The personal work of professional growth
Have you ever had a year like this? When an unprecedented professional leap (movement, idea, project) emerges, it comes with a pretty substantial to-do list of personal growth, and you’re left spinning. You know you need to leap your self ahead in-step with your career—and fast.
This past year, we—Tim and I, two individuals long accustomed to working on our own—doubled in capacity when we partnered up to become The Outside. But once we teamed up, we became more than the sum of our parts. The stakes and scope of the work felt five, six, seven times larger. I knew what lay ahead, and had a sense that I’d have to change to accommodate this big shift.
I’d better get used to taking up more space.
It’s not just me anymore. I know my shape as an individual, but now I need to find a shape for who I am as part of this entity.
I’ve got to be more rooted and more expansive at the same time. What does that even look like?
With this leap, contraction isn’t an option. Only expansion. Other people are relying on me, and I can only go forward. How will my instinct to draw back in the face of stress or big goals disguise itself? How can I fend it off?
My partner is pretty well-versed in my strengths, and me in theirs. Shortfalls, too. How does what we know of each other set the tone and rhythm of how we work together?
Being part of a new, shared entity (bigger projects + bigger clients) means an exponential ratcheting-up. We both have to work—behind-the-scenes and in-session—in a different way than we’ve ever worked before. For me, the new context of The Outside that I share with Tim asks more of us as a team, and more of us as two individuals.
It’s a bit uncomfortable to be pushing the edge of your practice and knowledge, but it’s also deeply invigorating. How else can we learn, if we don’t move into uncertain territory? We turn away from it, given our fight-or-flight instinct, but discomfort is one of the most generative mindsets we can experience.
Reflecting on the past year, here are a few key intentions for holding steady while pushing the edge. This is what’s been simmering for me as a constant practice:
1. When you’re in expansion-mode, ground yourself.
We can expand really well from a wide base, but it’s hard to do if we’re on our tiptoes or floating. What are your grounding practices? What centers you as an individual? To grow bigger, go back to who you are—not as a contraction or reversal, but a foundational remembering of what makes you YOU. We can feel lost on edges, and certainly stretched beyond what feels comfortable and familiar. Staying grounded gives longevity to expansion so it lasts into a whole new level of results. When we stay in touch with our foundational wellness, it’s easier to tolerate the big demands of big growth. The more you embrace, the more will come at you. How can you hold your center?
2. Recognize self-sabotage.
No matter how buoyed you are by your own momentum, watch out for habits and ruts. They will still be there, always a default. When you’re on your edge, self-defeating habits and ruts will feel comfortably familiar—even when they’re explicitly negative. Fear, hesitation, and self-doubt dress up as concern and safety, and pull every trick in the book to pull you back from your edge. Don’t fret about feeling afraid or hesitant. You’re human, and to resist change is one of our most defining features. Just don’t give that resistance too much credence and attention. Refine your resistance-meter—recognize when it’s happening, name it for what it is, and then carry on.
3. This is not the time to play small. Take risks.
We are concerned about safety as if we’re always safe, but we’re not. This is the funny truth about risk. We’re always at the mercy of unexpected developments—so why not move forward expecting the unexpected? Why allow the unexpected to shrink us before we even begin? If a lack of safety is inevitable in growth, why should we ever expect it? Chuck Yeager, former United States test pilot first to exceed the speed of sound, once said, “Just before you break through the sound barrier, the cockpit shakes the most.” As an entrepreneur or change-maker, the shakiness of growth is inherent to the invitation for bigger things. Embrace it.
4. Be kind and compassionate to yourself.
It sounds circular, but think about what movement needs: a steady and calm paying-attention. Step through the opening, but don’t throw yourself against the rocks. Big movement requires kindness to oneself. Don’t make yourself into a martyr. Be patient with exactly where you are, as you are. The inherent value of life is in the trying. Thomas Merton once said, “Forgo all hope of results.’ Surrender and get to the real work, and build relationships that sustain your ability to be in the work.
5. Embrace good company. You are not alone.
Chances are, if the work is important, everyone is on their edge. Find other edge-walkers and keep that channel open. Energy is contagious. Keep other edge-walkers near. There’s almost nothing as motivating and as renewing as good company. People not narrating from the shore, but in it with you.
Being on-edge can be scary, as it feels like more is at-stake—but it also makes more things possible. It makes our minds think in new ways. It asks us to step up—or step back!—during moments with a very strong pull to habit.
In the past year, both of us Outsiders—Tim and I—have been at our edge. Our clients are at their edge. So it’s no wonder we’re both so compelled to understand it, even replicating it for the tension we need to push deeper. There are team edges; navigational edges; emotional comfort edges. At every single one, there’s so much to gain.