Tony Chavonne’s Keynote Address, 2021 PWC Presents CityView’s Power of Giving

Tony Chavonne, Nov 16

I had it all. I had just turned 40 and was leading of our community’s largest companies with over 450 employees. There were record profits, a nice salary, country clubs, travel, a company car, a beautiful wife, and great kids.
After humble beginnings growing up in Massey Hill, I had reached the top of corporate life in America. I had played the game and won.
I had it all. Or thought I did.
Looking back, maybe it was time for the infamous mid-life crisis we all hear about. But, in my instance, it wasn’t a shiny convertible but rather a simple little book that helped me to see things differently. To start asking myself the questions – what have you been given? And what will you do with the rest of your life?
Saint Augustine said that asking yourself the question of your own legacy is the beginning of adulthood. Maybe it was time for me to grow up.
I’m sure you remember Matthew’s parable of the sower. A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly but withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
Important words 2,000 years ago – and important words today.
My journey began simply enough at lunch with a pastor friend of mine who had begun to see the signs of the midlife crisis in me. Maybe he could see that I had begun to hear the gentle whisper that Jerimiah described in the Old Testament. You know that gentle whisper, Pastor Brian?
My friend gave me a copy of this book – Bob Buford’s Half Time. Buford summarized his book this way. “My passion is to multiply all that God has given me, and in the process, give it back.” That requires asking important questions. What am I really good at? What is most important to me? What do I want to be remembered for? If my life were absolutely perfect, what would it look like?
I began looking at my own life through the analogy of a football game that Buford used in his book. Up to that time I was in the first half. Then circumstances intervened that sent me into halftime. Now I am playing the second half. Along the way I have come to the conclusion that the second half of our lives should be the best half.
After finishing the book, I told my family that I was not going to spend the rest of my life at the newspaper; that I wouldn’t sure what I would do; but it would be different.
You can imagine how that news went over. But they stood by me and shared in the journey. Just this past week, one of my sons heard I was speaking at this event, asked if my remarks were going to be about that little green book that I kept close by on my office shelf all this time.
During the first half of your life, if you are like me, you probably did not have much time to think about how you would spend the rest of your life. You probably rushed through school, fell in love, married, went to work, and played a hard-fought first half.
During this first half of our lives, we need to prove ourselves and others that we can accomplish something big, and the best way to do that is to become increasingly focused and intense. Do you know anyone like that?
The first half is noisy, busy, and almost frantic. It is not that you do not want to listen for that still, small voice, it’s just that you never seem to have time to do it. Anyone been there?
I think I see some first half players in this room today.
Like me, you may have even been winning the first half, but sooner or later you begin to wonder if this is as good as it gets.
One of the most common characteristics of a person nearing the end of the first half is the desire to move from success to significance. When all is said and done, any material success we have will be empty unless it has included an equal amount of significance.
You see, eventually your first half will end. The clock will run out. You can join the ranks of those coasting to retirement, or you can choose to pay it back, to make a difference.
If you are hearing that same gentle voice speaking softly to you, the same voice that Steve and Kim and PJ and Judy heard, it may be time for time for your second half – a better half than the first.
Then you will be ready to move from success to significance – daring to believe that what you ultimately leave behind will be more important than anything you could have achieved in the first half of your life.
You are smart enough to know that you cannot play the second half as you did the first. Eventually we all face the same reality – what once looked like an eternity ahead of you is now within reach. In fact, I am going to yet another funeral for a high school classmate later today.
But while you do not fear the end of the game, you do want to make sure that you finish well, that you leave something behind that no one can take away from you.
Few people who enjoy success in the first half of their loves aspire to be ordinary. They fear that if they change careers, pursue something more significant, or even if they take on a serving project alongside their career, they will run the risk that they may not be as good at the next thing.
You are in halftime because you do not want to go on any longer without finding the answer. The still, small voice has finally gotten your attention and you know you cannot return to the playing field without responding.
Significance comes only we give ourselves away and giving yourself away entails a cost.
There will always be reasons to stay where you are. It is faith that calls you to move on.
If our first half is about how to make a living, our second half offers the promise of how to make a life.
It is a time to begin to think about what you will do about what you believe.
The key to a successful second half is not a change of jobs. It is not about being elected mayor or publishing a magazine or being a keynote speaker. The key is a change of heart, a change in the way you view the world and the order of your life.
I obviously think a lot of this book. It changed my life. We have provided free copies of Half Time at the CityView table. They are our gift to you. If we run out of books, please give us your name and address and we will get you a copy. I encourage you take one and I only ask for a few things in return – read it, share it with a friend and pay it forward.
The gift of these books to you is planting the seed and praying that some will fall on good soil, where they will produce a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
What do you want to be remembered for?
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.
Let us remember the profound challenge to each of us expressed by Mahatma Gandhi –
We must be doing what we want the world to be.
Can you say that with me? We must be doing what we want the world to be.
Thank you for being with us today as we honor these remarkable citizens who did fall on good soil and are making a significant difference in our community.
And thank you to the CityView team for producing this special event. Celebrating our city is what we do.
My prayer for you today is that you will have the courage to live the dreams that God has placed within each of you.
May God bless you and may God continue to bless our great city.