There must be a better way...
By Jacki Hart, CLP
Program manager, Prosperity Partners

I received an e-mail this week from an exasperated landscaper. The first thing that came to mind, as I was reading it was, "Buddy, you're not alone!" His frustrations are many, coming from every direction. He was pushed out of his comfort zone long ago, well beyond growing and learning and deep into panic and terror. Let me explain...

A cell phone rings every few minutes, distracting him from the job at hand. On the other end the message usually brings less-than-great news about a project gone awry, or an impatient customer. This is on top of long hours out in the field, skipped meals and a drive-thru diet, paperwork mounting up on his desk, endless streams of voice and e-mails to return, a fever pitch of panic in every breath, and the pull from family to spend more time (which he doesn't have) with them.

I have been exactly where he is right now. And I hated every minute of it. And, I remember saying to myself over and over, "There must be a better way to make a living at landscaping." Well, there is. I suggest that if you are even close to sinking where this guy is deeply mired, the road back to sanity starts with understanding this little tool of four circles. Change and relief will start to wash over you when you learn the difference between being pushed outwards from one zone to the other, and intentionally choosing to move between them towards the centre.

Using the Growth Worksheet

Here's how the chart works: When you are in your Comfort Zone, things are moving along fairly predictably. It's perhaps hectic and intense, but all within your realm of expertise, resources and ability.

When you move into the Growth Zone, you become challenged and stretched. The farther out on the growth circle you move, the more challenging things are. It's here that you test new skills, learn new things, apply your talent and wisdom in a new way, and generally 'grow' your experience and scope of competence. You expand your inner circle of comfort by regularly moving into growth, trying something new until you get it right and the new experience becomes comfortable.

However, the rubber really hits the road when you are thrust beyond gradual growth and are shoved head-first into the Panic Zone. The Panic Zone occurs when you end up in so many areas just to attend your business. It becomes an area with which you are not comfortable, or have not had the time, resources or interest to grow comfortable. It becomes overwhelming in quantity, complexity and urgency.

Terror hits when you stay in the Panic Zone too long, and are unable to move situations that have caused your terror. You can't get back into more controllable growth or comfortable management. When you endure too many things that make you feel panicky for a prolonged period of time, your days at work are filled with terror. A common denominator of terror, by this definition, is usually accompanied by a major business interruption or financial problem (i.e. the bank manager calls trying to avoid repossessing equipment, cash flow is so bad that you can't make payroll, or you have just lost a key person to illness, injury (perhaps yourself) or resignation. Things start to unravel around you at a terrifying rate.

In the Prosperity Partners introductory seminar, business owners learn about their comfort zones, where they are growing or are willing to grow, and about those areas of their business which are most likely to press them into panic, or even potentially terror — should they choose not to manage them properly. The Prosperity Best Practices seminar focuses on expanding the comfort and growth zones with tools, templates and sample policies to control the situations that create panic and terror commonly found in our industry's businesses.

The fellow who e-mailed me last week is a great candidate to benefit from the Prosperity Partners program. Are you?

Check for more Prosperity Partnership opportunities.

Jacki Hart is available by e-mail at