You know when you get home from a long day, and you just want to get in your comfy pants or shorts and flop on the couch. That's getting comfortable. Sitting on that comfy couch in my stretchy pants for even ten minutes takes my brain to mush mode. Put a TV remote in my hand and I'll be set for hours in a mindless gaze. And a beer … and well, I'll be good all weekend.
We need to do the opposite in our daily routine. We need to push to feel constantly challenged and even agitated, in a sense, to cause change, to drive our brains to think. We need to stay uncomfortable so that we're always looking for options, angles, and answers.
I've been creating websites for over 15 years. It's not always easy finding inspiration to drive new ideas for your clients. Over these years though I've come to realize that others deal with this creative burn out too. I'm not sure how others break out of the monotony, but here are five things that have helped me get uncomfortable.
1. Speak In Public
I get uncomfortable by agreeing to speak at events. It forces me into the spotlight, revealing me and my “All-knowingness” or lack thereof. While it is highly uncomfortable to stand up in front of 100 peers teaching SEO, it certainly challenges me to be up-to-date on Google's latest. It makes me research, learn, dig, grow, improve. Getting uncomfortable like this gives me an opportunity though to share my findings, and to establish myself in our industry as a resource for others. It's certainly helped grown my brand and even helped me stay on the forefront of trends for my clients.
2. Guest Blog
I didn't want to commit to writing this blog article once a month for Agency Mavericks.
Don't get me wrong – it's a huge honor. I am in the company of other successful entrepreneurs, WordPress heroes, and fascinating thinkers, but it's highly time-consuming for me. I can't just sit down at a computer keyboard and hack out 600 words in ten minutes. Half of the time I'm searching for ideas on what to even blog about. I try to reference my experiences, but that only seems to get me so far before I feel as though all of the articles I'm submitting have the same monotone voice – similar to Charlie Brown's teacher.
However, every month when it's due to submit I find myself researching, growing, and even laughing at times. Writing causes me to pause and reflect – to think. And even though I'm the lead on every creative project, I'm the team manager, the janitor, the client-facing, sales gal – because of my routines, I don't often take the time to think. I can do all of those tasks at this point in my career on cruise control. If you want to get uncomfortable, guest blog for someone else. Commit to a timeframe of no less than six months.
3. Teach or Mentor
From the moment our business opened clients needed training. So we offered classes. This is a combo of speaking in public and guest blogging in a sense because you have to write curriculum. You have to write handouts and research topics to teach. There's nothing better than teaching a beginner course in WordPress to help others and to push yourself to return to the basics.
If you want to go nuts and get uncomfortable – teach WordPress to kids.
They'll spin circles around you so fast and have their website built in a matter of a few minutes then challenge you to take them deeper. You'll be amazed by their curiosity and their approach to development and design. They don't see limits like adults do.
4. Ask for Feedback
There's always someone waiting to give you their two cents, I'm sure. If you never send out a survey or ask questions, how will you ever know what impact you're having, or what you could be doing better? Get uncomfortable by asking others to find your weaknesses. It's not fun opening yourself up to ridicule or critique. We would rather all receive rave reviews and feedback about how incredibly talented we are. But the truth is – if no one ever took the time to help us see our flaws or help us see another angle – we get stale.
There's nothing worse than a stale thinker.
If we don't get uncomfortable and open the door for communication, we will always assume that all is well, and our methods work. Unfortunately, by the time you figure out they don't work, it might be too late, and your project will fail. Your client will fire you. Your business will dry up. Ask others for their perspective on what you do – take the risk of revealing your work and see what others say. Ask clients how the project's process could have improved for them. Ask them what their needs are and if you're meeting them. Ask your team how things could run more smoothly in-house.
I'm a control freak. I'm a type-A personality with a little patience. I don't handle mistakes very well. Wheeeew, My therapist, would be proud of me right now. I'm happiest when things are running like a well-oiled machine, but in our industry (at least in our little bubble), this is very hard to come by. Every project is different. Every client communicates differently. Even though, at the end of the day we're creating websites using the same coding languages – the process to get to the “Go Live” moment is always unique.
But there have to be moments when I can walk away and let go of the control. I have to quit trying to carry every responsibility myself. I have to have faith in my team. I have to be able to hand tasks off to those that I have around me. I have to get uncomfortable and trust. Will I be let down? Possibly. But letting go and allowing others around you to be motivated brings a sense of unity and creates a level of trust that challenges your team members to step up to the task. They are then made uncomfortable and have to grow, improve, learn and ultimately succeed.
Letting go of things allows the weight to shift and equal out. Letting go shows maturity and exposes wisdom you might not have even known you have.
Over time, and even in our creative industry, it's very easy to find yourself in a rut. All of our projects blur together and start to look the same. Inspiration is something that we crave, but never seem to look for. We get so wrapped up in our deadlines and profit margins that what was once an exciting, creative opportunity for us becomes a repetitious routine with our minds running on cruise control. We must break out of that.
Challenge yourself even today to do something uncomfortable.