Why Workaholism Looks So Good: Tim Kimmel & Michael Tooker
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Workaholism makes a good attempt to fullfill your needs but what’s the real cost. Authors Tim Kimmel and Michael Tooker share their own stories and look beneath the luster of overwork.
Why Workaholism Looks So Good: Tim Kimmel & Michael Tooker
Michael: There are three ways we can look: we can look up; we can look out; or we can look in. What I find, many times, is people, who are really frustrated with their situation, are looking too much inwardly—and they are not happy with what they are getting from life, or their job, or their marriage, or their whatever—but if you start to say: “I’m going to look up at God and pursue Him,” “I’m going to look out at others and serve them,” that just changes things. It takes the attention off yourself, and it puts it where it should rightly be. Over time, then, that completely changes the trajectory of your life.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife—
Dave and Ann: —Today!
Dave: So we’re talking about work today: how we operate in our workspace. I did a little research—
Dave: —just yesterday. I did not know this—2021—a Microsoft® survey said that
41 percent of the current workforce is planning to quit their jobs this year.
Ann: —41 percent.
Dave: I mean, that’s/I mean, I was astounded. I thought it would be ten percent/twenty percent. And then, Gallup did a poll, before the pandemic, that found that 85 percent of employees are unengaged at work. That didn’t surprise me as much.
Ann: Yes, me neither. But 41 percent plan on getting—you know what that creates in me?—this insecurity, as a wife/as a mom, like, “What are we going to do?” I’m not saying that that is just men, who are doing it—but a lot of women are thinking, “I want out of here,”—do you think it’s because they don’t enjoy their workplace?
Dave: All I know is I just heard: “You better keep working.” That’s what you just said to me; [Laughter] that’s all I heard! That is all a guy will hear from that/is: “Okay, honey, I’m not going to lose my job.”
Ann: No, I’m thinking for myself too. [Laughter]
Dave: Well, we’re going to talk about it today. We’ve got our good friend, Tim Kimmel/Dr. Tim Kimmel, in the studio with us; and your friend, Michael Tooker, is with you as well. You guys have written a book on this.
First of all, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Michael: Thank you; thank you for having us.
Tim: Glad to be here. Always love being back with you.
Dave: It’s interesting—obviously, you’ve written a lot of books on marriage, family, parenting—this one is on work.
Ann: And it’s called Grace at Work. The subtitle is The Secret to Getting More from Your Job Than a Paycheck. Isn’t that what we all want?—we all want to love our work.
Tim: Yes; that’s right; we do.
Dave: So how did this collaboration happen? How do you two know each other?
Michael: Well, so the way we met is kind of an interesting story. My wife and I met Tim about the same time I met Christ. We stumbled into a marriage class at our church, and things were on fire—not a good fire as we describe—it was more of the car fire or the dumpster fire—
Dave: Oh, in your marriage?
Michael: —in my marriage and in my life. I was kind of a recovering workaholic and had kind of driven my career into the ditch, if you will. Some good friends invited us into church and had a chance to start learning about: “Who was Christ?” and “What does He want for my life?”—and the fact that He wanted my life at all.
Ann: How old were you, Michael?
Michael: I was 34 at the time. So that’s how I met Tim; Tim was the teacher of this marriage-enrichment class.
Dave: How many years ago?
Michael: This was about 18 years ago.
Michael: So the cool thing was: at the same time I’m coming to know Christ, and giving my life over to Christ, and learning about God’s grace; I’m under the teaching of this guy. He was kind of unpacking: “What is God’s grace?” because there are a lot of different facets to it. I was so taken by it that I eventually went and worked for Tim at Grace Based Families.
What I kept hearing there—and Tim had heard this for years, I think—was people, who had seen this message of God’s grace transform their marriage and their families were saying, “Hey, I work, too; I have this workplace. Do you have a translation of this for the workplace?”
Tim and I had coffee about a year after I left; and I said, “Hey, I feel like I’ve got this burden to do this book.” He said, “Well, then, do it; write a book.” So that’s how it kind of started.
Tim: You know, when I first met them, they came into this class—and I looked at his wife—all I saw in her eyes were rage.
Tim: Their marriage was on life support; but some friends just loved them enough to just say, “No, we’re not giving up on you guys, and we don’t want you to give up on each other.” There was a big void in their lives; neither of them knew Jesus. They came to know Christ, and then just unpacking what God’s applied grace looks like.
