A couple of years ago, Tom Kessler would be the first to say he’d been thoroughly blessed: fantastic marriage of nearly 30 years to Julie, three children embarking on full and happy adult lives, and a successful business career. His career had included early runs in marketing and sales leadership in the corporate world and then in more recent times, the pinnacles and challenges — the “startups and startdowns,” Tom calls them, laughing – of launching and running his own businesses. His latest venture, in fact — as a founding partner of an independent marketing and strategy consulting business — afforded him something that previously had often been in shorter supply: time.
But with time in greater abundance, Tom also would be the first to say it didn’t take long for him to realize something else was missing. “I was at a stage with the sale of my previous company to have some security and cushion, “ Tom says. “When I was able to pick my head up from the work I’ve been doing for so long, it was a matter of asking: What is God telling me now vs. what I was doing before? Financial independence was nice, but it didn’t leave me with a great feeling at the end of day. I thought: I have means and time, but I really don’t know what I need to do.”
“I wasn’t unhappy, but I wasn’t fulfilled,” he recalls.
Around that time, Jeff Spadafora of Halftime spoke to a Bible study group that Tom attended. Afterward, “I knew I needed to go and talk to this guy. What struck me were the examples he used of people who were able to serve but not necessarily change their life entirely. I remember the dentist who wanted to help young dentists and used that as a ministry to others. “
That was appealing, Tom says, adding, “I wasn’t looking for an entirely different chapter.” Jeff’s message resonated that “you can repackage some things and find fulfillment . . . it’s not like everyone is going to say, “Hey, honey, let’s sell the house and move to Africa.”
Tom also liked the message that finding his path would likely be a journey of self-discovery – and using one’s own actual experiments and experiences to sort what’s important. “Jeff warned it’s not going to be a linear path . . . and there’s some peaks and valleys. But it was good to hear there could be a process.”
As he engaged with that process through Halftime and Jeff as his coach over the next year, “a couple of other things really came through,” Tom recalls. “One was a much stronger connection and reconnection with my faith.” He developed a daily routine for receiving God’s words, and used it for reflection and “reminding myself to how God wanted me to live today.”
Tom’s reflections on “what I am good at” and “what is God tugging me to do” – and a few actual probes into potential paths — led him to decide that he wanted to mentor men who are early in their careers. Granted, he says with the benefit of hindsight, it was a bit because he had two sons beginning that phase of their lives. But it was largely because “I see a lot of young men who are working hard – and really trying to do all the right things – but have a real challenge in balancing their faith, a spouse, their job, and friends. We talk about them and their choices and how my experiences may play in,” Tom says, adding, with a chuckle: “Hopefully I’ve made enough mistakes that I now can provide some help to others.”
But he also knows that there are deep and meaningful relationships that have developed with the four to five mentees with whom he’s met for the past year for an hour or so every other week. “All are trying to figure out what they should be doing from a career and life standpoint,” Tom says, adding it’s a journey that isn’t always straightforward. “I’m sometimes anxious that I can’t influence change faster. You want them to have a better life. But change is really hard. So I have to be patient and consistent and do it all with love, and realize maybe they will and maybe they won’t apply my advice.
“The benefit has been realizing the opportunities that God has given me throughout my life are of value in a manner that someone else can learn from. That you have this accumulated wisdom and if that’s communicated in a loving and meaningful manner to someone who has the same challenges and questions, well, that can be very helpful. You actually can positively change someone’s life.”
And as the Halftime process has opened this fulfilling path of local mentoring for Tom, he’s also seeing more possibilities for making a difference. A recent church mission trip to Haiti presented the opportunity to connect with members of his own family who have been successful business people there for generations (Tom’s mother was from Haiti).
The church mission trip coupled with catching up with his family members planted a seed for another potential personal ministry. “There is a real need to build the middle class in Haiti. My relatives recognize that…they need a skilled work force. So, even though what I can do may be a drop in the bucket, I want to explore whether I can bring together the various players…the business owners like my relatives, schools, churches – all parties – to work together. So I’m planning another trip to try to force a meeting between the parties to discuss the needs and how they can work together, and then let God take it from there.”
And for Tom, his local ministry of mentoring young men and now perhaps a more “global” mission in Haiti add up to a satisfying sense that he’s heading in the direction God wants for him in his Second Half (all while staying engaged in his current job/company).
“For me, it’s been very, very satisfying, enlightening and validating, and my faith has been affirmed,” he says.
Tom’s journey is one example of someone who embraced the Halftime process and understood it was a journey of discovery. A journey filled with head and heart issues wrapped within a great coaching experience and community.
If you believe God is tugging at your heart in a similar way as He did with Tom, call and talk with us. We are here to serve you during this unique time. To learn more, call us at 855-2nd HALF or visit www.halftimeinstitute.org.