Cognitive WHAT? 5 Ways to Reframe Reinvention

Not long ago I wrote a blog for one of my writing business clients about “cognitive surplus.” I know, I know… I thought the same thing: cognitive what? And before you stop reading and think, “What does this have to do with me and my need to reinvent myself?” take a moment to read a little further.

According to Clay Shirky, author of the book, “Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age,” and the TED Talk, “How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World,” the author explains the term as “…the free time that people have…to engage in collaborative activities…particularly online.” Shirky goes on to say, “People worldwide are allocating their free time to connect with each other instead of passively watching TV alone.” He continues, “The wiring of humanity lets us treat free time as a shared global resource, and lets us design new kinds of participation and sharing that take advantage of that resource.” This new resource means that “every year there are a trillion hours of participatory value up for grabs.”

So, how does this apply to your reinvention? For a moment try and step outside your own personal story and apply Shirky’s concept of “Cognitive Surplus” to the brilliance and sheer brainpower available from displaced Baby Boomers. It’s easy to become discouraged when you’re faced with starting over from scratch, but what if you started thinking instead about how much raw talent is available, beginning with yourself? What if every individual who’s been laid off, downsized, rightsized (as if!) or is currently underemployed started viewing him/herself as a resource to be shared?

What if every person struggling with multiple, unrelated part-time jobs trying to cobble together a life could take a breath and reconsider what could be woven together into a product or a service that could help others? Would it be possible to get past the ego-crushing hurt of a layoff, look inside and think about how your skills and decades of experience could improve the world? Instead of desperately seeking another job like your last one, could you think about how those same skills could be applied in a new way?

5 Ways to Reframe Reinvention

Here are five suggestions for reframing your reinvention under the broader heading of Cognitive Surplus:

1. Take stock of your skills and think about how they could be repackaged. Talk to others about your strengths. Imagine yourself as a foreigner in a strange country. What kind of work could you do?

2. Instead of thinking about piecing your life together, think of it as “designing your life.” How you experience your life begins by how you describe it. “Designing your life” sounds much more powerful than “piecing it together.”

3. Don’t go it alone. Plug in and connect with others whether it’s attending a spiritual service or volunteering at a shelter. No one is going to witness your skills if you’re at home by yourself.

4. Another aspect of being connected includes social media. Pick one, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. and master it. Don’t be proud. Ask a teenager for help.

5. Get over yourself. It’s a bitch being laid off. I know. It happened to my husband a week after September 11 and it altered the course of our life forever. Reframe it and think about what you can give. Borrow these lyrics from a Foo Fighters’ song, “…times like these, you learn to live again. It’s times like these you give and give again.”

In conclusion, reach out. Contact me. Tell me how you’re reinvention is going. If you want, I’ll share it with others. We’re all in this together.

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