The Heart Behind the Power of Half
By Carl Kozlowski
April 30, 2010
Kevin Salwen had a great career during his 18 years at The Wall Street Journal, then launching two national magazines and ultimately his own entrepreneurial ventures. He had a mansion, fancy cars, great vacations—and an idealistic 14-year-old daughter named Hannah who made him rethink his entire way of life.
It was during a drive with Hannah three years ago that she noticed a Mercedes on one side of the street and a homeless man on the other. She then asked a question that inspired Salwen to make a change that has now led to a book called The Power of Half, which the father and daughter co-wrote and recently took on a nationwide signing and speaking tour.
“She recognized the huge disparity. Even though she had been working at a homeless shelter and the Atlanta Food Bank a bunch, this day the disparity really struck her and the injustice hit home,” says Kevin Salwen.“She said, ‘I don’t want to be a part of a family that just talks about making a difference. Let’s make a difference.’ My wife and I tried to explain we give a generous check each year to charity and finally said what do you want us to do, sell the house? And she said ‘Yeah.’”
Incredibly, Salwen took her up on the challenge, selling his house and moving to one half as large. The other half of the sales price was entirely donated to charity or invested through firms that benefited charitable causes. What he learned from the process was that there were far greater unexpected rewards to gain from all that his family gave away.
“We had over $800,000 to use, and we took close to a year to work out how to donate or invest it. What happened in that year was an amazing process, because it was bringing our family closer and doing magical things for our relationships,” says Salwen. “We decided to write the book not to say, ‘look what we did,’ but to say our relationship is completely transformed. We’re now closer and more interconnected than ever before. You can bond your own family by trying the same, and the book gives a road map of what to do so that others may do it too.”
Indeed, the book shows many other ways that people can apply the principle of “half’ in their lives, even if they’re too young or too broke to own a house in the first place. Salwen believes the most important thing is imparting the thought that there has to be “a higher purpose and feeling to work,” and that you can’t rely on your work life to make yo “Kids find meaning in it, realize they have power and they can create their own project on behalf of something in their life. Build your own way to meaning, like cut down time on TV and online and use your free time to help the community,” says Salwen. “If you do it with a family or group, you’ll have connectedness or bonding. We are faithful people, we’ve always raised our kids that the Lord puts in you a sense of right and wrong. You need to be out there and realize the world is bigger than you.”