This blog and linked Ted talk goes out to all entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and innovators - and to all those who may (and should) follow in their footsteps. Because the chances are, you guys haven't fallen into this trap. Amongst many others, consumers, the economy and the UK's reputation for industrial creativity are the richer because you haven't.
And that's a lesson in itself to the rest of us.
Because there are too many people and businesses who are falling into the trap. And worryingly, a significant number of them might not yet have noticed.
Having long admired and finally, recently joined the startup community, there's one thing that never fails to impress me about this incredible network of driven individuals: they are constantly anxious and they'll freely tell you they feel fear about what they're doing.
There's so much uncertainty.
Yet their resilience, resourcefulness and sheer creativity carry them through.
Are you too comfortable to succeed?
The central premise of Bill Eckstrom's short and moving Ted talk (linked below) is that 'what makes you comfortable can ruin you. What makes you uncomfortable is the only way to grow.'
He illustrates this perfectly with the analogy of the goldfish.
What dictates the size of a goldfish?
The size of its bowl, its environment.
Where you work, is your goldfish bowl. And it can be very comfortable swimming around that bowl, following a predictable, ordered routine.
But comfort and order cause stagnation. Not just for businesses, but also for individuals. And let's face it, there is no business without people.
So if as individuals, we're all too comfortable in our working environments, there isn't really any driver for us to change that. We certainly aren't going to feel any sense of urgency about changing it.
Where there is no challenge in business, solutions aren't needed. Nobody has to think creatively or to push boundaries and learn new things; therefore progress may be slower, less inventive. It might never occur at all.
The antithesis of this of course is chaos, where there is zero predictability and little to no control over input and output. Well that's not great either.
In the middle of the spectrum, as Eckstrom points out, is order and certainty. Business typically loves this patch. It makes planning easy and it satisfies the accountants and those unhealthily obsessed with purely short-term gains in numbers.
The danger of order is that everyone becomes just that little bit too relaxed about what needs to be done. They stop thinking - or aren't driven to think hard enough - about new ways of doing things or new ideas. There's no threat to drive that added effort or investment in time.
Often, the symptoms and causes of this state are not felt until it is too late: a rival or disruptor gets ahead of you, usually because they've introduced something new and desirable that steals your customers away.
Remember when you were growing up?
When we were growing up, we regularly found ourselves outside of our comfort zones. Every lesson and new life experience caused us a degree of discomfort.
We didn't have all the answers.
We didn't know what would come next.
The world was full of possibilities and the unknown.
And from those lessons and experiences, we learned, discovered who we really are, and realised what we're really capable of. And while some of that was hard work, we had a lot of fun exploring and discovering, challenging and creating; being ourselves and original, emulating others perhaps, but not cloning or plagiarising.
Being in or running a business shouldn't change that. Too frequently however, it does.
Eckstrom advocates the need to get back to being out of your comfort zone and preventing order from limiting the way that you think and act. Unpredictability may make us uncomfortable, but 'growth only occurs in a state of discomfort,' he emphasises.
What's the most rewarding thing you've ever done?
I'm pretty certain you won't tell me it's the same thing you've repeated many times over. For most of us, it's a moment of success preceded by some form of breakthrough that we had to personally battle to achieve.
The critical breakthroughs happen when routine is broken and the problem-solving, creative sides to our personalities emerge. When we've had to channel a vision, push ourselves harder, step outside the ordered nature of our lives.
Unlike Eckstrom, you don't need to wait for the particular trigger that ultimately caused him to pursue his entrepreneurial success. He identifies others, the most important of which is already in your control: be your own trigger.
After all, even if you might be feeling like one right now, you are not a goldfish.
Don't let your environment define you. Make your own environment, whatever you choose to do that's outside your comfort zone.
(Big thanks for the original share, Alex Calvert!).
What happens when you feel comfortable in work and in life? Growth halts, that’s what—and Bill Eckstrom wants you to understand why that matters so much