How Positive Social Risks Accelerate Personal Growth

Last week, I traveled across the country to spend a week with strangers. I left my cozy home office and integrated into an audience of more 100,000 people at the New Media Expo (NMX) and National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas.

Every time I stepped into the crowded elevators, found a seat in the seminar rooms, or lingered in line at a restaurant, I put myself out there. I said hello to people of all types, including well-known authors, corner-office executives, creative mommy bloggers, and startup entrepreneurs.

Each introduction was scary. Would I be ignored and looked down upon, or would the stranger happily engage in conversation, proving my attempts to connect were a positive social risk?

Moving Beyond the Routine

Chad Littlefield, a senior studying rehabilitation, human services, and psychology at Pennsylvania State University, encourages everyone to step outside their comfort zone and experience life in a new way by taking positive social risks.

As Littlefield explained in a TED Talk, when you do this, “you can begin to see people as people with depth and stories, feelings, fears, and aspirations, and not as objects that move around, get in your way, or vehicles that serve your purposes. And when you begin to see people as real people, the barrier that separates and isolates us from other people begins to disappear.”

He’s right. On the first day of the conference, I felt out of place. New. Inexperienced. I was intimidated by the accomplishments of the writers around me, and I felt isolated. But then I started introducing myself. I peeked over my own barriers.

Quickly, I realized that everyone at the conference was there for the same reason: to learn and grow. We’re all at different stages of our careers, but collectively we want to improve and feel inspired by the presentations.

Seeing Personal Growth

By the second day of the conference, those personal roadblocks were gone. I was networking in groups, meeting up with friends, and having conversations on social media with new connections. Taking multiple positive social risks and stepping outside my quiet, internal comfort zone as a writer made the trip even more successful than anticipated.

In addition to learning from the presenters, I also gained valuable insight from those I sparked on-a-whim conversations with. We often shared similar struggles, questions, and triumphs. It was refreshing to chat with people who understand me.

I’m not alone in a world of entrepreneurship. And neither are you. Every day, you pass people whose experiences probably parallel your own life in some way. Why not get to know them?

Image source: Flickr