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Inside and Outside My Comfort Zone

Having a bad day
Credit: flickr / dotbenjamin

The other day, I had a phone interview for quite possibly my dream job. With the encouragement of my mentors and friends I was feeling good about it, and going for it, until a few hours before when I was practically vibrating with fear.

I don’t know how it went. I definitely didn’t connect with the interviewer, though. Phone interviews are hard.

The following day, I was checking my email obsessively – even though I know I can’t possibly hear back until next week… and there was a little voice in my head that said, “You shouldn’t have gone for it, because now you’re going to be disappointed”. I had an appointment for a haircut, and the book I took to read was The Leader Who Had No Title: A Modern Fable on Real Success in Business and in Life. I hadn’t been loving the book when I started it (on the plane back from Winnipeg), because the whole fable thing bothered me, but I came to a section where a former pro skiier was talking about the need to leave your comfort zone in order to be a better skiier (I blogged about this earlier this year). The analogies spoke to me as a skier, and to the way I’ve been living lately.

I’ve been living inside my comfort zone. It was a choice, because I needed to regroup, and sometimes maybe it’s healthy to retreat to your comfort zone for a while. I needed to be there. And now, I need to leave again.

People have been saying to me lately that I’m doing a lot. I always feel slightly guilty when they do, because I don’t feel like I’m stretching myself.

It’s not a stretch for me to get up for a 6am bootcamp, because frankly it’s nothing compared to the training I did in China. Nor is it a stretch for me to try pole-dancing at 25 – afterall, I didn’t learn to ski until I was 20. The Awesome Foundation? We have a great group of people, so everything else is details and I’ve done that before, too. At my internship, we have a client and a problem to solve, but we have support and it’s a similar to other projects I’ve done. Being single is easy, because I’m not one of those people for whom being alone is out of my comfort zone – in fact, it’s probably the opposite. Even though I’ve only lived alone for short periods until now, I’ve dreamed of having my own space for so long it’s well within my comfort zone. I actually quite love it.

Dream-chasing? That’s a stretch because my dreams are normally very achievable – and depend more on my motivation, ability and finances than something rather arbitrary, like impressing one person for 45 minutes one Friday afternoon.

Team work? That I find tough – at university, mostly you work alone, and if you have to be in a team you often get to pick your own, and either way – you’re judged on your own work. It makes me nervous to depend on team members I don’t know. The technical team members are okay – we’ve connected, bonded, and understand what each other are doing. It’s harder for me, though, to depend on the MBA – I don’t understand what he’s doing, and I don’t know how I can know that he’s doing a good job, or otherwise. Finding myself in a situation where I feel unprepared because someone else didn’t do the research, is definitely out of my comfort zone.

In order to accept my internship, I had to sign a number of confidentiality agreements. I’m still working out how to navigate this – what I can say, and what I can’t. Rather than risk breaking such an agreement, I’ve been saying a bare minimum. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging as much – I don’t want to say anything I shouldn’t, and it’s hard to tell the stories of what’s happening and how we’re doing without context. Talking about what I’m doing right now? Out of my comfort zone.

At the end of the summer, we will give a 4-minute pitch – one minute per team member – talking about our project and the value it brings to the client and to IBM. I’m used to giving longer talks, workshops, and teaching in a position where I know more about the topic than my audience. Doing that in French is tough for me, but still – this is my idea, my content, my slide template. Presenting in French, I don’t really need to worry about pace because my French-French compared to Quebecois is pretty slow. Presenting in English, I’m trying to inspire passion rather than explain, necessarily. Now much of the content in my minute comes from the MBA, I’m presenting to people who have more experience and market-knowledge than I do, and I’m explaining, so I have to speak more slowly. Our slides feature white text on a black background. I’m out of my comfort zone.

OK, so having had this realization and these examples – what now? What can I do to go back to living outside my comfort zone more?

  • Rollerblading – it makes me nervous.
  • Hot yoga – on my own.
  • Dream-chasing (chat with a recruiter being scheduled this week).
  • Work more on this PA idea – delegating is a good skill to master.
  • Write more about what I’m doing, within the limits of my NDAs.

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