Step Away From the Office

Article by Frank TraditiMy wife and I were driving home from a camping trip when we pulled up behind a car and I noticed an array of bumper stickers. I couldn’t quite make out what message the owner was trying to get across. My wife picked it up right away — they were isolationists.

The message was essentially, stick close to home. Don’t fight other people’s battles. Don’t be concerned about other people’s problems. If you don’t put yourself out there, you won’t have to deal with the possibility of failure. Then it hit me. This is what independent professionals experience every day.

Isolation from the world as an independent professional can be liberating. No boss to hound you. You finally feel a sense of freedom. You have your own schedule and feel like you can do pretty much what you want, whenever you want. If you don’t want to communicate with anyone today, don’t do it.

The computer in your office becomes your best friend — kind of like your dog. It gives you company when you want it. It doesn’t talk back (unless it crashes) and it provides unconditional support (almost always). It gives you a great excuse not to go out and meet new people. You can do it all online!

And, best of all, you don’t have to explain to another person what you do, try to market yourself, or hear other people’s complaints.

Perhaps the last networking event you went to was awful. You got no leads and nobody wanted to talk to you. After all, who really cares about what you do, how you help solve problems, or what you need anyway? So you stopped going out. But it’s not working so well.

  • You sent out marketing materials, but nobody has called.
  • You haven’t done anything to increase your network.
  • You’ve lost touch with people who could help you.
  • You don’t want to re-contact people you haven’t talked to in months.
  • You feel embarrassed to go back out into society, like you’ve lost your edge.

So, you stay in your office where it’s safe.

If you’ve experienced this business professional’s version of isolationism, then you are a member of a big club. It’s really easy to get caught up in the safety and comfort of staying isolated. Nobody’s there to tell you what to do or hold you accountable. Sitting and hoping for things to happen is much easier than doing the work to make it happen.

While there is no magic formula to snap you out of the habit of isolating, there are some things you can do to help you step away from the office. I’ll offer up a few suggestions for fellow “isolationists” in the business world:

  • Call up a friend and take them out for a cup of coffee or a drink. Just the smell of something other than your stale office air can help.
  • Go to a lecture sponsored by your local library, bookstore, community group or business association. You don’t have to say a word to anyone. Just being there will make you feel better.
  • Look at your local newspaper, business journal or online news outlet. Find the events calendar. Seek out an event that sounds like it might be fun or educational. It could be business related or relevant to a hobby or interest of yours.
  • Take a former colleague from the last company you worked at to lunch. Maybe they are dealing with some stress. Give them a “Get Well Soon” card. You’ll both get a laugh out of it.
  • Go to a neighborhood sporting or cultural event at your local high school or community center. People are generally in a good mood here. Capture that enthusiasm. You never know who you might meet.
  • Volunteer for a charitable organization. It’s fun, rewarding, and you’ll work alongside some great people. If you’ve got a special skill, offer to use it for one of these organizations. Again, you never know who you might meet.

Try not to get trapped in the world of isolation. There are people out there who really do care about who you are and what you do. And even more importantly, there are people, companies, and organizations that could really use your help.

So please, step away from the office.

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