Comfort Is A Girl’s Worst Friend

When-Our-Comfort-Zone-Becomes-A-Danger-Zone

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??

 

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We are created to multiply our innate gifts and talents.

 

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.

Showing Up

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.

Training Day

 

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Challenges can make you stronger.

 

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.

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How To Graduate with Less or No Debt

Keys_29082It’s quite the conundrum. We are told that a college education is the key to achieving our full potential and the American dream.  The story tells us it is the way out of poverty.  Access to higher education was a major priority for the last White House administration and affordability was central to that message.  President Obama even introduced the America’s College Promise Act 2015 to make the two years of community college free.

Over the past decade or so the number of Americans earning college degrees has skyrocketed.  And so has the tuition, and the debt that follows.  For many, what was supposed to be a roadmap to the American Dream turned out to be a money pit into a uniquely American nightmare.  Graduates now face enormously burdensome debt that many will never be able to pay off in their lifetime.  We’ve all heard reports about the student loan default crisis, where the struggle to keep up with unaffordable loan payments becomes so discouraging that people stop paying altogether.

Women are particularly vulnerable.  I recently read that women own two-thirds of student loan debt.  Yet a female graduate will earn only 79 cents for every dollar that a male graduate will, on average, in a similar position.  Hmm…wouldn’t it be nice if that was reflected in the tuition we pay?!  Blacks and Latinas tend to take on more debt, and the fact that they tend to make even less than their White counterparts makes it especially harder for them to repay.

But alas, there’s hope!  There are several ways to graduate with less or no debt.  At the root of decreasing the need to take on debt to advance one’s education are planning, time and diligence.  Here are some things to consider:

  1. Take your required courses at a community college.  It is not necessary to spend tens of thousands of dollars on coursework that isn’t directly relevant to your major; better yet, if you don’t even know what you want to study or career path you want to take right now, community college is a great place to sort that out.  Aside from the money, it can help you to grow in maturity and be more focused at a four-year college. Advantages:
    1. Cheaper
    2. Potentially pay tuition as you go
    3. The 4-year college transcript is what will be seen on your resume and what you will talk about at parties!  If you started at Community but ended up at Harvard no one really has to know.stundet-loan4
  2. Prepare!  There are literally thousands of grants and scholarships.  Take the time to do the research necessary to meet all of the deadlines and gather all of the information required to complete each application.
    1. Attend events at schools and community organizations of all sorts; read books and articles on free money for college. Get to know people who do this every day and keep in touch.
    2. It would be wise to start researching 18 months out from when you will begin school.  This way you can target your time and energy towards the most lucrative scholarships and grants that you qualify for and are interested in.
    3. Give yourself and your recommenders enough time to craft thoughtful, well-written essays and recommendations.
  3. Consider the potential salary expectations for your desired career.  Will your potential future income allow you to afford your student loan debt along with your realistic cost of living?  Your grades, location, network and caliber of your school are all factors in the salary level that may be available to you.
    1. This is the business of your life.  Do a cost/benefit analysis on your educational goals.  Does the pay scale for the career you intend to go into justify the cost of the degree required for the field?  For example, if you want to be a social worker, would it be worth it to go $60,000 into debt, considering what your salary is likely to be over the long run?
    2. Following the example in number 1, there are student loan forgiveness programs for certain careers.
      1. Usually when you go into one of these careers and apply for loan forgiveness there are requirements such as length of time to work in the field.
      2. Careers in public service (ex., The Peace Corps), medicine, the law and military service are all examples.
      3. For more information go here, here, here and here.splash
    3. An often overlooked yet critical advantage of going to college is the alumni network.
      1. I wrote in a previous blog, No Man Is An Island.  No one gets to where they want to be in life solely on their own effort.  Everyone needs a team to achieve their goals and dreams.
      2. As I asserted in my post about opportunity, connections are key.  That is the value of going to a top-tier school.  College isn’t just about academics; it’s the people with whom you will build lifetime personal relationships and professional connections. Further, the higher up on that U.S. News & World Report list, the higher your earning potential will be as soon as your graduate.
      3. Going to a top school matters most in the beginning of your career.  Afterward your professional record is what will really matter.  Of course top school alums will always have bragging rights, whatever it’s worth. 🙂
    4. Get a job at a company that offers tuition reimbursement.  Consider that there is more than one way to obtain an “education.”  Working in your field of interest while saving and investing as much as you can, kills two birds with one stone.  Being reimbursed for the tuition you pay is icing on the cake!
      1.  I benefited enormously by this incentive when I worked at Ernst & Young.  I was able to grow my professional competence through continuing education classes.  But they would also have paid for graduate school.
      2. Usually companies will require that you study courses either related to your specific position or the company’s industry. Length of time employed is another typical requirement. Either way if it’s your field of choice, it’s a win.
      3. The bigger the company the more likely that this opportunity will be available and the more generous.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started.  There are other personal finance possibilities that I will cover in another blog.  Have you been working on getting the money together to pay for college?  What has or has not worked for you so far?  Do you have any ideas you could add to this list?  Comment below!

 

Read more on the advantages of community college here.

Tennessee Makes Community College Free For All Adults

Detroit Is Making First Two Years of College Free

Two Tuition-Free Years in Rhode Island

Should Students Get Grades ’13 and 14′ Free of Charge?

Paying off debt with 401K

8 Reasons To Never Borrow From Your 401K

First 2 Years of College Free