In your career (and life), you’ve had to master plenty of new skills.
I’m sure you’re familiar with how it works. The learning curve looks a little like an S, with a slow start, an exciting time of rapid learning, and finally, mastery.
My question for you is: When was the last time you found yourself at the bottom of the S-curve?
While mastery is awesome, it’s also dangerous. That’s because mastery is comfortable.
When we get comfortable, we tend to settle in. We stop trying to learn new skills and focus on doing the same thing over and over again—usually the mastered skill in which we feel confident.
But the longer you linger there in your comfort zone, the more resistant you become to change. Your brain—and potentially your business—becomes stagnant, less creative, and less likely to pursue the innovations that keep you competitive.
Mark Zuckerberg is a prime example.
Have you ever wondered why Facebook continues to thrive, while the likes of MySpace are long gone?
Rather than settling into his comfort zone, Mark Zuckerberg keeps parachuting back down to the bottom of the S-curve to reinvent Facebook. It seems the moment Facebook masters one feature, it begins to integrate a new one.
Continually tackling the challenge of mastery keeps Facebook fresh, creative, and competitive. In fact, it’s taken Facebook from a small campus website to global community.
Another great example is the neurosurgeon versus the general practitioner.
The neurosurgeon is the student who didn’t stop at mastery. Instead of settling into general medicine, she parachuted back down to the bottom of the S-curve to learn an entirely new, extremely difficult skill-set.
The neurosurgeon’s reward for embracing discomfort is immense. With knowledge that’s less accessible and more highly valued, she enjoys less competition and greater compensation than the general practitioner.
(No offense to family doctors—they are very much needed!)
Starting at the bottom of the S-curve is challenging, risky, and scary.
You demote yourself to the bottom of the S-curve at great risk. There’s always the chance that the new skill won’t benefit you the way you’d hoped, that new setup of the office will cause too much distraction, etc.
But stopping at the top of the S-curve is arguably even more risky. In that place of comfort, you’re much more likely to grow bored and obsolete.
Life is about committing to an endless cycle of conquering S-curves.
So ask yourself, would relocating to a new office potentially be a boon to your business?
Could trying that new Cloud software for group projects take your team’s productivity to the next level?
Would apprenticing yourself to a mentor in the field be challenging, but possibly a game-changer?
You have more to lose staying in your comfort zone than taking the plunge of learning something new.
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Matt Mittman and Eric Rehling are the owners of RE/MAX Ready in Conshohocken, PA. See articles from them about building relationships, Freakonomics, simple business planning, generating leads, Zillow, the weather, Chip Kelly, RESPA, and more.