Reinvent yourself

My personal biggest challenge is reinventing myself over and over again. In this article, I want to address the issues I often face and some things I have learned by facing these issues.

The need to reinvent myself is a result of my lifestyle.

  1. I work with the newest most exciting technologies out there. The technologies constantly change and I need to adapt. Basically every 3 years I need to re-educate myself in my profession.
  2. There is a constant lure of a different industry using similar technologies: mobile, semiconductors, medical, finances, security. So many markets use very similar algorithms, it is so easy to move between tech markets, that I am crossing boundaries between industries every time the grass seems greener on the other side.
  3. Different positions require different skills. I find it very comfortable to switch between more demanding entrepreneurial positions to less demanding technical jobs and vice versa based on my engagement in other activities.
  4. Being a learning expert slowly becomes my second full-time job. There is a staggering amount of effort involved in generating new content streams and maintaining a vital community. In fact, this activity demands from me more learning than all other things I do combined.
  5. Hobbies worth taking are also very demanding. Be it meditation, cooking, photography, drawing or writing – there are people who dedicate their lives to what I consider to be a hobby. Being serious with my hobbies is like taking a different job for a very short while.
  6. I have a wife and three small kids. The relationships change as the kids grow. Each time I need to give up the role my kids no more need and take on a totally new role.

While each of us faces different challenges, I think you will find at least some of the challenges I face very universal. I bet each of you shares with me 3 of 6 challenges in this list. And this means we need to give up the roles we loved and to take new roles all the time. Which is for me “reinventing yourself”.

Each time I reinvent myself I have to recite “what I do is not who I am”. This step is very hard for me since the way I perceive myself is very functional. By choosing a different role I instinctively accept a different status in my own eyes. I need to make a conscious effort to “let go”. In some cases, especially when “downgrading”, this process took me several months. It is very important not to feel loser even when the last role did not end quite well. Sometimes the results are not even in our hands.

Quite often a new role requires some learning. Reading is the easy part and can take a couple of hours. Then there is typically hands-on training: building a pet project, trying and failing, consulting with friends. It is very important if there is a friend or consultant who can help when we get stuck. A consultant will typically prefer to redo the project from scratch and then it is easy to compare his approach with your own.

Typically, there is a short window of time when we already understand our new role but still can refuse taking it. It is good to ask yourself what your goals are in the new role. If these goals will you with passion it is a good sign. If you get bored or anxious, maybe this role is not for you. Once you do commit to the new role, do not look back.

When taking a new role, it is important to acquire the correct attitude: nonverbal cues, clothes, approach etc. It is best to keep a low profile and observe for several days, maybe attend a workshop or a meeting and listen. Being a jack of all trades has its disadvantages. Do not try to bring in too much of your experience too soon, it is best to focus on the parts of your life that are specifically relevant to the new role. When the group dynamics are clear, it is time to start asking questions. When people answer your questions they should get a feedback, otherwise they will assume what is comfortable for them to assume. For example, each time I explain everything to a new person at work I know I will need to give the same explanation to the same guy at least once because there is a lot of information within. Yet if I need to explain the same thing more than three times, it is a clear indicator there is a problem in communication.

Integrating a new role with existing roles is a juggling skill. We always feel there are not enough hours in a day, a new role may require much more or much fewer hours than we assumed, so we should have a plan ready for both scenarios. If we have extra time, we need to have a plan how to use it well. And we need to time vacations and job completions in our other roles to be able to dedicate more time than expected. For example, each year when the summer vacations start I do not know if my kids will need a lot of my time since they will have very few summer activities, or they will be so tired from running at summer camps they will not have time for me.

When you assume a new role, other people need to assume a slightly different role as a result. This may generate some tension and communication issues. Clear and transparent communication is important for the success. Even when it seems that other people are not interested in your success, it may be a misinterpretation of communication issues. Usually, people want you to succeed in the new role but are somewhat intimidated by the change.

The need to reinvent yourself is quite universal, and the challenges we face may be very personal.
You can use the comments section to tell how you deal with similar challenges….

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