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Journeys in Leadership: Finding the Open Door

By Nancy Rosenow

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Wrapping up (for a while) the theme of finding the gifts in letting go, I am sharing two more of the many responses readers contributed. A quote that ties many ideas together comes from Helen Keller,

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

Suzan Haley, an early educator from Lincoln, Nebraska, shared her thoughts about how the process of letting go includes a necessary step of first allowing grief. Suzan writes, “I listened to something the other day about how essential grief is to our health (emotional, spiritual, physical and mental). Although it is painful, it is a healthy and helpful emotion that gets us through the transitions of life. If we do not grieve, we get stuck emotionally. We are to mourn not only our losses (challenging things that happen to us), but also our disappointments (positive things that don’t happen to us). I have to admit that there have been times in my life I have tried to avoid it, but I know if I do not allow grief, I really cannot move on to new opportunities.”

To put it in the Helen Keller context, perhaps if we do not allow ourselves to properly grieve the closed door, we will not be able to find the open one ahead. 

Laura Newman, an early childhood administrator and coach from Atlanta, Georgia, shared this observation about another important aspect of letting go.

“My own leadership journey has evolved over a career across multiple positions. The story most pertinent to your request is my current role, one that I initially felt apprehension for given its reach and responsibilities on the national level, despite having gone after it with great passion. The ultimate success has come from learning how to let go ofpreconceived notions. 

“Five years ago, I secured a coveted position at our CCR&R office, managing a shared service model. (Georgia is now one of 30 plus states with SS peers.) While ours launched earlier than most (2010), it seemed to be stalling. With fixed ideas of the person I replaced, well known in the field and as a trainer, initially I lacked confidence because of an unrealistic, irrational comparison, worrying about how I might measure up. After deep diving into the work and restructuring some necessary processes, I independently decided to develop a cohort specific to our leaders known as Director to Director. This model was carefully fashioned for directors, owners and management team members based on my experience as a center director and influenced by another position at a child care franchise corporate office.

“Once I let go of my misunderstandings of not measuring up, taking the bull by the horns, redesigning internal processes, coupled with the D2D initiative, Georgia’s shared services model over time garnered state and national attention.”

Laura shared many other positive professional experiences she is enjoying that only became possible once she did the important work of letting go of her fear of “not measuring up” (which, if we are honest, most of us probably experience at times). 

Sometimes we need to close the door on our self-judgments and walk through the open door of our own potential.

Finally, for one more perspective on letting go, I hope you will read my interview with Bonnie and Roger Neugebauer (page 74) for their inspiring take on the subject. They can certainly teach us all some of the secrets of finding open doors.


Author Bio

Nancy Rosenow is executive director of Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. In this role, she serves as publisher of Exchange magazine and is also a World Forum Foundation board member. Rosenow lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.