When I look back at the times in my life when I made great strides forward, those periods were always comprised of challenges and outright turmoil. Leaving my comfort zone seemed to always be painful. All I wanted to do was stay in that nice, comfortable place where I knew everyone around me, my job was easy and I could just put in my time.
In 2003 my wife and I both lost our positions in the technology industry, forcing us to reinvent ourselves. I look back now and it was no surprise why I was the low man on the totem pole and one of the first to lose my position. I was the head of the department, my job had become so easy, that I spend a minimum of 3 hours each day screwing off. Playing basketball behind the warehouse and online games were daily activities. I was comfortable (and a terrible employee). Being laid off forced me into a place that I didn’t want to be, unemployed! However, if this event hadn’t occurred, I would never have discovered my entrepreneurial spirit and definitely would not have been writing this today. My comfort zone sucked! Not only did it suck in the traditional sense, but it was also sucking my potential without me even realizing it. My comfort zone was a trap that prevented me from realizing a much better future for myself and my family.
Obviously, my story isn’t unique. Thousands of business professionals have found new passions when they are forced out of their comfort zones. I would even venture to say that MOST small business owners didn’t originally start out on their current path. If this sounds like you, have you ever stopped to think about what your business would look like today had you pushed yourself out of you comfort zone a bit earlier? How much more could you have accomplished? How much larger and more profitable would you be today? All because, you recognized your comfort zone, and pushed yourself out of it.
The dreaded comfort zone in business networking is unfortunately, way too common. Just like in the working world, the networking comfort zone is sucking potential relationships and referrals from each and every one of us. You would think that I would have learned my lesson the first time, but a few years back I found myself stuck in the networking comfort zone. My relationships were suffering, my referrals were lacking and my attitude began to go downhill. The worst part, I knew it was happening, and I didn’t know what to do about it. Unfortunately, I see hundreds of other business professions struggling with the same challenge. Not sure if you’re one of them? If you can answer “yes” to the following questions, you may be stuck in in your comfort zone.
- Do you see the same people at all of the events you attend?
- Are you sitting next to your friends instead of making new contacts?
- Do you skip scheduling one to one meetings with new members of the organization?
- Are you asking for the same referrals at each meeting?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, the networking comfort zone may have you!
Now you are faced with the same decision that I was. Remain comfortable, put in your time, and continue receiving mediocre results. Or you could proactively push yourself out of your comfort zone and discover new levels of success that you never even new existed!
My challenge to each of you reading is to push yourself out of your comfort zone at least once each day. Do something that scares you just a little bit. Attend that networking event you weren’t quite sure about. Schedule that one to one meeting with the new guy. Sit next to someone new for a change. Ask for a dream referral that you never thought you could ever get!
In today’s fast paced business environment, continuous improvement is not only helpful, it is essential to survive. Most often, the paths to great things lie far outside of your comfort zone. So, recognize that your comfort zone likely sucks and try something new today!