comfort zone
Image Source - https://twitter.com/rabehemarketing/status/835066994277830656

This article is written by Aditya Shrivastava, content marketing executive at iPleaders.

Where is the star, you used to be?

Where is the shine, in all your deeds?

I see you shine, once in a blue moon now.

It is not as bright, as it used to be.

These lines are not by any famous personality that I can quote, this is a mere feeling I’ve been going through for the past couple of days. Maybe even months.

Some of us grew up very used to being in the spotlight. We were appreciated for things that we did naturally, easily, effortlessly. If that doesn’t make sense to you, think of the guy in your class who didn’t study much but always got good grades. I am one of those people. I would not study much during school, but always end up doing well in exams. My talent and achievements made me easily stand out in the crowd. College life was wonderful because everyone wanted to be my friend and at the very first job, my boss almost fell in love with my work.

Then I decided to take a leap of faith and join my dream job. I was selected over many qualified and experienced people, so when I joined, I was on top of the world. However, as the initial euphoria settled down, I was faced with some pretty big challenges. I knew it will be hard but I had no idea how hard it will be to go the the next level of expertise and capability.

It doesn’t feel like I am on the top of the world anymore. If you are where I am standing, we have reached a point where it feels like no-one appreciates us enough, our hard work mostly goes unnoticed, and the spotlight is on other people now. I feel like sulking all the time! I am trying my best to do what I have always been good at. Still, I am either intimidated or have been developing immense inferiority complex while facing my colleagues or boss. What is going on? When did life come to this?

All of this will impact anybody’s performance, and my efficiency which I always boasted of seems to be tanking. My best days are not as happy and worsts days are far too many. My expectations from myself are so high already, that I frequently do not meet them and therefore feel dejected and disappointed. I feel frustrated, it’s like I feel off the charmed zone!

It happens to the best, and best only. It happens when we step out of our comfort zone.

Fast growth is not like sitting in a private jet sipping martinis. Growth, most of the time, is painful. It requires you to step out of comfort zone and be extremely uncomfortable. It is like going to gym and lifting weights beyond what you ever imagined you could. It is running a marathon when you have your feet covered with blisters and every cell of your body is aching but still not giving up. It is standing for an idea or for a belief when the whole world thinks you are crazy, but you got to recruit more people anyway if you want to succeed. Growth is going for one more sit up when your body can’t take any more. It is not a picnic in the garden of prima vera on a sunny day.

What are my choices?

I can go and find an easier job where I will be appreciated everyday for what I do. Or I can put growth first and chose to toil it out till I get really good. The second one is the hard choice, and I need to make it again and again, because everytime I fail, I will feel like giving up. That’s human nature. I must fight it and I must win.

If you work hard and you are honest to your work, your biggest nightmare would be not meeting your targets and not being good at what you do. Being in a highly productive state is ofcourse addictive. You want to always take the charge and make sure deliverables are met. You want your boss to appreciate you, and entrust you with more responsibilities. You might often see your colleagues and also wonder, how do they get as much time to relax, when you are swamped with work?

The answer to it is that I made this choice. I like it this way. Where I am today matters less for a person like me than where I want to get. Whatever we may do, we want to be excellent at it. When we do not meet our absurdly high standards, there is the danger that we may start considering ourselves as failures. It has happened to me. When the bug bites, we stop interacting with people who are near us, our sleep starts getting affected, we get cranky and we get too harsh on ourselves. It is quite typical of young high achievers who sets themselves continuously bigger and higher goals.

Let me share with you how I got a grip on myself.

A little background about myself first. An avid writer, and a speaker, I found my love in pen and mic quite early. Trying to make my own nursery rhymes and accompanying my grandmother and father for a radio show, in no time, I got a small but regular segment in my grandmother’s own show. Growing up, writing for various student magazines, I also happened to land a radio show of my own with one of the leading radio stations. This happened even before I graduated from high school, so I became pretty famous as a young achiever.

However, life took it own twists and turns, and I ended up in a law school. Doing fairly well there as well, I ended up with a job offer from one of the leading law firms, solely because of my hard work. I opted out, however, and moved into an MNC. After joining the compliance team, I realised, I didn’t like the work. At this point, I finally answered my calling – writing. I ended up as a content marketing executive with iPleaders.

Getting a dream profile at a really cool company and that too in Goa could be anyone’s best moment in life. However, for me, things didn’t shape up as good. It took me a great deal of time to understand how content writing works (my boss laughs at me when I say this as it is still under two months). I mix up things while writing, get the presentation wrong frequently and make tons of typos. I found it difficult to proofread my own work. While writing was my dream, writing as a day job every day is very demanding on my creativity, diligence, writing skill and abilities.

As I was uninterested in a career in law practice, I always thought that I could still manage with my limited knowledge of law, and compensate with strong argumentative/convincing skills. In my new job I soon learnt that I cannot get away with lack of knowledge. Writers must know stuff. If I want to write about law and legal career, I can’t help but read up, talk to people and research. There is no shortcut.

Always labelled as the “best” at work previously, I was not even anywhere close to what best really looks like. It was just a comfort zone. When you really meet people who are good at their craft, it is a humbling experience. iPleaders has a high standard of writing which you must be familiar with as a subscriber to this mailing list. I still have a lot to learn, and a long way to go to perfect my writing. The amount of new things to learn is simply overwhelming.

