By Karen Marinella, Principal
One of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities came along for me about three years ago. A business trip to South Africa would bring me to a part of the world that I had only dreamed of visiting. As glamorous as business travel sounds, seasoned business travelers know that on most trips you see an airport and a hotel conference room and not much else. But I was determined to build in some time to go on a safari. Without hesitation I booked a safari to begin the day my conference ended.
Before arriving in Africa, I was so excited about that safari! But anticipation turned to sheer panic soon after I boarded the safari bound bus headed into the bush. After a couple of hours on the road my cellphone reported “no service”. That’s when it dawned on me –I was out here alone and hadn’t thought to tell anyone the details of my trip. What if something happened? What about my children and my husband? Really, what had I been thinking?
It was a strange sensation to be wowed by glorious views of the African savannah while scolding myself that this was such a dumb idea. Very far away from my comfort zone – I remembered a former senior leader who told me that he made it a personal mission to do- or learn-one thing out of his comfort zone every year. On his birthday he would plan his “out of the zone” activity for the next year. He was driven to constantly push the boundries of his comfort zone whether taking up kiteboarding or learning a new language. Every “out of the comfort zone” experience taught him something about himself and made him a better leader. He was not afraid to try something new or to think out of the box in the C-suite.
The next morning I grabbed a cup of coffee in the main lodge. And not 100 feet away from me, I saw a mother elephant and her baby drinking from a nearby watering hole. It was magical.
You might think that this experience taught me that I really should do a little more planning the next time I try something that is so out of my element. But what if I did? Honestly -- probably would have found a bunch of reasons to forget the whole idea.
What I really learned from that adventure was that sometimes you have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone in order to learn and grow as a person and as a leader.
When you take those leaps of faith, it can feel like you’re embarking on a safari that’s loaded with threats and dangers. But when you find your way through that wilderness something magical can happen.