“The art of reinvention will be the most critical skill of this century.” — Yuval Noah Harari
The me you know from today is not the same me you knew from 6 months ago. For as long as I can remember, I would say the following cheesy sentence:
“The only constant in my life is my wife.”
Whether you met me in Canada 2 years ago, in Cambodia 1 year and a half ago, in Spain a year ago, or in India 6 months ago — you don’t know the me from today.
This reiterates my saying from above. I change. I adapt. I reinvent. For better or worse, my wife has had at least 10 “different husbands” during the 14 years we’ve been together.
Most people who know me now know me as a writer. Truth is, I’ve only been writing for 12 months. And I never even aimed to write. Some people know me as a photographer, some people know me as a game developer, and some people know me as a software engineer.
The things I end up doing are all “accidents”. They happen as a result of me willing to take on new challenges as frequently as I can.
By now you might think that I come either from a middle class or higher class family, living in a nice urban area. Maybe you think I was raised by a family that encouraged education and high achievement.
You would be wrong.
I grew up in a very poor family with my three brothers, raised by a single mom in a farm town in rural Canada with 10,000-inhabitants. Except for me, no one in my family, for at least 3 generations, even finished high school.
You may think I’m bashing my family here but you’d be missing the point. They may not have the highest education but in some ways, they are smarter than most of us that have this piece of paper we’re so proud of having.
I’d go so far as to say they were smarter than me for dropping out so early. I only realized that dropping out of school was one of the greatest decisions I could have made back in my second year of University.
During these two extra years when my friends were being told what to do in school, I joined a startup as employee #1, built a game backend from scratch (with zero experience), grew the company to 23 people, and we made 3 million dollars on our first game. So many great lessons were learned from the real-world experience! The knowledge my friends learned is already irrelevant.
Anyway, one of my brothers held all the athletics school records for many years, he was the smartest chess player there was, and he was a master at drawing — three insanely different skills! He beat me at every single thing we competed in. Yet he sucked in school (okay, I beat him there).
That led him to think there was something wrong with him, which led to lower confidence. He lost his drive for many years, yet he had, by far, the highest potential of anyone at the school, even if he had the lowest grades.
Do you see something wrong here?
My brother could have become a great polymath but today’s society cast him away. I’m being overly dramatic but you know there’s truth to it. During the Renaissance, he would have been a genius.
Now compare that to me. I was the most average kid there was. I had okay grades. I wasn’t the best at anything, except for spending a shit-ton of time playing video games on the couch (man I loved the Gameboy Advance!). I was such a “disgrace” that that same brother once told me, when I was 15 years old, the following sentence:
“You’ll never do anything in life.” — my brother
Phew. Harsh thing to say to your brother. Or anyone, really. I could have cried. I could have fought back. I could have listened to him and agreed with him.
But even back then, I had a superpower not many have: I like to prove people wrong about myself. You tell me I will never be able to dance Salsa? BAM! 30 days later I’ve mastered all the basics.
It turns out, this very same sentence above could be the catalyst to what I’ve become today.
One thing I have not mentioned yet is that by growing up in a poor family, my mom had this mentality that I should be allowed to be whatever I want to be. If that didn’t come through school, that was completely fine. And because she barely had enough money to feed us or give us a rooftop, she couldn’t give us all the luxury other kids would have.
It turns out that was one of the best things that could have happened to my childhood life. Because she couldn’t give us anything outside our basic needs, she encouraged us to go work on nearby farms, earn money, and get what we wanted.
I learned the value of hard work when I was only 8 years old. To get what you want in life, you have to work for it. In the real world, things don’t come to you naturally.
And that’s where the education system and modern day parenting fall short. Secretly, my mom was a genius. I read somewhere recently that we lose all our curiosity by the age of 12.
12 years old!
I’m looking back and it’s true. As soon as we start school, we are fed the exact material we should be using to learn. We never have any decisions to take. Most parents give a ton of gifts to their children and they grow up expecting that gifts will come to them as they grow older.
I never lost that curiosity thanks to my mom.
Now, back to 15-year-old me.
By that time, I was working in a workshop where we were putting flyers in bags to be distributed in Montreal, the big city. I hated the idea of big cities so much at the time. How have times changed!
Anyway, I was pretty good at it. I was paid by productivity, just like on the farm. But I wasn’t the best. I bet you can guess who was the best.
Right, my brother. He was simply always the best.
At the age of 16, now that I had something to prove to him, I worked harder for a promotion. I got a small promotion for 6 months until I was then promoted as the manager of the whole workshop. There were about 15 employees there. I was the youngest, and I was managing people 3 to 4 times my age!
But more importantly, who was I managing? That’s right, my brother!
Back in school, I wasn’t a popular kid and barely had any friends. I’d even say that I was pretty dumb. I didn’t have the highest confidence and my biggest wish was just to be a normal kid, which I kind of managed to do. Nothing stood out about me, I was just an average kid at best.
Yet after my brother’s comment and my promotions, I started gaining confidence. I was even nominated for the title of “personality of the year” that year.
