Zoning In!

The ABC’s of Professionalism

Let’s play a game. Identify phrases and titles containing the word “zone.” I’ll help you get started: time zone, no-fly zone, construction zone, The Twilight Zone, The Dead Zone, school zone, temperate zone, end zone, zone defense, red zone, strike zone, buffer zone, zone in, zone out, flood zone, comfort zone, and “in the zone.” These are mine. You have 60 seconds, GO!

The variety of uses for the word “zone” is impressive. A Google search of “zone” produced 416,000,000 hits. (I didn’t go through all of them.) Two zone concepts are especially relevant to professionalism: “comfort zone” and a psychological phenomenon known as being “in the zone.”


Comfort Zone

A comfort zone denotes the limited set of
behaviors and environments
that a person can engage in without becoming anxious.”

Source: <www.answers.com>

Comfort, in all of its physical and psychological forms, is wonderful for rest and rejuvenation and a necessity for the next day’s challenges. It is also an ideal reward for a job well done.

“Words of comfort, skillfully administered, are the oldest therapy known to man.” — Louis Nizer

“Rest: the sweet sauce of labor” — Plutarch

Yet, it is precisely these therapeutic qualities that give comfort its potential to become a dangerous trap. Comfort is about self. When it becomes a goal, it is one short step away from becoming an obsession. As a goal, comfort is likely to lead to short-sighted, success-limiting compromises. In other words, love of comfort is counterproductive to professionalism.

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” — C.S. Lewis

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about” — Charles Kingsley

“To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle” — Albert Einstein

“Man has always sacrificed truth to his vanity, comfort and advantage. He lives by make-believe.” — William Somerset Maugham

Personal observation has convinced me that comfort experiences cause a person to draw boundaries that define his comfort zone, building a trap with comfort as the bait. As time goes on, the seductive nature of comfort further exploits human nature to tighten these boundaries producing a death grip.

“A certain degree of physical harmony and comfort is necessary, but above a certain level it becomes a hindrance instead of a help. Therefore the ideal of creating an unlimited number of wants and satisfying them seems to be a delusion and a snare.” — Mohandas Gandhi

“The lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest and then becomes a host, and then a master” — Kahlil Gibran

There are different types of comfort zones each with different hazards. For example, dreams can be a trap. When the dreamer is full of fear and void of hope, his most vivid dreams are little more than wistful impossibilities. Perpetual dreaming without action is a trap.

“A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.” — Denis Waitley

“To the degree we’re not living our dreams, our comfort zone has more control of us than we have over ourselves.” — Peter McWilliams

“All the concepts about stepping out of your comfort zone mean nothing until you decide that your essential purpose, vision and goals are more important than your self-imposed limitations.” — Robert White

As with food and medicine, a certain amount of physical comfort has value in maintaining good health. Conversely, excesses can lead to deadly addiction. Professional wisdom is the key to recognizing the time for comfort and accepting the need for adversity. It comes down to timing, moderation, and balance.

“Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.” — Finley Peter Dunne

“There is a time for everything, and
a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,”

— Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-3

Love of material possessions is a self-obsessed form of comfort that devalues people and relationships.

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” — Pope John Paul II

“Greed, like the love of comfort, is a kind of fear.” — Cyril Connolly

Story of the Rich Man…

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

“Which ones?” the man inquired.

Jesus replied, ” ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

— Bible, Matthew 19:16-26

For most people, physical comfort is real and measurable. For instance, we know about how often and how much to eat to feel satisfied. Intellectual and emotional comfort is more complex, therefore more elusive. Sometimes emotional comfort can be found by singing or focusing on an uplifting person, place, or thing. Another way is to employ apathy and ignorance to block out unpleasant realities. Still another is to become a self-appointed expert. These people confuse personal opinions with facts.

