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.

{ 1 trackback }

The Self-Branding Of Search Marketers | Search Engine People | Toronto
March 2, 2009 at 11:59 am

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

DazzlinDonna February 13, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Saw a tweet about this post a few minutes ago, and was happy to have landed here. Very happy to hear that you took control and made things happen, if it it wasn’t exactly what you really imagined you’d do. It’s always wonderful to feel like you have some control over your own destiny, rather than always leaving it in the hands of others. Good luck in the future!

Patrick Sexton February 13, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Hi Christina,
I was fairly confident that it would play out well for you. You took all the right steps immediately and communication is key. The SEM world is a great place. I am writing an article about you, but you are already so booked, I wonder if I should wait.
In any case congratulations and have wonderful nice thoughts spinning in your head as you work you new and likely more rewarding job :)

Barry Welford February 13, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Great post, Christina. I’m sure it will bring a lot of energy to a great many other people. I hope the work continues to pour in. Best wishes.

Chris Schofield February 13, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Way to go Christina! I hope things continue to work out for you! You’ve inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and prepare for the future. While I haven’t lost my job (yet?), I will definitely prepare for it.

Melanie Nathan February 13, 2009 at 3:47 pm

I found myself in the same boat back in November. Laid off exactly 1 week after moving in to our newly purchased dream home. Anger, fear, panic and most of all shock were all a part of what I was feeling. I feel like I landed on my feet though and although I still get scared sometimes, I’ll survive in knowing that it’s me who is ultimately responsible for my own success… and I happen to trust myself implicitly ;)

Do you know that your post filled me with such excitement for you that I actually shouted “you go girl!!” after reading it lol? I just *know* you’ll be brilliantly successful in anything you do Christina :)

On a wildly different note, I just noticed your captcha reads “pee sturz” for me lol. See? You can’t help but be fun!

Jeremy L. Knauff February 13, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Congrats on the bold move and best of luck to you!

About 4 years ago I found myself in a similar situation, but rather than take the easy way out, I went ahead and started my own company. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s worked out well for me, our staff and our clients and it was certainly worth it.

From what I can see by how you’ve handled the situation you’ve been put in, you’ll do just fine.

Christina February 13, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Donna, thanks for your support! (And the Twitter follow.)

Pat, maybe you could wait a week or two on that article. Don’t want all of my publicity in the span of one week. ;-)

Barry, I hope this does bring energy to more people. If I can do it, it’s within reach for many others!

Chris, while I hope your job is secure, you may come up with a Plan B that works out far better than your Plan A!

Melanie, I think I heard that “you go girl!” LOL. I love your new site… Women are really rocking the Web world this week. :-) And Captchas often amuse me. Glad you got a good one.

Jeremy, wow, four years! Good for you. It’s inspiring to hear a success story that started out similar to mine.

Cindy February 13, 2009 at 4:32 pm

I am so incredibly happy for you. Yeah, I looked forward to poking and prodding you for SEO help and advice for Bright Hub, but I was happier to change things around because you were too busy than I was to have offered my help in the first place.

I’m going to be doing that domain thing soon, I think. :) I already forgot what my Myers-Brigg is, but I figured it out with “Please Understand Me: Character & Temperament Types” so I’ll go back and do it again and let you know. It’s something close to yours, I’m sure.

Lori February 13, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Amazing story, and a perfect example of making lemonade out of lemons. Or finding the silver lining in a cloud. Or some other timeworn cliche :)

Working for yourself is tough, but I think it’s the best situation too. I love being my own boss. If you’re self-motivated, which you obviously are, you can’t help but succeed.

Suellen McCollim February 13, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Congratulations, again! As I told you, I lost my job last year after I had emergency heart surgery. I was also quite dismayed and frightened about what I would do. I am older and single and haven’t anyone to help out financially. That is when I took an inventory of my skills and started my first blog, started to build my own website for my artwork, and began to write for you. I haven’t finished the art site because I think I am afraid of putting it all out there (even though my degree is in fine arts). I am wondering what anyone else thinks about the chances of success in selling my art. It isn’t computer-generated or commercial, just old fashioned painting and drawing by hand.

EclecticBird February 14, 2009 at 9:01 am

I was so upset for you (and for me, because you were a great boss) when you told us you weren’t going to be at the company anymore. Now, I think this is going to rock for you (still sucks for your writers though!). You said in one of your tweets that you didn’t know if you were a guru, well I definitely think events are proving you wrong. Regardless, you are definitely an inspiration :)

Valerie February 14, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Christina,

I was so sad to hear WPB had let you go. It was always a joy to work with you. I remember once being stuck on a project on a Saturday night at 11 pm and sending you an email and getting a response. Well, it was definitely their loss if they didn’t realize what they had. I doubt they’ll find someone who can fill your shoes.

I’m thrilled to hear that not only did you land on your feet, but you hit the ground running. You’re truly an inspiration!

Valerie

Kat February 15, 2009 at 6:12 am

Congratulations! I’ve never spoke to you or anything, but I was upset to see that you had been laid off. I’ve heard lots of wonderful things about you through other people. I am happy to see that you were able to make a negative thing into something really positive. Congratulations again, I wish you the best of luck. :)

Christina February 15, 2009 at 7:43 pm

Thanks for all of the words of encouragement from “my” writers. I miss you guys.

mombloggerJ February 15, 2009 at 7:46 pm

Your story is an inspiration. Thanks for posting it! Give me hope that I might get out of my horrid office job some day and work for *me*!

mombloggerJ February 15, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Argh. I’ve got to start reading stuff before I submit. Gives me hope. . .GIVES.

Christina February 16, 2009 at 10:02 am

Well, without the “s” you made it a command, telling me to give you hope. That’s what you intended, right? ;-)

Nicole February 16, 2009 at 10:39 am

What a great post! Very inspiring and heartfelt. I read this whole site, every page and every post (I’m cool like that) but this is my favorite! I love the way you told the story…it is very inspiring!

netmeg February 16, 2009 at 11:05 am

I think of the saying “When all you’re using is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.” It’s true here too. It’s very easy not to realize your own full potential until you step (or are dragged) outside that comfort zone – even when you’re in a job that you thoroughly love.

I took my first “corporate” job when I was 15, and worked there (mostly unappreciated) for almost 17 years. While I liked certain aspects of that job, I was mostly pretty beaten down by time I left; convinced I wouldn’t have the skills to work anywhere else. I wasn’t let go, but finally left in a huff when management passed me over one too many times in favor of a schoolboy MBA (who was related to the CEO).

After the initial panic, I started making lists of my actual skills, and was amazed at how they’d piled up without my even realizing. Including some that my former bosses never would have appreciated or used. Never looked back, except to kind of regret I hadn’t left sooner. And not long after that, I felt I was finally ready to start my own business.

You’ll be fine – you’ll be great. I have no doubt whatsoever.

Ashish April 28, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Same here for me and my moment of realization came an year back. Though not sacked or fired, I decided to quit my uninspiring job in hunt for something better and I knew from the start, it has to be my own thing.

I started this company almost 13 months back, got ranking well for some terms related to the local Cleveland and Columbus markets and most importantly worked passionately on everything design and everything SEO. The scene currently is that not only I have more than a handful prestigious clients, my team’s (yes I have one now) abilities have made other marketing firms realize that what I have on offer in local SEO, SEO and web development is a great value proposition. I do not have to search for any work whatsoever and many renowned names in our industry contact me regularly for getting work done.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: