Feels Good, But it May be Hazardous to Your Career

Freelance web writer John Wood here as your guest editor of The Writer’s Life this week.

I’d like to kick things off with an important lesson I learned after having my worst sales day ever.

One of them anyway.

It was back in the days when I was selling steak and seafood out of the back of a truck.

My 20 or so steak and seafood colleagues and I would canvas industrials malls, office buildings, and standalone businesses looking for people who were open to the idea of buying steak and seafood from a guy who drove around with steak and seafood in the back of his truck.

There were no territories. The plus side was you could solicit anywhere you wanted.

The downside was, between my colleagues and the competition, it was sometimes hard to find businesses that hadn't been recently canvassed.

Our head office was in Mississauga, Ontario (a suburb of Toronto).

One particular morning, I had the brilliant idea of driving up to Owen Sound to try my luck. Owen Sound is approximately 170 kilometers (107 miles) away, near Georgian Bay.

I figured the chances were pretty slim that anyone would have already visited the area.

So I set off.

It took me a couple of hours to get there.

When I arrived in town, I parked my truck on a side street.

To my left, I saw a lady through a shop window. I chose her to be my first "sales victim." I can't remember exactly what her store sold, but I do remember there was no one else in the store but me when I entered.

I approached her with my usual "steak and seafood swagger."

We exchanged greetings. I told her about the restaurant-quality steak and seafood I had on my truck and just how lucky she was that she'd finally met me.

She told me she wasn't interested.

"I just bought half a cow and I've got a whole freezer full of steaks at home."

As for seafood, she wasn't a fan.

I asked her if most people in the area had half a cow in their freezers.

She told me they did.

As I was leaving her store, a sense of doom crept over me.

"How could I have been so stupid?" I thought to myself.

This is farm country. People have more steaks in this town than they'll ever need. They could eat steak three times a day, seven days a week and they'd still have enough left over to feed the entire Polish army.

Instead of selling her, I'd let her sell me on the notion that no one in the Owen Sound area would ever want to buy any steaks from me. That they all had cows in their freezers. I'd already imagined how they were going to respond even before I asked them the question.

I forgot entirely about my USP (Unique Selling Proposition). That the steak and seafood I sold was high-quality stuff. It was all de-boned, de-fatted and de-licious. A cut above what you could get from the local butcher when you buy half a Holstein from him.

So I hopped back in my truck and I drove the two hours back to Mississauga.

I was so bummed out, instead of making any more sales calls, I just went home.

When I look back on it now, I realize my sales truck was my "comfort zone."

The easiest thing in the world was to drive around in it.

Being in my comfort zone meant I didn't have to sell anything, which meant I didn't have to face rejection or the condescending glares of receptionists who, for whatever reason, didn't think selling steak and seafood was the noblest of professions.

But, of course, it was only when I got out of my comfort zone that I made any money.

During my tenure at the company, more often than not, I managed to make my weekly quota.

I forced myself to get out of my "comfort zone" and take action. Sure, the actions opened me up for the rejection and judgment I feared, but I was rewarded in the end.

It's the same with anything in life, really.

To really succeed at anything and be the best that you can be, you have to get out of your comfort zone.

Which means taking risks and doing things you don't necessarily feel comfortable doing.

In a blog post from November of last year, Brian Tracy wrote the following …

"Superior men and women are always stretching themselves, pushing themselves out of their comfort zones. They are very aware how quickly the comfort zone, in any area, becomes a rut. They know that complacency is the great enemy of creativity and future possibilities."

He goes on to say that getting out of your comfort zone will make you "feel awkward and uncomfortable" at first. But once you get a feel for it, it's only then that you will develop "a new comfort zone at a new, higher level of competence."

What about you?

Have you been or are you currently a victim of your comfort zone?

If so, what did you do to break out of it? I'd love to hear from you. You can post your comments below. I also recommend you check out an article I wrote recently called 14 Tips on How to Achieve More by Living Outside of Your Comfort Zone.

It will help you get outside of your own comfort zone and move you closer towards achieving the writer’s life you’ve always dreamed of.

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Published: June 20, 2011

7 Responses to “Feels Good, But it May be Hazardous to Your Career”

  1. Great post, John. Comfort zones are easy to slip into and often hard to get out of. It's all about being proactive and doing the things you need to do to—whether you like them or not—to achieve your goals. Thanks!

    John Torre

  2. Nine years ago my husband and I decided we were getting out of New Jersey, and we seriously looked into buying a B&B in NH. Let me tell you, it was scary stuff, but we put our house up for sale, got a buyer, packed up and we went!
    And we loved it! You will never know what you have inside until you just "do it"!


  3. Yesterday I climbed down the side of a cliff above the river on a tiny deer trail to get the waterfall photograph no one else in my group was getting from the tourist perch.

    At 50 and not in perfect shape...that was WAY outside my comfort zone.

    Guest (Ginger Sanders)

  4. Recently I found myself in a rut of living and finding that I wasn't sure I liked what I was aging into. I have now arranged to live part-time in Ecuador and part-time here in Canada - there's nothing like the challenge of getting to know a new culture while immersed with poor language skills - we are learning and intend to be fluent (oral and written)in Spanish within two years - how's that for a goal.

    Susan Birkenshaw

  5. Hi, Comfort Zone: I have always felt uncomfortable taking my SLR out in very public places -till now.
    I recently got a new macro lens that has really kept me busy shooting daily. I went into our local Home Depot, who had some wonderful specialty flowers in and asked if I could take some photos. I spent an hour taking pictures and never even noticed anything but the flowers. Not only would I have not asked to take photos in there a month ago, I would have felt foolish taking them. My TIP: Keep the focus in the right place.

    Guest (annie)

  6. I write a blog about web & copy writing, online sells, health & recipes, math for kids -- my blog is broad. I have a goal to get a minimum of 20 visitors a day. I've been shy though, because I don't have a narrow niche, nor am I selling a service or promoting a business. Yet I post good quality info -- at times great info. Breaking out of my comfort zone over the last month -- I've announced on Facebook, Twitter, on Forums, commented on other blogs when I make a new post. One day I received 26 visitors, another day 16. Before 10 visitors a day was max. Some people stay for awhile too and read what I have to say.

    Katherine Kay

  7. Great post on a very important subject John. And the part that kept me reading was the Canadian content, good to see.


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