“When you zero out your board, anything is possible.”
Robert Downey Jr. said that during a recent interview with Rolling Stone.
Coming from him, that’s powerful advice.
THINK ABOUT IT: Downey starting abusing drugs in the eighties, was frequently arrested on drug charges in the nineties – in and out of rehab several times during the process – and later fired from numerous acting jobs because of his addictions.
But then he started over.
And once he got clean, his committed work ethic enabled his career to embark on a trajectory unlike any other actor alive: He starred in successful independent films, formed his own production company with his wife, released his debut musical album and shattered box office records with blockbuster vehicles like Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes.
QUESTION: What will become possible when you zero out your board?
Today we’re going to talk about starting over.
In life, in business and in relationships.
Because while it’s something every human being experiences in her lifetime, it’s also something very few people have taken the time to write about.
Away we go.
1. Block out why time. If you haven’t paused to honesty ask yourself why you’re starting over, you’ll never learn what life expects from you. Asking why ensures the pieces fit from the start. Asking why enables long-term survivability. Asking why assures you’re not dying for something you’re not willing to die for. And asking why prevents a flawed assumption from sending the entire process of transition into misguided motion.
The cool part is: Once the muscle of why is bulging and throbbing, everything else from that point on becomes easier. As Nietzsche observed, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
What’s scary is the confrontation. The reflection. Looking yourself in the eye and saying, “Alright. No bullshit: Why am I really starting over?” Because if you don’t anchor yourself in that sense of purpose, the waves of change will toss you around like a tugboat boat in the tempest. Are you at war with how when you should be in love with why?
2. Rewrite your definition of victory. When you start over, your currency changes. And winning starts to look different to you. But unless you give yourself permission to redefine your idea of success, you risk staying where you are.
I’m reminded of the movie Up In the Air. Natalie, the recent college grad, explains how she thought she’d be married by twenty-three:
“I was supposed to be driving a Grand Cherokee by now. Corner office by day, entertaining at night. And married to a guy with brown hair, kind eyes and a one-syllable named like John or Matt.”
Unfortunately, her older and wiser friend explains the reality:
“You know, honestly, by the time you’re thirty-four, all the physical requirements just go out the window. Like, you secretly pray that he’ll be taller than you. But not an asshole would be enough. Someone who enjoys my company and comes from a good family would be enough. Or, maybe just a nice smile. That would be enough too.”
What about you? How has your definition of success change in the past ten years? I only ask because, as you navigate this transitional period of your life, you better believe it’s going to change again. And how you define success, defines you. What’s your currency?
3. Make the upgrade. It’s hard to start over after you’ve spent years building your whole life around someone. Or something. Especially if your sense of identity derived from that place. That’s why picking up the pieces and moving on is such a pervasive and debilitating internal constraint: It feels like you’re abandoning a part of yourself.
Fortunately, starting over isn’t impossible – it’s just inconvenient.
The question is: Are you prepared to let go of what you’ve always been? I hope so. Because that’s the only way to upgrade to the next version of yourself. By surrendering to the next phase of your personal evolution and letting go of the person you were in order to grow into the person you needed to be, you win.
Remember: Starting over isn’t about being better than anyone – it’s about being better than you used to be. What are you still afraid to let go of?
4. Make creativity a conscious priority. Readers often ask me how I decide what to write about each day. And my answer is simple: “I don’t – I listen for what wants to be written.”
That’s how creativity works: It’s a process of surrendering and active listening.
And when you’re starting over, that’s the smartest attitude to maintain. After all, opportunity never stops knocking – you just stop listening. The secret is to lock into the right frame of mind to pursue opportunities as they arise. To maintain the emotional willingness to open yourself to new possibilities. Then, to leverage everything you’ve got.
For example: Examine the smallest revenue centers of your business. Then ask yourself:
*Now that I have this, what else does this make possible?
*With some reinvention, could this become a brand new business unit?
