Direct Marketing Article
Just Because You Couldn't Doesn't Mean You Can't
By Walt Grassl
Early in Karl's career, he had no problem accepting a technical promotion
from junior technician to senior technician. When asked to be a supervisor,
self-doubt became his constant companion. He agonized over the decision for
days. He had trouble sleeping at night and concentrating on even the
simplest tasks. Finally, with the support of his family and co-workers, he
reluctantly took the promotion. Five years later, he has been asked to apply
for the department manager position, where he will have to manage a hundred
employees, including other supervisors. Self-doubt has returned, and he is
extremely anxious about the unknowns associated with the increase in
responsibility. He has a week to apply for the job and is dreading more
Most of us don't like change. We like to be comfortable. We like to play
things safe. We avoid risk. We put ourselves in safe little boxes and then
we miss out on opportunities for growth and advancement, both personally and
It is said we spend 70% of our time in our comfort zone, when we should
really spend 80% of our time in our uncomfortable zone. Where do you spend
Getting out of your comfort zone is a lot like exercising muscles that have
atrophied. As babies, we learn to stand by trying to stand up and then
falling down, over and over until we succeed. The same thing happens when we
learn to walk. Around the time we learn to ride a bike, things change. We
want to enjoy that the mobility of bike riding but we fear falling and
looking bad in front of our family, neighbors and friends. Usually, with the
encouragement of a family member or friend, we overcome the fear – and we
learn to ride a bike.
However, as we get older, we often find it easier to say "I can't do it"
than to try to learn a new skill or take on a new challenge. We tend to stay
in our comfort zones and our "step-outside-the-comfort-zone" muscles
Karl decided to seek the advice of Sydney, a former supervisor and mentor.
Throughout her career, Sydney has moved around within the company, taking
challenging assignments and growing in value to the company. The company
rewards her risk taking and she is now a division manager. Sydney talked to
Karl about the importance of stretching yourself, of being uncomfortable, of
testing your limits.
Sydney gave Karl these five steps to exercise the
1. Vary your routines
One sign of being comfortable is sameness, doing the same thing over and
over. Do you take the same route to work every day? Do you find yourself
eating in the same restaurants, even ordering the same meals? What would
happen if you didn't go to the same place, or if you didn't have "the
usual"? Consciously decide to do something different. Break out of your
routines. It will probably feel very uncomfortable at first – Great!
Experience the newness. Over time, it will feel less and less uncomfortable.
The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
2. Try new hobbies
Ever thought about being a magician? Playing the ukulele? Knitting?
Performing standup comedy?
Make a list of 20 things you think would be fun to try, then pick one. Find
a class through your local continuing education, YMCA or parks and
recreation department. Sign up, attend the first class and go in with the
idea that you will have fun. If you are really bad at it, so what? At least
you tried. Now, try another activity on your list! Chances are, you will
have fun, develop new skills and you'll likely make new friends.
3. Try new things at work
Is your first response when the boss asks for volunteers to avoid eye
contact, shrink down in your chair and try to make yourself really, really,
Often times, your organization will be asked to provide people to
participate in focus groups or special committees, for example for an open
house or for planning a holiday party. Seek out lateral work assignments and
volunteer yourself. Make your manager know you are happy to fill those roles
that, in the past, you and most of your co-workers probably shunned.
4. Say yes
If your natural inclination is to say No to new opportunities, change your
mindset. The more you say Yes to new opportunities, the broader your
experiences will be and the less afraid of new things you will become. Want
badly to say Yes and set a high threshold for saying No. Use this new
mindset at home and at work.
5. Get back up
Falling down is not failing. We often hear, "it is better to try and fail
than to fail to try". Inventors rarely create their inventions the first
time. They try, observe the results, and then try it differently. They
repeat it until they get the results they desire. Another saying we often
hear is, ‘the only person who doesn't make mistakes is the one that doesn't
When you try new things and they don't flow smoothly, don't be discouraged.
There are often bumps in the road. What is important is how you handle the
bumps in the road. Do you know when to ask for help? Do you figure out what
happened and then provide corrective action, so the same problem won't occur
again? Each time you go through a learning experience, you become more
seasoned and more confident when facing future challenges.
Just Because You Couldn't Doesn't Mean You Can't
When you stay in your comfort zone all the time, you will feel unfulfilled,
like you aren't getting everything you want out of life. By taking steps in
your personal and professional lives to get comfortable being uncomfortable,
you will open yourself up to new, challenging opportunities. The more you do
it, the easier it becomes. Just because you couldn't do something before,
doesn't mean you can't do it now.
Karl now knows many places to go for dinner, plays the ukulele for friends
at parties and, in his second year as a department manager, is gaining more
confidence in his leadership ability.
About the Author:
Walt Grassl conquered his crippling fear of public speaking at the age of
50, and through his Internet radio show, "Stand Up and Speak Up," he is
determined to help others do the same. Walt's accomplishments include
success in Toastmasters International speech contests, performing standup
comedy at the Hollywood Improv and and the Flamingo in Las Vegas. He is also
the author of the book "Stand Up and Speak Up". For more information on Walt
Grassl, please visit http://waltgrassl.com/