It turned out I had no salary anymore but a “draw.” I was not sure exactly what’s the difference, but the money did arrive in my account monthly. In fact, I had two draws—one monthly and one quarterly. It turned out I had to pay taxes quarterly, which was disappointing, but it seemed like a price worth paying.

My income seemed to go down, but it also kind of went up. It’s tough to explain. I got some money from the firm, but then also I paid the firm some money. I was “buying in.” I was eager to know how long I would be buying in, but I was told “it depends.”

I never knew exactly how many units I had or what percent those units represented. I had a “capital account,” which I visualized as sort of a wine locker. It appears that my capital account was as full as my wine locker—my appetite for food is matched by my interest in wines. There is not much left in the morning.

My tax return, once done on TurboTax, turned into a 50-page pile. I sat in some strategy meetings. One was about the color of the walls in the conference room. I signed a thing or two.

I quit the firm within the year of making partner.

It got way too complicated. I wanted to be successful and I wanted to be on top of my profession, and being a partner was a clear goal I could see and chase. Then I was a partner and entered another game I did not how to play.

When I first sat down to write this article, I intended to discuss how rising interest rates are making it so much tougher for young professionals (whom I call G2s) to purchase equity. I also wanted to talk about how higher private equity valuations are starting to make it very difficult for G2s to buy equity without significant sacrifices of income.

Then I was going to write about how being a partner is still desirable even if the financial dynamics are changing because it creates a long-term commitment between the firm and the professional. I wanted to provide some advice to those next-generation professionals who are wondering if they should be partners.

Then I started writing, and to be honest, I never know what’s gonna happen when I start writing. That’s why I like it.

I wondered, knowing what I know, if I stood on that bus stop again and talked to that architect what would I say? (I wonder if he ever became a partner.)

Later, I became an owner in a very new and young firm and I found a great partner, someone I still call my partner even though these days we don’t own anything together—he is just that good a friend. And then I partnered with one of the guys I used to be friends and go to happy hour with, and we are still partners. It is great to have partners.

It is great to be a partner too. You just have to find the right firm.

So when you ask yourself if you want to rise to those heights at the firm you work for, it should come down to a few questions you ask yourself:

• Is this a firm you believe in? Do you truly believe it will be successful?
• Can you imagine spending the rest of your career, or at least the next decade, being a partner in this firm, doing what you do surrounded by these partners?
• If you answered “no” to the previous questions, to me the answer is obvious. If you answered “yes,” then it will probably be a good decision for you and work out financially. Probably. If you want guarantees, however, you shouldn’t be a partner.

There was an old Volkswagen commercial that said: “On the road of life, there are passengers and there are drivers. … Drivers wanted!” That’s why I want to be a partner.

Philip Palaveev is the CEO of the Ensemble Practice LLC. He’s an industry consultant, author of the books G2: Building the Next Generation and The Ensemble Practice and the lead faculty member for the G2 Leadership Institute.

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