How Mary Eberle Quit Two Careers Before Finding Her Passion For Solving DNA Mysteries.
Ep. 89
| with
Mary Eberle

Follow Along:


    What if you quit your career and start over only to find out that the new career also isn’t something you love?!
    I think that is one of the biggest reasons people stay stuck. We have this idea that if we jump, then the next thing has to be our purpose. So we become frenetic about finding it. We become so obsessed that we can’t slow down long enough to figure out what we actually like (see the problem here?)
    Having come out on the other side of this process, I now see that there is no 1 thing. Life is a series of experiments and, with each one, you learn a little bit more about yourself.
    And if you have the courage to keep trying, you get closer and closer to your calling.
    That’s why I love having people on the podcast who have quit multiple times and had the courage to keep trying.
    Today, on the show, I got to talk to Mary Eberle about her super interesting career path.
    Mary is a former lawyer who reinvented herself as a genetic genealogist. She quit two previous careers and now has a fascinating and rewarding career solving family mysteries. (how cool is that?!)
    Mary founded DNA Hunters, where she solves family mysteries by analyzing DNA test results and genealogical records. Many of her clients have been trying to solve their family mysteries for decades—and sometimes even over multiple generations. Family mysteries include “Who are my birth parents?” and “Is my surname the correct surname?”
    To solve family mysteries, she applies many skills from her 10 years as a DNA lab technician (Career #1) and her 13+ years as a biotech patent attorney (Career #2). She finds great satisfaction in repurposing these skills to provide long-sought-after answers to her clients.
    Check out her story!

Mary’s Links:

Show Transcript
Goli: Hey guys, welcome to another episode. I'm so excited to have you here. First things first, a couple of announcements. As I mentioned in the last couple episodes, if you have been listening and if you haven't, you will know now that we do a monthly book club and the last episode of the month that we review a book that can help us in some way and the book for March is Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic. You can grab it from the resource page on my website or from Amazon really anywhere that sells books. It is such a good book and it is very easy and quick to read. Make sure you pick it up and read it and I will talk about it at the end of March. Also at the end of March, I'm doing my monthly free coaching call on March 25th if you want to link to that, you have to sign up for my email list and you can do that at quitter I'll send out a link.

You just hop on that link and show up and we can talk about whatever it is that is stopping you, your fears, questions, tactics, whatever you need. I hope to see you all there. All right. I'm so excited for today’s episode because one of the reasons I love doing this podcast is seeing all the different ways that people can create businesses and how people can really find the things that they love and create work from it. I have Mary Eberly on the show today and her journey is so interesting for so many reasons. Like I said, the business that she created is so cool, but it was also really interesting because she is not only a quitter once but a quitter twice and so we'll get into all of that. Mary started out her career as a DNA lab technician for 10 years and then she decided to go back to school and she went to law school in her early thirties and became a biotech patent attorney and she worked as a patent attorney for over 13 years.
And we'll talk a lot about how people would get stuck in that second career, which is a very high paying career and especially once you've already made the jump. A lot of the doubts come in of, well what if the next thing is also not something I like and there is a lot of fear and we end up staying stuck on. So we'll talk about how she kind of knew that even patent law wasn't the thing that really fulfills her and what she did when she jumped. And how she figured out that she wanted to start a company that she's running now for the last five years. That's called DNA hunters where she helps solve family mysteries by analyzing people's DNA test results and genealogical records. She is now a genetic genealogist and she helps people figure out mysteries like who their birth parents are or if their surname is actually the correct surname or where their ancestors are really from.
And we'll just talk about how this is kind of a combination of all of her skills and all of her passions and how she has created something that she truly loves. And we'll get into kind of the tougher questions of how do you do something like this when it's not replacing the income you were making as a high powered attorney. I think there's just so much insight and it's also so fascinating. So without further ado, let's jump in and chat with Mary. Hi Mary. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Mary: Thank you Goli.
Goli: Oh, I am so excited to have you on it because you haven't only quit one career, you've quit two, which I love. I want to get into all of that because I want, I love this concept that it doesn't even have to be the next one. We are really free to experiment as much as we want and try things on and see what fits and doesn't and tweak and pivot. So I want to really get into everything that you're doing now and how you got here. So why don't you tell us a little bit how you started your career. What led you to become a DNA lab technician and what that career was like for you?
