Reinvention: The American Way

Posted on January 2, 2013 by Marian Salzman

[Originally posted on]

Reboots are the new New Year’s resolutions. And without question, the second decade of the 21st century will be the era of the reboot. The years from 2000 to 2010 saw cataclysmic shifts in everything from digital communication to the state of the economy to beliefs in American invulnerability. As we begin 2013, we are still nursing a collective hangover because of it and feeling a lingering sense that none of the old ways of living is going to work anymore.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said that there are no second acts in American life. But now, about a century later, the opposite is true. There’s no American life without a second act—and there’s usually a third or a fourth as well. Virtually no one expects to work for one company or in one capacity his or her whole life anymore, and the people who truly thrive in today’s shape-shifting environment are those who think at least a few steps ahead. It’s not just an evolution. It’s often also a complete unplugging and starting over.

At my agency, Havas PR North America, we help folks figure out how and where and why to stage their next act by developing their Personal Branding Idea, the big bold one. Our keys to helping someone truly know himself or herself is contained in four strands of input: profession, passion, purpose and place. In aggregate, these four 4 P’s will tell them the next step.

For many Americans, that means choosing to be one’s own boss. While the financial upheavals of the past few years—not to mention the demise or near demise of entire industries—have forced a lot of people into freelance life, many who have made that involuntary restart are discovering that there’s a certain glamour in working free.

So many of those who have rebooted have moved into a helping role, especially coaching. Others have become late-life entrepreneurs. What’s promising is the new role of a sabbatical as not just a time-out but also a bridge from now to next.

I recently got an email that gave a whole new meaning to “rebooting.” It was sent by Christina Daves, who had owned and run a retail store for 10 years before making the hard decision to sell her share to her business partner and retire in 2009 to be a stay-at-home mom to her preteen sons.

But about a year later, her entrepreneurial side came racing back. She broke her foot and ended up in a “big, awful black medical boot” the day before she was going to New York City. Worried about the ugly boot in a fashion capital, she searched online for something to dress up the boot but found nothing. And then she realized she’d stumbled onto a new niche market in the medical industry.

So she launched CastMedic Designs, she says, “to help the injured look and heal their best and experience ‘the Healing Power of Fashion!’” She was quickly named one of 2012’s Leading Moms in Business by StartupNation and was named “Steve’s Top Inventor” on the syndicated “Steve Harvey” show this year; she received $20,000 in seed money to grow her line.

While compiling information for Havas PR’s annual American audit of mind and mood, I reached out to others who have rebooted into a better brand and—more important—better lives. One of my most interesting responses came from radio personality JayBeau Jones, who last year made the decision to reboot his life.

After 30 years of programming radio, he gave up a $175,000-a-year job as an employee of a big broadcast company to reinvent himself as a multi-hyphenate media brand of his own. He told me that he rebooted, downsized his life and wrote a book, working from his apartment. Although his various means of income—as an author and speaker, a disc jockey on Sirius XM, voiceover talent, and Facebook page manager for other authors—don’t add up to as much as his old salary, it’s worth it, he says, because “my stress is much, much lower now working for myself.”

In his case, as with many others, the professional reboot went along with a personal reorganization of priorities. It’s the same reason people are relocating to smaller communities in order to live life at a simpler, slower pace. They’re finding tertiary markets where costs are lower and where they can rebrand themselves with a bolder emphasis on the life side of their life-work balance. Jones put it well: “Once we know that we are not our ‘income,’ ‘jobs’ or ‘things,’ our true self emerges, creating confidence and clarity.”


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