A friend I follow on Instagram recently posted the meme: X marks your comfort zone, and off in the distance, Y marks “Where the magic happens…” Only when I saw the post — and double tapped it — did I realise, ‘Oh… that’s what’s happening to me!”
A simple image hardly does justice to my now (very) uncomfortable existence, how I got here, and how to get “Where the magic happens…” I would say my headline paints a more accurate picture. I had to base jump off the cliff of my comfort zone.
See you don’t just meekly step out of your comfort zone. It’s comfortable for a reason. It’s like that old, worn out mattress that knows the exact indentations of your body. The one that feels safe and cosy, but is actually murder on your back! Comfort zones are not easy to leave. It takes a bold, brave decision that your instincts will more often than not fight against, a little bit like base jumping!
This exact thing happened to me at the end of 2017. I was about to celebrate my 10-year work anniversary and I was expecting to feel proud, fulfilled, accomplished. Instead I was left feeling like that old mattress, past my sell by date. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t stagnate in this job, I worked my way up from the bottom to the top, in print, digital, social media, content marketing and eventually sales and marketing over the course of the 10 years. But on the day of the anniversary, instead of celebrating, I realised that I had achieved all I was meant to achieve at this company and found myself firmly in the dreaded comfort zone. I had a decision to make.
For a month I made excuses. I told myself that things would change, that the company would grow (no doubt it will), and that I would find my next thrill within its structures. I told myself to accept when things are enough, to curb my ambition, to sit tight. But after meeting with management about my future and not getting the answers I wanted, I was hit with another realisation, they’re as much ready for me to go, as I was to leave. It also occurred to me that I was now standing in the way of someone else’s ‘magic’. It was time for me to put on my wing-suit, and jump off the mountain. I was petrified.
Truth be told, deciding to leave was one of the scariest decisions of my career. It took at least another month to work up the confidence to get myself out there and accept that rejection would be part of the process. I also believe the recruitment process in many top businesses is seriously flawed and quite squarely favours traditional ‘box ticking’ candidates while excluding non-traditional but equally, possibly better, qualified potential players, especially in digital. But that’s another story for another blog.
It also took a lot of introspection to decide the path I wanted my career to take moving forward. I quickly ruled out journalism, sub editing, copywriting, social media management and sales, and then took this a step further by deciding I didn’t want to work for a Publisher. This decision effectively put me in the non-traditional hiring pool, especially as a senior employee, and left me with one choice, marketing.
With that decision made, I jumped. Eyes wide open and full of uncertainty. The way down was filled with anxiety, hard decisions, tears, prayers and so much of ‘fake it until you make it’. I backed myself, my experience and my ability, even when self-doubt was around every corner. That, coupled with having the best support system of family, friends, and colleagues, I managed to land feet first into the position of digital marketing and advertising manager of an emerging brand with global affiliations.
Yet even though I’ve landed safely from the jump, I’m still not comfortable, the aftermath has left me shaken. Leaving a company after 10 years has raised professional issues I haven’t struggled with in years. Self confidence in my decision making being at the top of that list.
I’ve been in the new job for less than a month now and here’s what I know. The past 10 years has placed me in the position to achieve, through hard work and constant learning (story of my life: the more I learn, the less I know). How much I will achieve, I’m not sure, although I’m aiming high. What I am sure of, is that I would achieve none of it, had I stayed in my comfort zone. In the short period between deciding to jump and landing in this new position (just three months), I have learnt so much about myself, my capacity and business in general. It was challenging and scary and oh so hard to do, but I’ve landed in a new zone, and now I’m waiting for the magic to happen.
If you’re pondering your next move from the luxury of your comfort zone, make like Kris Kross and let the Mac Daddy make you jump!
*Side note: I have never actually base jumped but it looks like the scariest, most petrifying thing on earth to do, hence the analogy!