Mary: Sure. Well, I always loved science and in particular, I loved DNA. So for example, in high school I wrote a paper that looked at twin studies and those twin studies that look at the question of is it nature or is it nurture, you know. So they examine those twins who had been separated at birth and then they come back together and find the similarities between those twin sets. That just always fascinated me. And I went to college and I got a degree in biology and then I worked in various DNA research labs for the following decade. The majority of those years I develop DNA tests for people that needed bone marrow transplants. And that is a situation where people need to be matched very, very closely.
And very carefully because you're taking one person's immune system and you’re putting it into another person. So that was really fun. I really loved it. But I decided to leave after 10 years of doing that.
Goli: So what, when did you start kind of having that inkling that you wanted to leave and you, and you went on to go to law school and become a lawyer. So what was that transition like for you? Why law school? When did you start kind of having that thought and when did you actually make that jump?
Mary: I would say it was later during that decade and I started talking to people, you know, for example, the PhDs in my lab, other people that had gone and gotten their PhD. I was thinking about that. And one of my mentors told me that there was something called, “patent attorney” and that she knew someone that did that. And I might want to think about that because that's another option. So I talked to her, the other person, and she was actually a patent examiner at the patent office and she just seemed to really love her job. And then I talked to another woman that was a patent attorney and she also really liked her job. So I decided, that sounds great. You know, everyone loves it. So I went to law school at that point.
Goli: What was it that you were kind of looking for when you were saying like you were even talking to PhD students? Was it just that you wanted to kind of be in the world of DNA, but you are science and, and that kind of stuff, but you wanted something more? I mean, what, what felt like it was missing.
Mary: Right. It's that wanting something more. I had published papers, aye presented abstracts at scientific meetings, even got to go to Paris, which was very exciting to present a paper. If you don't have a PhD and you're in that environment, you know, you're always one of the underlings. So I just wanted to do something more challenging and more interesting.
Goli: Do you mind if I ask how old you were when you went back to law school?
Mary: I was 33 when I started.
Goli: Okay. So and when, when you're kind of making this decision, were you thinking about the fact that... I know you said you talked to these lawyers and they seemed happy, but it clearly would have been very different work than what you were doing. You wouldn't obviously be in the lab, it's a lot more just paperwork and doing that aspect of it. Are you ever wondering whether that would be something that you would enjoy or are you ever questioning maybe, you know, I think a lot of times obviously 33 is not old, but I think for people that, you know, you're going to law school with a bunch of people that are probably right out of college and so people start thinking, well maybe I shouldn't do this now. I already have this career. Did you have any of those doubts before you went in?
Mary: Yes, definitely. Like you said, it's a very different environment. Everything. Just the interactions with people too. What are you going to do every day at your job? You know, it's completely different, but I enjoyed writing. I enjoyed reading. I knew it was going to be extremely intense, but I just thought that the people who do it seem very happy and satisfied. So it seems like a good idea.
Goli: Yeah. I love, I wonder if you feel, cause I think sometimes I see this with a lot of people that I talk to now through the podcast, I just saw this a lot when I was in graduate school too, is that sometimes when we don't know what else we want something more, but we don't know what that thing is and it seems to kind of evade us. We kind of latch on to something. We picked something because we think okay well and it's usually like some type of graduate school cause it's like well on the other side of that I'll probably, you know, I'll find something that makes me happy and I've seen a lot of people, whether it's law school or business school or even PhD, it's like go into it not maybe fully understanding what that is going to be and just really hoping to figure it out or you know, get another degree that's going to get them somewhere. Did you feel part of that when you were going kind of like, well, and just like with the hopes that that will afford you that thing that you were looking for.
Mary: The thing that shocked me the most about when I first started out in a law office was that I was in a room by myself and it was actually in the old days before we had a computer in our office and I was used to being in a lab where somebody was on my right and someone was on my left and someone was across from me.
I was just around people all the time. And it was very intense, but it's also a very different environment than being in a room by yourself. I was also the only female on the legal staff. I was in an IP boutique firm, so the classic patent attorney was always the engineer, you know, and it's typically a man and I'm a man who's never worked with women other than his secretaries. It was just not the most comfortable setting. Interesting. And so was that, that was your first job out of law school? Well, actually I during law school as a second year, I got a job with an IP boutique firm. So I was working during school and in the summers with them.
