Reinventing Yourself: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Over the course of my – still relatively short – career, I have reinvented myself more than most of my peers. Here is a brief history.
2013: I enrolled for a Master’s degree in Corporate Communication at the University of Amsterdam
2014: I moved to Sweden and started up a pancake business
2016: I moved back to the Netherlands and became a consultant that guides Agile transformations at major corporations
2017: I travelled the world as I started a new business in creating engaging learning experiences
2020: I moved back to the Netherlands, again, and started building a community of entrepreneurs through meetings like the one from yesterday (picture below)
You may look at this and think I’m absolutely crazy. Or maybe this idea of constantly changing profession and location sounds appealing to you.
Whatever it is, I think a lot of us dream of reinventing ourselves. Of travelling the world. Of starting a YouTube channel. Of starting a new business. Something.
But should you even want to reinvent yourself? Isn’t the risk of doing so too big? In this article, I will share what I’ve learned in the past 7 years about this constant process of personal change.
Let’s start with the bad news.
The Bad 👎
The bad news is, put rather simply, that a jack of all trades is a master of none.
If you’ve read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, you know about the 10,000 hour rule:
“It takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills and materials, like playing the violin or getting as good as Bill Gates at computer programming.”
To put that into perspective: it would take 6 hours per day, every day, for four or five years of deliberately practising something to become a master of your craft.
Why would you want to become a master of your craft? Because rare skills are valuable.
If you invest in acquiring rare and valuable skills, you will have more time and freedom. But you will likely also have a more fulfilling career. In the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport argues that following your passion is bad advice. He studied what leads people to have a compelling career and guess what? It’s sticking with mastering a skill long enough until you learn to love it.
After all, helping others and providing value is a lot of fun. Especially when you’re good at it.
So, the bad thing of reinventing myself constantly is that I’m still not at a point where I feel that I have a fulfilling career. I still feel like I have to put in more hours to make my skills more rare and valuable, to eventually become so good they can’t ignore me.
The Ugly 😭
What’s been worse about constantly reinventing is the sense of instability that comes with it.
Will I make enough money this year?
Do I want to plan that vacation this far ahead?
Do I actually want to live here or do I want to start travelling again?
Is this the career I want to continue to pursue or not?
These kinds of questions create anxiety. They make you feel like you’re not living your best life. Like you’re not getting ahead.
And that can be pretty tough, mentally speaking.
There’s just never a kind of flow, or a momentum that I’d like to have, where things are just kind of smooth in terms of my career.
I also feel that an unstable career creates instability in other departments of my life, like friends and family, location and even romantic partners. It’s all connected.
I think we all need a sense of stability in order to deliver valuable work and be happy. That’s why I started prioritising it a lot more over the past few years. For example, by taking on more freelance work or by working out on a regular basis.
The Good 🙌
Fortunately, reinventing yourself is not all bad. In fact, I think it’s even necessary given the rapid changes that are going on in our society, driven by technological development.
Heck, your job might not even exist anymore in a few years time.
A lot of people find change hard. We’re wired like that. You could argue that habits make up most of our daily behaviour. We’re on auto-pilot, because being on auto-pilot is safe – at least, that’s what your brain tells you.
For me, change is easy. It’s part of who I am. So if there’s a new kind of technology or opportunity, I’m the first person to embrace it. That gives me an edge over many other people who would rather stick with doing something the way they always did it.
Another great thing about reinventing yourself is that this kind of exploration is extremely valuable. Especially early on in your career. I feel like all my explorations and experiments made me understand myself and the world around me a lot better. All this knowledge, I take with me for the rest of my journey and I’m incredibly grateful for it.
A third and final good thing about having reinvented myself often is that some careers actually require you to be a jack of all trades.
All the hours I’ve invested in learning skills such as graphic design, web development, concept development, shooting and editing videos and writing I can now use as I coordinate the creation of online learning experiences. They weren’t in vain at all.
Even the pancake baking taught me a lot of those skills, because – believe it or not – starting a pancake business is about a lot more than baking pancakes.
My advice to you ⭐
We just went through the good, the bad and the ugly of reinventing yourself.
If you are in the middle of making a major career change, or if you’re considering such a move, here is what I recommend.
✅ Don’t follow your passion, but focus on building skills that are rare and valuable. In other words: help others and get paid for it.
✅ Create a sense of stability in your life (at least financially), so that you have enough time and mental capacity to deliberately practice the skills you want to learn.
✅ Read the books – Outliers and So Good They Can’t Ignore You – and let them further inspire your decision. They certainly helped me a lot.
Looking back, I loved my journey and all the major career changes I went through. I wouldn’t change a thing, except for maybe not worrying so much about finding the best possible career. There is no such thing as finding the best career.
The career finds you as you build your skills and master your craft. Good luck!