5 Key Reinvention Books To Get You Thinking


If 2014 was the year the youngest boomers turned 50, then 2015 will be the year for us to look ahead at the inevitable economic and cultural shifts that will kick the concept of “retirement” very far down (if not completely off) the road. Any problem worth solving has a range of solutions, so as we close out this momentous year, here are 5 books — some recent, some not so recent — that explore, support and encourage us to reinvent and relaunch our careers (even if it’s within our existing jobs).

My Boomer Reinvention™ framework proposes a 5 step process to reconcile our past and re-engage with our future in order to implement an effective reinvention. Each book in this round-up is an example of the work that we can do at each of the 5 steps.

1. Reframe
The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman & Rod Beckstrom

Published in 2006, this classic business analysis chronicles the “unstoppable power of leaderless organizations,” and defines a key paradigm shift that has changed the way we do business in the digital era. For those of us who recognize the need to change our point of view, and to open to new ways of looking at the world — and our potential place in it — this book is a fascinating look at how flatter hierarchies and new technologies have empowered smaller teams to work together more efficiently to produce greater value. For anyone considering moving into an encore career with a new company, or starting one’s own company in the new economy, this book is a must-have look at some of the concepts and paradigms that you will need to succeed in this new world.

2. Listen
Your Life Calling by Jane Pauley

Pauley is arguably one of the most distinguished members of our generation, who rose to prominence as we were all just starting out in our careers, and whose reportorial instincts have illuminated our lives with intelligence, wit and compassion for almost 40 years. This book, which was published to accompany her NBC/AARP Life Reimagined Today series, weaves her own life experiences with getting older and those of a number of other boomers who have successfully forged transitions through their careers, and moved their lives into new orbits. For those of us contemplating such a move in our own lives, one of the most important preparations we can do is listen to the experiences of others and see how those experiences resonate within. It’s not an easy process. What works for someone else may not work for us. But I think that the more we listen, and the more we sit and reflect on the information, the better prepared we will be to make the leap when the time is right.

3. Accept
Comfortable With Uncertainty by Pema Chodron

One of my favorite practical philosophers, Chodron offers 108 short, simple but profound pearls of Buddhist wisdom to help us make peace with our lives and with our world. Acceptance is the final key to reconciling the lives we’ve lived up to now, and is the process we need to master before we can embark on our reinvention plan. It’s no use envisioning a successful future if we are still beating ourselves up for the perceived failures or disappointments of our past. Spend each of the next 108 mornings reading one of these entries when you wake up. I guarantee that the support you receive on subtle levels will empower you to develop a new sense of purpose to fuel your reinvention.

4. Express
Exuberance: The Passion for Life by Kay Redfield Jamison

When I went through my last career transition in 2009, and reinvented myself from my entertainment industry career into my encore career in education and training, this book was a bright and inspiring light that helped guide my way along a challenging tunnel. A psychiatrist specializing in bi-polar disorder, Jamison decided to write the book to focus on the positive, creative and constructive contributions of those who struggle with this debilitating condition. Subtitled “the Passion for Life,” Jamison’s book describes some of the most amazing, inspirational and encouraging aspects of human behavior. Reinforcing the value of play, laughter, excitement, and passion, Jamison profiles scientists, artists, statesmen, authors, athletes and others who, in their moments of manic energy and genius, have lifted and revolutionized the planet. My favorite chapter is devoted entirely to the history and virtues of champagne. Need I say more? If you are avoiding making a change in your life, and denying yourself permission to get free of the mental or emotional restrictions that hold you back, I challenge you to make any excuses once you have read this book.

5. Connect
Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life, by Chris Farrell.

The most recently published book on this list is a direct call-to-action for our generation. By proposing the concept of “unretirement,” Farrell, a senior economics contributor for Marketplace and contributing editor for Bloomberg Businessweek, smartly suggests that the future of our generation lies in remaining active and earning a living well beyond our 60s. He offers a great array of resources available to the budding “seniorpreneur,” as well as to the 50+ employed boomer who is starting to wonder how to extend their current career, or segue into an encore career. Once we have figured out what we want to do, we need to connect out in the world, and build community with others engaged in the same effort. Many Boomers are surprised to learn that so much is available to them, both online and in their own communities. Unretirement is the latest one of the most focused DIY reinvention resources that can (and undoubtedly will) reshape our generation, turning us from intimidated to intrepid to unstoppable.

If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines, hoping that somehow miraculously your next 20, 30 or even 40 years are just sorta kinda gonna take care of themselves, I urge you to get more actively involved in your own future. Add one or more of these books to your self-support and self-gifting list, and begin your reinvention process today.

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John Tarnoff is a career transition coach, speaker and best-selling author who helps late-career professionals transition to meaningful second-act careers beyond traditional retirement.

Following a successful career as a Hollywood film executive and tech entrepreneur, he reinvented his own career at 50, earning a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology to focus on professional development and training.

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