How to Reinvent Yourself
How old are you? How much longer will you be working for? As you are likely to stay healthier for longer, there is greater potential for you to reinvent yourself and lead multiple careers in completely different spheres. How can you do this effectively?
You are going to live longer
When you reach the age of 100 in Japan you are presented with a lovely silver sake dish from the Government (worth $64).
Or at least, you were until 2015. The practice was relatively affordable in 1963, when only 153 people reached the ripe age of 100. In 2014, however, a whopping 29,350 were issued and the free sake dish arrangement was promptly ended.
In fact, a child born in the West today has a more than 50% chance of living to be over 105. This has profound implications for the traditional three stage life that we’re used to (go to school > get a job > retire). A job for life is increasingly not a ‘thing’, and who wants to work non-stop for 60 years in the same job anyway?
Instead, the three-stage life is being replaced with the multi-stage life. People are choosing to break up periods of intense work with travel, family time or volunteering. There is no longer a single upward curve of promotions in the same company — people are leaving stable jobs to run ecolodges, re-training to be teachers or relocating families to desert islands. These multi-stage long lives are increasingly creative, energising and fun.
Living for longer may conjure up images of being older for longer, but actually, people are now younger for longer. Robert Pogue Harrison calls this Juvenescence — the state of being youthful or growing young. Just as teenagers and retirees emerged as new categories in the 20th Century, a new age group is emerging — the 18–30 year olds who are recognising that they are likely to live longer and are delaying settling down and starting families. This group are keeping their options open and exploring alternative lifestyles. They are experimenting and pioneering multi-stage lives.
So how should you make the most of your long, multi-stage life?
In a 100 year life, there are 873,000 hours available. If it takes 10,000 hours to master something, then mastering a number of things over a lifetime becomes highly possible.
When people had shorter lives and the job market was stable, the knowledge and skills you mastered in your 20s could last your whole career without major reinvestment. But in a multi-stage life, constant reinvention will become the norm. Each stage of your life will have its own character and purpose. And if you are going to be working until you’re 80 years old, each stage will need a fair bit of re-learning and re-skilling as you transition from one stage to the next.
What is a transition?
Everyone makes major transitions throughout their lives — you will have done it when you left school and got a job. At some point you will transition from your job to retirement.
The multi-stage life will involve many more transitions, and it is likely that you will need to invest in these transitions by creating a new lifestyle or building new skills each time. Education is no longer something you will do at the beginning of your life — learning is increasingly happening throughout your life. In a multi-stage life there is less focus on consumption and recreation and more focus on investment and re-creation.
You will need to use your transition time to invest in new skills, knowledge, networks or perspectives. You might start attending college, taking courses, undertaking part time work, relocating or changing your lifestyle. These re-creation transitions will expand your networks and skills in order to move into a new stage.
The risk of recharging
You may want to use one of your transitions to ‘recharge’ — by going travelling or sitting on the sofa watching Cash in the Attic, but be aware that your productive assets (skill-sets, knowledge, networks etc.) may diminish if they are not used during these recharges. Assets suffer from depreciation, diminishing over time with use or neglect. This is the same with intangible assets like friends, knowledge or health, that need to be continually maintained and invested in.
Starting a transition
Transitions start with a feeling of being ‘out of synch’. Everyone has a ‘possible self’ in their head, and transitions start when the ‘possible self’ you are constructing begins to look more attractive than your ‘current self’. When this happens you are motivated to take action, and then have a period of exploration where you test ideas and have a cycle of learning. You should be developing diverse networks at these times to create a sense of opportunity. During this time you will learn more by crafting experiments and side projects that allow you to get a better feeling for what is possible.
Beware! You will be tempted to discuss your possible self with those who are close to you. This is absolutely fine, but be aware that
The people who know you best are the very ones most likely to hinder transformation rather than help it. It is they who are often most invested in you staying the same.
During your transition, Experimentation will allow you to try out different ‘possible selves’. You will be seeking to gain efficacy (knowledge and competence) for your new self. When this is combined with agency (the propensity to take action), then you are well on your way to mastery. You may find yourself needing self control to defer gratification at this stage, since acquiring a skill often entails deferring short-term pleasure for long-term gain.
The importance of self control
Self control is learned. People differ in their capacity to cope with tough challenges and achieve mastery or complete a project. Those with a growth mindset are better able to push themselves outside their comfort zone and focus on the path ahead. Those who don’t suffer from the ‘tyranny of the now’ — always looking for short term rewards and becoming fazed when confronted with something more stretching. Children who are taught and encouraged to attempt tasks that stretch them and they find hard are more likely to have this growth mindset. Start to become aware when you feel challenged in this way, and deliberately seek out experiences that make you feel uncomfortable or scared.
The longer your life, the more your identity reflects what you craft rather than a reactive response to where you began. In today’s online world, identity is being crafted even more than it is assumed or inherited. This crafting is a key part of the process of developing your possible self.
As well as creating an identity, you will need to establish a good personal reputation. Your reputation will be built over time, and will provide your contacts, customers and followers with predictable quality. As your multi-stage life spreads across more companies, sectors and different skills, one of the threads that connects your value over time will be a good reputation.
How do people build perceptions of you? Some will be built first hand through direct experience, but much will be second hand, as described by others. The social structure around you behaves like a broadcast system, constantly transmitting information to an audience about you. The importance of this social structure in the creation and dissemination of a reputation means that your reputation is not always an asset that you own. Instead, it is created by the beliefs, perceptions and evaluations a community forms about you. While your reputation is a product of your history of behaviour, it is never fully under your control.
TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read) Summary
We are all living longer. As a result, the three stage life is dead — we now lead multi-stage lives. To lead a successful multi-stage life, you need to invest in training and learning throughout your life (re-creation instead of recreation). You will need to experiment more, and actively craft your identity (to help others create a good perception of you), allowing you to transition to wildly different phases of your life that can be both creative and fun. Enjoy! x