A simple handshake?

“The justices shake each other’s hand. That’s just what they do each time…It just- it’s meaningful, and I’m glad the court does that,” said Sandra Day O’Connor during her interview with NPR’s Terry Gross (‘Out Of Order’ At The Court: O’Connor On Being The First Female Justice, March 5, 2013).  Chief Justice Melville Fuller started this custom in the late 1800’s saying that “it shows that harmony of aims, if not views, is the court’s guiding principle.”  O’Connor concurred.   It introduced a harmony.  Aligned members.  I wonder if a handshake is a metaphor for transition?


Truth be told I heard the interview while driving to a networking meeting.  I guess I had handshakes on the brain.  Who knows?  O’Connor’s comments caused me to think on two levels: one practical, one metaphorical.

First, the practical.  A handshake stands as a symbol of transition’s core activity, networking.  My experience in networking has changed pretty radically over the course of my transition.  Maybe you’ve had similar experiences?

In the early days my coach, graciously provided to me by my former employer, served as a bubbly and enthusiastic proponent for networking.  At my lowest point it seemed that he simply wanted me out talking with people so I wouldn’t crater under the weight of my self-imposed stillness.  Even though I had prided myself on being a great networker….I couldn’t see the value at that time.  I thought it was useless.  Long time readers will remember I went from an extreme job on the executive committee of a global S&P 500 corporation to silence.  Sheer silence.

Now almost two years later I’m as excited as my former coach regarding networking.  Invaluable!

These attitudes represent two opposing sides of the spectrum.  What’s different other than the passage of time?  A few things…..

First, I now have a unifying principle for my transition that I am always testing.   Remember Herminia Ibarra in Working Identity?  Always experiment.  I embrace that.  It allows me to take kernels of learning from everywhere I go…constantly renewing my experiment.   Ibarra counsels readers to disengage from the desire to identify the ‘destintation’ in your transition work.  Rather, she encourages folks to identify interests or curiosities and test them out.   Quickly.  Imperfectly.

Second, I walk with gratitude through all of these encounters….reaching out as much as possible on behalf of others.  A very good friend of mine related a conversation she’d had recently with a former boss. He’d been the CIO (Chief Information Officer) of a major corporation.  His teams led hugely transformative initiatives all across the world.  He lamented to my friend after being laid off, ‘no one returns my calls.’  She replied to him, ‘how many did you return when working?’

Here is something else I notice as I look at these two points on the spectrum.  Early on attending networking events that aligned with my very ill-defined interests proved far more valuable than one on one networking.  Do you have similar observations?

Now, for the metaphor…….in transition we ultimately greet ourselves, or more of ourselves.

Countless women have offered their transition perspectives in Novofemina’s Research Jam.  Thank you.  Thank you. Thank you. I am trying to get through all the data.  It’s wonderful and a total challenge. I love it!

One early statistic has stood out for me.  When asked about a transition’s triggers 48.5% cite ‘desire to pursue more of my potential.’   Almost half.  Explore more of whom I can become!

Here is a quirky story:  When I was in grad school I took a provocative class called Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship with Professor John Kao.    He is a big wig innovation and creativity thought leader.  One day he led the class in a guided meditation.  I still chuckle a bit because I sat next to an ex-army guy who squirmed a bit once he understood the day’s objectives.

After several minutes of Kao’s verbal instructions we were asked to imagine walking across a field to greet someone.  I remember specifically that when I turned to meet the person, it was me.  Once the exercise was complete we were asked to debrief.   In an unencumbered way I offered that I met myself in a beautiful field in the French countryside.  I recall Kao and his assistant glancing at each other upon hearing my answer.  I never had the chance to ask him why he reacted that way…but the memory of meeting me in the field remains crystal clear.

My transition has elements daily of the practical and of the metaphorical.  It’s imperfect.  It’s experimental.  And energizing.  Occasionally I encounter myself in an entirely new, boundaryless place.  That said,  I’m not sure I’m ready to extend my hand in greeting…are you?

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