Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Thoughts on reinventing ourselves

I was talking to a client the other day about his company and how they wanted to “reinvent” themselves. I’m pretty familiar with the idea, because I’ve been with or worked with companies and people who wanted to re-invent themeselves for many years. It’s the great American Idea, that we can come back from failure and recreate ourselves into something new. And I am familiar with the idea because I’ve had to come back from failure a time or few in my own life.

But after talking to my client, I began to think on it a little more, and I realized that while it’s the great American Idea, it seems to me to only be partially true, that in reality, most people I know who have reinvented themselves a time or two were, in reality, rediscovering themselves.

I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to over the past few years who essentially said the same thing – that they wanted to get back to some essence that they had lost in the complexity and challenges of life. It was less about what they were doing, than it was about making sure they did not lose who they, at their best, WERE.

I’ve been on both sides of that story.

Years ago, when I had to dig myself out from depression and being in a bad place after my marriage fell apart, I spent nearly three years in constant therapy, which turned out to be a slow and constant peeling back of the layers to get to the best essence of me, then rebuilding that essence. It was work. I knew parts of it instinctively, but doing it right meant taking a few wrong turns, letting ideas and feelings settle, and some real work on my part.

I’ve done the same with some of my companies and clients over the years, in a professional sense, helping them sift back to what made them essentially successful. Often, again, it’s less about what they did or sold, less about business processes, than it was about who they were in their corporate soul.

Here’s the irony, in my mind. What we all are, as people or as companies, is almost always simple. But finding it and keeping it, is not always so simple. It takes a mindfulness that few of us have. We get distracted, we become enamoured with ideas, possibilities. The world flirts with us and we flirt back until we forget who and what brought us to the party. 

One of the best things I have learned about losing my way for a time, and then coming back to it, is how important that essence is. So today, I understand that it it is simpler to keep in mind, simpler to maintain, than to rediscover. And now, because I have done the work of rediscovery, I am sure I protect it, instead of running on instinct alone where I can be lose it in life's whirlwind. 

I’ve seen the same thing in other people, or in companies I have worked with. That if they lost their way for a while, and did the work to come back to their essence, that essence is fiercely protected from that point forward. And well it should be, because that is what makes us, us. Being our best selves (to use an Oprah phrase) is the ultimate success. 

 I have no idea where you are in your path my friends and readers, but some of us may be straying. I beg you… don’t. It’s harder to come back, than to stay the course. It’s more arduous to have to reinvent (rediscover) than to be who we are. Finding, then keeping true to, our essence, is really the path to joy.

The rest? It’s just distraction. 



The picture is from Niagara, on the Canadian side. You can click on it for a larger version. 

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