Mixing & Remixing: On Personal Identity and Reinvention
The hardest part of leaving a job/role/company: What do you tell people you do when you meet someone at a party? Work is a very big part of your identity.
In the Netflix Sci Fi series “Tribes of Europa”, one of the main antagonists was the vicious Crow warrior tribe. In the making of a Crow warrior, the candidates. fight to death. The winner has a ceremony where a new name is chosen. Your old name can never be spoken aloud again or you will be executed. I don’t think you need to go this far but sometimes this is the only way you can jumpstart into your new life. It’s like the girlfriend you broke up with. Usually not a good idea to see her all the time afterwards. Makes it hard to move on.
After you leave your company and role, it’s important to step away and take some time off if you can. Go far away from the work friends, clients, partners and business network & community you normally spend your time with. “New country and city” far away. As my friend the writer Polina Pompliano wrote: “That’s why leaving your home country for a few days or weeks can act as a reset, allowing you to get a more wide view of the world beyond the rigid mental walls you’ve built over the years.”
Go hang out with new people. Read some new books. Take some classes. New Inputs are everything. And the data that will help you form new ideas and opinions. This break will help you gain a new perspective. Take the time if you can.
Also it’s key from the get go that you don’t identify too closely with your occupation, your city, your state, your politics or religion. Or at minimum be more conscious of it. Paraphrasing Naval, you need to ”Keep your identity small”.This way you don’t build up the biases that keep your brain in a mental straight jacket. It allows you to be more mentally flexible.
It’s scary and goes against our own instincts that have been deeply instilled in us for millenia. We are wired to identify with a tribe and to distrust change. But with the right mental framework, steps and a little imagination and luck, it can be manageable and prevent us from being stuck in the past whether that is an identity or relationship. Our occupations, especially so in America are a strong identity and a deep (usually abusive & dysfunctional) relationship.
I think it would be a personal failure on my part if I only just jumped back into doing Venture capital after a long break. I love the industry and the business. It will definitely be some part of my personal skill portfolio & practice. But as a creative individual, I would hope I would be evolving further.
I should be mixing in new skills or knowledge during this sabbatical. Maybe I should just go do something that builds on top of my old startup, tech executive and Venture investor skill sets by taking this into a completely new region or market. Or maybe I will even go to a completely new industry or role. I guess we will see. This journey of discovery has definitely been fun so far.
“Children are caterpillars and adults are butterflies. No butterfly ever remembers what it felt like being a caterpillar.”― Cornelia Funke