Of Socks & Squares, or How Traditionalists can take Baby Steps out of Comfort Zones

Ships in Harbour

I attended a conclave where a large part of the audience were males in their mid fifties. Impeccably dressed.

I tweeted. “Never seen so many pocket squares in one room.” I was fascinated, for as people passed by me, the elegantly folded, severe squares that were matching colours, belonged to the older brigade, the nonchalant styles, that were carefully yet carelessly tucked in in contrasts were worn by the younger lot.

I was reminded of a twitter conversation, where someone asked what the norm was for socks for business meetings. Some came back with the acceptable – “darker than suit” answers and some, happily, responded with brights, and even went to the lengths of saying Mickey Mouse, Superman and such, Thankfully no one said white. <shudder>. The discussion veered rapidly to acceptability, comfort zones and mindsets.

A client – senior leader, very well respected, had a working topic with me which was exactly that. He bravely admitted he had a rigid mindset. It was challenging to move out of his mould. He said, “Aparna, I am uncomfortable with quick change. Often, when I attend meetings I am out of context with the pace and terminology that is being used especially by the new lot. I tend to play the quiet serious leader, but inside, I am quite nervous.”

I know what he means, When it was announced that Flipkart valuation was higher than that of stalwarts like UltraTech Cement, Hero MotoCorp,Tata Steel, Dr Reddy’s, Bank of Baroda it boggled people’s minds. And then the traditionalist pushback. This change was too much, too quick, a bubble waiting to burst and somewhere a bit unfair.

People fear moving out of their comfort zones yet that’s the only place one learns. Here are a few exercises traditionalists can start with that will help expand or stretch zones. Choose what works for your personality. They are small measured risks. (or opportunities) When you feel discomfort, notice what you are resisting and make a mental note of it.

Some exercises to get you started, depending on what kind of traditionalist you associate best with.

  1. The Quiet Traditionalist:

Start with doing something in your quiet space. Read young adult books. There are many – Divergent Trilogy, Heroes of Olympus, Half Bad trilogy.  Does Game of Thrones drive you nuts for its weird fantasy? Bring yourself to watch at least 5 episodes, wildlings and all.  As a next step, wear those bright socks. With formal suits for business meetings. Ladies try a flowery blouse with a traditional Kanjeevaram sari, or try striped blouses with checked skirts. It can all be done beautifully. I saw a lady wearing a houndstooth blouse with a traditional pink Chanderi.  It may disturb you in ways; it may even raise some eyebrows, but go with it for a few weeks.

  1. The Traditionalist Doer:  

Download apps that you can order stuff from. Whether its books, electronics, groceries or even clothes.  Download music on your computer. Transfer it to listen to in your car. Whether it’s a plug in USB or simply using Bluetooth. Or simply clean up your phone book and sync on all your devices. Yourself. Take it a step further and go rogue with torrent. (Disclaimer: illegal) It will make you interact with technology and also learn to toggle programs. And you may go “aaaaargh”. I did on this one.  

  1. The Social Bee Traditionalist.

Go for a drink with the young smart team in your office. Start with just 3-4 people. Watch how they interact with each other, see what kind of language they use, what kind of things they are up to. Imbibe, listen, let them open up. Take notes at the end of the evening as to what was it you admired about them. It will help lower your resistance.  Get onto Twitter. Use an alias if you want to experiment, instead of your real name. As scary as it may seem, it will force you to frame sentences concisely, connect, observe people of all ages and engage with different points of view. Your mind will be moulded to learn the new acronymical language of twitter, which is no longer the antiquated WYSIWYG.

  1. The Traditional Strategist:

Go zip wiring or rock climbing. It will make you to move your body out of its ergonomic rigid positions in the office and take big steps towards doing scary stuff that will also give you access to the big picture.Try quick-reflex thinking games. Eliss, Kero Blaster, Grand Theft Auto and the tough 868 Hack are all great.

Step away from those Comfort Zones
Step away from those Comfort Zones


See what it is that makes you uncomfortable. And take note of what bothers you. Look for patterns in your resistance. Experiencing change is uncomfortable, but it is liberating. You won’t lose your essence, but will grow your presence and influence.  Keep pushing the edges of your comfort zone, and those meetings will soon be a cinch, and you will be far more nimble. An essential trait today.




Aparna Jain is an Integral Corporate & Mental Coach. This is a micro-coaching column on success that is integrally informed. Inputs, Ideas, questions? Write to me: aparna@zebraa.in




Leave a reply