During a recent podcast with Malcolm Gladwell, we spent some time discussing the longevity of musician Paul Simon’s career. Not just his ability to continue creating music after more than 50 years on the scene, but the relevancy that keeps fans and industry elites hanging on for every new release.
Some mainly know Paul as half of the iconic duo Simon & Garfunkel, but he has also been memorialized in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. He won his first Grammy in 1968 but packed Central Park with an estimated 600,000 fans for a solo concert in 1991. That was two decades after their penultimate public performance of Simon & Garfunkel, and his relevance on the music scene and pop culture in general is just as strong—if not stronger—today.
That got me thinking about the keys to long-term relevancy and performance for professionals in any field.
How do some people continue producing work of the highest quality for 50 years or longer while others reach burnout after just a decade or two? Why are some considered has-beens while others are respected by the upcoming generations until they hit the grave?
What can people like you and I do to preserve our relevancy and continue performing at a high level for decades to come? I believe the answer lies in something Malcolm hit on in our podcast: the foresight and willingness to continue growing through reinvention.
The Magic of Self-Reinvention
When you start talking about reinvention, it sounds a lot like deliberate growth. You look at where you are today and decide that you want to transform into something completely different for the future. To make that happen, you must change the way you do things today.
After all, your actions and choices today are the biggest determinant for what you will experience next year or even 10 years out. If you want to look different, sound different, feel different in the future, you have to act different today.
When you read biographies for some of the most noteworthy figures in music, sports, theater, or even business, you can often highlight moments of great change. Those changes produce rapid personal growth, which in turn pushes someone already doing great things in a new direction. That new direction is where the reinvention takes place.
Tiny Steps in Unknown Directions
We’ve all heard that change occurs beyond the comfort zone but stop for a moment and think about what that really means. When you decide to push yourself just a little beyond what feels comfortable today, and you do it repeatedly, your comfort zone expands.
You will get comfortable doing something that felt foreign or scary just days or months before. That’s when you push just a little beyond that new comfort zone. And that cycle of pushing and adapting continues until you wake up one day and realize how far you have come from your starting point.
Those little steps in new directions are what make the greats even greater. They’re what will help you stand out from everyone else striving to do whatever it is you want to do with your life.
When is the Right Time to Reinvent Yourself?
During my podcast with Malcolm, we mentioned that you don’t reinvent yourself out of desperation. If your only goal is to maintain relevancy or stay in the game, it’s not going to come off as a genuine effort. The time to reinvent is when you feel in your heart that what you’re doing right now isn’t the end game for you.
You do it while you’re riding the high of a bestselling book or even the moment you hit publish on your first self-published book. Do it when you’re leading your team in sales but know that what you do at home on the weekends is really your passion. Reinvent when you can’t get that song out of your head and it drives you to buy a guitar.
Yes, buy that guitar on impulse even if your day job is phone sales or marketing. Go back to your childhood days of playing the piano or pull that easel out of the basement and buy fresh paints. Enter the contest that you just know you could win if you only had the time to produce for yourself.
Then make the time. Because there is no comfortable time to get uncomfortable.
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