Letting Go is Harder Than it Sounds
By Nancy Zwiers
I remember hearing the story about some men who were capturing monkeys in the wild for research. The monkeys needed to be caught unharmed. They finally landed on an approach. They put food in a container with a narrow neck that just barely allowed the monkey to reach its hand inside to access the treat. But lo and behold, once their little fist wrapped around the morsel, they no longer could get their hand back out of the narrow neck. Trapped with their hand inside the container, they were easily caught. If only they would simply release the treat, they could remove their hand and escape, but it just never occurred to the monkeys to let go of the food.
Letting go is harder than it sounds.
Last week marked the four-year anniversary of my retirement from my position as EVP/CMO of Spin Master. After 30+ years invested in the toy industry, I didn’t want to let go completely. It seemed foolish to give up focus on a domain where I had invested so much time, effort, and passion building my professional reputation. Just as important were the friends and colleagues I had enjoyed over the years.
As an industry veteran, I have a lot of wisdom and knowledge to share so mentoring and executive coaching have been rewarding. But I wrestle with how much time and effort to devote to a chapter that is, in fact, winding down. I recently had an epiphany as I was gardening in my backyard (I started during the pandemic and now I’m obsessed).
As I tend my garden full of succulents, flowers, and vegetables, to enhance the beauty, I focus on getting rid of the wilted and dead leaves. Each year I replace plants that have run their course. Yes, they are still alive, but they no longer look their best—a new plant would be a clear upgrade. The goal is not to keep everything as long as possible, but rather, it is to maximize the beauty I am cultivating. I want plants that are thriving and in their prime.
I now truly understand what all those “over the hill” greeting cards over the years have been referring to—I am on the downslope as far as my 44-year career goes. Why be on the downslope if I can be on the upswing with pursuits that call to me now in ways that they never did before? I love focusing on my health. I love sharing my wisdom to help others. I love playing with my friends. I love gardening, traveling, yoga, playing cards, going on walks and hikes.
Letting go is harder than it sounds, but I’m working on it. I will always love the toy industry but I’m calibrating my expectations at this point. There are a few dead leaves I can pull, as represented by activities where I lack passion. I can be deliberate about planting vibrant new pursuits into my life—pursuits that bring me joy. Life is chapters…how do I want to invent my next best chapter?
Nancy Zwiers, former senior executive at Mattel and Spin Master, now serves as a business advisor and executive coach through CMO Coaches.
Nancy writes a regular column for the Bloom Report covering topics related to play, professional success, and personal growth. Check out her other pithy thought-provoking columns of the past two years on her People of Play blog.
Follow Nancy on LinkedIn http://linkedin.com/in/nancy-zwiers-3167a or reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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