Tag Archives: transitions

Linchpins & Lemonade

It has been an interesting summer for me. I have been “out west” visiting family for some weddings and my annual summer trip. All of that was great, everything happened as planned. Part of the trip was to see and spend time with my parents. I had prepared myself for my mom’s declining state that has been the case for a number of years – she has Alzheimer’s. I knew she was declining. I had been told by my dad and other family members to prepare for what I would encounter. I haven’t been home since Christmas. When I first arrived she didn’t even look up. I could tell she didn’t know, couldn’t know, or didn’t have the ability to “see” me or to let me know that she “knew” me. In my guarded analytical, intellectual way of being, I took that in stride. People have to ask her if she knows me, or ask her my name. That actually irritates me. No, I think it hurts. It is how I protect myself. I don’t want to acknowledge that loss of recognition. Nobody wants to be forgotten. But, somehow I think that act of, “do you know who this is?” helps the questioner. It helps to normalize the situation. And, we don’t know what to say so we default to the “how are you doing” or, the situational equivalent. Maybe the question is just embedded with HOPE she will blurt out your name. She did not.

I have had some moments with her during this trip. One night she looked at me and said, “Hey, it’s you!” She went on to say, “You’re here.” Then the funny, “Do you have a job?” I responded somewhat shocked and a little taken aback. We all laughed. My mom even laughed. It was a real laugh. It was a laugh from the depth of who she is. It was from her core. It was HER.

My aunt said, “There she is! That’s her!”
And then…she was off again with foggy eyes to some far away world locked deep in the confines of her deteriorating brain.
My aunt and I just smiled…and cried, and she said to me, “Remember this forever. There she was, just for you.”

Two nights later, I was putting her to bed again. She was quiet but quasi-alert. I looked at her and had a short talk with her telling her that it was OK for her to make the transition and move on to see everyone who was waiting for her.

I said, “There are so many that you haven’t been with for so long. It is really ok with us if you are ready to make that trip and move on. We will always remember you and love you. We will take care of dad. But, there are hugs to be had, a pot of tea waiting for you, and I am sure the Garden Club Alumna Association is ready for their next new/old member.”

I stood up and said, “Good night, Mom.” She looked at me with the clearest smiling eyes and plainly said, “Good night Rich.” I dropped to her beside. I hugged her. I wept. I pulled back to look at her and she said quizzically, “Do you have a problem?” I replied, “No, no problem. I am just happy.”

She is still with us. Holding on for something, I think it has to be her decision to leave. The other day my dad, my cousin and I were chatting with the hospital chaplain. He was asking about all of us and how we were coping. Then my cousin started to speak. She reflected that mom has always been the person in our family to make things happen, have a party, host holidays, umpteen weddings, graduations, and mini reunions. She is the one that has been the “go to” in the family (on all sides) for years. She was the person everyone would call when we needed to access the family hard drive for an address, a memory, and questions. I had thought this was the case and all this was true, but was I just biased because she is my mom?

It was nice to hear my cousin say this. She continued to reflect that it is hard for all of us to understand what will be a new way of being in our family. My cousin said, “When our roles change, it throws people off for a little bit. I don’t think we are really ready for that.”

There’s a little gadget that keeps the wheels from falling off the axle, it is called a linchpin. Marketing wizard and writer Seth Godin wrote a book, Linchpins. His definition of a linchpin is someone who is indispensible, someone vital to the organization. That’s my mom. I have been cleaning things at my parents house to stay busy and help my dad with that unbearable task. Finding treasures, and lots of what the hell did she keep that for?, I have been trying to understand life without our linchpin. It has been scary, sad, and a little lonely. But in all honesty, life goes on. It has to. It’s how the world works. Linchpins wear out and they go on to other places and become the omnipresent teacher and guide. They were here for a reason and they prepare us for this point in our lives. The linchpin becomes indispensible in a realm of our psychic force that whispers in our ear when we need it the most. These linchpins are that “gut feeling” and the invisible force that we just know “would want that.” And sometimes that slap of reality that we know would not want/like that.

In leadership roles, we have linchpins and we are linchpins. We learned to assume such a role passed down from someone before us. We have the ability to take those lessons and transform our linchpin energy into something of value for others. It’s important that we slow down on occasion to notice the lesson, feel the energy, and soak in the moment. We can take those opportunities to learn and grow from our sage teachers as they share with us out of love and care. They are just preparing us for the time they can’t be here any longer to do it for us. As leaders we have the ability to do the same.

We have to take those lemons add some sugar and make lemonade. Things get tough. Struggles happen. They make us strong and resilient. Take hold of those times that seem a little sour, that sting a bit on the open wound. Learn the lesson. Grab the gifts when they are offered. Like my aunt said, “Remember this forever. That was her.” Mom served me a little cup of lemonade…a couple of ‘em. And as usual – everything tastes better when mom makes it.

“The miracle is this: the more we share, the more we have.” –Leonard Nimoy

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Death cards & stoplights

ChangeStoplight Games of Chance
I grew up in Nevada. Gaming was all around me – casinos, supermarkets, airports, convenience stores, many would think this is gambling (which it really is, I am not pretending it isn’t). But, a teaching point here – In Nevada it is referred to as gaming. (This portends a level playing field and sports like doesn’t it? See previous post on Perception is Everything, case in point here.) For now, let’s stick with gambling which is wagering money/stakes on games of chance. We also gamble if we take a chance with something in life. Writing this without saving my work along the way is gambling that the computer may freeze, or something could happen that I lose all of this good stuff. It has happened. I obsessively include keystrokes to save my work as I type along, <control-S>ing as we speak. Think about poker, there are many different ways to play, amounts we can bet, strategies to win. We learn to have a poker face. We play our cards close to the vest to protect our hand. I think the great philosopher had it right when he reminds us –

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done

Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep
‘Cause every hand’s a winner
And every hand’s a loser…
Thank you Kenny Rogers.

It’s true that every hand is a winner and/or a loser. There is simultaneity in these games of chance, whether they are poker or the game of life. We all have decisions to make at every turn of the hour, day, month, year, career and beyond. How we play these games is probably related to how we make decisions and approach our work with others. There are times to stay in the game and other times we move to another table and try our luck again. Every gambler knows…right?

I played poker with the tarot and four people died. Actually, that is a line from the monotone comic Steven Wright. I love his deadpan delivery. Of course, dry humor IS the highest form of comedy. Now speaking of dead I was recently thinking about the meaning of the death card in the tarot deck. Yep, I was just sitting there standing there one day and something made me think of this card and its interpretation.

Death card the big change
I was thinking about this card and what it means within a reading. I did not know there are stories associated with each of the cards. This death card is about CHANGE, EXPOSURE, TERMINATION, INEVITABILITY, and TRANSITION. Death provides a metaphor for transition. Whoa, that could be the understatement of the year, eh? Many groups and religions explain death and see it as someone making their transition somehow whether to heaven or somehow changing form and being. I love how Nichiren Buddhism explains death as a part of life, rather an extension of life itself. This concept of the self continues after our death. Think about loved ones who have transitioned and how you talk about them. We tell stories. We carry their legacy. The legacy of who they were, and what they did. The essence of their self continues forever. This forever makes it pretty important to BE while we’re alive.

If you look into dictionary about the symbolism of dreams the meaning of death, have very similar change or transition meanings. Some counseling theories/therapies make use of asking what one is dreaming about. Carl Jung discusses the meaning and uses of dreams within his writings.

The ONE thing that we can count on is change. I am not claiming that phrase as my own, but I couldn’t find anyone to credit. Whether we are moving from one grade to another, getting to graduation day, weddings, or closing out the budget year we are in a constant cycle of change and closure. While we are growing up we are transitioning (remember puberty? holy change batman).

Relationships, friendships, vacations, living spaces, jobs …Lions, tigers and bears….things end. Things change. Things die. Careers shift and things change at work and we find ourselves in transition. Some of the time we control and cause the transition and in some cases, the circumstances force our hand to move to the next chapter. In either situation, we can look at the change as a curse or a victory. The final death card is indeed pretty final. But the intermediary death cards, these are transition points and times to refocus.

Dr. Nikki Giovanni is a poet and professor. She was at Virginia Tech when the campus shooting occurred there (2007). I first noticed her work during that news coverage. Recently, I found her quote, “A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.” Read it again and emphasize the E-words: Enjoy and Embrace.

Bridges’ Model
Dr. William Bridges, Change Consultant, has a transition model. Its simplicity is beautiful: Ending, Neutral Zone, New Beginning. You have to end something, go through some time of uncertainty, then begin something new. Think of a standard stoplight at the intersection – red, yellow, green.

