I got a text from my sister recently with a link to this article. She knew I would like it as a great piece of writing which really gets you thinking.
It is written by Tony Parsons who is a bestselling novelist and an award-winning journalist. Have a read (it is a lengthy feature compared to my usual blogs but well worth the time spent!) and let me know what you think about it.
This was taken from the GQ Magazine website…..
‘That bump in the road is always just around the corner, so be ready to lose everything and start all over again. Take inspiration from Sinatra, Ali and Jobs – reboot your career to achieve true greatness
You have to get over this fantasy that your career will just keep on getting better.
It never happens. No career just goes on getting better. We all suffer setbacks, pitfalls and failures that you can never quite imagine until they smack you in the face.
You might get sacked. Or your greatest ally in the office gets sacked (or retires, moves on, gets sick or dies). Your sales start to decline. Your profits sink. Your skill set is overtaken by technology and time. It happens. You never think that it will happen to you. And then it does. It always does.
There were millions of blacksmiths who believed they had a job for life because people would always need horseshoes. Coal miners could not conceive of a world where the mines were closed down forever. And then they did. Because, sooner or later, everybody’s metaphorical coal mine closes down. Travel agents, print journalists, shopkeepers – all sidelined by the digital revolution. One day you have to go right back to the start and begin all over again.
One day you have to reboot.
It is unrealistic for you to expect your career to go from strength to strength. Not even the greatest careers manage that. Steve Jobs. Frank Sinatra. Muhammad Ali. Their careers did not just go on getting stronger. There were black times when these men were on their knees. There were dark days when they thought it was truly all over and all of them had catastrophic failures mid-career. They all had to reboot.
Because success – even the greatest of success – is never linear. There are ups and there are downs in every career. Some of the ups will be more glorious than you can imagine. And some of the downs will be very low indeed – so low that you are scraping rock bottom, so wretched you can’t help thinking that the best days are past, hard times when simply keeping calm and carrying on is not enough. That’s when you have to reboot.
Steve Jobs started Apple in his parents’ garage when he was 20. When he had just turned 30, Jobs fought with his board of directors and they forced him out of the company. He was totally crushed. “What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone,” he said, “and it was devastating.”
Everything went wrong for Frank Sinatra as he hit his mid-thirties at the start of the Fifties. Sinatra’s vocal cords were so shot they were haemorrhaging. His teen audience – the bobbysoxers who had adored him and made him a star – had grown up, grown cold and moved on. In 1952, Sinatra lost both his TV show and his recording contract. Imagine that – in 1952 Frank Sinatra did not even have a recording contract.
Steve Jobs – thrown out of Apple. Frank Sinatra – sick, ageing, out of fashion and forgotten. And Muhammad Ali – banned from boxing in those fleeting golden years that would never come again. These men were asked to endure the unendurable. But what did they do? They rebooted.
Jobs left Apple and founded NeXT, the computer company that ten years later would provide the foundation for what became Mac OS X, and then developed Pixar, investing $50m of his own money (Toy Story credits him as an executive producer). He stayed in the game. He kept working. He took risks. He rebooted and 12 years after getting forced out, Jobs returned to Apple in triumph to take the company to the mountain top.
Sinatra rebooted with a change of direction (rebooting requires imagination as much as bravery). He landed the role as Private Maggio in From Here To Eternity(1953), for which he won an Academy Award a year later, and went from has-been singer to Oscar-winning actor with just one film. In 1953, he also signed a recording contract with Capitol Records. Sinatra’s career wasn’t over. It had really just begun.
When Ali returned to the ring he no longer possessed the speed and fluidity of youth. But these youthful attributes were replaced with cunning and – Ali’s most underrated quality – monumental courage. The reinvented Ali mastered George Foreman in 1974 – who some commentators believed might kill him in Zaire – and his greatest opponent, Joe Frazier, a year later.
And when we think of Sinatra we remember his renaissance at Capitol Records as the grand master of American song, we think of the 1956 album Songs For Swingin’ Lovers!, the 1958 Come Fly With Me and the great collaborations with Nelson Riddle. All after Sinatra’s reboot in his mid-thirties.
And the legend of Muhammad Ali is not about the young Louisville Lip who beat Sonny Liston, but the Ali who came back after those long years in the wilderness, the older Ali who co-starred in the “Rumble In The Jungle” and the “Thrilla In Manila”. We think of Ali -rebooted as the greatest sportsman of all time.
