William Bridges wrote “Transitions"” years ago which helped me think about the difference between “change” and “transition”. It did not seem like much at the time but the distinction is important. Change happens all the time and it doesn’t matter if it is small (change banks) or large (death of a spouse or loss of a career). What matters is making a transition from one thing to another. Change is situational and constant. Transition is psychological and is a process where people gradually accept the details of the new situation and the changes that come with it. Every transition has three stages: The ending ” the wilderness (or neutral zone) and the new beginning. To make a genuine new beginning requires closure for the past and a time of “wandering” before we take hold of the next chapter in our lives.
A friend gave me an article from a recent issue of ”Fast Company” that is titled “The Lost Steve Jobs Tapes” by Brent Schlender. As everyone knows” Jobs was forced out of Apple and spent part of the next several years angry and vengeful about that. “Steve Jobs did not wander aimlessly into the wilderness after being ousted from Apple. No happy camper he was loaded for bear; burning to wreak revenge upon those who had spuriously shoved him into exile and obsessed with proving to the world that he was no one-trick pony.” Not a good ending! And then the “wilderness” begins – first with the failure of NeXT and then with the purchase of Pixar’s assets for $5 million from George Lucas. But it was in that wilderness where Jobs learned new skills out of necessity. It was the most pivotal time of his life – and the happiest. “Most important his work with the two companies he led during that time…turned him into the kind of man and leader ” who would spur Apple to unimaginable heights upon his return.”
The application is obvious. I know people who need this story right now. They need to know that the wilderness is not permanent and” more importantly it is productive. It’s what John Lasseter at Pixar says is the key to all their success. “It’s gotta be about how the main character changes for the better.”