Finding Success in Uncomfortable Places
One of my first jobs as a kid (like many) was mowing lawns. My Dad was a teacher at the local college and had extra time in the summers. One summer he took over a friend’s landscaping business.
This was more than just a side job; he had a bunch of equipment and a sizeable list of customers to serve. Naturally, he looked to me to help him out and he paid me well for my help.
It wasn’t long before I found myself mowing the lawns all by myself. I don’t know if that was my dad’s plan all along, but if it was, it was a pretty good plan.
I lived in a small town and my truck was highly recognizable all summer long as I had two mowers and plenty of grass clippings packed into the back.
My friends would often stop when they saw me out working to heckle me. Not the mean kind of heckling, more of the typical banter between friends. I knew even then they were just bored or had nothing better to do.
At times I did envy their freedom. Especially on the beautiful days when they were going out on their boats (many teenagers in Sitka, Alaska save up to buy a boat instead of a car), headed out fishing or camping.
If there was a girl that I liked, she and her friends would always seem to pull up when I was green with clippings, covered from head to toe in grass.
I didn’t love that job. In fact, there were many days when I hated it. However it did pay well, and it taught me skills far beyond how to make your front lawn look amazing.
That job taught me how to keep a schedule, to track my work, to be accountable to others, that if you’re going to get paid for a job you do it to the best of your abilities every time without exception, how to manage bank accounts, receivables, invoicing, preventative maintenance on equipment, and how to lift a professional mower into the back of my pickup all by myself (that is an art).
At the time I didn’t think about the fact that I was running my own business. It just kind of fell in my lap and I kept it going the best I could. It’s clear now how great it was learning those business skills at a young age.
One of the biggest lessons or keys to success I have learned throughout the many businesses I have been a part of is the necessity to get uncomfortable. In fact the more uncomfortable I get pushing my business, the more I find it leads me to more success.
As a parent, I hope to help my daughters have the opportunity to learn the skills of business. I was having trouble articulating this lesson on being uncomfortable, but yesterday we had a breakthrough.
My wife is homeschooling our daughters this semester. We are testing it out to see how it goes. So far it’s going well. I have started taking my daughters to work with me on Fridays. They still have lessons they have to work on while at my office, but I am trying to include them in different aspects of my business, as well as help them develop their own ideas about business and entrepreneurship.
Their latest idea for making money is to sell hot chocolate and coffee outside the front door of my office in downtown Boise. We’ve been talking about the costs, the equipment, and steps we need to take before we can start, because of course they want to start immediately.
I explained to them that one of the steps we needed to take was to go over to City Hall and speak with the City Clerk’s office to see if we need to get and pay for a permit to sell coffee and hot chocolate outside my office.
At first they thought this task sounded exciting, so we bundled up in our winter jackets and walked over to City Hall. When we walked in I could see that we needed to take a number and wait our turn. Once I showed them that we were two numbers away from being called on, they got nervous.
Suddenly they were back peddling on their idea. I don’t think they fully understood the situation or what would happen next, so they became uncomfortable. The easy thing for them to do would have been to change their minds about their business idea, to walk out of the room so they didn’t have to speak to some grown up about their business plan.
I would have let them leave, too. This was their idea; I didn’t want to force them into seeing it through. I did gently remind them about the business lesson of being uncomfortable. I told them that the fact that they were nervous or unsure about the meeting might just mean they were on the right track for great success.
I could see the lightbulb going on in their minds. They got the lesson, and they rocked their meeting with the City Clerk employee who, by the way, was super supportive and great with the girls.
Comfort is stagnation.
Growth requires pushing into a state of discomfort.
This important business lesson I’ve learned may be why I’m am always looking for ways to push and elevate my business. It is a habit now. But this year I’m really doubling down and making myself extremely uncomfortable.
One of the biggest drivers of this is my new goal of writing and teaching CE courses for Real Estate Agents. I’ve been drawn to this goal for quite some time now. I first got the itch for it by coaching and mentoring agents in my Brokerage, which helped me realize that I have a true passion for building businesses, and not just mine, but for anyone who has got the drive, determination, and guts to pursue theirs.
Then I pushed myself and accomplished a lifelong goal of writing a book, called Agent Entrepreneurs – Every Agents Guide To What They Don’t Teach You In Real Estate School.
Writing that book was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it has given me the confidence to move forward with creating courses that don’t really exist in our profession (and if they do, they are expensive or hard to come by).
I’ve never been a great public speaker. When I was in grade school I took speech therapy lessons because no one could understand what I was saying. However, in business and in life I’ve understood the necessity to put myself in uncomfortable situations to move forward. Which was why, when I was offered a radio show 7 years ago, I didn’t hesitate. I said “yes, please.” Of course, after I said ‘yes’ I felt my stomach twist into knots, as I was worried that I would sound awful, make embarrassing grammar mistakes, or my mind would go totally blank on live radio.
That first radio show, I was a mess. Sitting outside the station in my car I recorded a couple of minutes of speaking and played it back. I hated the way I sounded and I was sure others would, too. But I got through that day, and 7 years later I am still doing radio and podcasts. Once I got comfortable being uncomfortable, I gained a sense of fearlessness in business.
I learned that I can do just about anything I choose to put my mind to. I realize I won’t be the best at my pursuits, and I don’t need to be. I just need to show up and keep moving forward.
At least these days, getting uncomfortable in business doesn’t mean smelling of moss and being covered in grass clippings.
Here’s to finding success in uncomfortable places,