8.05.2008

Business as Usual in Sandpoint, ID

I tend to get comfortable. (I don't think I'm the only one but I'll speak of myself here.) This comfort is not simply a puffy chair and a good book. It's the enemy of creativity and productivity. By settling into a well-known pattern of small risks and acceptable returns, I begin to lose passion. This happens in work, family life, hobbies, etc. However, when I'm in a period of greater perceived risk and excitement, I long for the safety and comfort of the well-known.

This happens on other levels as well. Organizations slip into these same patterns. When there are no big risks or unknowns on the horizon, organizations also get lazy and apathy begins to creep in.

Normally, these patterns of safety and comfort are ended by some unexpected tragedy or challenge. Nothing will shake up the comfort of life like a serious illness or an unexpected debt gone to collections. Events like this spur creative problem solving and disciplined thinking and behavior. Most of us can do what it takes to overcome a challenge when the challenge arises, but once it's finished, we slip back into rut we know so well.

So how does one overcome this? Are we doomed to simply slip into comfort, be jolted out by drama or tragedy, and the repeat the whole thing?

My solution for this has traditionally (at least at work) been to create some challenge of my own. By stirring up a little controversy, it helps to pull me aand the organization out of our daze. Unfortunately, there are often unintended consequences of "stirring it up" and ultimately I don't think this is the best course of action.

Now I think that staying sharp isn't about creating drama, but it's about risk. When I avoid risk in my life, I can rest lazily on the hope that whatever happened yesterday will happen again today. When I am willing to take on risk and face the possibility of success or failure right down the nose, I can't afford to be lazy. I like that.

So what is risk in life? In an organization there may be some more obvious examples, but personally it seems a bit nebulous. I would argue that it's much less nebulous than it seems. It's just that I spend so much energy subconsciously avoiding risk, that the risky endeavors I dream up are considered foolish, unwise and rash. I'm not advocating the overthrow of good sense. I'm simply saying that there has to be a way to recognize risk for what it is and still decide that the potential upside is worth more than the potential downside.

For me, risk means being more aggressive about booking dates to play music. The potential downside is huge in my mind - people might think I suck. The idea is intimidating. What if I can't fill the whole time? What if I forget the words mid-song? These are all very real fears to me, but I've found that the more I force myself to do what scares me, the less it scares me. I booked a 3-hour gig a couple months ago, then had both my partners bail on me. I was left to play acoustic guitar and sing for 3 hours straight. I was really scared. Then the night came and I started. Before I knew it, there were a handful of people who were digging the music, I got a couple requests, yada yada yada, and the 3 hours were over. It was fun, exciting, and I made a couple hundred bucks. Before that gig I seriously considered canceling, but now I'm so glad I didn't because I feel like if I can play a 3 hour solo gig, I can play anything.

So for now, I'm working on being more aggressive with my music. What are you doing? What scares you? What intimidates you? What are you afraid of? Why?

Most importantly, what are you going to do about it?

1 comment:

Ryan Townsend said...

great post. i am engaged in a few larger risks myself right now...and i agree with you that controversy is not nearly as good as action for jolting us out of our comfort zones.