If you want to be a high performer today you need to fearlessly, courageously and pro-actively embrace exponential growth. This is growth that just keeps on coming. It never stops to give you breathing space. It can overwhelm if you don’t know how to move with it. It is, however, the kind of growth that enhances your ability to manage the uncertainty, unpredictability and complexity of today’s world.
To embrace its empowering excitement and ride its challenging relentlessness, you need to move out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself where you will discover potential you never knew you had. More significantly, on the way, you will gain insights into the intrigues of how this new economy operates. This empowers you to work more effectively within it, provoking even further growth and ultimate success.
Incremental growth, on the other hand, is a long road today. You decide to make a change and you work on it until you’ve made it. When that change is achieved you make another building on the first. It may take months or years but all the time you remain in control of the process. That’s important to you because the stress of not being in control of the change threatens you too much. You still believe that slow and steady will get you there. While you are growing incrementally, however, you see colleagues bypassing you, seizing opportunities and promotions you believe you deserve. You don’t understand that while you are technically more qualified, you do not display the non-technical soft skills that will equip you to become a high performer in this volatile, uncertain and changing workplace.
While those of you who embrace exponential change work with 1, 3 and 5 year plans that are flexible and very agile, those committed to incremental change are following 3, 5 and 10 year plans that you are adhering to very closely.
Everyone has a comfort zone, but it is the seat of mediocrity. You will not become the best version of yourself that you can be by staying there. So if you really want to grow, change and transform, get out of your comfort zone. It’s about facing your fears. Often they are imagined, not real.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “We gain strength and courage and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face…….we must do that which we think we cannot.”
What’s amazing about stepping out of your comfort zone is that the first step may be terrifying. If you keep going, however, the next step is less so and within a few short steps, you are wanting to take giant leaps because of what you are experiencing and because you like what is happening for you and to you – even though it sometimes makes your heart race at an alarming speed and you feel you have snakes, not butterflies, in your stomach.
Gently, yet often, exercise your risk threshold like a muscle. Eventually it will become stronger
and able to withstand greater pressure
- Frank McKinney.
These are words of wisdom for all you people who, in these uncertain and unpredictable times, fear to take risks. Instead you ride down the road with your foot on the brake.
You need to change this because being able to take calculated risks is the way to move to the cutting edge in your profession or industry sector in these changing times. If you stay in your comfort zone, you’ll get “run over”. The risk lies in moving out of that comfort zone into the unknown which can hold opportunities that you have only ever dreamed of.
All physical fitness trainers are about building muscle, strengthening our bodies so as to prevent injury. Yet if you haven’t done exercise for a while, you don’t go in and start lifting heavy weights. You start small. You do light weight bearing exercise and lift 1 or 2 kg dumb bells and as you become stronger you move up and take on bigger challenges.
Something extraordinary and unexpected happens for you. You feel empowered physically but also emotionally. You can feel a strength and power in your body that you never knew was there.
You can do the same with your professional self. Start taking little risks and exercise your emotional muscle. Build your confidence and feel it grow.
- Go up and introduce yourself to someone you don’t know at a networking event.
- Stand up and do a presentation at a professional forum.
- Volunteer to chair a meeting when you’ve never done it before.
- Take a decision for your team that you know is right but which you also know will greatly challenge you.
- Apply for a job you really want but for which you don’t meet all the criteria and go into bat for yourself big time.
Draw up a list of your own.
- What creates fear and apprehension in you professionally, yet you know it would be good for your career?
- Decide to take one risk a week and watch what happens to you.
- Keep a record to read back because after a very short while you will find that very few things present as risks anymore. When you read back, you will realise how far you have come.
You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.
Steve Jobs made the comment when he knew he was dying: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” Don’t wait until you are dying. Live life at this exciting edge today. Whatever it is that you fear, take hold of it and start today to exercise your risk muscle and be ready to seize the next opportunity that presents itself to you. This article is a chapter in my book – Take Your Foot Off The Brake – 18 Inspirational Reflections To Accelerate Your Career. You can get a copy of it when you subscribe to my blog.