Burn All the Boats – One Working Parent’s Journey to Freedom
Recently, I have been sharing stories about sole breadwinners. They are masters of responsibility for many of America’s families. But, they often set aside their own career development in the fear that one wrong move will spell failure in meeting the needs of their children’s day-to-day well-being as well as future education. In earlier times, that commitment often precluded the pursuit of work they would love to do. In today’s era of rapid change, the sole breadwinner often finds they have to change whether they like it or not. Time and time again, when our participants define the truth, they move into lives they most wanted but did not believe they could have.
The issue is that when we do what we love, that life has far greater permanence and stability than pursuing security through work that brings in the bucks but does not satisfy our soul. I am always moved when a sole provider comes into one of our programs and demonstrates the kind of courage to change their lives despite their fears of upsetting their responsibilities.
Here is one of my favorite examples. In his mid-forties, Dave Roth is a highly respected pioneer in digital marketing. He has worked for and served a number of Fortune 100 companies. Dave lives in San Diego with his beloved wife and children. Handsome, easygoing and smart, he has a demeanor that puts everyone at ease. When Dave came into The Inspired Work Program he was a well-known business leader in Silicon Valley. Our conversation began with a dialogue centered on getting another job and advanced to a journey that changed his life. The conversation opened with the big role he played with one of America’s great online brands. It continued with everything he was giving up in order to be there. Within a month, Dave launched his company, Emergent Digital. The business is devoted to bringing the innovation and sophistication of Fortune 100 digital marketing strategies to non-profits, green technology, and educational institutions.
Here are excerpts from our interview:
What are you doing with your life and how did you get here?
“The Inspired Work Program gave me an unexpected opportunity to step back and look at my work. But, I quickly realized that it was perhaps the first time that I could evaluate my work and my life together.
Everything in my professional life was ‘going according to plan.’ What happened in those two days didn’t represent my walking away from the wonderful companies I had worked for. It was about taking all that I had learned and applying that to the life I really want to have. The experience gave me the opportunity to design that life.
For years, I devoted all of my skills to bringing shareholder value to the organizations I worked for. As a father, I realized I wanted more. As a role model, I decided to bring new meaning to my work. There are countless organizations in the world that are doing good for the world around us. Many are non-profits, green technology companies, and educational institutions. Why not bring the sophistication of my background to organizations that do good? I want my children to witness their father working with clients that make their lives and their communities better. That realization was a watershed moment for me.”
You brought up the importance of integrating your personal and professional life together. What were some of the other payoffs?
“At the time, I was leading two almost separate lives. There was a demarcation between work and my personal experience. In the program, I got to customize my life. This included improving the quality of my life. For eight years, I took a two-hour train ride to and from work. I spent a great deal of time on the road. I’ve been very busy getting Emergent Digital ready for launch. The surprise is that my business is right next to my personal life. I get to drop off my kids at school and pick them up. I get to be there for more of their concerts. My wife and I are in discussion about her becoming the COO of Emergent Digital. That is a new and unexpected idea.”
I have witnessed many of our participants using technology to serve their lives and their businesses; to create greater freedom.
What does that mean for you?
“Emergent Digital is and will be a virtual company. Many of the most successful newer organizations have no offices. The digital world is filled with talent that prefers a virtual world to one that has offices and cubicles and long commutes. It is more efficient, it is kinder to the environment and it gives us more freedom. I have access to the greatest talent in our industry. I don’t have to move them to San Diego. The virtual world means I can pick and choose the best talent for our clients.”
While you were getting the business launched you had a very real moment of truth experience.
You were offered the perfect job.
“A wonderful leadership role opened up with a company in San Diego. It matched my previous income. It was a few miles from my home. I would have been working with people that I know and respect. I would have been in my comfort zone leading large marketing teams.”
Why did you say no?
“I am so filled with optimism and faith about Emergent Digital. Turning down the position was a scary yet clarifying step. My family totally supported me. My wife and children depend on me and yet they want me to be happy and to be my best. I have to give my all to the work I choose and I simply can’t have a job and launch a company at the same time.”
How did the company respond?
“One of the executives brought up the story of William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings. When his troops landed on the shores of England in 1066, he had all of their ships burned. Consequently, their only option was victory.
I have become so clear about the life I want that success is the only option.”