The Beginning: How I Got Here

The REAL beginning 🙂

To really get a raw understanding of the “work” part of me and how it relates to me being a dad, we need to start from the beginning — the journey of my career path as well as how it related to the balance of me being a family man.

The Beginning: How I Got Here

So, many of you know me as “Doctor” Ben Fung; currently the Chief Content Officer for Up Doc Media & a known blogger in the Physical Therapy/Healthcare realm in regards to healthcare advocacy, business, marketing, branding, and all things in support of students & young professionals.

I am a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), licensed to practice as a Physical Therapist (PT) in the state of California. Additionally, I have a Master of Business Administration from the University of Michigan. #GoBlue! And, have undergraduate degrees in Bioengineering & Psychology. Suffice to say, I’ve spent too much time in school. In my work life, I started out as a bartender way back in college while also making some money as a tutor and academic prep instructor for SATs & AP exams.

Eventually, life lead me to a place where I decided to go for that DPT degree & get into “real” work. Work… was good. But, it was tough from a professional standpoint. I felt very frustrated as a new professional having been duped in certain senses into an industry which is inflexible, highly political, and favors the experienced — despite the fact that how long one has done something rarely translates to how good they are at it. PS. That’s why I love Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) so much — the mat never lies. But, that’s another post!

Moving on. What ultimately happened was that my professional frustration led me to seek mentorship. My mentor advised that I look beyond my ceiling as a PT. He told me to look into getting an MBA so I could bypass the shallow boundaries of a clinician and jump into management. Soon after, I got a promotion as a PT II (level 2, in many industries means you have some more responsibilities and also have benefits of seniority). Still feeling frustrated, my wife found a snail mail flyer about a Rehabilitation Director at a well reputed, high-end facility.

I was actually struggling a LOT about even applying. But, I did. And, I got the job! Along with this job was nearly a 15% raise in pay. Salary. Prestige. Responsibility. And, the opportunity to make the difference that old systems refused to address.

This is where everything changed.

Going into this promotion into another company, I knew several things. First, I knew that my benefits would be sacrificed. Having a baby on the way, my wife and I devised this plan which would get us a total of 9 weeks of baby bonding time with tapering back to work schedules for the last 6 weeks. All this went away with the new job. What was worse, this new job required my being over 100% involvement at every level… quite often the work was following me home to the point where I basically never left work, mentally. There were a lot of responsibilities I had to transition into; not to mention, my entrance into fatherhood.

Postpartum was really rough on my wife. This meant that it was hard on everyone; mommy, daddy, and baby alike. I wasn’t nearly as available as I wanted to be. In fact, my son was starting to exhibit behaviors to which I was in disfavor — he would refuse my play time, refuse my affection, and refuse my comfort. Why? Well, we thought that it was because I was never around. I was always at work, even when I was at home.

Despite the promotion, the prestige, the professional engagement, and even the money, we never felt worse off. Exhausted by a newborn and feeling tattered as a family, I eventually burnt out. It was either going to be work or family.

Family always comes first.

So, I quit.

I quit and we took a 6 week sabbatical to refocus, rejuvenate, and rest. It was great. It was so very much helpful. And, it was needed. We needed it.

We needed to be a family.

That is how it all began… when push came to shove. I told work to shove off. Still, no one can afford that indefinitely. We all have to figure out a way to make a living. But, feeling so terribly traumatized by the amount of work-life-imbalance… there were adjustments that would have to be made.

And, such was the veritable beginning of how I started my journey in becoming a work at home dad.

That’s it for now! Please use the “How I Got Here” category to follow in this story.

Are We Ever Going To Make It?

Written in Fall 2015.

What’s more raw then talking about money? This post is a really vulnerable one. I’ll be sharing a little snippet as to how we’ve been making this work out financially. Also, there’s a huge psychological component of being a Work At Home Dad: The terrifying experience of being in business for myself, an entrepreneur in a startup no less — and — the feeling that, I should be more by now! That the world has seen me as something respectable… that I might be my own best impostor.

Are We Ever Going To Make It?

My wife and I have always lived within our means. Financially, things were tough at first since I was getting a new grad salary as a Physical Therapist (which was quite severely low balled, as many new grad PTs are — also another post for another time). We were trying to start saving right away and were very careful about where we spent our money. Our working financial philosophy was basically this: If we don’t need it, we don’t buy it. Once it becomes a need, then we buy without reservation. We’re always looking for a good deal, buying generics, always calculating out price per unit, always figuring out the opportunity cost to make sure we’re not losing out or losing period… at least as best as we could figure at the time.

