Funny. Today’s WordPress Writing Prompt is: If You Leave. I only briefly read the description “What if you left a relationship, left a job,…” and I had to LOL at the instantaneous “Ohhhh I know what I would write about,” that came to mind. All funny aside, I think this is something everyone should consider. Mind you, I don’t mean consider leaving your relationship. If you’re considering that at all, you should probably get that checked… by someone… somehow. I mean the concept in general can be taken into account as a good self-practice where you have a chance to ping pong your reflection between being grateful for what you have and moving outside your comfort zone on any given subject.
Get uncomfortable! Seriously. I can say without a doubt that the most opportune moments of my life have been when I have forced myself into something I was terrified of.
My first real job as a Freshman in college, I spent most of my days in a dark corner transcribing phone calls for Kinkos. Ya, those “this phone call may be recorded” customer service calls are for real, and there are people like me sitting in a dark room writing it all out for massive reports that no one will likely ever read. The job was kind of depressing. No one who calls a customer service line for Kinkos has anything good to say! Plus it was depressing that my flying fingers put two other girls out of work and suddenly gave me three times the workload at the same mediocre price. Even then, I worked myself out of things to do so my boss put me in charge of gathering packages throughout the office, going onto their (wait for it…) FedEx KINKOS! account, creating the shipping labels, and dropping them off at the back door for the FedEx truck. It was in this process that I realized there were parts of that building I never even knew about. Specifically, by the backdoor sat a small group of anti social computer programmers. I was never one to start a conversation, but I forced myself into saying hi and within a month, I was promoted from the dark, back corner of transcribing to the first ever female programmer on a team of frightful nerds who were convinced I had cooties or something.
Even, going to college was outside my comfort zone! No one held my hand. No one told me how to do it. My Mom was dead and my Dad was busy interviewing future wives. I had no idea what a Registrars office was. To me, it was just an amusing typo. College applications? Ok. I might’ve known something about them if I had the chance to graduate from a public high school rather than turning to homeschooling myself my Senior year.
Like a lot of young girls who still have it easy staying skinny (can we go back to that place please?), I got into modeling for a few years. By then the comfort zone concept seemed to come up daily. So for me, modeling was never about making it big somewhere as much as it was about learning self confidence. At 16, I had a glimmer of strong, rebellious, in-your-face confidence that fell out from under me when my Mom died. Now I was 19. I was a little fish in a big sea of questions. I needed to hold my own. So I paid my $1800 for modeling classes and headshots. I told myself if I landed a few modeling gigs, great! But, the real investment was in learning how to show up each week to a room full of ridiculously good looking people and know I belonged. Maybe that sounds stupid to some. It was mockable to many at the time. That was part of the challenge. I learned how to be happy and confident whether I was strutting down a run way in front of a hundred judgmental eyes or sitting in a college class bubbling in answers for a test. Everything about it was far outside my comfort zone. I lived by myself. I had been on my own at that point for a long time. I couldn’t buy the name brand clothes or fancy shoes. I couldn’t get my hair done or invest in sunless tanners. I had no means of trying to look like other people. It was just me, an old pair of Seven jeans with holes in them, a horribly plastic pair of heels from Target, and an at home bleach job that made me look more Doc Brown than Kate Hudson. But I wouldn’t go back and do it any differently. Even today when I walk into a room of name brand drenched females with jutting jaw lines and pouty lips, I do little to remind myself I don’t have to be one of them. I just have to be me. That’s exactly why, despite the scenery, I can throw my feet up over the edge of a couch at a formal party and strike up a conversation either funny or intelligent. It’s what I do.
That’s all in the past though, and I’m certainly not renewed to some level of perfection. Comfort zones are ever expanding if you challenge yourself enough. When I read the daily post prompt, my mind immediately went to a challenge that’s a little less “ten years ago”.
Many won’t really “get it,” and some absolutely will. To make a long story short, I was working with someone that was intensely paranoid, a bit controlling, very blaming, and all around negative. No one could do anything right by this person. We’ve all worked for someone similar. However, this time, I was challenged to approach it differently.
Unlike my 19 year old self, I quickly recognized how this working relationship was far from worth it. I could immediately dismiss some past scripts – it’s all in the job, it is probably just me, I’ll just have to work harder. Still, I got into a loyal routine of misery and put someone before myself with the rationalization that somehow it was what I “needed” to do. There was little truth to that. I didn’t need anything, but somehow it was what I subconsciously settled for in order to convince myself to keep going through this day after day.
I knew it, but I couldn’t get out of it. Stark recognized this and knew precisely what to do. He challenged me. He knew how to motivate me right out of my comfort zone. He proposed a humorous lesson to be learned by simply telling me: Get fired. He was serious, but there were some stipulations. He didn’t mean get fired by being dishonest in some way like not showing up or not doing my job well. The stipulations were that I had to “Get Fired” by sticking up for myself and my work and being so proactive about things that my work would force colleagues out of their mindless drone of menial tasks and into a more propelled way of thinking… or at least expose the mediocrity.
I knew exactly what Stark was challenging me to do. He wanted me to not cycle down to a passive aggressive point of agreeing to help someone at the cost of my precious time and emotional well-being. He wanted me to realize for myself that I was better than this and far more capable rather than taking the feedback of someone who ultimately was neither right nor someone who mattered and labeling it as my truth. Honestly, that was the easy part. For me, the hard part was getting out of the routine of helping someone do something they truly think is great. Most specifically, helping someone who refuses to be helped (which is a very challenging and totally awkward thing when you’ve been hired to do something that ultimately, no one wants you to do). It all made sense and it seemed to be a simple idea, but it wasn’t.
When the challenge was first presented, the discussion came with the context of “that’s how, in turn, you get promoted,” which was true. No one gets to the top by working furiously within the same, recycled routine. The way to the top isn’t listed in a job description; it doesn’t show up in your daily to-do list. Pushing boundaries is part of being a writer and part of being a greater marketer. No one got anywhere with being the 100th company to post their own Gangnam Style video online. Yet, there are people/companies who just want to copy/paste and appear to be relevant. Then there are people/companies who want to get in the mix and STIR IT UP! I quickly learned that just because someone who views themselves as an expert is stuck in 1999 on webdev and marketing best practices doesn’t mean that I should just say, “Ok… that’s what we’ll do.” It’s part of my job every day to churn out qualified contacts and let the chronic form-filler-outters sink to the bottom, so why not do that in my own life? While differences are certainly allowed, being stagnant is not something I want to associate my name with. So I let it sink in a new way, with greater intention, and I came out on top because of it.
So to you, wherever you are and whatever you may be going through, I give you two rules of thumb to make the most of whatever you deem as your “career”:
- Get Uncomfortable
- Get Fired
It’s all in tune with believing in yourself, your own capability, and that the stars you see are in reach. While stepping stones are necessary and life’s lessons are often delivered as curve balls, I say never dodge and never settle. Know what you want and don’t take any amount of rationalization you will provide yourself. After all, we are our greatest cheerleaders and our own worst enemies. The trick of the trade is to keep going. Always.
|This post has been brought to you by my favorite German roast, Dallymayr Classic Coffee from the #Coffice of Caz. Are You With Caz*?