Reinvent Your Life Because You Must

October 29, 2015 by Charlie Hedges − 1 Comments

Yes, you must reinvent your life regularly. I suggest that you do it at least annually or semi-annually or even better, quarterly. That way, as the poet Charles Bukowski suggests, “they can never categorize you!” Not that we should really care that much what others think about us—they’re always wrong—but it is kinda cool to be such an experimenter that you are always “on the edge” of trying something new.

Oh I guess they’ll still categorize you as weird or crazy. Personally, I prefer those categories to “predictable.”

I think personal reinvention is a direct consequence of curiosity, which as you probably know, is one of my favorite human attributes. If you follow me at all then you are also haunted by the need to “discover.” We want to know… what does it look or feel like, or why do people deeply believe that, or how come… or what if??? The intricacies of curiosity are endless.

Charles Bukowski—A Mostly Flawed Yet Brilliant Guide

I have to admit it. I have become a Charles “Hank” Bukowski fanatic. How I have lived this long without even knowing of him stuns me. Few writers do I resonate with more than Hank. It’s almost as if he writes from inside my brain—only with way more talent.

I just read a book of poetry collected and published after his death in 1994. So guess what? You get to read one (poem, that is; not book)! Haha. I don’t even know if this is legal but I do know Bukowski could have cared less if I print it. (Hell, he’s dead anyway!)

It’s a quick, easy poem to read. Then, of course, I’ll have some comments.

NOTE: poetry must be read slowly. Catch every word and every punctuation mark. It will make a difference.

no leaders, please

invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,

don’t swim through the same slough,

invent yourself and reinvent yourself


stay out of the clutches of mediocrity.


invent yourself and reinvent yourself,

change your tone and shape so often that they can


categorize you.


reinvigorate yourself and

accept what is

but only on the terms that you have invented

and reinvented.


be self-taught.


and reinvent your life because you must;

it is your life and

its history

and the present

belong only to you.

Charles Bukowski, from come on in! Ecco Press, 2006

In this poem, Bukowski speaks my language. A bit more than 20 years ago I wrote a book titled, Reinventing Your Life: Strategies for Creating a Life You Want. Since then I have begun to use the word “Redesign” instead of “Reinvent”—both project the same sympathies.

It is our choice to allow our short stay on this planet to become either stagnant and boring, or we can actually choose to make more of it.

Like in many Bukowski poems, I have discovered “death” is a great motivator. The older you get the more urgent your need for discovery and reinvention by means of redesigning your present and future. What surprises (and excites) me is that website analytics seem to indicate the majority of my readers are in their late 20’s and 30’s. I expected a much older audience, like 50+. I suppose “change” requires a fresh set of eyes.

Some Consequences of Failing to Reinvent

I was struck by Bukowski’s thoughts on failing to reinvent yourself: (1) you swim in the same slough, (2) you stay in the clutches of mediocrity, (3) you can be easily categorized, (4) you don’t live on “your terms,” and (5) by not being “self-taught” you are depending solely on the thoughts and opinions of others.

I realize, that for many people, the attributes above are pretty much their goals in life. They want “the same,” regular and predictable; they enjoy being a committed member of a community that requires adherence to certain restraints or behaviors. Truthfully, I applaud those people. Hell, I’ve even spent time as one of them.

But I changed when I finally grasped that I am different and that different things and places and peoples and behaviors and goals enamor me. Hank’s list of the consequences of failing to reinvent myself really scares me. Mediocrity and the same slough and being categorized and living on someone else’s terms do not excite those who hunger for experiencing and discovering the wonder of this precious thing we call life.

What’s to Gain?

I think his point is stated in the final stanza of the poem:

and reinvent your life because you must;

it is your life and

its history

and the present

belong only to you.

It’s YOUR life and it all belongs to you. What else can I say after the master poet has said it all?

Perhaps I can offer a couple of suggestions.

Reinvent Your Life Because You Must

I think I’d begin by making three simple lists:

  1. What are three things you want to do within the next year or two that you aren’t already doing?
  1. Who do you want to become that you aren’t already known for? For example you may want to be a giver, an encourager, a traveler, a person with a wide field of experience (even if you have to begin now).
  1. List your top three VDP’s (very draining people). And then try to reduce the amount of time you are giving to them. Even more important, reduce the amount of energy you allow them to suck out of you.

Then… get started and do it!

It’s YOUR Life


It Belongs Only to You


Photo courtesy of BsWei

One thought on “Reinvent Your Life Because You Must”

  1. WoW! Okay best one ever. I am known to my clients as a doer and I am always busy but that’s because I don’t want to just live. This was a great encourager for me right now. To continue to do but within the perimeters of being a new Mom, as well as a Mom to a college student. With those two small and at the same time very large changes in my life, I am living a completely different life entirely and have been trying to cope with the loss of the old life while also looking at my new life with such wonder and excitement.

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