Break the habit of playing it safe

128: 4 Simple ways to break free from a rut of small thinking. Finally

If you want to deliver a remarkable customer experience, consistently - you've got to have fresh ideas that deviate from the norm. That means you can't stay stuck in thinking small. Here's how to ditch that kind of thinking once and for all


Listen to the 15-minute episode here:

*This episode is adapted from an article I wrote that first appeared on


Welcome to The Customer Magnet Show, which is all about helping you create remarkable experiences that win you more customers. Consistently.

I’m your host Sonia Thompson and today – we are kicking off a brand new show. After 127 episodes over 2.5 years, I Am the One: Entrepreneur Edition has officially been retired.

But not to worry, if you’d ever like to listen to any of those shows, they are still available – you can find every last one of them over at

But today, I introduce you to a new show, that will dive deeper into specifics of how to get the customers you want and keep them coming back for more.

Here on The Customer Magnet Show, we’ll cover practically how to deliver remarkable experiences for your customers, including the behind the scenes elements that make it possible.

There will be a mix of featured experts who will cover a specific topic, other guests who will talk about their in the trenches experiences, and solo episodes where I’ll teach on a particular topic or idea.

We’re going to kick off this new show with a solo episode, on an idea that has plagued all of us at some point in our lives and careers.

But real quick, before we dive into the show I want to let you know that this episode is brought to you by The Customer Magnet Playbook – it is a free 7-part mini-course that walks you through the essential elements your business needs to win more customers.

It comes with insights from experts, science-backed data, and action items to help you start applying the lessons immediately.

Head on over to to get access.

Alright – on to the show.

It can happen to the best of us. We work hard towards our goals. We get in a rhythm, a routine, and we have a good idea of what works for us.

But then one day you hear someone in your network talking about a new project they are working on that is innovative and cool. And then you look at your work, your goals, and wonder why you’ve yet to achieve that breakthrough you crave.

It’s not that you’re not capable of playing on a larger level. It’s just that it can be easy to get lulled into doing what’s always been done, and following the roadmap, rather than venturing out to explore uncharted territories.

But if you want to get above average returns for your efforts, you’ve got to break the habit of playing it safe.

18-time best-selling author Seth Godin preaches this approach as well, “the only people who get paid enough, get paid what they’re worth, are the people who don’t follow the instruction book, who create art, who are innovative, who work without a map.”

It’s time for you to start playing on a bigger scale. Here are 4 ways to get you ready to do it.

1. Upgrade your network

Spend time with people who inspire you to push your boundaries and do more. Learning from their experiences will shine a light on what is possible for you. Too much time rubbing elbows with people content with the status quo will limit your ability to see beyond.

I’ve experienced both sides of this. A few years ago, I found myself in a rut of small thinking – and as I look back on that period of my life, I realize that a major driver of why I was stuck was due to the people I was surrounding myself with. Now – this is no dig at them – they were doing the best they could to live a life that suited them. But their perspective was limited by their frame of reference, which was largely influenced by their environment and what they’d been exposed to in their life.

As a result, I often found myself being the one to encourage and inspire them to do and be more, which didn’t always leave me with a full cup, to be able to do the same for myself.

Contrast that to today, where my business and my mindset is healthier than ever.

I’ve got a business coach I’ve worked with for the past few years who is wonderful. He’s opened my eyes up to a ton of new opportunities, ways of operating, and he consistently inspires me to push my boundaries beyond what I think is possible.

I’ve got friends who are doing big things, and serve as accountability partners. The more I talk with them and see the wins and gains they are making in their businesses, the easier it is for me to that what the big, scary goals I’ve set for myself – and to see that they are within reach.

So as you think about how to make an impact in your business – for you, your customers, your team, and even those in the community you live and work in – think about whether or not the people in your network are propelling you to go higher, or if they are unconsciously holding you back.

If you find that your network does need an upgrade, consider a coach, joining masterminds, joining different professional organizations, hiring consultants who can help transform your business and your thinking.

There are plenty of ways to upgrade your network – and it is critical that you do.

Make sure you are surrounding yourself with plenty of people who are smarter than you, who inspire you, and who challenge you to intentionally push beyond your comfort zone (more on that in a minute).

2. Look for inspiration outside your industry

When you look at the same examples as everyone else in your industry, it is all too common to produce a slightly modified version of what already exists. To break out of the sea of sameness, look for inspiration in unrelated fields.

That’s what Barry Gordy, founder of Motown did in the 1960’s. The label was able to consistently produce hit after hit for its iconic groups such as The Jackson 5, The Temptations, and The Supremes, largely because of their assembly line approach to developing records. That methodology was loosely based upon the assembly line at Ford, where Gordy previously worked.

Gordy adopted the idea of making development a team effort, and, as on an assembly line, each member of the team was given a specialized task to perform. He cultivated a group of experts who, working together, could take unrefined young singers and turn them into hit-makers ready to perform and promote the Motown product: records.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your business? Do you find that everything you pick up or learn is from people who do similar work to you?

