I entered the CEO’s office and he proudly described the new executive compensation program I was being offered. The potential return was significant, and his optimism for the firm was clear. Most people would be excited, honored and grateful. I had an uneasy feeling. Then came the catch…. I needed to sign a non-compete agreement. I left the room with a smile, a thank you and a file folder full of papers, with the promise that I would review it and get back to them.
Luckily a close friend is an employment attorney and was able to review the contract for me. She began her comments with “you know how you have always talked about starting a water non-profit?” Yes, I had been fantasizing about that for years. “Well, the way this is written you cannot do that.”
It wasn’t as if I had active plans to leave my 20-year career but knowing I would be limited in pursuing my dream was enough to make me stop and think about what it would take. The decision was clear, I turned down the compensation package. I was prepared to be asked to leave the firm, but they did not. It was almost too easy to act as if nothing changed, because not much did. Saying out loud, “I am going to start my own business to serve our communities with a focus on water and the environment.” was my nudge, but I wasn’t acing with urgency to make a change.
Then the kick in the butt from the Universe came. My child was diagnosed with cancer. Very treatable and curable. But I dropped everything to support them. I used all my paid time off and family leave, and the time came to return to work. I am grateful for all the support my firm gave me, and for the flexibility I had, and the option to return. I do not at all take for granted how fortunate I am. But I could not imagine go back to the way things were. The realization that life is precious and that I needed to follow my calling and invest my energy in something that stirs passion was stronger than the comfort of a well-paying career. So, I resigned. Nine months after I turned down the executive compensation program I incorporated my own Public Benefit Corporation. The future is not certain, of course it never is, but I have never felt more authentic in my life, and I am so excited for my new journey.