RED – Stop. Things end. There has to be an ending. If we don’t have some termination then things are unclear, it is uncomfortable, we have unfinished business. It is like rolling through the stop sign, we know we shouldn’t and sometimes it works. BUT at some point “breaking the law” will catch up with you. Ticket.

Yellow– This is the neutral zone of what do we do now? There are no set rules. We need to get our wits about us. New normal has to be established and this time-period can be tough. When the light turns yellow there’s quick glance at the intersection, glace to the mirrors and that split second decision weighing the odds of stopping or the gun-it gamble flashes through our minds.

Green – Enthusiasm. Why didn’t I do this sooner thoughts. There is more hope than fear. We can now move on and head toward the next intersection with some confidence. We have established a new beginning. Pass Go. Collect $200.

There is life after death (um, maybe that is another blog post all together)…metaphorically speaking of course. Transitions, change, and movement are the ingredients of an exciting and adventurous process and life. We love the changes and the transitions that happen. Letting go of the control of some of these is within all of our ability. How we handle the transitions and changes is probably more of an indicator of leadership than many other things. What was your last intersection? How long did the light stay yellow? How bright was the green light in the end?

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rejection < RESILIENCE — The REal opportunity to REvise & REcreate

When is a balloon really a balloon? You buy a package of balloons and you have a little bag of lifeless colorful containers. What you really have is a bag of potential. These plastic, rubber, or Mylar envelopes are just waiting to become something; they’re balloons in waiting.

That balloon will get big and round or perhaps it is a longer tubular shape. You cannot really tell until you put some air in them, quite a bit of air actually. The air on the inside keeps stretching the colorful skins into big beautiful balloons. If it pops it makes a loud sound and explosion. So we can tell there is a lot of air (or helium) inside exerting quite a bit of pressure.

A balloon isn’t really a balloon, until it is tested. Those balloons you get with your singing telegram or for your birthday are probably expendable. Move to a reusable balloon now. Have you ever gone ballooning, taken a ride in a hot air balloon, or been to the balloon races (Head to Reno in early September)? The balloon is constantly tested, and retested over an over again.

The concept of RE is an important idea to chat about for a minute. But, I want to start at the opposite end of RE first.

In life and leadership, we need to understand and think about RESILIENCE. Resilience is generally a topic we go to after some sort of Rejection, Refusal, Rebuff, Refutation, Revoke, or repeal. Not so much fun eh? Just reading these words can probably cut deep and we can instantly think of a time (probably more like a whole bunch of times) that this happened to us.

REvising, RElearning, REbuilding, REfocusing, REflecting, REset, REplay

We need to REFRAME any rejection that happens to us. When do we learn? I didn’t ask how do we learn (that was the last blog post). WHEN do we learn? When does learning happen? There is no NEW learning; there is RElearning (there is that RE- word again).

We learn when we make mistakes. We learn when we fall down. Yeah, yeah we learn at other times too. BUT when do we remember the lesson? I am guessing that after a little sting, the learning is more of apparent, or it has a little more import. This is why video games have a REset button. This is why we have instant REplay. It is why we have REwind on the TiVo and DVR. It’s the do over of life.

REsilience, REjoice, REcreate, REbuild, REmodel, REstore, REmake

Just like that balloon we are resilient. We can bounce back and we can rebuild and rejoice while we are taking what we learned from that situation or experience. I am not the first one to say this (I think I first read it in Steven Covey’s 7 Habits book over twenty years ago). Failure isn’t fatal & People don’t fail they quit. I sold life insurance for a number of years. The chance for “rejection” occurred a few times in that sales/service process.

I have studied leadership and identity for a number of years now. Resilience is part of this building of our leadership ability and capacity. I found a book entitled, Rejection (1982) by John White. In the book he tells stories and reports on people who were rejected a time (or lots of times). He has the typical stories about Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and others that have been told and REtold repeatedly. I love his THREE THINGS ABOUT REJECTION –
1. Rejection is not the same as failure.
2. It is 2-way – while we are facing rejection, we are also doing some rejecting.
3. Rejection is necessary. Lack of it would be disastrous.

