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Your Comfort Zone

November 21, 2009

In aviation there is a concept known as the “performance envelop.” The “performance envelop” is defined by a number of operating criteria such as speed and altitude in which a plane can safely perform.

Most pilots operate comfortably within the envelop. A few exceptional pilots will push the envelop, operating at levels attainable by anyone, but achieved by few.

The performance envelop is not a concept unique to aviation. It applies to both you and your business. Are you pushing yourself and your business to test the bounds of your performance envelop or are you operating in that comfortable middle ground.

Most business are average performers, stuck in a performance rut defined by yesterday’s performance or standards set by others. We settle for mediocrity in too many things. There is a certain safety with a follow-the-leader mentality. If something appears to work well elsewhere, there are always many followers. That’s often a wise but conservative strategy. It will, however, never result in anything better than average performance.

Exceptional performance and the rewards that go with it are reserved for those that have the fortitude to push their performance to the edges of the envelop. To try and to fail, to discover new and innovative solutions that solve problems in ways others haven’t yet contemplated.

The concept that the greatest rewards are available only to those who are willing to push the outer limits of the performance envelop isn’t unique to aviation and business, it applies to all human endeavors. A veteran coach was asked to assist in helping a group of talented young athletes perform up to their potential.

The players were good, but were not performing up to their capabilities in the opinion of the veteran coach. In fact, believed the coach, they didn’t even realize what their potential was. For too long they had operated in the comfortable area in the middle of the performance envelop. To reach their potential they would need to push the outer edges of the envelop.

“Get out of your comfort zone”, the savvy coach admonished his young players. They could run fast, but could they run faster? They practiced regularly, but could they practice harder? Were they content with being good, or did they want to be the best?

Where is your comfort zone? Are you ready to get out of it? What are you willing to do to push the “envelop” in the year ahead?

Several years ago United Technologies Corporation published a message entitled titled “Get Out Of That Rut”. It began with a quote from Oscar Wilde, “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” It continued with some advise that might help you get out of your comfort zone and find the edges of the envelop.

“So stop getting up at 6:05. Get up at 5:06. Walk a mile at dawn. Find a new way to drive to work.

Switch chores with your spouse next Saturday. Buy a wok. Study wildflowers. Stay up alone all night. Read to the blind. Start counting brown-eyed blondes or blonds.

Subscribe to an out-of-town paper. Canoe at midnight. Don’t write to your Congressman, take a whole scout troop to see him.

Learn to speak Italian. Teach some kid the thing you do best. Listen to two hours of uninterrupted Mozart. Take up aerobic dancing.

Leap out of that rut. Savor life. Remember, we only pass this way once.”

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