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Bring Something, Check Your Ego

Bring Something, Check Your Ego

Here’s a two part suggestion to getting results on proposals, projects, plans in progress, story ideas, and whatever else you might be working on: bring something to the table, and be willing to check your ego.

Bring Something–  One thing that really gets any new idea moving is pre-loading the first meetings with an idea. If you’re going to brainstorm a new business, don’t come completely open and empty. Bring a starter concept. If you’re thinking of starting a stationary store, have an idea what you might do to differentiate yourself from the bulk office supply store. It’s a starter idea. It doesn’t have to be the final idea. It’s something for everyone to consider, to grab onto, to hold. Coming with nothing in hand is often too open-ended.

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And this can apply to anything. Are you trying to shave hours back to cut expenses at your retail store? Are you talking with your significant other about vacation plans? Do you want a raise? Have something in hand to start the discussion with. Bring your suggested schedule for employees. Have travel brochures and a tentative budget. Show results and differentiation between you and the other employees. Whatever. Bring something.

Check Your Ego– It’s fair to assume that the first idea won’t be the best. Even if you think it is, there’s usually an improvement to be had. This is where the process breaks down fairly quickly if you’re not willing to work hard on checking your ego. What do I mean? Be completely willing to hear alterations to your ideas, even if the original idea doesn’t survive in any obvious way. If the end result is better, and is what everyone (including you) wants, isn’t it worth it to stand back from the whole issue of being prideful in your idea?

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Here’s an example. I needed a lot of information on some technical processes and logistics. I asked around. Nothing. No one seemed to know how this work got done, and if they did, no one felt like helping me explain it in a document. So, I wrote my own stab at the whole process. Some of it was fairly accurate, but in other places, I had no clue whatsoever how parts of the process worked. (Usually, at that point, I’d insert something utterly ludicrious: “the cell towers are maintained by talking sheep.”)

Lo and behold, the moment I sent that document out as “the definitive guide” to those processes, I had critics galore! I had people come out of the woodwork via email (some I’d thought no longer even worked for our company), all eager to tell me where I was wrong. I just put my hands behind my head, smiled broadly, and watched the content I needed come in.

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Be Open to the Possibilities- Often times, especially with brainstorming, ideas can go from an idea that makes sense from your perspective into something far bigger once you open up the idea to others. It’s the whole “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” thing. To that end, always be willing to accept the ways in which your idea might morph into something utterly different than what you started with. In most cases (not all), the end result is much better than the original plan, broad enough to include more than just your own unique abilities, and sustainable for that very reason.

The beauty of working with lots of creative, intelligent people is that you can often grow ideas from something modest into something dynamic and useful. Not unlike exposing your software’s API for further development, consider giving your ideas APIs so that people can further develop them. The results should be much nicer than the original premise (on average).

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Have you experienced this first hand? Tell us about it.

–Chris Brogan creates content at GrasshopperFactory.com . Be ready for a new Lifehack podcast tomorrow, 6/21.  If you haven’t subscribed to the RSS feed, please do. That will deliver the content right to your reader of choice, into your portable media player, or wherever else you want access to the wisdom of Leon Ho’s Lifehack.org

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Last Updated on January 2, 2020

How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

Over time, we all gather a set of constricting habits around us—ones that trap us in a zone of supposed comfort, well below what our potential would allow us to attain. Pretty soon, such habits slip below the level of our consciousness, but they still determine what we think that we can and cannot do—and what we cannot even bring ourselves to try. As long as you let these habits rule you, you’ll be stuck in a rut.

Like the tiny, soft bodied creatures that build coral reefs, habits start off small and flexible, and end up by building massive barriers of rock all around your mind. Inside the reefs, the water feels quiet and friendly. Outside, you think it’s going to be rough and stormy. There may be sharks. But if you’re to develop in any direction from where you are today, you must go outside that reef of habits that marks the boundaries of your comfort zone. There’s no other way. There’s even nothing specially wrong with those habits as such. They probably worked for you in the past.

But now, it’s time to step over them and go into the wider world of your unused potential. Your fears don’t know what’s going to be out there, so they invent monsters and scary beasts to keep you inside.