Read #3 again – REJECTION IS NECESSARY. What?! Why is that? How could that be? When we are rejected, we REvise and REsubmit. Rejection re-energizes us to win and to create victory. It helps us to see things in a different light. Think about that guy or girl you may have been rejected by…chances are 50/50 that rejection can be seen as, “whoa, I dodged a bullet on that one.” Without REverse on the gearshift, we would still be sitting in the same parking space.

There is a great song that says it best – Tubthumping by Chumbawumba – I actually thought the song was called, I get knocked down.

I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never going to keep me down

In another verse, it goes on….
He sings the songs that remind him Of the good times
He sings the songs that remind him Of the better times

Don’t cry for me
Next door neighbor

I get knocked down
But I get up again

You’re never going to keep me down
We’ll be singing When we’re winning We’ll be singing

When was your last bout of REsilience?

Notice the question…it wasn’t directed at the rejection (where I would submit a lot of us tend to focus the energy). When was the last time you got knocked down? When was the last time you got up again?

How big can you inflate the balloon that encompasses your capacity? When were you last stretched and tested? You might get knocked down…but ya gotta get up again, and again, and again. We have to get up one more time than we feel knocked down.

2 quotes – The first I have heard over and over. The second, I think I am going to have this one tattooed… or maybe just printed and framed next to my front door.

“That which doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.” -Nietzsche

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” -Joseph Campbell

Tubthumping — do you need to be reminded of it?

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Liminal space -That position between HERE and WHERE?

What’s in the liminal space?

This threshold of hesitation in my face

Now is the time to seek and wait,

while things can happen according to fate.

In this time of transition,

we control these options within our position.

Hold tight, I will connect my poetry preface within….

Like most people, (I would assume) I’ve had the Olympic fever for the last couple of weeks. I cheer for sports and events that I don’t typically (make that – ever) watch, but my American-ness calls out to me. Throughout the games, the athletes are always asked if they will be making a run for the NEXT games. At times, this is to inquire if they will do this to maintain their medal and position as an Olympian. Other times it seems consoling (to the athlete and the fans) about not performing at their peak by medaling. In case you are wondering there are about 1444 days until the next Winter Olympics in 2018 (theolympicgamescountdown.com). This thought about the next 1444 days started me to think about where I would be at that time. How will I “train” during these days, and how what have I done over the last Olympic quad (that’s Olympics-speak)?

The concept of liminal space occurred to me. Until about a year ago I had no idea about this concept of liminal space.  A friend was telling me that, at the time, I was in this space. He continued to tell me that “they” (that ethereal committee that seems to make a ruling on everything) say this is the best place to me. Back to my introductory verse…this liminal word comes from the Latin for threshold.  It’s that space between the chapters, like that half to three-quarters of blank space at the end of chapter X before the start of chapter Y on the facing page.  It is the period of transition, waiting, and not knowing. That point that can make us feel uneasy about what’s going to happen, but we aren’t really sure.  Even when we KNOW what is going to happen this liminal space can be a little disconcerting.  I think it is safe to say that human behavior causes us to “expect the worse” and prepare for “the other shoe to drop” rather than just letting go and knowing that the right thing will happen for our future.  I will quote my grandma here, she said, “everything happens for a reason.”  My personal approach to life is there’s no such thing as coincidence, stuff happens for a reason. Not all reasons are mind numbing or earth shattering, but nevertheless they are reasons.

Back to the concept of our ability to handle this waiting-transition-not-knowing gap that will likely occur over the next 1,445 to 14,450 days of our lives. As Mary Morrissey says, “if we breathe for another 365 days we will create another year in our life.” And the truth is we really want that to happen. The liminal spaces in our lives are GOOD…we WANT them…we NEED them to occur. William Bridges (Managing Transitions, 1991) has a 3-step model for these changes – (1.) Ending, letting go, (2.) Neutral Zone, (3.) New beginnings. If we don’t stop or let go of some things can we really make a change?  That neutral zone is LIMINAL SPACE.  Finally, our next chapter and forward movement is in number three. Seth Godin says in Linchpin, “Every single person, has been a genius at least once…if you can do it one time you can do it again” (p. 99).

Look at it this way – our liminal space is LIMITLESS. Each of us has the ability to handle the transition. Everything is a thought before it becomes an action. Tune your intention on building more of, and a better you. Welcome the change and make it work for you. What was your last threshold? What will you do with your next neutral zone?


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