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Even in the midst of successful professional lives, some people start to feel a restlessness, a soul-searching that keeps them up late at night and snaps open their eyelids before the morning alarm. It’s a gut-gnawing feeling that what they’re doing with their careers—no matter how well it pays, how much security it provides—isn’t making them happy.

Some people, maybe most, never scratch that itch. When you have responsibilities, change and risk are hard. But some feel the urge so deeply, they have to take the leap. Here are five of them—professionals who left guaranteed financial success for more adventuresome, fulfilling work and came out on top.

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