Tensions inevitably arise from time to time in most business settings. But in family businesses these tensions potentially can be especially acute and even result in the cessation of the enterprise. These tensions manifest at various times and for many reasons but they generally arise when the business is undergoing a transition. Understanding these transitions and how to prepare for them enable family business leaders to lessen the threats to survival. In this paper we present results from our research into the transitions that Australian family firms typically experience and how they influence four key stages of learning for family business leaders seeking to discover pathways for managing the paradoxes they confront.