You can become more than what you’re known for

Valve, the award winning software company whose employee handbook went viral, asks this question of its team members.

How much do you contribute at a larger scope than your core skill?

It’s the counterintuitive question that all of us should be asking ourselves. Because typically, if a task or a project falls outside of our core competency, we’re told to delete, delegate, outsource, postpone, ignore or forget about it. In the name of greater efficiency.

Most of the time, that’s a useful rule of thumb.

But every so often, when you have a chance to stretch beyond what you have done before, you can become more than what you’re known for.

Einstein famously said that the mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size. The same applies to the work we do each day. If somebody on our team asks us to do something that requires safely stretching our boundaries of what we think you can do, it’s might be worth doing.

During my stretch as brand manager for a global travel startup, my marketing team asked me to create a customer education program based on international air passenger rights. It sounded exciting at first, until they showed me the hundreds of pages of legal jargon that had to be sifted through and converted into a curriculum.

Not only was it painfully boring, but incredibly complicated. Just reading the word jurisdiction gave me vertigo.

It actually triggered a traumatic and shameful memory of my hardest class from college, business law. I literally failed every single assignment, despite my hard work. What can I say? Linear thinking is simply not my brain’s natural tendency.

And so, to say that this air passenger rights task was outside of my comfort zone was an understatement. But it’s not like I had much choice in the matter, so I dug in my heels and did the best I could. The project certainly wasn’t perfect, and there were several anxiety nightmares about the assignment during the year.

But we got it done, customers loved it, our brand extended into the marketplace, and management was thrilled. More importantly, it deepened my sense of efficacy in creating value outside of my core skill. The project stretched me in ways I would not have foreseen.

The question you have to think about is, do you care enough to feel the discomfort so you can push through to the other side?

Because who knows? You might meet an entirely new version of yourself on the other side.

How much do you contribute at a larger scope than your core skill?


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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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