Conventional Wisdom: Something that is generally believed; prudence. Adhering to accepted standards of conduct or taste. Ordinary rather than different or original. Average.
Conventional wisdom is as easy to apply, as it is to find. It is practically everywhere you go and has been around for quite some time, yet seems to fall short in delivering value.
For thousands of years we have shared stories about the importance of fitting in, rather than standing out – the story of Icarus and Daedalus is perhaps most iconic. Fitting in is less crucial today than a thousand years ago when we relied on the bonds within our community to protect us from threats of wild beasts, elements, or imposing conquerors.
The benefits of following conventional wisdom include being easy and predictable while delivering minimal results with drastically lowered risk. We get lots of support and camaraderie. We look ‘smart’ by making ‘smart’ decisions.
Filled with logic, rationale, and pundit’s support; the downside to this thinking and decision-making is in our achievement of average results – as in not spectacular or extraordinary. This sort of wisdom is what typically defines the edges of our comfort zone. The problem with comfort zones is that the longer we stay within them; the smaller they get and the more we invest into our fears.
Fears of losing money, looking foolish to peers, and being ostracized from a supportive group are among the biggest. Incidentally, these are the root of why so many are afraid of public speaking.
As the illustration above depicts; there is a zone that is beyond our comfort, yet does not threaten our safety. This is where growth happens. The more we think and act beyond our comfort, the more our comforts are expanded.
Success Comes After Silly
Even in the dictionary, to know or understand success we must get past the silly. Our lives are no longer threatened by wild beasts and imposing conquerors so let down your guard a little and have some fun. Do something that triggers your adrenaline. No, you don’t need to jump out of an airplane, but you do need to push beyond the boundaries of comfort.
Wear a yellow tie, bow tie, or no tie to the next meeting. Share with a co-worker that you like to knit and how the other night while knitting, an idea came to you of how to make the big project work. Then tell the boss why you have an unfinished scarf hanging on your wall
Whether you completely let go of the need to fit in, or just begin by flirting with the idea; you will find more freedom, energy, and fun – not to mention RESULTS – by doing what others consider silly.
As we push closer to the edge of our comfort, we get a variety of internal feelings – butterflies in stomach, sweaty palms, elevated heart rate, etc. Re-categorize these from ‘alarms’ to mere ‘signals’ and take a moment to simply acknowledge/thank them for continuous service. Then ignore them for a few moments and claim this as part of your expanded comfort zone. This will help recalibrate them to signal when you are close to the new edge.
Start Small, Then Go BIG
In Jim Collins epic book Good To Great, he talks about how great companies fired bullets to calibrate and then fired cannonballs to maximize. He and his team describe bullets as easy, inexpensive, low-risk attempts to locate an ideal target; and cannonballs as the significant investments that bring worthwhile returns. Foolish companies that tested the market with cannonballs lost often and lost big.
All of the people we admire for their extraordinary results did so by breaking convention. It is the only way to grow.
Where will you grow?