As I was approaching my 30th birthday, I reached one of those career crossroads that would change everything for me. I had to choose between “safe and successful” or a major leap into the unknown. Ten years earlier, my experience with a challenging internship at GM (read “Running Scared On GM’s Cadillac Assembly Line”) had taught me some of the benefits of “jumping into water over my head.” But now, I was in for an even bigger challenge.

At 29, I had already achieved a surprising level of success, given where I started.

My dad and I were both thrilled when I won a scholarship from General Motors to get my engineering degree at Purdue University. We were both amazed again when GM granted me a Fellowship to study at Harvard Business School. My dad started referring to the company as “Generous Motors.”

After school, I went to work for GM, and soon became the youngest VP in the company’s history. All pretty exciting for a simple Midwesterner like me.