The Flotsam….

“Have you seen it?” said a woman to the cashier at the Superette.  I was eavesdropping on the conversation.  “The flotsam?”   To that moment I’d never heard the word.   Webster’s defines it as the wreckage of a ship or cargo that gets washed up by the sea.  “Over many months,” the check-out line story went, “beachgoers” had created this awesome structure.  What transpired was elegant.  Homespun.  Substantial.  Continue reading

Bucking Recession….

Do you keep your richness hidden?  I know what you’re saying, What could she possibly mean by that?    The thought struck me the other day as I interviewed a woman for my book.    We spoke at length.  I got the public, high level view right at the outset.  Achiever.  CPA.  Job seeker.  It wasn’t until well into the conversation that I finally learned about her. Continue reading

Your path….forward

“We come back to ourselves only better,” shared an interviewee in a Voices of Transitions post from 2012.   Her name was Maria.  She described her transition as an experience that she was ‘in and out of’ over a decade.   In that timeframe she experienced both intentional and unintentional transition.  One occurred when she was pregnant and was unexpectedly limited to bedrest despite a strategic unraveling at her tech start-up employer.   Another at a time when the care needs of her daughter required a full court press. Regardless of the triggers this decade long evolution required her to step out of her comfort zone and onto a new path… Continue reading

Right of passage….

“The greatest invention there ever was,” said my neighbor.   He was referring to bubbles while watching my children screech in delight as they ran around blowing and popping and laughing.   Even this professorial neighbor who doesn’t offer much by way of conversation smiled and laughed.  What a simple gift…. Continue reading

The Progress of Silence…

“If you do that once you’ll spend the rest of your life figuring out how to make that happen every year,” said a friend.  I was explaining that I was escaping for the summer with the kids to a shack near the beach on Cape Cod.   Another woman we both knew had done something similar years before.   My friend shared that this decision had altered that woman’s course from then on.  My transition had just started.  “Let’s face it,” I reasoned out loud, “no one is looking for me for the first time in decades.”  Why not?…I said trying to convince myself. Continue reading

A different lens

For those dying to son’s team lost their play-in game 3-2 in the 11th inning last weekend (Resilience, 6/14/2014).   A real nail biter.  Despite the loss the season was a great experience for him.  Positive.  Challenging.  Engaging.  In fact, I’ve been noodling what a group of nine-year olds and their undying optimism might contribute to transition.   Any guesses?


A great attitude perhaps?  No fear of failing?  Boundless energy?  Another experience I had last week brought a different lens to it for me.

“It’s very hard to keep energy to maintain the right mindset,” shared a woman at  a luncheon I was facilitating.  She’d recently been fired from more than a decade of service in the technology industry.   The event was still raw in her mind.  She was sad.  Angry.  Exposed.

It wasn’t helping that colleagues were still calling to say, “I can’t believe you were let go….”  In a more lucid moment she offered, “I refused to play the games.  I know that’s why I lost my job.”

It wasn’t until later in the conversation that I began listening in a different way.  The conversation had turned to the challenges of securing a new job as an experienced contributor – particularly in light of the online job search process.  Each woman found herself responding to jobs that were a step back from her prior role’s scope.

Most were targeting specific companies.  Many were networking to try to get a handle on upcoming opportunities.  Most had had the experience of being ‘late’  to a job posting because it had been pre-wired for someone internally even prior to being visible to ‘outsiders.’

I offered an idea on how to network another way.  I suggested that the ladies try a thought leader approach to finding the right ‘job.’  Puzzled looks all around…

This approach requires that you initiate a conversation about something for which you are the expert.

Create a draft of a new asset- a white paper or an outline for a talk to an industry association.   Sound difficult?  It isn’t.   Think about an angle that you – and you alone – would have given your prior experience and your interests regarding where you hope to land.

What then?  Outreach to a few people and ask if they’d be willing to provide feedback or offer a fresh perspective.

Why is this important?  The evolving asset is really a showcase of the value add that you might contribute to an organization.    It will lead in unforeseen directions and value add conversations….guaranteed.

Here’s is where I started listening differently…..

“I like it.  It’s a peer conversation,” shared one woman who finally smiled. Immediately the room got lighter.    Everyone breathed.   This thought leader option seemed to offer an approach that rebalanced an uncomfortable situation for these ladies.   Finally an approach that catapulted these women over, around or through transition’s real emotions like inadequacy, shame, guilt, and fear.

A dozen players tried their hearts out last weekend.  They lost but really they won.

Imagine what might be possible should you be willing to re-balance transition’s gripping emotions.   If you’re anything like my nine year old friends you can’t help but win….

