Wednesday, May 21, 2014


I have a tee shirt that reads, "I have been transformed."

I got it by virtue of having attended a Leadership Development Program my university supports.  This was a few years ago.  The program is now in its fourth or fifth iteration and administrators of various stripes have gone through the six or seven session program.  There are even alumni gatherings for we who have finished the program in earlier versions. They are tune-ups of sorts.

The program was very enjoyable for me.  The most valuable dimension was that I got to meet people from parts of the university who had been, and would have continued to be, alien to me had it not been for the LDP. Also, I liked working with the coordinators. They were "into it" as we used to say in the 60s and 70s.  Finally, while some of the sessions were not especially substantive, enough were to make the time dedicated worthwhile.  At the end of the sessions, we received the tee shirts and a diploma of sorts.

If I had to recommend the program to a colleague (and I have been asked on occasion if it--the time--was worth it) I would not and do not hesitate to recommend. Yet the question remains-- am I transformed. And the larger question is can anyone, after going around the track forty, fifty, or sixty times be transformed and keep the positive changes.

I was thinking the other day of a program I attended in the mid 80s called Insight.  There had been some jarring events at that time and a cousin recommended Insight as something she had "done" and found valuable.  I typically look skeptically at such self-help seminars, almost never read self-help books (one exception The Road Less Travelled), but I gave Insight a whack.  It was a powerful several days and at the end of it I felt as if my head and heart had been rewired, corrosion to the terminals had been cleaned away, and the circuits were functioning as described in the manual.

The problem with transformational programs, though, is that after a stretch, the corrosion returns.  Whatever it was that affected the system, very naturally resurfaces requiring vigilance to maintain healthy transformation.  I think that is the issue with all attempts at change and transformation.  The success of any effort depends, yes, on the integrity of the vehicle employed to facilitate change, but also depends on maintenance. Without the commitment to retain healthy change, it is inevitable that we will revert.

It is not quite analogous, but I saw a photo the other day of a fellow I worked with who had gotten heavy.  When I first met the guy he had some weight on him. Then he went on a diet and looked fantastic. He had transformed physically and talking to him was like talking to a religious zealot in terms of how happy he said the transformation had made him. He loved buying new clothes, did not feel tired all the time, and loved the way he looked.  I remember thinking that it would be tough for him to keep the heft off.  And apparently judging from the photo it has been.

The key to transformation is preparing for the subsequent slide on the other side. Otherwise the message on the tee shirt is a slap in the face, or you kid yourself into thinking it's not.  Nothing profound here, but maybe a pep talk to myself to be ready to illuminate the darkness when or if the circuits break.

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