This is the first article in an ongoing series about understanding and managing personal change. It draws deeply from personal and professional experience and from many generous people who’ve shared their ideas.


Several years ago, Tricia and I embarked on a journey of transition toward a vision. We did this because we both recognized, and listened to unmet needs and desires within ourselves, and as husband and wife.

We had met in San Jose a year or so earlier, and on our first date we agreed the West—California—represented our modern-day call of the wild, a far cry from our native New York and Montreal.

The Bay Area of California is young and appealing in so many ways—it’s history, its demographics, and its youthful start-up culture. The surf and mountains endlessly offer new moments in which lovers can explore, bask, bathe, and dream.

California became our place: Beautiful, bountiful, distinct from our roots and families far away, yet welcoming to their curious visits. Our freedom enabled us to flourish further into adulthood together.

During our first date we also shared memories of painful events in our lives, and revealed we had each sought out therapy in order to work through the pain from our pasts—divorce and death in our family to name a couple big ones.

If divorce and death taught us about human emotions—sadness, compassion, anger, and love—then therapy demanded and enabled honest, clear commitment around our interpretation of life, and how we chose to live it: It is easy to go along with the status quo, to stick to our knitting, to follow the well-trodden paths in life; it is more difficult, arduous, and rewarding to take the path less traveled by.

But if you stop and consider the options, and your desires, your dreams and hopes, then you come to demand more of life:

Life is expansive and elastic—a healthy Life expands to accommodate in direct relationship to the Life’s willingness and curiosity. Ironically, Life gets longer, not shorter. Of course, you must sow the seeds to reap the benefits of this unadvertised paradox (Dila, personal journal, 2002).

We excitedly shared the vision of leading full, rich lives, integrating the past instead of dwelling on it.

We began the journey at our dining room table in Santa Cruz. My boss—an energetic, thoughtful Irishman—had helped me plan eight weeks of paternity leave, and I was mid-way through my EMBA. I bought some markers and large flip-charts, and we converted the walnut dining table into our brainstorming space for the next two months.

Our son—who received his name, Finn James, on this third day of life—was born healthy, hungry, and to wide-eyed parents.

It was a time of prolific Pacific moments and incredible images during which we carefully laid a deep foundation.

© 2009 John Dila

To be continued.