Comfort Zone Musings

A lot happened this week, personally, professionally. Nothing new in the life of an entrepreneur (or anyone, really!). And as I find a quiet moment on a Saturday, the thought that bubbles up from the past week melee is about comfort zones. Different incidents, different people, different settings—but the common thread is that.

I had been in touch with some people I shortlisted for an open position in our company. One of the key ways for me to judge ability, as well as initiative, is to send them a test to do. It’s not an easy one, but it’s not rocket science either. But to anyone without initiative or the hunger (we are looking for), it would feel like rocket science.

So here I was, down to my shortlisted three candidates.

One did it splendidly well, but had omitted to mention that she had already found another job. So she was out.

Another replied with a mail that sounded like a combination of lying and excuses. And when I followed up on what she said in her mail, she didn’t reply. Maybe she never saw the mail, you might say. I use Streak, so usually I know who has seen my mail, and how many times. So I know she saw my mail about the test 10 times, and the follow up mail once. She didn’t have the courtesy to say, No, thank you. Sadly, I seemed to have been proven right about the combination of lying and excuses. So she fizzled out too.

The third person saw the mail, and chose to not respond either. But when I followed up, she said she was in advanced negotiations for a job, and that it would be unethical for her to pursue ours. So that candidate went bust too.

So when all three candidates didn’t work out, I did what I usually do, which is question my modus operandi. Am I being too tough? Am I being too picky? Do I not want to close this position (what if deep down my subconscious is sabotaging the efforts!)? And on and on.

Then I looked at what I am trying to build. It’s cutting edge stuff, it’s not stuff for the faint hearted. It requires a toughness and staying power that many people don’t have. And while many freshers have this, experienced people exhibit less and less of this. They have defined their comfort zones and want to play in that. Comfort zone of not being asked hard questions. Comfort zones of known evils vs unknown evils. Comfort zones of working for a brand.

And that’s okay.

The other way to look at this is that they have defined their discomfort zones for other aspects of their life: maybe their personal lives push them out of their comfort zones quite a bit, so their work becomes their comfort zone. That’s certainly okay, isn’t it?

Some of us treps go into a mode of lamenting that people just don’t want to play outside their comfort zones. Just because we do, and many of our team members do, it doesn’t mean that everyone out there must either. It’s not their calling. So let’s drop the lament, shall we? And focus on the ones who do like to be out of their comfort zones at work.

Then there are others who play outside their comfort zones at work, and seem to go off-balance really quickly. When you extend help or solutions, they listen but come back and say, “No, thank you. My discomfort zone, my rules.” Sure, that works too!

Then there could be others who say they want to play outside their comfort zones, to learn more, to earn more. But if they are not authentic enough with their work, it starts becoming apparent that their ability to step outside their comfort zones is limited. And then it can become discordant, in terms of being misaligned on what one says and what one does. Is that okay? For them, perhaps. For a manager or an entrepreneur? Maybe, maybe not. For me, it’s not okay.

So what are my takeaways this week from all this?

  • That I don’t have to hyperventilate about people not wanting to step outside their comfort zones. If I want people who do so, I will just have to keep looking and find the right people.
  • That comfort zones come in all different sizes and shapes and forms. And I don’t have to insist that your comfort zone has to match mine.
  • That in case of an integrity issue with what’s being said, and done about comfort zones (or anything really), I want to question it.

On that note, I look ahead to a week that will need me to be out of my comfort zone quite a bit. Both at work and at home.

Cheers!

The Year That Was

When you sit down to write a post on the last day of the year, what would it be about? It would be about looking back at the year, or looking forward to the next.

But I have no idea what this post is about to say. Let’s see what comes out. I have had the urge to write about some of the cool unbelievable things that have happened to me this year. So I will start with that.

 

Mighty Fan Girl Moments

This was a year when I stepped outside of my shyness to approach Internet influencers (nothing less than celebs, I would say). When I had to make a sales trip to the US in May 2017, I planned it so I could attend an event that Michael Hrostoski was going to conduct along with Molly Butler (it was called, Follow Your Love). But as things turned out, the event got cancelled, and I didn’t get to meet him. I have followed Hrostoski ever since I got to know of a book he wrote in 2013 called, August.

