I recently resigned as the Product Manager of a well-known mobile paid parking provider’s B2B solution. Why? I needed things to change.
I’ve never seen myself as an employee but last year I made an exception. I had just gotten out of a rocky startup and I needed some stability. Stability is nice to a certain extent, but it’s never going to get me where I want to go. Because with stability also comes comfortability. My worst fear is to become comfortable. Because the greatest innovations are born in uncomfortable environments, where stability is far from the norm, and you develop as a person only when you step out of your comfort zone. This is my firm belief.
So I needed things to change.
However, I hadn’t found what I wanted to do next yet. I wanted to start a business again but I had neither a good partner nor a great idea. And I’m also a firm believer in not just picking the first one that comes to mind in either aspect.
So here’s the thing. Stability is nice because you can trust that what you have will last and you can trust you’ll have a salary at the end of the month. And this is why it’s so easy sticking around. I realized that neither a good partner nor a great idea would pop up in a job that I characterized as “stable”, so I resigned — without a plan.
What you should understand about me is that I hate not having a plan, I usually plan everything — to my friends’ great despair. But I’ve recently learned that the spontaneous moments are the ones that have had the greatest impact on my development and growth.
So why change? Why leave a stable environment?
1. You supercharge yourself into action
Have you ever procrastinated on anything that was important to you? Why do we do that? It’s easy to argue that you’re just waiting for that small detail to fall into place. That’s when it will be “the right time”.
I’m like that about getting a dog.
I first said, “When I get a job with a permanent salary, I’m getting a dog”. But as I got a salary in my startup, I was still living at home so I said, “When I move into my own place, I’m getting a dog”. After moving into my own place I was leaving for a 2 months study session in California and bringing a dog was a hassle, so I said, “When I’m back, I’m getting a dog”. Being in California made me realize I wanted to move to the US, and so my answer to anyone asking “When are you getting that dog?” was “When I’ve moved to the US, I’m getting a dog”.
(Writing this, I realize I need to get that dog).
I think I’m postponing getting a dog because I’m a little scared of all the responsibility. For me, it’s about adding another life to my everyday living. For you it might be about leaving your job, moving on from a relationship or another big decision.
I also realize I’m privileged. I don’t have a family or a house that can’t be without a month’s salary or two. I have a small buffer I can start with that it’s okay I spend on getting back on my feet. We will always have to compromise with our well-being and the money we make, but I’ve learned that money will never buy me happiness, and so I’ll always prioritize my well-being.
By deciding you want to make a change, and putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation, you’ll suddenly feel yourself working at a higher pace and a larger sense of urgency. Because we’re shaped to run towards stability, and putting ourselves far away from it, makes us take action, and fast.
2. You challenge your comfort zone
Have you ever heard the expression “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”?
We all know that development and growth happen when we try something new and do something that we didn’t know exactly how to do. Because mistakes and new perspectives spike our learning. When we challenge our comfort zone and our fears — stage fright or perhaps our fright of failure — that’s when we learn it wasn’t so terrifying or difficult, and we do it again, and again, and again. As we do this, we expand our comfort zone and we grow to be more diverse in our perspectives, knowledge and comfortabilities.
II have a friend who says she hates being inside her comfort zone — and instead tries to live outside it all the time. I love this!
3. You do something unexpected
Have you ever done something where your expectations were non-existent? How did it turn out? For me, the spontaneous moments have been the ones I remember the most.
After I left my rocky startup I had no idea what I wanted to do (this is a recurring theme in my life). While I decided, I spontaneously booked a Workaway trip for a month — a concept where you work 5h/day for board and lodging — with a family who owned a horse farm just north of Lyon in France. During my stay, I practiced my French and rode their horses, and became a close member of their family for a brief period. This wasn’t a regular startup-CEO move, but I’m glad I didn’t stay in the comfort that this label brought me. I learned a lot during my time in France, mostly about people and how you work with those who are very different from yourself.
It’s exciting to do something people wouldn’t expect from you since you don’t get stuck in a box that other people label for you. To other people, you are the result of your actions and being able to control what other people see and label you as is a powerful tool.
The truth is, even though it feels “right” when we’re comfortable, it’s not the default of a human being. We need things to change. And I needed things to change. Nick Tasler has written a great piece in HBR about Organizational Change where he says;
“Adaptation is the rule of human existence, not the exception.”
And this is the truth. Change. Change. Change. Your life — and happiness — depend on it.