What’s in a name?

A little story from Kellee Magee O’Reilly

After 20 years managing varied events, teams, and projects, one simple similarity in all my work crystallized in my mind:

CHANGE.

Managing change is extraordinarily hard, and yet—it is truly our one constant (the only question is the velocity of it). In a world of limited resources, managing any change in an organization means letting go of what you know to move towards a hopeful, and yet uncertain, future. I have seen that struggle—the need to let go of something in order to move forward to something else—play itself out in every significant project or group I have worked with throughout my career. In fact, understanding and acknowledging that process has also been the source of every significant success.

The very best metaphor for managing change—the monkey bars on a childhood playground—came to me through a story written by a dear friend of mine, Patti Digh (Author of Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally).


This year, I needed to let go of a project that I had been holding on to. . . It was a letting go that sent me flying into that space between the monkey bars, where you’ve let go but haven’t reached the other bar yet, the letting go that has to happen before the next bar is in your hand.”

As Patti weaves a story, ANY story, you are transported. As I read, I was instantly a child again, swinging on the monkey bars, fearful that I couldn’t maintain momentum sufficient to get through the gap—and over even if I could, wondering if I would have the confidence to release my grip on that bar behind me, in order to throw myself wholly forward to grasp the bar ahead?

“. . . but in my knowing place I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moment in time hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar. Each time I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing, I have always made it. Each time I am afraid I will miss, that I will be crushed on the unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between the bars. But I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow, to keep hanging onto that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. And so for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of ‘the past is gone, the future is not yet here.’ It’s called transition. I have come to believe that it is the only place that real change occurs.

“Sometimes letting go is shedding, like a snake sheds its skin in times of growth. . . Healthy snakes have no trouble shedding, and tend to shed their skins in one piece…. Their underlying new skin is soft and vulnerable to damage. And so it is with humans.”

(and presumably with organizations—who are just collections of humans)

The moment when there is nothing to hang on to is the moment when we are most present, most alive, most vulnerable, most human. … Let go of the monkey bars. Be a connoisseur of fear. Enjoy the space between. Fly.”

(“Let Go of the Monkey Bar”, by Patti Digh, with attribution to Danaan Parry)

The name of our company honors Patti’s story, a nod to the element of change management that can be truly transformational: managing the gap between where you are and where you are going.