REINVENTION

In the first few days of last year (2011), I wrote a post titled “Resilience.” The post was inspired by the life story of a masseuse at a spa that my wife and I visited. In short, the terrible challenges which she had overcome and her upbeat, “can do” perspective on life was a clarion call to me that despite the economic pain and suffering the country had endured since 2008, the trait of resilience was essential to a person’s recovery and success.

In this new year, my wife and I went to another spa and my young masseur’s story of his work trajectory revealed his reinvention and adaptability. He was from the Detroit area and had never finished college. He had picked up some IT skills and got a job working for Accenture in Chicago doing automated payroll process consulting. He felt Chicago offered cosmopolitan excitement and economic opportunity that Detroit could not. He worked crazy hours and made good money. He was a very young twenty-something who did not like the work stress and office politics. When his department functions were being moved to San Antonio, he decided not to move, took a severance package, and trained to be a massage therapist. Although he likes his job and his less pressured life style, he intends eventually to go to school to become a physical therapist. It will take him five years to get a master’s degree. He knows there is job growth in healthcare. His father, a railroad retiree, does not understand his desire to change careers every few years.

This kid represents the realities of the new economy and alternative career paths. He knows instinctively that he has to keep reinventing himself and be mobile. He does not resent this fact and this is all he has ever known in his short career.

He is not an executive or highly educated professional, but his situation is instructive. We must all reinvent ourselves and become adaptable in order to continue to be useful and relevant in the marketplace. If a person remains static, he will eventually be out of a job or lose his business.

I am glad that twenty years ago, as the result of my part-time appointment as an Illinois Human Rights Commissioner, I became involved in employment legal matters even though I had been a business, real estate and construction attorney. So as the real estate and construction industries cratered in the last recession, my long ago diversification into executive employment contracts has benefited my law practice. This “reinvention” and my longtime receptivity and relatively early adaptability to technology like laptops, the internet, and social media have kept me relevant and in the game over the years. This all, to be sure, is the result of a combination of serendipity and purposefulness.

My take away from the kid is that reinvention is constant and seems to be accelerating.This whole phenomenon reminds me of one of my father’s favorite admonitions: “Don’t rest on your laurels.”

3 responses

  1. Well said Cory, and you are well equipped to navigate the inevitable vicissitudes of work and life. When you stop creating new spaces for yourself, you stop growing and begin to decline. I know a couple of 80 and 90 year olds who keep pushing and doing new things. That’s probably why they are living so long.

    • I think one of the most interesting nuggets of human understanding (or lack thereof) is that as child, we do not understand the word no, it is hard for us to comprehend the phrase “it cannot be done,” but the older we get, the more inclined we are to accept this philosophy. You would think that with greater wisdom comes an even greater view of the world, its possibilities and our capabilities. I am a big fan of art and during the early 60’s there was a movement/style called “Neo- primitive” the basis of this movement was that the more primitive, simple or child like the motif, the more sophisticated the painting was considered. Your acquaintances may be in their 80’s or 90’s but they see the possibilities as a child. There truly is an elite sophistication in ones ability to pursue life’s passions as if one was a child.

  2. The thing that I love most about reinvention is that it means that you’ve truly reached a point, in your personal and professional space, where the only thing that you can do is create a new space for yourself. My dad always said that your only true career is life and every position you hold in life, is just a job. There is a certain feeling of freedom in reinvention that no other life endeavor will allow you to experience. I completed my undergraduate studies in Marketing and relocated to South Carolina with the marketing firm that I joined out of college. After my second promotion, I reached a certain comfort level in my space, or so it seemed at the time.

    It is very human to want more out of life, to know when we’ve reached an unsustainable level of content or discontent, as it defines our current existence. There is something very powerful, yet quiet, that happens inside of us when the time comes, and that something is what through the many steps that will define what reinvention ends up meaning to us. Reinvention comes to fruition, not only when one realizes that it is necessary, but when one is confident enough to take the necessary risks.

    Two years into my marketing career, within a year of my second promotion, I decided to go to graduate school to study Finance and Entrepreneurship. Within a few months of that quiet tugging, I found myself in my Jeep Cherokee, stuffed with everything that I owned at the time, embarking on the long drive back to Chicago to attend graduate school. Today I have an eight year (and counting) career in Finance. I am very happy, but as my confidence and curiosity grows through knowledge and experience of my world around, I find myself again moving towards that place where the only thing I can do is create new space for myself. Reinvention is an inevitable product of living in awareness, or simply aware that you are not living.

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