My friend is a secret agent. I shouldn’t even be telling you, but I saw him last night for the first time in about a year.
“Where have you been?” I asked.
“Africa,” he said
He was there helping train peaceful nations to defend themselves. Teaching them medical skills for staying alive. He tells me a story of saving a young child’s life and doing everything he could for another but it was too late.
“Where are you going next?” I asked. He told me about a government training program in the mountains. “The curriculum is classified so I don’t know exactly what they’ll have me do, but it’ll involve high altitude sleep deprivation, hand-to-hand combat, and torture.”
This is something he’s looking forward to. He’s on the waitlist.
Every time I see him, I’m amazed at his transformation. 10 years ago we were roommates in college, scrounging for quarters and eating Digiorno pizzas, trying to find ourselves in a marijuana haze. When we couldn’t, we’d settle on playing guitar on the front porch. Just a couple of hang-a-rounds. Aimless.
Life takes too long until it’s flown by. And a lot can happen in between. Addiction. Violence. The general malaise many of us never outrun. Some people get broken, don't get fixed. And that’s that.
But many others transform. They rise from the ashes. They realign and reinvent. And if you knew my friend then and saw him today you’d see an amazing example of reinvention.
He’s the same guy in many ways. Drinking a beer, making me laugh. But where is he now versus where he was then couldn’t be more different. He was on a doomed path, but somehow, someway, changed his direction. He managed to swim against the odds and not be another sad statistic.
“How’d you do it?” I asked. “How did you reinvent yourself?”
He didn’t know the answer, but I do.
How To Reinvent Yourself Today
Realize The Path You’re On
My friend saw the path he was on was leading somewhere he didn’t want to end up. He knew if he kept walking in the same direction, he'd fall off a cliff.
It doesn’t matter if you know exactly where you want to go right now. Just look at your feet. Where are they taking you today? If the finish line isn’t one you want to cross say, “Enough ready!” and stop walking. Even if you don't know where to go yet. Just see what it feels like to stop walking. Slow and reflect.
Tony Robbins calls this The Dickens Process. Think of a limiting belief (or a behavior/path) and ask yourself, “What has this cost me in the past, what is it costing me now? And, if I stay on this path what will it cost me and the people I care about 3, 5, 10 years from now? Am I really going to die some grouchy, lonely old man in a Christmas story?"
Get In Touch With Your Curiosity
Curiosity is cancer to complacency. It spreads and attacks the parts of your brain stuck on autopilot. Curiosity isn’t a use-it-lose-it practice, but it does collect dust. The longer you go without using it the more effort it takes to let it shine. If it's been a while since you've practiced curiosity, grab a shovel and start digging for it.
You don’t have to be interested at first. Just curious. Pull the threads of what catches your eye, makes you stop and wonder.
Curiosity leads to interest. Interest leads to habit. Habit leads to reinvention.
Do Something New Today
I know people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who feel stuck. Maybe they can’t reinvent themselves into secret agents but everyone can do something new today. Pick up a paintbrush. Put down the remote. Take the long way home. Just shock your system with something to remind yourself what it feels like to be spontaneous.
It doesn’t even have to be “personal development” new. Maybe instead of waking up 5 Am to write down your goals you sleep in and dream a little longer. Maybe you call in sick to work and visit part of the city you’ve never seen before. I don’t know, go talk to a stranger.
It doesn’t really matter what you do. Just go.
Don’t Think So Much
There’s too much positive thinking porn out there. Too many people waiting for floods of positivity like superstitious villagers doing a rain dance when they should be digging a well.
Remember these three words: Inspiration follows action. You have to move to create movement in your life. You have to be the force that makes the change. It happens when you get out of your head and into the world.
Don’t be the person who says, “I’m thinking of starting this.” Just show us what you started. If you tell someone you want to be a designer, the next sentence out of your mouth should be, “Here’s what I’ve designed so far.”
“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than think your way into a new way of acting.” -Jerry Sternin.
Take Small Steps
I’m not going to tell you the old cliche. I won’t do it. I won’t sit here and type, “Every journey starts with a small step.”
Ugh. I hate fortune cookie advice.
But remember that cliches earn that status because they are true. Progress compounds. My friend didn’t go from glossy-eyed hang-around to James Bond overnight. And reinvention isn’t just about 180-degree transformations.
Most people don’t need, nor want, total life makeover. Most of us just want to be a little more interested and a little more interesting. 1% happier each day. Small changes spark big ideas. Reinvention is getting unstuck from the everydayness of life and being onto something.
And if you’re reading this and you do want to fully reinvent yourself the steps are the same. Do a little bit each day. Challenge complacency. Be curious. Take action.
Because a year from now you could be dreading Monday morning or you could be on our way to becoming a secret agent.