I think people fear reinvention. We prefer the devil we know even if parts of that preference mean we might be less happy or less able to realise our most prized ambitions. Reinvention requires work, insecurity, all the uncomfortable sensations and thoughts you experience when you have to start all over again.
And yet it’s one of the greatest keys to success. Look at the careers of obvious serial reinventors, such as Bowie, Jagger or Madonna. But then look at the people who were seen in one pigeonhole and then broke out of it to become even more brilliant in another one.
There’s Peter Jackson, whose early films looked like this:
Or The Evil Dead’s Sam Raimi, who went on to direct slightly more mainstream fare such as this:
What about Steve Jobs? From tech whiz to movie mogul. Alan Sugar? Businessman to football chairman to TV star. Justin Timberlake? Boyband twat to credible musician and actor. Robin Williams? Mork to Oscar-winner etc.
It’s entirely understandable that making the decision to reinvent puts the willies up some people, but when you consider how well it can work out and how exciting it can be, the upsides can often outweigh the downs. High-flying women who want to be mums, then businesswomen etc; creatives who go into management; people who leave the rat race to sell organic cheese… You don’t have to put on a conical bra and have sex with Vanilla Ice. You can just go off in a different direction and see if you like it.
A while ago I did a career course with an ex-CD called Patrick Collister. He showed us a graph that explained how the most successful people actually leave their jobs when they are at their peak then go on to find another. I suppose that’s because it puts you in the strongest position for a move (as opposed to waiting till you’ve spent a few years on the down slope), but I think it’s also because you feel in control of your life. If you wait until you’ve failed then you’ll feel as if circumstances have forced you into being someone you don’t want to be. If you make the decision then you empower yourself.
So whatever you’re doing now, there are many other options, including every other way of spending your time in the universe (not including certain athletic pursuits that may have been rendered impossibly by your age or the way you have hitherto treated your body).