It was a bit surreal, for sure, as I packed up a box containing close to two decades of seemingly meaningless items from my life in corporate America. I then walked out of my corner office, handed over my badge, and exited a building that I once fought desperately, many years before, to enter.
My corporate career quest started during my junior year at college when I decided to volunteer my time to prove myself with a local fast growing company. At the time, they were only hiring engineers, and as a Business major, I had no choice but to use free labor as a way to get in the door. After several interviews over the course of 10 months, and two rejection letters (one from a co-founder), I overcame their concerns, and was officially hired on June 5, 1995. I was on top of the world!
Over the next two decades there was not a single day of my employment that went by that I took for granted. I worked every day with level of passion, integrity, and appreciation, never losing touch with my struggle to become a part of the company. Having this perspective helped me to advance from a volunteer intern to one of the youngest Senior Vice Presidents of this Fortune 500 company.
It’s probably an understatement to say that this was not just my career, but my entire existence. It defined me in almost every aspect of my sense of being and purpose.
Leaving My Identity
As I exited the building for the last time, I left behind my financial security, title, reputation, and much more–the list went on and on. I had it all, by most measures, however, there was definitely something missing. Waking up every day putting all my might, energy and purpose into an organization that only valued profits, got tiresome. The constant worry about layoffs, relocation and reorganizations weakened my spirit. Weekly travel became an exhausting way to live. Never mind the fact that I knew I was not making any meaningful impact on people or this world..
I always thought about what I would tell my kids and grandchildren. What did I do with this life? What difference did I make? But those questions were quickly answered with the reality of providing for my family. I always wondered if, or how, I could you stay true to myself while still making sure my wife and children had everything they needed.
Approximately six months before I made the decision to leave corporate America, I received a life-changing gift. At a dinner meeting with other senior leaders of the company, we were asked to share a personal and instrumental life experience. I was able to witness story after story of top executives sharing their trials as they dealt with; divorces, major health issues, missed time with loved ones… and the list went on and on. It was a sobering moment, as these stories were being shared by some of the most well-respected, well-paid, and highly educated individuals. By all measures these people represented what our society views as “successful,” but that didn’t mean they were happy or fulfilled.
“Decision made, time to go”
And just like that, my decision was made: I needed to be true to myself. I had realized that we only go around once and that I didn’t want to become one of those stories. It was time to redefine what success really meant to me. It was time to leave all that security and conformity behind and venture out, putting my energy and passion into something that could impact this world, no matter how specific or how small.
So with the door swinging shut behind me, I walked away from the material aspects of success in hopes of finding new meaning and purpose. It was paradoxical in many ways, feeling both free and alive while at the same time fearful with the unknowns and uncertainty that I had created.
Tucked away in my soul, however, was a seed, a catalyst if you will, that consisted of a life experience, one that I believed if nurtured, could be my answer to making a positive impact on people’s lives. As I nurtured this idea, it turned into a need, one filled with endless possibilities, and in doing so it offered me the courage to walk away from my identity and to move towards finding my purpose.
This little catalytic seed happened in 2000 when my wife Erin and I were ready to begin building a family. This phase of our young adult married life together, lasting for almost five years, was consumed with trying to get pregnant, a struggle that had an impact on every part of our existence. After so much disappointment, we finally reached a point where we had enough and decided to take a break. Just three months after we stopped treatment and refocused our energy on living again, we conceived our son Maxwell. When we decided to try for a second child,we found ourselves in the struggle again, and unwilling to waste five more years, we moved our attention to adoption. Less than five months later we conceived naturally once again, our daughter Emerson.
The Seed Takes Root
As excited as we were, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was more behind stories like these, stories of adoption then conceiving, stories of giving up and getting pregnant, etc., When you’re in the middle of struggling to build a family, they are nothing short of frustrating to hear, because they offer very little that is actionable. But I found myself becoming so curious about stories like these and felt there had to be patterns, insights, and commonalities that could help people who are living with this incredible uncertainty.
Over the next two years, I woke up every day dedicated and committed, in hopes of finding evidence that could help couples struggling to conceive. With the most amazing support system of believers, my wife, kids and Dr. Kate, we pushed through so many obstacles, which we now know were there to test and strengthen our commitment.
The Power of Perspective
Now that we’ve officially lauched our first program, I can’t find the right words to express how I feel. It’s been the most gratifying experience to not only to acknowledge that little voice inside of me but to have the guts to take action in the name of it.
I’ve learned more about myself in the last two years, realizing that in many ways, I was living a parallel to what we were learning in our research. I dealt with doubt, fear, uncertainty, etc …as I put everything on the line (personally, financially, emotionally) to change the way people approach conception These emotions and feelings are in so many ways not so different for couples trying to conceive.
It’s really amazing where life can take you when you are willing to open yourself up to your true purpose and change your definition of success!
Whether we help one person or one million, I will never regret walking away from my identity and into my purpose.
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