Icebreaker - n. a ship specially built for breaking navigable passages through ice.
Click here for my latest post over at HBR: Introductions are Much More than Icebreakers.
And now for the story behind this post...
This post was initially inspired by an article about executive compensation consultant Pearl Meyer (hat tip to Stacey Petrey). Ms. Meyer sold her business, Pearl Meyer Consulting, and its name (her name), a decade ago. As I read her story, I kept wondering -- what would it be like to be stripped of my name?
In an interview with Forbes, she explains, “For over a decade, I declined all offers to sell my firm [the largest independent executive compensation practice in the U.S.]. When a suitor came along who said, ‘Tell me everything you want’ and said yes to everything, I sold because I didn’t want to let my partners down [each of whom stood to profit nicely]. I especially didn’t realize my name went with the sale. That was my second big mistake.” She continues, “When we left, I turned to Steven Hall, my senior partner, and said, "It's your turn now to use and maybe lose your name."
Ms. Meyer's experience again reminded me of a passage from The Zookeeper's Wife, a biography of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, Polish Christian zookeepers horrified by Nazi racism who managed to save over three hundred people, author Diane Ackerman's writes movingly about Polish émigré Eva Hoffman’s psychic earthquake of having to shed her name in order to save her life: “Nothing much has happened, except a small, seismic mental shift. The twist in our names takes them a tiny distance from us—but it is a gap into which the infinite hobgoblin of abstraction enters.”
Each of us has the privilege of 'saying the name' of all those with whom we interact, especially our children. It's a simple, but effective -- and benevolent -- means of helping others dare to dream.