Goli: When you're saying this was uncomfortable and it was kind of the stark contrast from what you had been doing in your previous career, was that kind of an immediate - when you're saying you feeling lost, was that kind of like an immediate feeling, you know, within the first year where you're questioning, what did I get myself into?
Mary: It was, it was, and you know, from there I left and I found myself a new firm because I thought maybe it was just the firm setting. I landed in a business firm, so there were other female lawyers. My immediate group, it was again, a group of male attorneys. And so I was kind of, I didn't overcome that. It was a different environment and I still felt like I didn't fit in.
Goli: Yeah. Did you like the work that you were doing?
Mary: I did. I've always really enjoyed understanding how things work and whether it's a scientific invention, which was my area of expertise, or if it was brake calipers. So I did quite a bit of work on a portfolio for a brake company. They made brakes for golf carts and snowmobiles and mountain cross bikes and all these things. Just really neat to look at the drawings and understand how it works.
Goli: We should maybe clarify for people that aren't in law and don't understand like what was the work that you were doing for this type of a company?
Mary: Let’s see. The majority of the work that I did as a patent attorney was writing patent applications and then they get submitted to the patent office and then you get feedback and typically it's a rejection of your application, maybe 99% of the time. And then you [inaudible] argue on paper why you think what you originally wrote or what you modified should be allowed as a pet. You know, the majority of the time it's this writing and corresponding with the patent office. And one thing about that, that was also a big contrast to my scientific career was that things took months if not more than a year to get an answer, you know? So you'd submit that patent application and maybe 18 months later you would get your first office action. And in contrast, in the lab where we were developing DNA tests, you pretty much knew within the day if what you did and if it didn't work then you, you know, you set up the next experiment, tweak things and see if that worked, you know. So that was just this huge difference of immediately knowing an answer Instead of having to wait more than a year for an answer.
Goli: When you were in that, you know, in the first couple of years and you're working as a patent attorney, did you ever question or like regret that you went to law school? I mean, did you ever miss kind of being in the lab and doing that work and kind of sort of, I don't know, wish that you could go back to that?
Mary: Well, I definitely was looking for a very long time, many years to try to figure out what should I do next? I loved law school, I don't regret doing it. So I wasn't in that situation, but I was trying to figure out, well okay, this is, I've done this, I've done that. Like what, what do I do next?
Goli: Yeah. Well, I think that what that brings up though, cause I think a lot of people, the thing that keeps them stuck even in that first career is this thought of, well what if I take this leap? And then I don't like that thing too, right? So I think people get this worry that you don't know what you don't know. And so you don't know what that career is going to be like and whether there are drawbacks or not. You know what you're in right now. And so I think people stay so long in, okay, if I take this jump and it's not as great, I might as well stay where I'm at. And that keeps us stuck. And so I'm wondering when you have already kind of taken that jump and it didn't turn out to be, you know, as maybe as fulfilling or as amazing as you had hoped it would be. I think people would then sort of double down on, well I should just stay right. Like I maybe I just can't be happy or I should just learn to be happy or whatever it is. And so did you have any of those thoughts to start out with or what was it that when you were saying like, you know, you didn't regret going to law school, but it was really looking at, okay, well what's next? How did you get yourself to be able to even kind of look for that?
Mary: One thing I did was I started in my free time. Yeah. Taking classes on things that I really always liked, things I liked as a kid. One of those things was, and I did an herbal apprenticeship and I learned about herbs and wild foods and I also had exposure to the person that lead that apprenticeship. And I could see her as someone who had her own business and she was surviving and she was happy. And I also did a permaculture design certificate and permaculture is about designing sustainable systems. A lot of it has to do with gardening and farming and, and things like that. The people that were running that certificate program were also entrepreneurs. The third thing I did was I started taking classes at the small business development center that's part of our university here in Madison, Wisconsin. I was taking classes on how to write a business plan or how to use QuickBooks and things like that. I was starting to look for things that made me happy and examples and teachings that I could use if I did want to jump ship and start my own business.
