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Discomfort is the New Comfort Zone

Tom Friedman of the New York Times writes eloquently about the effects of globalization and technology on governments and companies. In his excellent Sunday Op-Ed, titled, “Help Wanted,” he talks about today’s era as one of the “great unravelings,” on par with the periods after the two World Wars, when countries, even continents, were being reborn amidst uncertainty.

Though he is speaking of the current, bottom-up rise in power of connected individuals to topple dictators and change previously immutable governments, he notes that this same bottom-up movement is also enabling individuals to shape their careers out of the traditional mold. And businesses that once pushed products and services on their own terms, now engage in a two-way dialogue, as the power has shifted to the individual consumer.

As a Baby Boomer, I’m accustomed to change being on the menu every morning when I get to work. I interact daily with a client mix of other Boomers, Gen X’rs and now Millennials, the first generation to come of age in this century. One of the reasons some Boomers I see are struggling to find a comfort zone is a lack of recognition that discomfort is the new comfort zone.

I was at a party recently for a rising technology startup and met a young man who had recently graduated as a creative writing major from a liberal arts college. I asked him how he landed in a job and at a company so unrelated to his major.

“The best two things I learned in school had nothing to do with creative writing,” he said. “I learned how to ask the right questions and I can learn software pretty fast.” I nodded my head. “Oh, and I like change,” he added.