Say Goodbye To Stuff That's Over

In William Bridges’ book on Transitions he says that we’ve got it backwards. We think that our personal and organizational stories unfold through beginnings, middles, and then endings. Nope. He says it’s much more accurate and helpful to see our personal and organizational lives unfolding with endings, then middles (he calls them the neutral zone), and then beginnings. Today, I share a few thoughts on transitions and endings in particular.

Alvin Toffler was absolutely correct when he wrote in 1970 that we were heading into a time that would not be characterized by change, but by constant change. Who could have imagined these foundational changes:

• Massive companies disappear overnight
• Women surpass men in the workforce (in raw numbers and supervisory positions)
• 24-hour and 7-day businesses are commonplace
• India and China go from debtor to creditor nations
• Phones – if that’s what you call them – connect us to everything, everywhere, everybody all the time
• Families divorce and meld, are headed by women, by two women, or two men, or multiple combinations of parent(s) and step-parent(s)
• Career jobs are all but nonexistent
• Information-news comes daily not from “the three networks” but from literally thousands of networks

You are an exception if every one of those eight transformational changes has not affected you. That’s a lot of transition and a lot of endings. William Bridges’ foundational message is that you can’t really begin something new until you’ve said goodbye to something that’s passed. In this fiercely competitive global economy – especially in the state of Michigan that’s been least ready for it – I would suggest that we have a huge amount of “goodbyes” to say. We’d be more productive and happier if we put these things to rest – in our minds, our talk, and our behaviors. Let’s say goodbye to:

• Labor-management attitudes that are not firmly rooted in win-win, pie-growing thinking, not slice-grabbing thinking
• All classifications that diminish instead of uplifting groups: immigrants, women, those with visible disabilities, people with different religious beliefs, and yes, even men!
• The idea that low skills will ever again generate high-pay
• Any idea that you’re pretty much done learning when you turn 25 or 30 years old
• Bosses who don’t constantly invite leadership by their teams
• All arrogance about country or company, faith or family, team or self – (instead: prove that worth every day)
• The illusion that our country and state will grow without significant sacrifice and painful compromise (if you’re interested, I’d love for you to read and discuss my analysis of Michigan’s current budget mess, “Michigan at a Crossroads.”)

If you’re in the midst of the general societal struggles I’ve lain out – and how could you not be? – and perhaps you are in the middle of significant personal and familial transitions, then I recommend that you list some of the ideas, assumptions, and habits that you must let go of, say goodbye to, in order to

Lead with your best self!

27 responses to “Say Goodbye To Stuff That's Over

  1. Amen, Dan. In the last 10 years, I have said goodbye to an unhealthy marriage, goodbye to a recruiting career that was burning my proverbial candle at both ends and sure to burn me out too quickly. I said goodbye to a transactional business model and to being too busy to add value to the lives of the people I care most about. Today, I say hello to a coaching practice that offers me the opportunity to live out my life vision of helping people reach their full potential, hello to a wonderful marriage to a real partner who also blessed me with a child. I’ve said hello to a relationship based business model that adds value over time and creates collaborations that will last a lifetime.

    Yes, I have had to say goodbye to many people, things and situations in the last 10 years, but the pain of the goodbye was not nearly as the happiness I’ve experienced in the wonderful hello’s.

  2. Thank you Dan! You stated the importance and opportunity of our ongoing situation very well. Good-byes are hard and they bring pain for a season, but not nearly as much pain as victim mentality. When you are stuck looking backwards you never really move forward, if you do all you are doing is stumbling toward a destination that you have not really identified.

    Your reminder was well-timed to move me out of some looking backward that I have been doing.

    Thank you!

  3. Great comments, Dan. It’s clear that we need to start thinking in a different way than we’ve done in the past, if we’re not already doing so.

    The vice president of my division (at a large pharmaceutical company) recently used Toffler’s “Future Shock” concept as the core of her welcoming address at our global meeting. It was clear that she was experiencing the difficulties of constant change, and she was well aware that the rest of us were, also.

    Many discussions of “future shock” continue to define the term by what will happen in the future, but it’s clear that the shock is already here. We can either remain shocked (in other words, paralyzed) or move on.

    And by the way Dan … nice CHANGE in the layout of your blog page today!

    1. Tony,

      Glad you like the new look. I’m so excited that we can respond to each other’s comments and not just leave them at the bottom.

      Always enjoy your thoughts.

      Dan

  4. Dan,

    Love the new look.

