Originally published on the When to Jump channel of the Huffington Post.
At 7 a.m., she caught a plane from New York to Los Angeles. Coming directly from LAX, Gail Becker arrived at the Bullpen with two handbags and a Starbucks cup holder.
Flying in from the East coast was certainly familiar to Gail. In her previous life as an executive with the world-renowned public relations firm Edelman, she traveled often. This cross-country flight, however, was one of her first as an entrepreneur.
I was there for When to Jump, along with a camera crew, to find out what motivates someone to walk away from what many would consider a dream job. We all shook hands and introduced ourselves in the lobby of the Bullpen, the marketing firm Gail hired to brand what she referred to as her “Life 2.0” projects.
While the guys set up the cameras and lighting equipment, Gail and I talked about everything from gun violence to entrepreneurship to Big 10 football. We talked for 15 or so minutes before the cameras were ready and we moved into the conference room. She offered up that she had another coat that she could wear if it looked better. Being four guys with no fashion expertise, it felt like a courtesy but we decided that her red jacket would pop better against the chain-like backdrop. She changed her coat (and shoes), clipped on her microphone, asked for a hair check and we got started.
“How did you know it was time to jump?” I asked.
“I guess it was shortly after my father died, about a year ago,” she began.
Gail attributes her success to her work ethic and fearlessness, traits passed down by her father. An Auschwitz survivor, he made his way to America with literally nothing and eventually built a successful business and family. Gail never lost sight of the sacrifices her father made and even produced a documentary about his return to Auschwitz called A Journey with Purpose.
The death of her father called into question the purpose in her own life. What was she put on this earth for and was she doing it? While helping other women navigate and ascend the corporate ladder was certainly a passion, and Edelman was number one in the world, was Gail Becker even doing what she was called to be doing? And if her calling was elsewhere, was she destined for even greater things in the future or was she a fool for being emotionally greedy?
Gail had the job that most people would sacrifice limbs for. As General Manager of Edelman’s Los Angeles office, Gail was the face of the largest PR firm in the world in the entertainment industry’s most active market. Three awards shows, two movie premiers, a blockbuster album release: just another July on Gail’s calendar.
She had also built a voice as an empowering advocate for women in the workplace through her blog “Yes, I Can Walk in These“ and, behind the scenes, worked to increase the presence of women in executive positions by 33 percent.
After 16 years, Gail walked away from that to do something more satisfying that she hadn’t even fully identified yet. One of her largest concerns was how the many women that looked up to her, whom she had mentored and coached for years, would view her. She didn’t want to be seen as a hypocrite or traitor but she also couldn’t silence the growing voice in her head intimating that there was more — that this stop on her journey with purpose was just a layover and it was time for the next leg.
Gail felt relief when she announced her resignation and, instead of spite, received over 2,000 emails from people all over the world encouraging her and congratulating her bravery.
I asked her how it’s been since then: “I want to wake up and work. I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked. But because you’re working on something that you’re passionate about, it’s just a totally different part of your brain. It’s your heart and your brain working together. That is a powerful combination.”
Gail is now writing a book and starting a company that “has nothing to do with PR.” She still splits time between LA and New York but feels much more satisfied doing so after jumping — “Give yourself permission to chase your dreams.” And, stealing a nugget from her final blog post, it’s better to say “oops” than “what if.”