Will Smith says it best in his talk about skydiving on YouTube – “Sheer bliss is on the other side of complete fear.”
In this YouTube video, Will is talking to a group of teens, and every time I hear the story, I relate. I went skydiving when I was in college, then twice more after college. The fourth time, well, I didn’t go. By the time some friends asked me to go up into an airplane and jump out the fourth time, I was happily married with two precious little children; the risk to reward factor had changed in my life. My comfort zone was to be safe and secure at home with my family. There are times to step out of comfort zones, and there are times to stay in them, but it is important to accept that comfort zones change.
Today, the comfort zone I know to stay away from is within my company.
Reason #1: Your comfort zone is a liar.
Think about it. All of “the greats” only became great after going through the trenches. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, John D. Rockefeller, Rodney Koop … the list goes on. There isn’t one success story that begins with comfort and ends with success. Why would yours be any different?
Your comfort zone is a cheap excuse not to be great. And if you didn’t want to be great, then you never should have started a company.
Reason #2: Your competitors want to steal and pillage your market share.
Today, you might be the “top dog” in your market, but I have news for you: Your product and your company aren’t so unique anymore. Why? Because you’ve put the idea out there. Your brilliant idea came from somewhere, and someone’s better idea will come from yours. You are not safe because you are on top today. Your customers and your market are always changing and growing; consumers are used to instant gratification, knowledge at their fingertips, and an ever-expanding sea of options. We are seen as the experts in our fields; the second we stop educating ourselves and others is the second we lose our rank.
How many times have you employed the wrong team member for far too long? If your competitors are after your market share, which they are, then don’t you think you owe it to your team to have the right team members on the bus? As managers and owners, the muscle we develop over time, the muscle that we use to make difficult decisions, gets stronger over time. And I tell myself all the time, that it is my job to make the hard calls, that’s why I’m the boss. I practice the muscle of hard calls as often as possible, because the faster I can get good at doing the hard things, the better my company will be.
Reason #3: Your company depends on it.
Your comfort zone will only keep you producing the same results over and over. For now, maybe it’s good enough. Maybe for now, you’re treading water. But in the not-so-distant future, things will change, and your “good enough” will convert into not enough to keep you afloat. By that time, you’ll be so exhausted from exerting all of your energy treading water that you’ll have nothing left to give to move forward.
Sometimes leaving your comfort zone means confronting uncomfortable truths. Let’s dive deeper with an analogy using a sales team. Do you know your sales team’s closing rate? If their closing rate was 20%, what would it take to change that to something as fractional as 25%? But wow, what would 5% do to your bottom line if it went into the profit jar? To move from a 20% closing rate to a 25%, what would need to happen? You could certainly hire more salespeople, expand your marketing reach, test new messaging. But the big question, the million-dollar question would be to step outside of your comfort zone, dig down into some deep honesty, to uncover the 80%. If 20% of your prospects are saying yes, then why are 80% of your prospects saying no? Now, that is a comfort zone worth getting out of.
Did you know it takes a minimum of 20 years to become an authority in your trade? Remember the days, back when you were in high school, not listening to your teacher during lectures, scribbling love notes to pass in the halls? That may not have been you, but it was the majority of us. Oh, if only we would have started our career conquest back then. After high school, if you went off to trade school or college, then started working as an intern, you most likely spent years proving to your manager that you could do more, that you were worth more. After proving you were more than an intern, perhaps you were promoted to full time, then into a management role, on to a specialist, expert … and then one day you were the top dog, enjoying your corner office, and all approvals ran through you because you were the authority figure. How did that happen? Well, if it happened at all, it was because you were not willing to remain in your comfort zone; you were one of the few who lived in the realm of the uncomfortable.
For years, I’ve kept a quote by Peter Thiel on my office wall: “Is there any reason you cannot complete your 10-year plan in the next six months?” Yes, Mr. Thiel. There is, and I call it my comfort zone.
Written by Danielle Putnam.
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