    For some, like me, 2009 has been a year of goodbyes. I thought George Harrison said it well, “Sunrise doesn’t last all morning, a cloudburst doesn’t last all day, seems my love is up and has left you with no warning. It’s not always going to be this grey. All things must pass, all things must pass away.” We are ephemeral creatures and our thoughts, actions, and works (good and bad) are those things which may outlive us.

    There is great wisdom in letting go of what does not work, what does not help us, and what only causes pain. For example, it has been difficult to let go of the anger that comes from the loss of a job. Releasing old resentments and burying old and failed ideas can free up the path ahead, removing unhelpful obstacles. It is difficult to lead others along a challenging path with tears in your eyes.

    But there is also danger in letting go. Sometimes, when we let go, we forget — and there are costly and painful lessons in my recent past that it would be ridiculous to forget. They were learned at too high a price. George Santayana said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Most are familiar with that quote, but I tend to favor this one by H. G. Wells: “History is a race between education and catastrophe.”

    Adieu, adios, arrivederci, auf wiedersehen, au revoir — and goodbye, all contain the central thought of “God go with you,” and the hope of remembrance. By all means, let go of failed ideas and foolish mistakes. Do not forget them. If we wonder about the potential dangers in forgetting the past, perhaps we could remember the words of Henry Ford: “History is more or less bunk.”

    Mick

    1. Mick,
      Great addition. As my friend M.A. Hastings used to say in organizational practice: “don’t leave the loss without the lesson.” A big part of the good-byes is precisely what you are saying: savoring the goodness and learning what’s there to be had!
      D.

  5. Change is always painful when in involves giving up ways that made you feel secure be they good or bad. When you realize that the “for sures” in live are illusions in allows you to move forward with the idea that different is not bad but just that different.
    Our economy has beed headed in this direction for the past twenty years after the late 80’s downturn. We gave away “Made America” but with the same confidence that the early entrepreneur had who built this country WE can reinvent ourselves, but as you said it will be different. As you alway say, “Lead with your best self”.

  6. Hi Dan:

    Good note! One quibble. I don’t think we ever thought that low skills would generate high pay. What we thought was that pay was tied more closely to someone’s work ethic than someone’s skills. That one could overcome lack of skill by coming in earlier, working harder and leaving later. Now there are skills that one just cannot work around having.

    1. Craig,
      I agree with what you’re saying about the work ethic as a balancer to low skills, but I think we left that and entered a different world. In that different world, we thought we had secured a level of competitiveness – that all boats had risen to such a level – that you really did not have to have high skills to earn high wages. There are cottages up north and boats as well, purchased by just such people. Both management and labor protected them. But our trade laws – in a fierce global economy – don’t (whether they can or not is another question).
      And I fear that mentality is still out there: that you can do okay without college or college-level technical skills.
      No?
      Good to hear from you!
      Dan

  7. I would have like to see people of color in your list of groups that can no longer be dimished by classifications. Not listing us is like stating that racism is no longer a problem and not worthy of mentioning when you listed other populations that are discriminated against.

    All classifications that diminish instead of uplifting groups: immigrants, women, those with visible disabilities, people with different religious beliefs, and yes, even men!

  8. Excellent essay today about change. It made me think of the quotation of Heraclitus (540 BCE – 480 BCE)

    Nothing endures but change.

    or “The only constant in life is change”

    David

    1. Things that do not change:

      Human nature
      physical constants
      justice

      We can find better understandings of these, but they, themselves do not change.

  9. Dan,

    Good posting on moving from worry to taking transformational action during this structural economic shift we all are experiencing.

    Regarding the transformational “unfolding with endings, then middles and then beginnings” concept, I would suggest that before the endings comes “self awareness” which is a call to action. The first part of the self awareness process is the “worry and endings” (i.e. negative energy expended) of what to do about the present challenge before us. The second part of the process is the “taking action” part which is our expenditure of positive energy. Once we have achieved the goal of the action, a third step is “becoming complete” with what we just accomplished…so that we are open for our next awareness challenge.

  10. We need to move on from all the “how separate and special I am” to a we nation. A point to make is that the USA is now or almost a debtor nation to China and Japan and Saudia Arabia.
    We are in this together and need to see us instead of me.
    We will succeed or fail further as an economy and nation with dignity.
    There are no more freebies.

  11. Why should low skills generate high pay. That seems like backwards thinking. I hope that is one that we will all say goodbye to!!

