Comfort zones – What I learned from pushing myself out of mine

Ironically, this blog post about pushing the boundaries of my comfort zones has been sitting in my drafts for some weeks because I’ve been waiting to feel comfortable enough to post it. I realised last week that I have accomplished so much from the place of not waiting for that thought to appear. I’m getting used to this increasing ability to face everything as it is and use my energy to create rather than hold back, particularly as the post about my business story told in GIFs was one of the most popular pieces of content I’ve ever written! So here we are…!

What I’ve really come to know and deeply understand this summer is that showing your vulnerability doesn’t mean you are weak. Indeed, it can actually help so much more than putting on a front.

Oh my, I have fit a lot into this summer so far! If you follow my Instagram Stories you’ll have seen me getting involved with more women in tech events, and as a result, starting my free Facebook group “So Exciting Obviously: SEO for Creative Women“.

Global Gender Parity Week

First up, I went to the Global Gender Parity event at Facebook organised by London Global Shapers and it was so much fun stepping outside my normal sphere of comfort to see what I could learn here. With an inspiring lineup of powerful speakers, I was reminded of the power of women coming together, indeed humans coming together because there were men in the room (we cannot have a conversation about gender diversity with only one gender in the room) to speak about their experiences and look at solutions, together.

I particularly loved listening to the founder of a company called Lensational shares about their business of empowering women all over the world through developing their photography skills. It was a powerful reminder that photography transcends cultural barriers and languages. The problems were widely shared – discrimination at every level for any kind of difference – gender, race, ability, class, culture. With thanks to my increased education in diversity (shout out to Nova Reid) I feel a little bolder in writing about it here.

I was particularly keen to hear about the solutions offered on the panel which I think can be applied to many situations in business and indeed, life:

  • Start with low hanging fruit – what can be changed easily, who is already open to educating themselves
  • To encourage more personal sharing in the workplace so we learn from each other’s experiences
  • To actively learn about other experiences than our own
  • To write and share our experiences of diversity education (hello!)
  • To spend time on self-reflection and self-evaluation
  • Asking yourself on a regular basis “What is the cost of not taking this step for my business?”

I found the event quite emotional and hugely inspiring and now that I’m back in London, I’ve signed up to many more event mailing lists and I’ve had some very interesting meetings as a result already, the fruits of which I’ll be sharing in months to come.

Ask yourself on a regular basis “What is the cost of not doing this for my business?”

How Martha Lane Fox made me cry happy tears

June was also the month event Martha Lane Fox (founder of lastminute.com) speak at the Women of Silicon roundabout and how a large part of her pitch with lastminute.com was convincing people about the internet. I felt like, in 2018, I still witness this every day. Convincing people that this is the way to be more visible, to get more money so we can have the life we want (because that, at the end of the day, is what we want, right?)

Running an online business can sometimes make it all feel invisible, because the business is intangible – there’s no actual place to go into work, but this is how blogging and social media has changed the visibility of online businesses significantly. I actually started blogging back in 2004, when many of my friends at that time didn’t know what it was, and so I allowed lack of confidence to halt those dreams and stopped until 2012 when I started blogging for other people and fell back in love with writing.

But that’s the key difference isn’t it – allowing something or someone to stop you in your tracks, or continue on, with what you want to achieve. It’s quite a luxury being an entrepreneur, and I do not take it for granted. We are our own bosses and we can do whatever we want with our days with no boss demanding that we work through lunch.

Martha’s talk highlighted this for me, and this is when she made me cry – she pointed out that people who would never have thought of starting their own business would be able to use the internet to do so. When I started coding in 1999 at the age of 16 then this was not going to be a job, let alone a career. I took endless Careers tests and the job I have didn’t exist then so, of course, it never came up.

I adore that the internet exists and I am not ashamed to say it. I love that it connects people across time and space in a way that would never happen. I love how vibrant and dynamic the world has become because of technology. Martha also said something else which I loved – “I’ve been able to do my job way better because of Twitter” She was so humble, passionate and completely wonderful. You can find out more about her here in this candid interview about her extraordinary journey which is a few years’ old, or you can follow her on Twitter here where she campaigns fiercely for more women in tech and for a more ethical internet.

These two events have caused a ripple effect in me which then coupled with the fact that I took the first two weeks of July off to spend on an incredible wellbeing retreat in Sweden, has meant that my willingness to take it all the way has stepped up quite a few notches. I’m thrilled that this has happened but it was only because I decided to do something about it.

So with that, I’m going to leave you with this thought today, what are you going to do to step up and push out of your comfort zone? Because you never know what might happen when you do….

All photography by Julia Gold Photography – we did this shoot in the Swedish countryside where I felt I was winning at life by wearing this sequin jacket :o)

Maddy x
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Maddy Shine - Visibility Expert