The Silver Lining of An Economic Downturn

The Silver Lining of An Economic Downturn

By Lloyd Reeb

If you’re beginning to seriously think about your second half of life, and the markets drop like they’ve done recently, it can cause even the bravest soul to stop and think. What if this is the beginning of a long period of low or negative growth? Maybe I should just sit tight and wait out this volatility until I can see some economic blue sky ahead. I’ve been watching my investments, some of which are in Canadian currency (which has dropped from 92 cents to 68 cents US in the past year) and it’s been distracting me from what I know is my calling.

This recent economic turbulence may actually have a silver lining: making us reconsider what matters. Forcing us to decide if the primary driver in our life is going to be fear or calling. Or as my daughter said to me recently “Dad you’re going to need to decide all over again who really is your provider. Is it your money or is it the Lord?” Many of us reach a point in life where the pursuit of success alone is no longer enough. We want our second half to be filled with more meaning, joy and impact, yet we can still get distracted by fear and uncertainty.

So what have we learned by helping Halftimers through previous economic cycles that might be helpful to you now?

In 2008, we saw wealth disappear overnight. For some it stopped them in their tracks. But others began to see with even greater clarity that there is more to life than money and that it’s very fleeting. While the crisis was unsettling, it became a springboard to creativity. We saw talented leaders building some of the most innovative portfolios of business and ministry … infusing their success with another very important ingredient – significance.  

The big idea is that when you reach this season of halftime in your life, you don’t have to quit your job or sell your company to indulge your desire for significance. You don’t have to be financially independent. You can build a portfolio of “for profit” and “non profit” activities and integrate significance into your life. Halftime is a great time to realign your work with your passions, strengths and personal mission statement. And, it’s happening every day.

wallace-hawleyAbout ten years ago, I had a perspective changing discussion with Wally Hawley. He’s the co-founder of InterWest Partners, one of the foremost venture capitalist firms in the Silicon Valley.   Here’s what I learned from him … how it helps spawn a page full of creative ideas that enable you to move forward this year:

LLOYD:  Wally, why did you decide to build a portfolio of “for profit” and “non profit” work in your second half?

WALLY:  At age 50, I had a great family, a great career, plenty of financial capability, health, but there was just something missing.  I realized that there was something more to this, and I wanted something more in my life than just doing another ten years of the same thing.  The key trigger was reading Bob Buford’s book Halftime.  When I read that book on vacation, all of a sudden I said wait a minute; that could and should be me.

So, it was Halftime that actually pushed me into saying to my colleagues, “I’m not going to go forward with the next fund.  I want to do some other things.” I transitioned over time – I didn’t hand in the keys on Friday and say I’ll see you later.  I began to work with things like helping at-risk teens through Young Life, doing part-time work in my church.  I was building a quasi portfolio by dialing down the amount of venture capital work while dialing up the “significance” portion of my life.

Over time, I gained clarity about what my second half life portfolio should look like. Through my career in venture capital, I learned that I like to do things that are large and have big impact as opposed to a small impact. I was looking at things I thought had real potential and were either already large or looked like they were going to become large.  The second criteria I used in getting involved in non-profit work was, to work with A-Plus people.  We always said that in venture capital.  In my non-profit work, I have used these two criteria in terms of anything that I sign up for and getting involved.

LLOYD:  What is the best way to begin building a second half portfolio?

WALLY:  I would suggest that anybody that decided to build a second half portfolio start with the premise of looking in the mirror and asking:  What are my skill sets?  What am I good at?  Who can I help and how?  From that, you will begin to shape a portfolio, which might look quite different from what mine does.

LLOYD:  In this portfolio, how do you choose organizations to be a part of at this level?

WALLY:  I’m focused on organizations with outstanding people, education, things with momentum and scale, and predominantly kids or college kids.

  • As Chairman of the Board of Young Life, I’m deeply involved in helping high school kids in urban areas. It’s large and it’s growing.  We have a budget of over two hundred million dollars serving approximately a million kids in 54 countries.  It’s the kind of thing that gets me excited, and I also like working for kids.  The common denominator I think is kids, and education in terms of what I’m interested in now.
  • I’m involved with Bob Buford in the Halftime Institute helping high capacity marketplace leaders to address some of the deepest needs in our country and around the globe. We need that in these difficult times!
  • I’m involved in something at Stanford University, getting the students off the campus and into the inner city and low-income areas, helping and learning to serve. I’m involved at Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  • I’ve got about four literacy companies or online education companies. I have investments focused in the educational field, as we shift from the old formula of how we taught at colleges where there wasn’t room for a lot of people, and it was very expensive to what online training allows you to do to bring in a lot more people at a small fraction of price, and for people being able to stay where they are and not having to leave their career if they’re already in one.
  • Also I’ve been involved with a for profit company with a new concept of how to teach literacy, and we’ve reached tons of kids who couldn’t read in the first and third grades with a whole new approach.


If you don’t look forward to retiring or you can’t afford to, what would it look like to build your own unique portfolio to infuse this kind of significance into your second half?

Questions to Ponder

  • What would your second half portfolio look like?
  • If it were two years from now and you were living the perfect second half life, how would you know?