Managing Your Career: The Reinvented Life

You mess up, or maybe don’t mess up but things don’t quite work out, you get fired or get laid off, and you end up down in the dumps thinking you’ll never get another chance.

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

Newt Gingrich - Image via Wikipedi

Cheer up; there are people out there reinventing themselves in ways that make you look like a saint. And if they can do it, so can you.

Newt Gingrich, the leader of the moment in the campaign for the GOP presidential nomination and the channeler of family values and wholesome responsibility, is one reinvented person that comes immediately to mind. But Gingrich – thrice married, admitted adulterer, deadbeat dad, writer of 22 bounced checks, recipient of a House of Representatives sanction for ethics violations – has lots of public company.

Henry Blodgett (part of a $200M fine that Merrill Lynch paid for promoting equities it internally described as “a piece of crap“) has reinvented himself as the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of the Business Insider and is alive and apparently doing well. As part of the Merrill Lynch issue Blodget agreed to a permanent ban from the securities industry and paid a $2 million fine plus a $2 million disgorgement.

Eliot Spitzer, formerly Governor of New York State before being snared as a client in a crossing-state-lines  prostitution ring, works as a news analysts and commentator, and has hosted his own TV show.

What’s the point?

Life goes on. People screw up. The officials in China deemed responsible for mishandled the SARS outbreak were fired and banished from the Communist Party. No rebound or recovery in sight.

In the USA, people who screw up become TV figures or historians for Fannie Mae. They even run for President. (As one colleague from China remarked regarding Spitzer’s very public return, “Has he no shame?”)

Recognize that whatever you did or didn’t do likely pales in comparison to people who have blown up very publicly and managed to recover. It doen’t mean you have to lie or intentionally deceive. As an executive coach I’d hope that people have some enduring humility and humbleness regarding their foibles. Just realize you don’t have to dwell with mishaps and things you’d like to do over forever.

The public has a short term memory even if you don’t; six months in many cases will cause yesterday’s gossip to be forgotten news. Some of the folks who have reinvented themselves probably have a short term memory has well.

So reinvent yourself and cut yourself some slack for whatever failings you think you’ve had. It’s OK; just give them hell the next time around.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.
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