When I got my promotion as a Rehab Director, I got a raise just shy of 15% of my salary at the time. It was a BIG bump. We were really thankful and truly blessed. Funny enough, we didn’t actually spend more money on ourselves. While we did save more since we didn’t up our expenditures, what we ended up doing was giving more to charity and blessing others who weren’t as fortunate financially. We weren’t necessarily lavish or even liberal with our spending on others — we were just happy to do so and to be able to. We were given much, so we wanted to give to others.

Still, our discipline in spending on ourselves as well as saving regularly was ironclad. We were able to save a lot.

As time went by, finances got tougher and tougher, particularly when I finished the MBA program and all bets were off. I was back into this situation where I had to find work and find work fast; I couldn’t hide behind studies anymore and also didn’t have the savings to hang out. It was getting scary.

We thought about cashing out retirement funds (to which I’m still holding on the back burner), selling our home and living off of whatever is left.

Just as times got really tough, I would get just a little boost in private clientele or find per diem work, just enough to keep us on the path. I didn’t want to run back to full time physical therapy work since I felt called to pursue the startup business and continue on my journey of working at home. I also wanted to be sure that whatever I was doing was worthy of the sacrifice (not to mention price) of getting an MBA. Not that I felt the need to ditch PT per se; it was that I felt called to be a PT in a very different and pioneering dimension.

It was a deeply emotional and philosophical struggle to make ends meet while keeping to the purpose of doing what I was doing. I didn’t want to make running back with my tail between my legs as the ultimate defeat of all this sacrifice — quitting high paying jobs, pursuing the entrepreneurial spirit, and most importantly, being available for my family at home.

Well, we’re still here. And, we’re still kicking.

Month by month, it seemed we were just making enough to get by. Many times, it was by a razor thin margin. This month, I finished a 15 day super sprint to get enough income to sustain us… hopefully even into the New Year! Compared to the stability we had before, knowing with some confidence that the next month’s bills are likely to be covered is a strange revisitation of the old days of being a new grad, newly married, and all that jazz.

It’s made me more thankful; with certain humility, that what we have is never to be taken for granted.

I do want to take this time to thank some very special people. My family, for the unwavering support & for believing in me. My friends, for having more confidence in me than I sometimes have in myself. My martial arts family at The Rebellion Academy, where through training, they kept my morale up and my mind focused. I also have to give a major shout out to my partner at UpDoc Media, Dr. Gene Shirokobrod, for keeping me motivated in our work. He has always been the what and I have always been how. The more ideas, challenges, and initiatives he presents to me, the more I get to apply myself — with purpose. Hehe, aaaand this is quickly becoming a different post… so, I’ll wrap everything up by saying:

Are We Ever Going To Make It? Yes. Yes we are! Making Ends Meet, with all its glorious financial concerns, business failures, and freak out moments… “making it” is a question of perseverance. You may lose heart. You may even quit, especially quit on the ideas that seemed so awesome at the time and turned out to be totally moronic. However, you didn’t do one thing — you never gave up. You always kept going. And that, is why you’re going to make it. Whatever you do, don’t stop. You can change lanes, just don’t turn off your engine. Keep driving… keep driving.

A Day In The Life

So, I get asked a lot: “Ben, what does your average day look like?”

Average?! LOL. I’m not sure that exists for anyone in a startup business. My days span between waking up early to attend conference calls 3 hours ahead of my time zone to sleeping in because I can. Much of my time is spent on the computer, on social media, doing marketplace research, digging into the back end of financials, creating content, thinking, ruminating, thinking some more, spending time with family, making time to train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, hitting up private clients, working at my per diem PT gig, cooking, cleaning, errands, creating more content (LOL! #ShoutOut to Rich Severin on a Facebook Q&A question… THIS is probably how & why I have a blog post for everything — more answered on PT Pintcast)… and, yeah… the rest of the time, I luxuriate in being a good husband and loving father.

Since these descriptions range as far as the moon is from the sun, let me give you a sample chronicle of three of days in the last month. And, you better believe, it includes Disney 😉

Sample Day 1: 10am is the new 7am

Perhaps one of the most endearing parts of being a work at home dad is that… well, I’m at home!

One lazy morning, the whole family wakes up at 10am. Our son decided it was time to be awake… and hungry. So, first things first… it’s snuggle time! For about 15 minutes or so, we all just hang out in bed, playing with our boy, being silly, making him giggle, tickling him, smooching him… you name it. It’s all smiles, all laughter, all love. This morning represents the heart of why I quit all those high paying jobs — what is better than this?!

So, it’s 10:20am or so… I mosey over to the kitchen to start Nate off with his morning shake. While my wife is feeding our boy his breakfast, I’m also frying up some hash browns, eggs, sausages, and making some coffee as breakfast for the wifey and me. The coffee is going to be amazing. I can tell, I’ve done this a thousand times… literally. When the coffee takes an extra long time to extract and all the grinds are settling evenly, you know you’re going to get an amazing pull. The hash browns are done and I’m drizzling some of last night’s brown sauce on top. It’s going to be a great morning.

