Years ago when I stepped into a leadership role, I never anticipated how often I would be expected to step outside of my comfort zone and face my fears. Through the years the one key lesson I’ve learned is if you do not face the fear – whatever it is – you will go right back around that mountain until you do. That leads me to a personal story and lesson I want to share with you from this past week.
I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Sydney, Australia to meet with colleagues on our team. The city was truly amazing and inspiring to me. As I am in the process of taking better care of myself, I choose to run three different days in three different areas of the city. WOW! Truly beautiful.
One evening I rode a ferry through the Sydney Harbor and took this beautiful picture. It was in Sydney that I was presented with an opportunity to face one of my biggest fears personally; the fear of heights (I will share m
ore on that in just a bit.)
On my way to Sydney I had just read an article in Harvard Business Review titled, If You’re Not Outside Your Comfort Zone, You Won’t Learn Anything. In this article, HBR presented three basic truths: be honest with yourself, make the behavior your own, and take the plunge. Three simple truths, but not always three simple things to do.
This gets me back to my story. There is an experience when you are in Sydney known as the BridgeClimb Sydney. In this experience, you have the amazing opportunity to climb 1332 steps and 440 feet above the water to reach the summit of the bridge. Now, for someone who has a fear of heights, doesn’t this sound exciting? There was no way I was going to do this. The trouble is I had just read the article about being honest with myself, making the behavior my own, and taking the plunge. So, I thought to myself, I will call my wife, and she will talk me out of it. NOPE! She told me I should do it. So for the next 24 hours I contemplated and tried to talk myself out of it, but I just couldn’t do it. I knew I had to face this fear or I was going to have to go around this mountain again. So, I DID IT! Below is an eight-second video of me at the summit of the bridge.
I have to say that it was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life, but also scary at times. So, what does this have to do with leadership? EVERYTHING!
Later that afternoon when I got back to my room I sat down at my computer to answer some e-mails and a blog post entitled, Success isn’t comfortable, came across my e-mail. I just had to laugh. In the blog post they give three principles for leaders to remember.
First, leaders who learn to stretch their comfort levels and ask tough questions make better leaders and innovators.
Second, being uncomfortable and trying new things makes people more mentally flexible and creative.
Last, accepting uncertainty, ambiguity, and change creates a comfort level with the unknown – an educated fearlessness that today’s leaders require.
So as a leader, there are days it may be rough, even tough and you may feel as if you just don’t want to do it anymore – but you have to. We have to be willing to stretch out of the comfort zones and be honest with ourselves and accept that we may not always have all the answers or the skills to get everything done. Being uncomfortable isn’t fun, but as leaders, we do learn from it. I have not always wanted to take the plunge and do things outside of my comfort zone, but in the end, 99% of the time I am glad that I did.
So, my challenge to you today as a leader is: What are you going to do to get out of your comfort zone and take the plunge? Reach out to me and tell me. I would love to hear from you!
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite pictures from the week. It was my last morning in Sydney a few hours before I got on the plane. I decided I needed to run the bridge one more time as the sun was coming up. Enjoy!