Food for Thought #4 – The Joy of Leaving The Comfort Zone

Joy
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ooberayhay/706852141/

Did you ever leave your comfort zone? Did you ever challenge yourself to try something new? If not, you hadn’t the chance to experience the joy of leaving the comfort zone.

I’m glad that I had a great coach some years ago, who really helped me to do the first step. The first time I consciously left my comfort zone was during a training course, when I was working for Volkswagen. Every attendee had to do something once a day, which was completely out of their comfort zone. Something, that he thought he won’t be able to do in front of all of us. One guy was praying another one read a book and one girl even started to dance. I gave a talk about the Internet in English (I’m German, you know ;)). At that time, my English was quite rusty, and I really had to fight for every word. But soon I found out, that it wasn’t that bad. If I forgot a word, I was able to paraphrase it, or I just started a new sentence. Nobody threw rotten vegetables at me, and nobody laughed at me. After the second time, I even started to enjoy it. The third time it was already fun. In the end, I was able to broaden my comfort zone. And now, a few years later, I’m actually speaking at conferences.

Since that time, I regularly challenge myself to leave my comfort zone to explore new areas, to learn something new and to help me with my self development. What I love the most when doing it, is the thrill in the beginning and in the end, the joy of a new area inside my increased comfort zone.

My challenge for today? I’ll start to write stories for children, about a guy named Pilli Pulli Kastropi. He is a famous character in the stories I tell my kids every evening. If you’re German and need some stories to tell your kids tomorrow evening, follow this guy on Twitter :)

But now it’s up to you. Leave your comfort zone today, e.g by giving uncalled feedback

Food for Thought #3 – Uncalled Feedback

Apple cake
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dishingupdelights/4393965000/

When was the last time you gave personal uncalled feedback? In the past, I observed a lot of people that were displeased or unsatisfied about a service or a product. But when I asked them, “Did you tell them your opinion?” I often get a, “No, I didn’t”. What most people forget is, that it’s very difficult to get an outside view of a situation, when you’re completely involved. If you’re part of the problem, you won’t see what is going wrong. I know it is difficult to look someone in the eyes and tell them the truth, but you’ll shortly recognize that they are thankful that you told them about your concerns. And even better they’ll solve it immediately.

A few weeks ago I bought an apple pie at my local bakery. At home, I found out that the pie tasted completely different than in the months before. It was disgusting (at least in IMHO). I went back to the bakery and told the saleslady about my observation. She went right away to the baker and informed him about my case. In the end, it came out that he bought a different shortening. He was quite happy that I reported my concern. And guess what? Yes, the next apple pie I bought was again delicious.

Another case happened at our favorite pizzeria. The main problem they had was that they had only a few guests. Every time you went to the restaurant you were greeted by a barking, aggressive little dog. I didn’t have a big issue with him. But when we went home my wife told me that she loves dogs, but she feared the little monster. The next time I was there I told them, that there are people who fear the dog and that this could be a reason for the guest problem. Now about a year later the pizzeria is booming. There are no guest problems anymore, and the only thing they changed was to remove the dog. (Just in case you ask: No, I didn’t get any free pizza 😉 )

So what I want to say is this. If you are displeased, unsatisfied or annoyed just open your mouth and talk. Nobody will hit you (at least most of them) for telling them what you have observed. In most cases, they will be happy that at least one person was courageous enough to tell them the simple truth. And so am I if you leave a nice comment.

Food For Thought #2 – You always have a choice

http://www.flickr.com/photos/atomicbartbeans/71575328/

Have you ever been in a situation where you can’t stand it anymore? A situation that wore you down, and kept you from sleeping? A situation were you went in circles, without getting an inch forward and the only thing you did was cursing, blaming others or just doing nothing? I’m sure everybody was in such a situation some time or even now. When you are in such a situation, it helps if you make it clear to yourself that you always have a choice.

It doesn’t matter in what circumstances you are, you always have these three options: Take it, Change it or Leave it.

Take it

Sometimes you just have to accept it. Take it as it is and tick it off. Breathe deep and proceed. There are things in life you can’t change, and so it doesn’t make sense to invest energy in it. Instead, use this energy in other more valuable items.

Change it

So you don’t want to take it? Then change it! Stop moaning and find out how you can change the current situation. If you have an idea, invite your colleagues to a brownbagging session and discuss it with them, or think about a solution focused approach to help you with the current situation. Don’t wait for someone else to make the change, it is up to you.

Leave it

In most of the cases, this is the hardest option. But it may happen that this is the only option that comes into consideration. Does your job suck from Monday to Friday, are you grumpy all the time and your wife wants to leave you? You tried to change the situation but your boss just don’t listen? Then it is time to leave it. Now! There are plenty of other opportunities out there waiting for you, even if you don’t see them yet.

Take it, Change it or Leave it, you always have a choice!

Food For Thought #1 – Learning Culture

Brownbag
http://www.flickr.com/photos/megjohn/3606325752/

This is the start of my first series on this blog. As the name implies, it will be about nice and spicy food for thought. At least IMHO 😉 My personal goal is to write at least one new “food for thought” per week, and of course to get many new blog readers. Comments are highly appreciated.

In the first edition I’d like to write about learning culture. A missing learning culture is, in my opinion, one of the main reasons for failing agile transitions. I know some people who stop with active learning direct after university or even after school. They think: “Great, now that I’m a master of science I know everything about my job to be successful.”. Unfortunately this is bullshit. If you want to be a successful and competent member of your team you have to be open to learn new things in a sustainable pace. To stop learning has the same effect as to stop drinking. You won’t survive very long. Jurgen Appelo stated in his latest presentations that self-development is one of the 7 duties of great software professionals and I totally agree with him.

But what can you do to establish a learning culture in your team or even in your company? Ever heard about brownbagging? In the US it’s very common that you carry your home made lunch to school or work in a brown paper bag. And this is were the brownbagging has it’s name from:

In the United States, an informal meeting at work, over lunch, where everyone brings a packed lunch, is a brown-bag lunch or colloquially a “brown bag“, and the practice known as brownbagging. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownbag)

Brownbagging works like this: Every week one colleague of your company or team prepares a short presentation (5 to 10 minutes is enough) about an idea or an interesting topic and presents it at lunch. After the short presentation you sit together and discuss about it instead of talking about other boring stuff like your sick canary bird. This practice is a great starting point to support self-development and create a learning culture in your company. You may have to gently kick some asses to get the ball rolling, but after a few weeks everything will start to self organize. One of the advantages of brownbagging is, that it is during lunch time so your boss will love it. I encourage you to try it out and leave me a comment how it went…