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Tomorrow we head to my nine-year old’s play-in game.   If you are anything like me this play-in concept requires explanation.  It refers to a duel played by the two last place baseball teams who are fighting for a spot in the playoffs.   This season’s games were engaging and high scoring, like a recent 15-18 heart breaker that was given up in the last inning.   The season tally?   3-12.   Despite this lopsided record and the unruly behavior of the other teams these players never traded away their optimism nor their enthusiasm.   Resilient seemed a perfect description for the team. Continue reading

Transition’s path…

“It’s kind of hard to forge a path on your own….without saying, ‘I want to be like this,’ or follow the path that everyone follows.   It’s really hard to say, ‘No, I’m not gonna do that’…,” said Deirdre, a thoughtful 40-ish woman who had emerged from the hallowed halls of academia.   She went on,  “It’s hard to say, ‘this is really what I want.  There is no set path.'”  In listening I wondered about having the confidence necessary to embark on one’s own path.  Is it another of the requirements necessary for transition?       Continue reading

Transition: A cop-out?

“Nothing seems to be working,” shared a friend who was describing her job search.  She’d been fully committed to work in the home for close to two years.   Her decision to leave her last employer was a personal one.  She’d had some life issues come up.  An aging parent.   Personal health issues.   “I never thought it would be this hard,” she commented.   She was talking about the difficulty to get back into her profession after an absence.   She seemed incredibly sad.  Unsure.  Could this really be happening?

Listening to this friend I wondered if my pivot to a portfolio career is a cop-out?   Is my transition crusade simply a shield created to protect me from the choppy waters that my friend is encountering?

Let me explain.   Today – almost four years into a transition – I find myself juggling three part-time gigs, aka my portfolio career.    Together their salaries represent a small fraction of my former compensation.    On top of these sit a long list of community volunteering commitments in addition to the growing demands of two active elementary school-aged children.

Have I created this groundswell of activity to simply mute my awareness of the sheer impossibility of re-entering the world I exited?

What do you think?

William Bridges, author of Summer Book Review #2: Transitions – Making Sense of Life’s Changes stated “changes are driven to reach a goal, but transitions start with letting go of what no longer fits or is adequate to the life stage you are in.” (Transitions, Bridges, pg 128)   Bridges introduces three phases to transition:  “ending”; followed by an “empty zone” or “neutrality”; followed by a “beginning”.   “In the first phase of “transition” or “ending” we break our connection with the setting in which we have come to know ourselves.”  (Transitions, Bridges, pg 17) 

I remember being frustrated reading Bridges’ book.  He never really defined transition.  Lately I’ve tried my hand at it.

Transition is a process which requires us to re-imagine our assumptions about identity, capacity or values.   Any one or all three can be involved.  The reality is that each of us has a decision to make when faced with the need to change:  do we change or do we transition?

I’ve found that exploring the elements of transition, like identity, is about acknowledging the entirety of who we are instead of adopting a whole new persona.  That said once the adoption occurs we may no longer resemble our former selves.  Confusing?  Let me try an example.

“Who am I if I’m not me?”  shared a woman as she described her thinking at the outset of her transition.  She’d served as a divisional president at large consumer products company.  Accomplished.  Highly committed.  Hard charging.

Transition surprised her.  She described ‘breathing’ for the first time.  She used words like freedom.  In transition her pursuits became less about someone else’s standards and more about her own.   Transition connected her to new communities in which she was readily able to contribute – something that surprised her at first.

Slide1As I listened to this interviewee and my friend I kept playing an image in my head (see above).    Could it be that transition asks us to acknowledge that we are comprised of many elements – some we emphasize, others we barely acknowledge.   If so transition could allow us to dignify those elements that we’ve previously overlooked or combine elements that we’ve isolated or compartmentalized.

This interviewee went on and on about the emotional connection she’d been able to make with others in her work post-transition.   Any guess?  She derived great joy out of this yet is hadn’t been present in her previous roles.

I can’t help but wonder if my friend who is interviewing needs to listen to a more holistic view of herself.  Maybe combining a few elements – even some previously ignored – could jump-start her thinking about what more could be possible.

I’m not sure I’ve settled on a new identity but I’ve adopted the humility and courage to keep exploring.   The cop-out in isn’t so much in using transition as a shield but in ignoring our instincts that tell us one may be required.

Are you ready to listen, or even better, to begin?

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Looking forward…

“Oh, I can’t do that,” shared an interviewee with a soft laugh.  We were talking about the internal barriers to transition.   Have you ever heard a similar voice in your head?  She’d transitioned before.   She could easily see – in hindsight – the walls erected by her own assumptions.  Those walls restricted her ability to envision what ‘might be.’   She went on, “I knew that I had to stop doing what I was doing.  I didn’t know where I’d end up.”   She seemed stalled by the simple question, ‘What’s next?’  Continue reading