Episode 25 - Dennis Carlson - Centered Life

Dennis Carlson (00:00):
I've never been good at making life decisions based on economics. Are you ready to have kids? Like we gotta be ready or financial, like we gotta be financially ready or we gotta be at a good place. I'm willing to give up some of those exact same feelings that I had about some financial goals or even like just kind of life goals. And I've got a daughter going off to college this year, you know, for the first time that's something I've always had to like kind of step out into faith and, and lean into like the thing I was doing.

Young Han (00:32):
Hey guys, I'm young, a full-time dad and a full-time professional with the goal to become the best parent possible. The girl dad show is my journey in her viewing fellow working parents aspiring to be both good at work and parenting. I'm gonna do this by gathering and sharing unfiltered perspectives from my guest to join me. As I research parenthood one interview at a time. This episode of the girl ad show is brought to you by two 12, among the many things that I do. I'm also an angel investor. The two biggest mistakes I see founders make when they come to me for investments or one, they don't have a clean cap table. And two, they're unable to clearly articulate how my equity will dilute over future rounds. And more importantly, what my ROI will be when the company exits it's very difficult for me to make my investment decisions without these data points. Two 12 solves this problem for both me and the F founders for $240 a year, two 12 offers an incredibly powerful cap table management and valuation modeling platform. It is by far one of the most powerful productivity tools I've seen. And I highly recommend every founder sign up modeling, convertible notes, safes price rounds, prorata liquidation preferences, and exit events is a breeze on two 12 founders can then easily share all these complex calculations, and what if scenarios with investors and close their round much quicker. They're also giving my listeners 25% off their first year's membership costs. If you use the discount code TG DS at checkout, and if you're a founder or investor, you should absolutely get on two 12 as soon as possible. It's an absolute, no brainer. EUS is real and complex. Cap table management is confusing and expensive. You need to get on two 12 today. What's the point of building a successful company. You don't own Dennis. Welcome to the girl dad show. Thank you for joining me today.

Dennis Carlson (02:16):
Yeah. Excited to be here young. Thanks for having me. 

Young Han (02:19):
Yeah, absolutely. Let's jump right into it. So why don't you tell the listeners what you do for a living? So

Dennis Carlson (02:23):
I currently work for international justice mission and in any other organization, I think you'd call me a major donor fundraiser at international justice mission. They call me a director of strategic partnerships, but basically I work with donors to help fund our mission, which I'm happy to get into what that is, but really connecting their passions to the work that we do out in the field.

Young Han (02:49):
Yeah. Can you actually break that down a little bit and is that intent, and also when you're breaking that down, can you also share why they named it that way instead of what does that? 

Dennis Carlson (02:57):
Yeah, that might be before my time. I can give you, I can give you some, I can give you some ideas. Yeah, so, so, so international justice mission is the largest anti-slavery organization in the world. So we work in 23 countries and growing around the world prime, primarily working within the justice system to trans help transform those justice systems to actually protect the people that they're to protect. So mm-hmm, <affirmative> most of our clients. So victims are victims of violence in countries where the justice system has failed them, whether that's at the police level or within the justice system with whether it's attorneys or, or just legal proceedings or even like getting, you know, getting convictions to, to stick on perpetrators of, of primarily slavery, forced labor human trafficking and sexual violence. so what I do I don't, I don't do that side of the work. I don't, I don't work on the pro pragmatic side. What I do is I work with folks who have a passion for seeing an end to this problem and who also have resources to help us with an end to it. So I really I, what I don't do is I don't try to convince anyone that, that this should be their cause or that this should be their, their issue that they take up. What I really do is figure out what's what's really important to them and to their family, and then really connect that to the work that we do in the field and then ask them to, to make an investment. And so half of my job is kind of what working with folks that are currently giving to the organization and really support our work. And many of them have been champions of the organization much longer than I've been there. So some of them know way more about the work than I do. And on the other half of my job is to go find new folks who wanna join the fight and who really, you know, care about this cause, but, but don't know what they can do about it. You know, having resources and, and living here they really wanna feel like more connected to, to the work. So I helped facilitate that.

Young Han (05:12):
It's amazing. And I also think that it's like so interesting because you didn't grow up or, you know, you didn't grow your career down this track, right. So if you don't mind sharing with the listeners kind of like how you landed in a job like this, cause it's, it's very, very amazing when you announced it and very inspiring to be honest cuz you, you kind of came from the opposite side of the spectrum a little bit in my opinion. 

Dennis Carlson (05:38):
Well, hopefully not opposite in that I was perpetrating any crimes

Young Han (05:41):
Oh, sorry. Not that may, I meant more like in a sense of like being, you know, a hustler and like entrepreneurial.

Dennis Carlson (05:47):
Yeah. I know what you mean. Yeah. So and so yeah. It's interesting. Yeah. So I'll, I'll, I'll kind of share yeah. A little bit of my, my background and then kind of what led me there, but yeah, so I spent the last 15 plus years, most, most of my adult life as an entrepreneur in, in one way or another. And most recently I, I for since 2009 I started an insurance agency, which then transformed also to a, to like an HR technology consultancy and also built some, some SAS products for the insurance industry. All kind of focused around small and medium size businesses. My passion in that was, was always kind of building sales and marketing. And so that's where I kind of would find my entrepreneurial outlets even in, even in an, the industry, frankly, that sometimes could be pretty boring, like health insurance, employee benefits really found my, my niche in figuring out kind of what was broken and helping try to solve those problems for, for small and medium sized businesses, particularly for like folks like sitting in HR, like wondering how best to help their employees. So that was kind know what, what drove me in that business. And there's a longer story there, of course, but in 2017 I made a conscious decision. I actually probably made a decision about 2016 to sell my, my company. I had had a couple of unsolicited offers that I kind of went down down the road on and that really set my mind into a space you know, 20 14, 20 15, where I started really thinking like, oh, if I sold my business, what would that look like? What would I do? Mm. And by 2016 I'd made the decision, you know what I'm gonna, I'm gonna exit my business. I had a few ideas, but I didn't really have anything that I landed on on. Kind of in the meantime my wife and I had learned about international justice mission. So the organization that I work for now, we had learned about them through somebody had spoke at our church like 10, 10 years ago or so, and when we first learned the work of international justice mission, frankly, my first response was like slavery. That's not, that's not a thing. Like what do you, what do you mean you've, you know, fight slavery and other in, you know, around the world. But as I started to dig into it over those kind of next 10, 10 years or so, I really started to see what a massive problem this is, world wide. And then, you know, whether you, whether you kind of refer to it as human trafficking, we can get in some of the definitions or, you know, any of that, but human trafficking, slavery sexual exploitation once I really started to dig into it and kind of see what a massive problem was, I, I couldn't really find anything more offensive to me personally. So when you say like, how did you kind of transition to this work? You know, if you kind of fast forward this was kind of placed on my heart as like a cause of our day. And I feel like there are a lot of, there are a lot of great causes that people support and, and I don't try to diminish any of 'em, but for me personally and I didn't have like a personal story, you know, I hadn't been exploited or, or kind of experienced this crime, but for me, I think what it came down to was that nothing was really more offensive than commoditizing a human being. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>, you know, as that, I'm a, I'm a, I'm a Christian and, and I don't think you have to be a Christian to, to to think that this is pure, this, this is pure evil, but for me as a Christian, you know, my belief is that we're created it in the image of God, the Imago day, right. That, that that's how he created us. And so to me, what is more offensive to, to a God who created us in our, our image than did, to turn us into a product, did to turn us into a, a commodity. And I think that's really the root for me of, of like where my passion started coming from for this cause. And so what I, what I first did was just started like giving some money and finding other organizations that were kind of in the fight for this and the deeper I got out into looking into this, I really found that international justice mission really had solutions for like the entire spectrum, everything from raising awareness about the issue to investigating the crimes, to actually gathering Intel, to rescue those victims to then yeah, exactly. To like, yeah, to like then to bring people to justice and then to provide aftercare and restoration to survivors and there's a lot of amazing organizations working on like probably a singular piece of that. And we're ju international justice mission focuses is primarily around that justice piece around the justice system. But they also kind of have a solution for the, for the entire trajectory of, of victims and for bringing perpetrators to justice. Wow. Which is really where we, we see like the, the end of this hopefully is, is when governments kind of own that protection of their citizens. So when I started kind of thinking about what was next after selling my company, I always kind of thought like, oh, someday I'd love to work for an organization like international justice mission. Maybe that's something I do in retirement. Hmm. And you know, what, the only thing I think I could do is probably raise money or do something like on the marketing marketing side. Yeah. and so when I sold my business I just started talking to international justice mission. It wasn't a right fit over timing wasn't right. Kind of for either of us. So I went and started another business. I started a business basically helping my ex competitors in the employee benefits and HR space sell, sell more products whether it was sell more employee benefit packages or HR consulting did that for a couple of years. And then from there really started to like, just kind of lean into that, that push for more meaning. I, I kept thinking to myself, did I sell my business so that I could show other people how to do my old business? There's that's it was great work. It was really fulfilling and I've got a lot of amazing relationships out of it, but in the end I was, I was still just feeling like, I don't think that's why I sold my company. I had just kind of accidentally started this, this other business. And I also kind of in the midst of that had a pretty significant medical event. You know, we, we can, we can get into that a little more deeply, but it really impacted the way that I started thinking about what the heck I was doing with my life. You know, I think, I think guys, guys, and women probably of a certain age come to a point where you start asking yourself, like, what do I really want to do? What's really important to me. I'm in my mid forties, mid to late forties at this point. And I started was asking, already asking some of those questions. I was watching a lot of friends around me asking these same questions. Some of them, you know, went to, to pretty like bad answers to those questions and, and we all know like those, those stories other ones just kind of were kind of stuck like, well, I guess this is just what I'm, this is just my, my life now. Yeah. And I kind of had this blessing of of a pretty significant medical event that really led me to a place where I was down on my knees. Like saying like, like, where are you God? And like, what, like, like, like I'm all yours. Like, like I just, I didn't know, like I was like, kind of at the point where I didn't know what else to do. And I came through that and out of that, and in that process, I, I was talking to my wife and I was like, you know, what, if an opportunity arises with international justice mission I'm gonna pursue it wholeheartedly. I'm gonna go, I'm gonna lean into that and go after it and it was probably like six to eight months later that somebody that I had connected with there posted a position on LinkedIn. And I was like, all right, I gotta put my, my money where my mouth is. Yeah. And take this leap. So I went for it and I reached out and it was good, two and a half, three month process. But a year ago, this past August. So so just over a year, I accepted the position with them and, and have yeah, have been doing this, this ever since.