By giving your artistic voice another outlet, you might activate a market segment that just can’t wait for your arrival. Remember: Creativity isn’t an entitlement – it’s is nurtured by constant cultivation. What potential opportunities are you forfeiting by rejecting or devaluing creativity?
5. The detour is the path. It’s amazing how easy it is to start over when you come to the realization that you’re always in alignment. That everything happening during your transitional period is exactly what’s supposed to happen – even if it’s inconsistent with the great life plan you orchestrated.
As John Lennon once sang, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.”
Whether it’s a new relationship, new job or new city, learn to celebrate wherever the detour takes you. Go where your unintentional music leads you. And be patient as new opportunities unfold. Because sometimes it takes a while to look back with objective eyes and realize how right your leap truly was. Even if you ended up somewhere unexpected.
The point is: Leaving the old path is a choice – but so is embracing the detour. Give yourself the psychological freedom to move in a new direction. And trust yourself enough that wherever starting over takes you, you’ll still be able to excel. How does your current accident relate to your core life purpose?
6. Flex the muscle of life. A few years ago I read a study published by a California health club chain. Their research indicated that fifty-three percent of Americans could not touch their toes.
Can you? If not, starting over might kill you. Because lack of flexibility isn’t just a fitness problem – it’s a life problem.
In The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr defines emotional flexibility as the capacity to move freely and appropriately along a wide spectrum of emotions rather than responding rigidly or defensively. And he defines mental and spiritual flexibility as “the capacity to move between the rational and the intuitive, to embrace multiple points of view and to tolerate values and beliefs that are different than your own.”
That’s what starting over is all about: Flexing the muscle of life. Seeking out ways to be stretched. And making yourself uncomfortable in situations that call for creativity and adaptability. From that space of elasticity, you’ll enable the ideal starting point from which to grow. Does the muscle of your life have a broad range of motion?
7. Make yourself more efficacious. After a painful end to a four-year relationship, my friend Steve offered me a priceless piece of advice about starting over: “Don’t assume you can’t go on living without some girl’s arm around your shoulder.”
He was right: It was time to learn how to fend for myself. Time to pursue wholeness independently – at least, for a while. That way, when the time came to begin a new relationship (which I eventually did) I could come to it with a greater sense of self-efficacy, thus strengthening the partnership.
Starting over is an uncertain, terrifying journey. And it will call upon the full use of every faculty you have. But if you’re solely dependent on external sources to keep your equilibrium, your sense of balance will remain at the mercy of the masses. And you’ll never make it out in one peace.
Efficacious people, on the other hand, are high on internal control. They’re capable of influencing situations and are not at the mercy of events. And they believe that outcomes are determined by their behavior. Your challenge is to trust your resources. To remain richly supported. And to believe that you’re equal to this challenge. Are you keeping unadulterated self-belief at the apex of your value system?
8. Create a network of human healing. In the book Who Gets Sick, Blair Justice revealed how beliefs, moods and thoughts affected health. In one particular study, his research found that “social support protected your health by reducing the intensity with which you looked at and reacted to stressful events.”
What they failed to mention, however, was that that you never realize how strong your support system is until the world on top of it collapses.
And trust me: You don’t want to wait for that to happen. That’s the final component to starting over: Creating a network of healing to keep you alive in the process. Because without support from your loved ones, the road less traveled will become very windy.
That’s what I’ve learned time and time again since starting my publishing company nine years ago: Success never comes unassisted. And as independent as you are, your personal brand can’t be an island.
Be smart: Ask for help early and often. Believe that the people who love you most want nothing more than the opportunity to come through and show you so. They will. Do you live in an atmosphere of encouragement and expectation-free support?
ULTIMATELY: Boldness will be required to move forward.
Boldness of heart.
Boldness of action.
Boldness of mindset.
Because without that, starting over is going feel like an unconquerable endeavor.
AND LOOK: I understand how hard it is to abandon things whose time has passed.
But as scary as starting over is, certainly there must be some shred of optimism shining behind your terror, right?
Because when you zero out your board, anything is possible.
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Wednesday, February 09, 2011
“When you zero out your board, anything is possible.”