That was my first reinvention.
Shortly after, I met my wife in the strawberry fields where I was working. It’s a long story, but by that time I was more confident, I owned a car (that I bought by myself) and was the best employee there was (out of about 80). Plus, working in the fields, I was tanned, had lighter hair and looked like a surfer boy.
When she worked next to me for the first time, before knowing her, I said this very first sentence, which somehow got me her eternal love:
“Do you always fill your baskets like that?”
That was the first time I ever gave productivity advice to someone, and that brought me eternal love!
Being with her changed me. I was a much smarter and more caring person. She was, by far, the smartest person I had ever met. You are, after all, the average of the people you spend the most time with.
And that was my second reinvention.
In college after, I hung out mostly with two people, the smartest guy in the class and the most sociable guy in the class. I became a lot smarter and a lot more social during that time. But I was still a shy introvert.
Still, the me you knew from when I started college and the me you knew from after I graduated are quite different people.
In essence, that was my third reinvention.
That reinvention pattern kept emerging throughout my life. As a result, and as a downside, I have not been able to maintain strong relationships (except with my mom, 2 of my brothers, and my wife). Everyone from my past 3 years and beyond is “gone”. I can’t relate as much anymore. They know a different me.
A lot of my old friends might say that I’ve been a good friend to them, but the truth is, I’m a terrible friend. I move on too quickly. Same with jobs. I get bored too easily.
When I stop learning and things stagnate, I move on. Since my brother told me I’ll never do anything in life, I’ve always hated comfort. If asked who my worst enemy is, I’d likely say comfort is.
I’ve traveled to 50 countries and lived in 5. I’ve worked in at least 10 different fields throughout my life. I jump from one thing to the next. I started 7 businesses. I work on at least 20 of my own projects every year. I finish almost nothing. That one’s not a positive thing.
On the one hand, I could be considered a failure. On the other hand, I’m a massive success. Some people think I’m wasting my time working on things that lead nowhere and doesn’t bring me enough stability. Other people want to model their life after me.
Well, first of all, there’s room for many types of people in this world. It’s okay if you’re not a starter like I am and you prefer more stability. Heck, I need people like you to carry on my unfinished projects and bring them to the next level! Starting shit without following through is not the smartest thing…
But one thing everyone should realize is this:
“The art of reinvention will be the most critical skill of this century.” — Yuval Noah Harari
The word reinvention itself ultimately ends up being summed up by three of the most important skills to learn now: adaptability, taking action, and learning to learn.
Now, of course, I agree with this since it has basically governed the last 14 years of my life, and even more so in the past 16 months, when I made the most important decision of my life (in hindsight): I decided to learn 3 new skills every month, working different areas of my brain.
Little did I know how much that would have impacted my life.
I met the most incredible people, I’m healthier, wealthier, and happier. That, combined with my nomadic lifestyle (I move to a new country every 3 months or so), makes it so I have to constantly adapt to new environments. I’m meeting people from various walks of life and I learn from them.
I am, ultimately, the result of the environment I live in. I breed positivity and energy. I’ve got the most intense amount of energy I’ve ever had and everyone tells me, both around me and online.
And when my energy and motivation drops. I move on.
My point can be summed up in the following quote:
“To keep up with the world of 2050, you will need to do more than merely invent new ideas and products, but above all, reinvent yourself again and again.” — Yuval Noah Harari
While we might think things are evolving at a rapid pace, it’s nothing compared to what’s to come. An economic crash will be nothing compared to the onslaught of rapid changes that are coming.
A friend of mine was telling me how he’s happy to be doing good money now and living in a cheap country so he can save up for when the next financial crash hits. Definitely not a bad idea. But this is not enough.
A financial crash is inevitable. We’ve seen that happen throughout history. But what’s about to come, no one can exactly predict.
“If somebody describes the world of the mid-21st century to you and it doesn’t sound like science fiction, it is certainly false.” — Yuval Noah Harari
There’s no doubt in my mind that “machines” will be better programmers, writers or photographers than I am. Whatever skills I use to make money today are likely to be replaced by a more capable “machine”.
And if you think your hard skills are not replaceable, think again.
The only surefire way to thrive in this ever-changing world is to learn the best learning principles, take action, adapt to new situations, and just keep learning new skills all the time. These principles are at the core of reinvention.
And you know the worst part?
No one can guide you through this. Certainly not the current education system. Maybe your parents, but they’re likely as clueless as you are. Many things will be out of your control, but remember that you have two choices: adapt to your environment or be left behind.
I bet you know which one’s best.
Always remember this:
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” — Chinese proverb
If you believe in reinvention, don’t wait up. Evolution won’t wait for you. It never has.
Ask yourself :
Who are you?
Who do you know you can be?
How you can you reinvent yourself and get there?
Answer these questions and then act. Now. It won’t happen on its own. If you want to change, if you want to stay relevant in the years to come, you gotta act fast, and smartly. Beat the evolution to its race!
You can do this!