This past weekend I tried something I’ve never done before – I decided to replace my front brake pads myself. While I am a pretty mechanical guy with a decent tool set, and have no problems with basic repairs and assembly of furniture and kids toys, there are areas I normally stay away from.
- Gas appliance / line repairs
- Electrical wiring or panel stuff
- Anything that could explode
- Anything requiring a blowtorch
- Anything on a car that could effect how safe it is
So obviously I stepped out of my comfort zone and completely violated the last bullet. Brakes are a pretty critical system relative to car safety. The thing is, I couldn’t justify paying someone over $100 to replace a pair of $20 brake pads.
A quick trip to google and YouTube, and I felt I had a handle on how to do this. In fact, it looked suspiciously easy.Too easy. Surely there was a missing step that I’d not find out about until I either had the car torn apart, or I was doing 75 on the tollway and needed to stop. I’m sure I’d need some special tool and wouldn’t know about it until I was past the point of no return – would spend hundreds to get the brakes fixed right.
So why do it? And what does this have to do with my career or yours?
Simple: It is important for me to always be learning new things. There is a sense of satisfaction and self worth that comes from learning and accomplishing something brand new – something you’ve never done before. This could be anything – in my case this weekend it was replacing brake pads.
Career-wise this is what differentiates the fast path employees and the people who simply show up for work every day – and do the same thing over and over. A fast path employee [this should be you] is willing to step out of their comfort zone and try new jobs, tasks, responsibilities, roles – almost anything. Not only will you get a real, deep sense of satisfaction when you accomplish something new – you will be viewed by management as “the go to person” for new projects or assignments.
You will be viewed as someone willing and able to take risks, to move the business in a new direction, to drive change – attributes that are highly valued and all too rare in the workplace.
In fact, just like nobody told me to try changing my brakes, you will identify opportunities and propose them yourself to management. Why wait for your manager to have the next great idea? Good managers staff their teams with people that have strengths in areas that compliment them – which means if you are on a good team you should be better than your manager in some areas.
So what would stepping out of your comfort zone and “changing your brakes” look like in a real work setting:
- Volunteering to take on a new assignment or task when it is brought up by team members, managers, etc.
- Identifying a process improvement and proposing a pilot project to see if it provides a better, faster, cheaper, high quality outcome.
- Helping out a co-worker in an area where you normally wouldn’t have expertise or experience.
- Collect and analyze data on some aspect of your job to better inform management where opportunities for optimization may exist.
- Anything that feels uncomfortable and makes you nervous to even try – this is the true test of whether you are reaching outside your comfort zone.
People grow through new experiences and by taking risks. Whether personally or professionally life and learning is all about venturing into the unknown and relying on your skills and abilities to get you through.
So go look for opportunities to take a risk and move outside your comfort zone. If you don’t you will be in the same comfort zone 10 years from now.
As an aside, it truly was easy to change my own front brake pads, it took less than an hour, and cost me $20. The brakes work great, and every day when I drive I take pride in the fact that the stopping power of the vehicle is a result of me doing something new.