In the world of baseball a player’s uniform carries with it a history and a commitment. Putting it on calls upon the honor of baseball’s past, as if within its fabric is the spirit of everyone who has contributed to the team’s cause. The longer you wear it, the harder it is to stop wearing it. It is as if it seeps into your soul. …. Shawon (Dunston) played at the major league level for 18 years. And he often repeated to me this one indispensable piece of advice: “Never give the uniform back. Let them rip it off your body.” Once you give it back, he insisted, it will never be the same, and neither will you. – Doug Glanville, “Badge of Honor,” New York Times Op-Ed, January 12, 2009.
Professional athletes and other high-achievers often put their heart and soul into the pursuit of a goal or a dream -- be it a spot on the Yankees' Opening Day roster or the key to the Executive Washroom. But all of them will face the end of their career, their dream, either through being cut from a team, forced into retirement by age or injuries, being out-sourced, or finding themselves on the losing end of a corporate merger or hostile take-over. The process of making the transition from a dream job to another often involves facing the need to reinvent yourself as you move away from a closely-held and important element of your identity and learn to define yourself as something else. A lucky few find the road easy, most find it challenging, and an unfortunate few never make the transition successfully. We study the journey of the transition, looking to identify what helps those who make the transition successfully and passing along our findings.