Now that we’re all stuffed and probably set for a mid-morning food coma, it’s actually time for me to get to work. I have a couple of blogs to write, social media to attend to, a blab to schedule, conference call to attend, guest hosting the Therapy Insiders Podcast and some other content to work on. After maybe one or two 45 minutes sessions in my office, it appears my wife and son need me. Time to go!

After I deal with whatever that is… I’m back in my office, hacking away the faithful laptop.

Like this segment, there really isn’t any structure. It’s free flow. We wake up when we want. Eat when we can. Relish in our time together. My work day isn’t scheduled unless my partners or customers need it to be. I work when I work and play the rest of the time. This, is why I became a work at home dad… that my family may reside as the center in my life.

Sample Day 2: Hustle. Hustle!

6:15am. I’m awake. I shouldn’t be. I don’t actually need to wake up until 7am. Blah! Well, there’s no denying it. I am very much awake. I’m getting out of bed as gingerly as possible as to not wake anyone up. Decisions… decisions. Well, I could make coffee, play a little xbox, work on Up Doc Media, try and finish Book 5 of Game of Thrones (technically, A Song of Ice and Fire). And… I’m HUNGRY. Food and coffee. Done. I sneak into the kitchen where I’m famous for banging around and creating all sorts of noise, grab a scoop of coffee into the grinder, and take the grinder & coffee into my son’s playroom where I close the door by jamming his bath towel at the seams to block the noise of the grinder. After grinding the coffee, I have to yank open the door (while being mostly asleep and hangry, mind you), head back to the kitchen where I prime my coffee into my Vietnamese Espresso Maker. Now, for breakfast. Well, there are eggs and some chicken from last night. Guess that’s it then. I make two eggs over easy while munching on some cold chicken and cold rosemary cream sauce. The microwave will only disturb my son’s sleep. After all this is put together, I have some time left to read Game of Thrones so I throw back a chapter and then decide to hop onto the loyal lappy of 3+ years; that poor laptop needs a new companion… waiting 2 hours for it to render a 7 minute video is just NOT working anymore. Poor thing. Hey, at least it got me through my MBA!

Okay. I gotta hustle! Time flew by faster than I was ready. I whirl into khakis and a polo (Ha! Sorry, Gene. #NoPolo), give my wife a kiss, give my son a kiss, and I’m out the door! Please note: I hate the khaki+polo look. I don’t mind the pants. It’s the shirt & the combo. I don’t like collars. I’m a V-Neck guy. Moving on… I’m running out the door and drive to work. This is my per diem PT gig; I’m very happy to have it. It’s been ages, over 18 months actually at the time of this chronicled day, since I’ve done “formal” clinical work. I’ve been taking on private clients, sure. But, being around other clinicians, the inter-disciplinary team, it’s been a while! But, it feels like yesterday — and, it’s great to be part of a team again. A strong team, high functioning, mutually appreciative… it’s good stuff.

I was told I’ll have 5 hours of treatment time. Then, that turned into 7.2 hours. Yep, that’s how it happens. Trying to keep up my productivity alive while realizing that I have more work waiting for me at home with a pending blog post and other such things… Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! Well, my day is done and I am absolutely exhausted. I already missed a mid-day conference call with my sent apologies. Now, I have to hustle to make sure I can get the blog post out in good time since my partner does most of the image creation. And, since we’re 3 hours apart, I gotta…. you guessed it… HUSTLE!

It’s probably 6:30pm. I’m exhausted. My son is asleep thanks to my hero wife who has been taking care of him all day long — him and his terrible twos. This is also my last chance in the week, scheduling-wise, to make it to a BJJ training session. Awesome as she is, she encourages me to go. So, at 7:45pm, I take off to make it to the 8pm-9pm BJJ class which usually extends to 9:20-30pm due to sparring at the end. I make it home after picking up a sandwich for the starving wife and we watch some TV together. The day is winding down and I don’t even remember how I got to bed. But, I know well enough that I double checked my morning alarms. I should be able to wake up and fulfill the next day’s responsibilities… or at least, I will once I get my coffee and breakfast.

It’s been a day.

Sample Day 3: Life is about balance.

