Analogy: a powerful transition tool

Last weekend I attended a training session for volunteers for a local youth group.   A wide cross-section of folks attended.  One gentleman, a youth minister from a local church named Sal, spoke at length.   Sal shared — as only you can share on folding chairs in the basement of a school on a Sunday morning — a story that I found surprisingly powerful.

Sal related that every year he hosts an off-site for local teens.  At the conclusion he gives each participant a ‘raw’ light switch.  By ‘raw’ I mean just picked out of the bin at Home Depot.   Wires hanging out.  Electronic and metal components all visible.

With the switch Sal reminds kids that the decision is theirs; they can either choose to turn it on or leave it off.  To jump in large into life or just hang back.   From Sal’s re-telling of this story kids all over town have light switches on their bureaus.

As Sal was holding up the switch I was reminded how powerful a good analogy can be.  The reality is I’ve heard the on/off challenge many times.  For example, I am a big fan of Rachel Maddow whose tag line is  Lean Forward.  Or Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook,  with her TED message of Lean In.  All seem to be encouraging the same behavior but neither for me gets close to Sal in the basement of the school holding up his Home Depot prop.

I’ve been wondering this week why this simple analogy stayed with me?  I’m over one year into my transition.  Some things in my life are more “on” than they’ve been in a long time.  I’m a far better parent (I think) & person now than when I was battling between an extreme job and a parenting role.   In my pre-transition state I thought I was “on” but in fact I was “off.”  Admittedly the haze of pure exhaustion caused me to confuse many facts – not just this one.

All that said I am still not entirely back “on” from my perspective.  There are significant portions of my transition that are left undone.    My working self needs the most help.   I fear – or maybe honestly relish — that I am moving toward an entrepreneurial vein.

Not sure what analogy would best describe my current state.  Prior to my transition — I used the analogy of the tasmanian devil cartoon to describe the company that I worked for.   Do you remember that Warner Bros character?  It was a little animal that spun around but never went anywhere very fast.  A lot of velocity but little forward movement.  Do you have a good analogy when thinking about transition?

In the mid-90’s I was starting one my first businesses.  It was a software company in the pre-internet world.   It was all very exciting.  Anyway, there was this very stodgy man who lorded over the investment decisions at a local early-stage venture capital organization.  I remember pitching our idea to him.   He seemed intrigued by what we were doing.  He said, “give me an analogy” so I can sell this to my colleagues.

The net of it was I never gave him a suitable analogy.  We never got funding from him or anyone else.  An ending.  It did lead, however, to myself and others starting a different technology business; one that got funding and developed a decent track record before being acquired.

I like the light switch analogy.  I am an “on” person.  I still hang in the camp that says I/we can change the world – one “on” switch at a time.  Would you share a good analogy for your current state? Transition or otherwise?

Thanks Sal.  It’s been a long time since I’ve sat in a linoleum tiled auditorium and listened so intently.  Let alone retained so much.

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5 responses to “Analogy: a powerful transition tool

  1. Recently, on the very weekend that I left my 20-year, very full-time job in academia for a part-time job in ministry, I found myself in a seminar taught by author and speaker Beth Moore. Beth’s image for the weekend was “the net.” She explored this image in many ways, with a particular focus on Psalm 25:15 (ESV): “My eyes are ever on the Lord for He will pluck my feet out of the net.” This analogy has been a powerful image for me as I find myself quite literally being plucked from a job that ensnared me to a life in which I am finding freedom and fulfillment.

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