Goli: I love that. I mean I think that's such an important key that I don't want to overlook because so many times I get from people, you know, asking me, how do I figure out what my thing is or how do I know what my purpose should be or calling or whatever word you wanna use. And I mean the answer is not always what they want to hear because I think people, we just want kind of these fast tactics like can I take an assessment or can I write that? You know? And I always go back to the fact that you need to just start doing the things that bring you joy, that you love, learning about that make you have fun. You know? And I think so often we get caught in this culture of I'm too busy, I don't have enough time.
Like I only can do things that are going to, you know, get me to a certain point. We don't make time anymore for hobbies or just do things that interest us. And every person that I've seen that has found, you know, something that they really love doing kind of did it either by accident, through experimentation, just giving themselves space. And I think there's something so important from just doing things that you enjoyed when you were a child or things like you were saying that you, that you just like not in the hopes that that is going to be the next thing. You know, I think a lot of times people think, well, you know, I like dancing. I'm not going to go be a dancer. And I'm like, well you don't have to be a dancer, but it's, but you were saying, you know, even going through that certification and then seeing the people that are running it, like you're observant of that, you're in a place where I feel like when you're doing things that bring you joy, it kind of opens you up a little bit. It takes the blinders off. It lets you kind of view the world differently.
It lets you observe things and see things that maybe were in front of your face but you didn't notice before. And I think it's just such a great example of, it's not like you went to get the certificate and permaculture to end up doing that, but by doing that you got to witness somebody that was an entrepreneur and you saw that, you know, they were happy in, in creating this business for themselves and doing something that really brought them joy and that set an example for you. And so I think it was just such an important tactic. I would say for anyone listening that is looking to figure out what it is that they want to do, I don't think it's something that you just discover in a month, but I think it's the more you can do things that bring you joy, which is like also the point of life, right? Why not do things more that make you make time for things that make you happy. That is just the easiest way to open yourself up to kind of finding a little more clarity in what you should be doing.
Mary: Right. That's such a good point. It's just so important. And it might sound corny, but it's very important to think about what makes you happy. You know, at the time I guess I've thought it was probably like, well, I'm just going to do this because I like gardening and you know, like you say, but then all of a sudden you think, Oh wow. You know, this is their life and they’re happy and they're affecting people in an extremely positive way. And it's just so amazing to see.
Goli: Absolutely. I just recently heard someone say a quote that I loved and it was saying it was you can't be what you can't see. And I think it's so true in the sense of like, obviously you don't know what you don't know. So if you don't see examples of things like when you start, one of the reasons I started the podcast was to provide examples so people can see how many ways there are to make a living. And there's so much stuff going on online, like people creating these businesses. And I feel like when you can see it and see like, Oh, somebody else did that, maybe you're not going to do that exact thing, but it can be something similar or it sparks an idea or you start thinking like, well, if they can do it, why can't I do something similar?
And I think just exposing yourself to other people and seeing when you're seeing somebody like that and you see like, wow, they have a great business that is supporting a life that they love doing something that they love. It starts getting the wheels turning of like, could I do something like that? Is there a way that I can incorporate some of this into my own life? Right?
Mary: Actually, the first thing I did when I left, I started a kid summer camp that was focused on sustainability and gardening. We did it at this church where they had a chicken coop and chickens and they had a huge garden and it was a blast. I had a blast. The kids had a blast. I actually, I had to employees that helped out. It was that drawing on what I had learned in my permaculture design course and just really enjoying being outside and enjoying kids and wanting to give them something unusual and something where they're outside and learning to love gardening. I did that for a couple of summers.
Goli: I love that. I love that you did, did you do that when you said you left, you had already left law when you started doing that? Okay, so let's back up for a second before we get to that. So how long did you work as a patent attorney?
Mary: I worked for 13 years.
Goli: Oh my goodness. Okay. I love this so much. I love this so much because I think another thing is, once you've worked in the career for so long, people think either I'm too old or too late to start over or this is it. By that point you become more comfortable in your craft. Like you raise kind of the ranks within your firm. Let's say you have more of a set place. And so I find so many people that are still very unhappy in their careers, but it's like, well, I've only done this for 10 15 years. I can't do anything else. So I just wanted, before we get into what you did... At what point did you start thinking, no, I need to leave. I'm going to start making a plan to stop my career too.
