Tim Finley, Air Force Captain and Iraq veteran, stationed at Fort Riley, knows that he has to “be comfortable being uncomfortable” to succeed in today’s world and he spreads that message to school children every time he is asked to speak. Finley didn’t just come up with the message, he has lived it. He has conquered one of the world’s most uncomfortable terrains, on uncomfortable horses, in uncomfortable circumstances and found a way to not only be comfortable but successful. He finished 17th in a 621-mile race over 10 days with 90+ other people, only half of whom finished. The Mongol Derby justifiably bills itself as the toughest and longest horse race in the world. Riders compete on semi-wild Mongolian horses and change horses every 25 miles riding three to four segments a day.
Their best tool is the ability to pick the right horse at each shift. The wrong horse can get you killed. The right horse can get you closer to the finish line faster and in one piece. This picture says it all!
I had the opportunity to listen to Captain Finley share his story. He showed us the goat leather bridle he used, the “flak pack” he transformed into a human saddle bag to carry all of his supplies for the trek, and the clip of hair he collected from his last horse, with whom he bonded in a very emotional finish. (Read the full article at www.)
The following Monday after listening to Tim Finley, I was working with a client undergoing a transformation. They are pivoting because the market is making them. It is uncomfortable shifting their business –targeting different customers, considering different approaches to products and even brand new markets. It is so easy to fall back into the comfort zone—talking about change but in reality, still pursuing what they know how to do. This is a very common phenomenon. I call it business gravity. We see where we need to go and we commit—in meetings and on paper—to getting there, and may not even realize we haven’t ventured out of our current comfort zone in our actions. How do you know if you are stuck?
- Do your activities have the same headlines or fall in the same categories they always have?
- Can you describe the specific pivot points on which your business is changing and most importantly, how things will be different?
- Are you planning on using the same business structure, business processes, timelines, etc. to pursue the new initiatives?
This summer I worked with another company who had a very well laid out vision. They are a successful business with a consistent track record yet they were savvy enough to realize that the extended forecast wasn’t going to get them where they wanted to be in a few years. They needed to change the trajectory. The reason they called me wasn’t to help them generate the vision—they had that. The challenge was how do you get on the new path? My book, Reignite Growth, reminds readers that “what you know how to do, may not be what you need to do now”. It is difficult for a productive organization of any size to shift—but that discomfort is the purposeful path toward growth.
For Tim Finley, the growth was personal. For business leaders, it may be directed at the business. But even if the end game is company growth, it requires personal discomfort to take the leap, make the pivot and accomplish the transformation. In today’s fast changing environment being comfortable being uncomfortable is a necessity for success.
IT DOESN’T EVEN MATTER IF YOU REACH THAT GOAL OR NOT – MAKE IT OBSCENE, MAKE IT ABSURD, MAKE IT SO RIDICULOUS THAT YOU KNOW THERE’S NO WAY YOU CAN GET THERE, AND THEN RUN AT IT. AND THEN LOOK UP, LOOK AROUND, AND ALL 360 DEGREES, YOU HAVE NEW HORIZONS. – Capt. Tim Finley of the U.S. Air Force