By Cathy Salit
I’m excited to announce the launch of my new blog feature, “Choose to Grow.” In this series, I’ll share with you experiences of thought leaders, authors and other amazing people about times in their lives when they had to make an active choice to grow.
My first conversation is with Andy Molinsky — Professor at Brandeis University’s International Business School and author of Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Your Behavior Across Cultures without Losing Yourself in the Process and his upcoming book, Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge and Build Confidence.
I asked Andy about a time in his life when he made a major change, and how he went about it. He shared the following story:
The situation was study abroad in 1989. And when I stepped onto that plane in Logan airport in the evening and said goodbye to my parents, it was pure fear. I didn’t have any sense there would be something positive on the other end. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to live and communicate in a language I was only barely proficient in. And being alone — really alone — was a very scary proposition. But when I landed, the reality soon became quite different than the fear. Yes, things were clearly different — but it wasn’t all that different.
I remember feeling so surprised for some reason that they had taxis (remember — pre-internet days) and that I could actually get by in my rudimentary Spanish. I felt uneasy, and a little bit homesick, but it was exciting and interesting as well — trying to make out what everyone was saying… meeting all these new and interesting people. My point is that I surprised myself after making the leap — and I think that’s an important lesson whenever you consider stepping outside your comfort zone. This could be taking on a new job, moving to a new city, switching from one profession to another — really any situation in life where you have a chance to grow and progress and develop, but it’s scary. The reality you anticipate from a fearful state of mind, is so different from the reality you actually experience on the other side of the threshold.
In the end, that semester in Spain was a transformational experience for me — dictating my future career path, enriching my life in a myriad of ways, and introducing me to the joys of siestas, paella and tapas. And for anyone contemplating a similar leap in their life, remember that fear is a terrible prognosticator of the future. Take a leap — give whatever it is you fear a try. And I’m guessing you’ll be surprised about what you find on the other side.
I love this story, Andy. Thanks so much for sharing it with our readers and me.
I especially appreciate your urging us to give whatever it is we fear a try, which I hear as a lovely invitation to both embrace and create with fear (yes, we can create and be creative with fear). As difficult as it is to acknowledge, fear is a fact of life, and never more so than now. It’s tempting to try to keep fear at bay, but often we can’t. And to do so is to miss out on opportunities to be surprised, to learn, and create something new with people we may never have imagined creating with.
I think a lot of fear comes from our not knowing what to do, how to do it, or how things will turn out. We live in a knowing culture, so if we don’t know, we can be overcome with fear. That’s why I join Andy in inviting you to make the leap and embrace not knowing (and your fear)! That’s where learning and growth and transformation so often happens.