productive discomfort

me ans stefan on the roof

I just went to a coaching conference for the same reasons anyone goes to a conference in their field of endeavor. Review old techniques, learn some new techniques, reconnect with colleagues, meet new colleagues. I attended one workshop on Facilitating Groups by Rae Ringel. She is the kind of person you want as a facilitator and teacher: warm, confident, uber-competent, and funny. She used a term – productive discomfort – that has stayed with me since the conference. It is self explanatory and yet I feel compelled to explain. We talk about stretching our comfort zones and stretch assignments and learning from our mistakes and dancing on the edge of our incompetence. There is a level of discomfort that is paralyzing, there is a level of discomfort that is so mild as to be barely noticeable. The sweet spot between the two is the productive type. It’s where the growth happens. There is no learning without discomfort, right? In Scott Adams’ (the Dilbert cartoonist) new book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Mr. Adams states, “Every failure is an opportunity to learn something, I don’t let that pass until I’ve extracted every bit of learning that I can.” I am not a fan of the word ‘failure.’ It is too often associated with shame. And it diverts attention to the loss and not the gain. But Adams point remains, there is a benefit to making mistakes. I’ve heard it said that all original thoughts are first considered mistakes. That is because no one has ever said it before.  It feels odd and people resist its novelty. So what do you think of when you hear ‘productive discomfort?’ Do you seek it out? Do you take the learning path? Do you look at each mistake as an opportunity to learn? By the way, the photo is me and a roofer, Stefan Mach,fixing a roof for a community center in North Carolina.  I am, or used to be, afraid of heights.  Let’s just say I was uncomfortable up there on the roof.


About cowsaretheanswer

executive coach, organization development, large animal veterinarian
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