Becoming a New Person

Demosthenes orator Louvre
Sting [CC BY-SA 2.5 (]
Everyone has wanted to be a different kind of person at one time or another. Maybe we’ve wanted to be more athletic, outgoing, or successful. Whatever it is, we’ve all had moments when we wished to be something different, something more.

Take Demosthenes of Athens, for example. Here was a young man who was disadvantaged in so many ways that he could have given up at an early age and few would have blamed him. Consider his circumstances:

“He was born sickly and frail with a nearly debilitating speech impediment. At seven years old, he lost his father. And then things got worse.

The large inheritance left to him – intended to pay for tutors and the best schools – was stolen by the guardians entrusted to protect him … Still weak and sick, Demosthenes was also unable to distinguish himself in the other critical sphere of Greek life: the floor of the gymnasia.

Here was this fatherless, effeminate, awkward child who no one understood, who everyone laughed at. Not exactly the boy you’d expect would soon hold the power to mobilize a nation to war by his voice alone.

Disadvantaged by nature, abandoned by the people he depended on, nearly every wrong that can be inflicted on a child befell Demosthenes. None of it was fair, none of it was right. Most of us, were we in his position, would have given up right then and there. But Demosthenes did not.
— adapted from The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday

Despite these setbacks, he had a dream that one day he could be a great orator who commanded the attention and respect of all of Athens. And he did it!  

To conquer his speech impediment, he devised his own strange exercises. He would fill his mouth with pebbles and practice speaking. He rehearsed full speeches into the wind or while running up steep inclines … And soon, his quiet, weak voice erupted with booming, powerful clarity.

Demosthenes locked himself away underground – literally – in a dugout he’d had built in which to study and educate himself. To ensure he wouldn’t indulge in outside distractions, he shaved half his head so he’d be too embarrassed to go outside. And from that point forward, he dutifully descended each day into his study to work with his voice, his facial expressions, and his arguments.

When he did venture out, it was to learn even more. Every moment, every conversation, ever transaction, was an opportunity for him to improve his art.
— continued from The Obstacle Is The Way

If one person could reinvent himself so completely, despite such disadvantages, then couldn’t we, at the very least, re-invent ourselves in at least one or two ways. Perhaps, we might simply want to:

  • Become a fitness buff, or
  • Return to college, or
  • Gain the confidence to stand up for ourselves

And just think, if we can focus and dedicate ourselves to re-invention in one aspect of life for a year, or maybe just a few months, then maybe we can do it again and again.

By building upon one success after another, we might one day find ourselves much like Desmothenes: a new person with a new future to look embrace.

To get you started, check out this article about 15 steps to re-inventing yourself: