Surf the Learning Curve

Surf the Learning Curve

When I first started my business – almost 25 years ago now – my learning curve was not so much steep as completely vertical. I learned on the job and after having said: “Sure, I can do that” to a request, I would research, practice, fine tune my processes and eventually become expert. It was terrifying – but exhilarating.

I survived that early learning experience and I’m so glad that I consistently forced myself outside the comfort zone because it equipped me like nothing else could have done for the successful running of a business that has a reputation for dealing with really difficult cases.

Many people shy away from being uncomfortable. But here’s the thing: People are far more resilient than they imagine. Many of us underestimate our resilience in challenging situations. Our fears are usually a completely unhelpful (and inaccurate) guide to what it will be like when we take the leap and stretch outside our comfort zone.

Think about the following.

Firstly, you’re probably more flexible than you think you are. Just living means we have to adapt. We are trained to adapt and adjust our behaviour across different contexts. Consider the wide range of people in your social circle with whom you already interact. Do you speak to your manager the same way you do with your colleagues? Do your conversations with your in-laws take the same form as those with your friends from university? Probably not. You’ve adapted and adjusted your behaviour before; you can do it again.

You probably braver than you think too! Remember all the things you’ve already done in your life that took serious nerve. For some, it was going off to college and living alone for the first time. For others, it was switching jobs or careers, or getting married. We all have our own experiences that required some level of bravery, and we can draw on them when confronting the next situation outside our comfort zones.

Things aren’t usually as bad as you think. Fear gets in the way of clear thinking. We worry about the worst possible outcome, that we’ll humiliate ourselves that we’ll be disliked. There’s always a slight chance that the worst will happen, but the reality is a bit more nuanced than that. It’s far more likely that you’ll do OK if you’ve prepared, or at least reality will be far less terrifying than what you imagined.

You’re more resourceful than you know. When you face a really difficult situation, you often feel vulnerable. But you’re not alone in the situation. You often have quite a number of resources to use — mentors, colleagues, or friends to go to for guidance, or steps you can take when preparing. The reality is that few situations are one-size-fits-all, and you usually have quite a few resources to bring to bear to make a situation more tolerable for you.

If you stay in that boring old comfort zone you won’t make any mistakes, but nor will you learn anything and that will limit everything you do. Leverage the capabilities that you already have to go into unfamiliar situations with confidence. Don’t underestimate how flexible, brave, and capable you actually are and can be. Give it a go. The chances are, you’ll probably end up surprising yourself.


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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.

Copyright © 2022 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.