Mountains cannot be surmounted except by winding paths. — Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
If someone says can’t, that shows you what to do. — John Cage
The challenge of reinvention in today’s complex socioeconomic environment demands endurance and flexibility. In a very short time in our domestic history all the rules have changed and many of us find ourselves at yet another turning point in our evolution, both as professionals and as individuals. I have several colleagues who are meeting the challenge of reassessing their career path and I am inspired by many of their journeys. Some had climbed the corporate ladder of the nineties only to find themselves burnt out and longing for a free-lance, more creative life. Others had been entrepreneurs whose companies were hit hard by 9/11 and more recently by the great recession. These friends are now searching for the comfort and security of a corporate position, away from the stress of owning one’s own business.
Two of my closest friends have served as incredible role models in this age of re-invention and the challenges of getting out of one’s own way. One is a dear friend whose early career was as a high paid creative director in an advertising firm. (Very Mad Men meets American Psycho!) The pay was great but the stress level and pressures of robotic performance left him cold and uninspired. Eventually and with great diligence he has been able to carve out a very satisfying roster of clients who appreciate an individual approach to their creative needs. At the same time he has been able to create a balanced life where he can work from home and enjoy the “gun for hire” life.
Another friend who had his own business for much of the 90’s and early 2000’s wanted to trade in the challenges of being a business owner and reenter the realm of corporate life. He, too, after many humble years and winding paths, has landed an incredible once-in-a-lifetime job with one of the most prestigious retailers in America. His story is inspiring to me in that he has been able to find relevance in today’s job market after focusing so many years on his own business.
What I have learned from these two friends is invaluable. My colleague who left a soul-draining but secure position in corporate life faced the challenge of reinvention by learning as much as he could about the new world of social media. He thought outside the box as to how he could take his years of heard-earned experience to a new internet driven world, while fighting his own concepts of ageism in a very young marketplace. My other colleague, who had to let go of his own business and reenter the corporate setting, taught me about the idea of letting go of one’s past beliefs about themselves. He worked very hard to let go of self-concepts that kept him thinking about himself in one particular way. His challenge to himself was to shed a particular identity, namely that of an entrepreneur, in order to open himself to new opportunities in the corporate setting.
The challenge of re-invention seems to be a combination of letting go of one’s past concepts of oneself and marching confidently into the future by learning to adapt to the new and ever evolving economy. In my own career as a designer, an entrepreneur, and as retailer, I am focused daily on how to lean into the challenges of present and future ways of doing business while trying to stay light on my proverbial feet and be adaptable and free of past, outdated ideas about who I am and what I do.
It is a very exciting time in our culture. As a man in my forties I see the economy and the society changing rapidly. My aim is to stay open and ride the wave while keeping my eye on the ultimate prize, self growth and living a balanced and aware life.