Content By The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

By: The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

When I was 7 years old, I went into the woods behind my house, built a fire, then fried an egg over it in an old pie tin. When the egg was done, I ate it. I didn’t even like eggs, but because I had cooked it on my own, it was delicious.

I was so proud of my achievement that I ran inside and told my father. The look on my Dad’s face was horror, and I immediately expected to be severely scolded, but he didn’t. Instead, he said, “Wow, that’s quite an accomplishment. Why don’t you show me your campfire?”

He followed me into the woods and saw that I had properly put the fire out. I still recall the look of relief on his face. He then praised me some more, and finished by saying, “That looks like it was a lot of fun, but next time you want to do this, please include me.”

From the look on his face, I got the message loud and clear. He was concerned about me “playing with fire,” and wanted to chaperone me if I did it again.

The point of this story, however, is that he didn’t yell at me. He didn’t tell me how hazardous it was, how I could’ve set the woods on fire, or burned myself. In short, he didn’t plant the seeds of fear that could’ve made me risk-averse in the future.

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

By: The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

Many people are writing about innovation. Yet, the more I read, the more confusing the term becomes.

Some have said an innovation is an idea. Others have said an idea isn’t an innovation until it has been applied or implemented into a new product, service, or method. Hm, from my experience the hard part is coming up with the idea.

In an attempt at clarity, some have said that innovation is a new: product, service, design, method, technology, process, solution, experience, outcome, or trend. Yeah, that makes it clear!

Then there are others who have defined innovation as one of the following: adding value to a product or service; adding value to a company; finding new markets; moving toward the future; having a different viewpoint; or addressing challenges.

In my opinion this last one “addressing challenges” comes closest to a correct definition. So, let’s look at an actual dictionary definition. Here’s what Dictionary.com offers:

innovate [in-uh-veyt] verb (used without object), innovated, innovating.
From the Latin innovatus, past participle of innovare: to renew or alter.
* to introduce something new; make changes in anything established.

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

By: The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

In this column I’ve written about embracing change because it prepares you to think more creatively, and it’s part of the innovator’s lifestyle. I’ve also written about accepting change even if you’re not completely comfortable with the idea because of the potential for emotional and intellectual growth. But I haven’t written about sudden unexpected change and how to deal with that, so that is the topic here.

Now, I’m not talking about an unexpected change that comes with a lottery win or other good fortune. Those are situations that expand your choices and options in a positive way. I think we can all happily deal with that sort of change. Instead, I’m interested in how to deal with an unexpected change that means a loss of some kind has occurred. It might be a change that will lead to more prosperity and growth down the road, but at first you only notice the loss.

A loss can mean so many things: loss of a job, a home, a loved one, money, time. It could be a loss you caused, unintentionally or not, or it could’ve been an accident. The bottom line is that you are uncomfortable, and you want to get back to your comfort zone.

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

By: The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

A few years ago I wrote about a Facebook exchange between two friends of mine that upset me because one of my friends resorted to name-calling instead of addressing the other friend’s arguments. In retrospect, that was mild. More recently I’ve been shocked by some disturbingly excessive name-calling, in the comment sections of articles I’ve read, that was directed at other commenters. The name-calling is bad enough, but the number of people who find that to be an acceptable method for engaging in debate is appalling. No one is going to be motivated or persuaded by vitriol.

Recently, I wrote an article on the importance of critical thinking in our age of information overload (see “A Survival Guide for the Era of Alternate Facts”). Developing the ability to judge the veracity of the information we receive is important because there are many people, seeking power or profit, who will say anything in order to push their agenda. We must protect ourselves from the lies, propaganda, and fake news that we get from politicians, government, corporations, and the media.

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

By: The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

Last year I was invited to give a lecture on critical thinking to the U.S. Navy. I opened my presentation with a story I’d read in Reader’s Digest magazine as a child. It’s an old story you may have heard before, but it’s a perfect introduction to the importance of critical thinking. Here’s how it goes:

A newlywed husband observing his wife preparing a roast beef was shocked to see her slice an inch off the end of the meat and toss it in the trash. “Why did you do that?” he asked. She shrugged and replied, “I don’t know; it’s what my mother always did.” Baffled that anyone would waste good meat, and curious to learn the answer, he phoned his mother-in-law and put the question to her. Her response was the same as her daughter's, “It’s the way my mother did it.” Knowing his wife’s grandmother was still alive, he phoned her next. Upon hearing the question, the older woman laughed, “Oh my, I don’t do that anymore. When I was younger and poorer, I only had one pan and a roast wouldn’t fit in it unless I cut the end off.”

