When Was the Last Time…

When was the last time you did something for the first time? This may sound like a funny question, but think about it for a moment. When was the last time you did something for the first time? This thought-provoking question is found in William C. Taylor’s Simply Brilliant. The book focuses on how to determine if you are pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone or playing it safe.

A couple of my favorite stories in the book involve Kellogg’s and WD-40. In 2013, the Wall Street Journal asked about the most innovative project currently being worked on at Kellogg’s. The CEO informed them that they were in the process of creating peanut butter Pop-Tarts. I find this response very interesting. Nothing against peanut butter, but a new type of the same product doesn’t seem very innovative. That response from Kellogg’s CEO is an example of playing it safe (and is still talked about in those terms today).

WD-40 was also playing it safe. They had the same product, market share, and net income for several decades. The company was stuck and a little boring, and they knew it. In 2009 they formed the Team of Tomorrow, which sparked a transformation into a learning organization. As a result, they began pushing their teams outside their comfort zones and encouraging their employees to take chances. Soon a new motto was born: “Remember Ancora Imparo” – Michelangelo’s quote, “I am still learning.”

It had been a long-time since Kellogg’s or WD-40 did something for the first time. The difference is that WD-40 finally did something about it. They got unstuck by trying something new and different. The team at WD-40 worked through their fears, got comfortable being uncomfortable, and, ultimately, the company flourished. The question, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” is a catalyst for growth and learning. Even if you don’t feel like you’re living in your comfort zone, I challenge you to ask this question. Ask yourself, your colleagues, or your family. You may be surprised at the answers you receive. A little discomfort can result in a powerful journey and a positive impact.

Scott Peterson, CEO