Young Han (14:17):
How about your, how about your medical situation? Has that been somewhat resolved or are you still that's been told?

Dennis Carlson (14:20):
Yeah, so, yeah, so, and I, you know, I share, I share this story. I'm not shy about the story because I, I think it's, it's a tale first. So I like I said, I'm in my mid forties and my, my physician recommended an, an early colonoscopy for me. Just some really like basic symptoms that like, I think most guys, you know, wouldn't even necessarily necessarily talk about with their doctor. And, and I was feeling just really anxious in general. So that's why I was talking to my, my physician. I think I was just feeling like not, you know, not right in my heart, frankly, about kind of like, like what you doing, what I was doing with my life. I was just giving amount of anxiety. And so I ended up talking to my physician and he was like, well, one of the things, you know, given, given everything, like, you know, maybe, maybe go get a colon, an early colonoscopy and, and and I was like, really, like you think so And he's like, yeah, sure, go for it. And lo and behold, they found a pretty significant mass, a tumor in my colon. Not a poly, but a massive tumor. So that led into having surgery to remove, it was a colon resection removed about a foot of my colon. And there was a timeframe for, it was about a month or so where I didn't know if it was cancer or not. They, the size of it was every medical profession was telling me even along the way, when they were doing like what they could with it early on when they initially biopsy just like a piece of it and things like that, every time they were telling me, well, we haven't found cancer yet, but at it at, at its size, it's probably cancer. Like it's gonna be cancer likelihood. Yeah. Yeah. And so I was, I was really in a state of mind where I was like, is this, you know, is this, is this it like, is this the, the thing? And if that's what really brought me to my, to my knees was like, like, oh my gosh. And the not knowing, like, I really just didn't know.

Young Han (16:19):
When they, yeah, a couple, the fact that you just sold your business, which has been like, kind of your, your driving brand, right. Your identity for, I mean, decades. Exactly. This is just like a, there's like a perfect storm of all these different things that are just gonna like, kind of stay during the pot for you.

Dennis Carlson (16:33):
That's exactly right. I mean, I, and I, and I, you know, hindsight is 2020. I, you know, I, I, I couldn't see it all clearly at all, when I was in the midst of it, I was just like, what, you know, what is happening and and had the surgery and and got the call from my doctor about a week after the surgery saying IIED every, every bit of it chopped it up into a million pieces and your can, and it's, there's no cancer in it. It was on its way. It was on its way, but it's, it's not there. And, and so, you know, I don't tell this story as like, you know, I'm a cancer survivor or anything like that. I'm, I'm, I'm a guy who went, went through some and, and, and came through the other side.

Young Han (17:13):
I'm founder all from a certain degree. Yeah.

Dennis Carlson (17:14):
In fact forth duty here. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. You know, and I, I know there's all kinds of stories. I don't claim like, this is like the craziest story that happened to anybody or anything like that, but it's just, for me, it really, it really like repositioned kind of my heart and my mind to, to think about like, what, like, what am I really doing? And I wanna be clear about something too, because as I've, as I've kind of thought about this and told this, this kind of journey, I don't think for me, it's not like, oh, now I'm now I'm doing the good work. Or like, finally, I'm making an impact or anything like that. I, I was doing that. You're, you're doing that. I mean, we're all doing that in our lives every day. Like, we can make an impact wherever we are. It's not like, oh, I even you say like, you know, you made this, you know, this big pivot or whatever. For me, I was asked, I kept asking, like, how can I get involved in this work? How can I go deeper? And I felt like the answer back to me was like, just go do it. Like, like I, like when I said put my money where my mouth is, like, that's really how it felt like it was more of a challenge to me. Like, just go do it wherever you are. And if that's what you say you want to go do, like, if you wanna go help a, a organization like IgM or any of the other great organizations working on the issue that you claim to care about, it's right there for you just go do it. And I felt like that was really the answer. I kind up getting back all along. And I was the one being like, well, yeah, but I, but I need, it needs to be a job. Or it needs to, like, somebody needs to tell me how to do it or whatever, even, even with like my entrepreneurial mindset and my like jump in attitude. So for me even like taking this, I guess, I just like, I'm coming to some clarity that, you know, it's, it's not like this organization or even this work that like, like provides me with, with impact. It's, it's really finding like what it is that you say you want to do. And then, and then actually going and leaning into what you say you wanna do. Like, are you actually like living out, like the values that you, that you've like announced either internally or to your family or to, to your friends and said, like, this is the thing I care about. Like, okay, then go then go do that thing. And I feel like that's the opportunity that I've been given here in this, in this role for, for this, for this time period, you know, as an entrepreneur, I, I, I never say, I never say like, never, I never say like, this is it. This is all I'm doing for the rest of my life. I'm not good at that. So I'm like, this is where I am for right now. And I, and I, and I wanna lean into it wholeheartedly. Yeah.

Young Han (19:36):
I mean, I know we got introduced by Jason and that's kind of how we met and I met you when you were navigating a very successful business and we were leveraging you for your expertise and advice. And recently when you made this switch, Jason and I had really good conversations about it, you know, about how amazing that was. And, and what would we do if we were able to, you know, sell a business or, you know, be able to have that ability to kind of reset and restructure, you know, your life or what you did. And it was really, really a fun conversation. And it's kind of funny that you, you sparked in us cuz we had that conversation. It's almost like the lottery question, you know, where, you know, you like ask those when like icebreakers, if you won the lottery, what would you do? But it's like, yeah, if you had, if you had this kind of like success point that we all look for as entrepreneurs, right. Which is acquisition or some sort of exit strategy, what do you do? And, and, and to watch you jump into this role and kind of follow your heart and, and, and find yourself in that way was just a really great conversation starter. And I honestly haven't stopped thinking about it since. Right. That's and I still kind of to this day, like still try, I don't know what I would do to be honest with you. And I, I feel a little bit bad because I'm not entirely sure I would join a cause or a nonprofit, but I definitely know that like, it is something that is part of what I want to be, and I want to be a part of you know, society in a very meaningful way, but it's just an interesting, it's just an interesting choice that you made and it's very inspiring. It's very, very inspiring.

Dennis Carlson (21:00):
Well thanks for saying that. You know, I, I, I appreciate that. And, and I would, I wouldn't tell anybody like, oh, like if you're looking for me, go join a nonprofit. Like you really gotta figure that like figure out where your meeting is in what you're doing. And that's something that I wish I had understood better. Even when I was doing what I was doing, you know, when I had a successful insurance agency and then even this, like this B2B marketing agency, you know, I, I wish I had had a little more self-awareness that the thing that I was looking for was actually like right in front of me and available to me rather. And I, and I don't wish that like, so I wish, you know, I hadn't have made this jump or whatever. I just, I just wish I had like, had a it's it's like a bit of maturity in hindsight that, that I think I've developed more recently than, than what I had. Like, you know, the, even the separation of like the work you do versus like impact, like as if those two things are separate as if like, you know, yeah.

