Two Keys to Reinventing Yourself

It comes down to self-disruption, and perception.

Dorie Clark is a fantastic thinker in the area of helping people get their message across in a very crowded marketplace. She is a member of our 100 Coaches organization, the author of Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You, and Stand Out, and an Adjunct Professor of Business Administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

A former presidential campaign spokeswoman and a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review and Forbes, Dorie shares with us two keys to reinventing yourself in this week’s interview.

Marshall: Dorie, one thing you’re noted for is your ability in the concept of reinvention, helping people reinvent themselves. I’m sure many of our listeners right now are going through various phases of life where maybe it’s time for them to reinvent themselves.

Both of us are good friends with Whitney Johnson. Whitney talks about the importance of looking at that S curve when you’ve got to move to the next place, position, or job. What advice do you have for people listening to us about the concept of reinvention?

Dorie: Thank you Marshall. There are a couple of key points that I’ll mention. The first is around this question of self-disruption, because fundamentally there’s two different kinds of reinvention. There’s the slow and steady what I call the “lowercase r” reinvention and then there’s “capital R” reinvention where there’s some kind of a break or a disjunct in people’s lives and unfortunately that’s often a lot more traumatic. For instance, early in my career I got laid off from my job as a journalist. I didn’t have a plan B at that time, so I had to figure it out very quickly.

So, what I like to encourage people to do is to embrace the “lowercase r” reinvention and day-to-day small changes we can make that enable us to be ready if unexpected changes happen to us. That can include things like taking online courses or MOOCs and building effective networks. Many people only socialize with or know people at their own companies, yet if you build broader networks, if something happens then you have places to go and people to turn to outside of your company. So, these small steps really matter when it come to reinvention.

The second piece that I’ll mention when it comes to reinvention is around the question of changing other people’s perceptions of you. Oftentimes how other people see us change really lags behind how we see ourselves changing.

For instance, you might be want to move in a new direction, but other people still see you the way you were a few years ago. In this case, it’s really useful to think about public things that you can do that in some ways create social proof or a demonstration of your new identity. Social media can be really helpful here because even if you start to do small things like sharing articles regularly about the new field or new job you’re interested in, it begins to remind people of what you are doing now and want to do in the future. Over time, it seeps in and changes how people see you and the opportunities they think of to send your way.

Marshall: You know, one of the best researched principles of psychology, cognitive dissonance theory, is about this idea. We all see people in a manner that is consistent with our previous stereotype. I love what you’re saying about breaking that stereotype, and also about realizing that it is hard to do. It’s not easy to break the stereotype. Once I have an image of you, I am going to look for that. I love your idea of creating these events that reinforce not only for you, but for me the other person, that you are reinventing, you’re doing new things, you’re not who you used to be. Thank you!

To learn more about Dorie, visit Build a following around your ideas, download your free 42-page Stand Out self-assessment to learn how.

Originally published on

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