reinvention: Apple’s Steve Jobs did it…

Blow Everything Up and Start Over? by Tracy Saville

Reinvention is your best new old friend:  reset, re-charge, renew. That is according to Hollywood director Steven Soderbergh (just three years younger than moi), who directed such blockbusters and award-winning features as Erin Brokovich, Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, Che, and Sex, Lies and Videotape. He gave this advice to Charlie Rose, me, and many millions of viewers on PBS recently as he discussed his new film, Contagion, starring Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, and Jude Law.

Soderbergh proclaimed he’d hit his own proverbial glass ceiling of creativity, that he’d done all he could do as an artist director, and so he was going on a sabbatical, a walk-about, “maybe to paint,” he mused. He talked of finding new inspiration, a way to start anew and do something, to be or become something he had never been before.

It got me thinking: why do we assume someone as iconically successful and known as Steven Soderbergh should have to blow everything up and start over? Then I remembered: because he can. He does because he knows he must, and that is the lesson we must all learn to stop denying if we want to live a high-powered, mastered life. Like an addict, Soderbergh is going in search of that great next fix, that first taste of new inspirational passion, and yet he is not some fiend seeking relief from himself or some aspect of life’s bastardly, occasional excrement dumps. He, like us all, seeks an existence where he is living into his full potential. And when we achieve the outer edge of any of our abilities, we do what comes naturally: we keep moving into the next.

It is no mistake that one of the shared human traits we were gifted with (if we choose to wield it) is the gift of change. And like the theory of chaos, the butterfly effect, which suggests when one thing happens repeatedly and then changes, it creates a string of unexpected results. Guaranteed chaos is the thing we seek, the mixing up of our bag of tricks so as to find a new shiny possibility among the known.

We are not alone. We are in good company; those who seek to blow it all up and start over. Sometimes through sheer will, through event or circumstance, or through no fault or action of our own, we find we must start over, build anew, to begin again. We go in search of a do-over to right a failure, to see if we can do what we could not do the first time, or perhaps just try on something so new as to change our entire perspective. Those who do as a way of being are the healthiest, wealthiest, most joyful and high performing among us, and demonstrate failure is not the end: failure is only the beginning.

And this is the simplest secret of all: we can rest, we can lay down our efforts for a time, we can do over, start over—again and again it seems—and we can re-charge our batteries using a different fuel source than before. We can because we must. This is how we find the courage and inspiration to move forward. The discipline it takes to be comfortable with a life spent in constant change and evolution is the discipline hallmark of every great leader and great achiever.

Consider the people of New York or New Orleans faced with giving up or beginning again. Think of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, whose mother gave him away for adoption, who’s first few big computer company efforts failed miserably, who went on to become one of the most successful corporate leaders of our time, most notably pioneering Pixar. Retiring August 26th of this year as Apples Chief Executive, it is widely reported he is dying from pancreatic cancer, and yet still he lived eight years and counting after his first diagnosis, which predicted his demise much earlier. It was during this period of time he negotiated the merger deal with Disney.

How about American two-time former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Olympic gold medalist, ordained Baptist minister, and author and successful entrepreneur—now father of a product dynasty that began with the Foreman Grill? George Foreman went from a young boy in Texas who never knew his biological father in the late 1940’s and self-admittedly surviving a troubled youth, to being not only one of boxing’s top 25 greatest fighters of all time, but one of the most financially and culturally successful entrepreneurs and business leaders ever. Many lives. Many do-overs.

Finally, consider former comedian Al Franken of famed Saturday Night Live lore, who went on to fight one of the most infamous Senate races for a Democratic Minnesota seat and win, who by all counts is one of the most effective federal legislators we have, and in this day and age, that’s saying something. Or last but not least, consider Colonel Sanders, who according to Success In didn’t start his chicken empire until he was 65.

The ‘how to” nugget here is how do any of us begin again, or for some, the first time finally after many years? We accept that change or reinvention or even invention late in life does not go against any rule, because the only rule we have when it comes to living fully is: live in disciplined, committed pursuit of renewal, re-charging, re-starts and re-invention experiences.