Is Your “Comfort Zone” Really A Danger Zone?
The Mainstream World’s “Key To Success” May Be A Creative’s “Kiss of Death”
If you’re truly a creative human being, then you may already be familiar with feeling guilty or experiencing that tinge of fear every time you make the choice to veer from “the norm”. At a very young age, I was taught that the notion of being creative equals being “different” and that’s not a good thing. For instance, school spirit typically means rallying around athletics and student government, while art class and marching band are usually the first to get the ax when budget cuts roll around (and when you think about it, the word marching band fully embodies sportsmanship. Funny how that works…)
It is ingrained in our psyche that being creative may not potentially translate to any “real” career prospects and therefore surely is is not the key to success. At least, that was the case with my own upbringing.
The school classes that I actually looked forward to (art, choir, band, dance, theater, etc.) were all electives… not required. This “fun” stuff was the bad stuff. But this was my artistic identity and my desired path in life. If I dared to dream of what essentially made me happy, I had already veered off the conventional path…the path that was supposed to substantially improved my odds of a very safe, secure and successful future, right?
What I’m getting at is this: I embraced that conventional thinking and in the process wasted years of my life pursuing the perceived key to success, the way the world had instructed me to. Instead, I silenced my own creative impulses out of fear that they would lead me to a dead-end, with no roof over my head. I thought aiming for a long-term career and working a 9-5 corporate-type job (like everybody had been telling me to) would instill fulfillment.
Except it didn’t.
I had left behind the girl who loved the french horn and choir. This was the first time I felt betrayal…and it was my own doing. Why? Because I was meant to feel that I was walking out of step with everyone else and so I bottled it all up. My bond for the arts though was instantaneous, and so years later, it made me realize this: You can’t take the road everyone else is taking and expect to end up in a different place that still makes you happy. You might think there’s too much risk or danger in leaving your so-called comfort zone, but did you ever consider “the zone” to be nothing more than a false safety net?
I’m hoping what I’m about to tell will be a series of small breakthroughs to help you realize your own potential. But in order to take that first step, you need to get let go of “the familiar” mentality that comes with the territory of holding down a “safe” career path just like I did.
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5 “Key To Success” Myths Debunked:
1. LONG-TERM SECURITY
Have you ever been laid off or fired from your day job? Well, if you haven’t, odds are you know someone who has. Now more than ever, with a volatile world economy, business owners are displacing their hard-working employees and putting them “out of business”. Sometimes it’s a necessary evil, while in other instances, it’s simply unwarranted and just plain greed.
Putting your fate in someone else’s unappreciative, selfish hands is actually career and financial suicide.
Unless you are the owner, you will never be the MVP and therefore, potentially expendable. When I did have a day job with long-term career prospects, it gave me hours, pay, health insurance, even 401k, but all that didn’t matter. It was all taken away from me in one fowl swoop. Never had I felt so betrayed and unsafe in all my career experience. However, this taught me that life is filled with discomforts, disappointments and many lulls in between career highs. I was tired of feeling low, and I’ll tell you how I created my own opportunities in the next myth that I debunk…
2. PAYCHECK MENTALITY
Oh, the ever stable and reliable consistent paycheck. It’s more like a bad addiction that rolls around every one or two weeks. It’s a “hit” in every sense of the word; sometimes that check does a better job of holding you back than priming you for successful habits.
We’re brainwashed to believe that if you don’t receive a corporate-cut check, you won’t receive money at all and thus, won’t survive. Well, my friends, as a survivor of multiple layoffs, and having to uphold my financial obligations without missing a beat, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be a corporate slave to get the money you need and then some.
When your schedule opens up, so do the opportunities to make more money.
For, instance, one way I earn money is providing freelance SEO services for start-ups. Another income stream for me is independent bookkeeping for small businesses. I also support myself by driving for a transportation network company. With all these revenue streams, I make my own hours and work for as much or as little as I want, giving me control of my schedule to either make more money or work towards my dream job. Yes, it won’t be “promised” like in a day job, but that just means I am held more accountable. No one ever said pursuing a creative life is for the faint of heart.
3. CONSISTENT SCHEDULE
Here’s another one of my favorite career myths for the key to success: There’s nothing like a nice, consistent, blocked schedule, day-in and day-out.
For creatives, a consistent, non-flexible day job schedule may be nothing more than shackles in disguise. That afternoon audition just became absolutely impossible to get to. That all-night recording session you had to schedule, (because you work during the day) just made you late to work the next morning. Let’s not forget the rehearsal schedule you won’t be able to maintain, or ridiculously exhausting shoot day that cannot fit on either side of a 9-to-5.
Difficult daily schedules aside, certain day jobs can be unforgiving with time. Taking a day off here and there starts to make you look bad after one or two requests. You could be reprimanded or even asked to work longer hours or extra days to makeup for missed time. And if business has a “busy” season like fashion or retail, expect to be working lots of over-time and weekends. I can say this because I speak from experience.
A demanding day job schedule will end up robbing you of your precious time to do the things you love. Any spare time will be spent resting and recouping, so you can… take a guess… do it all over again. That’s when you run the risk of missing out on opportunities that could hold the key to a lucky break of crucial connections.
4. LESS STRESS
Having a “stable” job will reduce my stress in life? Okay, but how does it compete with living and working through my own creative talents on a daily basis? Yes, I had a daily job to go to, but it’s “comfort” became outweighed by it’s consistent daily dose of negative effects on my psyche.
At the end of the day, my office cubicle was only serving as a mere defense shield against, office gossip, disrespectful clients, a judgmental, unappreciative boss and soul sucking fluorescent lighting.
My friends, nothing (and this is 100% scientifically proven a million times over) reduces stress more than being intrinsically happy with your life.
I know it sounds cliché, but being creative is like working out a muscle, and the fibers in your creative being only grow stronger when you work at it on a daily basis. Before you know it, you’ll be staring at real, measurable progress in the form of script pages, song lyrics, and new business contacts who can see the value of your work.
5. JUST ‘GETTING BY’…
I end with this one, the most detrimental of all: You just need to get by, no matter the toll on your health.
But this statement comes at a tremendous cost, because sometimes “just getting by” means forgetting knowing who you are.
As an artist, the most valuable asset you have is your ‘state of being’. A healthy state of being is the only way to nourish your creativity. The wrong day job will break your spirit and leave you feeling totally defeated. Until one day, you wake up and realize that while you were busy “surviving”, you were never really thriving. How do you know? You read about others just like you, who actually achieved their dream
As hard as it may be… as wrong as it may feel, as scary as the road looks ahead… don’t fall into the trappings of these common “key to success” career myths.
I kept hitting a wall and couldn’t figure out why, until I simply realized my career ambitions were in direct opposition with what others expected and wanted from me. But then again, that’s what happens when you settle for just any “day job” or “safe” career path.
The clock keeps ticking forward for all of us, defining every day of our lives. The great TV pioneer Norman Lear had a great saying, “Success is how you collect your minutes”.
How are you collecting yours?