Navigating Life’s Transitions: An Interview with Dr. Michael Lindsay on His New Book “Hinge Moments”

Dr. Michael Lindsay, author of A View from the Top and Faith in the Halls of Power, is set to release his new book, “Hinge Moments: Making the Most of Life’s Transitions” April 27th. The book has been positively received from prominent public figures such as Senator Ben Sasse, former President of the Heritage Foundation, Kay Cole James, and former President of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks, among others. Dr. Lindsay was gracious enough to agree to an interview and discuss the book, his transition from Gordon to Taylor, and more. 

Liam Siegler: I just want to say thank you again so much for agreeing to be interviewed on your new book! Let’s just get right into it. Your book is titled “Hinge Moments: Making the Most of Life’s Transitions.” What led you to write this book? And what influence did your last work, A View from the Top, play into this decision, if any.

Dr. Michael Lindsay: So I’ve been thinking about this book for a number of years and worked on the concept and writing it over about three years. Originally, I thought I would write a book that would be based upon my leadership research that would be applicable for college students, as they face different decisions in the college years. Decisions, like where do I go to school? What do I major in? If you’re seriously considering, you know, a romantic relationship? How do I know if this person is the one? How do I think about jobs after I graduate and grad school? Those kinds of things. But as I got into the book, working on it, I realized it just had an opportunity to speak not just about decisions, but about change, that there weren’t a lot of great guides of how we think about change and transition in our lives. And then as I started writing that book, I became more persuaded there was an opportunity to talk about a wider range of issues that we might engage in. So it’s been a great privilege to be able to share something that I think has a good wide readership, and hopefully will be of great encouragement to people.

Liam Siegler: The words “hinge moments” play a huge part as you analyze life’s transitions throughout the book. So I’m just going to ask, what is a hinge moment? And how do they, as you said, in the book define us?

Dr. Michael Lindsay: A hinge moment is a really important inflection point you experience in your life. And it literally can be something that happens in a matter of seconds, or in something that happens in a matter of weeks. But it’s a particular season where there’s actually a real decision or a fork in the road. And it might relate to a decision that you yourself make, like I decide to go to Gordon college, or a decision that is made for you, like, your mom is diagnosed with cancer. So how we respond to those inflection points, determines the trajectory of our life in many significant ways. Over the course of a normal life span of 7080 years, there’s like 37 million minutes that we have in our lifetime. But probably there are 20 individual minutes in that life of 37 million that really shaped the course of your life. This book is about talking about those individual minutes, and how they affect the rest of your life, and how you can be prepared to be the most successful, from God’s perspective in navigating those hinge moments of life.

Liam Siegler: The book also outlines seven stages of transition, discernment, anticipation, intersection, landing, integration, inspiration, and realization. And you also know how this transition shapes us as we journey through life. What led you to recognize these seven stages? And could you just explain how you explore them throughout the book?

Dr. Michael Lindsay: Yeah, so the book tries to walk the reader through those seven phases of transition with giving some practical advice, telling some stories of great leaders and how they navigated it, and then also trying to think about what’s really happening. You know, from a neuroscience perspective, to a spiritual perspective, how do we understand change in transition, and I map it along two different axes. One is the progression of time. And the other is the degree of confidence that we feel in those different stages, we reach the low point at what’s known as the intersection phase. It’s where you basically have decided for one reason or another, that you’re leaving your last chapter, but you haven’t yet started the next chapter. And oftentimes, we feel more vulnerable and have higher degrees of self doubt or challenge. And all of that is designed to try and help us make sense of the world. And I hope that the book will guide the reader through those seven phases, and how we can make the most of each of them. So that in the end, we emerge stronger, better, more faithful on the other side of the hinge moment.

Liam Siegler: In the chapter, “The Virtue of Fixed Flexibility”, you walk through four hinge virtues. For the reader, could you explain what these are and how they can help one navigate life’s transitions?

