With the Olympics in London underway, there is a wave of global consciousness that seems to run through many of us. Whether it is being inspired by the stories of the Olympians competing from all corners of the globe, or it’s being exposed to new cultures and ideas, a rare level of consciousness is in the air.
Besides being reminded of the diversity I have seen from the 30+ countries I have visited, and how it allows me to learn about new cultures to add to my list of future trips, this Olympic games has made me think about the scope of my thinking.
In our day-to-day lives, we have a tendency to think very locally. It’s only natural. We focus on our job, within the four walls of our office. We zero-in on a specific goal or project our boss gave us. After work, we go home and focus on what is happening within the four walls of our house or apartment. While we do use Facebook and other means to stay in touch with our friends, most of the connections we make are within the four walls of our social network.
When we strategize how to tackle a new obstacle in our career, we often rely primarily on what lies within the four walls of our past experiences as we tap into our successes and the mistakes we have made to determine the best path forward.
Unfortunately, the best answers often don’t lie within these four walls (of our experience, social network, job, home, and so on). It is crucial to think beyond these constricted four wall areas.
Think beyond your “four walls”
Having a global perspective does two things, (1) it exposes us to new perspectives and things we have never known, and (2) it takes us out of our comfort zones.
First, when you think globally, you gain new view points and information that can help you in the future (in ways you have no idea it would). When traveling in Asia a few years ago, I was exposed to how business was conducted there. It was new and different to me and I subsequently took an interest in learning more. I was glad I did because recently, as my company has involved me in projects that require interactions with Asian business leaders, I have been able to leverage these lessons to better relate to them. This is one of countless examples.
Second, this global perspective takes us out of our normal day to day routines and places us in a new and challenging territory where we don’t always have the answer. If you are safe within your normal, “culture” or day-to-day four wall routines, it is easy to be comfortable and lose the edge you need to be an effective leader and owners of our careers. You need to be on your toes. Having a global perspective takes you beyond the focus on your job, your company and your industry and it brings you on a quest where you meet new people and get exposed to new things. Leverage opportunities to get outside of these “local” communities and branch out into something new.
While I have been passionate about improving education for a long time, it never really came into play in my career. A few years ago, I joined a non-profit organization that focused on helping socially-conscious entrepreneurs that were tackling some of the biggest challenges in a certain industry. In the process I made many connections in this space and learned about a brand new world unrelated to my career. Recently, my job responsibilities have given me the opportunity to work directly with leaders in this market and because of my wiliness to get out of my comfort zone and focus on a new “market,” I have a great foundation to accomplish my work goals with the connections I have made over the last few years.
When stepping out of your comfort zone, take it at your own pace, but make sure to stretch yourself a couple steps further than you thought you could. Go to that extra event, read that extra article, make that extra personal connection. You never knew when it will come in handy later in your career.
This global perspective garners diversity. Diversity of not only what you see, but diversity in the experiences you have. I have worked in very diverse industries from technology to consumer goods and in business functions from sales to operations to marketing. This diversity of perspectives and experiences has been extremely valuable as I have progressed in my career.
While every couple years an Olympic games (either Summer or Winter) will attract the focus of the world (you included), don’t wait until these times to think outside of your various sets of four walls referenced before. Challenge yourself, step outside of your comfort zone, learn new things and most importantly, catalog these experiences, perspectives and important information. It all will most definitely make you a better leader and a more effective steward of your own career.
Aaron McDaniel, is a corporate manager, entrepreneur, author, public speaker and community leader. Aaron has held numerous management roles at a Fortune 500 company, being one of the youngest ever appointed appointed Regional Vice President at the age of 27, and is the founder of multiple entrepreneurial ventures. Aaron instructed a highly rated student-led course on leadership at UC Berkeley’s Haas Undergraduate School of Business and has a book, The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World: Savvy Strategies to Get In, Get Ahead, and Rise to the Top, due to be out later this year. Aaron offers advice that helps young professionals build the foundation for a successful career. Visit his blog to learn more.