Stretch Beyond Your Comfort Zone: Being Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable Gives You an Edge to Succeed by Elisa Schmitz
When I first met Laura Desmond, she was the CEO of advertising behemoth Starcom and we were speaking on a panel at the Cincinnati, Ohio, headquarters of Procter & Gamble, the consumer packaged goods giant, about “Courageousness in the Workplace.” The audience was made up of hundreds of the Fortune 50 public company’s rising female executives and their allies, in an expansive auditorium that looked like it could host a Broadway musical.
Laura’s strength and confidence inspired me so much in that moment, and she has been inspiring me ever since. Armed with self-confidence and an insatiable curiosity, Laura charted a fearless path through the corporate jungle. From the beginning of her career, she got used to being the youngest person in the room, the only woman in the room, and the only gay person in the room. She learned to make her mark without feeling awkward about being “the only,” which is at the core of being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Being comfortable with being uncomfortable means you can tolerate that awkward feeling of standing out or being “the only” in any given situation. People who can perform through discomfort are self-confident. The more self-confidence you have, the more discomfort you can endure. The more comfortable you are with being uncomfortable, the greater success you can achieve.
“From early on, I got comfortable with it,” she says. “I didn’t notice it. I was like a fish in water.”
People who are comfortable with being uncomfortable realize that by stretching themselves, that’s where the growth is. They trust themselves to embrace opportunities, take greater risks, and accomplish their goals – even if they’re outside of their comfort zones. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable gives you an edge, and that helped to shift the power dynamic in Laura’s favor. “I just loved the game. I was always like, ‘Put me in, Coach!’”
I’m honored that Laura shared her inspiring story in my new book, Become the Fire: Transform Life’s Chaos into Business and Personal Success. As the featured “Flame” in the chapter on being comfortable with being uncomfortable, Laura explains how she quickly climbed the ranks at the agency because of her entrepreneurial mindset, empathy and can-do attitude. She shares many insights learned from her experiences on the road to becoming a CEO, to encourage women from all walks of life to achieve their own success.
Laura attributes her incredible business success to her authenticity and confidence. “Embrace every challenge and be willing to do things there is no road map for.”
You can read more about Laura, and get many more of her insights, by ordering your copy of Become the Fire (foreword by Mary Dillon, former CEO of Ulta Beauty and current CEO of Foot Locker) for yourself or for someone you think may benefit from the stories and lessons shared by her and this diverse group of highly successful leaders:
- Paula Boggs, former chief legal officer of Starbucks
- Laura Desmond, former CEO of Starcom
- Talita Ramos Erickson, chief legal officer and chief D&I officer of Barilla
- Sarah Hofstetter, president of Profitero
- Angela Martinez Korompilas, former CEO of American Hotel Register Company
- Kim Oster-Holstein, founder and CEO of Kim & Scott's Gourmet Pretzels, Twisted Alchemy
- Winnie Park, CEO of Forever 21
- Jules Pieri, founder of The Grommet
- Desiree Rogers, CEO of Black Opal Beauty
- Emily Smith, CEO of Wild Sky Media
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