Mary: Well, I had been thinking about it for a very, very long time. Aye was at it's three different law firms. I had thought about switching one more time and I also thought about going in house to work for a client. There weren't that many opportunities, you know, it just kind of added up. And I finally just decided you need to do it. And I had my, what I call my freedom fund. I thought, okay, I need to save X number of dollars and when I do that I will quit. And you know, I got to that point and I looked at my bank account and I thought, well maybe I should say one and a half that amount. But it just got to a point where I just decided like, okay, let's, let's do it.
Goli: Oh my God, that's such another great point because I've also dealt with a lot of people who I think it's so important to have a number because people think that they're going to get to some financial place and then they're going to feel stable enough to quit. And you never will because it's not the finances. I mean to a certain point it is. Obviously you have to be able to find your life and give yourself some runway or whatnot. But what happens is I think finances so often is just a front for your fear. You're so afraid of taking that jump or what, you know, what people will say and what it means and whether you're going to regret it and all this other stuff. And finances is just kind of an easy way of saying like, I can't yet cause I don't have this.
And so what I found so often is that people will say, okay, once I have this amount of money, and then they get to that amount of money and then they just increase it and it's like, no, I actually need double that. You know? And it's because you're not dealing with the actual fear of it. And so I love that you say that as an example, they're like, you've got to that place and you were still thinking, well, maybe I should stay for a little bit longer. But I love that you actually got to the point where it's like you'll just keep moving the goalposts. At some point you just have to make the jump.
Mary: Right. It's, it's really hard and it is scary. I have friends who are lawyers and doctors who talk about quitting then they don't, and I'm thinking of one in particular where she said to me, you know, it's really scary and you know, it's like, you're right. You're totally right.
Goli: That's the thing is it's not like we think there's something wrong with us. I think we take that fear or that doubt as like a reason of why we shouldn't. Like that's some, you know, I dunno some universe or something telling us that like it's not the time, but the thing is, is that everybody is afraid, the doubt is always there, you know, because you don't know what's going to happen. And so it is a leap of faith and it is kind of just taking that chance. And so, okay. So you decide to jump and so you clearly have, you've saved up this freedom fund and when you're leaving, I know you've already told us that you started the summer camp, but did you have any other idea of what you wanted to do? Were you just going to give yourself some time to figure it out? What was your plan?
Mary: I had the summer camp idea. I was also teaching some classes, but it was pretty sporadic and not a lot of money. I also had purchased two different rental houses when I first started practicing law. So I also had that money. I had some money coming in from multiple sources. I also wanted a break… When you're keeping track of every six minutes of your life and your billing and all of that at the firm, it's just nice to have a break. So I had a little, a couple month-long break and then I was just trying to figure it out, how can I build the summer camp and the teaching into something more interesting.
Goli: Okay. So you started the summer camp and was that something that you were hoping would like turning into a full-time business or was it just something that you were getting like it was just a fun thing that you wanted to try?
Mary: I had hoped that I could go from three weeks to the full summer and expand it that way. But I knew that by definition it's only going to be part of the year. So I had thought about starting a folk school where people can come and take classes and learn how to do different trades, you know, like making cheese or sharpening knives or you know, those kinds of things. So I had ideas but I didn't make it all turn into a permanent and sustainable thing.
Goli: Right. But okay. Mary, you have to tell us how you get to the thinking, where you're at like in this thought process because again, going back, I think so many people are aware you were, where they were unhappy. I mean I'm assuming when you left, you're now at in your late forties I think so many of us, even if you have the finances, even if you can give yourself the time off, which makes a lot of sense to just give yourself some time to breathe after you've been working so hard for so long. When we started having these ideas, like immediately that critical voice comes in and like, who are you to start a folk school? You don't know anything about this or this will never work or this is crazy. Or you were a lawyer. What does everyone going to say? What are people going to, you know, I'm sure your friends are asking like, wait, well what are you doing? Like what is this going to be? And so how did you kind of silence that stuff to go forward with like putting together this summer school or are doing whatever it is that you were going to do next?
Mary: The interesting thing about people questioning me is that when I left my lab career, everyone questioned me. Yeah. My family, my friends, and when I left my law career interestingly, and in retrospect that surprisingly everyone at the firm said, Oh, I wish I could do that.