Dr. Michael Lindsay:  Yeah, the four hinge virtues which actually, they’re known as the cardinal virtues in antiquity or classical literature, but the word that we now get hinge, actually came from the Latin word for cardinal, so they’re actually related to one another. And there are four classic cardinal virtues of courage, wisdom, self control, or temperance, and justice. And the book talks about how we embody each of those four virtues, and how we call upon them, in order to give us a sense of being stationed or steady or grounded. The interesting thing about a hinge is that a hinge both keeps a door open, and it also keeps it closed. So the hinge has a very important role to play, because it’s what allows the flexibility to either be open or closed, while at the same time staying afixed. The brilliance of a hinge is that just as those four virtues can allow you to stay grounded, so that you can face new challenges and new opportunities, either by closing off possibilities. So you don’t get into grad school you were thinking you’re gonna get into, but it’s not the end of your life – you’ve got other opportunities, the Lord opens up other doors; or it opens up the doors, and now you proceed through those. So helping you to better understand, how do you do that well? I became convinced after studying these 550 leaders and their lives, that each of us when we encounter these important inflection points in our life, when we want to be godly, we want to respond in a Christ honoring way. And part of that is by having that afixed virtue in our life – having those values that keeps us grounded. And also maintaining optionality to pursue different possible pathways as a result.

Liam Siegler: You use dozens of stories to illustrate how to think and navigate through these decisions and apply a lot of things that you were just talking about. As you were writing, what are some of the stories that stand out to you the most, and maybe what are one or two that you can particularly relate to?

Dr. Michael Lindsay:  There are many different stories of people that I interviewed that were poignant. I tell the story of Dr. Condoleezza Rice, and her decision as a 16 year old that she was not going to be a concert pianist for the rest of her life. But instead that she needed to find a new passion, which she eventually discovered in the Soviet Union and international relations, which ended up putting her on the pathway to pursue a doctorate at Notre Dame, playing the faculty position in political science at Stanford, become eventually the Provost there, and eventually became our national security adviser and Secretary of State. But all of that began, when a particular door or pathway she thought was going to be open, closed, not because someone told her she couldn’t do it. But because she came to the realization, she would never be able to compete at the very highest levels, which is required if you’re going to be a professional, classical pianist. And so I tell the story of how she reached that realization as a young person, and how it shaped the rest of her life. A story that I relate in the book that had a really profound impact on my own journey, is a story of Bruce Kennedy, who served as the CEO of Alaska Airlines, he loved that job and thought he would do it the rest of his life. But he reached a particular conviction versus a person of faith, prayed regularly about his job. And he reached a certain conviction that after 10 years on the job, he felt like God was calling him to do something different. He didn’t know what that was. And he really didn’t want to do that, because he was really happy about what he was doing. But he reached the conviction that 10 years was the right end of that particular season. As it turns out, I re read that interview transcript while working on this book project, in the very season where I’ve been receiving nudges that suggested to me that maybe the Lord was calling me to step away from Gordon after 10 years on the job. And so as much as I regretted it, in that being that his story was another part of the journey that moved me to a new place of service, namely, from Gordon to Taylor. And so this book will forever be very special to me, because it’s the first book I’ve written that is directly spoken to my own life, and played a key role in my own journey of faith.

Liam Siegler: Kind of to that last point you made. I was going to ask what experiences in your life do you think most helped form the message of “Hinge Moments?” And how did God use them to shape you? 

Dr. Michael Lindsay: Well, I think the most difficult season of transition anybody goes through in that process. The seven phases is the intersection phase, that liminal state between two different chapters. And I experienced that in my own life, from you know, I guess, mid October when I announced to everyone that I was stepping away from the Gordon role, until really late February, early March, when I finally felt confirmed in my calling to go and serve at Taylor. In between, I wondered if I was going to get a job, I wondered if so where that would be, I wondered if I would ever get a chance to be a college president again. I mean, so many different sorts of questions that were part of my own journey. And that really was a very important phase that I had to go through, a part of this larger set of changes or transition. And I found that the Lord really guided me and helped me along the way. And there were some spiritual practices, which I detail in the book, which hopefully will be of encouragement to other people who happen to go through their own intersection phase of a change.

