Reinventing yourself – part 2 of a series

What kind of reinvention will make sense for you?

Recognizing that you can change and being willing to change are the first steps to reinventing yourself. How to accomplish desirable changes in a way that is right for you will be the subject of this post.

Reinvention is not necessarily an "Extreme Makeover" drama as seen on TV, but the results can be spectacular. Even so, many successful long-term changes come from actions that others cannot easily see, except that you eventually appear to be happier and more successful.

Some people are inspired to reinvent themselves because they are failing in some area of their lives. They finally choose reinvention after everything else fails.

Others, like a young professional woman I admire greatly, are looking to reinvent themselves because they can see that their present course of action is leading to less enjoyment in life. This is often the case when someone strikes out on their own or with a startup and realizes that their dream occupation is becoming far less satisfying because of factors beyond their immediate control.

In the latter case, success may have led to intense competition, which is essentially commoditization, of what was once a unique offering. This commoditization may only lie in the mind of prospective clients, but it means that the client views your offering and the offerings of others as essentially interchangeable.

The usual response to this situation is to cut prices which leads to cutting costs and all of the special services that made your offering unique in the first place. The net result is that the creativity is sucked out of your job and it becomes a drudgery and a grim effort to survive.

In a company, this is when the bean counters rise to power. Those good, grey people can wring every penny out of operating costs and you as a creator find your attention is on cutting costs instead of taking risks and building a successful business. If you are a sole proprietor, you find yourself adopting a bean counter mentality and measuring success in terms of cash flow rather than job satisfaction.

UPDATE: For a real life example of the barriers to reinventing a company that is in trouble, read this poignant and disturbing post at BigPictureSmallOffice.com.

There is a large place in the world for companies and people who are good at producing cookie cutter products and services at the lowest prices. If this is not your choice of futures, you need to reinvent yourself. This can be very frustrating when your past success has created the competitive situation you are now having to deal with. You must either find a new frontier to conquer or must find a way to distinguish your offerings from all others, which is, of course, reinvention.

How do you go about it?

Whether you are reinventing yourself as a result of failure or because of success, the process is basically the same. You need to take a long, hard look at those things you are good at and choose a course of actions which will allow you to use those abilities to earn a living or gain the support you need from others.

You may have to redefine what "success" is because you may have been struggling to achieve a goal that is essentially self-destructive. If you have been measuring your success by the cars you drive and the suits you wear, you may have been ignoring the many acts of self-degradation you perform daily to keep wearing those suits and bearing your fancy job title.

Try looking at those activities which will increase your integrity and self-respect. Balance those against the need to support yourself and your family. Try choosing a course of action which produces valuable products or services that others need and want and work out how you can provide them.

This may not be a slam dunk process. You may have to invest some time and money getting the training you need to produce products or services that are economically viable. This training may consist of doing work or taking on a job at no pay to establish yourself as a competent provider capable of doing professional work. This is the current equivalent of doing an apprenticeship. It has been done successfully by many in fields where apprenticeships are not historically common.

Risks and rewards

Reinvention requires thinking outside the box, because staying in the "box" is the antithesis of creative effort. The box is a supposedly safe job, where you serve at the whim of others and survive by keeping your head down and your mouth shut.

When you reinvent yourself, you are breaking the rules you had unconsciously adopted to keep yourself in the game you had chosen. You are choosing to take responsibility for your future. This is a good thing, but it is also scary. You will probably find more people telling you to stay put than encouraging you to make changes.

If you are looking for agreement in life, you will find it very hard to make the decisions required to reinvent yourself successfully. The only advice I can offer you here is to choose your friends and advisors carefully. The ones that are comfortable with you changing are probably the ones that you can rely on to give you useful feedback. Even then, you are going to have to make decisions for yourself and take responsibility for the results.

If you can go at it in an unserious way, you have the best chance for success. If you can say, "What if I…" and carry that thought out into action, you will probably do well at reinventing yourself.

Just remember, whatever happens, the results are not permanent. If your new course of action leads eventually to a dead end or a less than satisfactory result, you need to pick yourself up and reinvent yourself again. You will find that reinvention becomes easier with practice. 🙂

Let me know if I have not addressed your particular situation. There is a lot more that can be said about this challenging activity. You might want to read part 1 of this series

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0 Responses to Reinventing yourself – part 2 of a series

  1. Carl says:

    Terrific insights. I am in a space in the IT field that has become commoditized. On a more historical level, its amazing to me to have witnessed the software developer’s macro life cycle. In the mid-eighties with the intro of PCs we were magicians. In the 90’s, “IT was the business.” Now, we are a commodity to be outsourced. Wow…

  2. Marjorie says:

    Good stuff! I am reading a book right now along a similar vein: Good to Great, by Jim Collins. After many years of research studies, the author and his team have come up with the top strategies used by companies that have successfully, and necessarily, reinvented themselves. And, as usual, I am finding that a lot of this type of stuff can be applied to personal life as well. For example, Collins describes a critical psychology he calls the Stockdale Paradox: “Retain absolute faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time, confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” This hit me like a ton of bricks! Oh, I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity for an Extreme Makeover, but most of the changes need to come from within.

  3. Jane Chin says:

    David, thank you for this post. In many ways my “success” have spawned a critical re-examination of the very definition. I especially agree with your urge to “choose your friends and advisors carefully.” I have a few people whom I regard as advisors and I sometimes get different perspectives on the same issue. There are times when I yearn for the easy answer to be pointed out to me, rather than choosing my own path among conflicting opinions.

  4. How ironic…I came here to notify you I was having to start all over – LOL

    Not really a “re-invention”, but Blogger has locked me out of my old blog. It still accepts comments, but I can’t get it to publish anything new, or make any changes to the template. I even attempted to use FTP to upload it to my domain, but that also failed.

    I struggled with it for days, writing letters to Blogger Help and Support, all for naught, so I’m starting over at: Enter the Laughter Redeux
    http://enterthelaughter.blogspot.com/

    Trying to notify all of my previous links. Trying not to think evil thoughts – LOL

    —–
    PING:
    TITLE: Carnival of the Capitalists #121
    URL: http://www.okpatents.com/phosita/archives/2006/01/carnival_of_the_1.html
    IP: 63.247.131.8
    BLOG NAME: PHOSITA
    DATE: 01/30/2006 09:42:56 AM
    Welcome to the 121st edition of Carnival of the Capitalists! We here are known as PHOSITA (pho see tah) : an arcane bit of patentese that refers to the mythical person of ordinary art. If an invention is…

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