The 3 Takeaways from My Gap Year

Reinventing your life is not as easy as it seems. You have many lessons to learn before.

Photo by Suganth on Unsplash

At 48 my professional life harshly stopped, and I took a gap year to rearrange ideas, collect up the pieces of my private life, and afterward reinvent myself. That year just elapsed and it’s game time, now.

As you can imagine, it was hard and regenerating at the same time. I didn’t start it in a healthy mood, but things evolved, and now I’m ready to think about my future again.

I learned hundredths of lessons.

But I want to highlight the three major takeaways from that special year.

1. Reinventing yourself is not easy

Nowadays we talk a lot about reinventing our life. We see opportunities, we have examples, we have the Web, we have dreams. There is Altucher saying that you can reinvent yourself (I’m definitely one his fans). We think that with the appropriate mix of courage and consistency we can do it.

The reality is that there is a legacy. There is the wrong you. There is the wrong environment. There is the life in which you invested so much till now. There are persons.

What you are now has deep roots in your needs, your experience, some bad habits, and so on. If you want to change your life, it’s because the wrong you led you there. Circumstances did their part, but you had a role. You are shaped that way, now. You have to abandon the old you.

You have to unlearn a full stack of labels, preferences, fears, instincts, behaviors that have nothing to do with your true self, with what you want to become, with the reality around you. Stuff that prevents you from seeing what matters, that continues to drive you in the wrong direction. Stuff that is continually fed by things you have still to abandon.

At the same time, can you trash what you have done till now? You can if you are 20. You can if you are absolutely free. What about several years of study and 20 years of a “career”? You will even miss them. Switching to the parallel life you dreamt of is like jumping from an airplane without a parachute.

Then, of course, there are your dears. They have needs. They have a life. They were used to the old you. They need part of the former you.

Finally, there is society. We are used to saying that we should not be influenced by what other people think of us. I’m fine, with being “uncommon”. But there were people around us, there are people around us, there will be people around us. Sooner or later, we all need to take into consideration what other people think of us. Else, we risk isolation. Maybe you can afford it but, if you have dears, can they afford it too?

All of your life has adapted to what you were and what you did, and you are the first to have adapted. The power to change is not easy to earn. Your entire life will resist the change.

2. Reinventing yourself takes time

They say that success in business, assuming that you can define it, needs at least 3 to 5 years of hard work.

Believe it.

Your cousin did it in one?

False.

Success, in any field, needs clear goals, perseverance, knowledge, visibility, connections, experience. At least. If your purpose is not trivial, it takes time and many mistakes.

And if you start by not having your goals clear, it may take a year, at least, just to visualize your point of arrival.

My previous consulting business was started from scratch. It took 6 years to generate proper revenues.

Why do I speak of business, if you want to reinvent your whole life? Because unless you don’t need incomes for a living, the business part will be a huge one. And because any other important goal you have in mind will present similar challenges. Don’t think about becoming a writer without years of promotion.

You think that having the whole day at your disposal, for a year, it’s a considerable amount of time. It is, but it slips away fast. A lot of things that you didn’t plan happen, in your life and your head. You probably underestimated the difficulty. And the world may respond slowly.

When you see someone succeeding in one year, you don’t know what he/she did in the previous years.

3 to 5 years for the first desirable and significant results. Remember.

3. Visibility

This takeaway is peculiar to my goals but has a value in general.

One of my goals is writing. I dedicated part of this year to that. I was a decent writer, but with no real experience.

Well, this is one example of how you can underestimate the efforts about something you never did, about goals for which you never worked.

Among many other mistakes and lessons about writing, one in particular emerged.

I thought that quality and perseverance matter. They do. But nobody sees you. Nobody. This is the problem number one.

The primary factor for your success in life, and particularly as a creative, is visibility. They don’t see you; you are nobody. Consequently, all of your brilliant ideas are nothing.

You have to push very hard on the visibility issue because nowadays there are a lot of people who already do it, have plenty of tools for that, and have years of experience behind them. You are the last one. While you make one step in the wrong direction, they make three in the right one.

Build a network, know your market, act. For years.

So

Do you want to reinvent yourself?

Unlearn crap. Visualize your goals. Better, your goal. Singular. Know your values. Change your habits and, possibly, your environment. Don’t let your roots dominate you, but respect them. Do your homework. Promote your work. Hard. Possibly, daily.

For years.