Note: You may have noticed the newsletter is a little late this week. That’s because I spent the past few days at Spark Camp
, my favorite gathering of any conference or convening ever. I do mean … ever. The Spark Camp founding team
— Amy, Andy, Matt & Amanda — are truly inspired and inspiring human beings. They bring phenomenal people together on a periodic, invite-only basis to form human connections unlike anything I have seen elsewhere. The people they bring exude light, hope and insatiable curiosity. Each group is unique, and each gathering is specially made for that
group in that
moment. I have watched these four people reinvent themselves and rise in their careers, and I’ve been so impressed with their humility, intellect and indomitable spirit. I’m so grateful for the experience, and I look forward to injecting as much of it as I can in the upcoming newsletters. Thanks for your patience!
This week, I had the privilege of spending hours on end with incredibly accomplished people. Some of them came from extraordinary privilege and others did not. I sat and listened as they described how they came to be where they are in their lives. I was like a sponge that could never be saturated. They told me about pivots, failures, ups, and downs. They told me about degrees they got, and degrees they thought they needed but later realized they didn’t need at all. They told me about their passions and how they discovered their mission in life.
Each of them had reinvented themselves numerous times, breaking out of the box constructed around them only to grow bigger and more knowledgeable with each new identity. Rather than be trusted with less responsibility or getting demoted for turning their lives upside-down and inside-out, they were bestowed with even greater responsibility and even more awe-inspiring titles.
They didn’t care about any of that though. Titles were just labels other people insisted they wear. Instead, they cared about how what they had learned in the past could be applied to problems they wanted to solve now or in the future. They enjoyed talking about intricate problems — puzzles of science and humanity that had yet to be solved. They found particular pleasure in hearing about other people’s experiences too. They were sponges just like me, or, better yet, I was inspired to be a sponge just by being around them.
There was one thing these people shared in common though — one thing besides wanting to soak up everything their senses would allow. Every single one of the people I spent time with this week was remarkably, infectiously, and unbelievably optimistic. They believed in themselves and in others and were saddened when they encountered others who didn’t believe in themselves. These champions of reinvention couldn’t possibly understand how someone could fail to see their own potential to be anything they wanted to be.
When I asked one person who was particularly highly-placed within their organization what their secret to reinvention was (and by extension professional advancement), they stared at me for a second as if I was silly for not knowing. Eventually, they answered: “You need to have an insatiable hunger for the life that you want to live,” they said. “When I am on my death bed, I want to look at my life and say, “Wow! I can’t believe that was my life!”
I’ve heard meany “death bed” answers before, but this one struck me between the eyes, because I didn’t ask “What do you want to think about your life when you die?” I specifically asked, “What is your secret to reinvention?”
Immediately, every assumption I had about what I should do, what I need to do, where I should go and what I should become was blown to pieces. The moment was a bit like realizing I had been in a tiny room with the windows drawn all of my life and someone had blown all of the curtains back to reveal the prison bars of my own mind.
Reinventing yourself isn’t about getting more degrees, waiting for someone to come along and give you the opportunities you want, or giving up in the face of seemingly impossible odds. It’s not about reading the right books, going to the right dinner parties or conferences, or knowing the right people. It’s about craving what you want for your life so deeply you can’t help but go after it. It’s about believing fully that you can be what you set out to be, and that what you hunger for in your life is not only possible but infinitely worth having.