A theme that has come up recently with the younger people in my life is the issue of how to assess the value of an opportunity. I have repeated the same advice, to think about the long term benefit(s) of accepting the opportunity being presented. The thing that stood out very clearly in both situations is that they wanted to wait for the perfect situation that did not require any additional sacrifice: the perfect job in their field, paying the desired salary, close to home with a positive work environment. These are people working survival jobs that don’t bring fulfillment or much career advancement.
What I told them both is that we have to step out of our comfort zones to get where we want to be. A very “lucky” person can see things work out exactly as expected, however the truth is, it is highly unlikely. Plans face frustrations. There is a popular expression that states: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” While that sounds pretty cool and most would agree, as with most motivational quotes, it is a different thing altogether to internalize its meaning then practice it in real life. And what is a comfort zone??
Welcome To The Comfort Zone
‘Comfort zone’ is a pretty way of saying ‘complacent’ or ‘apathetic.’ It is a state of familiarity, predictability, consistency and untested confidence. It’s a place of the knowns and known unknowns. It is home base. In a comfort zone you know what you have. The down side to never straying from the comfort zone is stagnance. Yes you know what you have, but it is all you will ever have.
We often get to a point in life where we want something different, even if we do not know exactly what it is. There is a powerful force inside that yearns to be released in some particular direction. It may be the desire for more income, better use of skills, development of interests. In this day and age entrepreneurship is the highly valued; more people than ever want to “be the boss.” But any change to the norm requires some level of ambition and that inescapably requires risk.
When we want to accomplish something greater we need a plan of action with short term and long term goals; we have to assess what we are willing to give up to get started in that desired direction. Changing careers or employers is a good example. Are you willing to give up the place you live? Are you willing to take a longer commute to work or work in an environment that is not ideal in order to gain practical experience in order to become a more attractive candidate for the dream career you envision? Are you willing to make the monetary sacrifices necessary, such as spending more on transportation or more professional credentials?
It is nearly impossible to make any progress toward a significant goal without getting very uncomfortable. Success and risk go hand-in-hand. There is no way to know where an opportunity will lead and sometimes the best opportunities appear very undesirable. Doing things we don’t “feel like” doing can be blessings in disguise because the first step is to make ourselves available for that unknown key to unlock the door to the chance of a lifetime. The first thing you have to do is show up.
I learned this while pursuing a career in acting. Plenty of people are drawn to the industry because of the perceived glamour and riches that can come with it. Have you ever watched a TV show or movie and wondered how in the world that actor got that part? Maybe their acting stinks or they are otherwise somehow wrong for the role. When I see situations like that I remember what I was told by casting directors: about half of the actors who are invited for auditions don’t bother to show up! Showing up is literally half the battle in life. Actors who go to everyaudition that they can, even ones they’re not invited to, are more likely to eventually book work consistently, not only because of the increased odds they gain from going to as many auditions as possible, but because their consistency is noted and appreciated. They’re hungrier than everybody else! And because of that they will be trusted for their work ethic and reliability. So between two actors, one being stellar who attends auditions sporadically and one being mediocre who shows up consistently, the latter will have a higher likelihood of booking the part because of their reputation.
The other thing I learned from the acting world is that the industry is small. Everybody knows everybody, ultimately. Other industries are the same. Human beings are relational. One of the blessings of showing up is that you don’t know who is going to notice and make a recommendation to someone looking for someone just like you. You never know whose mind you are on.
Showing up for every audition you can get to means showing up when you “don’t feel like it.” When you’d rather sit on the couch and watch TV or doing whatever other activity brings you pleasure. It even means showing up if you are less than prepared and chalk it up to simply more audition experience and another opportunity to “be seen” by someone who may be looking for your type in the future. Being willing to get uncomfortable means being willing to be less than your normal cute self.
The point is that it is those who do not expect their best opportunity to look and feel a particular way, but can consider the different ways that an opportunity may be able to enhance their skills, network and reputation who will ultimately fulfill their purpose and reach their goals.
The best thing about challenging one’s self to get uncomfortable is how it will strengthen a person. When we get uncomfortable there are hurdles that we have to figure out how to overcome. It makes one more “street smart.” It develops character. It teaches one how to manoeuver in life when inevitable difficulties (the unknownunknowns) come up – even in the realm of your ideal life. Overcoming fears, doubts and anxieties trains our brain and our spirit to persevere instead of giving up when things get hard. It can teach us to recognize ugly-looking opportunities as the potential diamonds in the rough that they are. Ask a real estate investor. The gold mines of life are the places that most won’t go because it’s not cute or easy.