    1. In order to say goodbye to that equation, I’m afraid you’d need to first say goodbye to the unions. I worked a stint for Chrysler, was a UAW member, so I’m speaking from first hand knowledge/experience. Sadly, the unions are embedded with the politicians in an integration akin to the mob.

      graft
      collusion
      extortion
      greed

      1. John,
        Sometimes the end precedes the awareness: a death, a layoff, even a divorce. The awareness comes with the separation; we have to find a new identity.
        Maybe it’s semantics, but it’s the point that Bridges makes that makes so much sense. It’s the Heraclitus point offered by David Newman above.
        Thanks for your continued contributions, John.
        Dan

  12. Dan,

    This was a great topic you choose. I certianly agree with your goodbye comment about low skill jobs and high pay. On my way into work this morning I saw an extremely long line of people waiting outside a salvation army store. It was not only depressing it was disgusting.

    So I say goodbye to the social safety net that our government was wise to foster and the attitude it produced to help our fellow members of the human race and to help those who have the least among us. Welcome to the “Your on Your Own Mentality”

    Goodbye to the notion that there will be jobs for all of us because not everyone can be a Doctor, Lawyer or Engineer.

    Goood bye to the middle class and goodbye to any responsibility that corporate America should have to maintain work in the USA.

    Goodbye to elected officials in Washington who have allowed the exporting of employment opportunities to China, India, and South America who have no labor or work place standards that we have in Michigan and throughout the USA.

    Goodbye to objective journalism and commentators and accept those that mislead, manipulate, and distort the news it gives to the public.

    Goodbye to a populace well informed about current affairs and Goodbye to a populace that was willing to fight and vigourously challenge corporate and political agendas that attack the social and economic infrastructure of our Society

    Good by to tollerance and welcome to uncivil and aggresive behavior.

    Finally Dan, where can one read your views on the budget mess we have in Lansing?

    1. Jim,
      The poor will be with us always, and I thank heaven above that there are non-governmental agencies — groups of concerned human beings — who, like the Salvation Army, respond to the needs of those folks. Start looking there for your populace willing to fight against the rising tide of poverty.
      Those elected officials who have let slip the social safety net you mentioned and have “allowed the exporting of employment opportunities to China, India, and South America,” are the officials that you and I have voted for and put in office. The companies that export those jobs and have abrogated the responsibility to maintain work in the U.S.A., are the same companies whose products you buy because they are the least expensive and help you stretch your dollars. You and I have voted to support them with our purchases of their products.
      The information age has changed the face of manufacturing forever. Fewer folks are needed to produce widgets and mops. However, those machines cannot provide customer service at any level that competes with a live human being — and many jobs are now in the service sector. These jobs have been traditionally low-paying jobs, but that is also changing as the complexity of those services and the demand for them has increased. We’re caught in the “between” times, when the foundation of the economy has shifted and our jobs have shifted away from us — I know, I’ve been searching for work since January 2009.
      Journalists and commentators have never been completely objective, however the nature of journalism changed with the advent of broadcast journalism — sound bytes and video clips instead of long, background information sessions — without the give and take of meetings or letters to the editor. Even that is changing, as your comments and mine prove. As the delivery and discussion of news moves into the more interactive world of the Internet, opportunities to make your opinions known are flourishing. Opportunities to “fight and vigourously challenge corporate and political agendas that attack the social and economic infrastructure of our Society,” are on the increase — on-line.
      Tolerance and civil behavior are up to you and me, people will listen to the aggressive promoter and attack dog, but they will follow the reasonable woman or man whose nature and demeanor promise they will listen, try to understand, and take action. Are you up for that?
      P.S. Dan’s commentary on the budget mess is on this blog just look at: Michigan at a crossroads.
      Mick

      1. Mick,

        I agree with you on a number of points. Permit me to offer some additional comment.

        Poverty will be with us and there hasn’t been a period of time in my life that it didn’t exist. But I would argue even though it has been a part of our civil and national fabric during my lifetime, people at the poverty level in times past, were not deliberately shut out from the opportunity to perform work that required minimal skills in such large numbers that we are witnessing today. I am not sold on the belief that somehow this country and its economy cannot sustain employment for all members of our soiciety at all economic and social levels. In many instances, members of our society have survived because the low paying unskilled jobs gave them the opportunity to build an economic and social foundation that gave them the security to take the initiative to move forward and improve their lot and as Dan points out pursue higher education or aquire 21st Century job skills.
        While it’s true we are moving to a service society that may not be such a healthy shift.That kind of transition isn’t necessarily a good omen.The strength of our nation and economy was based on a variety of occupations engaged in by the men and women of America and the major industry that powered that thrust was manufacturing.