Liam Siegler: What was the particular hinge moment that led you to decide to resign from Gordon College?

Dr. Michael Lindsay: Well, the actual decision to move from Gordon to something else reflects a large hinge moment. But there are many different things that come along the way. In the early part of the book, I talked about the discernment phase and the anticipation phase. Both of these are things that we experience internally, before we actually encounter the change in one way or another. And the discernment phase was just frankly, having multiple signposts – conversations that I would have with people, sermons that I would listen to, books that I would read – that were sort of promptings of the Holy Spirit that was suggesting, perhaps God was nudging me to be open to a new place of service, or a  a new calling? And then I would just say, you know, in every environment, every decision, there are both push and pull factors. So things are saying, you know, what, it’s time for you to go. And for me, that was a realization that we were wrapping up the fundraising campaign, I’ve been involved in, wrapping up the strategic plan. So I needed something else to engage me or I was being pushed to maybe consider moving on. And then also things that pull you to a new place. So things that excite you, or they get you and give you energy. And I experienced both of those in the sense of the transition from Gordon to Taylor.

Liam Siegler: I know your book, especially for a lot of people, especially for college seniors, where transition is hitting them like a slap in the face. I have lots of friends who are seniors. What advice would you give them, maybe stemming from the book, stemming from your own personal experience on how to navigate that transition, that is very closely eminent?

Dr. Michael Lindsay: I think that the great thing about college is that it oftentimes prepares you for what comes next because we experience a series of different inflection points in the college years. So in many ways, the four years of being a university are part of preparing you for the larger transition that occurs at the end of your four years, as you begin to sort of explore new possibilities. In the book, I talk about the landing phase, which is when you’re just getting started in your new place, and how it’s really important, you only get one chance to make a first impression. So you really want to do that well. And I think that what we have found is that it’s really helpful along the way. And it’s useful to be able to, to think in advance of okay, what are some things that people will naturally be interested in? And how do I begin to develop trusting relationships in that new place? I’d say that that’s as much a spiritual thing, as much as it is sort of a psychological or practical thing. So it’s a way of getting yourself ready for that kind of change in preparing for that. And there’s a lot of stuff that you can do between now and graduation to get you ready for that. But probably the most important is praying, asking the Lord to guide you and being grounded in the words that sort of gets you ready for those kinds of adjustments.

Liam Siegler: I have one more question and then I think we can end the interview. For the person who’s skeptical of your book, whether it’s because they don’t know who you are, as Dr. Michael Lindsay, or they might not be immediately interested in the title, or the content, what would you say to them? What would you say is the value and the reason why people should read your book?. 

Dr. Michael Lindsay: Well, throughout the 20th century, there have been a series of societal hinge moments that have occurred. In 1918, it occurred with the Spanish influenza pandemic, which had a very significant impact on society. It happened again in 1929, with the economic depression that we saw, that really put us into a financial tailspin for a number of years. Or 1968, which saw the cultural, political, racial tensions come to a boiling point in this country. The last year represents all three of those. It’s like 1918, 1929, and 1968, all combined. And I specifically wanted this book to come out, right as the United States would be emerging into the recovery phase from the pandemic, and helping to sort of set the trajectory. So if we can learn anything from history, it’s that it matters a great deal what happened in those weeks and months, as the nation recovered from each of those episodes, and because of the size and scale of what we’ve experienced in the last year, I think that this societal wide hinge moment, merits very careful consideration.

Liam Siegler: Alright, well, that was very great and very insightful. Thanks so much for agreeing to interview with me! I’m sure people will love what you had to say. Thank you. 

Dr. Michael Lindsay: I appreciate it. Great to be with you.

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