Go Outside Your Comfort Zone

by Christina Gleason on February 13, 2009

My life changed quite drastically this week. At this time last Friday, I was sitting at my desk in Troy, rushing to meet a seemingly impossible Monday deadline for the job that, just a month or so ago, I called the best job in the world. And I was so happy that I’d never have to look for a job again. My husband and I have been through some rough times. One of us has been laid off every year for the last four or five years. We thought we were finally done with that. We were wrong.

The first thing I did was cry. The next thing I did was panic. I have a son in preschool. We have to pay for his tuition, our mortgage, the car payment, my student loan payment, the credit card bill, my doctor’s appointments, utilities, groceries… Unemployment just doesn’t pay enough to cover our bills, and I thought I had filed my last claim with them last year.

Then I tried to get practical. My mind was racing as I made the 25 minute drive home, with the box of my personal effects sitting on the passenger seat next to me. I needed a plan. My immediate thought was to hop on Twitter when I got home. And man, that was a really great idea.

I honestly lost count of how many replies, direct messages, and emails I got on Monday night. There were well over 100. Maybe over 200. I don’t know. Counting wasn’t at the forefront of my thoughts.

People started asking me for rates for writing and editing projects. I was so grateful for the offers for work, but I had no idea what to charge. I did some research into what some other freelancers charge, and compared it to what I know other SEO companies charge, and I came up with some figures that will probably change in the future, but seemed to suffice for now.

I hopped on GoDaddy, changed some nameservers on the domain I’d purchased but hadn’t intended to use yet, contacted my hosting company about my latest add-on domain, and waited.

Tuesday morning, I woke up and started to build my new Web site. Writing up the initial content wasn’t too hard, although knowing exactly how much to share was hard. I had to delete a few sentences here and there before publishing the pages and posts.  My site was up within six hours of starting work on it that morning. The impromptu launch of my new site was tweeted and re-tweeted by so many wonderful people.

By Wednesday night, I discovered that I’m booked solid for over a month! I actually had to turn work down.

What does this have to do with going outside your comfort zone?

Anyone who’s met me in person can tell you that I’m a very quiet, shy person. (Until you get to know me, at least.) My Myers-Brigg personality type fluctuates between INFJ and INFP, but the I is a constant. I’m an introvert. (I just play an extrovert on the Internet.) It is totally unlike me to have taken charge like this. Aside from being an introvert, I’m also notoriously indecisive.But it’s out-of-character moments like this that seem to define my life. (How I got together with my husband is another out-of-character moment, but a story for another time. And probably another blog.)

The comfortable thing to do would have been for me to file for unemployment and start a traditional job search… again. It wouldn’t have made me happy. It would have been stressful. But it would have been familiar.

Putting myself out there was not a comfortable thing for me to do. Asking other people for help was not comfortable.  Rejection hurts, and fear of rejection has prevented me from doing a lot of things in the past. I didn’t get rejected this time. Quite the opposite happened.

What had seemed a traumatic ending on Monday evening turned out to be a blessing in disguise, a new beginning.  I’m currently sitting at my desk in my living room at home, working on a personal project that I’m excited about. I’ve learned that I am a valued member of the community, a community that cares about each other. And I’m not filing for unemployment.

How is this going to play out? I don’t know. The freedom I’ve experienced this week has been exhilarating, but I’m still not entirely sure about this whole “be your own boss” thing. Writing and editing is my passion, but marketing and contract negotiations and all of the rest of it are exhausting! So we’ll see. I may stay solo, or I may try to go corporate again – but for a company I respect that also respects me.

Are you happy in your job? Are you afraid for your job? What would you do if you lost it tomorrow?

Hopefully you won’t have to come up with a new plan as quickly and as unexpectedly as I did, but the state of the economy means that more and more people are getting laid off every day. What’s your back up plan?

If you’re reading this now, you’re probably fairly Web savvy. Have you registered your personal name domain? It’s not a bad idea to do that now. It’s only $10-15 a  year. Create a professional portfolio for yourself to establish your presence before you need to market your skills. Hop on LinkedIn and start updating your connections.

Make a list of your marketable skills. Are you a writer? A designer? A codemonkey? Are you amazing at sales? Do you have a crafting hobby that could become a business? Decide these things now, and you won’t have to panic if things go south at your workplace.

It doesn’t matter if you’re shy. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think people know who you are. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never tried doing anything like this before. These are all things we tell ourselves that force us to settle, to never challenge ourselves, to never realize our true selves.

I have less stress today than I did last Friday. All because I went outside my comfort zone. And you know what? My comfort zone is a little bit bigger now. Imagine that.

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