Thursday, August 4, 2011


Book: Halftime
Author: Bob Buford
Edition: 1994 Hardback
Read: July 2011
166 pages
Rated: 3 out of 5

Bob Buford was a successful cable TV network executive. You would look at him and say that he was successful and had his act together—and he did. But around the age of 40-50, he started looking for something more than success, and he found significance. Buford shares his search and his insights of his search.


Peter Drucker in the forward indicates that he thought that successful people would be moving towards working with non-profits during their second career. But he has seen that many people do not want to leave what they are successful at, but that they do want to move towards significance.(13) Drucker says that this is a story of growing from knowledge to wisdom and should be read as an example.(16)

One of the basic thoughts which I have had as I have read this book and when I have been working is how will I be remembered. One of my favorite sayings has been, Who would I rather write my obituary? Me or my boss. In the same way, Buford quotes Augustine—I cannot find the source of the quote—What do I wish to be remembered for? This is one aspect of significance. Another is whom do I want to be remembered by?

This extends out on finishing well. That is what I worked at when I retired. To finish well—finish how I started. Finish so I have no regrets.(20)

Buford's friend and advisor, Mike Kami asked him, what is in the box? By this Kaimi says what is the important part of his life? This was in response to questions which Buford was asking of himself. Questions like:
  1. What should I do?
  2. How could I be the most useful?
  3. Where should I invest my own talents, time and treasure?
  4. What are the values that give purpose to my life?
  5. What is the overarching vision that shapes me?
  6. Who am I?
  7. Where am I?
  8. Where am I going?
  9. How do I get there?

But Buford's thoughts about this evaluation is that it is no so much about beating yourself up and saying how short you have come as coming to terms with yourself and your history. Learning from the failures of life and accepting the grace given to you. (67)

What drives a person to seek out half time? Buford says that there becomes an unquenchable desire to move from success to significance. (83) This is the main theme of this book—moving to significance.

His good friend and advisor, Mike Kami, asked him what is in the box? The question is what is the one thing which you want to focus on, not the who group of opportunities which you can do. This will drive you in the evaluation during halftime.

To go far during the second half, you need to understand your life's mission or purpose. Put this into a sentence or two. It should answer things like, what is my passion? What have I achievd? What do I do well? What have I felt I left incomplete during the first half? (120)

Buford now looks at how his life is organized in terms of commitments rather than goals. In some terms, there is more flesh at stake with a commitment than a goal. (122)

We spend capital in pursuit of happiness. Buford says that it is the use of social capital which God has given us—time, talent and treasure—which we invest in people is where the happiness really occurs. (127) This is not through obligation, but through a spirit of which God has given us. Even the church can make us feel like we are missing out. The joy which should be there instead at times can make us feel like indentured servants. More like eating broccoli instead of a hot fudge sundae. (131)

Second half people are meant to be bassoonists, not trumpeters. A bassoonist fits in with the orchestra rather than being a stand alone soloist. Like a bassoonist, we need to be there to provide background and complement those who are more upfront. (153)

God is going to use the person which has been built during the first half. It will only be applied in a different venue. (160)

Principle of altruistic egoism: doing good to others does just as much good for you. (162)

Buford has a chapter on how it is through individual responsibility that will transform our communities through the church.

As part of this, you take stock of your life. Some of this involve:

  1. Making peace with your past
  2. Take time to evaluate and taking time to meditate on your purpose
  3. Be deliberate. To think, pray and play. Setting an agenda.
  4. Am I missing anything in my life right now that is important to me?
  5. What am I passionate about?
  6. Who am I?
  7. What do I value?
  8. What do I want to be doing in ten years?
  9. What gifts has God given to me that have been (or is being) perfected over time?
  10. What gifts has he given me that I am unable to use?
  11. What would I be willing to die for?
  12. What is it about my job what makes me feel trapped?
  13. What realistic changes can I make in my employment?
  14. Would I be willing to take a less stressful, and less paying, job in order to be happier—to be closer to my true self?
  15. What steps do I need to take tomorrow in order to have a second half that is better than my first half?
  16. Share the journey. When married, this involves both spouses
  17. Be honest. This is not a fantasy time, but a time of being realistic.
  18. Be patient. You have time to deal with change, take the time to do it right.
  19. Have faith.

Halftime evaluation questions:

  1. What do I want to be remembered for? Write a description of how your life would look if it turned out just the way you wished.
  2. What about money? How much is enough? If I have more than enough, what purpose do I serve with the excess? If I have less than enough, what am I willing to do to correct that?
  3. How am I feeling about my career now? Is this what I want to be doing with my life ten years from now?
  4. Am I living a balanced life? What are the important elements in my life that deserve more time?
  5. What is the primary loyalty in my life?
  6. Where do I look for inspiration, mentors, and working models for my second half?

Peter Drucker says that two important needs are self-realization and community. On a scale of 1-10, how am I doing in these areas?

Draw a line that describes the ups and downs of your life. Or draw three lines, one for personal like, one for family life and one for work life. Where do they interesect? Where do they diverge?

Which of the following transition options seems to fit my temperament and gifts best? (Evaluate each option on a scale of 1-10)

  1. Keep on doing what I already do well, but change the environment.
  2. Change the work, but stay in the same environment.
  3. Turn an avocation into a new career. 
  4. Double-track, or even triple-track, in parallel careers, not hobbies.
  5. Keep on doing what I'm doing, even past retirement age.What do I want for my children?

Some piratical habits to get into (132)
  1. Delegate—at work, at play, at home.
  2. Do what you do best; drop the rest
  3. Know when to say no.
  4. Set limits
  5. Protect your personal time by putting it on your calendar. Start the day slow-easier to protect the day when you start with a quiet time
  6. Work with people you like. I want to find all the people I like being with and find some beneficial work we can do together...I want to work with people who add energy to life-Karol Emmerich
  7. Set timetables
  8. Downsize—think Walden and what is extra in my life
  9. Play around a little. Play should be a big second half activity
  10. Take the phone off the hook-learn how to hide gracefully

Drucker's Advice (135)

  1. Build on the islands of health and strength
  2. Work only with those who are receptive to what you are trying to do
  3. Work only on things that will make a great deal of difference if you succeed.


Bufford has some good points, some good comments and good questions. This is not a book of uniform quality throughout. It is instructive and turns my attention to the word significance rather than meaning. He also reminded me that all things are not for me to engage in, even if they are good and significant. It was a worthwhile read for me.

Good Quotes:

  • The real test of a man is not when he plays the role that he wants for himself, but when he plays the role destiny has for him. Vaclav Havel, Disturbing the Peace, Chp 2, pg 72
  • Do you understand the difference between being called and driven? (47)
  • The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to find the idea for which I can live and die. Sorean Kierkegaard, Journal, Aug 1, 1835
  • Halftime is the perfect opportunity to shift from trying to understand God to learning to know him. (74)
  • The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing that we ought to do, we have no time for anything else—we are the busiest people in the world. Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition (1973), pg 156
  • Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things. Peter Drucker, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, pg 44
  • We need to be the change we wish to see in the world. Mohandas Ghandi (112)
  • What is good for his kingdom is usually better for us as individuals. (113)
  • The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside. Dag Hammarskjold, Markings, pg 8
  • I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Civil Disobedience, Conclusion
  • What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. Søren Kierkegaard, Journals 1A
  • Man must have an idol- The amassing of wealth is one the worst species of idolatry. No idol more debasing than the worship of money. Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie, pg 158
  • Unless a person takes charge of them, both work and free time are likely to be disappointing. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: the psychology of optimal experience, pg 168
  • life becomes richer when we are students and narrows when we stop learning. (145)


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