Stride Stories: Chasing dreams while staying healthy— a guest post by Rich Roll

A vegan Ultraman athlete and champion of healthy living, Rich has a long list of achievements. He's a top finisher in multiple Ultraman World Championships, the first person to complete the EPIC5 CHALLENGE, the bestselling author of "Finding Ultra," and the producer of one of iTunes' top performing podcasts.

I wasn’t just afraid. I wasn’t just embarrassed, I was ashamed.

I spent most of my formative years doubling down to achieve the American Dream. A successful corporate attorney by my late 30’s, the prestigious university degrees, ambition and decades of hard work finally paid off. I had prevailed.

There was only one problem – I was chasing the wrong dream.

More than that, I was dying on the inside, my soul crushed by a work environment flat out at odds with the person I did not yet know I was, wanted to be or would eventually become. All I knew at the time was that my life depended upon getting out. Immediately.

Go for it dude! No fear! Carpe diem!

T-shirt taglines are cheap and easy; putting them into action is a different story altogether. Complicate things with a pregnant wife, young mouths to feed and bills to pay and suddenly the distinction between right and wrong becomes fluid and murky. Dream chasing talk starts to sound more like the rant of an unhinged lunatic. Sell your soul to remain within the seemingly “secure” embrace of corporate America to meet your family’s needs? Or embrace your precious, short life like a movie star and leap with faith into the unknown, knowing that decision brings risk and insecurity into your family equation?

Maybe I am a lunatic, I thought at the time. But I had to leap.

Leaving a relatively stable career to embark on a dubious freelancer journey I inflated as “entrepreneurial” was the scariest and arguably most irresponsible decision I ever made.

It was a decision met not by a choir of angels praising my courage but instead with raised eyebrows, confused looks, grave concern and more financial instability than I care to publicly admit. I could no longer rely on that direct deposit every two weeks. And that really nice human resources director at the law firm who was always happy to answer all my questions about benefits and vacation days? She had the audacity to stop taking my calls.

Then one day I was faced with a decision no parent, no spouse, no partner, no person should ever have to face: either feed my young family and keep a roof over our head or pay an exorbitant amount of money each month for family health insurance. My budget didn’t allow for both. The decision was obvious.

Suddenly my family was without health insurance. I would characterize our approach to medical care as always at arms length. We focus on prevention through diet and lifestyle. We never get flu shots. And when sick we do our best to heal ourselves holistically. This is a long way of saying that none of us really go to the doctor anyway – so what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that I’m out riding my bike in traffic on a daily basis, a roving target for the texting teenager behind the wheel. The big deal is that any one of us could suffer a tragic event out of our control that would devastate us financially.

This haunting notion kept me up at night. What kind of horribly irresponsible husband and father am I? Not the kind I wanted to be. As a father my one job is to keep my kids safe. At this I wasn’t just a failure, I was a selfish failure. My decisions brought this upon them.

I wasn’t just afraid. I wasn’t just embarrassed, I was ashamed.

For quite a long time I kept this dark secret to myself. Afraid to admit to anyone outside my home the risk I had placed on my family, I suffered in silence. I felt entirely alone.

Of course, I was not alone. Right now, over 40 million Americans currently live without health insurance. No doubt most of them are just as scared, embarrassed and ashamed as I was.

40 million! It’s America that should be embarrassed. It’s America that should be ashamed.

This country was built on promise. An infectious spirit that – above all -- encouraged its citizens to pursue their dreams. And yet today our system forces a contrary choice at odds with this ethos.

As we speak, the U.S. economy is moving increasingly towards a freelance-based job force. There is something really exciting about this, providing the individual with more control over his or her career and personal time. But it also means more and more are now compelled to fend for themselves when it comes to health coverage – particularly young people. Our economy, and our moral fabric as a nation, demands that we come up with the means and methods to ensure that this growing sector of our workforce has access to the care they deserve at a fair and accessible price.

Enough. I couldn’t tolerate one more day without making sure my family was covered. But where to even begin to find the right plan for a family of 6? I wasn’t looking forward to endless hours sifting through byzantine forms. I couldn’t imagine how much it was going to cost. Honestly, I just didn’t want to deal with it at all.

Then suddenly I get a call from Noah, Stride’s founder and CEO. Inspired by my story, he wants to meet. He wants to share with me the Stride mission. Talk about our possible shared values and how we could potentially work together on a project or two.

My only thought? Wait until he hears I don’t have health insurance. That should kill the conversation.

It didn’t. Because Noah understands that this is one of the biggest issues faced by every single freelancer or entrepreneur in the country. It’s a problem that must be solved. It’s why he founded Stride. And it’s why I feel so good about aligning my message and mission with him.

Not only did Noah help us get coverage, I was left wondering why I hadn’t taken care of it much earlier – Stride made it that quick and easy. And today I sleep much better knowing that we don’t have to sacrifice our dreams to secure affordable coverage customized to our particular lifestyle.

If you’re in the position I found myself not that long ago, you are not alone. You don’t have to hide. There is a solution and Stride can help. Let them take all the fear, bureaucracy, confusion and frustration out of health insurance to secure the best plan for you and your budget.

I am grateful for the help they have given my family, and they can help yours too.