Reinvention does not mean moving away from what you love, what you are good at and what has brought you success. It means moving onwards and upwards. It could be in the same function or discipline, building on previous capabilities, or it might be through completely changing course. In essence, it comes down to a simple question: Is the change you desire evolutionary, or revolutionary?
Or even better, can you figure out a way to harness the power of both? Are you able to build both deeper expertise in your discipline through continual improvements and cultivate completely different ways of approaching challenges? Potentially even ones that others didn't know existed. Could you follow the lead of one of the most influential entrepreneurs of our day?
Recently featured in a Wall Street Journal article, Musk is compared to Steve Jobs, another visionary, and is then discussed as follows:
Elon Musks's ambitions soar even higher...
His electric-car company Tesla Motors aims to remake the way we drive, while the ultimate goal of his rocket company SpaceX, he said, is to travel to Mars and help build a self-sustaining base there.
Skepticism is the natural response. But each time Mr. Musk delivers a better, less-expensive electric car or launches another rocket successfully, he proves his doubters wrong.
Oh, and he co-founded a multibillion-dollar company called PayPal.
I think it would be safe to say that Musk has taken some revolutionary paths throughout his life -- I mean, we are talking about a kid who taught himself to code and program software by the age of 12. After enrolling and then quickly leaving a PhD program at Stanford, Musk dedicated himself to the three important problems that would most affect the future of humanity. "One was the internet, one was clean energy, and one was space." All three are revolutionary spaces, and to work in all three most certainly requires an individual willing to completely reinvent himself and his expertise to change course as needed.
But to a large extent Musk's success has also come from his ability to evolve and continually improve himself along the way. Musk systematically grew his capabilities, completing two separate bachelor's degrees in economics and physics (to go with his childhood coding skills) that most certainly equipped him to reconsider each of the three spaces he has worked in. Even within those spaces, Musk is constantly evolving. Co-founding X.com with his brother back in 1999 to revolutionize the internet financial landscape, Musk proved to be more than just a visionary, investing in his initial product to develop it into the widely used PayPal platform.
Once making the initial revolutionary move into new spaces (including space itself) with his launch of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, Musk has again committed himself growing within those spaces. As he continues to refine the Tesla model options, even his thinking about transportation is evolving, and now he is floating the notion of a "Hyperloop" to expedite travel over much longer distances.
With Tesla just recently showing its first major profit and SpaceX launching a major prototype to serve as a precursor for putting people on Mars, I think it's safe to say that Musk's capacity to evolve and improve those products and services will serve him and his growing companies well in the future.
If You Really Are Contemplating a Reinvention...
...then I have some very simple advice for you. Now before I offer it I want to make absolutely sure you that really have made it happen. There is no value in being just a revolutionary ideas person without a willingness to invest in what you create. We need people who can execute. Too often people jump ship before they see and idea through and don't even begin to master the competency of acceleration before they are onto the next thing. If this is you, reinvention at this time would be premature and damaging. You need to get back to work and get some leverage and some scale.
If, on the other hand, you really have made it happen, I assume you feel an itch. Something is calling you to do something more, to saddle up for another ride. I say go for it. Act! Move!
Watch the clip below for some motivation from two more famous entrepreneurs - a perpetually evolving success story as well as a perpetually revolving success story. Then decide for yourself whether an evolutionary or revolutionary move is best for you.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Peter Sheahan on the topic of Making It Happen in Small Business, focused on turning those with the ideas into those with the influence. To see all of the posts in the series, click here.