A Life of Transitions

Every day, month, year, and generation is marked by transitions. Being present means noticing them and giving them the attention they deserve. But the real key to life is to anticipate transitions and prepare for life on the other side.

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

When I was a senior in high school, I worked at the local cable access station in my hometown as a board operator. After a shift of keeping programming on air, I’d go sit in the editing room to watch the editor slice grainy footage from a Sony Hi-8 camera into a local car dealership commercial.

I remember two things distinctly: the clunkiness of Adobe Premiere 6 and, like an amateur PowerPointeur, a gratuitous use of video transitions — slides, glides, twirls, and stars. Sometimes you just need a jump cut or a fast fade. But you can’t say that to David in the editing booth.

The most challenging aspect of my job this past year was actually not the work itself. It was transitioning from one subject area to another in minutes time. As a consultant, I spend my day talking with people in various industries who are facing significant challenges. During the COVID virtual work era, that means context switching quickly — in the time it takes to close one Zoom call and open another.

There’s no office hallway to walk down and reset before the next meeting. There’s no commute where you can sing as loud as you want to some song you don’t remember all the words to. No, the transitions are now abrupt. You have 30 seconds to take 3 good breaths and put on a smile.

When my daughter was just a few weeks old, my wife downloaded the Wonder Weeks app. Essentially, it illustrates on a calendar when your baby is going through a “mental leap.” These are mental and physical transitions during a few days time that cause some disruption or unlocks a new skill and emotions.

A human grows the most in her first year of life. That growth is marked by frequent transitions that disrupt sleep and evoke new feelings (like separation anxiety in the middle of the night). The app uses a weather metaphor to help set parents expectations for the days ahead: it’s about to be a stormy week, but next week is sunny.

Speaking of weather, the cold recently set in. The transition from our warm fall to the frozen lawns of early winter happened quickly. The sudden temperature change that set a new normal was preceded by 2 days of torrential rain. You don’t get a new season without the environment throwing a fit.

Designing great user or customer experiences requires paying attention to transitions. They are often marked by what we call, “Moments that Matter.” For example, when you want a customer to sign up for your service, there are a few critical stages that might include: Marketing, Apply/Sign up, Onboarding, and Use/Manage. When a customer moves between these stages, there is a moment where you (the company) can provide an exceptional experience.

Typical moments I look for are:

  • Zero Moment of Truth: When the customer realizes they have a need.

It’s in the transitions, and these moments, where customer are most likely to abandon the sign up or discontinue the service. Giving them the attention their due will result in higher conversions, retention, and satisfaction scores.

There is a world of possibility in the act of moving from one thing to another. In the space between those two realties, meaningful events happen — physically, mentally, or spiritually. Transitions happen throughout a day. And, they happen over generations. Some transitions we can control. Others, we’re just along for the ride. Yet, no matter the context, transitions are defining times where we can, even for a few seconds, reflect on what ended and dream about future potential.

Andy Busam is the director of digital strategy at United Therapeutics. He writes at andybusam.com.