Shawn Dahlen

Periodic updates on my software startup endeavor

Shifting My Attention

| Comments

After ten years working at Lockeed Martin I decided to leave my job and and pursue a startup. The decision did not come easy. I left behind colleagues, mentors, and leaders who had become my extended family. With their trust and support, I have grown tremendously as a professional improving my technical, mangerial, and leadership skills. However, a growing sense of dissatisfaction had crept into my life which are attributed to learning a few lessons during this period.


  1. Money and achievements do not bring lasting satisfaction. I had the fortune to receive an excellent college education and a job opportunity right out of school. I worked hard and took advantage of the increasing levels of responsibility offered to me. In return my salary grew threefold and I notched many project successes and promotions on my belt. However, much like buying a new toy, earning more money or receiving the next promotion offered fleeting happiness. I found that if your sense of worth becomes too closely tied to your career, it can consume your attention leaving an insatiable thirst for more.

  2. Your attention is the most valuable thing you have. Having your first child is a surefire way to gain perspective! When my son was born, I became acutely aware of the importance of my attention and how the quality of time spent with him was directly related to my engagement in the moment. Conversely, spreading my attention thin was a recipe for mediocrity and unhappiness. For a while, I tried to do it all: put in long hours at work, exercise, spend quality time with my wife and son, and tinker with open source projects. Nothing received my best. It became clear that I needed to set limits on where I placed my attention so I could increase my focus on what I valued most — family and entrepreneurship.

  3. Failure contains the seeds of opportunity. Since I was a child, I have had a love of learning nurtured by my mother and an interest for self-employment reflected by my father. I’ve desired to launch my own software business where I had the opportunity to employ multiple skills including product and project management, design, engineering, operations, and marketing. However, a semi-concious fear of failure held me at bay. During my time at Lockheed Martin, that fear slowly abated. My experiences have shown that project failures could parlay into future successes and that taking on challenges is the best avenue for personal growth.

I discussed these lessons with several colleagues and family members over the last few years. Actions speak louder than words however, and it is now time to act. Leaving my job reflects my intention to set limits on the accumulation of wealth and traditional career advancement to focus on my life goal: Nuture a healthy, minamalist lifestyle directing attention towards family and entrepreneurship.


In pursuit of my life goal, I have drafted a few mid-term (3 year) objectives:

  1. Establish a balanced exercise, meditation, and nutrtition plan to revitalize energy and cultivate mindfulness.
  2. Generate semi-passive income covering expenses and savings goals to achieve financial freedom.
  3. Purchase a new home near family to reconnect and share in the experience of a new generation growing up.

Of these three objectives, my blog will focus on #2. Over the next 30 weeks, I will share my progress as I look to launch a software service and generate $10K in revenue by year-end. To keep my focus on the business, I will be limiting myself to a single entry a week describing the objective, accomplishments, and lessons learned. I welcome you to check in on Sundays or subscribe for updates via email or RSS feed.