Okay. So that in terms of internal voices questioning myself, I was thinking, okay, let's look at the money. Let's see how long we can run this experiment and you know, and see is this going to work.
Goli: I think a key in that is just saying like, let's see how long we can run this experiment. I mean looking at things as experiments is such a freeing way. I think we so often put that pressure of like it has to work, it has to be a business or I'm a failure, you know, we attach meaning to it and just looking at things of like, maybe I could just try this and see what happens.
Mary: Mmmhmm. I think it's and it's a lifelong experiment and we can change what we're doing and test it out, see if it makes us happy, see if it pays the bills and then you can always change later. It's just things are not written in stone.
Goli: I feel like we could wrap that up right there because that's literally the entire point of this whole podcast is that things can change later. I mean I think that again, the fact that you've even had like these two careers and then continued to move on is more than obviously most people because I think we are, so I don't know whether it's the programming or just our own thoughts where we've just bought into like it has to be this one thing and it's like nothing is set in stone. You're allowed to edit as much as possible and change and try different things.
And if we could just do it in that lighthearted way instead of attaching a meaning of like what it means about us, we would all be so much happier and better off.
Mary: You're absolutely right.
Goli: Okay. So you run this and then at what point do you start thinking about DNA hunters and starting this business that you have now?
Mary: My sister and I have been family genealogists for the last 10 years or so. I've done a couple of trips to England where we have some ancestors and where a really good friend of mine lives, you know, we've always and interested in genealogy. And one night I was at my sister's house and she had on the PBS show, Finding Your Roots. I'd never seen that before, but it's a show where Dr. Henry Louis Gates has on three guests and they explore their genealogy. And that night he had a DNA expert named CC Moore on the show and CC helped him. So the host Dr. Gates finds his direct male ancestors. So meaning his father's father's father's father. It showed her explaining the results to him and that it showed him attending a family reunion of descendants of this guy and you could just see that he was so happy. It was this incredible story where someone was combining the DNA with the genealogy to find someone's long lost ancestors that had been going on for a while. I didn't realize that that existed. I thought, I'm going to do this.
This is perfect. It's perfect. I went online and I looked for the next time CC Moore was going to teach people how to do this work. I signed up a couple months later, I went down to Dallas and I took her workshop. Yeah. You know, the rest is history.
Goli: I love that. I love, I mean I love this so much because I think when you kind of open yourself up to these possibilities and giving yourself space, a lot of times I hear this from other people and it happened sort of with me too, where it's like something just pops up where you sort of know where you're like, Oh my God, I have to do this. It seems so just created for you that you're like, okay, I can't miss this opportunity. I love that there's that sense of knowing and it's like, no, maybe there's doubt, but it's like, okay, I'm going to go forward and I'm going to fly to another state and I'm going to learn this thing.
And so you do that and you started DNA hunters in 2015 and so you've been doing that for five years now. And so, what do you help people do with this company?
Mary: I've helped people find their birth parents. In the case of adoptees and other people with unknown parents, I help find grandparents and great grandparents, sometimes second grade grandparents and people are DNA testing at companies like 23 and me, right? Ancestry and I'm looking at the results and I'm putting the pieces together in order to solve their mystery.
Goli: That's so amazing. How do people find you, typically?
Mary: Usually through a directory of professional genealogists, but I also speak at conferences and through webinars. I have a set of webinars called DNA bootcamps that I produce and create with a collaborator in Chicago, so I'm in front of a lot of people speaking. I've spoken in Canada also, so people are finding me online and then my clients actually come from all over the United States and other countries like Canada, the UK and New Zealand. People are reaching out to me through my website and just saying, you know, here's what I'm looking for. Is this something you can help me with?
Goli: Are there any specific examples of clients that you worked with that you, that I don't know, has just been very satisfying or fulfilling for you in this type of work?
Mary: One of my really early clients was someone who was born in Vietnam to a Vietnamese mother and her father was and the African American Vietnam vet. So he was from this country. She was adopted by a couple in [inaudible] England, so she was, and the English woman, she and her cousin hired me to help them find him, to find her birth father. You know, many, many, the vast majority of Vietnam vets [inaudible] no longer with us, you know, they, they passed away. So we searched and searched and searched. And finally after about a year and a half, [inaudible] found him and it was just amazing. She and her son flew from the UK to North Carolina. The BBC followed them and recorded it and she got to meet him in person and it was so amazing.
