Counting on a Change of Heart? Consider a Change of Venue

Counting on a Change of Heart? Consider a Change of Venue post image

Since the beginning of my career I’ve been interested in how lifestyle benefits effect employee recruiting and retention.

I always wanted to be able to change the companies I worked for. Not enough companies offer that opportunity. Of all my intelligent, college-educated friends in San Diego, none seemed to have any real power to change the direction of their organizations.

Why not offer that power to young smart people? It attracts the right crowd and gives them a huge opportunity in return.

One of my first business mentors, who I admired very much, offered me such a chance. Eventually we parted ways, and although a “lifestyle” focus wasn’t our key disagreement, the issue played a role in our separation.

One day, way back in 2007, while I was trying to figure out a new direction to take my work and small business, I fired off a long, rambly email outlining the key things I’d like to focus on. I must have mentioned a few blowhardy things about the future of employment– lifestyle focus, equity, and vision. Ya know, stuff from a snot-nosed kid. It wasn’t the best email.

Here was his response:

“Who wouldn’t want a job where you can just strategize about stuff, have equity ownership, make lifestyle a priority, work with people who share your values…? Maybe you are a smart enough guy to pull it off, but I’ve really not seen that kind of thing too often in my career. And I don’t think I have ever seen it in a case where someone is building something of real value.

One of the things I have not really seen you demonstrate is the ability to stick with something for a significant period of time. Maybe that is how you want it, but ultimately in your career I think it could become a liability.”

It was true that I didn’t stick to stuff for so long. I still don’t. That, apparently, was a big problem for him and his organization.

It’s common to overestimate our ability to change the situation we’ve found ourselves in. I’ve met people who are gearing up for a lifetime focused on “getting people to take our democracy seriously.” We all know entrepreneurs who sit down every night at the dinner table and try to convince their family that their start-up is a great idea. How about our friends who are struggling to complete degrees in subjects they hate and don’t excel in?

And there are things that people say, that governments do, that companies perpetrate, that are built in to their DNA. That won’t be undone or overturned.

When my mentor told me that the things I was most passionate about– lifestyle, freedom, equity, strategy, working with amazing people– were a liability to my career, I had two options.

A change of heart, or a change of venue.




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Published on 04.06.12
  • JustinWCooke

    Interesting post…you’ve got me going back through old emails, looking for messages from my previous mentors.  Fun stuff, heh.

  • Dan it’s scary how often I relate on a really personal level with your blog posts. Keep it up man, you help me realise that the things that society tells me are flaws are actually my strengths.

  • Dan Mitchell

    Good stuff!

  • Thought provoking and inspiring.  Former bossues are always interesting aren’t they? Especially the ones who doubted you and tried to put you into their boxes of mediocrity. 

  • What is this mythical corporate mentor you speak of?

  • Interesting post, Dan. I definitely agree with you that “lifestyle-friendly company” helps recruiting and retention. 

    The danger (and I think this is where I struggle), that, unless you’re the one running it, an employee can get so comfortable in the corporate lifestyle-friendly atmosphere that eventually enough inertia builds up preventing them from leaping off on their own. They get comfortable with the “corporate security” of having a regular paycheck, and still getting to live the life they want… and yet, if your’e like me, there’s still a part of your soul nagging you to do your own thang… 

    Though I’m sure it’s a bit different if you’re the founder of your own lifestyle-friendly company. 

  • Then again, maybe my struggles have to do with the fact that my “right now passion” changes probably on a weekly basis. My wife laughs when I tell her my next big idea, because I have problems seeing any of them to completion. 

  • The underlying premise I take away from what your business mentor was saying is “Work sucks, deal with it”.  To some degree this is true, we all need to through phases of just banging the tough stuff out.  Many of us in this community don’t do enough of that.

    Ok, back to finding more VAs on oDesk to pound out the work for me.  ;-)

  • Dan

    good times, I pulled a few ringers out the other day. 

  • Dan

    cheers thanks Dan.

  • Dan


  • Dan

    haha, assuming his inner dialogue was more like “how can i tell this guy to shut up and make me a few bucks” :)

  • Dan

    sure for the wantrapreneurs :) on the one hand, I’m 100% in agreement… of course I like to dig ditches, but I can’t get down with the more global matyr attitude… my response to those with those attitudes is sorta like “hows that working out for you?”

