Why leaving your comfort zone expands your outlook and positions you for a more satisfying future

By: Bill Van Eron Wednesday May 31, 2017 0 comments Tags: Bill Van Eron


By Bill Van Eron

System Thinking to Matter in the New Economy

Headwaters Marketing & Innovation

The phrase “comfort zone” -- one many of us aspired to reach over the last several decades -- is now a leading candidate as an “oxymoron.”

Comfort zones are great when you are in an industry immune to change, which now excludes no one. The current rate of change upon us and for the foreseeable future demands we acquire new skills and expand our mindsets to challenge our own assumptions by welcoming internal and external viewpoints, and expanding our strengths even when we are seemingly on the ride of our lives.

The good news is this new economy is finally demanding and rewarding aptitudes that reflect each and all the following:

  1. An improved sense of the customer well beyond research analytics (a poor proxy), and more in tune with the powers of observation, commitment, empathy, value creation and true openness to discover your customers world versus assuming they care about your world and corporate objectives. Then build those value bridges to keep your brand vital.
  2. A sense of purpose, passion, and responsibility to continually define your career around a higher value paradigm than just self-gratification or even just your company’s agenda. Once you are the most vested in this expertise, and you show and deliver its merits, managers over you will give way to the leader in you.
  3. A real sense of the SOE (System of Everything) as all objectives, hopes, challenges, your business and your markets are part of a system. In that equation, you may not even matter until you invest to understand the humanity, values, motivations, resistance factors and changes impacting that system. Then you create system-worthy solutions by refining possibility, critical and system thinking skills. These skills are already and will grow in great demand over the decades ahead. Even universities and major think tanks fall short in understanding the massive benefits here until they enable others to show the way onto a path that will propel their value a lot further. Trust me on that as I have been applying them since 1990 to a huge advantage under the radar, versus now when our very futures depend on it.
  4. Leaving your comfort zones sounds threatening as opposed to connecting them to others that complete a bigger circle as that was my approach across marketing and innovation as vital to business cooperation and market regard.
  5. Greater attention to others, purpose, and attitude. Friend Alex Pattakos calls that The OPA Way and its human simplicity serves as a powerful advantage for any leaders that balance all three.
  6. A return to innovation as a human endeavor and mindset versus all the complexity many consultants present it as being. Imagine an entire organization empowered to explore where they can make the biggest difference in the customer experience and to shape an authentic value by observing and synthesizing real customer input, trends, and psychology.
  7. A balance of continuous learning with that rare approachability that makes every contact, employee or friend feel you are open, caring, and conscious about work and life, and not alone in that pursuit.

How did I come about this conscious cohesion of all that matters and so long ago (1990) well before many of the best minds in business?

  1. I loved design as opening my mind to a wide variety of stimulus, opinions, facts and both core and changing values. I won many, many national, industry and international design awards but awards given to designers by the design community seemed to occupy a false truth in my mind versus the impact of great design on trust, actions, and brand value. I felt the application of design was too limited a status quo, and too often less conscious minds defined it, thus opening a new frontier to leap into with both feet.
  2. I left my design job in HP to join HP’s sales force as a demotion, yet as a new frontier to see how creativity could improve customer-facing scenarios and stakeholder scenarios. My younger boss (25 years old) was very much team minded so his advice proved wise. He said do not try to impress our team with how creative you are. Instead enlist their ideas across a variety of needs and then show them how each could be applied and which seeds of an idea proved to be the basis of better ways to connect to customers and resellers. My sales team very quickly led the nation in quota set and achieved each of my two years in sales. My resellers – especially Tech Data whose brand I defined to reflect the first wave of high touch, high tech branding in 1990 – also led the nation in growth and value. Tech Data may have lost its visual branding after keeping it for 12 years but the principles I started back then, still live on with them as they are now a global top 100 corporation.
  3. I then connected what I learned in the field as I was recruited to help the HP LaserJet organization to market more effectively and build a world class reseller program. The year before HP had spent $900K to create reseller tools but not one reseller signed up. I leveraged my reseller investments, insights, success and inclusion as I visited many to assert that we wanted to really help where it matters to their overall success. That program won 97% reseller signup and produced many billions in both reseller and HP income. The second year we got 100% and doubled our revenues. That program won the best praise ever both internally and externally. Then I leveraged that same experience to shape the strategy that led to today’s largest networking body of expertise – the NPA formerly the CNEPA as HP and Novell wanted it but I put it on better terms – the customers, CNE’s – the highest expertise in networking to now shape the industry they served.
  4. I kept challenging myself by taking on research, credibility, new product launch strategy, and PR with a focus on credibility, relevance and trust building with editors and influencers, still immensely valuable and under-utilized today. Many PR people fall into patterns editors and readers regard as hacks.
  5. Dozens of great examples followed yielding no less than $100 Million in any one year and upwards of $6B to $8B by just paying attention to the system and seeing what most miss or could take further.
  6. I volunteered 8 years as a senior marketing advisor to the Innosphere and have a great regard for the many professionals whose contributions establish needed “basics” for most entrepreneurs to at least hit the starting gate. But I left when I saw little interest in applying innovation to help innovators to learn to run a great race in this new economy by applying the new mindset that is vital to lead moving forward.
  7. Today, I am taking the biggest leaps of my leapfrog oriented career by partly not wanting to be one of those people pushing what they knew 30 years without ever challenging themselves to learn and grow. And partly to pass along what I learned to the next generation that cares about it.

I see too many in my generation riding out what they do know past its usefulness and not making waves so as to retire. That’s pathetic. More importantly, I have no pressure to sell services that remain in demand beyond their real utility, such as advertising and other push methods versus helping clients to transform as being very externally and customer focused, open, innovative, and actively creating a more exciting collaborative (inclusive) future.

Then and only then will conventional methods like advertising perform better. Marketing as it is widely done is betting on a dead horse to attract attention versus shaping a real winner and letting the market promote it.

For me, looking back, I was redirecting the marketing status quo to define then what will soon be (decades later) the new role for marketing once wider applied and the results we deliver become the outcome creating a better internal and external ecosystem. Looking forward, leadership is well within us all as my career revealed once I committed to that journey. You can do this, too, and now need to at risk of falling behind by accepting and staying within your comfort zone whether self-imposed or by others.

Good luck, but at least now you have resources to talk to that defy the limits surrounding you to now open doors and super highways you can drive.

Bill Van Eron

About the Author: Bill Van Eron

Bill Van Eron is the founder of Headwaters Marketing, now evolved to enabling marketing, sales, leadership and organizational design to function on a stronger platform of trust, inclusion, diversity, innovation and relevance. As an early conscious designer, the world is abundant with huge possibilities and the need to get past false limitations. Stay tuned or if anxious or on that path join in (970-221-0751, [email protected])