Outside Your Comfort Zone

This past October 17-20 at the Tag & Label Mfrs. Inst. annual meeting at the Boca Raton Resort in Florida, I witnessed through speaker Roger Crawford what it's like to live constantly outside your comfort zone. Together with 380+ other meeting attendees, we discovered what possibilities exist if we leave that zone to achieve what we previously thought impossible.

Crawford at first sight is an inspiration. Having been born with physical challenges, his life has been based on accomplishing what others might first suggest as impossible. In fact, he calls himself “America's Possibility Coach.”

Crawford is easily picked out from the crowd. As his daughter once described him, he has a permanent peace sign formed by two fingers on his left hand and one thumbs-up sign with the one finger on his right. In addition to having an artificial leg, Crawford claims he was born to be an inspirational speaker.

For Crawford, it would have been easy — almost natural — with such physical challenges to focus on the negative. But as he looks back on his life, he sees his arms and leg as a wonderful gift. While it took him 16 years to learn how to tie his shoes (only for Velcro to come on the scene), those 16 years taught him how to view failure. Crawford proclaims, “Don't let failure go to your head!” A patient with amputated arms from the elbows down, whom Crawford encountered at Walter Reed Veteran Hospital, says it best: “People are like tea bags. You put them in a little hot water, and you see what comes out.”

Take-away advice that Crawford offered is worth repeating: Failure only happens when you quit. What you think about, comes about. What you do about it is what happens. Don't spend time trying to change the unchangeable. Ask yourself: Where are you coming from; how long have you been there; and where are you going? Answers to these questions will allow you to find in your past resilient moments to use as a strategy to improve the future.

The theme of “possibility” was carried through the next presentation by Dr. Roche Parayre, a senior partner with Decision Strategies Intl. and teaching Fellow at the Aresty Inst. of Executive Education at the Wharton School, Univ. of Pennsylvania. His hands-on, workshop approach to learning allowed attendees to test his Blue Ocean strategy to uncover areas ripe for innovation in an industry that is becoming, for many, “mature,” particularly if companies succumb to me-too product offerings. Key characteristics of long-lived companies that should be imitated, says Parayre, include the following: Be financially conservative with low debt and leverage; have deeply embedded, shared values that are a guide to action; be skilled at peripheral vision to see around the corner; and have an experimental mind-set to permit entrance at the edges of other new markets. See the possibilities because the price of focus is the loss of peripheral vision. Go outside your comfort zone!

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