“It was who he was, not what he did,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo of his late father in a eulogy earlier this week. Mario Cuomo, himself governor of New York from 1983-1994, died on January 1st. I have long been an admirer of Mario Cuomo’s. Not so much because of his politics or any specific cause he trumpeted. I loved hearing him speak. He was one of the best orator’s I’ve ever heard. If you aren’t familiar with him he is a guy who spoke of gun violence not with statistics but a heartfelt lament. “Too many children hear the sound of gunfire before ever hearing the sound of a symphony.” (DNC 1992) Andrew was right, there was no separation between what he did and who he was. You could just tell – his gift served as a mouthpiece for his soul.
When I read Andrew’s words I instantly thought they represented a simple summary for transition: to link our hearts with who we are. Is there any gap in this linkage for you?
In late February last year a woman who now serves as my editor said to me, “Is this the book that you want to write?” She had worked with me over the course of a few phone calls to revise a proposal for a book on women and transition. The proposal had gotten buffeted around a bit as I appealed to agent and editor and publishing house. How so? The folks at Harvard Business School Publishing liked the women’s transition slant that featured the economics behind women’s underemployment. The agent who had a slightly Christian fundamentalist vein liked the data that suggested a reemergence of traditional values – even though that data was also debunked in the same proposal. Let’s face it, a year ago I wanted nothing more than to land a publisher for my book. Any one would do regardless of their biases or slants….
Just before the holidays that same publisher – the one interested in the book that I wanted to write – said to me, “I am finally hearing you.” She had reviewed chapter after chapter. I wrote them. And rewrote them. The struggle? I seemed to keep losing my own voice. At one point she commented, “it sounds as if you are talking to your HBS professors,” that audience couldn’t be farther away from the one I was trying to reach…
Why do I tell this story? It underscores a few things that I’ve learned in transition:
First, it describes one of the most critical elements of transition – to take the time to know your heart and follow it. It didn’t matter if HBS Publishing liked an economic slant for my book project. It wasn’t what I wanted to talk about. In my rush to move forward how much was I willing to negotiate away?
Second, the story shows how easy it is to get distracted even when executing in a good direction . How could I not find my own voice – even while working on something I love?
Finally it shows how important a role others play. I was lucky – someone relatively unknown to me took the time to listen. She was also vested enough in my project to call my bluff when I went astray. How many times have you given that gift to another?
As the New Year gets underway I encourage you to find a way to link your heart with who you are. Mario was brave enough to travel that path and in return he was granted what felt like unbounded capacity.
Are you ready to start on a similar journey?
Happy New Year.
If you’d like to read prior New Year’s posts….
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Thank you for staying true to your own voice on this journey. That’s how you continue to inspire me and countless others.