Reinvention doesn’t mean scrapping everything we’ve done in the past and starting afresh. Reinvention, to me, means building on what we’ve done and make it better. “Test everything; hold fast to that which is good,” Paul writes in Thessalonians. This also means that we need to let go of what hasn’t worked in the past.
One of my favorite lectures to my college students focusses on how to get a job. (Hint: You don’t find work by emailing resumes to Facebook contacts.) During that class I tell them that all our lives we focus on what we are not – our weaknesses – and wish they didn’t exist. Instead, we need to concentrate on our strengths. But figuring out what our strengths are is difficult – because our strengths are just who we are. We’ve always had them and, thus, take them for granted.
A great way to figure out what you are good at is to invite a friend to lunch and have them describe what they see as your strengths. I guarantee that they will point out strengths that you’ve never considered before. The first time I did this was an eye-opening experience. Then, do the same thing with a few clients: ask them why they like working with you. Again, you’ll discover that what they value is not what you expect.
You may think it’s your ability to stay under budget, only to discover they like your sense of humor and ability to work under pressure. Find your strengths, then build on them. Don’t let yourself stand still – the world is moving too fast.
Reinvention is a necessary part of life, otherwise we stagnate. We live in a time where creativity is bounded by technological change. It is easy to become overwhelmed and keep doing what we’ve always done. But this builds a firm path to irrelevance.
In spite of all the shouting, noise and confusion, there are only seven plots. Our job – as always – is to find new and compelling ways to tell them. And, just as our stories need to evolve, so do we.
The process of reinvention is hard work and scary; there’s no guarantee of future rewards. The status quo is tempting because it’s easy; we know how to do it. But it’s a trap.
The way to our best work is to build on the past: keep the good stuff and refine the rest.