July 4th 2012 -The Day I Gained True Independence

It’s Independence Day. Last night, as my wife and I were watching the sky colored with beautiful fireworks, my mind went all the way back to exactly one year ago. It was the day that everything changed in my life.

7/4/2012, my then pregnant wife and I were also watching fireworks. We sat on the grass of a big community park, surrounded by other families cheering for the extravaganza. I was as depressed as a man could be. At the time, I was a six-figure-income earner at a Fortune 500 company. As the baby was getting close to make his debut in the world, my entrepreneurial dream was about to say goodbye. As the father of a newborn child, I was supposed to provide financial security. It was time to lock up my dream of becoming a world-class entrepreneur for good. I didn’t make the jump when I had the chance. It was too late then. Game over!

As the firework glared in the sky, I was visualizing the rest of my life unfolding. I would someday get another promotion, manage more people, double my salary, buy a new car, and grow my 401K. We would have another baby or two. Every year we would engage in the cycle of school-summer vacation-school-holidays. Eighteen cycles later, my kids would go to college, and we would be old. I would help my employers sell a lot of products, develop a lot of processes, and train a lot of employees. I would have made no real impact in the world, and I would die full of regret someday.

“Crap”, I murmured as the mental slideshow of my future ended on a funeral scene. “What’s wrong?” My wife was concerned. “I missed the boat, and my life is going to suck”, I replied. As I explained what just went through my mind, I was expecting a wife educating her husband on how to be dependable, grateful and content. Instead, she said, “If you aren’t happy, I am not happy. You know, I married a man with the dream and ambition to change the world. You need to give me that man. “

We then sat down and devised an entrepreneurial plan that involved quitting my job, building a startup for six months, and deciding on what happens next based on traction. The next day, I called my manager and gave my resignation. Two weeks later, I surrendered my badge and walked out of the office one last time. And four days after, I held my son as he came to the world. I shocked everyone - colleagues, family, friends, and even myself.

Exactly one year later, as I was holding my wife’s hands watching another firework show, I knew I was lucky to have married this amazing woman. I was also fortunate to have divorced my dependence on the false sense security that came with a regular job. Yes, a paycheck every two weeks is good. But if the prices were abandoned dreams, an unfulfilled life, and irreversible regret, then no matter how large the number is on that check, it would not be worth it.

July 4th is to celebrate a nation’s independence from a foreign government. For all the entrepreneurs, artists, and professionals who want to make a difference in the world, it should also serve as a reminder that we need to be independent of the false sense of security, and celebrate our freedom to pursue our passion and dreams. We only live one life, and why not live to the fullest?