At some point in our lives, all of us have heard these words, “That’s how we’ve always done it.” These six words are a tip-off that it’s time to reexamine a technique, a method, or a course of action, and the motivation behind it.

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

By: The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

Deb asked me, “Would you like to come over to my house tonight and learn about a business opportunity?” I’d met Deb on a church trip, and had been crushing on her for weeks. She could have ended her question with, “and scrub dirty toilets?” and I would’ve been there, because all I heard was “come over to my house tonight.”

When I arrived, I was greeted by her father, who ushered me into the living room where a bunch of people were seated on rows of folding chairs. Deb was surrounded by several other young men, so I sat as close to her as I could. Then a man at the front of the room with a chalk board began a presentation.

He explained how I could own my own business for less than $100, and only put in a part-time effort. It sounded fabulous. I was a 19-year-old student paying my way through college by working several part-time jobs. He said if I followed their time-proven directions, I would become wealthy. He made it look simple and seem like something I could easily do. My father had preached the benefits of self-employment and being your own boss for years, so I was ready to take the bait. I wrote a check to get started and handed it to Deb. It was the last time I ever saw her; shortly after that she went off to college in another state.

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

By: The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as ‘bad luck.’”
—Robert Heinlein

Your boss, your co-workers, your friends, and even your family don’t want you to be creative. They resent your trying to change the methods, practices, systems, and rules they are comfortable with. They think you’re a fool for wasting your time and money. Most of all, you’re scaring them by going against the norm.

Innovation requires change, and change is threatening to many. Especially if your idea will displace an established interest. Expect resistance.

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

By: The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

I recall, back in 1995, trying to decide whether to get an internet account. I only knew two or three people who had them. Email sounded like a cool idea, but you still needed to pick up the phone to get in touch with someone. (Remember when the question was, “Do you have an email address?” instead of, “What is your email address?”)

Getting on the net seemed like a good idea for my writing business, especially for purposes of research. I just wasn’t sure it was worth the money. Back then you bought time on the World Wide Web by the hour, and it was deducted by the minute. If you downloaded a file that was too large, you might use up your entire monthly allotment. I really wanted it, but I needed to justify spending the money.

My justification arrived after a phone call with a new client. A magazine publisher in Texas wanted me to write some articles for him. During the conversation, he said, “I only work with writers who are on email.” I made my decision in that moment. The publisher called me back the next day and said he forgot to ask for my email address, by which time I had one.

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

By: The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

This column is primarily about human motivation, particularly being motivated by envy, a subject I’ve wanted to write about for years. It is a negative emotion that has been condemned by all cultures throughout history, yet it is a powerful motivator. Envy can be terribly destructive, and surprisingly... constructive.

Envy, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is: “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.”

People often mistakenly use the word “jealousy” when they mean “envy.” The feeling of jealousy is the anxiety we feel when someone tries to take something we have earned, already own, or feel we have a right to. Envy is about coveting that which we don’t have.

I believe envy is rooted in fear. The fear of feeling weak, impotent, or powerless. Advertisers love to fan the flames of envy. Getting people to one-up their friends and neighbors gets them to spend money.

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

By: The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

Recently I was contacted by a reader asking me if I would suggest some exercises that he could use to think more creatively. That request has inspired me to write about some fun ways that you, too, can exercise your creative mind.

The purpose of these exercises is to condition your mind to quickly make new connections or combinations between two or more existing items or ideas. When this becomes second nature, you will begin to automatically notice connections that you never saw before. Some of these may even turn into money-making opportunities.

Find new uses. Select a common item such as a bottle, comb, fork, or chair, then come up with 10 or more alternate ways that you use that item. I saw a product on Amazon.com called an onion holder (for holding an onion while you slice it); it looks like someone found a new use for a metal hair pick.