“We find comfort among those who agree with us — growth among those who don’t.” — Frank A. Clark

“If you’re in a coalition and you’re comfortable, you know it’s not a broad enough coalition” — Bernice Johnson Reagon

Imagine driving up the long winding road of “Happiness Hill” with a wide variety of successes available at every milestone. Now, think of your comfort zone as being the same thing as trying to drive uphill with the car in neutral. Not only is it impossible to coast uphill to these successes, eventually you will begin coasting backward toward the bottom. There’s a saying in the business world, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” The adage is as true for human beings as it is for businesses.

“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” — John C. Maxwell

“Comfort zones are plush lined coffins. When you stay in your plush lined coffins, you die.” — Stan Dale

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” — Brian Tracy

“Minds, like bodies, will often fall into a pimpled, ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort.” — Charles Dickens

Professionals know and accept that they must shift in and out of their comfort zones as often as needed both to avoid death at the bottom of the hill AND to make steady progress toward the top.


In the Zone

“In a state of focused attention or energy
so that one’s performance is enhanced”

Source: <www.answers.com>

Imagine a line graph. On one end is the comfort zone that represents stagnation and slow death. On the opposite end is something athletes call The Zone, which refers to a special state of consciousness and the extraordinary achievement it produces. This special phenomenon occurs when talent, preparation, attitude, and focus converge to produce results that seem to go far beyond the performer’s realm of capability.

“being in the zone, that magical place where mind and body work in perfect synch and movements seem to flow without conscious effort.” — Alice Park, “Getting and Staying in the Zone”, Time Magazine, Jan. 8, 2006.

“Suddenly all is quiet. The other nine players? They’re all moving in slow motion! I’m at normal speed! I know where everyone’s going even before they know themselves. The basket is huge, maybe six feet across! How can I miss? It’s like throwing a rock into a pond.” — Michael Jordan, < http://www.basketballshootingcoach.com/contact_us&gt;.

“Looking back on the seven birdie putts and two eagle putts, I’d no idea how well I was playing. It was eight shots better than the average score on the back nine in the end.” — Padraig Harrington, “Padraig Harrington Wants to Become Michael Jordan of Golf” by Ciaran O. Raghallaigh, 27/07/2008, .

Sports psychologists identify one more ingredient needed to find The Zone: FUN!

“Mike Holmgren … understands why the legendary quarterback [Joe Montana] was so effective under pressure. Holmgren says, ‘I think he had a great ability to have fun playing and have fun practicing and have fun going to work’”In the Zone, by J. Mitchell Perry, J. T. Perry, Steve Jamison, 1997, p. 54.

“Being in the zone is a state of total involvement in a task without the mental burden or worry, doubt, or fear about results.” — Patrick J. Cohn, Ph.D.

The Zone is not reserved for world-class athletes. Anyone can find himself in The Zone. As evidence, I offer Exhibit A, the story of John Smith. (Yes, that’s his real name). It was June 8, 2002 at National Golf Links near Springfield Ohio where I witnessed The Zone by one of my fellow “golf maniacs” as we sometimes call ourselves. John must have started with a birdie, because I distinctly recall half-jokingly that he should putt everything out, no conceded putts, so his “course record” would be legit.

John’s course-adjusted handicap that day was 11, an honest 11. A reasonable prediction would have him scoring in the low 80’s plus or minus 5 strokes. Let me be clear about one thing. The guys in our weekend group are not inclined to make outrageous bets. A one-dollar Nassau is more our style. But, if John had been so bold that day as to suggest he would flirt with the course record, there’s not a guy in our group who wouldn’t have offered a sizable bet against him – even if he had made the prediction halfway through the round. Thankfully John is not the bragging type or who knows what might have happened. What did happen was John quietly found The Zone for an entire 18-hole round. He hit fairways and greens like a pro and made putts like a machine. When he wasn’t perfect, he made up for it on the next shot. The nearest he came to slipping out of The Zone was at the par five 12th hole. Hitting hole-high in two shots, he chunked his chip shot, but maintained his composure and got up and down to save par. In the end, John Smith accomplished the inconceivable for a weekend golfer: 3 under par, 69 gross score, 58 net score, and soundly beating the runner-up 4-handicapper by 8 strokes!