  • Dan

    thanks for the support Matt, appreciate it. 

  • Dan

    haha cheers Adam, yeah ya know I was always motivated ‘towards’ entrepreneurial stuff rather than motivated away from the job. in retrospect, my lifestyle is 100% better, but at the time, i enjoyed working my ass off to build companies, and my motivation to build my own business was more my job ‘getting in my way’ than me wanting to get away from the office etc. 

  • This post really conveys what I’ve been thinking for the past little while.  How the old school mentality of sticking with the same “job” for a long period of time is considered the only way to be successful.  

    Diversity is such a powerful motivator, and not enough people look at it as a strength, rather than a weakness.

  • Dan

    Cheers agreed, if people want it sometimes better to harness the energy than try to change it. 

  • Charles M Henderson

    booom dan,  kickass again. you guys and chris just keep filling me full of startup goodness. with each podcast and every article my kahoonas get bigger. the runway is almost built up and getting ready for take-off. Recently reviewed some of employer reviews fact of the matter is once layers of middle management are introduced, it becomes about serving the level above you, making the person above you successful and one day maybe you work your way to a position where you can change things. fact is traditional companies cant move some people into suitable position quick enough.

  • Dan

    no question. was just telling a story about this idea tonite, i hope i can learn from those companies and empower talent sooner. 

  • i feel your business mentor was both right and wrong, i agree that sticking with something for a long time will give you benefits. Is that not what you are doing right now Dan sticking with something that seems to work. 

    Sure I would love to be at a business for 30+ years but A) that is not how life is now one of my old flames had 20 different jobs before i meet her, i have had at lest 10 jobs and somewhere around 15 business (some may not be consider a business since they did not make a profit)

    b) I think one of the problems with the old model is employees do not want to do different jobs, i have had that problem myself. Fear? bored? your just so use to doing what you suppose to do that doing something different is really hard. I really loved it when the boss would come over at the end of the day you are “working the weekend” or “your working late”.

    I finally told them no and i really did not care, or i just did not show up when asked why i just say i had other plans. 

  • Jenn

    I see the job board is gone? Haven’t visited in a few months or more, so I’m wondering if I missed out on what happened. I loved looking at your board and thought it was a great service!

  • Dan

    Yo Jenn! We had some huge successes on there, but it ended up being a ton of responsibility and admin work and we didn’t see a clear path to monetization so we shut it down and focused on other stuff. :(

  • A little late, but this is an awesome article and right on target for my week. Thank you!

  • Dan

    Thank you Missy! You’re right on time.

  • Connie

    Cant agree more! Stick with a good boss who shares the same values or create your own universe where you dont have to compromise. I still remember how my previous boss/mentor cared about my career and personal development. In my third year, he asked me what I wanted to do in my next step, he was ready to send me for new adventures even though he would certainly better off if I stay with him. He totally understand that after I excel perfectly the job duties (3 years is his line), it becomes routine and I get bored. To keep me in the same company, the best way is to let me experience new environment. Like you, I was brave enough to tell him my real thought that I wanted to study overseas to follow my passion and dream, instead of telling me that it is a crazy wishful thinking, he said : “Go ahead, follow your heart. You have to do it, it will change your life. Whatever things you need, I will be supporting you. You will go far. ”
    He brings me to where I am now, with his generosity and support.

  • Dan

    This is exactly where I am today (literally) – busting my ass to try to innovate in a corporation that just isn’t built to accept the pace of change necessary to remain relevant. So what do I do? Change venue and drop my substantial salary? Or stick it out when I know it’s a bad fit for me and leading me down the road of some seriously bad personal outcomes mentally/physically?

    I just want the freedom to work hard at something that matters and isn’t stymieing my existence…too much to ask for a 33 yr old with a great track record?

  • Dan

    Not too much to ask, but it sure takes some confidence and facing fears to go for it despite the level of permissibility provided by those around you.

  • Dan

    ROCK ON!

  • The second paragraph of your mentor’s response made me shudder! The only thing I’ve really ever stuck with, like for years, is building (and rebuilding) my classic car. I’ve now replaced that with a business in the hope that I’ll stick with it in the same way. So far, so good :)

  • :D Lots of ways to skin the success cat!!!

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