This post is part of the #YPSportsChat Blog Series! This series will give young professionals an inside look at the intricacies of the sports business world and advice on how to navigate it.
By: Leonard Patton, @leonardmpatton
I am sure we have all heard of the “comfort zone” which can be described as an environment or set of activities that makes a person feel safe and worry-free. This is a common idea and I think it’s safe to say that everyone has one. Whether it be a certain group of people you like to associate with or a routine that you like to follow, everyone has that zone that eases their minds and lessens their overall stress levels. As I am finishing up my degree and looking to advance through career development, I have discovered something that I like to describe as the (un)comfort zone. This a situation where someone find themselves feeling anxious, nervous, and even lacking in confidence due to the nature of the current situation. In discovering this (un)comfort zone I have realized that finding it is necessary for my professional growth going forward. It is not enough to just identify your weaknesses, you must also address them with the intent to turn them into strengths.
“I challenge all young sports professionals to step outside of their comfort zone and demand improvement of themselves everyday.”
For me personally, I would say that something that makes me uncomfortable is engaging complete strangers. In these situations, I usually find myself avoiding eye contact, stumbling over my words, and blanking out on how to continue the conversation. In the past 6 months however, I have been networking quite a bit and putting myself in situations where I would have to engage and talk to people that I was meeting for the first time. Of course it was pretty uncomfortable at first, but after attending Sports Business Week in downtown Chicago a few months back I truly realized the benefit of putting yourself in that (un)comfort zone. While at the event, I randomly walked up to 2 men and introduced myself. After talking with them for a short time I learned that one of those guys was the assistant commissioner of a D1 college conference. He gave me some great advice and information that eventually lead to the internship position that I currently hold. I think about how I could have not gone to that event to avoid talking to new people and stayed in my comfort zone. Instead, I decided to attack one of my weaknesses head on and seek out potential opportunities where they presented themselves.
“It is not enough to just identify your weaknesses, you must also address them with the intent to turn them into strengths.”
Everyone’s comfort zone is different which leads me to believe that everyone’s (un)comfort zone will be different as well. The most important factor in finding and conquering your (un)comfort zone is to identify your weaknesses. If you can point out those things about yourself that you can improve on then you can figure out what situations to put yourself in to make those improvements. For many of us looking to work in sports, we know that there are many moving parts to the industry and qualified professionals are always in demand. Making yourself into a qualified professional means putting yourself in situations that you wouldn’t necessarily see yourself in in order to expand your skill set. Simply stated, just because you want to work in one area of the sports industry doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from other areas. I challenge all young sports professionals to step outside of their comfort zone and demand improvement of themselves everyday. If you only focus on the things that you are already good at, you will fall behind the curve quickly due to the trendy nature of the industry.
After reading this I hope that you will identify your weaknesses, address them by finding that (un)comfort zone, and progress towards your goals by turning your weakness into strengths.