Nobody’s born with an instruction manual for life. Despite all the helpful advice from parents, teachers and elders, each of us must make our own way in the world, doing the best we can and quite often getting things wrong.

Messing up a few times isn’t that big a deal. But if you get scared and try to avoid all mistakes by sticking with just a few “tried and true” behaviors, you’ll miss out on most opportunities as well.

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Lots of people who suffer from boredom at work are doing it to themselves. They’re bored and frustrated because that’s what their choices have caused them to be. They’re stuck in ruts they’ve dug for themselves while trying to avoid making mistakes and taking risks. People who never make mistakes never make anything else either.

It’s time to pin down the habits that have become unconscious and are running your life for you, and get rid of them. Here’s how to do it:

1. Understand the Truth about Your Habits

They always represent past successes. You have formed habitual, automatic behaviors because you once dealt with something successfully, tried the same response next time, and found it worked again. That’s how habits grow and why they feel so useful.

To get away from what’s causing your unhappiness and workplace blues, you must give up on many of your most fondly held (and formerly successful) habits. and try new ways of thinking and acting. There truly isn’t any alternative. Those habits are going to block you from finding new and creative ideas. No new ideas, no learning. No learning, no access to successful change.

2. Do Something—Almost Anything—Differently and See What Happens

Even the most successful habits eventually lose their usefulness as events change the world and fresh responses are called for. Yet we cling on to them long after their benefit has gone.

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Past strategies are bound to fail sometime. Letting them become automatic habits that take the controls is a sure road to self-inflicted harm.

3. Take Some Time out and Have a Detailed Look at Yourself—With No Holds Barred

Discovering your unconscious habits can be tough. For a start, they’re unconscious, right? Then they fight back.

Ask anyone who has ever given up smoking if habits are tough to break. You’ve got used to them—and they’re at least as addictive as nicotine or crack cocaine.

4. Be Who You Are

It’s easy to assume that you always have to fit in to get on in the world; that you must conform to be liked and respected by others or face exclusion. Because most people want to please, they try to become what they believe others expect, even if it means forcing themselves to be the kind of person they aren’t, deep down.

You need to start by putting yourself first. You’re unique. We’re all unique, so saying this doesn’t suggest that you’re better than others or deserve more than they do.

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You need to put yourself first because no one else has as much interest in your life as you do; and because if you don’t, no one else will. Putting others second means giving them their due respect, not ignoring them totally.

Keeping up a self-image can be a burden. Hanging on to an inflated, unrealistic one is a curse. Give yourself a break.

5. Slow Down and Let Go

Most of us want to think of ourselves as good, kind, intelligent and caring people. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it isn’t.

Reality is complex. We can’t function at all without constant input and support from other people.

Everything we have, everything we’ve learned, came to us through someone else’s hands. At our best, we pass on this borrowed existence to others, enhanced by our contribution. At our worst, we waste and squander it.

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So recognize that you’re a rich mixture of thoughts and feelings that come and go, some useful, some not. There’s no need to keep up a façade; no need to pretend; no need to fear of what you know to be true.

When you face your own truth, you’ll find it’s an enormous relief. If you’re maybe not as wonderful as you’d like to be, you aren’t nearly as bad as you fear either.

The truth really does set you free; free to work on being better and to forgive yourself for being human; free to express your gratitude to others and recognize what you owe them; free to acknowledge your feelings without letting them dominate your life. Above all, you’ll be free to understand the truth of living: that much of what happens to you is no more than chance. It can’t be avoided and is not your fault. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it.

Final Thoughts

What is holding you in situations and actions that no longer work for you often isn’t inertia or procrastination. It’s the power of habitual ways of seeing the world and thinking about events. Until you can let go of those old, worn-out habits, they’ll continue to hold you prisoner.

To stay in your comfort zone through mere habit, or—worse still—to stay there because of irrational fears of what may lie outside, will condemn you to a life of frustration and regret.

If you can accept the truth about the world and yourself, change whatever is holding you back, and get on with a fresh view on life, you’ll find that single action lets you open the door of your self-imposed prison and walk free. There’s a marvelous world out there. You’ll see, if you try it!

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Featured photo credit: teigan rodger via unsplash.com

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