As I’ve already stated, The Zone is not an exclusive club for athletes. musicians, writers, actors, artists, managers, manufacturers, health care workers, teachers, engineers, clerks, and salesmen can also find it in their professions. In fact, anyone, professional or not, could someday find himself in The Zone. The principles of professionalism described throughout this series simply increase the odds of getting there more often, staying there much longer, and doing so when it counts the most.

God Bless,

— CC

[ Y=Youth | Index ]

© Copyright February 2009, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

Make Way for Youth

The ABC’s of Professionalism

What do kids have to do with a series of essays about professionalism? Everything! Let’s start with legacy. A professional takes his legacy seriously, knowing his “self portrait” will create a ripple effect through multiple generations. Youth, especially those within his circle of influence, are influenced by what they see probably more than anyone will ever know.

“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
— John W. Whitehead, The Stealing of America, 1983

“Young people need models, not critics…”
— John Wooden

“What we desire our children to become, we must endeavor to be before them”
— Andrew Combe

While children are especially aware of how adults manage their lives they also learn from their own experiences. Allowing children to participate with adults in challenging, real life situations is just as important as what they learn through observation.

If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”
— Abigail Van Buren

“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.”
— Stacia Tauscher, Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes, 1997, p. 57.

These are times influenced by the mindset that childhood and adolescence are periods of freedom from any real responsibility. “Let kids be kids — don’t rush them through their childhood.” reflects the predominant contemporary philosophy. As warm and fuzzy as this attitude seems, it is cheating our kids. There is a more significant role kids can and should be playing in the adult world long before they turn 21. If we don’t allow and encourage this, we are stealing their opportunities for success.

“Society doesn’t expect much of anything from young people during their teen years – except trouble. And it certainly doesn’t expect competence, maturity, or productivity.”
– Alex & Brett Harris, Do Hard Things, 2008, p.36.

“Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.”
— Robert A Heinlein (1907–1988), American novelist, science fiction writer. Time Enough for Love, 1974, p. 270.

“Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too zealously, to make it easy for them.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It’s a long and challenging process, making responsible adults from helpless infants. Raising children means loving and respecting them enough to make personal, continuous, and substantial investments in their lives.

“If you haven’t time to help youngsters find the right way in life, somebody with more time will help them find the wrong way.”
— Frank A. Clark

A generous portion of this investment can be in the form of good old-fashioned fun. Children are usually better at fun than adults. Before they get hooked on video games, kids will spend hours exercising their imaginations by playing make-believe games. (Maybe they don’t know this is part of the learning process.)

“Children find everything in nothing; men find nothing in everything.”
— Giacomo Leopardi (1798–1837), Italian poet, essayist, philosopher, philologist.

“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.”
— Walt Streightiff

“I always won in my imagination. I always hit the game-winning shot, or I hit the free throw. Or if I missed, there was a lane violation, and I was given another one.”
— Mike Krzyzewski

In the area of creativity, adults can learn from kids. In their spare time, adults could be engaging their minds with mental exercises instead of “vegging-out” in front of a television.

“That’s another thing, we made up games. We didn’t have equipment. When it snowed, we would play slow motion tackle football. We would play hockey, but we wouldn’t skate. We just made things up. I loved doing that.
— Mike Krzyzewski

At the risk of sounding like an advocate for child labor camps and sweat shops, I propose that a healthy childhood should also include a substantial measure of work. Children are not helpless creatures. They deserve the opportunity to mature and learn responsibility through work experiences.

“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world”
— Maria Montessori

“Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right”
– Bible, Proverbs 20:11

“If you want to see what children can do, you must stop giving them things.”
— Norman Douglas

Most kids are willing and even waiting to be challenged. When adults care enough to provide challenging opportunities, it is amazing to see how often kids meet our expectations. Set the bar low and that’s what they aspire to. Set it higher and they rise to meet it. How else do you explain 14-year old world class gymnasts, 18-year old world record holders, and teenage entertainment icons? Now, if we ever become as serious about our minds as we are about our sports and entertainment, watch out!