It’s been almost four years of having watched him evolve, go through hardship, heartbreak and stellar growth. And build a community of highly evolved individuals creating breakthrough businesses. I came this close to meeting him in person, and then it didn’t happen.

That was disappointing, to say the least. I was going to leave it at that. But, my co-founder, Abhinav, who had helped me plan my trip around Michael’s event, wouldn’t let me. He said, write to him. I laughed. “He won’t even see it,” I said. Even so, I took his advice and messaged Michael. On my way back from the States, while spending a long layover at Heathrow, I got a ping. It was Michael, and not a bot (he sent me a pic to prove that! How incredibly sweet!). And we ended up chatting for a while. He even asked me to send him a friend request. This was beyond mind blowing! And since then we have chatted a bit, off and on. And he continues to get awesome-r by the hour.

Following Michael has led me to follow many more interesting people, but the other person from his tribe/fam/community that I have recently started following is his baby brother, David Hrostoski. Who is going places where not many people have gone before. And I have ended up chatting with David as well. Very open, supportive and welcoming.

The other celeb breakthroughs (if I can call it that), happened in September. Like the entire inbound marketing world, I am a fan of Rand Fishkin. Abhinav, who got a selfie with him earlier in the year at Mozcon, was over the moon and told me how down to earth he really is. So I was excited that I could catch his session at INBOUND17. And what’s more, I could also catch his wife, Geraldine DeRuiter’s session at the event. If you have been to her blog, you would also have been equally excited. And I thought, what if I could get a pic with both of them together. I laughed it off, of course.

As things turned out, I watched Rand’s session, and then went off to see Geraldine’s session. Rand, who of course, is Geraldine’s chief cheerleading officer, was there too. Just a few feet away from me. And I found myself going up to him, shaking hands, and asking him if he and Geraldine and he would be willing to take a pic with me when she was free. Of course, of course, he said.

And that’s what happened after her session. Abhinav managed to catch the session too, in between his many meetings at the event. So he got to be in the same frame as Rand one more time!

I think I had a goofy grin all that day.

Next up, Scott Brinker. At one of the INBOUND17 keynotes, it was announced that Scott Brinker was joining HubSpot. Here I had been ruing the fact that we were going to miss his event, MarTech, which was just a weekend after INBOUND17, also in Boston. The announcement meant that he was in the crowd that day. This is a coup for HubSpot, and very exciting for marketing automation, in general. I tweeted to him the next day requesting a meeting. Unfortunately he was not around. But SCOTT BRINKER replied to me! Yeah, yeah, call me a silly fan girl.

Those were my brushes with celebrities this year. A damn good year, I should say! What else? Let’s go from meeting excellent people to experiencing excellence.

 

When Excellence Moves You

We get some moments where someone’s work simply moves you. You can see their hard work, their anguish, their grit distill into to a few minutes of incredible performance on screen or the pages of a book you want to hug hoping that the warmth reaches the author in some way. Here are some I can immediately remember:

  • Meryl Streep singing Abba’s The Winner Takes it All in the movie Mamma Mia
  • Every few pages I read from Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography
  • A-ha’s acoustic version of Take On Me for MTV Unplugged
  • Mostly anything I have heard Brene Brown say this year, live or on Youtube
  • Meeting Adam Kuczynski, the founder of TME, Poland. (The start of TME, literally from the streets of Poland. His passion to explore markets in Old Delhi and similar ones in Africa. His ethical way of doing business, and the decision to stay away from specific verticals that may not have everything clean and transparent. His willingness to be patient to grow the India business.)
  • Poetry by JM Storm
  • The way our team is developing an idea we put together from various sessions at INBOUND17, and is very close to building a brand new service offering!

I am sure there are more, but my memory fails me. As I look forward to 2018, I hope for more such moving moments to happen to me (and this time around I hope to write them down as they happen). I hope I get to meet more people I look upto, or can look up to. I hope to keep shedding my ‘hold myself back’ attitude so I can be in more of these moments of sheer pleasure. 

To a wonderful 2018!