Diversify the sources of your ideas and your inspiration. When I first started as an entrepreneur, I spend about a year immersing myself in the world of digital and content marketing. While I learned A TON – I soon realized that I needed to expand who I was learning from and drawing inspiration from.

This became especially clear once I started writing my column for Inc. As I worked with my editor, and listening to his feedback, I saw that my examples were limited – and weren’t as applicable or impactful on a broader scale.

So I started digesting best practices by watching and consuming content from sources that had nothing to do with business. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of best practices, fun ways of doing my work that nobody was doing in my industry. And it energized me to find new ways to approach my work and share my message.

As a result, I’ve better been able to differentiate myself – AND, I’ve developed a stronger voice that makes me more effective as I teach, train, and consult in my area.

You can diversify your inspiration sources by reading books external to your subject matter expertise, watch movies, listen to podcasts, or even go participate in activities that are different from your norm.

Once you stop drinking the same cool-aid that everyone else in your industry is – you’ll soon find new ways to add value to your audience that enable you to deliver more remarkable experiences for them.

3. Abandon your comfort zone

In his book, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be, Paul Arden warned against leaning on the comfort of your experience when it comes to tackling issues:

“Knowledge comes from the past, so it’s safe. It is also out of date. It’s the opposite of originality. Experience is built from solutions to old situations and problems. The old situations are probably different from the present ones, so that old solutions will have to be bent to fit new problems (and possibly fit badly). Also the likelihood is that, if you’ve got the experience, you’ll probably use it. This is lazy. Experience is the opposite of being creative.”

To get out of the habit of using your experience as the starting point for everything, step into the unknown. Get in the habit of trying new things.

One of the ways I’ve adopted this principle in my own life, is by moving to Argentina, where I live in an environment that is in many ways soooo different from my own.

When it comes to operating in Spanish, figuring out how to get things done, and just making a life for myself in a new culture – I’ve experienced countless uncomfortable moments.

But all these experiences have expanded my thinking, helped me get better at problem solving, and overall have made me more creative.

My business has benefited from this significantly as a result.

What I’d like you to do is make a list of the at least 5 things you are doing in your business that make you feel uncomfortable. What new things are you working on, what are the experiments that you are running to help you discover new paths forward that enable you to stay relevant while serving your customers better.

Now, this isn’t to say that everything you do needs to be new – because frankly, if there are initiatives in your business that are working well, by all means, don’t abandon them just for the sake of doing something new.

But – don’t get complacent. Your customers’ needs will evolve, as well as the market. So you’ll need to find creative ways to make sure you are evolving as well. Get uncomfortable, to help you discover the paths forward.

4. Seek out criticism

Ideas get stronger when they are battle tested by other smart thinkers. Instead of keeping your ideas to yourself, put them in front of other folks whose opinions you value, particularly those whose backgrounds and experiences are different from yours.

Ask your panel “how can I make this better?”

That’s what the Pixar team does to consistently produce outstanding work. Best-selling author David Burkus noted how Pixar battle-tests ideas as a part of their normal routine:

Every day teams gather first thing in the morning to review their work from the previous day. They examine each frame produced in turn and criticize nearly everything about it. No detail is too small to critique and no one is prohibited from arguing against the work of someone else. Everything from the angle of the lighting to the timing of certain sound effects is brought up and fought over. This intense process, sometimes called “shredding,” can be draining, but the Pixar teams know that the process is vital to their ability to release quality work again and again.

This area isn’t always the easiest for me to do – but I push through because I know getting feedback from others who aren’t going to just tell me everything I do is wonderful, will be beneficial.

A while ago, when I decided I wanted to produce more video to build out my YouTube channel – I sent a few episodes to some friends in my mastermind, as well as to another friend who is a journalist who I know wouldn’t hold back in letting me know he thought of what I produced.

And my network didn’t disappoint. They gave me some constructive feedback that helped me refine the videos, and how I approached doing them that made my end product better.

I also did this when I started to get serious about my writing. So I joined a writing course where I could not only learn different techniques, but where I could get direct feedback from the instructors on my work. I learned so much from their critiques, and it has helped me to refine a number of areas in my writing that needed work.

Who do you trust enough to give you constructive feedback on your work? You can do it with a peer group, who you know will be honest with you. You can target folks who have a particular area of expertise if you want them to comment on certain aspects of your work or ideas.

And you can hire people who will give you a critical eye to what you’re working on. That can be a coach, consultant, or someone else who’s job it is to make their clients do certain tasks better.

You can achieve major goals. But you’ve got to start thinking bigger about what you are capable of producing. And then you’ve got to engage in the habits that stretch your mind and abilities to enable you to do it.

Get in the habit of following the steps above, and leave small thinking behind once and for all.

That does it for today. I’d love to know – what do you think of the new show?

Send me a note and let me know – I’m at on email, or @soniaethompson on Twitter.

Until next time, remember. Business is about belonging.

So keep working on building a business that makes both your team and your customers feel like they belong with you.

Thanks for listening.

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