Last year, the popular journalist made headlines when she departed from her full-time gig at CNN and leaped at an opportunity to become her own boss. Here, for the first time, Soledad O’Brien shares how overcoming fear of change led her to enjoy life on her own terms, and freedom as a producer and storyteller.

I throw piles of socks and summer clothes into a canvas bag in the dead of winter. “Jackson and Charlie, put on your socks and shoes!” I yell to my 9-year-old twins as I race around packing my luggage while they prepare for school. “Celia and Sofia, organize your backpacks so you don’t forget anything.” Yes, my voice is a little urgent, but the kids are actually enjoying the chaos. Mom is walking them to school this morning—something that would have been impossible just a few months ago.

Back then I would already have been in the office by 3 A.M. or rushing off to the airport to chase breaking news. But not anymore. I’ve taken the leap of faith to stop punching the company time clock and start working for myself. I’m now the CEO of Starfish Media Group, my production company, in New York City.

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