Friday, June 26, 2009

The Ride :: The Diary of a Young Entrepreneur #4 Comfortably Numb

June 16, 2009
Comforably Numb

One's comfort zone refers to the set of environments and behaviors with which one is comfortable without creating a sense of risk. A person's personality can be described by his or her comfort zones. Highly successful persons may routinely step outside their comfort zones, to accomplish what they wish. To step outside a person's comfort zone, they must experiment with new and different behaviors, and then experience the new and different responses that then occur within his environment.
~ Wikipedia Definition ~

I was thinking about topics this week, trying to narrow down the 1,000,001 things that I have learned, mostly the hard way, since I have started this business. One of the lessons that I have found continues to pop up, month after month, quarter after quarter, is stepping out of your comfort zone. Now this appears to be pretty simple rhetoric. You hear it all the time, "Push yourself", "Always be pushing the boundaries", "blah blah blah", the list goes on. But I have found that when faced with stepping outside of our comfort zones, 99% of us hesitate. Probably another 75% never make the jump at all .

One hears the statistics all the time that suggests we live in a world of comfortable boundaries. As an American in London, colleagues and acquaintances are constantly spouting out the statistic of the small percentage of Americans who own a passport. Or the one of how the average American will never travel more than 25 miles from where they are born, or some ridiculousness like that. But, while some may be more far-fetched than others, they all scream of not wanting to push the boundaries. It's easy to understand why. People who operate within their comfort zones tend to be happy enough, content, stable. They do their job, sometimes they do it well, and they stick to what they know. There is a lot to be said for sticking to what you know. But, I have found that if you really want to taste success, regardless of the scale, then at some point you are going to have to step outside your comfort zone and throw yourself into the frying pan.

I learned this when I left a high paying steady job at my last company, to start this business. I learned this when I travelled halfway across the world to live in London when I only knew one person and had no job, no place to live, and no friends. I learn this every time I travel to a new country and find myself eating the local food in the middle of the market, rather than in the upscale restaurant in our hotel. I am reminded of this every week when I try a new marketing tactic, open a new market, or even make a cold call to a new client. Essentially every time we put ourselves in a situation where we don't already know the outcome, we are stepping outside of our comfort zone, and in my opinion, making progress.

Now I know a lot of people who cannot think of anything worse than pushing those boundaries. The mere thought of looking foolish, getting rejected, getting lost or dumped, or failing, is enough to make sure they never so much as set a toe outside the little cocoon in which they have woven for themselves. There is nothing wrong with that, if that is what they want. But, I can categorically say those are not the people who have books written about them, articles published, or are celebrated on any level. Exiting your comfort zone gives so much more than anything that can be quantifiable. It gives you confidence, it shapes your character, it exposes your flaws, it sharpens your skills, and it allows you to have a life that is beyond what you currently have. It teaches you and burns you and praises you and often entralls you. Putting yourself out there, ultimately shapes you.

Where this has really hit home for me, has been going into new areas of business. Having spent my entire professional career in one sector of the market, it's been difficult to take the plunge and move almost entirely into something new and unknown. We could stick out the tough times and try and grow our business in the markets that I started out in, however, we would always be a minnow in a very large pond. So onto mapping out new markets it is. This exercise has been daunting and exciting all at the same time. There are few quick wins when you are navigating new waters .But in the long run, it's much more exciting popping and jumping and occasionally getting burned in the frying pan, that is it for settling for the ease of your comfort zone.

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