Young Han (22:05):
Can, can I ask a very personal question? Yeah. Because I think the biggest draw for me making the comment about, like, not sure what I would do if that came to be is because there's a certain sense of like financial needs that I, that I, I should say financial wants, I definitely can surpass my needs. I have certain financial wants that limit me from wanting to make that decision, if that makes any sense. And so, yeah, the more personal and direct conver question I have for you is do you feel that because you had that, you know, good exit that you were able to make a decision that was more focused versus diversified?

Dennis Carlson (22:38):
That's a really fair question. And I wish the answer was, was enthusiastically. Yes, no. I mean, I, I, so when I sold my and I, I won't be as transparent to talk about like actual, actual figures, but I will be as transparent to tell you this, that this previous some idea, like when I sold my company when I, when my wife and I talked about it, you know, I was like, you know what, I'm gonna take two years off. I'm gonna just gonna figure out what to do next. That was about kind of the runway that I would've maybe set up for my, for myself and that wouldn't have depleted everything, but, but I couldn't retire. I couldn't say I can do whatever I want now. And that wasn't the purpose of selling my, my business either. I knew that I knew, I actually knew that if I had stuck with my business, I could have gotten to that point if I had stayed with it that's or if I had joined, you know, a couple of other opportunities that I probably had I kind of saw those as options for me. It really took some work for me to say, all right, I'm willing to give up some of those exact same feelings that I had about some financial goals, or even like just kind of life goals. And I've got a daughter going off to college this year, you know, for the first time and, oh, wow. Like the time, like, like I've never been good at making life decisions based on economics. I, I beautiful for, for better, for better or worse. I've, that's not something I've always had to like kind of step out into faith and, and lean into like the thing I was doing.

Young Han (24:13):
I'm gonna slice that as our intro video clip. That was beautiful. <Laugh>, that's a really great statement. Let's actually switch gears and talk about your kids. Do you mind sharing with the listeners how many kids you have and who they are and how old they are?

Dennis Carlson (24:26):
Yeah, sure. I've got three, three kids. So my oldest is 18. She's headed off to college this fall our middle child, she is 15 and she she's field hockey player loves hanging out with her friends, very typical 15 year old kind of, kind of stuff. And then our youngest is a boy and he is 12 and he is just a like flip and trampoline monster. Like he's, he's really into gymnastic, but the version of gymnastics where like, he can just work really hard on learning a new flip or a new trick or something, and then just get really good at that thing. He's not, not a, not looking to join a team or, you know, doesn't care about like like competition. He just like, loves doing it for himself and, and can be against himself in that.

Young Han (25:28):
That's awesome. Yeah. And what do your kids think about you switching your career like this?

Dennis Carlson (25:34):
Yeah, you know because my kids have, have seen kind of the way that I, that I constantly, as an entrepreneur was on, like on, onto something new, even when, even in, you know, in a business that I had for years, I was always kind of trying new things in it and getting excited about something new. So, so from that part of it, kind of the, the switching or the career pivot I don't think it was as big of a deal to them. When my wife and I would sit down and talk about like the funny financial implications of, of this career change and the potential financial implications I think, you know, some of it is kind of like, well, why are you doing that? And so like, it kind of opened up an opportunity to kind of share, you know, like, well, here's why, I'm why I'm doing this. Like, let me tell you about, you know, these kids in, you know, wow. The country that, you know and so getting to share, share some of that with them they've never been unsupportive they've, they've, they're there. And, and to be Frank, like their life hasn't changed dramatically. I mean, we, we've always kind of, you know tried to kind of maintain, you know, kind of a, a healthy, a healthy sense of what's what's possible like financial and traveling and, and all of those things. And our family's always put a ton of a lot of our resources like that we use for our family. We put it on like experiences and, and travel. And guess what? I took this job during COVID 19 guess what we couldn't do anyway. so so our life, you know, changed more dramatically from that, because that was one of the things we were do. Like we, our kids have been to Europe multiple times for, for long stretches. We, in my previous jobs, I always made sure that I could do it from anywhere, I wasn't good at taking vacation per se, but I was really good at, at working while traveling. And my wife had always had, and I always had that kind of deal. And, and so like, like with the kids, that's what, if anything, that's what they saw. We are not a, like, we're not a big stuff fam you know, we, I mean, we have nice things, you know, we don't, we don't live in, in impoverished life by any stretch, but for our kids, it was always more about experiences. And unfortunately COVID 19 kind of took care of that for us <laugh> so they didn't see like that big of a much change. Yeah, yeah. Much of a change in jumping into this, this work and they get why, you know, they get why dad, dad wants to go do this.

