Earlier this week, a colleague that I have known for a number of years sought my advice. He is considering branching out on his own, and not unaturally, he is extremely nervous, but equally, excited at the prospect of running his own show at last.
We talked, we pondered, and we talked some more. Finally, to illustrate my own story, I pointed him towards a post I made a couple of years ago, and it is worth re-publishing again today ...
"Prince Rabadash's army lay close behind them, Anvard ahead. If they did not reach Anvard before Rabadash and his horde, their journey, their entire lives, would have been wasted. The horses, Bree and Hwin (both of whom could, of course, talk) galloped. Certainly both horses were doing, if not all they could, all they thought they could do; which is not quite the same thing. But a lion appeared out of nowhere and with the spur of terror; Bree now discovered that he had not really been going as fast, not quite as fast, as he could."
This extract is of course taken from The Chronicles of Narnia, that fount of a million, simple and usually overlooked truths. It illustrates perfectly what it takes for some of us to be steered out of our comfort zone.
Perhaps of all the temptations we meet in life - money, power, sex, alcohol, drugs and fame - the subtlest of all is the comfort zone, that invitation to settle for less, to go for content when the stresses of over achievement beckon. The way that takes you out of the comfort zone is the route less travelled. Most of us when we come to that place where the two paths divide prefer the one that leads to safety, to warmth and to comfort.
Both in sport and in business, I have witnessed countless companies, friends, colleagues, and team-mates who underachieved, despite having far superior skills and talents when compared to others who have made it to the top.
The reasons have always been the same, fear of leaving the comfort zone and entering into the unknown, the land potentially of failure and rejection. But I believe there is another way to motivate individuals and coax them out and it relies on one simple fact, most people do not know what they want from life.
Certainly, the majority working in a commercial field will say they crave success but without understanding what success means for them. Of course, describing success is difficult, because it will be different for all of us. The definition I prefer is "The achievement of a worthwhile goal."
I believe that I can speak with authority about the comfort zone, but in my case, I was lucky enough to discover Earl Nightingale, probably the greatest motivational speaker and personal development guru of our time, and yes, I include Anthony Robbins, Brian Tracy Tom Peters et al in that assessment.
It was towards the end of 1990 when I felt the first pangs of professional unfulfilment and began to contemplate the harsh reality that with my fortieth year fast approaching, if I was really going to leave my mark on the world and achieve something for me, then I really needed to get cracking.
Oh that it were that simple! Moving out of a comfort zone, which included a six-figure salary, sizeable bonus, stock options, luxury company car, pension and relative security would take guts for sure, but it would also require huge commitment and tremendous self-belief.
Armed with a newly acquired MBA and almost twenty years of commercial experience gained working for some of the biggest players around the globe at the highest levels, I thought I knew a thing or two about business, but translating that knowledge and experience into a saleable commodity would be the real challenge.
Over the next four years I remained in my cocoon of security, very much like the man invited to join those masochists who, once a year, usually on Christmas Day, insist on plunging through the ice into the Serpentine Lake in London. I would nervously approach the water's edge, shiver, convince myself it would be too cold, and then retreat to the warmth of my towel and robe.
I did this several times but the thought process and learning process accompanied me on my travels from New York to Johannesburg and from Paris to Kuwait, whilst I continued to enjoy the comforts afforded to me from my corporate existence.
Those four years were certainly not wasted because I took the opportunity to attend as many lectures, seminars and courses as I could reasonably fit in and I read voraciously, looking for that spark of inspiration - some divine intervention that would lead me to my true vocation. Then in 1994 I "found" Earl Nightingale.
On that day in September, as I listened to him illustrate the fact that most people are like rudderless boats bobbing up and down on the ocean, being taken wherever the currents should wish to lead them, then reminiscing in old age and saying to themselves 'If only I had' or 'I wish I had' and essentially blaming everybody else for their unfulfilment and lack of achievement. Whereas, he said, that the small percentage that took control of their vessel and steered into 'harbours of opportunity' would look back with satisfaction and say 'I have' and 'I did'.
I remember he quoted Albert Einstein," The definition of insanity is to continue to do the same things in the hope that those things will miraculously achieve a different result." I translated this into, "Keep doing what you are doing and you will keep getting what you have been getting" and in my case that was unacceptable.
He also said that all successful people had at least two things in common: The first was their attitude and the second was that they all expected to be successful and because they wanted it badly enough, they brought about its happening i.e. fulfilled expectation.
As I drove home that evening, I felt inspired... I had experienced my epiphany and my mind was made up, I was ready to leave my comfort zone.
Finally in 1995 I dropped my towel for the last time and plunged in; my business, jfa, was born and that journey of a thousand miles had begun with a first tentative step.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Success should be something you do not just 'Kinda Sorta' want to achieve but something you MUST achieve. Generally, successful people expect to be successful and as a consequence, they usually are. They are driven by a have to attitude not a want to attitude.
If you are going to climb out of your comfort zone, you must deep down feel that you have to.
My experience is that you cannot have everything you want, but you can have anything you really want, you just have to decide what it is and then be prepared to move out of your comfort zone to achieve it.
News: Ok, the new JF site is up, stacked with articles, guides, free EBooks, recordings, and goodness knows what else, so do pop over and take a look - www.jonathanfarrington.com
The JF Guest Author Spot will be occupied by two very worthy chums over the weekend, so don't desert me, and do have a read - JF