Reinvention is Dead: Long Live Redefinition!

The Author

E. Alana James

E. Alana James

Dr E Alana James is reinventing herself again! Coming full circle to the first love of her life - art - and bringing back to her images all the lessons of her life as author, researcher, academic and wife. Concerned mostly with the idea of images as vehicles for expression of the truth of our inner and outer life experience.

7 October, 2012: I woke up this morning musing on words, their power, and how they subtly show us the differences in our ongoing life experience. In other words, my language has shifted, indicating, upon reflection, a deeper change, and the words were there before my understanding of myself emerged. Anyone who is familiar with this site, or my work for the last 10 years, will know that reinventing life has been my underlying value – cutting across everything I write about, think about, or say.

Yet, when laying out this site to near my ideas for my new book (due out probably three years from now), my headings now indicates that I am redefining rather than reinventing. This article looks into the differences between reinvention and redefinition and examines why we may decide to be in one camp or the other at different times in our lives. Who knows? We may decide at the end that we can be an boot camps at once.

Merriam-Webster online Defines REINVENT as: 1) to make as if for the first time something already invented <reinvent the wheel>, 2) to remake or redo completely, 3) to bring into use again

People quoted on the web try to get to deeper or more personal meanings, having to do with quality of life, self value or worth: “I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone.” Henry Rollins

“I am still making order out of chaos by reinvention.” John Le Carre 

“People who cannot invent and reinvent themselves must be content with borrowed postures, secondhand ideas, fitting in instead of standing out.” Warren G. Bennis

In fact, in an article called, The Fountain of Reinvention, the New York Times found two factors that generally accompany these reinvention stories – risk and fear. It takes a certain amount of risk to take the plunge (unless you have been pushed out of your job), and there is an ample quantity of fear associated with the shifting changes. The speaker quoted in the article says: “your services need to be sliced, diced and repackaged.”

Not all authors are so brutal. One author lists 5 steps
1. Consider What You Value
2. Rediscover Your Interests
3. Embrace Your Personality
4. Scrutinize Your Skill Set
5. Develop Your Brand

So why did I move from reinvention back to the realtively staid and conservative “redefining” instead? I see it as we grow adolescence into a new, and more gentle, phase of adulthood, perhaps one that is defined by wisdom. Back to Webster, we see – REDEFINE: 1) to define (as a concept) again : reformulate <had to redefine their terms>, 2a) to reexamine or reevaluate especially with a view to change, b) transform. Isn’t it interesting that redefinition is seen as a synonym for transformation, while reinvention is not? When I think of transformation, of course I see the butterfly, willing to completely give up the entirety of what it was, in order to fly. This is the heart of what I find interesting this morning, that redefining goes deeper into the questions, shaking up, if you will, the norms, associated with the topics I find interesting. Therefore when you look at the new ealanajames site you see that in addition to engineering the good life (in which I have always been interested in) the things I want to discuss are the ways in which science and our lives are redefining: happiness, age and gender, health, work, change, and the way we come together (networks). Taken in total, these are a summation, and reintegration, of 20 years worth of reinvention. Hopefully, they also signal, a new level for my writing as ideas about life.

Thankfully, there are models of redefinition which do not require us to become like a butterfly and completely transformed. Even in the database/Computerworld we see, “Edition-based redefinition enables you to upgrade the database component of an application while it is in use, thereby minimizing or eliminating down time. To upgrade an application while it is in use, you copy the database objects that comprise the application and redefine the copied objects in isolation. Your changes do not affect users of the application—they continue to run the unchanged application. When you are sure that your changes are correct, you make the upgraded application available to all users.”

Laughter, since all of us who are redefining the major issues of our life and our world are also living in that life and that world we definitely want to “minimize or eliminate downtime.” So here is to learning way in which to do that as we continue to discuss the ideas upon which we base our lives in our world.

More as we go, wishing you all the best, and hoping that if some of these ideas inspire or provoke you, that you will be willing to write comment and continue the conversation.