It boiled up to the extent, that I almost started considering if quitting was an option. However, things changed for good today morning.

While I was making my breakfast in the morning, I gave it a thorough thought. Is validation that important? Is appreciation that necessary? What is it that is going wrong? There were a couple of questions I had to ask myself in order to make up my mind. However, what I realized was, the solution lies in the very same problem. What do I mean when I say that?

I had to go back to all that I have done in my life so far to understand that this is a mere challenge life is throwing at me. You see, life has been really kind to me and people like me. We didn’t study much to get good grades, our previous bosses loved us because technically there was no one there to be better than us. This is not the case anymore, right? Isn’t that great? If I win this challenge, will I not emerge a better writer, better professional, more knowledgeable about law and legal career than I ever was?

So, why play small games and get consolation prize when the world is out there to be conquered? Is growth more important or do I want more hollow appreciation?

Why were you hired?

Understand this, why were you hired in the first place? Because, you were better than everyone else who applied with you. Can anyone take that away from you? If there are people at work you are intimidated with (trust me, I am!), why not start learning from them? If it hurts your ego, then why not try to get yourself to a position where you prove yourself to be as good or even better than them?

I used to be a pretty decent achiever in my university. In fact, I was amongst those who were usually consulted for advice by juniors. And that is pretty cool, because law students are generally very high on themselves. I have never felt embarrassed to accept when I didn’t know much, but I somehow always managed to appear smart. I was practically the jack of all trades, but I used to present myself as the master of all of them.

After joining my current organisation, I stopped doing that, and relentlessly accepted that I don’t know zilch about anything remotely legal. Probably, I felt too naive in front of the individuals who have hands on experience with legal proceedings, especially because I am a fresher. But, today when I was trying to prove to myself that I know less, I thought, why the hell I am even doing it? I know things, and I can be pretty good at what I know, why am I shying away?

I realized that I am an individual with two dimensions to myself. Either I am that lion who roars and establishes that he is the best in the jungle, or I am that cat which is drenched and left extremely at the disposal of others. I realized, I am slowly letting go of my lion and being more and more a drenched cat. I realized, I need to stop doing that.

I tried, and came to a conclusion that the days which were not my best days were actually the stepping stones and building blocks to my best days. I don’t think I would have ever felt the need to write better, learn more, understand law or even start updating myself with the current affairs had I not landed in this office. If I didn’t beat myself up, if I didn’t feel frustrated, I wouldn’t have felt the need to introspect and understand why do I need to be better in the first place. I wouldn’t have found many insights which later on combined to lead to the days which were magical.

Remember, the time when you played with younger kids and could easily win every game? How did you feel? Now compare it with winning a competition with the best cricketers in the district. Or maybe the state, maybe Ranji trophy or even international cricket. There are whole new levels of cricket to explore. Would you like to play with the younger kids all your life? It gets a lot difficult as you level up, of course. I am sure you will know what I am getting at. The more hardships you go through the better you turn out in the end.

When faced with challenges beyond us, we need to pull up our socks and take it as an opportunity to grow. In all that discomfort we often forget this simple truth. Bring out the inner lion in you, and prove to yourself that you are no less than your peers. In case you are convinced that you are the kitten in the picture, then train and work hard enough till you are the numero uno.

Ramanuj, my boss, shared a personal story with me. English wasn’t his strongest forte when he took NUJS exam for the first time, having studied in a vernacular medium school upto that point, despite being quite good at every other subject. He cracked NUJS through the waiting list on his first attempt, but that was unacceptable to him. He chose not to join any college and worked extremely hard on his English for the next 1 year. He just didn’t crack NUJS in his 2nd attempt, but also was amongst the top 3 in the National Admission Test. Today, it is because of his language and insights that he is one of the top bloggers and TEDx speaker in the country. He gets invited by IITs, IIMs and ISB to teach workshops, deliver lectures and people pay to attend his talks that he delivers in English. Imagine, what would have happened if he gave up trying to master English and rather accepted that he is not good at it?

How much can you push yourself to get back in the zone? What would you have to own the zone like a boss? How much are you willing to give?

What can I do to become more fierce and impactful?

I walked the extra mile. I just didn’t want to reduce myself to being another content marketing executive anymore. I want to be a writer, who is better because of the things he know, analyze and explain. I want to be a lawyer who writes to create impact. I took up this course in order to quickly build up my knowledge of law, which being in the industry I knew would help me to achieve my goal.

I confess, I messed up. My head messed up. But what I realized was, I cannot keep beating myself for messing up. I need to buck up and do what is needed. If I need law, if I need knowledge, if I feel low for not knowing enough, I would become best at it and then see who can challenge me next!

It is the game of thrones for me, a personal one. I know for a fact that I will do whatever it takes to claim back my throne of glory. Even if that means taking out 4 extra hours from my hectic day and spending a month’s salary. It is a price I happily paid to get out of the cobweb that I had settled around myself.

That question can be worth your time, no matter what you do, what state you are in or what you are going through in life.

Are you ready to get out of your comfort zone, take on new challenges, be the best in your field and get what you want from life?

Then get out of your comfort zone, things you normally do, and do something new. Please walk that extra mile you never walked before.

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