Friday 20 June 2008

Live Outside Your Comfort Zone

Photo by doeth used under the flickr Creative Commons license

IT is a changing space. It moves faster than other industries. The tools you worked with five years ago are the ones we would all sigh at if we heard they were being used now. Languages are born, reborn, popular and then not. The shape of the space changes with architectures ending in OA and everything 2.0. Your head will spin if you try to do it all but our jobs do mean that we have to at least keep up and know what the latest technology is, even if only for those moments at the water cooler.

Of late, I've had the chance to meet a lot of smart people who are new to the industry and asking how to keep up with all the changes. Of course, us oldies mention reading blogs, tech books, books on thinking, joining user groups and all those practical things. A lot of people are doing that but they still look around and wonder why nothing is happening. I think it's because you can't wait for change. You have to stretch yourself and extend your comfort zone.

We all look on ourselves favourably and think we live on the edge. Each of us is convinced that we push ourselves to be better at things - things we already do and those we don't. That's probably mostly true. For me, it's not really enough.

It is easy to stagnate. Take a job that by definition appears hard to others and you at first and then stay in it too long. Too long is when you know what the upcoming day entails. When you are comfortable. When nothing in your day scares you and makes you doubt yourself that little bit. That is a bad spot to be in. That is when you need to move on or shake things up.

When I talk to someone who is bored with their job, my usual response is to tell them to start making it fun and if that's not possible then find something newer and harder. Yes, quit and go for a job that extends you. Every interview I have ever been to involves me interviewing them too. Sometimes the guys on the other side of the table don't pass. I don't hire them as my employers. They aren't smart enough or intellectually intimidating enough to excite me about the job. That's what you should do.

The more you move, the more likely you are the stupidist person in the room, the more unsure you are that you know everything there is to know then the more likely you are to learn and keep up. That's not always in another job. Maybe it's in another team at work. Maybe it's outside work in a user group for a language or tool you have never used before. Be a sponge and also take something to the group. Everyone can add something to a situation.

Soon enough, you'll be back in your comfort zone and you'll surprise yourself about what you know. At that point, shake it up and move again.


Kerry Buckley said...

Completely off-topic for this post, but I just wanted to correct the assertion in your profile that cats and chickens "don't work well together". We have four of each, and they get on fine – if anything, the cats are more wary of the chickens than the other way round.

Damana Madden said...

lol :) That is good to know. I love both but am a little worried about what my cats would do to them. It's great to know that the chickens can hold their own.

Kellie said...

Nice blog. That's me in a nutshell. 12 yrs working, 8 different jobs, or 11 if you include internal promotions. I'm not flaky, or easily bored (I have stayed 3 years in one job alone) but if its not challenging/paying well/fun, I'm outta there.
Life is way too short to spend 9hrs+ a day, with people or doing something that you don't like or believe in.

Matthew Corr said...

Nice article. I am the same as k;m. Currently branching out and learning new things. I sometimes wonder if I am doing the right thing and seeing articles like yours help in confirming that it is the right way :)


Damana Madden said...

Matthew, I've found it useful to find friends who aspire to always be more than what they are now. They encourage me explicitly or implicitly to improve and change. Surround yourself with who you want to be - that's my motto :)

Matthew Corr said...

That's a good motto :)

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