When I came across the above quote, I felt a strong connection to how much it relates to my working in a fast-paced creative agency. Every day you get thrown various situations, but how you choose to react to those situations serves as the catalyst for your success.
When approaching new tasks, we inherently seek guidance from others to layout step-by-step directions because creating a sense of familiarity makes us comfortable. The sense of accomplishment, however, feels much stronger when it stems from pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Your ability to get comfortable starts with recognizing the point at which you transition from uncomfortable to stressed.
Many mistakenly identify feeling uncomfortable with feeling stressed. Stress, real stress, comes from situations beyond our control, often involving family, health or livelihood. When I experienced a significant earthquake while waiting for a plane in Los Angeles – that was real stress. Similar to what I witnessed during the 2017 California wildfires in Sonoma and the devastating fires in Los Angeles County, in a moment’s notice people became displaced, injured and left with a real sense of raw vulnerability. Despite practicing emergency preparedness drills and thinking I knew what to do in these situations, I realized I was far less in control than imagined.
While stressful situations reach beyond our control, everyone can take ownership of an uncomfortable situation and set their own path forward. Stay focused on the big picture and tackle the project one step at a time to easily identify where you feel most uncomfortable, so you can move toward a stronger level of comfort for future tasks. Tackling uncomfortable situations brings personal/professional growth to help you become comfortable with the uncomfortable.
I knew I wanted to explore the concept of “getting comfortable being uncomfortable” with the rest of the ABI team, so I made it the theme of our annual employee summit. Each team member wrote down one thing that makes them comfortable at work and one that makes them uncomfortable. Through an open group discussion, we found similarities among our answers, and in a few instances, discovered what one person identifies as comfortable, another found uncomfortable. Some answers on both ends of the spectrum included public speaking, multitasking and working under pressure.
During our discussions, I shared another story of feeling uncomfortable – when A. Bright Idea received its first government contract as prime contractor. For many years prior, we executed public affairs support for our commercial clients and got comfortable serving as a sub-contractor for larger government accounts. Our hesitation to apply as a prime contractor stemmed from a feeling of uncertainty in not knowing all of the answers and we did not feel fully prepared to navigate the entire process ourselves. Though we faced many new and uncomfortable tasks to take on this new challenge, we pulled our resources, asked a lot of questions and figured it out. The risk was worth the reward.
That singular experience allowed A. Bright Idea to evolve into the 23-year-old, full-service agency we are today with over 45 employees serving clients coast to coast.
Life brings unknown obstacles to navigate, but how you choose to move forward determines the confidence and knowledge you’ll bring to future tasks. Change can be uncomfortable, but real opportunities for transformation rise from the unknown.