One of the most valuable life skills you can ever develop is to overcome the urge to stay within your comfort zone.
If you stay where you’re familiar and feel safe, two things might happen:
- You might find out that it’s not safe after all. Bad things can happen where you feel at home just as well as out of the familar.
- Nothing good will happen. You might skate through life without even living it.
Last week at Velocity I responded to an invitation from O’Reilly to join a lunch with Per Scholas. I didn’t know much about Per Scholas, but I’ve learned to say yes to invitations from O’Reilly. The night before, I watched an inspiring talk during Ignite, from the founder of Per Scholas.
Impressed, I began to really look forward to spending some time with the Per Scholas folks the next day at lunch. The idea was pretty simple: people who were working through the Per Scholas training would pair up one-for-one (as I understand it) with people like myself—technologists, entrepreneurs, hackers, makers, people with perhaps something to share.
I sat down at a table in the designated area, leaving lots of room beside me for people to join. None of the Per Scholas students was there yet. I chatted idly with two other people at the table. Soon one of the Per Scholas staff members sat down with us. I asked her a series of questions for ten minutes or so. She explained that she helped people with basic life and work skills, coaching and mentoring even after they leave the intensive study program.
Still no students had joined us. Suddenly I looked over at another table and saw that it had filled entirely with Per Scholas students, shoulder to shoulder.
“Basic life skill number 1 is to build your network and learn from unfamiliar people,” I remarked to the staffer next to me. “They are missing an opportunity to mingle with us.”
“Yes,” she answered. “They are.”
And then you could (metaphorically) hear the crickets chirping. I finished my lunch and left.
I won’t brag about myself, but I can say that the other people at that table were damn sure worth getting to know. As for me, I considered it a complete waste of my time; I’d chosen it over a conversation I really wanted to attend elsewhere. There’s another blog post in here somewhere—this isn’t the first time I’ve had this kind of experience.
Per Scholas students aren’t paying anything (financially) for their training. Are they getting what they’re paying for? You bet they are. Like all of us, they will get out of it exactly what they put into it.
Get out of your comfort zone. If you don’t, the worst thing in the world happens to you: nothing.