10 March 2023

How to reinvent yourself: our Head of Corporate Social Responsibility shares his career shift at TEDx Limassol

Sometimes, we may not be fully aware of our potential and what we are truly capable of achieving. That is why it's important to take the time to reflect and examine our abilities. To explore how and why we should do this, we recommend watching Martin Thorvaldsson's TEDx Talk. Martin has had a successful 25-year career in senior legal positions at several leading global companies. However, in 2022, he made the decision to reinvent himself and now leads Exness' CSR activities across more than 15 countries. The talk is 11 minutes long, but we've prepared a text version if you prefer to read it.

A year ago, I was the chief legal officer at a billion-dollar company. Things were going really well. I built a sizable Legal and Compliance department filled with great professionals. And I was celebrating 25 years as a lawyer. I was very lucky professionally. And by the luck of it, I was in the right place. 

But all was not right. While in a great company with great people and a great team, I started losing energy. I became frustrated and also a bit too serious. I thought it was time to move on and become General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer somewhere else. I guess this is how many people do it: moving on to the same job somewhere else, hoping for more inspiration, leveraging on experience, and maybe getting more money and a better position. 

When planning to leave, I looked at other roles in the company, but nothing seemed to fit: they didn't seem to be me, or they were too small for my big lawyer ego. It just seemed easier and safer to move on to the same position somewhere else.

But how well did I know myself? 

Recently, I looked through behavioral assessments. You know, the red, yellow, green, and blue charts, also referred to as DISC assessment, rate your behavioral traits and how well they fit a certain role for a certain team. I remembered that I always scored very differently than the normal lawyer profile. I was always very high on influencing and average on steadiness and compliance. 

I have to confess I hid such results from my managers sometimes as it was a bit embarrassing—It's not how you should look as a lawyer, right?"

Moreover, when my colleagues tried to guess where I would end up on this scale, they all rated me as a normal lawyer profile, high on steadiness and compliance. I actually had them all fooled.

But probably, I had also fooled myself. Continuing with the same lawyer role somewhere else seemed perfectly sane to me. I did not contemplate at all that I might be in the wrong context altogether. And in my mind, I had actually already moved on to the next lawyer job. 

Then something happened. The owner of the company suggested a role he thought was really me. It was related to a side project we had been working on together for quite some time. Still, I couldn't picture myself in this new role. But my manager at the time intervened and urged me to reconsider. And after long discussions with myself, I finally thought, “What the hell? Let's give it a chance”. And I started writing a plan for this new role and department.

And suddenly everything has changed

While planning the future, I felt this sense of freedom. My mind was now in this new context, and I didn't have to conform to the previous versions of myself. I didn't have to be Lawyer Martin and nobody expected me to be much like that in this new role.

In a way, I was free to reinvent myself. It was that feeling you have when you start a new school. You can shake off parts of your old self, improve, find new parts, and be a truer version of yourself. Be more who you want to be. Maybe you remember this feeling, starting high school or even university when the fear and nervousness subside. 

You are in this new context and realize you are free to be a better version of yourself. You don't have to be as before. You can stop doing what you don't like and start doing what you do. And you can surround yourself with people that don't have a defined view of you, people that you choose."

You don't have to conform to previous definitions of yourself, whether your own or those others have of you. If you remember this feeling, you probably also remember how much energy there is in this. There's no end to inspiration. You wake up early, eager to go to work or to study. And work is a source of energy and not the other way around. And your energy also rubs off on others. 

The feeling

If you remember this feeling, do you remember what happened to it since the last time you felt it? It went away, didn't it? 

You invest in your career, do your dog years, get better at your profession, and get other things like money, experience, prestige, or promotions. Maybe you start a family, get a mortgage, and time passes. And the distance since your last reinvention starts to grow, and eventually, you can't even remember that feeling anymore. 

You have to be reminded of it. That is what happened to me. I was a lawyer and chief legal officer for 25 years. I had not just lost the reinvention feeling, I could not even remember it."

But by finding and following it, I ended up where I am today, true to myself. An improved version. A “people person” who likes to communicate and aims to inspire. A happy person. Sometimes now at work, I have to hold back on my enthusiasm not to come across as irritatingly happy and inspired.

I now lead the building of a corporate social responsibility unit, and I love every second of it. Even though I don't cook food for the homeless, most of my work is actually just good old hard work that is not spectacular at all. Now I get to communicate as much as I want as I'm building up CSR activities in 10+ countries. I get to influence as much as I want as the company sends me to TED Talks. Finally, I ended up in my “influencing zone”, where I think I always should have been. 

A unique journey of self-reinvention 

Contrary to what you might think, my primary point here today is not to go out and reinvent yourself. But if you lack passion, I encourage you to look for that feeling from the first day in a new school and see where it takes you. And you can keep the parts that work—for me, that was the company I worked for. And you can change the parts that don't work—for me, that was the lawyer role that never really fitted well.

It's not easy, however. And knowing yourself is probably the price at the end of the journey rather than the life that it's beginning. For me, self-knowledge and self-realization came after the fact. What now is so obvious to me wasn't obvious at all a year ago. 

And it certainly helps if you have people around you who can give you that push in the right direction when needed. Coming back to myself, I have to admit I did not expect the transformation I went through last year. And more importantly, a lot of it was not my own doing. I did not know how to aspire and be something new as I didn't know myself well enough.

Looking into the tunnel I couldn't see my future self. And I think this is very very common, at least when you get a bit older. And I think one of the reasons for this is that we don't reinvent ourselves anymore. And this brings me to my main point:

I don't think you can reinvent yourself just like that as you don't know yet who your “new improved me” is. But you can look for that feeling and follow it."

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