I went to a networking group yesterday. It’s a group that has done a lot for me in helping me decide what my niche will be as well as challenging me to grow a little every time I go. It’s a wonderful thing not only for my baby business, but for me as a person. Honestly, in my case, the business is merely an extension of who I am, anyway. Growth for one is growth for the other.
So, back to yesterday’s meeting. During these gatherings we have an educational moment and an ice breaker question. Mary West, the creator of these groups, encourages all of us to grow personally and professionally.
Today’s ice breaker rattled me a little. It was a simple enough question. “What is one word you would use to describe yourself?” But while everyone gave their answer, I started to notice how different I was from all these other business-minded folks.
Some of those answers were given more than once. They were said with confidence. And what did I answer?
Now, to be fair, I did consider some other options – honest, mother, caretaker. But I went with love. It’s the reason behind everything I’m currently doing in my life. It’s the reason I homeschool. It’s the reason I volunteer. It’s the reason I write. It’s the reason I take care of myself. Love.
But, even knowing my answer was a valid answer for me, I felt a little shakey and a lot different than the rest of the men and women giving their words. I had a moment of, “I don’t belong here. I’m not a business person. I just tell stories.” But I was there and couldn’t simply run away. So, instead, I took a few deep breaths, decided to save wallowing in my insecurities for later, and focused in on learning more from the men and women around me.
Shortly after that activity, it was time for the educational moment, which consisted of a series of comments from John Maxwell, who is, among other things, an author of several books dealing with leadership. The thoughts shared today were about how to find and keep momentum by living your life (and running your business) in a place of growth. He had several wonderful points. There was one that stuck with me, though. I jotted it down immediately. And later, I messaged the fellow networker who’d been kind enough to share Maxwell’s lessons with us to get a link to the source.
“The growth environment is a place where you are out of your comfort zone…Be sure to be only out of your comfort zone, and not out of your gift zone.”
Yeah…it’s a good one, isn’t it? I believe exactly that. I mean, Maxwell said it better than I ever have, but I’ve said this more than once. Well, the first part. I think that when we feel off kilter we can either grow, which can be uncomfortable at first, or we can fall back into a safe place we know, even if that’s not where we say we want to be. Less resistance is sometimes easier than going through growing pains. So, yeah, what he said.
The second part…that was a bit of a revelation for me. “Out of your comfort zone…not out of your gift zone.”
Oh, goodness, that made me smile. My gift is writing. It is sharing stories from people’s lives. I’m turning it into a business by weaving threads from people’s personal stories into their business biographies. I am going outside of my comfort zone in several ways by starting this business.
I’m an introvert. It takes a lot of energy out of me to go into a room with a whole group of people who want to talk to me! Another part of Mary’s vision, when starting this group, was that we would get to know each other. We’re more likely to refer others to members of this networking group if we know and like the members of this group. It makes sense and I can’t argue with her on that. But that means even more connecting, though. Coffee dates, lunches, meet-ups all over town! I sometimes block out times when I don’t leave my house, just to recharge.
I’m not a business person. I started writing bios and about me pages for money because I have this talent and find joy in sharing stories. I think having the story of your business be part of what your customers connect with is a wonderful way to market your small business. And, who can’t use a little extra income? But I’m not a salesperson, which is what I think of when I think of businessmen and women. I don’t sell my services. I simply tell about them and let them speak for themselves.
Let’s go back to the ice breaker. I may not be, first and foremost, a determined, competitive, encourager. And that’s ok. And, being around those that are may be outside my comfort zone, but it’s most definitely leading to growth. That’s, in part, because I’m not going outside my gift zone – spreading the love.
So, at the end of the day, I didn’t need time to wallow in my insecurities because they vanished when I realized I am where I need to be as Annie Gebel, the storyteller, and as Annie, the person. As long as I keep my focus on telling and sharing stories and challenge myself in learning business strategies that aren’t in my normal wheel house, well, then…both my business and my heart and mind will continue to grow!