After many strings of days like the days above, my wife and I decided it is time for a mini-vacation. Our day consists then of driving up to Disneyland where we spent 3-5 hours in the park. Now, on many occasions, we’ve driven up on a Saturday or Sunday evening because we missed the environment of the park. What do we do? Well, we get really hungry on the drive up so we find a place to eat dinner in the park. After we’re all stuffed and full, we take a look around and ask each other, “So… did you want to do anything?” And, we always answer, “Nah… let’s just walk around the park.” So, we do! Typically, we end up at one of the “less popular” attractions like Small World or Tiki Room. Fortunately for us, these are top two picks for Nathan who absolutely adores the soundtrack, to which of course, we own and make available on the iPod. Otherwise, we focus on just one or two attractions we wish to target and experience. Top favorites include the Aladdin show in the Hyperion Theater in Disney’s California Adventure. Speaking of! You have got to see it now before they take it down… 🙁  Other areas we love include Cars Land, New Orleans Square, and of course, Tomorrowland as that is where all the Star Wars stuff is. We only ever really stay in the park for a couple of hours since we’re Annual Passholders (APs) and don’t really wish for nor like the stress of lines and being on a mission.

As far as we’re concerned, Walt Disney created the park to be nonchalantly enjoyed — and, that’s how we do!

Did you watch the last link? Yeah… we’re big Disney nerds. #NoShame


And, that my dear friends! Is a day in the life of Daddy In The Raw.

Resort Style Pesto Ravioli with Balsamic Glaze Reduction – $3.99

So, if you don’t already know me, there is something you will quickly learn about me on this blog.


And, I love to cook it… probably more. My wife thinks I’m insane. Cooking absolutely stresses her out; but, for me, cooking is a freedom, an art, and an experience to create marvelous things to titillate the senses. This dish is something I hijacked from Disney’s California Adventure from the Disneyland Resort. We stumbled upon this little area in the far corner between the Grand Californian and Paradise Pier. It’s called, Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta. The food was so good that my wife went back for a 2nd serving! LOL… so, naturally, I wanted to figure out if I could replicate it at home.

This post is all about how to make this dish for less than $3.99 dollars in cost per serving!

Resort Style Pesto Ravioli with Balsamic Glaze Reduction – $3.99

What you’ll need:

  • Prepackaged, uncooked, refrigerated 4 or 5 Cheese Ravioli. I got mine from Trader Joe’s for $3 (12-13 pieces).
  • Pre-ground Parmesan Cheese. I also got mine at Trader Joe’s for $2.99 in one of those green shakers.
  • Balsamic Vinegar. Allllllso… from Trader Joe’s (hint where we like to shop). $2.79 if memory serves.
  • Some brown & white sugar from your pantry. We’ll call the cost something like $1 worth of sugar, if even.
  • Fresh made pesto. I got a big hunk of it from Costco for $7.99. For 6 pieces, I probably use $1-2 worth of pesto.
  • AND! If you want to get fancy, you can pick up some roasted pine nuts for near $20/lb. I usually leave this off unless I’m trying to spoil the wife… or, impress company.

So, when we spin this all down, I only use 6-7 pieces of ravioli which comes down to $1.50 in serving cost. The cheese, is negligible and we’ll call it $0.25 as is the balsamic vinegar which we’ll call a similar point of cost. When you add all this together, you’ll get just under $4 in material costs. So, with all that said, it’s time to cook!

The Recipe

  1. Begin by boiling water and putting your ravioli in. I know, I know… you’re supposed to wait for it to boil. Personally, I just do it this way because I’m lazy & because I’m a big rule break. Just get the pasta cooked 🙂
  2. Pour about 3-5 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar out onto a frying pan or sauce pan. Put the heat up to about medium or medium high.
  3. Add 2-3 tablespoons of 50/50 white/brown sugar into the balsamic… this will become your glaze.
  4. And… WHISK! Whisk like your life depended on it. DO. NOT. STOP.
  5. Okay… now you can slow it down.
  6. Once the glaze starts to boil, you’ll need to carefully manage the heat so that you don’t over reduce the glaze or just plain caramelize (aka burn) the poor thing into a molasses oblivion — PS. Keep whisking.
  7. To do this, put the heat down at low or medium-low and still whisking the sillies out of the glaze, moving it periodically onto and off of the heat. It should get to a consistency where by tipping the sauce pan, the glaze slowly moves from one side to the other much like a syrup would. That’s how you know you got it!
  8. Okay. By now, your ravioli is ready so strain those puppies out and make sure they are relatively dry on the outside.
  9. Mix in your pesto with the ravioli, gently… usually I use two spoons and gently toss them in a mixing bowl so I don’t break open any raviolis.
  10. Once this is done, start your plating. Dust the top of the raviolis with some Parmesan cheese (or grate it, if you like to be fancy).
  11. Then, pour the glaze over the top of the meal. I like to do a line down the middle and around the plate just for the visual effects. The extra glaze, I pool to the sides if possible.
  12. Finally, if you want to be extra fancy, sprinkle some roasted pine nuts on top as the finishing touch!

bon appetit!

pesto rav