I was born in Spokane, Washington, and grew up in Idaho with six siblings, an overbearing father, and a Jehovah’s Witness mother. What could possibly go wrong?
When I was a teenager, our family moved to Alaska where my father opened his own grocery stores where I worked as I finished high school. I spent one full semester at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, but my collegiate experiment ended when my newfound religion encouraged me to become a minister instead. I got married early in life, and we had a beautiful daughter.
When I was 22, I joined a small employee recruiting firm in Boise. I was just looking for a decent paycheck so I had no idea I would spend the next fifty years in that industry, eventually launch my own company Dan Bolen and Associates, and carve out a reputation as a renowned national expert in the field. There was, however, a dark side to the shiny veneer of my outer success, which was that I used addictions, to work and religion, to bury who I was. To the outside world I was the millionaire founder of the number-one executive search firm in the country; on the inside I was isolated and walled off from myself.
Finally, as I retired in my early seventies and paused to face myself for the first time, I found the courage to come out as gay. That was no easy task as I had to confront and process all my emotions without any of my trusty old hiding places in work and religion. Being my authentic self was fully liberating and also cost me everything: my marriage to my second wife ended, my church cast me out, and my family and all the people who I thought were friends, who were all Jehovah’s Witnesses, cut off all contact with me. I had lost everyone to gain myself.
Yes, I was alone, but oddly for the first time in my life I no longer felt alone. I’d finally come home. I have found true peace for the first time in my life by leaning into myself instead of always running away from myself.
My Professional Journey
I started at Snelling and Snelling of Boise, an employment agency firm. After a stint at another executive search firm Dunhill, I opened a Management Recruiters office in Boise. No one gave us much of a chance of surviving in such a small market. However, we became number one having the highest production (by per-desk-average) out of 600 offices nationally. We won all the regional awards for the West Coast competing against Management Recruiters firms in Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. We also won company national awards over the period of several years including Account Executive of the Year, Working Manager of the Year (twice), and Manager of the Year.
With that success, I launched Dan Bolen and Associates in 1985, and we soon ascended to number one in our industry. I developed a concept still in use today, called the FAB Sheet (Features, Accomplishments, and Benefits). I was then asked to do seminars. To that end I created and developed a video and training tool “Being a Million Dollar Biller.” I traveled extensively, including internationally, to train other account executives and managers in the executive search business.
I received rave reviews. At the peak I was working ninety hours a week running my own search firm and spending my weekends traveling the nation and world. I truly had a deep passion for my career and focused on helping others.
The Courage To Be Courageous
I vetted and hired a professional author to help me write the book. During our eighteen-month process, from first concept to holding a finished copy, something magical happened. I discovered the book was merely a vehicle for my message that had evolved into a larger purpose, which was to help others overcome their own fears. Whether male, female, gay, straight, or somewhere in between, all of us have times when we struggle in life. I’m finally able to breathe, and I want others to experience the same profound shift.
From my own experience I learned that what keeps us in the struggle is fear, which is False Evidence Appearing Real. Trust me, I know about fear because I’ve lived almost my entire lifetime being afraid. I made a lot of money and had a lot of external success markers, but I had no idea who I was. Thankfully, when I was able to develop the courage to accept myself, I started to move out of my shame. What a relief to look in the mirror and finally like who I see. In a word, I was finally able to be courageous.
The Courage to Be Courageous: A Memoir of Struggle, Success and Truth, quietly debuted in August 2022. Again, it was never about trying to sell copies of the book so I didn’t have an official launch or make a big splash to market what we’d created. Instead, I’ve been focused on my new mission to help others.
Living in fear is so common we’ve all become numb to it. To get on a different track we need to tap into the power of courage. Find courage and then you can be courageous. My own memoir documents the losses I experienced and the psychological pain that eventually moved me to summon my own courage to be courageous.
I found my way out of the struggle and darkness through transparency and acceptance. Now I live in peace and light. Everything is different now because I like Dan Bolen. I’ve replaced my old dogmatic religion with a new one: Truth. And when you embrace and commit to truth, all things are possible.
I absolutely believe we can all be true to ourselves and our highest callings. But I won’t sugarcoat it: just as I did you might have to let your life unravel to get there. It will take courage, vulnerability, humility, honesty, and a lot of hard emotional work. There will be tears and triumphs, setbacks and victories. I’m hopeful your entire life won’t unravel like mine, but if that’s part of the process I say trust it and see where it leads you.
Along the way, I am here to help you find your own courage to do what you probably already know needs to be done.
Reach out to me at any time. I am happy to be another guide on your journey. I don’t proclaim to have the answers, but I can offer my own experiences, some grace, a few bad jokes (I’m really quite funny), and encouraging nudges in the right direction.
May you, too, find your ultimate peace!