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I’m New Here

I’m New Here

Before Apple, personal computers seemed like a stupid idea. eBay was founded by some people looking for a web-facing way to trade and sell parts of their PEZ collection. Getting Things Done is nothing more than practical wisdom, years old in content, reskinned to meet the needs of people’s current conditions. So, how did they come into existence and change our world?

Someone said, “I’m new here.”

New is the new Black

Experience is overrated at times. History is littered with roomfuls of stodgy men grumbling and clearing their throats and saying, “It can’t be done. That’s proposterous! We’ve done it this way for fifty years with moderate success.”

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Shortly thereafter, the newcomer shows up and turns thinking on its side. There are really countless examples of this happening, but for whatever reason, I’m thinking mostly of web businesses. Netflix came along and stuck one in Blockbuster’s eye. Amazon told the big bookstores they were fine, but watch this! 37Signals came along and threw together a programming framework that made web development silly-easy.

But how do they do it? How does “new” end up equalling “super big success?”

New, but Thoughtful

When people enter a situation with eyes open to possibilities and paths that aren’t the pre-established thinking, it gives them a free pass. “You are new here. This is your first time seeing it. What’s your take?” This does not equal insight, nor wisdom, nor thoughtful consideration.

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One needs to actually apply thinking to the new scenario to find the magic in “new.”

Perspective-changing is a skill, like any other. To see things with your “new” lens, start seeing your existing situations, the ones around you daily, with that viewpoint. Why are you typing on a keyboard? Is that easier than other ways to push information into a computer? When Xerox-PARC created the mouse, were they thinking about keyboards?

New Requires Anthropologists

Look at everything as if you’re an alien who’s just landed on this planet. Consider everything around you. Why do we live in one community and drive an hour to work somewhere else? Isn’t the work nearby just as necessary to be accomplished? What makes everyone choose to build websites for social community? Shouldn’t we gather in real-space?

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Be wary of your cultural experiences as a distorter. I’m from the USA, and specifically New England. I was raised Catholic. I’m of Irish/French/Scottish descent. I am male. I’m moderately educated. These are all lenses to consider when talking about things. Have you every heard this expression: “In America, 100 years is a long time; in Europe, 100 miles is a long distance.” Think about the lens you bring to your considerations, and try as best as you can to correct for it.

Use your notepad. Write notes frequently about things that seem awkward or odd. Each one is a possibility. They all lead your brain towards larger realizations. They help you get up and above the in-line experience that others can’t shake. This brings you closer to new.

New Requires Checking Your Ego

The things people who see things with “new” eyes hear back when they discuss their vision is, “That will never work. That’s been tried. That’s done. That’s stupid.” Learn to press forward politely, and ask questions. “What would you do differently? Show me how it really is.” And then, take those comments in context. Is this just because the other person is stuck in the old framework? Or do they really have information that you hadn’t considered? Use it.

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A great trick one of my bosses taught me was to bring something to the picnic, check my ego, and let people tear it apart. Especially good is when the something isn’t directly important to my needs or viewpoint of the “new” something. Meaning, I can let others correct and better my view of things that are in the “old” setting, freeing more mind share for the “new” things.

Begin

Everyone has ideas. Everyone is certain they know what would make a great new invention. The difference between people who are successful and people who know the names of those successful people is as simple as this: the people who bring change to the world do so by beginning. Start. Do something. It can be the wrong thing. Better if it is. Because you should be able to learn. Learn from the early failures. Turn them forward. Discard the negative feelings, and push it forward.

And when you’re done, share your something new with the world. We’re waiting.

— Chris Brogan tries out new things often at [chrisbrogan.com]. He wrote a companion article to this, “In the business, ON the business,” that might prove interesting to you. His new thing is here.

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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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