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For Having Made the Journey March 8, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in change, survival, the economy, transformation, transition.
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With Broken Open, Elizabeth Lesser has written a book that is capable of changing ones outlook on life, and it is hard to think of a better guide and companion to have in these trying times.

I wouldn’t waste your time if this book wasn’t on my short list of most important books I’ve read. This is one of those rare books that will have you grappling with what to do with yourself once you have come to the last page. Subtitled “how difficult times can help us grow,” this is perhaps not the first book you might think of turning to when seeking answers to the questions life throws your way. But perhaps it ought to be?

Frequent words used to describe the book have been extremely well-written, clever, honest, entertaining, inspiring and transformative. Lesser, calling this last process of transformation “The Phoenix Process,” illustrates in clear and evocative prose how difficult times really can help us grow. Her image of the Phoenix rising from the ashes may resonate with some, for ashes are perhaps an apt metaphor for the times in which we live now – what has been done to our economy and environment – and will soon with some luck be building upon and growing out from.

This book of stories from Lesser’s life – and those of her well-known colleagues – told in short chapters has been on bookstore shelves since 2004 but it is only now that the bulk of people are discovering it, perhaps because they are seeing through different eyes than in the mid-decade halcyon days. These stories illustrate how times of pain and strife can awaken us to new ways of living more meaningful lives, offering a humanistic understanding of what it means to seek, grow, evolve and endure until we can ourselves each transform.

One of the themes of this book is the nature of life as change and constant transition. Other helpful books that explore this theme of thriving in times of change, that we will explore in a future post, include Your Job Survival Guide: A Manual for Thriving in Change, Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within and Learning as a Way of Being, evocatively subtitled Strategies for Survival in a World of Permanent White Water. Lesser’s book is in some ways perhaps less practical – but it is more immediate and really ought to be read first.

As in now. Lesser’s mission is to help the reader see how fear and pain are normal reactions to crisis. Lesser acknowledges the unbearable and out-of-control nature of the crisis and loss experience and helps the reader grow in confidence that she will come through it all, lucid and stronger for having made the journey.

Architects everywhere, whether employed, under or un, sense that they will need to grow from this experience professionally and personally if they are to come out of it stronger. Whether every-man-for-himself in the office or lone-man-out at home, these times can no doubt be lonely ones. Lesser’s book provides the reader good company and just may give you the courage to keep on facing reality, being present with your feelings, and have your mind quieting down as if your life depended on it. Most importantly, it will allow you to understand that you are not the only one going through some drastic changes in life at this time in a way that, even if you rationally know that to be the case, you can understand emotionally, on a deeper level.

Written by someone who was willing to learn from her experiences, it is hoped that Broken Open will inspire you to write down and learn from your own – not so you won’t repeat them – but so you can perhaps give meaning to your personal and professional experiences, for yourself and for others. And, as it will have you feeling less inhibited about sharing those experiences, perhaps after putting the book down you will find yourself helping others through their own tough times through coaching and mentoring, serving as a resource or by simply shoring up support.