“Youth is a period of missed opportunities.”
— Cyril Connolly

Children are born with no fears — adults have many. Between birth and adulthood, something must happen to create fears where none existed at birth. The fact that we have the capacity for fear implies that it must have survival value. But, how many fears are irrational, unnecessary, and stifling? Which ones are caused by well-meaning parents trying to protect their children? How many could be avoided by helping children experience new things before they learn to be afraid?

“Fear always springs from ignorance.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Fear breeds fear.”
— Byron Janis

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
— Frank Herbert (1920-1986), American science fiction author. Dune, Litany Against Fear, 1965.

So, for the good of our children and the future of mankind, we need more adults to challenge our kids, nurture their creativity, and resist the temptation to shelter them from every difficult situation.

“In the final analysis it is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”
— Ann Landers

There’s a second and perhaps less obvious reason for including youth in adult opportunities. Adults learn from kids. Children can introduce fresh creativity to a conversation. Their questions and comments can help adults see the world in a new light. A child’s innocent inquiry can cause an adult to rethink an old opinion or idea. Wouldn’t it be a powerful combination for adults to combine the benefits of their experience with the optimism and unconstrained creativity of a child?

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
— Pablo Picasso

“A child can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer.”
— Author Unknown

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.”
— Franklin P. Jones

“Children are unpredictable. You never know what inconsistency they’re going to catch you in next.”
— Franklin P. Jones

So, what should we do? Here are four practical suggestions for adults who accept their responsibility toward our youth.

Say “Yes!” to Youth — When a child asks to join the party, let him. When he wants to help clean the garage, find a way to include him. Of course, not every project or adult gathering is appropriate for every child. My observation is that the more wholesome an adult’s lifestyle, the fewer gatherings are off-limits to children.

Invite Youth — People are sometimes leery about asking to join in — kids more so because they have been trained to believe they don’t belong. Adults probably need to make the first gesture and always with sincerity. Not every invitation will be accepted. That’s okay. Treat that first invitation is an icebreaker and keep on inviting. When the kids in question are not your own, invite them several at a time. There is safety and comfort in numbers.

Engage Youth — When children are included, help them feel the value of their presence. Ignoring them or treating them like they are “in the way” is not very uplifting. Introduce them. Brag on them. Include them in the conversation. Let them join the fun. If it’s a work project, give them a task and the appropriate responsibility. Show them how to be successful. Praise their efforts and results and help them improve as necessary. Treat them like partners.

Join Hands With Youth — Kids really can contribute. When we create in ourselves and in the minds of our youth an attitude of partnership, they will respond accordingly. As they reach their objectives, raise the bar. Give them more responsibility. Help them find opportunities to branch out on their own toward larger challenges. For example, demonstrating proficiency in cutting grass in your own yard qualifies them to volunteer their skills for an elderly neighbor or start to a yard care business.

Please don’t misconstrue these four ideas. None of them is intended to imply that adults should forfeit their rightful status as authority figures in order to make friends with children. Folks who trade authority for friendship will always lose respect during the exchange. The professional approach requires preserving one’s roles as parent, teacher, mentor, and/or coach.

George Zimmerman taught music first throughout the City of Dayton public schools and later at the University of Dayton. Many thousands of people, I’m guessing, know George as a musician, artist, writer, entertainer, teacher, broadcaster, organizer, and/or a great cook. Many also knew him during their childhood and young adult years as a mentor and friend. He excelled in teaching people to appreciate music and theater. George was also fond of inviting college students, two or three at a time, to his home for a special meal and pleasant conversation. I remember his home being filled with photographs and other artifacts of his personal treasures. What are these treasures? To this day, George’s trademark of professionalism is displayed in the kids he’s taught, his treasures. His life has been dedicated to taking excellent care of them and helping preserve, enhance, and showcase their unique qualities. Our youth need more friends like George.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
— Frederick Douglass

God Bless,

— CC

[ X=eXcellence | Index | Z=Zone ]

© Copyright February 2009, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com