In January 2006, I earned my black belt in martial arts after four years of intense training. I never imagined that I would end up being a black belt. When I was younger, I tended to be bookish. A product of the ’60s, I was raised to do “little girl” things such as cooking and sewing. But there I was, at 42, watching my son taking lessons and thinking, “I’d really like to do that.” I challenged myself to learn things such as full contact kickboxing and grappling. The experience has been eye-opening and tremendously rewarding.

If there’s one thing that life has taught me it’s that you need to step out of your comfort zone to be successful. My parents raised me with a strong work ethic. When I entered college, I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not there to socialize; I was there to develop the skills I needed to get a good job. I chose accounting because I knew I wanted to enter business—but, from the start, this career path forced me out of my comfort zone.

Public accounting, at the time, was a male-dominated field, and every day I had to work hard to prove myself because I wasn’t one of the guys. It takes confidence to get out there every day, but if you stay focused you can achieve whatever you want.

After 23 years, I worked my way up to a partnership at MetLife. After seven years as a partner, I decided to step out of the zone once again to help MetLife start a new business: MetLife Bank. Three years later, I was named its president.

Having a passion for what you do is what gives you the confidence to take chances. No one loves his or her job every day of the week. But when you sit back and think about your career, you need to be passionate about it. Passion shows through. It makes you confident; makes you seek new opportunities. It gives you the spark you need to succeed. Remember, you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to make a difference in life. However, you do need the courage to discover what you’ve got that can make a difference, and then do whatever you can to make that shine through.