As she came closer to me on my morning walk, we exchanged smiles and nods. Clearly, she was lost. She pulled out a map, but she had no idea where she was on that map. I pointed to the symbol for Lyndhurst, where we stood.
I used gestures and simple sentences to direct her to other walking paths, further ahead.
This Japanese lady seemed to know only two English words: Thank you.
Is there a lesson here? You bet. She was exploring without a notion of what she was heading for. She was out of her comfort zone, with no common language for asking directions. But with courage and curiosity, she was going to succeed. I just sensed that she would be spectacularly rewarded for her gumption.
Directive #1: Get out of your comfort zone to expand your career sight lines
So you’ve been an equities trader your whole life, and now the equities business isn’t making the money it used to. I know, the world has changed. Change is a constant.
And that is why you need to do something differently, and get out of your comfort zone.
The fact that opportunities are no longer in your sight may mean that you need to find a new business model, or you need to punt. Find a new job. Discover a field that is growing, and leave the dying dogs behind.
Yes, it will be difficult to begin anew because you are going to shift from being the expert at what you already know, to being the newbie who can’t know all the angles. But the journey will get easier if you keep going.
In an article on escaping your comfort zone, I learned that one’s brain actually craves new experiences. Mine certainly does. So why not apply this to your career, and force yourself to learn something new–exploring without holding back?
Directive #2: Make a habit to fail often and fail valiantly, taking the sting out of failing
What would each of us do differently, if we were not afraid of failure?
As I was researching the background of Sara Blakely, a woman who made Forbes’ list of the richest people in the world, I learned one secret to her success.
When she was younger, her father used to ask her and her brother at the dinner table, “What have you failed at today?” He asked this same question week after week, and as his progeny came to expect it and anticipate giving an answer, the usual sting that accompanies failure became neutralized. There was no longer shame associated with failure. Instead, Sara’s definition of failure became not trying.
Nowadays, Sara Blakely is the youngest woman in the world to make the Forbes scoreboard on her own, without the help of a husband or the nest egg of an inheritance. She founded Spanx with an investment of $5,000, and from that built an empire on women’s desire for a sexy shape without the hassles of constricting undergarments.
So go ahead and fail. And then get back on your horse. Because even if you get knocked off your steed, you will be far better for the experience.
Directive #3: Practice visualizing success so your brain shifts towards your career objectives
Lauren Trecosta offered great advice to keep readers from repeating their mistakes over and over. She said, “It’s essential to visualize what you want to do in order to eliminate what you don’t want. When you tell yourself what you want, your brain immediately visualizes it and begins moving towards the objective.”
And the opposite is also true. You cannot succeed at something that you cannot visualize.
Sports memoirs provide a great illustration of visualization. The autobiography of Andre Agassi has a ton to recommend it, but woven among the remarkable tales of a lost childhood, an oppressive father, and banishment to a tennis academy where life felt utterly constricted, are many great descriptions of how a professional tennis player wins or loses a match according to his thoughts.
Repeatedly, this American icon had to slough off his doubt-ridden memory of losing to his opponent in previous matches. Instead, Andre chose to actively visualize beating the other guy. It is heart-stompingly poignant when Agassi describes games against opponents where he can even read their body language to intuit when they have lost the mental edge.
So start visualizing what it would look like for you to succeed.
Close your eyes, take time, and put your energy into “seeing” your individual success. Begin to fill in the details in your mind of how you will get there. Visualize it, and you can plan for it.
And then, you are off on your way.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0, J_P_D.
Are you up for this? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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