Think outside the box

Who hasn’t heard these words of well-intended encouragement before. I am not here to contest their validity, but I want to speak a word of caution and elaborate on its importance for successful business decisions.

We are naturally geared towards expansion and growth. Like a seed that is anxiously awaiting to grow into its potential, we too are waiting for the same. It is natural for us to find ways to support our growth.

When it comes to growth mindsets, there are three types of people I want to touch upon:

Type 1:

They reside inside the box, where comfort and golden standards exist. There is no movement, except the familiar one. They align themselves with the things they master and that others set before them. They don’t allow room for self-expansion and expression. Whether they want it or not, they are building themselves a cage. They are plagued by an itch to break out of complacency. Life calls upon them daily begging them to “do something, for god’s sake!”

There is a caveat to growth that explains why so many dwell in the comfort zone: Growth is pain and it is scary. It requires sacrifice, an abandonment of comfort. Some think it is too high a price to pay, but in hindsight, they end up paying much higher- The denial of their potential.

Comfort is an illusion. The current pandemic has taught us that. It can be taken away at any moment. If you want it to hurt less, the decision to step out of the comfort zone must come from you.

This is easier for the second group in Type 2:

Many entrepreneurs use their need for speed to figuratively throw themselves out of windows in business and take great risks. I have seen quite of few of them burn up in mid air or crash horribly. While we all have different tolerance levels when it comes to our ability to weather extreme challenges, it is never wise to do so without keeping one foot on the ledge. Or have a parachute handy.

When you talk in extremes and take extreme measures, you admit that it might be too much to stomach. When you throw yourself wildly into something, there is less room to learn from failure. You might face a failure so substantial that it will take you too much time and effort to get back on your feet.

This is why I am careful with obsessive behaviors in entrepreneurs: Similar traits are found in gamblers. Obsession does not equal passion. Obsession takes over your natural self, like darkness. Passion is your nature. Don’t adopt obsessive behaviors in your life. It is a sign that you are losing sight of your own means and potential. Like losing sight of land in a stormy sea: No bueno.

This brings us to Type 3:

There is a place right outside of the comfort zone that borders the “risk all” zone where the magic happens. It is not a big place, but it is a place where you can unfold everything that is stored inside of you. This is the place where incremental and lasting growth, like the one we find in nature, happens. To get there, you need to wade through the pain of leaving comfort behind and you must learn what your limitations are. As Sir Richard Branson has said, and I am paraphrasing here, “take risks, but have an escape hatch.” Type 3 folks take great risks, but if they fail, their escape hatch allows them to learn from their failure and get back on their feet faster and wiser, ready to do it all over again.

In short:

  1. Allow for your hunger for growth to push you out of the comfort zone.
  2. Embrace the pain of uncertainty.
  3. Use every decision to test your limits.
  4. Incrementally push yourself further.
  5. Explore your passion, but don’t obsess so that you are not blind to an escape hatch.
  6. If you fail, get up and try again. Find pleasure playing the game and grow slowly.
  7. What will follow is lasting success and fulfillment.


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