Want Results? Get Uncomfortable

It’s May.
We’re almost done with half the year, and I haven’t stuck with my publicly declared commitment to be more regular with my writing.
This is not an apology, though.
It’s a declaration of peace, made from me to me, and maybe it’s even a bit of a pat on the back.
Why pat on the back, you ask? Because this year I’ve had to adapt to what has been the equivalent of getting on one of those roller coasters at an amusement park that you’ve never been on before but you get on anyway assuming you’ll be FINE because how different can it be from all of the other roller coaster rides you’ve been on before in your life?
Then the roller coaster flips you upside-down as you head backwards down a spiraling track and you realize: this is NOTHING like ANYTHING you’ve ever been on before.

So, how are you all?
Some of you I’ve been connecting with on Twitter via the #PMChat,  #pmot, #agile or #scrum hashtags. Others of you I’ve been connecting with in person or through email, and some of you have probably been on your own roller coaster rides.

There’s been an underlying theme to this year that I’ve wanted to share with you all time and time again, and it’s one that I really truly want you all to take to heart:

In order to see results, you MUST get uncomfortable.

Whether you are looking to see a change in your career, get on a new growth path within your current career, or even see a physical change in yourself, you must get uncomfortable to see the results you want.

By “get uncomfortable”, I don’t just mean “step outside your comfort zone”. What I’m talking about can’t be wrapped neatly into 5 words and presented as though it were an exercise in pacing yourself and moving forward one step at a time.

I’m talking about flinging yourself straight out of your boundaries and limits and landing squarely in the middle of something that may freak you out so enormously that you feel like you have no way of ever regaining your footing and standing up again.
I’m talking about consciously removing yourself from what you know and placing yourself in situations that give you that sinking feeling in your stomach when you look up and realize you’ve never seen a mountain that huge before, and have no physical proof you can find your way up.

Except you will. Because your determination and abilities are greater than you ever knew they were, and when you take the first few steps up, realize you can keep going, then end up traveling a few miles towards your end goal, you will wake up one day feeling ridiculously sore but ridiculously giddy to get back at it and keep going.

This year I have found myself getting into situations that I feared I would not know how to navigate. It seemed to all come together and manifest in different areas:

Physically, I decided my routine had become stale and failed to provide me with real results or any kind of real difference or challenge. I started a crazy military-style bootcamp program that I initially planned on doing only for a few weeks.
For every day of the first week, I had to wear a 30 pound vest while doing all the same exercises the rest of the class was doing. By the third day I was shocked that I hadn’t yet hurled my guts out as I hurled out every curse word I knew (in multiple languages). My body was in some kind of shock, and I had never felt so worried that I would just fail; that I would just not be able to make it through the hour without quitting.
But I came back for the next 3 months, and got into the best shape of my life. (I recently stopped going to bootcamp because it was time for me to fly away and leave the security of the nest, and figure out how to stay challenged and fit on my own.)

Career-wise, I moved from the security of being a traditional full-time employee of a company, where there was a clear career path, a pretty stable (for the most part) cast and crew, and a known subject matter to being a consultant. I suddenly had to define who I was, who I wanted to be, and then figure out how to take control of how far and where I was going to go. It’s no secret that I am passionate about Agile Product Development and about helping organizations learn how to be effective and produce results using agile methodologies.

I decided when I made this move that I was going to be true to my beliefs in this role – which ultimately means not being a Yes woman, and (maybe frequently) delivering messages that a client might not want to hear. As a consultant, that comes with a higher risk of being told to leave the client’s offices and never come back because, well, there are no strings attached. They have no obligation to keep me around. That scared me. I’ve stumbled a few times and realize I will again, but when things go well, it makes up for the stumbling in such a big way.

I recently traveled and spent an intensive week at a client site to help them with some issues they are having as part of their adoption of agile methodologies on one of the largest projects (really a program) they have ever undertaken. These issues are normal and natural as an organization attempts to change the way they work and view things in such a big way, especially when combined with the fear of “Will We Ever Get There?”

One week is not a lot of time. I had so many questions and a growing anxiety about whether I would be able to do a good job, provide REAL value, and really HELP them achieve their goals. I kept having flashbacks to the image (and queasiness) of trying not to puke my guts out while doing burpees with a 30 pound vest on. I also woke up at 4:30 a.m. for an entire week.

But it got done. And some of what we did together while I was there was extraordinary, mostly in that I saw a team coming together with renewed hope and best of all, I saw the question changing from “Will We Ever Get There?” to “We Believe We Will Get There – So What’s The Best Way To Build This Together?”

There’s still work left to do, but that first week is over. Now I can take off the 30 pound vest and keep going.

My next goal: Getting myself into my bed and sleeping past 4:30 a.m. (Hey, not all goals have to be difficult to achieve!)

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9 Responses to Want Results? Get Uncomfortable

  1. Going to a Startup Weekend event this wknd. Will pitch a business idea on Friday night, listen to lots of other pitches, then work on developing a business plan for the rest of the weekend. A little scary thinking where it might lead. Like Icarus flying too close to the sun. But something I’ve wanted to pursue for decades and now it’s time.

    • Hala says:

      Jeff! This is amazing! Good luck, I will expect a report of how the weekend went, deal? I am so excited for you, this is the perfect example of getting uncomfortable where it MATTERS. Yes! :)

  2. Pingback: Perspectives on Testing » The Seapine View

  3. Dale Myers says:

    I love a post about change that brings in, “hurling” and “cursing in multiple languages.” Hala, sometimes life forces us to change and sometime we have to take the lead. Most times it’s hard…often gut wrenching. But the rewards (like sleeping past 4.30am) are often worth the effort and pain. Enjoy the journey! Hala, thanks and keep on writing. DM

    • Hala says:

      Dale – I love that you appreciate the hurling and cursing ;) I fully intend on enjoying the journey, especially since I’m fortunate enough to be in the company of the amazing and talented people I get to meet in person and online. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, I hope to see you back here soon!

  4. Jodi says:

    This was great. The transition from being on the client side to the consulting side is huge. I didn’t even know what I was taking on last year when I made that leap. It’s not a normal change job, it’s a mindset shift, job change, jump into the fog kind of moment. Glad to know it’s “normal”!

    • Hala says:

      Thanks Jodi – so glad this resonated with you. You are so right, it’s a mind-shift, and it IS normal! Good luck with everything, and come back soon!

  5. rodney says:

    Excellent piece.

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