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Find your rock in Ensenada.

Every entrepreneur has that moment of truth – the one that marks the decision to take the path to entrepreneurship or the path to job security with a larger employer.  And down the road a bit, most of us face another when deciding whether or not to go for growth, requiring new investment and increased risks.

My moment of self-confrontation came many years ago when deciding whether to leave behind the relative comfort of a good income from my one person operation or hire my first employee to allow me to spend my time in sales and in growing the business.  It was perhaps the most difficult decision of my young life.  Just out of college, managing a business that had paid my way through college and several years beyond, the cost of expansion would cut my take-home income enough to impact my life style and perhaps, if not quickly successful, cause me to put off my pending marriage.

Not a small decision.  So I got in my car with a small overnight bag, pointed toward Mexico, and headed to Ensenada, a place I had been to a number of times before, to find solitude for a short weekend just to think about the future.

[Email readers continue here…] Checking into an inn I had visited before located right on the beach, I walked out to the shore and found a large, smooth rock, perfect for a long,  hopefully productive sit.  And I sat.  I sat for five hours that night, thinking about the alternatives and what I really wanted for myself over time.

After that evening of isolated, quiet thought, it was clear to me that I wanted to take the risks, to go for it, to attempt to build a big business, to leave my
comfort zone.

The next morning, I returned to the rock and sat.  Planning ‘how’, now that I was comfortable with the ‘what and when.’  And after a few more hours, I had devised my personal plan.  I would hire one full time employee and one independent contractor for a start.  I’d take no bank loans or ask for any outside investment.  This would be entirely my risk to take unaided.  Satisfied, I left that rock, checked out of the seaside inn, and drove home excited and ready to execute my plan.

The story is true. The outcome was excellent.  I grew that company to over fifty employees, even taking it public after a number of years, and later selling my interest in that first company to get into the computer software business just at the right time to take advantage of its amazingly rapid growth.

But it all started with the decision on that rock.  If you have a life-changing decision to make – including whether to start your entrepreneurial journey – have you identified your rock in Ensenada?  Do you have a quiet place where cell phone, text and other distractions can’t reach you while you dig deeply into a problem or opportunity?


  • Dave –

    I really enjoyed your “Ensenada” article, especially when it reminded me of my own “Ensenada” experience when Bob and I started Megasys.

    I wanted to let you know that of all the people I’ve worked for in the half century I’ve been working, you were the one who exemplified what a great leader is. And I’m not alone; everyone who ever worked for you would have walked through fire if you had asked because we all knew you’d be the first to burn your feet.

    Just thought you’d like to know you’ve got an army of fans out there.


    John Rollins

  • Dave,
    Good story and good thought. Taking the time – unhurried, unpressured, and uninterrupted – to quietly reflect on the big decisions is critical. Taking time on a regular basis also works for the smaller decisions in business as well as the way we live our life. Your “rock” story is a good reminder to periodically plan for times of getting away for reflection.

  • Robert Leisy

    Thanks for sharing this. I too can remember a rock near the beach in Oxnard which was helpful in thinking through what to do next.

    Another thought which makes it possible to find and utilize a “rock” wherever and whenever it’s needed: From Psalms 18:2: “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”

  • Not only a great and valuable story, but a painful reminder of a lesson learned.

    When I started my first entrepreneurial venture, I did not take the time to go off and reflect on what I planned to do, or even worse, to ask for any expert advice.

    It was 1968, for any of you old enough to remember — the year when MLK and RFK were assassinated; there was a police riot at the Democratic national convention; Nixon appeared to be a shoo-in for the Presidency but voters were having second thoughts and Humphrey was closing in; and we were in the midst of a flurry of conglomeratization and easy credit but too blind to see it for a bubble that would soon burst.

    So what did I do? Quit my job, got married, and moved to New York to start a new business.

    My pioneering idea was right on track, as witness the fact that many of my big-name competitors, who had originally dissed the idea, were doing it themselves within 2-3 years. So, I had a valid idea; unfortunately, I knew absolutely nothing about how to run a business. Having much earlier burned through my tiny bit of FFF capitalization, I had to seek shelter myself within a larger company within 2 years. An “artistic success,” a business failure.

    Would I do the same thing all over again? Not today, but back then, probably. On the other hand, the marriage, while equally impulsive, endures to this day and continues to grow in value…

  • Darryl Dobras

    Your story struck a note a familiarity.

    While attending college at the University of Arizona in Architecture you were required an annual review of your work. It was an stressful review.
    One professor had a unique way of handing down his decision. “I want you to go up in the mountains. Find a rock. Sit on that rock and think about your career. And don’t come down until you have decided not to be in architecture.”

    Your time in Ensenada must not have been during Cinco de Mayo, or the Ensenada Sail boat race from Newport beach.

  • Rene Fritz

    Dave I love your stories and emails!

    I remember over 30 years ago in YPO when Red Scott told a story similar to yours about how he turned his life around. He went to see is his best friend in TX and was told to get on a train to Chicago, take no paper, no pencil, just ride, eat and think and when he got off check into a hotel and put down on paper what he wanted to do. You may have heard Red’s story before? I have told this to many people who are unsure of what they want to to – be in life. Red went on to say he does a similar thing each year on the beach in Hawaii (I believe).

    Thanks for your stories!!!!

  • It is from this silence that true inspiration manifests.
    Harder to find and more important than ever.

    Living in Aspen, I am lucky to have a rock high in the Hunter Creek valley, where connection to place, self and intentions are a part of the flow…

  • Dave, I thank you for sharing your “aha” moment. Your story certainly puts a smile on my face and brings back many positive memories. My time alone, with just me and my thoughts have also been very inspirational. In today’s “we have to have it now” world, you remind me that insight and wisdom sometimes comes from remembering, “I need do nothing but be with me, away from it all.”

    There are two “special rocks” I have, one in the mountains, and one on the ocean. Time for me to schedule “sitting time” on one or the other!

    Thank you for sharing your insight and your story of success.

  • Larry Hall

    Dave, I thoroughly enjoy your insights. While all previous Insights have focused on the business, all of which I wholeheartly support and with which I totally agree having gone down the venture capital route myself. This recent Insight gave us a peak into the personal side of your experiences. Another great one, indeed, and I couldn’t agree with you more, once again.

    Keep the Insights coming. They’re much appreciated!

    Larry Hall

  • Good for you Dave. You are 100% correct. Every sucessful entrepreneur has faced this “aha” moment. Those that don’t agonize over this moment usually do not think out their plans well enough to suceed.

    Thank you for this moment in your life.

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