Dan Feld, 31, is the creator and host of Prologue Profiles, a unique and inspiring podcast that tells the stories of successful artists and entrepreneurs. Dan interviews young people with unconventional career journeys with the goal to bring stories of the career-paths-less-traveled to the public.
I was of course delighted to get the opportunity to speak with Dan about his own story and the birth of this incredible project.
R: Tell me about your professional journey.
D: After college I spent five years working at a market research agency in New York City. I was a marketing major at NYU so getting into corporate marketing out of college seemed like the obvious path. I started out in the quantitative side of market research but later transitioned to qualitative research because it appealed to me a lot more. I worked hard to get into the qualitative marketing side and then I thought, ok well now what? and I sort of hit a wall. I didn’t know what else I wanted to do. A few years ago I met my now fiancé Fabiola Arias, a fashion designer. On our first date she told me about her business. She was twenty-two at the time and was already very successful. She put a lot of passion into her a business and what she was doing seemed so aligned with who she was as a person. And that’s still the case today. I had never met anyone like that before. Fabiola’s one of those people who lives a life where there’s no difference between her strengths, talents, gifts, and what she does on a day-to-day basis while adding value to the world. I thought, how do I do something like that?
I knew I wanted to help people, so at first I decided to become a school teacher. I joined a program called Teacher America that matches teachers who need jobs with schools who need teachers right away. This means that you don’t know where you’ll end up and you’re often placed in underfunded schools with a lot of problems. I ended up getting placed in Delta, Mississippi which is pretty much the opposite of Manhattan. I quit my job and left my awesome apartment in the Lower East Side where I had been living for six years and moved down south. I was supposed to be in Mississippi for two years. I knew during summer training that I wasn’t ready to have my own class and I was under so much stress that I was actually getting physically sick. On the first day of school I quit. I pushed the eject button and got out of there. It was not easy to do, but I knew it wasn’t going to work. There was nothing waiting for me at home. I didn’t want to go ask for my old job back. I couldn’t think of what my future was going to be. I kept asking myself, What are you going to do? and I couldn’t come up with an answer.
R: What happened next?
D: I began to pick myself up again by helping Fabiola with her business. We put on a fashion show that was quite successful and it was a good feeling. Fabiola then helped me realize that I was ready to do my own thing. It’s so important to surround yourself with people who believe in you that much. I knew I had more to share but I didn’t know what that was. Now I was finally ready to think about it properly and piece it together. I took a step back and I became my own best friend. I looked at my life objectively and thought, you are not the only person going through this. I thought that there must be other people like me who were looking for help the same way I was. And I knew a lot of people who were doing awesome things. I thought, I should make a show that shares these people’s story and shows what’s possible. I already had a lot of experience in interviewing people from my work in qualitative market research and using that information to tell a story. I figured if I can make something like deodorant interesting I can make these stories interesting. So from there I was off. That was January of 2012. Two months later I had eight episodes ready to go. Currently, I’m freelancing to pay the bills while working on Prologue Profiles as much as I can.
R: What do you recommend to someone who doesn’t know what to do next, like how you felt after leaving Mississippi?
D: It’s all about being your best friend. Being on your side. It’s so easy to throw stones at yourself. You can point out every wrong move that you think led you to where you are. It’s also easy to assume that where you are is bad. In the end it all comes down to mindset. The biggest trap is to look at where you are in life as a place that is wrong or a place where you shouldn’t be. Time really is a gift and there is a process from getting where you are to where you want to go, even if you don’t know where that is.
R: Tell me about Prologue Profiles
D: Prologue Profiles is a show for people who see people doing cool things and want to know how they got there. It started with my personal social circle and the interesting people I’ve met over the years. My friends were totally into it.
D: In terms of guests it’s expanded in a tremendous way. My friends started recommending their friends to be on the show and it’s grown from there. Once I had a show that was established I could find people on the internet and invite them to be on as well. So it’s grown pretty organically that way. The goal now is to get a sponsor.
R: What are the other major goals for Prologue Profiles?
D: Sponsorship is the first goal. I’d like Prologue Profiles to be my way to pay the bills rather than freelancing. As I build the show I share that dream with people. I’d love it to be what I do full-time. It’s important to try to avoid the trap of being frustrated that you’re not there yet. I get into that all the time. I try to focus on what I need to learn and how I want to grow. I’ve been asking people with sponsored podcasts how they got there and how the structure works. So I’m learning every day.
R: Why do you think more and more millennials are going after what they love rather than just doing something to pay the bills?
D: We have it so good that we are allowed to even think about what we love to do. We haven’t experienced a war for example or other major crises. I think when we get to a point where we can pay the bills we have the room to question if that’s all life is about. On top of that we see on social media all sorts of people doing cool things and we think, well, why can’t I do that?
R: Anything to add?
D: I think it’s important to note that I didn’t ever plan to get into freelancing either. It turns out that the good work that I did at my old job paid off. People who ended up leaving my old company now work at different companies, and those companies need help that I can provide. It’s good to keep in mind that if you do great work wherever you are, the universe conspires in your favour.
Amen to that. Be sure to listen and subscribe to Prologue Profiles on iTunes. You can also read more about Dan’s story here and keep up with the project on Facebook and Twitter. If you have any inquiries Prologue Profiles feel free to contact Dan directly. I think we’ll see this awesome podcast grow for years to come.