Why Should Everyone Reinvent Every Five Years?

Reinvent yourself

I spent the last year unlearning many concepts I had learned in the previous four decades. While we know the importance of continuous learning, we often forget the adage “what got you here won’t get you there.” It ties to Yuval Noah Harari's idea of imagined order or our belief that life is defined by the three-stage model: education – work – retirement.

Regardless of what we call it, we have been programmed to believe and crave stability. This is why corporate jobs have held such a strong appeal for the past 100 years. It is also why we teach our kids to get into the best college they can so that they can get the best possible job.

The first thing I had to unlearn was the idea of job stability or job security. I wish more people would unlearn it as well. Reliance on a job, security, promotions, and stability are things of the past, and they no longer exist today.

I also had to unlearn many financial principles and even the meaning of having a job. Eventually, what I realized was that I had to reinvent myself, and I could not think of a better way to start than to read James Altucher’s book with an appropriate title, Reinvent Yourself. It is not a typical book, but it is full of insights James had learned from interviewing hundreds of incredibly smart people over the years.

All successful artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, and writers reinvent themselves repeatedly. Picasso reinvented himself every five years. Some of the best business people of our time – Elon Musk and Richard Branson – reinvent themselves every few years, not to mention Steve Jobs, who had many phases of success and failure.

James Altucher looks at reinvention as a component of three parts.

  1. Freedom – having multiple sources of income so that you never depend on any one source at any given point in time.
  2. Relationships – finding mentors to teach you and, on the flip side, mentees whom you can teach; surrounding yourself with people who build you up and challenge you.
  3. Habits – not only are you the average of the five people around you, but you are also the average of the five habits you practice, the five ideas you have, the five publications you read, and so on.

The part of the book I enjoyed the most describes the lessons that James Altucher learned from Larry Page. Here are several of Larry Page’s powerful quotes that James Altucher included.

“My job as a leader is to make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, and that they feel they’re having a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society.”

“Many leaders of big organizations, I think, don’t believe that change is possible. But if you look at history, things do change, and if your business is static, you’re likely to have issues.”

“We don’t have as many managers as we should, but we would rather have too few than too many.”

It is no secret that one of the reasons Google became so successful is because they pursued innovation not just in their products, but in the business model as well. They chose not to follow the traditional hierarchical corporate structure. They avoided the Peter Principle, which states that “successful members of a hierarchical organization are eventually promoted to their highest level of competence, after which further promotion raises them to a level at which they are not competent.” Unfortunately, many organizations still promote employees based on effort without ever training or mentoring them for success at the next level, expecting a seamless transition from one position to another.

Larry Page also said,

“The idea that everyone should slavishly work so they do something inefficiently so they keep their job—that just doesn’t make any sense to me. That can’t be the right answer.”

“I have always believed that technology should do the hard work—discovery, organization, communication—so users can do what makes them happiest: living and loving.”

Technology should not be feared. It allows us to achieve what previously may have seemed impossible. Instead of following the same processes as before, figure out ways to automate. Ultimately, that will lead to greater freedom and well-being for the individuals and a bigger impact on the organization and society.

The path of reinvention is how we create our own luck and success, how we have as few regrets as possible, and how we live an interesting and fulfilling life.

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