The Comfort Zone is your Enemy

It’s Wednesday, Sept 12th 2018, I’m figuring out my new life in Amsterdam, trying to find a house for my family to move in and settle down, and at the same time I am trying to understand my new job, establish new relationships, learn the new jargon and processes. There’s a lot going on.

Then the phone rings, it’s a UK number. I pick up. The person on the other side tells me that I have a chance to be interviewed at SKY morning News, either Saturday or Sunday (maybe neither, it really depends on what else is going on in the world) to talk about my book. They tell me the reach of this show is about 107 million homes in the UK, with an average audience for my time slot (8.45am) of about 5 million.

How do you think I felt? I felt 3 clear emotions that I remember vividly.

1- I felt upset. So you call me and tell me to buy a flight ticket to London without the certainty that I would actually go live? What if I come for nothing? Would I just waste my money? It’s unreasonable and I can’t believe you are asking me this.

2- I felt afraid. 107 million homes, 5 million people on average… WHAAAAT? Interviewed LIVE by 2 people I don’t know. I don’t know if they have read my book. I have no idea about their style and, worst of all, have literally no time to prepare. Terrified is probably a better way to put how I felt.

3- I felt concerned. Weekends are so precious to make significant progress in exploring the city and hopefully find a house. My family needs me in Amsterdam, our temporary housing would not last indefinitely and missing one weekend of search may be a very bad decision.

So I said YES. 🙂

Why did I say yes when I had so many negative emotions going on about this decision? Because, whenever possible, I try not to base my decisions on emotions, but on careful assessments and thought processes.

Another way to put it is: my emotional brain (amigdala and hippocampus specifically) was fooling me in showing me the problem-side of this situation, but thankfully I trained my rational brain (neocortex) to take over when the other part is leading me in the wrong direction. More on this in Chapter 5 of Office of Cards.

So, instead of seeing those as problems and reasons why not to go, I decided to see them as OPPORTUNITIES and reasons why to go. #MakeItCount

1- The trip could be wasted. No big deal, I bought the ticket with the miles I collected over the years so I spent 35£ for the entire trip (thanks Francesco for the tip). Also, good chance for me to meet some friends and spend quality time with them.

2- 107 million homes, 5 million people… they are potential READERS! If I don’t have the courage to talk about what I wrote in front of people, then I should probably not even have written it. My book has been written with the intent of helping people, the more the better. It’s been written with the hope that a total stranger will one day hit me on social media and thank me for the impact it had on his or her life. So, doing this is a chance for me to make it happen.

3- My family always comes first. They know I would have said no for them, and this is why Cinzia told me “go, we’ll figure it out anyway, I am sure of it”. And, of course, we did 🙂 #BeAGiver #BeOtherCentric

I could stop here, my point is made: when you face a problem, try to see it as an opportunity. Typically, problems at work represent chances for you to show your talent, grow your responsibilities, learn new skills, sell more… you name it. If it was not a problem, but a very known situation you are comfortable dealing with (the “comfort zone”), then it would hardly bring you anything different than what you have received till today. No promotion, no professional satisfaction, nothing. Same old (actions), same old (reactions). 

So, next time you are faced with a problem, try to force yourself info seeing it as an opportunity. It’s a mindset shift because, really, the situation does not change. What changes is the way you look at it and therefore the way you deal with it. Yes, what you do is a result of how you see it, so change the approach and your actions (and therefore outcomes) will change accordingly.

Don’t avoid problems, deal with them. And when you are done, think back about what you learned, and use it for the next challenge in front of you. If you build on challenges, you will find yourself on the top of a very big mountain, without even realising it!

Do you want the black belt in this particular skill? Then SEEK problems instead of waiting for them to come to you.

I once asked a CFO, now CEO, “if you could give me one tip for my career, only one, what would you give me?”. Fasten your seatbelts for this one because he said “find the shittiest job you can, the one nobody wants to do, and do it”. I did that, and got promoted for it 🙂 Thanks Dave, this is probably the best tip I have gotten so far in my career.

For those who are curious, here I will tell a bit about how the interview went. Still interesting, but if you can only take one point out of this post, please take the above!

