Ask anthropologists how humans came to be, why they evolved and became such a successful species. They will tell you that to a great part, it had to do with the capabilities and skills we picked up along the way. As a human race, we have an extraordinary ability to adapt and learn. We pick things up quickly and make them work creatively. We are reinventors. This is not just true for an exclusive elite, it is true for every human being. We are built this way.
Dealing with trouble
I think it is fair to say that all beings have to deal with trouble at some point in their lives. As humans we have a certain sense of survival and improvement of our situation, which is probably not just a human treat. However, we are quite innovative when it comes to make the best out of a situation. There is a comforting thought to this: every one of us is an inventor.
Yesterday I followed a fascinating story on BBC World Wide radio. It was about Richard Turere, a 13 year old boy in Nairobi, Kenya, son of a farmer, who had found a way to scare away lions which were devouring the cows of his father. Farmers and wild life are living on a decreasingly small space on the edge of Nairobi National Park.
Richard combined knowledge he had gained while growing up with new ideas and the resources he had access to. He did not have a special education, training or degree to achieve his invention. He just did what humans do best: he observed, learned, understood and combined the ideas and resources he had access to.
He experimented and tested different ideas until he found something that worked: a combination of car batteries with a motorcycle indicator box, triggering LED flash lights, which scares the lions away from the cattle. Richard was 11 at the time of his ingenious invention.
The BBC writes about Richard’s invention Lion Lights: “Richard’s device costs less then ten dollars, is made from nothing more than basically spare parts, and works because of one simple yet astute observation: he noticed that lions would stay away when he walked around with a flashlight.”
Don’t get me wrong when I say anyone can be an inventor. Richard’s invention is a brilliant idea that revolutionizes the way how farmers will deal with threats of the wild, not just in Nairobi, but throughout the whole of Africa.
Whatever it takes
It is one of those stories that is truly inspiring. It gives me hope, a small light in the darkness and all that turmoil and misery humans create.
But aside of the inspirational effect, this story also proves that invention is not about creating something completely new out of nowhere. It is mostly about making the best out of what we already have. It is something I have learned in my career and life, over and over.
A degree, special training, a great work place and environment are a great foundation, but they don’t replace your job to reinvent yourself. Every day.
Reinventing yourself means you are looking at where you are in life and where you want to be. It means not removing your past, but taking the best out of it, optimizing it and applying it for your current and future life situations. Reinventing yourself is probably the biggest invention humans have ever made. It isn’t pure willpower that gets us anywhere we want, it is reinvention.
Don’t be afraid
In my current point in life I am forced to reinvent myself. Part of this ongoing process is the complete overhaul of my website, a new strategy on how to approach businesses and companies and more clearly defined goals of what I want to achieve in the next couple of years. I did not write a business plan for this and no class taught me about these steps. I simply looked at the resources I have and combined them in a new way.
So next time you go over your résumé, or think about an education you’d like to add to your profile, or consider a new career in a different field, or even when you think about starting your own business: don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself. It is the best gift you have.
(Photo: Dr. Paula Kahumbu)