Paying It Forward

Reinvention is my brand. There is a wealth of writing and advice out there about establishing your personal brand. There are even some contrarian positions on the concept including a recent post by someone with a pretty amazing personal brand (please, Laurie, say it ain’t so).

When I first set out down what was then a bumpy road, I never thought it would be such an interesting journey. Even more intriguing—now that I’ve been at this for more than a decade—occasionally others seek me out for advice on flying by the seat of your pants.

It’s odd to have others look at me and think that I know anything beyond my name. I guess that’s what happens when you finally figure a few things out along the way.

While I don’t consider myself an expert, what I’ve been able to carve out has been accomplished the old-fashioned way, mainly by trial and error. Want to publish your own book? I can show you how because I’ve done it and made the mistakes so you don’t need to. When I tell you to “fake it ‘til you make it,” well I’m giving you the same advice someone else gave me back in the day.

Mentors can play an integral role in the reinvention process. I know a few special souls who have helped me immeasurably. I’ve never had a formal mentoring relationship, but there have been key individuals who were placed in my path at strategic times over the past number of years. Because of them I learned some patience (still working on that one), professionalism, and some other essential qualities. I learned from one of my most important mentors to “not let the bastards see you sweat.” He was a master at this and I rarely ever saw this special person wilt under pressure and boy did he have to push through some battles when we worked together.

One other key element I’ve learned is very important important in promoting growth along the journey of innovation and reinvention is that of validation. From time to time over the course of the past six to seven years, especially, I’ve had people tell me that I was doing well and they “caught me doing good.”

Too often, all we ever get from others is criticism, or people projecting their own shortcomings and inadequacies onto us. Well, you get that from the lesser types, anyways.

Because of these important examples, and also, a handful of people that are members of my tribe who have my back, I’m now in a place where others seek out my advice. It’s really a bit daunting and I’m not really sure why they think I can offer them something of substance. However, when they ask, I’m ready to give it the old college try.

Just last week, I had lunch with someone who contacted me via Linkedin back in early April.  She was a successful professional living half a continent away who was interested in my thoughts and observations about moving to Maine. She had a grown daughter living in greater-Portland and more important, a new granddaughter. Both she and her husband are considering making the 2,000 mile move east to be closer to their kin.

We had an enjoyable lunch and I shared a few tips, some ideas, and offered to do what I could to connect her with some of my network when she returned in November. She thanked me for my time.

While I don’t think I offered her any new wisdom or some new way of mitigating risk, I did share some tried and true tips that have worked for me.

When I was driving back home to wrap up my day, I thought about lunch and my conversation with Barbara. I thought back over my own journey and the struggles I had and the ones that you continue to wage as you move ahead. I also thought of the many victories and successes and how I’ve learned some important protocols for moving things forward.

I now realize that part of my learning from others and an obligation that I now have is that I need to pay it forward and share what I’ve learned with others. Sometimes it’s as simple as standing on the sidelines and cheering them on, offering others some needed encouragement.