As far back as I can remember, I dreamed about running my own company and managing a professional sports team. After a decade of working my way up the ladder in the male-dominated sports industry, one of those dreams came true: I was hired as vice-president and general manager of a professional women’s sports team.
During the first two years in my dream role, we experienced an incredible amount of success, achieving our objectives far earlier than expected. Surprisingly, less than a month after the most successful season in franchise history, I (the highest-ranking female) was the only executive asked to take a significant pay cut and to undergo a role modification during a company reorganization. Something didn’t feel right about the situation, and I knew I would have to make one of the toughest decisions of my career: make the “easy” choice by opting to stay or the difficult one by walking away.
I grew up believing that life is a meritocracy: If you work hard, get good grades, earn a college degree, treat people well, and do things the right way, you will be recognized and rewarded for your efforts and loyalty. I was shocked and surprised to discover that this was not always the case.
I have often been willing to sacrifice my own personal goals for the greater good of the team, however, for the first time in my professional career, it became apparent that it was time to focus on me. It was a grueling process, but in that moment when I felt vulnerable, I was able to find the inner strength to guide me through the next steps of my journey.
As someone who had taken great comfort in the safety of a corporate career, leaving the team was one of the most frightening decisions I have ever made; it has also been one of the most empowering experiences of my life. On the day I made my final decision, I wrote the words “I’m Ready!” on a Post-It and placed it on my bathroom mirror. I now look at that message every day because it fuels me during the rough patches, and reminds me of have far I have come and where I want to go.
Fast forward two years: I am building the company I dreamed of years ago, working with incredible clients and gaining confidence every day. While it is tremendously gratifying, running my own company is not easy. Each day brings a stronger sense of purpose and solidifies my decision to walk away. I knew there would be challenges and obstacles along this new path; what I didn’t realize was that those challenges would help fortify me for whatever the future holds. I’m truly living my dream.