God’s grace is usually kept in a conceptual level, very abstract. It’s something that saves us; and then, we kind of stop it right there. No; He says, “No, the grace I have saved you with I meant to wash over you, and completely retrofit you, and redefine you, and become the default mode of how you deal with everybody from here on out.” We were unpacking that for them.
But this man here has—from the beginning, he was brought up in a family—his father was a CEO of a Fortune 50 company. He had a front-row seat to the high-level thin air of executive marketplace; and he was prepared to do that same thing. He came out of his MBA like a rocket, and he went to the top so fast; but he also went to the top with all the values and priorities that so many people go—that are empty, and bankrupt, and one-dimensional—it got him, like it gets so many people.
Dave: Michael, was one of the things going on in your life at that time—because it definitely relates to this book, Grace at Work—was it the work life? As Tim just said, you’re in the elite air; did that really affect your marriage?
Michael: Oh, for sure! I mean, we were at/we started having kids; right?
So you take career: and what I found was I was really wired in a particular way, and I was trying to perform the way the world—or at least, the way I thought the world wanted me to or needed me to—to climb the ladder and keep doing jobs with more responsibility and more obligation. I found myself dumping my friends, dumping my hobbies, dumping my fitness, dumping my health, dumping my marriage; because I became so singularly-focused on myself and trying to manage this façade.
At some point, when the wheels finally came off, and literally the moment I cried out to Christ was—my wife and I had been going to counseling. It was 2 o’clock in the morning in August of ’04/it was August, around there—she said, “You know what?”—she said—“Michael, I don’t love you anymore; I don’t even like you.” She said, “When you are here—you’re almost never here—and when you are here, you are just a jerk to me. Would you just leave? Just make this easy on me and go.”
That was the moment, when I realized, “Man, I’ve squandered this great life.” As I was coming to realize that God had this life—everything good in my life had come from Him—and I blew it. I was that guy—right?—who could fix anything/solve anything. What I realized is: “I’ve got nothing.” That’s when I literally fell out of bed, cried out to God, and said, “God, I don’t know who You are really, but I know I’ve blown it; and I need help, and I’ll follow You if You will have me.”
Dave: I mean, it is beautiful to me to think—you know, as a pastor for 30 years—we are always trying to get our congregation to invite people: “Invite your neighbors.” Somebody just invited you, and here you are.
Michael: Yes, invited me. He had been inviting me for three years—
Michael: —because he saw that—he was a buddy that I went to grad school with when my roommate was in law school; this was a law school buddy of my roommate—he just kind of took a liking to me. He just said, “Hey, why don’t you and your wife come to this?” He saw what was starting to happen; because it happened pretty quick. He just kept pursuing me. Finally, when the wheels came off—I don’t know what to do, but I called Andy—I’m like, “Hey, Andy, that thing you were inviting me to; my wife and I would like to go.”
Tim: Dennis Rainey used to have this statement that: “God picks up crooked sticks and draws straight lines with them all the time.”
I have to give some credit on how He used Michael’s wife in this—because see, we knew a lot of people who, like them, had had this really meteoric trajectory to the top of the heap in the business world, and the paychecks to show for it, and the privileges that go with it—and the marriage was bankrupt and empty, but they just accepted that. They basically became roommates, with occasional benefits; but other than that, there was no love story being written.
I appreciate the fact that his wife said: “No, I’m not accepting this,” and “We’ve got a problem here. You’re going to lose your kids,” and “You’re going to lose me,” and “You’re going to lose everything.” She was not talking about money; she was talking about—
Ann: —their life/their relationship.
Tim: —anything meaningful. I just so appreciate the fact that she said, “This isn’t going to work. We’ve got to do something.”
Dave: Yes, and it’s a turning point. I mean,—
Ann: Well, Michael—
Dave: —you know our story; same thing happened.
Ann: Yes, I was just going to say—that is exactly—I mean, Dave’s in ministry, building this church, that is just growing leaps and bounds; it’s just taking off. Now, I’m competing—not only with his job—but with God, because he is doing it for God.
