Go Outside Your Professional Comfort Zone

Go Outside Your Professional Comfort Zone


It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn, Joshua C. Robinson, 2015

Recently, I’ve been pushed well beyond my professional comfort zone in ways that I didn’t think were possible. It’s been trying, it’s been humbling, but ultimately it’s benefited my work ethic and ability to collaborate professionally with others. It seems that in every project I’m involved in, some boundary that I had set up has been pushed or bent, oftentimes creating a positive circumstance, and sometimes even expanding my wheelhouse as an arts manager…


I’ve been pushed nearly beyond breaking with this project. As Finance Chair for the event, I often felt like I was the only one who was looking at the big financial picture, and in many ways I was the only one doing that. I had to trim budgets, account for unexpected expenses, and these skills are not necessarily in my wheelhouse.

What was more frustrating was that my expectations of the event were pretty low-key. I was expecting a small, very local conference, but the ultimate event grew well beyond our initial budget, and that gave me some minor ulcers.

The ulcers are gone now, and I’ve grown through the experience. My close friend Renee Rock and I went to battle over her budget, and in the end the result was somewhat of a compromise, but mostly me realizing that I was capable of more than I was giving myself credit for.

The President’s Office very generously gave support to the event, CCAP is helping with food, we secured a hotel donation at Day’s Inn Chicago, the library is chipping in, Peet’s coffee is offering up food and beverages, across the board people are helping out, and small donations are being secured to defray the cost of the event.

And its not a small event, if everything was taken at cost the entire day would be about $18,000, and much of that was provided in kind through hard work, pounding the pavement and asking everyone and anyone that we know to help. SOC has been an immense help and a saving grace in the entire process, and Mark Kelly provided much needed support and advice.

To be honest we have gone a bit Maverick with this event, ruffling some feathers and gathering supporters in unorthodox ways. I made an appointment with President Kim that was supposed to be one on one office hours, and charged in with half of the TEDx leadership team. Dayle Matchett and President Kim were incredibly accommodating, though I definitely got a wag of the finger for breaking protocol. The result was a rousing round of support from President Kim and Dayle.


TEDxColumbiaCollegeChicago, Volunteers, Joshua C. Robinson, 2015

Sometimes you have to push even if you’re getting pushed back, and I certainly understand the benefit of that, but breaking protocol is something I only usually do if someone’s livelihood, dignity or safety is threatened. I tend to play by a lot of rules, some of them self-imposed. And ultimately the rules I fabricated to keep myself safe were hurting me more than anything else. “Get out of your own way.” Is the advice I would give to myself if I were at the beginning of this project. Sometimes you have to be pushed outside your comfort zone, because you’re not even aware that you are inside it.