In her latest book, Reinvention: Changing Your Life, Your Career, Your Future, Canadian Venture Capitalist Arlene Dickinson describes how a few short years ago, she found her life on the brink of disaster: her 25+ year company (“Venture”) was crumbling beneath her, her “sense of herself as a strong, confident leader” was “in tatters.” She was overwhelmed by feelings of “loss, fear and shame.”
But within five years, her business stabilized and was again booming, she raised tens of millions of dollars and built a whole ecosystem to help other entrepreneurs—“District Ventures.” Dickinson has “never been happier or more excited about the future.”
She applied the process she used, over the past nearly three decades to improve underperforming companies, to her own life.
Well into this “reinvention,” Dickinson speaks of returning as an investor to CBC’s “Dragon’s Den,” 10 years after she left the reality show. And she was able to find it an “exclamation point, not the main event.” The show provided an additional way to publicize her new business accelerator, to secure new entrepreneurs who might apply to it, and, overall, to work with promising new businesses.
The value of “Dragon’s Den” this second time ’round inhered in several factors, such as its inclusion of more female leaders than ever before, and in its capacity to show everyday viewers that “dreaming big and pushing through failure are both possible.”
And, even more importantly, Dickinson asserts, we all need to “find the confidence and courage to reinvent [our]selves. It’s fashionable to sneer at sincerity, as though wanting to make more of yourself is somehow uncool. But to me, there’s nothing cooler or more important than trying to be the best you can be. Isn’t that why we’re here—to find out all we can do, to change and evolve into better people, and to lift others up when we have the chance?”
Dickinson says that many people, including her readers, these days, have to reinvent themselves, after suffering “a heartbreaking loss, a divorce, a professional failure, an injustice that upended everything.” (242). She recommends not waiting for disaster and recognizing that virtually all of us have all the ingredients we’ll need: “Once you figure out what your currency, your core purpose and your context are, you’ll be as ready as you’ll ever be to make your life better than it is today . . . . Reinvention requires not just optimism but a sense of urgency.”
She observes that even if we fail in the effort, to have “fought that good fight and done the very best we could . . . is as good a measure of success as any: that you tried your very best to be all you could be. At the end of the day, your power, your fulfillment, your growth, your evolution and your joy are in the effort, not in crossing the finish line. Let’s face it, to be all you can be, you will have to keep on growing, evolving and changing. There really is no finish line. It’s a lifelong project.”
Learning and entrepreneurship are both lifelong processes, as Saskatoon’s Praxis School of Entrepreneurship teaches, every day.
Dickinson also warns that to sell yourself short will leave you with only “self-loathing and shame” (244). And “shame will corrode your confidence like nothing else, which is why you can’t let it take root at the very moment when you most need confidence.”
She recommends leaving the stories of your struggles and losses for your therapist or best friend. Then replace rumination with a simple declaration to colleagues and contacts: “I was [let go from my job/walked out on by my spouse, etc.] and I’ve decided to [remake my life in such and such way].” Through these lines of thinking and communication, she says, you’ll signal that “you’re focused on the future” and “have a plan that you’re excited about” (200).
Don’t “play small” or “deny the world the contribution that only you can make” (244), Dickinson concludes: “Everything you need for a reinvention is already inside you, just waiting to be tapped.”
And now it’s your turn. Are you considering reinventing your career, relationship or other life process? Would you consider entrepreneurship through the Praxis startSMART program in Saskatoon? An intake period is fast approaching.
Please share—I’d be delighted to extend this conversation.