Posted by Todd Smith
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(Author: Jake Smith, Todd’s son)
I’ve learned that the only way to grow is to push yourself beyond what’s comfortable. I’ve found in my short life that you will not get better by doing what you always do. You have to use your personal initiative to go outside your comfort zone in your pursuit of success.
My First Job
This was reinforced last year when I started looking for my first job. Initially, I thought of two places where I wanted to work, but my dad challenged me to make a list of as many businesses as I could. I went through every option and thought about all the places within five miles of my house. It was a good thing I did because I was only 16, and most employers wouldn’t hire anyone under 18.
Within a week, I landed my first interview with Publix Super Markets. I was very nervous! I had never been in an interview before. Would he/she like me? Would I present myself well? These were some of the questions I thought to myself. I remembered to do the little things that my dad had been teaching me, such as smiling, making eye contact, having a firm handshake, and speaking with confidence. Well, it worked; I got the job!
During my initial onsite training, which was also intimidating, I learned my basic responsibilities, which included bagging groceries, retrieving carts, and mopping the floors. I recall my first day on the job. My palms were sweaty. My heart was beating out of my chest. It was a completely new experience for me.
Moving Outside My Comfort Zone
Implementing what I learned combined with the little things my parents had taught me, I began to get better. I was a hard worker and the manager took notice quickly! After working there for a few weeks, I received compliments from the manager that I was a better worker than some of the kids who had worked there much longer than me.
At this point, I was doing a good job with my assigned responsibilities, but there was still room for growth. Being an introvert, I was uncomfortable interacting with customers. My dad challenged me to be friendly with every customer whose groceries I bagged. This was difficult. On a typical 4-5 hour shift, I would bag between 80-100 people’s groceries.
On the first day, I was friendly and outgoing to two people. The next time, it was five people. The next time, 10, then 15, then 25. It was still uncomfortable but because I pushed myself to get better, it got easier. By the sixth day, I was friendly to 50 people! It still wasn’t natural, but it wasn’t too uncomfortable to ask people how their day was going or talk about the weather!
Everyone who knows me knows that I am a quiet and reserved person around strangers. But one of the top cashiers didn’t know me as that person. He told me one day, “You are very good with people.” I never thought in my life I would hear that! It just goes to show that anything is possible if you push yourself beyond what’s comfortable. The improvements I had made definitely gave me a feeling of accomplishment and made me feel better about myself.
In my short work experience, I’ve noticed that the first step outside your comfort zone is by far the hardest. But then it only gets easier! I want to challenge you to find something in your life that you can improve upon. Then push yourself to get better at it! You will be fulfilled and gain confidence as people around you take notice of your development.
“It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before… to test your limits… to break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin
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