Change is inevitable and yet so many of us resist it out of fear of the unknown. Yet without change, society would be stagnant. Scientific breakthroughs that have improved our world such as the polio vaccine would never have been discovered. Culture, agriculture, education, business would all eventually fail. And while change is not always easy, there are ways to embrace it and turn into a way to reinvent yourself. This week, FirstLantic explores how three highly successful men in history reinvented themselves and how you can as well.
Peter Mark Roget
Although his name is recognizable, you may not be immediately familiar with the man behind it. However, chances are that you have used his most famous work. Peter Mark Roget was a respected physician but he was also a polymath whose work influenced the discovery of laughing gas as an anesthetic, the creation of the London sewage system, the invention of the slide rule and the development of the cinema industry – as well as being a chess master and an expert on bees, Dante and the kaleidoscope. However, it wasn’t until he retired from medicine that he worked on the book that would cement his name in history, “Roget’s Thesaurus”. One of the most amazing things about the work, which was published in 1852, is that Roget didn’t complete it until he was 73 years old. It is now one of the most widely used reference materials ever created, has never been out of print since its’ original publication, and has sold over 32 million copies.
Mori graduated from Tokyo Shoka University (now Hitotsubashi University) in 1928. It is considered one of the most prestigious universities in Japan especially in the fields of economics and commerce. After graduating, Mori was an economics professor for many years eventually becoming the head of the School of Commerce at Yokohama City University in 1954. However, he transitioned into real estate investing in 1959 when his father died, and he took over his modest firm. Although he was already 55 by that time, he managed to take that small family firm and turn it into a powerhouse corporation that ended up controlling 83 buildings in the center of Tokyo, one of the most valuable real estate markets in the world. His fortune was estimated to be $13 billion when he died but he was most proud of his “smart buildings” that had foundations secured with an intricate system of rollers designed to absorb the shock from earthquakes. Although he was born shortly after one of the most devastating earthquakes hit central Tokyo in 1923, he was determined that his buildings would be able to withstand future earthquakes. The Kanto quake was devastating with thousands of wood buildings collapsing and over 105,000 people losing their lives. Although Mori was considered the richest man in the world when he died, his greatest legacy may be creating buildings that can stand the test of time.
Of course, everyone now recognizes that Churchill was instrumental in helping to save the world from Hitler. However, he was not always favored by the British public or even his own political party. Prior to WW1, he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, basically the UK’s Secretary of the Navy. After being in the job for four years, disaster struck with the Gallipoli landing a doomed battle that took place in WW1 between the allies and the Turks. The allies were defeated, and he was largely held responsible. Churchill was demoted which was a major blow. However, rather than giving up, he decided to make a radical change and join the military where he distinguished himself with exceptional bravery and leadership. He wouldn’t become prime minister for another 24 years, but his comeback started with his tenacity and unwillingness to give up.
So, what can we learn from these three men? They were all over 50 when they achieved their greatest success. They were extremely motivated and believed in the value of hard work and they all followed their own instincts. Reinvention isn’t always about being the smartest or the luckiest, but it is about embracing change and using it as a catalyst to move in a new direction. Those are lessons that can serve all of us well. As Churchill famously said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”