Kate Curran was an executive for General Electric who seemed to have things pretty well fi gured out—until
she received a rude awakening. Within about six months, both her parents and her brother died.
“My parents were of the ‘Greatest Generation,’ and their deaths brought very large celebrations of long
lives incredibly well-lived, honoring their many accomplishments, contributions and service that was so typical of that generation,”
And Curran will never forget her mother’s parting words: “She said, ‘I’ve had a great life.’
Not a good life, or a really good life, but a great life,” Curran recalls. “I realized I was going to have to
make some real changes if I wanted to be able to say that at the end of my life.”
Curran had some ideas about what she wanted, but no clear-cut plan. At age 43, she resigned from GE, moved in with a sister
to help with finances, and took a yearlong sabbatical to travel the world, “rejuvenating and reflecting,” she
says. She also worked with a career coach when she wasn’t on the road.
“Through a variety of exercises, the coach helped me rediscover my passions (they get buried after years in the corporate
grind) and become very, very clear about my passions, my values and my skills,” Curran says.
She found some simple exercises to be helpful, such as identifying the best job she ever had in her life and why, and thinking
back to what she wanted to be when she was younger. “I also had a thorough round of discussions with everyone who knew
me, and many who didn’t! And then I just got started.”
Curran ultimately co-founded The Giving Project to build infrastructure in developing countries and to create meaningful
opportunities for Americans to participate in global philanthropy.
The organization recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, and Curran traveled abroad to open two schools in Guatemala
and a water-recycling system in Honduras.
In her case, the research, repetitive exercises and other work “provided clarity and confi dence that (a) I had most
of the necessary skills, and (b) the changes I would be making, the things I would be bringing into my life, would more than
outweigh all the things I would be giving up,” she says.
And her experience so far proves she was right. “My new life has brought me even more and greater rewards than I could