“You have to be very thoughtful and structured and not get too caught up in only focusing on the day to day of work and life- but make sure you also look at the longer term. Where do you want to be in five or 10 years? If you keep procrastinating and avoid making decisions, you don’t really hold yourself accountable.”
Six months ago, the New York Times bestselling author, former Forbes columnist, former c-suite executive, and co-founder of the counter-espionage tool, CyecureBox, Daniel Freedman made a significant change in his life. He started his own company and left behind the steady income and knowing what the day would bring.
Together with a business partner he formed a multi-person online video fitness platform BurnAlong (www.burnalong.com), enabling people to exercise live with their friends (or on their own) from home, to classes with top instructors – for days when you, or your friends, are too busy to go to the gym together.
Between juggling big ideas and all the practical paper work in a busy start up, Daniel made time to talk to us about what it took to make the big jump and how he used journaling, mentors and other tools along the way.
He is an inspiration for other entrepreneurs in the making, but his experiences and outlook are also great for anyone looking to take charge in their life. His story shows us that you don’t need to be completely stuck or unhappy to want to make a big shift.
Please introduce yourself…
I am from London, I started off as a journalist, then I spent a period working in policy, then worked in the intelligence consultancy world and moved to the technology and start up world where I’ve been the last few years. Seven months ago I co-founded my own company BurnAlong. I have lived in the U.S. for 11 years, nine in New York, one in DC, and now I am living in Maryland. I’ve been fortunate to have a diverse set of experiences, learning from some terrific people. I have worked with workforce development and helped people think about their career. I’ve co-authored a book called The Black Banners, which was a New York Times top-10 bestseller, and still occasionally write articles for different publications. I also launched a product and counter-espionage box utilized by CEO’s and governments who want to make sure nobody is listening in on their conversations via their phones (www.cyecurebox.com).
Have you always been dreaming of having your own company one day?
I’ve always had a strong entrepreneurial bent, so for quite some time I’ve been thinking about starting my own company. I’ve just been waiting for the right opportunity, the right time and the right partner.
Anyone who has ever founded a company will tell you that it is a very tough process. You are going from having fixed career path with a fixed salary and knowing what the next day will likely bring, to really not knowing what tomorrow is going to bring. So before making that jump, I wanted to make sure 3 things lined up: the right partner, the right opportunity and the right timing. Part of this is, and most importantly, is having the support of your family, because they are really taking that jump with you too. My partner and I are fortunate to have really supportive families.
What had been holding you back?
It’s a risk to leave a steady job with a guaranteed income. But I think the biggest obstacle is a psychological one – making that jump to the unknown. A lot of people are always talking about all these ideas. But that JUMP from having a good idea to actually executing it and doing it is a really big step.
Some say there are only two kinds of people: the ones who dream about their ideas, and the ones you make them happen. How did you use to think about yourself?
I’ve worked with people and have good friends who have made that jump before. They’ve been great examples to me. I have always envisioned that it was something I could do too, that I’d like to try. There are different times in life where you can afford to make these jumps and other times when you can’t. A lot of things do need to line up. But I definitely saw myself as someone who would like to do it at some point in my life.
Is it more difficult to make a big decision when you are not being forced by for example redundancy?
People have a tendency to push off a big decision if they can. One of the best things my partner and I did was to say: here is the deadline. At this point, we are going to decide whether we will do this or not. And if we do this, here are the different milestones we have to achieve. If you stop yourself, keep procrastinating and avoid making decisions, you’re unlikely to ever make that jump.
So in a way, your partner became your running buddy?
Definitely. We spent months getting together, bouncing around ideas, until we hit upon the right one. The process itself was fun. It wasn’t really until nine months before starting where we asked each other: ok, are we going to be really serious about this and take the jump and do it? And if yes, what’s our deadline for making that jump?
What kind of work did you do on your own to figure out if it was the right move?
Number 1 – I really wanted to validate the opportunity, so I spoke to people in the industry, friends, and mentors who could help talk us through the opportunities. Having someone who is not directly involved in your life as a sounding board is important.
Number 2 – Making sure my partner and I were aligned in terms of what we were going to be doing and looking to achieve. Making sure we were mentally aligned. There are a lot of great days, but there are also a lot of tough days, and you have to be prepared to deal with that too.
Number 3 – Lastly and most importantly, making sure the family is excited about, and fully behind, what you are doing. Because it is not just you taking a big step, they do too.
Did you use any specific tools?
Very much in line with Pernille’s message I asked myself: where do I want to be in five years, and in 10 years time? What do I enjoy doing? What makes me happy? And what has made me excited in the past about different jobs? It’s looking to prioritize things rather than letting day-by-day get away and ahead of me.
So an important tool for me was making sure I reflected on the past days, weeks and months – and then looking forward years out, where I wanted to be. That’s been very important because you can easily get lost in unimportant details of the day-to-day, and lose sight of the bigger picture. You need to take control and design how you want your life to be and how you want your day to be structured and your family interactions and everything else.
Reflecting and writing helps me focus on what type of person I would like to be, what matters to me, what matters and makes my family happy.
How does it feel having started the company?
It feels really terrific. I feel happy and excited every day. There are certainly obstacles and challenges every day- ups and downs, but it’s a super exciting experience.
When you are describing this process, you still mention bad days as a reminder that even if you do this work and this inventory check in your life, it doesn’t wipe out the bad days. But does it make it easier to deal with them?
That is exactly right. There are days of course that are very challenging. However, I also do think that when you go in with this mindset, knowing that is going to be the case, it makes a big difference.
What’s your best advice?
Make sure to reflect and think where you want to be in the future. Don’t get too caught up in day-to-day of work and life, at the expense of never looking at the long term and the bigger picture. By focusing on the future, you make sure you’re moving toward that goal, and you’re not getting too caught up or frustrated by things that ultimately aren’t that important.
WHAT IS BURN ALONG?
An online video platform that enables people to exercise with their friends during recorded classes offered by local gyms, studios and celebrity trainers across the world.
For more info on Daniel Freedman check his website:
DO THE WORK
When Daniel is talking about thinking about your life in a more structural way, it’s exactly what the six lessons in The Good Life Designed online course will help you do, providing tools to navigate through big and small decisions in life – designing your best life.
GET 6 TIPS TO JOURNALING…
Check out our tool box on: www.goodlifedesigned.com
SHARE YOUR TOUGHTS
We are happy to hear how this story inspired you or resonated with you?
SHARE YOUR LIFE DESIGNER STORY
There is no right or wrong way to design your life. There is only YOUR way. All life designers are so different, but when we talk about the work involved, we are very often very similar and share the same doubts and fears.
Do you have a challenging and inspiring life designer story; we would love to hear from you.
Please email: Karin@goodlifedesigned.com