For thirteen years I was the general manager of WFPG AM/FM in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The stations were successful. I was active in Rotary, the local chambers of commerce, community social programs in addition to running the radio stations.
We did the state’s first LMA (Local Marketing Agreement) adding a third radio station to our operation.
We had a print division that did zoned coupon mailers and produced an annual calendar for local advertisers.
I was in the zone, my comfort zone.
Success Is a Poor Teacher
When new ownership took over the radio stations in my 13th year of managing them, one of the owners was to be the “managing partner.” He didn’t have the equity stake to invest, so his contribution was to move to Atlantic City and manage the stations for the group. That meant that everyone in the radio stations were needed but me.
As I set out to find a new radio general manager position, I would be faced with something new that the broadcasting industry had never had to deal with before, consolidation. Consolidation was like a game of musical chairs, only in this game when the music stopped, you were out-of-a-job.
I thought that my long period of success would be a plus in finding my next position but kept hearing “you’ve been at the same place for over a decade?” I would soon learn that this wasn’t perceived as a positive.
My Road Trip
Eventually, I would land my next GM position and move to a new state. That would lead to a series of moves every two to three years after that as consolidation kept changing the landscape of the radio industry as we knew it.
Delaware, Maryland, Iowa, Pennsylvania and back to New Jersey a couple of more times would be my life over the next decade.
While I never would have chosen this path, what I would realize was that I learned more over this period of time than being in the same place for the previous decade. That being successful and in your comfort zone is a poor teacher.
Seven years ago, I made a career change. I went from market manager of a cluster of radio stations for Clear Channel to broadcast professor at Western Kentucky University. I was moving out of my comfort zone BIG TIME.
That first year was a lot of heavy lifting as I created every course, every lesson, every test for each of my classes.
Eventually, I grew to a new comfort zone at the university. I was on university senate and several committees. I graduated from the university’s master advising certification program and advised around 100 students each semester. I graduated from the university’s police academy and my office was a campus “safe space” for students, faculty and staff. And I was active in state broadcast associations along with founding and directing a radio talent institute on campus.
Why Comfort Zones Are Bad for You
Staying in a comfort zone feels peaceful and relaxing. Comfort zones are not challenging. They become limiting and confining. They can produce a sense of boredom.
I know I certainly had that feeling of “Is That All There Is?” during my long tenure in Atlantic City.
Change is the only constant you can depend on in the world. Nothing stays the same. If you’re not growing then you’ve “gone to seed.”
What Would Jobs Do?
My fiancé shared with me the last words of Steve Jobs and it’s illuminating.
Jobs said that in the eyes of others his life had been the symbol of success. However, Jobs found that apart from his work, his life held little joy.
Steve had stayed in his comfort zone.
Once you’ve accumulated enough money for the rest of your life, you need to change your focus to pursuing objectives that are not related to wealth.
It is why I started this media mentorship blog in January 2015.
Happy New Year 2018
The new year is traditionally a time when we all look in the mirror of our lives and contemplate where we want to go next.
If you want to grow in 2018, decide to get out of your comfort zone.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
– –Steve Jobs