Whether you invest your time, energy and capital in raising cows, pigs, and chickens, or in entrepreneurial ideas, advancing your mission, strengthening your team, or developing your career, it seems the process for healthy and sustainable growth is the same.

A few weeks ago, the Washington Business Journal hosted Steve Case, co-founder of America Online (AOL) and current Chairman/CEO of Revolution LLC, an investment firm that is funneling cash into businesses, people, and ideas that are changing the world.

“Innovation,” Case said, “isn’t happening only in Silicon Valley—it’s happening all around the country, and Revolution LLC is looking for the visionaries, ideas and communities to invest in.”

Curious, I asked Mr. Case, “What are some of the characteristics you look for in a community where innovation is likely to happen?”

“Communities in which collaboration is high. We tend to see this more often in areas that have come through difficulty—Detroit and New Orleans are great examples,” Case said, and went on to describe the start up community in New Orleans.

“In New Orleans, one business might be doing well, and have good reason to celebrate, but they don’t see it that way. The success of each start up in the community is critical to the success of the whole,” Case said. Turns out, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina not only strengthened the bond of the community members, but it created the perfect environment for innovation and growth.

Curious about the critical nature of disruption for growth, I grabbed my copy of The Third Wave and approached Mr. Case for his signature. While signing it, I asked him, “Do you think it’s the difficulty of the disruption in these communities that creates ripe environments for innovation?”

“Yes, absolutely,” Case responded, which took me back my recent tour of Polyface Farms in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. During the tour, Joel Salatin, the farmer in charge of this revolutionary farm, talked about the importance of disrupting his animals and the land continuously in order to keep them healthy and vibrant.

“Disruption is critical to growth,” Salatin said as he described his system for rotating his animals in a specific pattern. In essence, he seeks to significantly disrupt the grass by allowing the cows, chickens, geese, and turkeys to pick away at it until there is very little grass left. Meanwhile, by consistently moving his animals, he keeps them healthy and growing.

Recognizing that, when given a choice, the vast majority of us seek comfort over discomfort, the known over the mysterious, permission over risk-taking, and approval over rejection or elimination, how can we ensure continual growth/advancement? The answer lies in intentionality. By intentionally—

–Exposing yourself to different industries (and the people in them),

–Developing new friendships,

–Taking on a project you know little about,

–Learning new skills (biking, swimming, programming, public speaking, etc), and

–Opening yourself up to noticing/experiencing the full range of emotions that surface, and then dissolve—

You effectively train yourself in discomfort, the critical element for growth, advancement, and innovation in your industry, on your team, and in your career.

The idea behind this concept is the reason I love to swim in the rain. Since I’m already wet, I enjoy the feeling of each drop (even if it’s cold) as it hits my skin. Just as rain is no big deal when you’re already wet, experiencing discomfort when you first start learning a new industry isn’t as daunting when you’ve continuously exposed yourself to new and different people and experiences along the way.

Here’s to Your Greatness,

Misti Burmeister

NEW! Ready to reconnect to the excitement of—

—Your work/career

—Leading your team

—Growing your bottom line, along with your people?

Grab your 40 minute Gearing for Greatness session with Misti today—

“Misti’s approach and directness are what make her exceedingly valuable. She cut through the noise and got right to the heart of what’s necessary for growth.” –Alvin Katz, CPA Chair/Co-Founder, Katz/Abosch.