Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. – Henry David Thoreau

The year was 1947 and to date no one had broken the sound barrier. Most believed that it could not be done. Some argued that the sound barrier was a literal wall that once hit at 760 mph would destroy a plane. But despite the skeptics and critics there remained a committed group of people devoted to the cause of breaking the barrier.

A young pilot by the name of Chuck Yeager was invited to be the one to break the sound barrier. Colonel Body, his superior, said, “Nobody knows for sure what happens until somebody gets there. Chuck, you’ll be flying into the unknown.” On October 14, 1947, Yeager broke the sound barrier. He later wrote, “I was thunderstruck. After all the anxiety, breaking the sound barrier turned out to be a perfectly paved speedway. After all the anticipation it was really a letdown. The ‘unknown’ was a poke through Jell-O.”

Comfort zones have a tendency to lull us into thinking that out fears are justified and average is acceptable. “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point,” said C.S. Lewis. Comfort zones are the testing points of leadership. As a leader, here are four things you will never learn if you remain in your comfort zone.

The depth of your talent. You will never fully discover the depth of your talent if you are not willing to grow to a place where more is required. If your talent brought you to the place where you are today then contentment will keep you there. Is that acceptable to you? The better practice of leadership is to discover the depth of your talent by embracing the advice of Brian Tracy who said, “You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable with  trying something new.”

The reach of your potential. The greatest obstacle to breaking the sound barrier was not engineering but attitude. It was the perceptions of comfortable people. You will never fully reach your potential so long as small thinking makes you comfortable. The better practice of leadership is to be surrounded with people who believe that breaking barriers and overcoming the odds is all in a day’s work.

The reward of your risk. History records the names of risk-takers (Chuck Yeager, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, etc.) who, in the face of overwhelming odds made a determination that the restrictions of the comfort zone was just not for them. Risk-takers are a peculiar people who had rather fail at something big than succeed at something small. The better practice of leadership is to count the cost of exceptional leadership and dare to change the world.

The power of your dreams. Comfort zones tend to put a lid on dreams. Why dream if you are not willing to take risks and explore the depths of your talent and abilities to achieve it? However, when you unleash your dreams you open yourself to new possibilities reserved for those who have escaped the predictable and the expectations of the ordinary.  The better practice of leadership is courage. When others discourage you or talk about invisible walls that do not exist, you can go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life you have imagined.

The challenge for you is to get uncomfortable with the comfortable and comfortable with the uncomfortable. Your growth as a leader depends on it.

 

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

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