Reinventing or transforming life after age 50 is one of my passions. I gained a helpful perspective from an article written by one who has reinvented himself many times to the extreme. Reading about the range of major reinventions this author has made encourages me to think bigger about the possibilities for myself and others. Jack Barsky has made transformations that very few make – or would want to make. But the principles are interesting.
You may have seen Barsky on 60 Minutes, CNN, Fox, or MSNBC or read his book, Deep Undercover. Barsky was born in Germany, was a chemistry professor for years, was recruited by the KGB, spent 10 years in the United States spying for the Russians during the Cold War, and ended up a United States citizen and information technology executive.
Based on the major shifts as well as a number of fictional characters he became in his travels, Barsky offers 9 Tips for Mastering the Art of Reinvention – behaviors we might adopt as we are reinventing ourselves at any stage of life.
Two that stand out for me are Take a Self Inventory and Work on Your Soft Skills. Barsky’s recommended Self Inventory is to focus on talents and abilities you have, regardless of whether or not you have ever used them to earn a living. Often we fail to recognize the skills and abilities we have developed and used in volunteer work and other activities. These may be transferable or adaptable to various other settings.
Take 15 minutes or so to write down the things you have done outside your major work experience – side jobs, volunteer work, hobbies. Then list what you did and learned in them. You may be astounded at your list.
Working on Your Soft Skills is a logical next step to the Self Inventory. Soft skills are defined as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” The list of soft skills can vary; here is a representative one: effective communication skills, teamwork, dependability, adaptability, conflict resolution, flexibility, leadership, problem-solving, research, creativity, work ethic, integrity. We can demonstrate and develop these skills in all aspects of our lives. Take one of these and think of the ways you demonstrate it in work settings, volunteer work, family, friendship circles, etc. This exercise may broaden your perspective of skills you have and want to expand as well as ways to apply them in new ways as you reinvent your life.
Barsky wraps up his nine tips by stating “power is having options.” This really summarizes his message: “Fulfillment … requires an attitude of life-long learning and a willingness to periodically shed the old skin and step into a new self.”
You can read the entire article here:
NOTE: You may find Barsky’s book Deep Uncover interesting. An Amazon review describes it this way: “Equal parts memoir, spycraft guide, and historical document, Deep Undercover perfectly describes the crippling insularity of the spy’s life.” If you are interested in his book, you can find it here: