For a long time, I had trouble saying no. Last year, this fear led to something that came back to bite me. However, it soon worked out for the better. For instance, it taught me a great lesson about comfort zones. This lesson I’m sharing with you puts an intriguing twist on the subject of comfort zones.
There’s an old saying by Gandhi that goes, “it’s easy to stand with the crowd. It takes courage to stand alone.” As entrepreneurs, we hear that message often. On your journey to change yourself for the better, there will be people trying to pull you back down to mediocrity. When you’re working to change the world, there will be people fighting you to keep the status quo. Even close friends and family will suddenly turn on you and ridicule your goals. Quotes like the one above are used for those situations where we deal with naysayers.
Something that we don’t think about very often is, that same rule can apply to people who do support us in our goals. Some of us are fortunate enough to have influential people in our lives who give great advice. Those people may be parents, spouses, coaches, teachers, or other mentors. It can be very tempting to take their every word as gospel. After all, they have more experience, more money, and more skills than us. Therefore, their way must be the only way.
I have a great story that shows the downside of this mentality.
Two years ago, my company was having its annual convention. In spite of financial issues, I traveled from New Jersey to Texas for the 3-day event. My logic was that by taking that leap of faith, I’d end up finding my miracle moment that would help me skyrocket my business. Instead, there was an overdose of motivational, “rah-rah” stuff, in addition to training that was mainly focused on the new people. The few things I did learn ended up all over YouTube, Facebook, and my back office for free. If all that wasn’t bad enough, my hot water was cut off when I got home, and it took 3 weeks to get it back on.
Naturally, I was hesitant about going to the following year’s convention. I’d like to tell you that I made up my mind from the beginning, but I was afraid of what my colleagues would say if I declined the trip. So I allowed that pressure to get me to split a hotel room/ticket package with one of my colleagues. Meaning that we would pay a monthly fee until the July convention, starting some time in the first quarter of the year. Financial issues caused me to miss several payments, so he took care of them.
Four nights before my flight, I had trouble sleeping. I felt guilty and mad at myself for allowing what other people think pressure me into lying and wasting someone else’s money. It was a bad, almost sick feeling all around. At 1:52AM, I reluctantly sent a lengthy text message to my colleague explaining what happened and telling him that I didn’t want to go. We went back and forth until he eventually gave in and wished me well.
Getting all that weight off my chest caused me to feel oddly refreshed. Another challenge of mine is confrontation. Granted, the conflict in this case was entirely through text messages, but it was very nerve-wracking. Who knows if I would have had the nerve to do it over the phone or in person? R.I.P. and special thanks to Matti Makkonen and the rest of the Nokia team that invented text messages!
While skipping the convention, I discovered new ways to market my business. You know that article I wrote on 5 ways to work at home? Three of them were learned during this time. Also, I vastly improved my communication skills. I made a habit of talking to people online every day. At one point, I had a great talk with a fellow entrepreneur who ended up promoting my product on her page in front of her 9K+ followers, and again a few months later for 11K+ people! I figured out how to provide value to prospects through teaching, rather than immediately trying to enroll them. I discovered my knack for writing articles about business experiences, which eventually led to my running this blog. I learned how to use my current biggest internet lead generator.
If I hadn’t spoken up and just went to convention, I wouldn’t have had the chance to learn all this stuff. At least not at that time. So it’s a great thing that I didn’t go!
The lesson I learned was that sometimes you have to follow your own instincts. Those instincts may contradict what your parents and mentors think, but that doesn’t mean you’re wrong. If you look into the lives of successful people, a number of them followed their instincts and went against people more qualified than them. Their instincts proved those people wrong and led the person in the right direction.
Michael Jackson was unhappy with CBS’s original plans for his “Thriller” album. The final project was so bad that Michael was in tears after hearing it. After a while, he got angry and flat out told the record company that he’s not releasing the album. The company gave in, extended the deadline, and allowed Michael to do his thing. I heard the final project did fairly well. Have you heard it?
There’s an old saying that everything we hear is opinion and perspective. It’s up to us to create the truths we live by. Even if a person is smarter, richer, and more skillful than you, what they think is best for you is just their opinion. No one else knows what’s best for you. There will be times where your supportive peers want you to do something that you don’t want to. One way to look at it is that they just want to help you get out of your comfort zone.
Look at it this way: what if doing what you believe is right is a way of getting out of your comfort zone? What if the decision to stop blindly following people — including your role models — is a way of getting out of your comfort zone? What if getting out of your comfort zone is making the effort to find something better if their way doesn’t work?
Always keep that in mind.
Make a nice day!