Why Sheryl Sandberg is Wrong — Dawn Baker on The Art of “Leaning Out” | The Pathless Path Podcast

Dawn has a medical degree but she didn’t pursue a traditional career as a doctor. She lives off-grid with her husband and her homeschooled daughter. Dawn is passionate about finding a work-life balance and she wrote a book for professional women seeking to do so.

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Conversation Topics:

  1. Transition into Medicine: Dawn talks about her initial excitement when she started medical school, her love for learning new things, and how she thrived in a challenging environment. However, she also discusses the burnout prevalent in the medical field.
  2. Brain Tumor: Dawn shares her health crisis, where she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. This event served as a wake-up call and led her to reevaluate her life and career.
  3. Leaning Out: Dawn discusses her decision to “lean out” of her career in medicine. She talks about the importance of work-life balance and how she and her husband intentionally designed their lives to prioritize their personal needs and desires over traditional career expectations.
  4. Financial Independence: Dawn and her husband followed the financial independence movement, which allowed them to reassess their career paths. They realized they were financially independent around the time their baby was born, which opened up new possibilities for their careers.
  5. Homeschooling: Dawn shares her experience with homeschooling her daughter, which she views as an unconventional path that aligns with her philosophy of leaning out.
  6. Sharing Her Story: Dawn emphasizes the importance of sharing her story to inspire others to consider alternative paths and to challenge societal expectations around work and adulthood.


  • Self-Reflection: 00:00 – “I am more than just my roles and it allowed me to think back to like what do I really want out of my life.”
  • Career Change: 06:00 – “I realized that I wanted to do something more service-oriented and the other thing was that engineering really pegs you to live in very specific places.”
  • Specialty Choice: 14:00 – “I knew that if I picked the right specialty I’d be able to do that and I would be able to live wherever I wanted to and I’d be able to take long periods of time off because I wouldn’t have maybe a patient base in a clinic or I would have a lot of Partners or something like that so I chose anesthesiology.”
  • Post-Surgery Struggles: 23:00 – “I had this identity of being an athlete and here I am I had brain surgery and you would not believe how debilitated it makes you feel like it wasn’t like I had my hip done I mean I had brain surgery but it was so hard to get out of the car it was like I was so weak so you’re just starting from Basics.”
  • Infertility and Career: 29:02 – “I feel like it’s too late if you say well the critical time is when you’re building a family is to lean in because of the typical age that you are and like the type of career path that you’re on at that time that’s the Assumption she’s making there but she is absolutely not addressing the fact that 13 percent of couples in this country are infertile and worldwide infertility is going up in professions like medicine and probably law but we don’t have data there it’s double it’s at least double that.”
  • Parenting Reflections (Timestamp: 32:00, Link): “I feel like I am so into my role as a mom now and I love the relationship I have with my daughter and the things that we do and I feel like I’m a better parent because of some of the things that I’ve gone through.”
  • Continuous Practice (Timestamp: 34:03, Link): “Absolutely, it’s like a continuous practice. You’re never going to be perfect at this or a lot of different things. It’s applied to medicine too. That’s why I like to explain it as the word practice because people say they practice medicine and they say that specifically because you’re never a master, you’re never perfect at that.”
  • Men Leaning Out (Timestamp: 37:02, Link): “I get men coming up to me and they say exactly what you’re saying where they’re like well you know I don’t want to do the traditional thing either but it’s even like less acceptable in certain circles and for the men to be like well I don’t want to achieve and I don’t want to make the most money and be the biggest Breadwinner.”
  • Financial Independence (Timestamp: 40:02, Link): “We started figuring out that we were actually financially independent and that opened up the realm of for me especially what I could do with my medical career.”
  • Homeschooling (Timestamp: 43:02, Link): “We homeschool and we yeah was that yeah we had because we were already thinking of living in different places. How has that Journey been when my husband first said to me that he wanted to homeschool I thought he was crazy because I really didn’t know anything about modern homeschooling.”