Why I Left the Best Place to Work

Three years ago today, on February 2, 2018, I walked out the doors of Maxwell, Locke & Ritter, an award-winning, highly respected, Austin-based accounting firm that I called home for the last seven years of my corporate career. I’d climbed up the corporate ladder and was perched on a top rung serving alongside other partners, managing the nonprofit practice filled with amazing people and mission-driven work. 


But I decided to leave.


Why? You might ask. Was it awful there? Did you have a bad experience, Dena? 


Nope. Quite the opposite. It was wonderful. 


I consider myself lucky to have spent time within the walls of a firm that proved time and time again that they mean what they say on their website–We care for our people. 


They weren’t lying. The firm’s culture consistently lived out its core values, including my favorite that no success at work is worth failure at home


But if this firm was so great, then why would I leave? 


Why did I sit down with the managing partner and share my heart’s desire to explore a new path for myself and then spend nearly three years preparing alongside them to walk away?


Why would I turn my back on a path that included a six-figure salary, benefits, insurance for my family, and a team of rockstar peers and clients that made me smile every day? 


Why would I choose to venture down the entrepreneurial path where I had no real clue what to do except fake it until I could hopefully make it?


The answer is simple. 


I decided that I was worth the risk. 


I decided that I had to care for myself as the firm had proven vital to real success.


I decided that no success at work was worth a failure in my home. And since the saying goes that home is where the heart is. I had to honor my soul’s calling that I had other important work to do. 


I decided that I couldn’t live my life by other’s standards. And even if everything looked great from the outside looking in and people might not understand or question my move, I had to love myself enough to trust my gut and make my own choices. 


And I decided that the risk of looking back with regret was far worse than the risk of failure. 


I bet on myself and my dreams and took a leap of faith, trusting that everything would somehow be okay.


And it was none other than the firm’s managing partner that helped me cement all these decisions in my mind and gave me the peace of mind I needed to continue on my journey. 


In Road to Hope, I shared about him patiently waiting for a break in my nervous chatter as I shared about my dreams and possible plans to leave. When he finally got his chance to speak, he said, “Dena. Everything is going to be okay. Want to know how I know?”

I nodded and waited with curious anticipation.

“Because you are smiling.”

I was smiling. I had done it. I had trusted myself and the process of life. I still couldn’t see exactly where I was headed, but I’d been brave enough to control what I could control: myself and my choices. I hadn’t gotten rid of my fears, but I’d decided I could and would grow in spite of them.

Fearless growth meant that I’d get to know my fears better and on purpose. Then I’d ask my fears to get in the car with me as we continued to move forward. We—me and my fears—we could be safe. We could grow together. Shoot, I even had a roadmap. So what if it was only a piece of paper with a pencil-drawn sketch for the year to come?

It wasn’t fancy, but it was something new.

And it was working.


Life is about choices, friends. And most of those choices (luckily) are not life or death. I’m not telling you to quit your job or make any rash decisions. But I am inviting you to slow down and get curious. Ask yourself what you want. Give yourself time to imagine your dreams coming to life. Then say them out loud and decide what you are willing to do to make them become your reality. 


You will have to dig deep to find the courage to grow scared.


But you don’t have to grow alone.


You deserve to live a life that you are proud of. And I’m here if you want a partner as you ditch doubt, regret, and the status quo that is holding you back. I’m here to have life-changing conversations to help you bet on yourself and watch it pay off big time.


Then we can both smile, knowing you have cared for yourself well.

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