Ann: I think what you are talking about is what so many of us face in your 30s: people are building their careers; they are going for it. We face it as women; but with men, it feels like you’ve left us behind—we don’t matter; you don’t see us; you don’t care about us—because you are just chasing your dream. I felt that about Dave; I said the same thing, “I’ve got nothing.”
Dave: That was the turning point for me.
Here is a question I want to ask you guys. I know we’re going to talk about work—but we’re talking about grace in marriage—here is the question: “You know Jim Collins, Good to Great.
Dave: “Years ago, I read it because I’m a pastor. I’m like, ‘I want a great church, not a good church.’” I think I’m remembering rightly—he is one of the guys, who said, “You can’t have both. You can’t have a great work career and a great marriage; you’ve sort of got to choose.”
Tim: Some of them, they are counting on that.
Dave: Yes; right.
Tim: We tell this story in the book about a guy—who I was out fishing with him—I knew him very well. He sold high-end memory for big computers for like the IRS, Library of Congress, NASA. When payday came, it was a big, big number. I think he drew/$1,800 a month was your draw; and then, everything else was going to be commissions.
But he says—as I was asking him about it—he says, “Yes, I’m kind of an anomaly. I go contrary to what my managers would prefer.” I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “Well, my uplines would prefer that we would all have a mansion, that our kids would all go to private school, that we would have a second home in the mountains or at the beach, that we buy brand-new cars/lease brand-new cars every year. They would prefer that we were divorced and on a second marriage. They want us to have an okay marriage, but they like a divorce.”
I said, “What are you talking about?!” He said, “Well, they never say it out loud, because they want us hungry.
Dave: They want all of you.
Tim: “They know: ‘I’ve got you!’”
He had a great marriage; he lived in a nice home, but it wasn’t/he owned it, free and clear. He left the office at five o’clock every day, no matter what’s going on. I mean, this is a high-end company.
Tim: But the reason they put up with him is because he was either one or two in sales every year.
Dave: Yes; well, that is the question for you guys: “Can you have both?” Because we have listeners, right now, going, “I’m killing it at work, but I can’t have a great marriage. You’ve just got to sacrifice somewhere.” But I’m looking at two very successful guys: “Can you have both?”
Ann: —who have great families.
Michael: I would say, “Yes, you can have both; but it’s hard to have both.” It has to be a very intentional thing. What I/I say what happened to me—and also, what I see happen to a lot of people, and it sounds like even in your story to some extent; right?—is there is this man, who adores this woman. There was this great love story as Tim talks about—when they fell in love, and it was this idyllic situation—“Great! I’ve met the love of my life.”
Then, you both set out on this journey; and we both have all these norms, and expectations, and things we have to live up to. I think we pursue those things; and at some point, if we pursue them too much, and too aggressively, and too maniacally, we wake up—like I did—and realize, “What have I done?” I thought I was trying to be a noble man in her eyes, and that meant climbing the ladder and get the good title.
Ann: —and “I am providing for my family.”
Michael: I’m doing something that’s—whether it’s in God’s name or just what society says is what a man should do—so then, you wake up one day; and you realize: “I’m not really loving what I’m doing,” and “I am destroying this thing that I do love.”
Sometimes, like in our case, we were almost too far gone. Fortunately, to Tim’s point, my wife said, “Enough! We’re going to fix this.” Christ t-boned my life at the intersection of whatever success and ego. Fortunately, we were able to step back, and say, “Okay, let’s rewrite the script here.”
I think you can have it both, but—
Ann: Did you quit your job?
Michael: I did; I walked away.
Dave: You quit your job?!
Michael: We were in counseling; and he said, “Look, you have got to make your own decision; but this is not working for you.” One of the last jobs I had, as things were coming unwound—I was living in Phoenix with a staff in Manhattan—going to New York 35 times a year for 4 days a week.
Michael: So I was never—and we were having a kid; we just had a baby—and so I’m never home. “So how are you going to make that work? This woman—she needs you—she is trying to raise a baby.”
I think you ask a really good question, Dave: “You can have it both, but you’ve got to work really hard.”
Tim: Commenting on that, too: there are all kinds of people—who are successfully knocking them dead in the marketplace and, also, coming home and thriving—but there is a deliberateness about it. Like talking about you [Dave and Ann] guys’ marriage, you were writing a love story with this church you were trying to build; but you weren’t trying to write one with your wife.
