“No man ever steps in the same river twice,” according to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. “For it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Change seems to be the only constant in life.
We know this, because we live this. We all have moments in which opportunities present the possibility of dramatic change, which are – frankly – sometimes unsettling. Dr. Michael Lindsay, president of Taylor University, calls these instances “hinge moments,” since a hinge can either shut or close a door leading to very different pathways in our lives.
This episode of the Good Faith podcast is actually one of these “hinge moments” as David transitions to his new job at the New York Times. What will happen to the podcast? (Spoiler alert: it will go on!)
In this powerful episode, Dr. Lindsay joins us to talk about his book, “Hinge Moments: Making the Most of Life’s Transitions” and gives practical advice which applies to us and to all experiencing change that alters the course of our lives.
Specifically, we discuss:
- The phases of transition;
- Commonly overlooked aspects of transition;
- What to do when you feel “restless;”
- How one person’s hinge moments affect others;
- The “hidden curriculum” of institutions;
- How to “scout out the land” of a new workplace or situation;
- The value of contemplative prayer during change;
- Why solitude and Sabbath are important;
- How an individual should view institutional hinge moments;
- How Christian leaders can help institutions navigate big changes with integrity;
- How to best ride the “roller coaster of change;”
- The value of a similarly situated peer network;
- The merits of being a “glue person;” and
- How leadership through change can shape an organization.
DAVID FRENCH: You’ve spoken to a lot of high level leaders, people who have been at the absolute pinnacle of government, corporate life, and academic life. How is their experience going to be relevant to a broader audience?
MICHAEL LINDSAY: Just as any kid who wants to learn how to play basketball can watch Michael Jordan and get inspiration and maybe some basketball advice, we can also look at leaders who have navigated change and transition. Because their lives are more public, we know more about their context. We can not just study their perspective, but other people’s perspective. This gives us a fuller picture. This helps us to get some good, practical advice.
Along the way, I’ve tried to tell the stories of hinge moments of about two dozen people who navigated change and transition. Most of them did it well, some didn’t do it well. From all of them, we can learn and hopefully apply these lessons to our own lives.
CURTIS CHANG: We’re all going through transitions all the time. Our kid is leaving home, and it’s a transition for your life as a parent. You’re taking on a new job, so you’re transitioning in terms of your vocational life. I’m struck how much my peer group is going through a transition in their lives as sons and daughters that they are taking on a transition to roles of caretakers. They’re in some ways parenting their parents after a lifetime of the other way around.
Our lives seem to be full of constant transitions. You say this in your book: the one constant thing in life is change.
I encourage people to get your book to get the multitude of insights. But, Michael, was there any insight that people tend to neglect when they’re going through a transition?
MICHAEL LINDSAY: Well, the book walks you through what I concluded are seven phases of transition. That process was instructive in my own journey because I made a transition in the midst of writing this book. One of the things I did not expect is that oftentimes God will use circumstances and opportunities to both unsettle our current environment.
We begin to sort of become restless or frustrated. Sometimes it comes across in the form of anger or fear, but you can just tell in your soul that you’re not as settled as you once were. You begin feeling this unsettling, and that’s very unnerving, right? Because you’re like, what’s going on? And why am I feeling this? But actually, if you can pay attention to that restlessness, the Holy Spirit can use those moments to begin sort of prompting you to do something new or different. As you begin feeling that restlessness and you start to explore. You just have to be super attentive, because oftentimes God uses that to prepare us for what comes next. That was not something I expected.
DAVID FRENCH: There are positive stories from hinge moments, and there are negative stories from hinge moments. And I’m always interested in negative stories because in many ways I learn from them more than I learn from the positive stories.
My friend Phil Vischer wrote a book based on his years building VeggieTales. And it’s a book about one disastrous decision after another. I’d never in my life read a business book by a business leader that’s all about the mistakes he made. I mean, he was extremely ambitious and had big, big, big plans for Big Idea Productions.
It’s just a really open, honest, transparent look at how you can reach too far. It was really fascinating, and I learned a lot from it. What are some of the negative lessons and stories about hinge moments that have impacted you in your research?
MICHAEL LINDSAY: Well, I did interview Phil. It’s an amazing story. They had a red carpet gala for the biggest motion picture release of Jonah, and the next day they delivered pink slips to a lot of their employees. So that was quite compelling.
The standout example of not navigating transition well was Hank Greenberg, the CEO of AIG, a massive financial services firm. Many people believe AIG was the beginning of the economic freefall we experienced 2007/2008. And in the end, he was reprimanded and lost his job. And at the time I was interviewing him, he had left AIG but was trying to rebuild a new business at 87 years old.
And I said to him, “You’ve got a family, grandkids, philanthropic interests. Aren’t there other things that you want to leave as part of your legacy, not just rebuilding another business that could rival AIG?”
And he said, “There is nothing else.”
He could not conceive that there would be anything meaningful in his life aside from being a business success.
Oftentimes hinge moments have a way of breaking our patterns and some of our ways of thinking. And failure, disappointment, loss can be a wake up call to say, “Maybe I need to refocus. Maybe I need to be more engaged with my wife. I need to be a better dad, or maybe I need to think about how my values that I believe are not actually coming across in how people experience me.”
You’ve got to use those hinge moments to learn from it. Greenberg was a great example of somebody who did not learn a thing. Don’t be like him.
HOSTS: Curtis Chang and David French
PRODUCER: Victoria Holmes
The Good Faith podcast comes out every Saturday. Listen and subscribe here or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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