Nancy K. Schlossberg


The quote “Hit a Brick Wall, Congratulations” describes what C.E.O. Kyle Zimmer advocates (New York Times). In fact, her organization sometimes gives awards for ideas that fail. This brought to mind  past panel called “Leadership in an Unscripted World.” I was to discuss the topic from the point of view an individual moving through life without a known script. I learned from those I interviewed that when one door closes another opens.

Be Prepared: Life does not follow a script.

Gilda Radner, a young person who was on Saturday Night Live died at a young age of cancer. She wrote: "I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity."

Learn to deal with ambiguity and conflicting realities — even if it means going from Plan B through Z.

Prince Charles expected to be King. At some point, he saw the handwriting on the wall and developed a full life.

Take risks and embrace failure.

Erma Bombeck describes this when she said, "I would like to propose a new wrinkle to introductions. Instead of listing a speaker's successes, why not list the failures?...[For example] born average, our guest tonight never rose above it...She has written numerous plays no one ever heard of because they never made it to the stage...She has never won a Pulitzer Prize...never been invited to the White House for dinner...Failing is what most of us do...despite all the disappointments and the failures, our speaker still managed to go on breathing and put them aside."

Tap into your creative side.

The late psychiatrist Gene Cohen studied the aging brain and found that creativity is something that continues to develop. He shared the story of his in-laws coming to dinner. They took a subway and planned to walk to Gene’s house. However, when they emerged they found a snowstorm was underway. They went into the pizza diner on the corner, ordered three pizzas for delivery and then added that they needed to be delivered with the pizzas.

Blog reposted from Dr. Schlossberg’s Psychology Today blog series Transitions Through Life. Dr. Schlossberg also co-authored the Springer Publishing Company title: Counseling Adults in Transition, Fourth Edition: Linking Schlossberg’s Theory With Practice in a Diverse World.