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  • Writer's pictureJeanne and James Bellew

Embracing Change: Lessons from Netflix for Fearlessly Freelancing After 50

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Ted Sarandos, Netflix's co-chief executive, shared a powerful story about how Netflix transitioned from mailing DVDs to becoming a dominant player in streaming entertainment. I found his story relevant to the kind of change so many people aspire to but don't succeed at.


Netflix's successful shift only happened after a clear vision and willingness to abandon the old ways. Sarandos recounted how Netflix, even when its DVD business was highly profitable, deliberately chose to focus on streaming, knowing it was the future. They even stopped inviting DVD employees to company meetings to ensure the entire company was aligned with this vision.


Although the interviewer described this strategy as "harsh," Mr. Sarandos explained that it was essential to get Netflix to fully commit to the new business model. Sarandos explained, "It got the whole company in the mindset that we shouldn't keep investing in the old business. It's going to prevent us from investing in the new business, and the new business is going to get us to the next place."


This metaphor can be powerful for anyone transitioning from a traditional job to freelancing or from one life stage to another. Like Netflix, to succeed at change, we need to recognize when it's time to stop investing in the "old business" and focus on the new opportunities ahead if we want to grow.


I always spoke about this when coaching during my career: "If you have your pockets filled up with stuff, you have no room to add anything else when the meaningful and important things come along. Part of life is always emptying our pockets."


The Transition to Freelancing: A New Model for Success


Freelancing offers a unique opportunity to apply the skills and experiences you've honed over the years in a new, flexible way. It allows you to create a work-life balance that suits your current needs and aspirations.


Freelancing could be an essential or meaningful thing coming along. Have you made room for it?


I understand this transition can be daunting. You may feel scared or uncertain or believe you need to be better to succeed in this new arena.


Here's where the Netflix metaphor becomes relevant. To successfully transition, adopting the mindset that your "old business" — your previous job or career path — served its purpose but is not the future will serve you. Investing in your "new business" — freelancing — requires dedication, learning new skills, and sometimes letting go of past roles and routines.


Steps to Embrace Your New Freelance Journey


  1. Acknowledge Your Skills and Experience: Recognize that the expertise you've gained is valuable. Like Netflix leveraged its understanding of the entertainment industry, you can leverage your professional skills in your freelance work.


  1. Invest in Learning: Embrace lifelong learning to stay competitive. ALWAYS. NEVER STOP. Continuous education is crucial for learning new technology, upskilling, understanding the freelance marketplace, and staying engaged and healthy.


  1. Shift Your Mindset: Understand that change is an opportunity for growth. The legendary TV producer Norman Lear summed it up perfectly with "Over. Next." Embrace this philosophy as you move from one chapter of your life to the next.


  1. Build Your Brand: Establish a solid personal brand. In freelancing, your brand is your business. Creating a compelling profile and delivering high-quality work builds your reputation.


  1. Stay Resilient and Adaptable: Like all of life, freelance work will have its ups and downs. Stay resilient and be ready to adapt to new challenges and opportunities. Like Netflix navigated the transition from DVDs to streaming, you can navigate your path from your career to freelance success.


A Final Thought


Transitioning to freelancing, especially after years in a traditional job, can seem intimidating. However, you can create a fulfilling and successful freelance career by embracing change, focusing on your strengths, and investing in new skills.


Remember, just as Netflix didn't hold on to its DVD business, don't cling to old ways that might hold you back — empty your pockets. Look forward, invest in your new path, and step into your future fearlessly with confidence and excitement.

Stay inspired!

Jeanne 🌺

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