Tim: When we get married, we sign up to write a love story. Now, we’ve all read love stories—and there are some tough chapters in any love story—but the thing that I think that sets a love story apart is there is a commitment to maintain pursuit of that other person’s heart. You can do that and still do well at work; but when work tries to put those kinds of things on you, you have to make some hard decisions.
Most of the time, when people just say to the people: “If that is what you are asking—you want me to sacrifice the permanent here, my family, on the altar of the immediate/ you, then I choose my family.” Usually, they back down; because the reason they even wanted that is because they wanted you anyway.
Tim: But I also think we do well in both is when we actually work hard in both.
Ann: Michael, was it worth it?—quitting your job?
Michael: Oh, without a doubt; absolutely, it was worth it. I look at the work that God has done in my life, and in my marriage, and in my family—and I think about how that story could have played out and how it did play out—I think that is why I’m so passionate about God’s grace is: “I don’t deserve to have the family that I do/the marriage that I do—to have such joy at home and have such contentment at work—I don’t deserve that.” That is part of the reason that this book—I feel like God laid this project on my heart was—because I really did come to appreciate God’s grace, having Him pick me up from this real low point.
Tim: By the way, he walked from that job; but ultimately, he got another job. He does well at whatever he does. He’s a highly-gifted—
Ann: Yes, what are you doing now?
Tim: He went from that job—then, from there, we brought him into our ministry for four years to build up a dimension of our ministry—mainly, his job was to love people: “We need you to go love these people,”—it was in the process—you can tell this story of how you started to see how we’re running the ministry.
Michael: Yes; so like I mentioned before, I met Tim—right?—so Christ is getting ahold of me. I’m learning about these many facets of grace. Then I go work in an environment, where all that is lived out and played out with the staff.
Ann: What was that like? Was it different?
Michael: It was great. I can tell you stories about Tim, for sure. [Laughter] I mean, I worked closely with him for four years; but no, it was really great. The staff/there was such comradery. We talk about, in the book, we had to do hard things. We still expected/people were expected to do their job; and sometimes, we had to have hard conversations. And sometimes—we’re human—so there was grumbling, and we disagree at times; but just the way that the staff, under Tim’s leadership just worked through that, it felt very different than any workplace—right?—that I had been in previously.
So that, I think, was the seed of: “Hey, what is this whole grace message? I see it in parenting; I see it in marriage; now, I’m experiencing it in a workplace.” And then, people would say, “Hey, we need a translation; because this/do you think this would work in my office?” Well, I know it works.
Tim: Yes, I remember him talking to me about it; he said, “Boy, you know, I didn’t realize—I thought this was something you were just trying to help people with in their marriage and in their parenting—but this ministry is a culture of God’s grace.” I’m thinking: “All ministries should be that,” “All churches should be…”—there is nothing great about us; we’re just like everybody else—but then, he started, “I wonder if this could work in the hardnose industry.”
We had a guy in our church, who was also in that class; and he is a brilliant CEO. He is the kind of guy, who is brought into companies that have enormous upside potential but are struggling. He rights the ship—he gets everybody in the right seats, gets the people off who don’t belong, and brings new people on; then he brings the thing up, and then it’s sold—and he makes a ton of money just by the stocks that they gave him. He is a brilliant guy.
Well, he started talking to him about this company he was coming into; and he needed a guy like Michael. They started talking about: “I wonder if we could create a culture of grace in that company that has nothing to do with the church, or ministry, or Jesus, or anything else.” They started doing this; and then, as we talked more: “This is transferrable.”
Michael: Well, what was interesting about that CEO, whom I had met in that enrichment class that we stumbled in, his name is David. David and I had known each other for a long time. As he was thinking about this company, and what he wanted to create, he wanted to recast the corporate values. One of the values that he picked was: “Lead with grace.”
I remember—it was funny—when we had his executive team together, and he was kind of unveiling the values, and then we were going to start to kind of define them and wrestle with them, he pulled me aside and said, “I want you to lead the breakout session on grace, because I don’t know that anyone would know what it is.” The funny thing was we—there were maybe five of us together—and people started Google®-ing “grace,” because it was a non-Christian workplace.
So many people—yes, everybody has heard the word; they’ve heard the songs—but they don’t really know what it is. David asked me to lead it; because he said, “I know you know what it is because of this model that came out of Grace Based Families.” That was kind of the start of, in a true workplace, trying [to] effectively—David anointing me, “Hey, be the champion of grace and that value at our company,”—so coupling this desire:
- —to take this message into the workplace;
- —working at a company, at a more senior level, where we had the ability to actually pattern, and influence it, and teach on it, and just be an ambassador for it—it was kind of the perfect storm; really, a test kitchen or laboratory—for “What is grace at work?”
I was there for about seven-and-a-half years, and really wrestling with it, real time—testing some things, and saying: “No, that’s not it,” or “No, that doesn’t work in a secular workplace,”—but what we really landed on is what is in the book: is just kind of the stuff we tested in the marketplace, and it’s really worked. I’ve really seen it transform lives, and change cultures, and really bless people.
Tim: The good news is the model that we outline in the book—for what God’s applied grace looks like in the marketplace—is the same one: it looked just like it would in your marriage, just like it would in your parenting relationship, just like the church would have—because this isn’t some little formula that Tim and Michael came up with; this is the heart of Jesus.
Dave: What would you say to the husband—and maybe, it is the wife—who is listening, and they are like: “I am where Michael was; I’m a workaholic. My job is great; but it’s really hurting the most important thing in my life, which is my marriage and my family. I’m not sure what to do.” What would you say to them?—either one of you or both of you.
Tim: Well, let me come back to a principle I just mentioned; because it’s one of those principles that I have found in my life—if I don’t pay attention to this one, it will deal with me, one way or the other—“Never sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate,”—it’s just the way life is. Think about:
- Our health: if we are just doing things that are neglecting our health, it’s not “If...”; it is “When...”
- To not do the hard things, that need to be done on behalf of that relationship, is going to cost you so much more.
One of the points we make in the book is—we stop and say, “Look, I know what you are thinking: ‘Wait a minute! That sounds like a lot of work,’”—we say, “Yes, it is; but there is something harder, and that is if you don’t do this.”
Dave: Same thing, Michael?
Michael: I think a big thing is just come to grips with the fact that you are probably trying to get something out of your job that it is not designed to give you. We talk about that in the book quite a bit; and really, then what do you do about that? I think what you do is two things: one is really chase after God, and commit to serve others.
There are three ways we can look: we can look up; we can look out; and we can look in. What I find, many times, is people, who are really frustrated with their situation, are looking too much inwardly—they are not happy with what they are getting from life, or their job, or their marriage, or their whatever—but if you start to say: “I’m going to look up at God and pursue Him,” “I’m going to look out at others and serve them,”—that just changes things—it takes the attention off yourself, and it puts it where it should rightly be. Over time, then, that completely changes the trajectory of your life.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Tim Kimmel and Michael Tooker on FamilyLife Today. If you’ve ever felt like meaningful ministry is out there somewhere, stick around. Dave’s got an encouraging word for us in just a second.
But first, you can pick up a copy of Tim Kimmel and Michael Tooker’s book; it’s called Grace at Work. You can head over to FamilyLifeToday.com and find a copy there.
And if today’s conversation has been encouraging for you—and it gets you excited about conversations just like these, can get into more homes, more cars, and more air pods, for families who need the gospel applied to their everyday lives—we’d love it if you’d partner, financially, with us. As our “Thanks,” we’d love to send you a copy of Bob and Linda Lotich’s book, Simple Money, Rich Life. Their book is our “Thanks,” to you when you partner, financially, with us today. You can give, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 800-358-6329; that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Okay, here is Dave with an encouraging word specifically for you, as a parent.
Dave: One of the things I had to realize—as a pastor or a man in ministry—is loving others—the most important ones were right at my kitchen table—
Dave: —because I was committed to the Great Commission/making disciples. I had to be reminded: “The most important disciples are literally sitting in your home. They are not out there,”—not that they don’t matter—
Michael: They do matter.
Dave: —the workplace matters; my fellow employees matter—but Tim’s right; the permanent is: “Your family is more important than the immediate.”
Shelby: Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in at work?—maybe, toxic people or a boss who just doesn’t get you? Well, tomorrow, on FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson are joined, again, with Michael Tooker and Tim Kimmel to talk about how the toxic culture at work could be a perfect opportunity for God to work in you—not them—you. That’s tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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