GenFab, Motivation

Surfing Outside The Safe Zone



I think one of the best ways of feeling vibrant and focussed is to surf outside of your safe zone. Do something that extends your experience – whether it is personally or professionally.

I often think the only point in knowing your limits is to push past them. This could mean grasping the offer of promotion at work or signing up for a sports challenge that you know will mean you have to ramp up your existing level of activity by quite some margin.

When I was a teenager I used to call this jumping in at the deep end. Chris McDougall, the author of the wonderful book Born to Run, calls it jumping in the swimming hole.

Last week the new editor of Cosmo UK, Farrah Storr, confirmed she is a member of the same club. Presented with the option to move outside of her comfort zone, that is nearly always what she ends up doing.

At a lunch at the Bingham Hotel in Richmond, to raise money for the Victoria Foundation UK, Farrah told her audience that at almost every point in her working life she had chosen to take the risky road. Apparently, playing safe wonders into her mind and then straight out the other side.

When she took over as Editor of Women’s Health she inherited a staff of one and an almost non-existent budget. Yet with just three years she turned the title around by pushing herself and her staff – newly acquired – beyond their known limits.

When she was offered the post as the new editor of Cosmo UK, she knew she faced the biggest challenge of her career to date. Cosmo is an iconic magazine. Founded by the late Helen Gurley Brown, it has always occupied a special place in the consciousness of a generation of women my age (other side of 50). But it has always set its cap at younger women delivering a menu of provocative copy, racy features and sexually explicit advice. I still remember buying the first issue which had a naked man on the centre fold.

In an era of declining magazine sales, it has to maintain its status as a ground-breaking publication and appeal to a new readership. This is not easy but it is Farrah’s challenge.

Of course she could have navigated a different course. She and her husband live in the depths of Kent and going into battle very day in a high octane environment cannot be easy. She had considered opening a spa and using her knowledge gathered at WH but instead she chose the choppy waters of magazine journalism. Very brave indeed.

She has been at the helm for six months. The features are if anything more uncompromising and the opinion is guaranteed to the shake things up a little. The survey on where women could get a massage with something extra pole-axed her audience at the Bingham. Farrah has dropped the cover price from £4.00 to £1.00 and will offer the magazine for free at some outlets, a move partly instigated by the success of Stylist magazine, she says.
So far so good. It is early days and no-one really knows what the future holds for women’s magazines in general or Cosmo UK is particular.

Farrah, though, knows one thing. Nothing comes of nothing and surfing outside of the safe zone can have extra-ordinary results.