Feeling Comfortable About Being Uncomfortable

I made a commitment to push myself beyond what I think I’m capable and comfortable this year. I’m going to try new things that will result in embarrassment, failure, criticisms, and feelings of inadequacy. Why? I’m not doing new things just for the sake of trying new things but rather, I want to challenge myself to get used to the feeling of being uncomfortable. What I’ve come to realize after some reflection is that I have the tendency to give up too soon when things get hard, when I encounter criticisms. I tend to personalize criticisms and I take them to heart to a point where they paralyze me. I look back at opportunities missed in my career when if I only persisted more than I did, I could have done more. I look back at how easily I gave up in 2009 when I tried promoting the idea of mobile websites but I could not quite convince my colleagues that mobile will become more common in the next few years. I gave up too soon. Six years later and some of our most used sites are still not mobile-friendly. What a missed opportunity.

I recently started a group on campus called Innovators Community at UCSB. I started the group because I was craving for a place to just chat about new ideas. I feel like there’s not enough space to just talk about ideas without getting stuck thinking about why things can’t work. I had invited folks to come to our first social. I even offered to buy food. After some feedback, I chose a date. I had expected quite a few people to come. Two other people besides me came. In the past, I would have beaten myself up, considered the event a failure. This time around, I didn’t see it that way. I was talking with a colleague today, and he said, “that’s a bummer.” My response was “not really. I thought it was great!” Two folks or fifty, I was going to make the most of the result. As a matter of fact, I had an awesome time having long conversations with my friends who showed up. It was the type of conversations I had been looking for.

There are goals I had wanted to do but I was too scared in the past to pursue them. I’ve always wanted to do formal research about student affairs and technology but I gave myself so many reasons as to why I couldn’t do them. This time around, I will find ways to finally start taking steps towards this goal. I will be attending the NASPA Regional 6 conference Research Institute to gain  research skills and connect with others who may be able to help me out.

I will be called the “lone nut”, I will probably be called some names I may not appreciate, but I will take them on as a challenge. When I attended a student affairs conference this last weekend at UCLA, I attended a panel session of senior higher education administrators wherein they shared their experiences and challenges. One of the panelists, VP of Student Services at Rio Hondo College, Henry Gee, said something that just resonated with me. I’ve heard the advice many times before, but it was different this time. He shared how in his position, not everyone supports everything he does. He shared a story where a board of trustee offered their opinion not to renew his contract, while he was in the room. VP Gee’s advice is you can’t take personally. Guess what? I think that sounds like a good advice. As I have learned in my position of one year as the acting Executive Director for my IT department, even with the best intention, everything I’ve done so far to this point has not been met with unanimous approval. There’s at least one person who tells me I’m doing things wrong or I’m not doing things well enough. I’ve come to learn I cannot please everyone and so with that lesson learned and with all my plans to try new things this year beyond what I would have done in the past, I will be learning to be comfortable about being uncomfortable. Onward I go!

 

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