True greatness, the greatness that other men will remember for 100 years after your death, only really comes after a reboot. When you have climbed to the top of the tree, crashed back down with broken bones and then got back up. After fate has ground you down to nothing, and the world has written you off as finished, that’s when you have to reboot or surrender.
Nobody chooses to reboot. Jobs never wanted to be pushed out of Apple. Sinatra did not want to know what it felt like to not have a recording contract. Ali did not choose to lose most of the second half of his twenties because he would not fight in Vietnam. Although it takes enormous bravery, rebooting is always something that is forced upon you.
You reboot when you reach that moment of total darkness and despair – a moment that you know in your blood and bones will go on forever unless you find the courage to do something about it.
You reboot when the future is uncertain and the present is riddled with anxiety. You reboot when you finally know that your career cannot continue on the road that it is on, because this road is a dead end. That is when you have no choice.
Rebooting is never easy. Rebooting takes a strange combination of humility and grit. You need enough humility to admit your career is dead in the water, but enough self-belief to start again. You have to be humble, smart and tough. You also need to be sufficiently flexible – or pragmatic – to try something new. Jobs buying the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm that became Pixar, Sinatra taking his acting seriously, Ali admitting that he could no longer rely on blinding speed.
No career worth having is easy. Getting to the top is hard. Staying at the top is harder. But having the courage to reboot is the hardest thing of all…
There is an old Zen parable about a sword. It goes like this – if you change the blade of the sword and then you change the handle, is it still the same sword? Careers are like that sword. Business is like that sword. Changes happen without you really noticing and suddenly you are in a world that you no longer recognise.
A major reason for needing to reboot your career is that you lose a powerful friend, or they get the boot. It doesn’t really matter where they go. What matters is that they are gone and that it is highly unlikely that your career will thrive in quite the same way under the new regime. There are a thousand things that can go wrong with a career. But when they go seriously wrong there is only one option. Reboot or die.
My mother’s brothers worked in the print industry – that old Fleet Street of hot metal print. And then in the Eighties, technology took a great leap forward, the newspapers moved to Wapping and suddenly their jobs no longer existed. It was as brutal, cruel and simple as that.
And now my own trade of journalism is in -terminal decline, battered senseless by the digital revolution, declining advertising revenues, the modern belief that you should get everything for nothing and politicians who despise the press for catching them with their
trousers down and their fingers in the expenses till. Every journalist I know who has left a national newspaper in the last three years has had to find a new job outside of journalism. The working world changes, whether we want it to or not. One day every man must wake up to discover that he is a blacksmith watching with disbelief as a Ford Model T comes over the horizon. There is no shame in rebooting. Sooner or later, we all have to do it.
Before you do reboot, you will know total misery, a sense of crushing failure and the nagging doubt that comes with thinking the best is all behind you. I know I certainly did.
For ten years, my books had flown to the top of the bestseller lists. Their success never quite matched the heady days of 2001, when Man And Boy was the No1 paperback and One For My Baby was the No1 hardback. It was never again quite as phenomenal as that but they were all bestsellers, until the last one,Catching The Sun, which came and went without the world knowing, caring or buying.
And the problem is that publishers give you peanuts at the start of your career and huge advances later on. This inevitably means that when the downturn comes, you look like a waste of money, not to mention space.
There are reasons. There are excuses. Catching The Sunwas published in the summer of Fifty Shades Of Grey, when every other book was being ignored and careers – of editors, publishers, agents, authors – were expiring overnight. But every business is ultimately a bottom-line business and as a novelist, I was suddenly finished, yesterday’s man, all washed up – as washed up as I had been as a journalist until Piers Morganbecame editor of the Daily Mirror and turned me into a national newspaper columnist. Thanks to Piers, I rebooted my journalism career. After my last book stiffed, I needed to reboot my career as a novelist.
Kipling said, “If you can… watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools… yours is the earth and everything in it.”
There was a man who knew a bit about rebooting.
I cashed in my pension and wrote a crime novel calledThe Murder Bag. Two years of crippling uncertainty, self-doubt and anxiety. One final roll of the dice. I delivered the manuscript to my agent on a summer Monday. He sent it out on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I had a three-book, six-figure deal. Random House publish The Murder Bag in hardback in May 2014. And now something wonderful happens every day. More than anything, it’s a relief.
You never reboot because you want success. You reboot because you want to survive.’