Surf the S Curve

“The only danger is not to evolve.” – Jeff Bezos

BridgeI had the privilege of interviewing author-keynoter-thought leader Whitney Johnson about her new book Disrupt Yourself.

She has a profound story to tell – and provocative insights to share – about the importance of changing your personal and professional life … even when there’s nothing wrong.

For example, she walked away from a 7-figure salary, billionaire clients and a Wall Street job as the top-ranked analyst in her field for Merrill Lynch.

Why did she “risk” leaving her comfortable, cushy, hard-earned position of power and prestige?

Because she wanted to become an entrepreneur, and because she agrees with what Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

In her previous book Dare, Dream, Do, Whitney explored the multi-faceted benefits of being daring and showed how to embrace it rather than avoid it.

In her latest book, Whitney makes a compelling case that a richer, more rewarding life waits for us on the far side of our comfort zone. She’s speaking from experience as that “risk” to leave Wall Street has resulted in her being selected as a finalist for the Top Thinkers on Talent at the biennial Thinkers 50 ceremony in London.

Whitney’s insightful message has perfect timing as we head into a new year.

What if, instead of making resolutions – which studies show are rarely sustained and rarely produce real-world results – we make disruptions?

Disruptions are about doing something differently.  In fact, Whitney uses her extensive and impressive background in finance to pose a startling premise:

If we want to scale significant personal and professional success, we cannot be content to stick to what’s safe.  We must be willing to sacrifice the status quo to surf the S Curve of disruption.

Her excellent book Disrupt Yourself offers a 7 -step methodology for doing just that.

In addition to our interview, I had the pleasure of listening to Whitney’s book as I drove across the country as part of My Year By the Water.  (Yes, I am practicing what Whitney is teaching. I disrupted my life, gave away most of my possessions, and am traveling around North America to reflect upon and write about the metaphorical insights that can be learned from bodies of water.)

I’ve  developed some questions we can ask ourselves to see where we could replace defaults with disruptions.

You might want to print these out and take them – and a friend or business colleague – to lunch.  Discuss them at your next staff meeting and brainstorm what you and your organization will dare to do differently in 2016.

1.  Do I want a comfortable life or a creative life?  Do we want a comfortable organization or a creative one? 

Where am I doing the same old thing?  Where are we sticking to status quo habits and routines that no longer serve us?

2.  Where am I playing it safe in my personal life?  Where are we playing it safe in our organization?  At what cost? 

We can be complacent or we can become continuous learners.  Where can I stretch myself and try something new?  Where can we take an informed risk and experiment with a fresh, more innovative approach?

3.  Where did I “fail” in 2015?  What is something that didn’t work out the way I (we) expected?  What did I (we) learn from that?  How can I (we) move forward and be better because of that experience?

Whitney dedicates a whole chapter to “Give Failure Its Due” and shows how failures are mistakes only when we don’t learn from them.

4.  What do I want more of?  What is something else – something additional – we could offer our customers and employees?

One of my most important lessons-learned from my YEAR BY THE WATER is,  You don’t want or need to wait for something to go wrong to embark upon what feels even more right. 

In other words, we don’t have to be sick to get better. Whitney loved her work as a Wall Street analyst. There wasn’t anything missing; she just felt there could be more.

Me too.  I loved my life living on a lake near Washington DC.  I was speaking, coaching and writing; doing it with people I enjoyed and respected;  and getting paid for it.  What could be better?

The thing is, I didn’t know what could be better … because I wasn’t doing anything differently.

I’ve been doing the same thing for 20+ years.  And I loved it.

But the clock is ticking.  And if we agree with Helen Keller, we choose to be adventurous instead of sticking with the status quo. We choose to disrupt our norms and experiment with our life because we’re supposed to evolve, not do the same thing year after year after year.

5.  Are we planning what to do next or are partnering with what wants to happen next?

This has probably been my most profound epiphany this past year.

For many of us, control is our default. We seek to control our schedule, our career trajectory, our business success.

I have learned that trying to control life is an exercise in frustration and myopic.  It is far more visionary and enlightened to cooperate with life rather than try to control it.

To cooperate with life, we must deliberately leave open space in our calendar. Open hours or days leave room for the unexpected.  They leave room for unanticipated events, opportunities and individuals to come into our life (or business) that make it infinitely more rewarding than if it goes according to script and “as planned.”

New years are opportunities for fresh starts. How will you surprise yourself this year?  How will you surprise your kids, partner, customers, employees,colleagues?   How will you surf the S Curve of Disruption, replace defaults with discoveries, and create an innovative life instead of sticking with the status quo?

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Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert, TEDx speaker and communication strategist, helps people create one-of-a-kind projects – presentations, funding pitches, books and brands – that scale their impact for good. Her work- including Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention?POP! and Tongue Fu!® –  has been featured on NPR and MSNBC and in New York Times, Fast Company, Forbes,  Her presentations receive rave reviews from such clients as National Geographic, Cisco, EO, Capital One, NASA and the Asian Leadership Conference.

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