my


00:24:25,360 --> 00:24:32,720

wife and our family right right this year my wife has her own column oh just about what I want to


00:24:32,720 --> 00:24:37,920

do with her and I said okay really you know I asked her what what she wanted this year what's her


00:24:38,480 --> 00:24:42,880

what's her kind of dream for the year and you know she knows what it is to be a mom she knows what


00:24:42,880 --> 00:24:50,800

it is to be a grandma um she's rediscovering who she is right and and so I said okay you know I'd


00:24:50,800 --> 00:24:55,280

like to help you with that and I started listing things we can do like you know make sure every


00:24:55,280 --> 00:25:00,080

once a quarter that we get away somewhere and we do all this and I thought I had a pretty good list


00:25:00,080 --> 00:25:06,080

of things to do right and then she said you know what ought to be at the top of the list is I just


00:25:06,080 --> 00:25:13,680

need when you're with me for you to be with me wow and I was like wow so you know I mean I'm like


00:25:13,680 --> 00:25:19,760

once again you know because because that's the tendency it's the pull yeah you know of a passion


00:25:19,760 --> 00:25:26,560

or an excitement even even for good things you can really love into that and and you just you know


00:25:26,560 --> 00:25:32,080

hopefully you have we all the programs we do or for example cohort based because you need a group


00:25:32,080 --> 00:25:37,280

of friends around you that can say you don't need to pull you back a little bit need this need to be


00:25:37,280 --> 00:25:43,360

able to say you know what look at what you're doing here really right and and and with that kind of


00:25:43,360 --> 00:25:48,960

help it just you know there's one more time I'll go back and try to you know recalibrate a little


00:25:48,960 --> 00:25:57,920

bit so it's basically like a constant struggle between multiple inner selves I guess it is it is


00:25:57,920 --> 00:26:03,680

and and you know and there's nothing wrong with the struggle I heard somebody say one time you


00:26:03,680 --> 00:26:10,240

know somebody said well life isn't a sprint it's a marathon and and this other guy said no actually


00:26:10,240 --> 00:26:17,280

it's just a whole bunch of sprints right yeah there are times in your life when you're just


00:26:17,280 --> 00:26:23,280

going to be you're going to be out you got to be at it yeah can you can you intentionally create


00:26:23,280 --> 00:26:29,200

rhythms that will last you for the long run they won't they won't burn you out because you ran too


00:26:29,200 --> 00:26:34,240

hard too fast or won't won't ruin relationships because you weren't able to be around for them


00:26:34,240 --> 00:26:39,920

you know there can you can you establish a rhythm that's allows you to do what you want to do if


00:26:39,920 --> 00:26:44,080

you'll call to do but but do it in a healthy enough way that it's sustainable for you and those


00:26:44,080 --> 00:26:49,120

those that you love would you say you found the key to that already the rhythm that you're looking


00:26:49,840 --> 00:26:57,920

um I would say not my I it is probably gonna ask my wife but I would I would say yeah I would say


00:26:57,920 --> 00:27:05,600

we're in a pretty good spot with that you know um one of the reasons for that and and this is um


00:27:05,600 --> 00:27:15,200

um uh I have tried intentionally in the last few years to really kind of work on my own ego


00:27:16,240 --> 00:27:22,000

right you know to want to be able to do things for the right reason not just because I want them


00:27:22,000 --> 00:27:28,560

for me um half time actually asked me to come work with them about 10 years ago and had I


00:27:28,560 --> 00:27:34,000

done it I would have failed miserably because there was still too much of me in it I would have


00:27:34,000 --> 00:27:39,360

wanted to be the person in charge or the guy on the stage or whatever it was and now actually


00:27:39,360 --> 00:27:46,560

running half time there are two of us were co-cdOs right and and and it's a great uh neither of us


00:27:46,560 --> 00:27:51,280

were looking for the job neither of us were you know but we felt called to take it and do it and


00:27:51,280 --> 00:27:57,360

it's just a great relationship and and we try to keep ourselves out of it and if you can you know


00:27:57,360 --> 00:28:03,520

wait so so in doing that I think I found a better balance right still have to work on but but at


00:28:03,520 --> 00:28:10,640

least at least I think that's right you know and again I I'm still very driven to do things I still


00:28:10,640 --> 00:28:16,240

want to accomplish stuff right one of my perfect life metrics on how I'd like my life is to have


00:28:16,240 --> 00:28:22,480

contentment with impact yeah right I don't want to just quit and play golf and retire


00:28:23,280 --> 00:28:29,280

but I don't want to be driven you know 120 hours a week either so where's that balance right


00:28:29,280 --> 00:28:34,560

right well I think we're all searching for this balance and it's a very difficult task to do


00:28:35,200 --> 00:28:41,600

um but you know lastly just before we end um for our audience who might be you know struggling


00:28:41,600 --> 00:28:47,120

to find meaning in what we're struggling in the current work and what would be your advice and


00:28:47,120 --> 00:28:53,280

what should be the next step you think yeah it's a great it's a great question I would say the


00:28:53,280 --> 00:29:01,920

advice is one it's a worthy struggle right you know it's very easy to stop the struggle to just say


00:29:02,480 --> 00:29:06,800

either it's not going to get any better than this or I'm just going to go with the flow and


00:29:07,440 --> 00:29:13,360

you know make money and you know party with people and not care about you know long-term stuff or


00:29:13,360 --> 00:29:20,560

whatever it is I'm just going to do what everything around me says I should do right that's that you


00:29:20,560 --> 00:29:28,320

lose yourself in that right become just this you know whatever anything else is doing so so one it's


00:29:28,320 --> 00:29:35,200

a worthy struggle and then two back to the get clear get free get going start with looking at yourself


00:29:36,480 --> 00:29:42,720

you know if if you just try to get free of things you never reach it right like like oh if I just


00:29:42,720 --> 00:29:48,400

get this raise or if I just move to this city or if I just do it and it never comes if you try to get


00:29:48,400 --> 00:29:55,040

going you just change one treadmill for another yeah if you really get clear on who you are


00:29:55,040 --> 00:30:01,760

then what starts to happen is you find things that you just can't not do yeah you know I gotta be


00:30:01,760 --> 00:30:05,520

about that I've gotta make time for this I've got it and then that's where the that's where the


00:30:05,520 --> 00:30:10,160

meaning begins whether it's through the work you're doing or in addition to the work you're doing


00:30:11,200 --> 00:30:15,680

well thanks so much Tom for the interview today I think that's all the time you've got


00:30:15,680 --> 00:30:21,840

but I'd be excited to you know invite you to come up another time and you know wish you all the best


00:30:21,840 --> 00:30:47,040

thanks thanks I'd love to appreciate the time would love to come anytime

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