I always love the period after Labor Day, which heralds the approach of the holiday season and reminds me to get seriously busy on whatever I’ve set my sights on accomplishing by the end of the year. This year, I am especially motivated, being once again in the process of reinventing and “rebranding” myself, and my son has suggested that I share the experience so others can do the same. In fact until I began this blog I never even counted all the times I had gone through the process — but when I did I discovered this is actually the tenth time in my career that I have repositioned my expertise and immersed myself in an industry with which I had no prior experience but found fascinating. And by year’s end, I hope to have absorbed enough information to have formulated a plan for the next, and hopefully, most exciting chapter in my ever-evolving cycle of challenges.
So how, exactly, does this occur? It begins when some subject you encounter sparks intense activity in your brain, acting like a sort of neurotransmitter. I have no idea why this happens, but I know when it does. Something — perhaps something I’ve seen or read, or some topic of conversation — suddenly just ‘rings my bell’, making me eager to learn more about it. I simply can’t wait to understand how it works and how I can perhaps find some way to turn it into an entrepreneurial opportunity or repositioning of an old-line company. And before I know it, I have reinvented myself by reinvesting my energies and resources in an entirely new professional role on an unfamiliar stage, sometimes managing to achieve a long and successful run, sometimes not, but always adding another “notch” to my resume in the process.
So uncharacteristically, I’d like to briefly count the ways I’ve gone about such transformations for those readers who might be interested in a brief rundown, which isn’t intended as self-promotion, but rather as an illustration of how one can constantly reinvent oneself. (And if you’re not, you can simply skip this part and move on to the “advice” further on):
As the son of a fisherman with no particular “connections” in the business world, I started out at Ralston Purina as a complete novice, but was soon being mentored by the vice chairman, and for the next ten years was on a “fast track” of spending six months in every division, working with the CEO, and learning myriad aspects of how a large conglomerates work. This incredible and invaluable experience led to such self-reinventions as:
- learning the bird seed business as general manager of BayMor in Cressona, Pa. (having attended a bird food convention in Kansas City, observed the how the ‘big players’ in the industry commanded attention, and decided to become one myself, eventually learning everything you can imagine about a wild bird or racing pigeon, which still cracks me up when I think about it);
- creating a food service distribution business PacificBasin Foods/FreshConnection with a unique new model to lower prices;
- becoming a turnaround specialist, achieving successful results with three major companies — Bunzl, Galletti Bros, Meridian Products;
- developing expertise in organic foods, both as CEO of The New Organics Company and subsequently as a board member and chairman of The Organic Center;
- co-founding the Association of Family Farms;
- becoming a natural pet food entrepreneur as cofounder and CEO of Natural Pet Nutrition (which was sold to Nestlé and became Pet Promise, the leader in natural pet food sales);
- turning myself into a recycling expert as CEO of Code Blue and Greenopolis, as well as a consultant for Waste Management and for ReCommunity/Organix/Universal Lubricants.
I’ve begun to immerse myself in the field of biotechnology for human health and wellness — that is, to create a world that doesn’t need doctors or hospitals and that allows all of us to enjoy our full genetic potential. That’s an intoxicating prospect, and one that I’m convinced from my initial consultations with leaders of this revolutionary new (yet old) industry in San Diego can be achieved — a real ‘mind blower’ that I find so exciting I can hardly sleep. So I’m busy reinventing myself yet again, and with the encouragement of my son Nick have decided that my next blogs will be devoted to helping readers who may feel like their career is in a rut or who just would like to embark on new professional journeys to do likewise. To that end, I’ve devised seven questions, the answers to which will serve to facilitate the process:
1). How would you like to reinvent yourself? Are you following your passion, and why?
2.) What would your friends and family say you are known for today?
3.) Are there any obstacles associated with your present role that are keeping you from reinventing yourself, and how can you circumvent them?
4.) Can you articulate your vision (e. g.. “creating a world where people can live up to their full genetic potential”)?
5.) Do you know what ‘sand box’ you’d like to play in once you’ve reinvented yourself? (e. g., biotech, sustainability, etc.)
6.) What steps can you take to begin re-branding yourself? (Reading up on a particular subject, or perhaps starting a blog?)
7.) How can you best immerse yourself in your new field of endeavor (e .g., I am in the process of moving from L.A. to San Diego, the “Silicon Valley” of the medical biotechnology industry).
In upcoming blogs, I’ll be offering guidance in answering these questions to assist you in reinventing yourself — because the truth is, you can master a new discipline or field of endeavor a lot faster than you think, if you simply dedicate yourself to doing so and have the proper orientation. All you really need is sufficient fascination with something to spark your determination to make yourself “the” expert in it.