‘It has a lot to do with how women see their options,’ observed a leader of gender studies at an esteemed Boston university.  She participated as an industry expert in last spring’s Research Jam.  This remark was in response to our discussion about when & why women choose to transition.  Her perspective was incredibly simple.   Do women perceive that they have options?  Some do.  Many others don’t.  In your world what role do options play?  What would happen if you expanded your aperture for options just a bit?

From my humble perch this ability to see options plays an incredible role in transition.    Over the course of my transition my ability to see options has changed radically.  Let me see if I can capture this for you….

When I started my transition a former colleague suggested that I start a boutique consulting firm to work with pre-IPO companies in establishing SEC compliant HR processes.  During my previous tenure as EVP of HR & Administration of a S&P 500 company I’d spearheaded a CEO change and addressed countless nearly broken processes, including the processes that govern the granting of equity stock options as incentives under SEC guidelines.    This colleague of mine reasoned that these services would be valuable to the target companies and also potentially lucrative.

Here’s the rub.   I actually considered this.  I could do the work, easily.  I love emerging businesses.   The topic just wasn’t all that interesting to me.

Now wind the clock forward almost three years.  I wouldn’t give this concept the time of day.  What’s different?

My transition has taught me that I need to listen – even amidst terrifying silence — to what is important to me.   Only me.  Not what someone else thinks I should or could do.    It’s also taught me that incredible energy and possibility serve as rewards to those bold enough to seek their passion.

It seems that many of us are influenced by external sources.  Some believe that it starts in college.   In The Universal Barriers to Transition I quoted former Berkley College dean, Kevin Hicks, in his lament that far too many seniors choose finance or consulting roles post college.  “Too many seniors march lemming-like towards it because everyone else seems to be doing it, and it’s the next opportunity for extrinsic validation. If McKinsey says you’re okay, you’re okay.”  Marina Keegan, the journalist who wrote the piece Even Artichokes Have Doubts, concluded that we seek what “will make us feel like we’re still successful,”  instead of choosing a sloppier unchartered course.

By the way I wasn’t conscious of the influence that others had on my desired direction as I evaluated the concept of starting a new boutique consulting firm.  I did however realize that I got bored quickly when thinking it through.  It couldn’t hold my attention.

Can our options break free of those around us?  My 8-year-old son introduced me to another limitation vein for options.  We were watching the late games of the World Series.   During the breaks a frequently played commercial almost sent me over the edge.  In it a financial services firm seeking retirement clients asked passersby at Boston’s South Station to write their dreams on an over-sized yellow canvas.   The tag line,  “for your dreams….tomorrow.”   Deferral?  In their entirety?

Boston's Historic South Station circa 2004

Boston’s Historic South Station circa 2004

Extrinsic validation.  Deferment.  Lack of awareness.  All these influence the options we see in our forward path….

My eight year old is determined to play for the Boston Red Sox.  In fact tonight we headed out in the rain after dinner to play catch.  Why?  He reasoned that professional baseball players need to be able to play in the rain.

May we all have an eight year old’s view of possibilities.  Boundaryless.  Unfettered.  Then we could pivot the real work of transition toward planning for the implementation of truly fantastic futures.

Tell me, is it time to adjust the aperture surrounding your options?

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