Young Han (28:20):
That's awesome. Yeah. And that also sounds like they're old enough to actually be able to share some, some of the reasoning, but also even some of the work that you do and, and give them some context. That's gotta be a wild conversation to have with your kids. Just, just com you know, being able to like expose them to just how bad the world can be quite frankly. Right?

Dennis Carlson (28:39):
Yep. Yep. And it is, it is something, you know, to, for, for they're at different ages and different, they have different kind of mindsets and different, you know, they all engage kind of in their own, their own way. So it's not something, you know, I'm not like, Hey, I'm in this, so you guys need to be in this too. This has to be your cause. But I want them to be aware, you know, aware of it and, and find those opportunities without kind of pushing it on them. Like here here's dad's thing, you, you guys need to care about this to really just like find opportunities to kind of open them up to it so that they can kind of see like, oh yeah, this is a real, real thing, cuz it's really, it's hidden from us over here. Right. I mean, we talk about human trafficking and, and it's, and it's a problem in the United States, but it's still, it's a very hidden problem been here. And, and then when it's, you know, thousands of miles away it's, it is hard to actually connect even for me to really like, feel super connected to the work sometimes.

Young Han (29:38):
Yeah. And then also coming from just the changes that you've made in your career trajectory and kind of the focus of it, I'm sure that you have also adapted a lot of the other aspects of your life. So if I may, how do you qualify success as a parent? And as a change since you've taken on this new job.

Dennis Carlson (29:57):
As far as success as a parent man, like, you know, asking, asking somebody to, you know, define success without like either sounding self deprecating, like, you know, I suck at this or showing you what an awesome dad I am because I'm on the girl dad show. So I gotta, I got, I gotta be inspirational. That's right. That's I feel like, you know, it's like walking that balance, but I'll just tell you, like, when I think about what success has meant for me, I mean, I mentioned how I set up my business so that we, so that I could work from anywhere. That was all driven by like wanting to just be around with my kids. Right after my wife and I got, got married I got to, we, we went, we went and visited some friends of hers and some, some friends of her parents I should say, so they were the, the next generation. Right. And, and they had had, I think they had like three or four kids who were, who were grown like our, you know, were our age. And I remember sitting at breakfast with a with the dad and, and we didn't have kids and kids weren't even on our radar yet we were newly married. And I remember one of the things he said was that he made, he made some career choices, like early, early in his kids' life. So that he could be around when they were around not to, to like go do like necessarily ha like we're gonna go do this thing together. We're gonna do this project together, whatever his whole thing was, I'm just gonna, I wanna be available when they're available. When they get home from practice, I want to be hanging out at the table so that, you know, and finding those like moments of  connection And that always, always stuck with me probably a, because I was already kind of wired that I didn't wanna work like a 40 hour a week, nine to five job in an office. I never, I never really understood that. Anyway, but, but really like, so when I think about like, when I look back now, my daughter's 18. So, you know, been to dad for, for 18 years. When I kind of look back at like what I think successful about that and what I tried to do when I, when I think, I think I accomplished was being around like just having lots of time. And we talk about quality over quantity, but I mean, I think quantity is like a thing and I don't think it's a, I, I, sadly I don't think it, it is available to everybody. I don't think it's like, oh, you just need to spend more time with your kids. I know that's not an easy asking. And so I'm not here to say like, this is what you should do, but for me, that became like the thing, like, am I around? Do my kids just consider me like part of the furniture sometimes. 

Young Han (32:39):
Yeah. Yeah. Like that's just always kind of around the level of like being taken for granted is like success.

Dennis Carlson (32:41):
A factor of that. Exactly. Exactly.

Young Han (32:43):
That's amazing. The baseline is super high then?

Dennis Carlson (32:45):
Yes, exactly. That's amazing. Yeah. So I think to me that, like you just hit the nail on the head, like being taken for granted is the measure of success. Like for me, that is, that is what it has become now, do I have to re each to like, find those other ways to like really make a connection, like, oh, get interested in what they're interested in? You know, like, yeah. Sometimes that's a challenge. Sometimes it's my, my oldest daughter is, isn't a cool music and I love cool mu like, I always like am a music fan that has been like an easy connection point. Yeah. For me. Right. my daughter is like super into getting her nails done and like trying out like all different things that is not something that has been like, like a clear winner for me, but like, she gets so like, excited about it, into it. Like, I want to hear more about it and like, you, you know, so like, when I think about like, like first just be around like find, like, be available to, to them, but then yeah. But then really like being into what they're into, like, and I've worked, I've worked hard trying to get my kids to be into what I'm into and it does not it does not work. 

