Find Success at the End of Your Comfort Zone
posted by Yasir Hashim
One of my mentors recently told me that success begins at the end of my comfort zone. I can unequivocally say that the past two years of my life have been the most uncomfortable.
A couple of weeks ago, I reached out to all of my mentors because we were invited to pitch our company to a room of 100+ potential investors. Public speaking was, and still is to a much lesser extent, one of my biggest fears and I wanted them to throw everything they had at me to prepare. I knew that if I was to succeed, I needed to feel as uncomfortable as possible with my ability to perform. Long story short, we were recognized as one of the top three companies, and here is the 3-step playbook for how we made it.
1. Lean on your network of mentors and advisors.
Regardless of what your career path is, if you want to succeed, then you need to have a network of mentors or advisors that help you get there. Preferably ones that have done what you are doing or have been where you are going. The stupidest mistake you can make is one that someone else has made before you. Avoid all the wasted time and just learn from the mistakes of others. Before I gave my speech, I stood in my room and recorded my presentation, sent it to my advisors, and told them to tear as many holes in it as they could find. I had the mentality of, “Tell me how much it sucks and ask me the hardest questions you can think of.”. Taking blunt, constructive criticism without taking it personally helped me polish the parts of the presentation that had I struggled with the most.
“If I have seen further, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton
2. Practice, practice, practice… and then practice some more.
You have an amazing topic or idea to cover and you have a beautiful presentation. You spent all this time putting everything together. You go to present it, but it doesn’t come out smoothly and confidently.
Don’t throw it away because you can’t deliver. It’s a shame to see beautiful presentations and great ideas get dismissed because the message isn’t delivered or the audience isn’t engaged. One of my mentors told me to practice my presentation while looking at myself in the mirror. This was really uncomfortable because I wasn’t used to looking at myself while talking, but I was able to see what my audience was going to see. If you look scared, anxious or disinterested then you’ll see it right there in your face in front of you.
I cannot stress enough the importance of practice. Know all of your content ahead of time so that you don’t have to think about it. Fear can ruin your performance while preparation will quiet your fears.
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'” – Muhammad Ali
3. Get out of your own head.
This was the hardest one for me to conquer. As I was sitting in the back of the room waiting for my name to be called, my heart was beating out of my chest, my palms were sweating, and my thoughts were racing. I put my headphones in and turned on the Headspace app on my phone so that I could meditate and clear my mind. I could feel my heart beat slowing down with each deep breath I took.
Five minutes before my name was called, I put on my workout playlist and started to get excited at the thought of blowing the crowd away. My name was called, and I walked straight onto the stage, took a quick moment to breathe and get grounded, looked up and smiled. All the practice had put me at ease and I was able to be present with the audience.
Find a routine that clears your mind leading up to your presentation. You’ve prepared, and you are ready to crush it, don’t get lost in your head and let that hold you back.
“Fear has two meanings: Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise” - Unknown
. . .
These three steps have helped push me further than I have ever been in my life. Even though I am content with my presentation, it was far from perfect and there are still gains to be made. I need to work on my delivery and learning to read and engage with the audience.
Chasing success is difficult and often uncomfortable. You will have to make decisions where there isn’t a clear answer, but there are definitely clear consequences. In some cases, there is more than one right or wrong answer. Ask yourself, “What is my mission or my purpose?”. Align your decisions with your purpose. Surround yourself with people you believe in and that believe in you. Prepare and practice for success like it is inevitable. Truly live every moment by getting out of your head and being present in the here and now.
You will begin to find success at the end of your comfort zone.