3 Practical Strategies to Avoid Stagnation

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Pam, a mentor cautioned me from the day I started doing this work nearly eleven years ago, “Misti, you’re going to need to expand on what you’re doing. You’ll get bored with speaking about generational differences at some point.”

At the time, I thought she was crazy, and so I ignored her advice. Instead, I kept my head down in my work, and stayed comfortable in what I knew, failing to expand my service offerings.

A couple of years later, remembering Pam’s words stung as I struggled to learn two important lessons: enthusiasm sells and Pam was right—my enthusiasm was gone.

Instead of continuing to challenge myself, slowly over time, I was suddenly faced with, “Shift now, or die trying,” much the same as some big companies, like Blockbuster.

After spending far too long in self-pity and immense frustration, I allowed my natural curiosity to re-emerge. In my quest to understand the food industry, I found myself knee-deep in cow dung, learning about the proper density and it’s impact on the environment from my new friend, Mike, who runs a local farm.

Naturally, I also gravitated to Seth Goldman, CEO and co-founder of Honest Tea headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland. His passion for leadership, company culture, and, of course, tea, was infectious.

I devoured books like Conscious Capitalism, Start with Why, Turn the Ship Around, and Joy, Inc. just to name a few. My passion for understanding the people behind such great companies lead me to interviewing many of them on my Provoking Your Greatness podcast.

Just six months after I took the plunge and allowed my natural curiosity to take the place of comfort, I landed a career-changing opportunity to work with the CIO of an organization whose mission is literally to save our planet.

While it took me several years of frustration and pain to finally understand the true significance of Pam’s advice, I created a process to ensure I heed this advice for the rest of my life. Here’s my process, which I hope will continue to evolve:

1.  Get Intentionally Uncomfortable. My friend and colleague, Dan Thurmon, calls this, “Off balance, on purpose.” Change and discomfort are a natural process of life, so why not train in it? In reality, our bodies are made up of mostly water, and stale, stagnant water doesn’t smell so pretty. The great news here is that getting intentionally uncomfortable in your non-work life has a very positive impact on your work life. So pick something and go for it. Here are a few different areas to chose discomfort:

  • Sports
  • Languages
  • Certifications
  • Networking, or events
  • Writing, speaking, or other skills
  • Taking on a project you have no idea how to do
  • New job, new industry, new responsibilities
  • Raising funds

2.  Take Note. One of my greatest mentors, Jim Rohn, used to say, “Don’t just get through the day, get from the day.” The best way to get from the day is to keep a journal, and take note of what you learn during the day. Knowing that you ultimately need to write something in that slot, you’ll find yourself paying close attention to what you’re learning. Here are three great headings to journal on:

  • Gratitude—what happened in the day that you’re grateful for?
  • My Qualities—list the positive qualities that you exhibited in that day. (I.e. good writer, generous, kind, thoughtful, etc).
  • Learning—what did you learn about yourself (i.e. I don’t like to let go of control, I cannot help but coach, I laugh loud, I love learning about food and nutrition), and/or what did you learn from your experiences (i.e. coal and charcoal are not of the same material, my shoulders hurts because they are rotated forward—out of socket—and the exercises help pull them back into proper positioning.) If you get to the end of the day without learning something new, jump on TedTalks.

3.  Just as you would study any new software to find out how it works, study yourself to find out what’s working and what needs to change so you can get the results you want. A great way to do this is by reading your journal entries at the end of the week.

Don’t just get through life—get from it. Keep growing, keep learning, and keep challenging yourself to do what you never thought possible. In the process, you will undoubtedly provoke others to step into their greatness.

Here’s to Your Greatness,  

Misti Burmeister

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