Why not be the cool kid? I’m joking of course, but it does have a point. When I say “cool kid” I’m talking about successful man or woman. If you want to be successful, you need to abandon your comfort zone. Yes, I know – it is impossible to do. News flash: 100 years ago it was impossible to fly to the moon and back. With the right tools, knowledge, and drive to succeed – everything is possible!
If you want to plant a tree, will you plant it in a small pot and set it on your window? Of course not! You can’t grow a tree in such a small container. It needs room to grow, to plant its roots deep down the soil. Success is your tree, and your comfort zone is that small pot. How can it grow? I think you got the idea. You need to step outside your comfort zone, there’s nothing stopping you.
I was talking to a friend of mine the other day. She’s a smart girl, with master degree. In this turbulent economy she’s having a hard time finding a job that someone with master degree should have. She told me she went to network at an industry conference and then she said, “Damn is it hard to make friends.” Indeed it is, especially when you can’t leave your comfort zone. I know she’s a very shy person and I told her that she needs to go outside her comfort zone. She replied, “I’ll go just past my comfort zone, but no further.” If you’re going on vacation to Canada would you spend two weeks on the border or would you go visit cities to enjoy yourself? Same applies for comfort zone, you need to abandon it. It sets limits that are incompatible with a happy and successful life.
Plant your tree outside and let it grow. Why tree is a good analogy? When you let a tree grow outside, where it has room for unlimited growth it will begin to dig deeper with its roots. In our world those roots represent your network: friends, family, coworkers, etc. A tree uses its roots to absorb water and nutrients as you should use your network to absorb nutrients especially helpful to your life (referrals, advice, knowledge, friendship, etc.). The bigger your network, the better you’re off.
But, you can’t just connect with people and thing they will help you when you need it – you have to nurture your relationship. Don’t forget, roots are always connected to the tree. You should stay connected to your network – occasional emails, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc. Nurture your relationships and they will grow. Be sincere, don’t just do it because you want something in return later in life.
Schools and parents teach us how to live a life within limits imposed by the society. Think about it, when you were a kid you were told, “Don’t talk to strangers.” Over many years this became part of our subconscious mind, so now we are afraid of approaching strangers completely. We are afraid they will reject or laugh at us – hurt us! It’s a good tactic to keep kids safe, but it should be balanced with a proper education on socializing and human relations.
How do I step outside my comfort zone? Before I answer this, I want you to promise me that you will do it, no matter what it is – you will do it. This promise is not only to me, but it is a promise to yourself. Don’t forget, leaders keep their promises.
The best way to begin your permanent move out of the comfort zone is to educate yourself on how to deal with people. This is where the Bible of human relations becomes handy. It is a book by Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People. If you haven’t read it, please, get it after you’re done reading this. It will change your life, it sure did change mine. For those people who read it and think, “I read it. It didn’t do anything for me.” I know why. Do you want me to tell you why it didn’t work for you? In the beginning of the book Carnegie gives you “Nine Suggestions on How to Get the Most Out of This Book” chapter. The reason it didn’t work for you because you didn’t follow these nine suggestions. I think the key element of that chapter that most people violate is this, “So, if you want to get a real, lasting benefit out of this book, don’t imagine that skimming through it once will suffice. After reading it thoroughly, you ought to spend a few hours reviewing it every month. Keep it on your desk in front of you every day. Glance through it often. Keep constantly impressing yourself with the rich possibilities for improvement that still lie in the offing. Remember that the use of these principles can be made habitual only by a constant and vigorous campaign of review an application. There’s no other way.” This is the most overlooked suggestion. The first time I tried to read it in high school, not only did I overlook this suggestion but I overlooked them all. Big mistake! If I followed suggestions and read the entire book, it would change my life. I wouldn’t have to wait to finally pick it up again.
Once you more aware of Carnegie’s priceless principals and practicing them on the daily basis, you will begin noticing changes in your life. Without this book I wouldn’t be who I am right now.
Let me give you a little tip to get you started before you rush off to Amazon to buy Carnegie’s book. When you are about to deal with strangers, such as networking at a tradeshow – keep it simple. Simplicity is your friend. Approach the company representative, for example, and while extending your hand for a handshake – with a huge, huge smile on your face – say, “Hi, I’m Viktor.” They will smile back, and tell you their name. Be nice, pay them a compliment on their booth setup or maybe company branded shirts. Be sincere. Once you open them up, they become warm and receptive. This is where you can ask questions about the company, if they’re looking to hire, and anything you want. But please, please – keep that smile shining no matter what, even if they tell you no. Move on!
I hope this shed some light on the mysterious fears of networking and meeting strangers. Please, do subscribe to the newsletter and you will receive great tips and updates right to your inbox. Or, you can always follow me on Twitter, where I send out updates and inspirational tips to help you grow – outside your comfort zone.