Goli: That's incredible. I love that. Oh my goodness. How wonderful. And so do you work with other people who maybe know who their birth parents are but are just more interested in figuring out their ancestry?
Mary: I do. You know, usually once you build your tree back far enough, you come to a point where you're stuck and we call it a brick wall that you can't get beyond the brick wall. Oftentimes there's one or more ancestor someone would help with in those instances, DNA might be useful. And then I also have clients where their parent was an adoptee and their parent is now deceased. But now that we have DNA testing, they can do the DNA testing, you know, so the child of the adoptee, sometimes it's a whole set of siblings and through their matches I'm able to go back and find the birth parents of the adoptee. I'm finding the clients, grandparents that they never knew.
Goli: That is so incredible. This is so interesting. I never knew this was a business. This is what I love doing about this. Cause there are so many businesses out there and you just have… There are so many things that you can turn into a business. And so do you feel like now that you're doing the... I mean I hate saying your calling or purpose or, but like does this light you up in the way that you'd sort of hoped making that jump to law would have?
Mary: It does, it does. You know, there's that a lot of client contact and there is the incredible satisfaction when I can find someone that's unknown. The thank you cards I get are just amazing. I'm excited before the thank you card. Sometimes I'm working on a case and I'm like, Oh gosh, this is so hard. Oh, this is never going to work. And then all of a sudden the people test at a different company or just, you know, somebody comes into the database because they've tested and they're really close and it's like, Oh my gosh, I have new hope.
It's putting those pieces together and figuring out the puzzle and that is so satisfying. Providing answers to clients. Oftentimes they've wondered about it for years or decades or in the case of a grandparent, people have wondered over the generations, who was this person? I hear those clients, who are the children of adoptees? Say, you know, my mom always wondered who her birth parents were, you know, she died. I'm wondering that to be able to say, okay, well here's who her father was. It's just incredibly rewarding.
Goli: I love that. So amazing. And so do you mind if I ask if you are making more as a patent attorney than you are in this current business?
Mary: Sure. Well I made more money as a patent attorney that I'm currently banking.
Goli: Yes. I know that that's something that people kind of struggle with and I don't know if you have, cause I think a lot of times when I talk to kind of high paid people, lawyers, doctors, whatnot, a lot of what keeps them stuck is, well, I'm not going to replace this salary.
Mary: And you know, a lot of times that's true. I don't know what to say. I mean, I don't, I don't think that's a given. I think you can and there's businesses that can take off and you can make more, but you know, might be a reality that you're not. And so I wonder how you've dealt with that aspect of it. Well, I've always kept my spending down. I love to travel. So that is one thing I splurge on, especially once I got some traction. I, I paid off my student loans, I paid off my mortgage. Now I've got this giant paycheck that you know, like, well what am I going to do with that? That's what went into my freedom fund. I think that with some careers, and it's not to say that people don't love being lawyers.
I think that there's a reason they pay you so much money. If you just loved it and you wanted to show up and work like that and do that work, they paid $20,000 a year. Which is funny because when I was a scientist in the lab, I got paid really poorly and my bosses didn't get paid that much better. But I feel like, well I think people love being a scientist. You don't have to pay them exorbitant amounts of money to make them stay.
Goli: Absolutely. Yeah. No, I think you're right. I mean, I think that it's, there's definitely a reason why they're paying you. And I don't know, I always like it when people talk to me about that, it's like, well, you're getting, especially with people that are making currently at multiple six-figure salaries, it's like, well, you're making that and you're not happy. So clearly the money is not what's gonna make you happy. Right. So I'm not saying that you shouldn't want, I don't, I actually don't really, I think that it should be a mutually exclusive thing.
I don't think it's like you can have fulfillment or you can make money. I think you can do both. And I think there are lots of people that are examples of that, but I do think that it tends to be, as we've all kind of learned that like money is not the thing that is making you happy. So finding fulfillment first and then figuring out how to kind of monetize that is seems to be the better strategy. And so I, you know, I know we get stuck on that because so much of society has like told us that's what we need and then we get accustomed to a certain way of living. Like you were just saying you've kind of lived below your means, but a lot of us haven't. And we kinda, you know, they call it the golden handcuffs for a reason cause you end up having the mortgage and the car payments and if do you have children in like private school, whatever.
