My first job out of college was as a temporary staffing placement specialist. While I looked forward to selecting and placing staff, there was a sales component too. Reaching out to potential clients or cold calling total strangers to build the business was just shy of terrifying for me. But to earn a paycheck and keep my staff working, I had to do it. I set out to learn and picked up some sales books. One piece of advice has stuck with me ever since: Do one thing outside your comfort zone every day.
Calling on a prospect or starting a conversation with someone at a networking event was the worst part of my day. By putting that advice into action, one thing every day, I learned a great thing about comfort zones is that they have infinite capacity to stretch. And those fears we have are really unfounded. No one ever turned and walked away and no prospect slammed down the phone. I didn’t convert every prospect to a client, but I did with many. Now people are surprised when I share my early experiences. They thought starting a conversation with someone new came naturally.
My comfort zone is still stretching and includes starting a new role, learning a new industry, working with new people, testing a new skill, and implementing something that’s never been tried before. Or learning a new sport, traveling to a country where you don’t speak or read the language, trying a new cuisine. Stretching will always be uncomfortable, but it is also a lot of fun and leads you down rewarding paths.
In fact, it’s directly related to my current position and may be the reason I enjoy working in the diversity and inclusion field. Embracing diversity requires learning and talking about things that make most people uncomfortable. But I have yet to meet a single person who has regretted stretching outside their comfort zone and learning about the diverse experiences and perspectives of their colleagues. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t appreciate an inclusive environment which encourages stretching outside your comfort zone to learn about and leverage diverse perspectives. Inclusion lessens the natural discomfort that comes with learning.
To the author of that book whose name I’ve forgotten, but whose advice continues to hold true in so many ways, thank you.