The way it works when you are interviewed in a live show is that SKY takes care of ground transportation, they come and pick you up where you are, take you to their studios and then take you wherever you need to go after the session. So 6.30am there’s a car waiting for me for a 1h ride to their headquarters in south west London.

It’s very early and I did not have much time to eat or get coffee, I jump in the car and start mentally rehearsing. The driver starts talking to me and I am not happy about it, I am sleepy and still trying to rehearse. He is asking me what am I going to SKY for.

Problem? —> Opportunity! I immediately think this is the BEST POSSIBLE REHEARSAL, he is asking me things that I will probably be asked live! So I engage, and this ride is amazing. It loosens me up, wakes me up, charges. He tells me he is a driver but he is helping his daughter set up a business, and thinks my book could help. He takes down the name of it and I see him buy it on the phone! That feels awesome, this is why I wrote it, I feel so fulfilled, ready for air time!

When you reach SKY Studios they tell you in which building you are supposed to go (it’s a massive campus) and then you meet a “runner” at the reception of the building, his job is to take you to the right place in the building.

He takes me to a room where I wait, it’s now 7.45am so I have 1 hour before my slot, I find a cafe’ and get a proper breakfast.

A selfie I took while waiting to go ON AIR

During this hour I chat with other guests who are waiting in the same room. This is critical in remaining calm. I know I am ready, it’s my book, I wrote it, I just spoke about it for 45 minutes to a total stranger, so I know I am good to go. I need to chill and think about something else, so I talk to the other guests about what they will talk about in their interviews.

This is actually something I evolved on over time. I remember when I was a student I used to do LAST MINUTE rehearsals before a test all the time. Why? Because I did not prepare properly before. And what was the result? That, instead of understanding stuff, I was just memorising it, and right after the test, I forgot it. Now, my memory is still not my greatest asset, but it became a lot better my moving my preparation back from prime time and diluting it in a longer time frame. Last minute is for chilling, not rehearsing. At least for me. #StayCool

10 minutes before my slot the producer comes in to tell me how the interview will be structured. I feel quite good about it and ask if I can bring my book to display. Now, they had told me that they don’t put it on display as that is a News show, not advertising. But I tried anyway and she said “ok, bring it”. Once we are done, she takes me down where the recording studio is and they tell me to wait 5 minutes to go in.

At this point, I am starting to feel the moment and get tense. I mean, ok opportunity and all that, but I am about to go on live TV!!! Panic mode, I start shaking, literally (which happens to me from time to time). But I have learned how to deal with it. It may sound stupid, but I started doing squats (thankfully there was nobody around, not sure I would have done this if there were people looking at me). What I learned, reading a book, is that physical activity is a great way to relax your nerves. If you get your blood flowing just a bit then nerves relax because the body absorbs the adrenaline that is getting produced which is causing the shaking. So I need some quick trick I can do on the spot which will make my heart pump just a bit, to balance the adrenaline. As I did not want to sweat, I just did 10/15 squats, that’s it. My point here is: you need to know yourself, mind and body, and find ways to manage undesired reactions.

They let me in and there’s 5 minutes of ads now, so I have time to meet and speak to the hosts before we go live. I tell them a bit about the book and they say that they find it interesting and they ask me if I could give them a copy to hold while I was on (so much for “we don’t display it!!” 🙂 #BePrepared).

Then we go live, and you can see the piece here.

It lasts 6 minutes while they have scheduled 4, which I am told it’s a sign they must have seen good potential with the audience.

At the end of the interview they both ask me for a signed copy of the book, which I am glad to give them. #BeAGiver

This is it, this is how I dealt with this situation, with my emotions and with the people that were involved in the making of this.

I want to thank Cinzia for holding the line by herself with Arya, Max and Khaleesi while I was gone. Without your strength I could not have done this.

Thanks to Francesco for making me save 200£ at least and to Danny for hosting me, which made me save money and, most importantly, allowed me to chill and distract instead of staying by myself and stress out before the big event.

As always, any comments and feedback please let me know!

Thanks for reading.