Young Han (33:58):
It's good to know. yeah. Yeah. Cause I'm, I have young ones and I'm trying really hard to get them, you know.

Dennis Carlson (34:05):
some people, some, I see some, some dads who are really good at that, like, Hey, like they like this football team, like I'm not, yeah. I'm not SU like, I'm not a big sports guy, but like yeah. You know, that's one of the points that connection that I see with like a lot of dads and kids, whether it's girls or boys and, and, and I've never, you know, I've never really had that. I didn't have that growing up either. So, so for me, it's like the things that I'm in, you know, I was into music, I'm into fly fishing. I'm into like marketing and stuff like that. And you know, I've tried different angles with my, I thought, you know, I was when my, when my girls were born and I was like, my girls are gonna be star tennis players. Yeah. I was never, I was never that good. So I wasn't gonna be able to train them, bu, it's like, maybe they'll be into that. So,

Young Han (34:51):
Yeah. That's great. And then on the inverse side, Dennis, how do you qualify success in business now?

Dennis Carlson (34:57):
Yeah. It's man, I'm figuring that part out when you talk about the business of like philanthropy, because, because for all the similarities that I thought, you know, and, and do somewhat exist in between like typical sales and marketing inter you know, B2B enterprise, it's all, it's all relational. And like the relationship is everything. That's true. And like industry and business, but it's like the thing in philanthropy, like it's, there, there isn't much from, from, for a job like mine. Like if I can't like build a relationship with somebody where we actually have like a trusting, like open, you're getting deep into like, not just their passions and what they care about, but their like, like finances too, like yeah. You know, like, so that's right. So, so I would say now, like I consider success, like really like opening myself up to like the real relationship and, and having that reciprocated, like being able to like really make that relational connection with somebody where they're actually interested in sharing their passions with me, and that I actually like really am like, moved by that and, and can be like a resource for them to help them connect, connect those passions back, I would say, like prior to this role a lot of it was around more like typical metrics. Like for me success, I was, I, I think I, you know, what I used to say back when I had my insurance agency what I used to say is like, my business is like 50% in income, 50% lifestyle. Like I would kind of like when people would ask me kind of like what the goal of my business was or whatever, like, I, I, the lifestyle was super important to me. And so like, you gotta have finances to, to have, you know, a lifestyle of, you know, in that, in that context. But the ability to kind of be of like go to kids, games and travel when you want to, and take off, you know, the afternoon to, to go do something like that's the, you know, and just have hobbies. And, and so what for me, success in business was creating margin. Like, and I don't mean profit margin. I mean, like margin in my life. Like when I, when I had margin to like, meet somebody for coffee, to like deepen a relationship with somebody like that was like, I was success. I felt like success in my B like I had one in business when I could meet like a buddy who was like going through something for, for coffee and like, hang out with them or when, or when my buddies, you know, or like, Hey, let's, you know, our favorite bands playing in Chicago. Can we, can, we all like converge on Chicago for a couple of days with very little notice, like, you know, to me that's like success, like, to be able to like, wow, to like jump and do those kind of things. On the other side of that, it was, you know, like I, I ran an insurance agency. It was really important that like, like for me success with, with my clients was, for me, it was always when they said something like, I never understood this before. And it seemed, it's like so simple to me now. Like I loved being the person who took complexities and distilled them down to like simpler things. The metric of like money was always there. I don't wanna pretend that like, oh, the money didn't matter. It absolutely mattered. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>, it just wasn't, <affirmative>, it wasn't the only thing, because I would've had to give up all the other stuff that was really valuable to me to go after like the bigger, the bigger money. And, and some people might be really good at like, balancing that in a different way so they can like, you know, make a ton of money, but also have this, like the lifestyle they wanted. I just was never really able to do it. I wanted to, I, I wanted, I wanted to, I like to work hard, but I also love having that margin built in to kind of be available.

Young Han (38:50):
That's awesome. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that, Dennis. I'm gonna start my rapid fire questions here. If you don't mind, I like to ask the same four questions to every guest and I wanna start now. Sure. so what advice do you have for other parents and soon to be parents?

