The Blessing is Outside Your Comfort Zone

The title of this post is taken from an OnBeing interview with Ashley Hicks, co-founder of Black Girls RUN!. Buying new running shoes for her second marathon she tells the salesman that she is nervous and concerned about the upcoming race. In response he says, “Yeah, the best thing for you to remember is that the blessing is outside of your comfort zone.”

She continues, “Whenever I’m challenging myself to something new, I keep saying that. The blessing really is outside of your comfort zone. If you stay and do what you’re comfortable with you’ll never experience something new and incredible.”

When I agreed to teach undergraduate business school students last fall I found myself on a new edge, one that had me both frightened and energized. I have given hundreds of talks and facilitated at least as many classes, the longest of which was three days long. A semester’s worth of preparation and impact with something as important as a grade attached to it was brand new territory and I was concerned that I had the ability to sustain it. That concern was baseless. It came from my lizard brain and threatened to sabotage an experience that I knew could be extraordinary.

And it was, because the blessing is outside my comfort zone.

Earlier this summer, I agreed to teach a new class for the same college this fall semester. My lizard brain’s reaction was swift and startling. Despite two consecutive semesters of successful classroom experiences my default reaction was to resist and doubt myself in the face of the unknown.

The edge of possibility, the threshold of growth and blessing, is always attended by a voice of doubt. If it isn’t then the edge is not an edge in the first place! It is not my job to conquer it, to arrive at some plateau of uber-confidence where I never feel the twinge of fear. My good work is to feel its presence and use it to remind me that on the other side of that feeling is the version of myself I most aspire to be.

Fear has no chance in the face of a blessing.

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

The Leadership We Need Now

“It’s an act of rebellion to show up as someone trying to be whole.” Courtney Martin

“Complexity can only be held by community.” Parker Palmer

I listen to a weekly podcast called On Being whose goal is to “take up the big questions of meaning.” A recent episode featuring Courtney Martin and Parker Palmer is an important conversation about the “The Inner Life of Rebellion.”

Three things stand out for me:

First, the participants present a model for the necessary qualities of intergenerational conversations that are and will continue to be essential for our cultural well-being in the years and decades ahead. Most of my work is with Boomer and GenX leaders and they are wary of Millennials, to put it nicely. As we know, the more we can normalize one to the other the more impact all will have.

Second, the first and primary focus of any act of “rebellion” must be on the internal life of the individual. And, that making the effort to start within – to continually assess and shape one’s wholeness – is in itself an act of rebellion. We live at a time when we can present multiple and fractured versions of ourselves to the world. What would happen if we lived into a commitment to our own wholeness and shared ourselves as the works in progress that we are?

FInally, and perhaps most significantly for our culture of “rugged individualism” is an emphasis on the role of community in holding complexity. We do not need to, nor can we, hold as individuals the overwhelming amount of turbulence that exists in the world today. While we must each find our own center point in the midst of it, we will not work with it constructively as individuals alone.

These, then, are the urgent requirements of leadership today:

  1. Facilitate empathy across the generations.
  2. Commit to your wholeness. Start and stay in an ever-deepening conversation with your internal self.
  3. Be a catalyst for the transition from “me” to “we.”

If it’s an act of rebellion to live this way, it’s an even greater one to lead this way. And we must.