Think of one person in your life who’s helped you get where you are today. If you want to have a powerful moment of human connection, call that person and thank them for what they did for you.
I was personally on the receiving end of one of those phone calls. It was from David Holtze.
I hired David just out of college into his first sales job in Chicago. He worked hard, delivered above plan, and accepted a big challenge early in his career: turning around a territory that was in the red. He flew to Phoenix and took over an office, managing people 15 years older than him. His back was against the wall. He took it all in stride and delivered again.
As his career blossomed, so did our relationship. I also knew he wasn’t destined to stay on the corporate career track. That wasn’t his dream. I knew because I asked and like so many millennials, he dreamed about building his own business and blazing a path to create personal freedom. I convinced him to stick around long enough to absorb a few of the skills I believed he’d need to strike out on his own. Mainly, how to sell.
At 30, David made his move. He transitioned out of the ad agency where he was working in San Diego and signed on to run his own sustainable food truck as a franchisee. He was doing the daily grind of the determined entrepreneur and turning his vision into reality. But the story doesn’t stop there. Fast forward four more years and he is running his own independent enterprise, Harvest Kitchen. I got the call from David on the cusp of landing his largest deal — a massive corporate catering contract. He’d already booked 17 weddings on the calendar for the year. His business was exploding. He’s well on the path to personal freedom with a business and life he truly loves.
His story also includes some valuable perspective about the struggle and sacrifice that are required to strike out on your own and succeed. He would be the first to tell you that his success has nothing to do with luck. It’s more about having the courage to decide what you want and the discipline to do whatever it takes until those dreams manifest into reality. Today, he is truly living the life of his dreams. This is how he made it happen.
Accepting the Required Sacrifice
“On my 30th birthday, I signed a contract to start my own business,” he says. “A week later, I quit my job at an ad agency. I liquidated all my assets — my 401k, my Roth IRA — to get the truck running.”
“Everyone around me had doubts. Everyone kept asking ‘What if?’ questions. What about insurance? What if it didn’t work? They all came from a place of love, but also of fear.”
“I realized that if everyone always asked ‘What if?’, no one would ever accomplish their dreams. I decided I’d do everything I could do overcome those doubts.”
“I was broke, and I didn’t have a paycheck coming for the first time ever. It was exciting, but it was scary. I realize now how important it is to be excited about the challenges. I sacrificed everything. For a few months, I even rented out my house on Airbnb and lived out of my van. I simplified everything in my life. It was a huge shift.”
David’s sacrifice was critical to building the life he wanted. What are you willing to risk? What are you willing to give up? David was willing to lay it all on the line (including his home!) and that provided him with a huge advantage.
Knocking Down the Dominoes
“I’m big on manifestation — visioning what you want to accomplish. Here’s how I think about it. Your dream is like a row of dominoes. I decided what I really wanted was to run a food truck. I pictured everything it would take to get there. I saw myself working in the truck, doing dishes, putting in long hours. I envisioned every detail along the way — what I was wearing, what the weather was like. I saw the long line of decisions and accomplishments I’d have to make. But I knew the last domino in the chain would eventually fall. Maybe I’m only on domino #3 right now, so I can’t worry about domino #276. I know it will fall, and I just have to focus on each step as it comes. So when people asked me ‘What if?’, I kept focusing on making the next domino fall. If you worry too much about the last domino, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and give yourself permission to quit.”
“You get back from the universe what you put out. So you can’t put out doubts. Instead of telling people (and telling myself!), ‘I’m thinking about maybe starting a food truck,’ I realized I needed to vocalize what I really wanted. I needed to be assertive: ‘I’m going to start a food truck. I’m building a business.’”
Finding Personal Freedom
David has worked hard — long hours at music festivals, serving big lunch crowds, and now, building Harvest Kitchen, focusing more on catering and events. He’s expanded his team, and he’s learned the power of investing in great people. Because he’s hired a great team, he doesn’t have to be on-site for every event anymore. He is scaling the business and his quest for personal freedom is now his reality. He took a two-week trip to Costa Rica. He goes to Burning Man every year and turns off his cell phone for weeks at a time.
“Now I have a simple life,” he says. “I invest in experiences and relationships instead of things. That’s what bring me real happiness. I’m living the life of my dreams.” When people tell him he’s lucky, he corrects them: There’s nothing lucky about it. He created this lifestyle by design, pushing down one domino at a time.
Now he’s focused on mentoring other people, paying it forward and continuing the web of support.
Investing in People’s Dreams
People want to follow a leader who is invested in them and personally committed to helping them achieve their dreams. Don’t know what someone you care about is dreaming? Ask them! Get on the same page. Help people prepare to knock down the next domino! That’s leadership. It isn’t about us. It’s helping someone else unleash their true potential into the world and truly live the life they deserve and desire. Leadership isn’t a job, it’s a responsibility.
VIDEO: The Gift of Leadership – YouTube
Learn more about Harvest Kitchen, David Holtze’s sustainability-focused catering company in San Diego.