“It would be incredibly valuable to the companies and potentially very lucrative,” remarked my then boss, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. We were brainstorming about my next moves. We both hailed from the tech start-up arena. He was angling for me to return. There was a lilt in his voice. ‘What fun!’ He seemed to be saying. For whom?
I often get the question, ‘how?’ to start a transition. One of the toughest challenges, I think, is that our networks and people close to us see us as how we ‘are’ versus seeing us as what we aspire to be.
I thought I’d use my own before and after to illustrate this point.
That day my boss was trying to get me to start a new business, a boutique consulting firm. His concept? Leverage the incredible experience I’d gotten at the big company and marry it to the emerging tech world that we both loved. He had it all figured out. I’d partner with pre-IPO companies to establish SEC compliant processes. He reasoned that this would be invaluable to the many companies who arrive at the pre-IPO altar with tin cans and string for processes.
“Why not cash in on what you’ve done here?” He remarked. He loved the IPO dream. He’d led many smallish tech companies but never to that ultimate Valhalla.
Here is the rub. I actually considered this path. I reasoned that I could easily start the business. I could even be very good at it. There was a real market need. As ideas go this one was borderline great.
But, did I want to do it? I had two kids under age 6. Was I ready to hop into a services business, particularly one that was deal driven like the IPO market?
Also my exit from this gentleman’s employ had me teetering on the verge of disaster. Years of five hours-a-night of sleep, spontaneous travel and the demands of my family had taken their toll. Would transition give me enough traction to stay clear of the magnetic pull of these type of ideas and really listen to what I wanted? Was it time to afford myself that luxury?
William Bridges, author of Transitions: Making Sense of Life Changes (Summer Book Review #2) said, “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) He noted that during the first phase of transition, “we break our connection with the setting in which we have come to know ourselves.” (Transitions, Bridges, pg 17)
I found an old document on my hard drive this week while searching (unsuccessfully) for something else related to my book project. The document was a draft aspiration worksheet from 2012 – roughly two years after this conversation with my boss.
My draft said: I am pursuing my interests in women’s development. This manifests itself in two ways: (a) contributing to Golden Seeds, LLC, an angel capital network dedicated to providing growth capital to women-led start-ups; and (b) authoring the blog Novofemina.com, a celebration of Women’s Transition Issues. I am also interested in serving on Boards to leverage my experience as Board Chair of a high-tech start-up and as a facilitator of the Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors of a S&P 500 company. Long term, unqualified success? To be a recognized thought leader on Women’s Transition globally.
Right or wrong it’s quite a pivot from my SEC compliant start-up. How did I make the leap?
Today’s and the next few posts will cover the many techniques that I used. There was no silver bullet.
One important early one was starting the iterative process to answer a few basic questions. Together these questions helped me re-articulate my identity. They are:
I am ___ (Who).
I do _______ (What).
I love it because ____________ (Why?).
I hope to ________________ (Impact).
Could these work for you?
I wrote the answers to these questions occasionally. Months would go by and I wouldn’t touch it. But then I’d have a free moment and take another crack at it.
After a few iterations I broke free from replicating the world I’d just exited. I married this simple Q&A technique with a few visioning exercises (I’ll cover visioning in an upcoming post).
That coupling really got me started. Once the aperture of ideas was expanded it became easier to eliminate the boundaries that I or others had erected for me.
Would it surprise you that my former boss has pivoted to a ceo role at a tech start-up? It makes his heart sing.
At the end of the day we both got something important.
I got the courage to know that more was possible and the humility to keep exploring it.
How will you proceed? Will you begin? Are you ready for questions? Or more importantly are you ready to listen to YOUR answers?
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