Bob Karcher's Story


As a young boy, I can remember looking forward to life and knowing the kind of life I wanted… the “American Dream.” I wanted to achieve great status, accomplish much, have a lot of money, and have the “perfect” family.

Looking back, I can see I was always on a mission to get to the next destination as fast as I could. I was constantly racing toward the next goal. The next achievement. The next promotion. I was constantly trying to keep up… with “the Joneses.”

I wasn’t naturally successful, but I managed to get where I wanted by working extra hard, getting things done, and doing them better than anyone else. I quickly learned I could strategize, plan, work hard, and execute better than most. And I received a lot of praise when I succeeded.

I soon discovered these accolades felt pretty darn good. I loved being successful—and knowing I could do things on my own.

I took this “performance” mentality all the way through my career at the Los Angeles Times. I spent twenty-five years with the Times/Tribune Co., holding twenty-one different titles in that time. They just kept promoting me because I was great at getting things done. I climbed that corporate ladder all the way from delivery driver to chief operating officer. My hard work paid off.

I loved it. I wanted it. I needed it—the success, the titles, the money, the perks. They kept promoting me, giving me bigger assignments, larger budgets, and, of course, more money. For a young man who connected his worth to his performance, my work became my drug of choice.

But it didn’t last forever. It never does. All this fast-lane driving ultimately cost me. As I over-focused on the ladder of success I left behind those things in life that, when I’m really honest with myself, were more important to me than even my career.

I had made it on my own, or so I thought. When push came to shove, I didn’t make it on my own, I was alone.

There I was, just me… and my “successful” job. Then, after a terrific 25-year run, I lost that too when, after laying off many of my friends and colleagues, I too found myself on the wrong end of a pink slip.

Now what? I thought I had made it, but at what cost? I was on top… for a while. Then, it all came crashing down. What happened? I had been driving so fast that I didn’t pay attention to the flashing lights warning me of danger ahead.

After my publishing career crashed and I surveyed the wreckage, I determined to help keep others from making the same mistakes I did. You see I wasn’t alone then and, as I look around the world today, things haven’t changed much. Folks are still racing up their proverbial ladders of success but haven’t noticed those ladders are resting on the wrong foundation and leaning on the wrong building.

Today I work to help those tired of a life run on the treadmill of success, or chasing after it, to courageously move towards the intentional, authentic lives they were created for. I do that through the work of the bestselling book my wife, Susan, and I co-wrote, titled Who Are the Joneses Anyway? I also serve as the Vice President of Global Coaching for Halftime Institute, the leading authority on creating a second half of life defined by joy, impact, and balance.

During the years after my crash, I learned a lot about life’s most important assets, enjoying life’s best moments, and that many of those can easily be missed if you’re driving too fast to see them. A richer, fuller life comes when we focus on who we are and why we are here and measure success against life’s balance sheet, not that of the organization we’re running.