Dennis Carlson (39:06):
So I would say it's gonna be okay for soon to be parents or brand new parents. When I when my fir, when my daughter was born my first daughter I remember living, we lived in a tiny, tiny little house, and I remember after the parents had left, it was just my wife and I, and our daughter, like on our own. And I remember feeling like, I didn't know what to do. I'm gonna like, screw this up so bad. And my wife sent me out to go get dinner. And I remember I went and picked up California pizza, kitchen <laugh> I went and picked up CPK for, for my wife and I, and I remember walking of the restaurant with the bag, with the takeout bags. And I saw a dad with a little girl who is probably six years old and she was alive. And that was all I needed. Like that gave me hope. Like seeing that it's like, it's gonna be okay, look at of this guy. I don't know this guy from anybody. And I don't know his little girl and what they go through and how they got here, but look at she's alive. And I think I can probably do that.

Young Han (40:27):
That's amazing.

Dennis Carlson (40:32):
So it's gonna be okay. That's my, that's my rapid fire advice. Great

Young Han (40:35):
Advice. Great advice. If you can go back and tell yourself one thing before having kids, what would you tell yourself?

Dennis Carlson (40:41):
You know, I probably would say, don't wait. My wife and I didn't wait that long, but I, but I think like, you know, there's this idea, like, are you ready to have kids? Like, we gotta be ready or financial, like, we gotta be financially ready or we gotta be at a good place. Like if you made the decision to be with somebody for the rest of your life and you wanna have kids, and it's not the right choice for everybody, but if you wanna have children I don't know, like looking back that there's like a lot of benefit to saying like, you, you should wait to have kids like, like dive in. Like, it's awesome. Like, I like my family's every, and you know, the of thing, I guess about like, like having kids earlier is, is that, that means that they, you know, take off earlier, but I'm looking forward to all of it. Like, I look forward to like every, every way along this journey. And so I try not to have like a whole lot of like, oh, you know, if we had, if we had had another kid, if we had waited, we'd have, you know, longer to do this. I think like, I'm hoping the whole, thing's just gonna be continue to be an awesome experience.

Young Han (41:43):
Yeah. It's very Sage advice. Yeah. I love that. I, I was one of those people that waited, I think too long. And I, I do definitely like look back and go, I wish I had started sooner. Cause it's fun. So fun. Yeah. Absolutely. Is what is the most surprising thing that you've learned about yourself after you've become a parent?

Dennis Carlson (42:00):
Well, this shouldn't be surprising to anybody but me, but that it's not about me.

Young Han (42:06):

Dennis Carlson (42:08):
You know, even in the story I told about like, you know, it's gonna be a, it's gonna be like, I was worried about like what I was gonna do and what I was gonna do wrong or right. Or whatever. And, and you know what, like you know, maybe the cliche is, it takes a village or whatever, but like, there's a lot of people that speak into my kids' life. And a lot of like support around whether, you know, hard support that we, you can see touch and feel and, you know, it's there and soft support that like, you never even really like understand that it was kind of always around. And I think like, yeah, it's not, it's not just about you. Like it's, it's not about, it's not about me. Like it's, it's, it's about the kid and, and the community and, and a lot of fact that are out of your control too.

Young Han (42:56):
Awesome. And then to close this out here, what's your all time favorite business book?

Dennis Carlson (43:01):
I know a lot of people like highlight this as their favorite business book, but it really is. My, it is my all time. Favorite business book is the hard thing about hard things. Ben Horowitz, like that's, that to me is like the only business book I've read where like, they, they just, they, they're not trying to solve a bunch of problems. You know, they're not trying to tell you like what it takes to be successful. They're just really honest about like the struggles you went through. So yeah, that's been, that's probably been my number one for, since I read it at years ago.

Young Han (43:33):
That's awesome. Kindred spirit for that's my favorite business book as well, so. Oh, awesome. I, I knew I liked you. Okay. good. Yeah, Dennis, thank you so much for taking the time to be on my show and sharing so much of about your life and family and business with us. Really appreciate it.

Dennis Carlson (43:47):
Yeah. Thanks for having me Young. This has been awesome.

Young Han (43:49):
Great. Awesome. We'll talk to you soon. Thank you, right. Yep. Thanks. Thanks for tuning into another episode of the girl that show, we really hope you enjoyed that interview. And as always, please take a moment to review, rate and subscribe. We'll see you next time.

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