Comfortable with Uncomfortable: geek2great

I ran into Keith Croxford and his excellent geek2great (Because ‘Average’ is Overrated!) recently online and am so happy he decided to contribute. Also check out his superb videos here!

Let’s a take wild guess and assume that your daily schedule resembles a Python script called by Cron.

Beyond Comfort Zone
Ok, maybe not Python, I like Python. Maybe you are a PHP, Bash, Java or objective-C person. Whatever, you get the idea. Your daily life is built into various methods called by your main module. You are fully aware of how repetitive your life is, but you are happy.

Then someone with less ‘seniority’ receives that promotion you wanted at work. Your first reaction is to start trash talking on a private IRC channel with other engineers. After that, you revert to passive aggressive techniques to belittle the newly promoted ‘kid’. When he asks you for assistance, you ignore him. Email, phone calls, in person conversations, you don’t care. He is beneath you and didn’t deserve the promotion.

About a month passes by and you are still pissed, but something tells you do figure out why. You decide that tomorrow at work you are going to look into this ‘kid’.

You are restless and decide to execute your ‘life’ script an hour early that day.

Who cares if it is 4am, you are going to get into the office before this ‘kid’ gets there. You decide to put in something more adventurous into your commute play list. The ‘kid’ listens to Skrillex. Whatever that is, you decide to check it out.

1 minute later your nearly crash your car after you hear “OH MY GAAAWD” screaming from your speakers. This is followed by a bass drop and some ‘glitchy’ sounds (like a scratched CD) . You are confused, amused, and disgusted at the same time. “THIS is music?” You whisper to yourself. You go with it as this is keeping you more alert than a triple espresso on your commute. (Seriously, that is how the song goes, check it out here :

You walk in thinking you will be there first one there. Wrong. The ‘kid’ is already at work and greets you with a smile. ‘Hey $name, what are you doing here so early?’ You don’t answer the question, instead you reply with ‘Why are YOU here this early’. The ‘kid’ laughs and says ‘I attend a business networking event every Monday for an hour and a half. I show up early to make up for my extended lunch’. ‘Networking Event? Like a Cisco or Linux group?’. Again the kid laughs. ‘No a group full of sales people, executives, entrepreneurs etc. Want to come along?’. You quickly fire back ‘Nope! that’s NOT for me’.

You start your workday feeling defeated. The ‘kid’ arrived before you, and attends some strange ‘networking event’. This makes no sense, why would he attend something geared toward ‘non-geeks’? Your shift ends, and rather than Conway Twitty’s greatest hits, you decide to continue listening to Skrillex on the way home.

Congratulations! You didn’t realize it, but these were the first steps toward breaking out of your comfort zone.

Over the next month, you decide to attend one of these ‘networking events’. Another month passes by and you come to the realization that you need serious help with your verbal communication skills. You find a local Toastmasters group and begin to enjoy the anxiety that comes with public speaking.

A year later:

You are now ‘the guy’ the company chooses to send to trade shows as a technical resource. You’ve been promoted higher than ‘The Kid’. On top of this, you have recruiters (head-hunters) leaving you voice mails nonstop. Three competing companies want YOU to lead their teams.

Some aspects of this story are similar to my life (Ok, not the Conway Twitty part, but I was confused about ‘Skrillex’ on my first listen). For me, everything changed when I realized that it isn’t how much you know that will make you excel. On the other hand, it is not whom you know either.

Companies want people that can communicate. This realization lead me to do various things that ‘pushed me’ outside of my comfort zone. I even made a sorry attempt at selling a multi-level marketing product. Not because I was suckered into thinking I would make a ton of money. It was because it would make me uncomfortable talking to people about the ‘opportunity’ to join. I ended this experiment after two months, and joined Toastmasters. Toastmasters would continue to push me, without paying $100/ month for $30 worth of vitamins…

To sum it up, being comfortable in all aspects of life (probably) means you are in an endless loop.

Taking baby steps to break out your comfort zone WILL lead to good things. New friendships, job offers, happiness and even higher pay! I’m not saying that you need to join an ‘MLM’ company and sling vitamins, but maybe the occasional ‘networking event’ will not hurt. The old saying goes ‘Whatever doesn’t kill me, will only make me stronger’ I am a full believer in this concept.

So Mr or Ms reader, when can I expect to see YOU on this same journey?

– Keith Croxford 10/12/2014.

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