        You are correct I (we) do buy foreign made goods which gets to the point I am raising. We are a captive audience. There is practically nothing you can purchase at Meijers, Sears and so that’s made in the USA. Remember Electolux in Greenville which our Governor so valiantly attempted to keep in Michigan? They didn’t have to leave and they were making money. They didn’t want to pay someone $13.00 when they could pay someone to do the same work for $1.50 per hr.
        So yes it’s true we buy foreign goods because we don’t have an option or options are limited. This is an ecomomic policy promoted and encouraged by some of the people we have elected to national office. Isn’t it interesting to note the nationalism of the foreign countries who we allow to dump their goods in our country but allow so little of anything we can trade be present in their markets?
        And yes I get involved to the extent I can and support candidates for office who share some of the perspectives I possess about the state of affairs in our state and in our country. While many areas of thought are exchanged and discussed on line those conversations don’t make it into the mainstream media and the latter know this and uses that absence of knowledge by the populace to its advantage.

        Thanks for your reply and well thought response.

  13. Great insight, Dan! Thanks for being such a consummate source of inspiration!
    Scripture tells us that without a vision, people parish. Vision has the power to draw people forward. Dropping the old stuff is a lot easier when you have a vision for the POSSIBLE and WANT to open your hands to grab it!

    As did so many others, my husband and I made great plans for the “golden years”. Little did we know the “golden years” would lose so much of its “gold”!!

    After 25-plus years in healthcare and public policy, I had to let go of the career I knew and reach for a new beginning. With open hands, I went independent…started my own consulting company, got certified as a professional coach, and am now doing corporate strategy, leadership development and life coaching. This “letting go” has caused me to trust my passion to live life more authentically and discover how to reinvent life for myself and others.

    You often spoke of “sharing the vision” as a leadership quality. I claim the sacred writing that says God has “a future and a hope” for those who would choose to believe…unlimited possibility. I now intentionally choose to focus on and believe in the possibility that the future holds…whether I can see it clearly or not. Hopefully, I can help others create and hold their vision and find excitement in rediscovering their passions and moving forward into an authentic, prosperous newness.

    1. Jim,

      The poor will be with us always, and I thank heaven above that there are non-governmental agencies — groups of concerned human beings — who, like the Salvation Army, respond to the needs of those folks. Start looking there for your populace willing to fight against the rising tide of poverty.

      Those elected officials who have let slip the social safety net you mentioned and have “allowed the exporting of employment opportunities to China, India, and South America,” are the officials that you and I have voted for and put in office. The companies that export those jobs and have abrogated the responsibility to maintain work in the U.S.A., are the same companies whose products you buy because they are the least expensive and help you stretch your dollars. You and I have voted to support them with our purchases of their products.

      The information age has changed the face of manufacturing forever. Fewer folks are needed to produce widgets and mops. However, those machines cannot provide customer service at any level that competes with a live human being — and many jobs are now in the service sector. These jobs have been traditionally low-paying jobs, but that is also changing as the complexity of those services and the demand for them has increased. We’re caught in the “between” times, when the foundation of the economy has shifted and our jobs have shifted away from us — I know, I’ve been searching for work since January 2009.

      Journalists and commentators have never been completely objective, however the nature of journalism changed with the advent of broadcast journalism — sound bytes and video clips instead of long, background information sessions — without the give and take of meetings or letters to the editor. Even that is changing, as your comments and mine prove. As the delivery and discussion of news moves into the more interactive world of the Internet, opportunities to make your opinions known are flourishing. Opportunities to “fight and vigourously challenge corporate and political agendas that attack the social and economic infrastructure of our Society,” are on the increase — on-line.

      Tolerance and civil behavior are up to you and me, people will listen to the aggressive promoter and attack dog, but they will follow the reasonable woman or man whose nature and demeanor promise they will listen, try to understand, and take action. Are you up for that?

      P.S. Dan’s commentary on the budget mess is on this blog just look at: Michigan at a crossroads.

      Mick

  14. Thanks Dan for a meaningful commentary. I have been undergoing change this past year.
    In December I will move my office to a new location. The decision was agonizing until someone said you are erasing the slate. Say good bye to the old and give it a proper memorial, without the old the new would not exist.
    I am saying goodbye to the old and it feels good. I have new people,and soon a new location and I feel more positive going forward than I have in a long time.

    Sometimes we have to say good-bye to say hello. I lost 2 dogs this year to old age
    and I miss them terribly. I said hello to a new puppy and I wouldn’t miss her joy or zest for life for anything.

    We will say hello to a new Michigan and new values in the USA. We all have to say good bye to the old and embrace the new. What’s that phrase. Oh yeah. Lead with our best self.

    Carla

  15. Good job, Dan. We can’t take hold of the new if our hands are still clinging to the old! Open up those hands!

    One does not have to approve of the changes; but reality would suggest we face and adress them. Our lack of approval isn’t going to stop the changes from happening anyway. It does limit our effectiveness.

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