It's like you end up having to pay for that. But, and, and I, I really, you don't want people to understand that. Like no one's saying it's easy, right? It's not, it's very difficult to maybe give that up or change your lifestyle. But the alternative is also difficult, right? Doing something you don't love and kind of having your life pass you by realizing that this is not what you want to be doing is a really difficult way to live. So it's sort of choosing what it is going to be harder for you to give up. Right?
Mary: Money does not buy happiness. With this new business that I created. I spend four to five weeks in the winter in Florida. You know, as I'm in my early, well no, I'm in my mid-fifties you know, I can do that. I rent a condo, I actually give presentations to the local genealogy groups in Florida. I have a client base down there, you know, I can meet with them in person. You know, I just can't imagine as much as, as a lawyer, you know, I could do like a week-long vacation and work from vacation, but I would not go over to spend five weeks in Florida. You know, that being able to work anywhere is priceless.
Goli: Yeah, absolutely. I love that you just said that you get a week-long vacation that you get to work from vacation. I mean that is being a lawyer in a nutshell. And I think that if you start realizing that that's not the life you want and I, it's a give and take. But I agree that the flexibility and kind of having your life back where you're have weekends and maybe nights and you can do things outside of work, it could be worth, you know, giving up maybe that salary that huge salary for a so I obviously wholeheartedly agree. And so any parting words especially maybe advice for somebody that is on that second career and things like, well I can't jump again. You know, or like feel stuck. Mmm. Because of the thought that like what if the next thing is not what I love either.
Mary: I think that experimenting is really important and giving things a try because we're only on this world for so long and that definitely was one of the things that incentivize me. It was just thinking, well, this is how many years you have left and you know, are you going to be happy or are you going to be stuck doing something you don't like? Even though I was a shareholder, which is equivalent to a partner at most firms, bye. Destiny was not in my own hands. Am I willing to trade my happiness and security? False sense of security, you know, there's a lot of things to go into the decision and I'm so happy that I found something. It was a secure route, but that's fine. That's perfectly fine. I learned a lot of things and had a lot of fun along the way and I met some amazing people that I'm still really close to through this journey.
Goli: I love that. I think that's great advice. Mary, thank you so much. Where can people find you if they, maybe they want to figure out some of their ancestry or they just want to follow along with?
Mary: Oh, thank you Goli. The website is the best place to find me. I'm on Facebook also, but again, the website is the best place.
Goli: Okay, perfect. I will definitely link to that website and I think that you also have a free download that you have on your website that I think helps people maybe start this journey that they can…
Mary: And that is at and that is a handout that helps you navigate the different DNA testing websites in terms of like the best one to start with and then how you can actually take those results once you get them, download them to your computer and upload them to a couple other DNA sites that saves you money. So instead of ordering a separate kit from another company, you can just take those results and move them over. And a benefit of doing that is that you will get a new set of matches.
Goli: Oh cool. Very cool. Well I will link to that too in the show notes in case people can't write that down. Mary, thank you so much for joining us. This has been wonderful.
Mary: Thank you, Goli. I really appreciate it.
Goli: How interesting is Mary's story? I love that. Here are my three takeaways. Figure out what you love doing as a child and do more of that. It's incredible what pops up when we give ourselves space to do the things that bring us joy. Two, it's all an experiment. Nothing is set in stone. Nothing has to be the way it is because you chose it 20 years ago. You're allowed to edit and change and pivot as much as you want in three. It's okay to not know. I think so often works so hell bent on figuring out exactly what that thing is before we quit and I know for so many of us, including myself, if I had stayed in my position as a lawyer, I don't think I ever would have figured it out because I didn't have the time and space I needed and I see that so much in a lot of the guests I have.
So not knowing doesn't have to be the reason that you stay. If you can make it work financially and in other aspects, sometimes it's okay to not know. I hope you guys liked this episode. If you did, let me know and I will be back next week with another one. Thank you so much for listening. I can't tell you how much it means to me. If you liked the podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes. It'll help other people find the show. If you want to connect or reach out, follow along on Instagram and Facebook at lessons from a quitter and on Twitter at quitter podcast. I would love to hear from you guys and I'll see you on the next episode.