How Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone Helps You Grow

The wine and spirits industry does so much to enhance the enjoyment of others, but jobs are stress-filled, and women often find themselves struggling to attain advancement and personal fulfillment. Amanda Wittstrom Higgins, Ancient Peaks Winery’s operations VP, founded DreamBigDarling.org to help the next generation of women in wine and spirits forge a “fire in the belly” that will help them excel. Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. Operations Manager Lauren Barrett, known to many as the organizer of the Battle of the Bartenders (Nov. 4), was selected for a full scholarship to this year’s Dream Big fall retreat. She agreed to share her journey with us.

After a few days in the quaint town of Paso Robles, treating myself to some reflection time, I drove to Santa Margarita, California, for the retreat. The 30-minute drive through thousands of acres of multi-varietal grapevines to Ancient Peaks Winery was breathtaking. 

Despite the beauty of the surroundings, I was anxious about placing myself in a group of highly successful young wine professionals. Dressed like a tomboy and hailing from an East Coast distillery, how would I relate to these seasoned wine pros?

As the other women trickled in, I stepped into a bland, vanilla version of myself, capable of introduction to even the most intimidating person in the room. It didn’t help; I was terrified!

At a lively welcome reception, we all met our hostess, Amanda, whose family is one of three that owns Ancient Peaks. She is at once incredible, magnetic, generous, innovative, well-spoken, funny and beautiful. Her ease and genuineness make her the person toward whom everyone gravitates in a crowd.

Then, without warning, we were whisked into Hummers and deposited at a zipline running through the beautiful property. I was immediately in the moment and just grateful to be me. 

Throughout the retreat, industry professionals gave presentations that spoke of goals, coping with failure, and their journeys to the top. Some takeaways:

  • We should never be afraid to pivot and reinvent ourselves.
  • Our thoughts create our feelings, our feelings create our actions, and actions create results.
  • Have a long-term vision that makes the short-term tasks worth it.
  • Find something that absolutely feeds you.
  • Get out of the cycle of convincing yourself to stay put with respect to both your professional and personal life.

Leaving the first session to reflect around a campfire, I met Nancy, a young, spirited Paso Robles native, who sat next to me and immediately sensed my vulnerability. She put me at ease and assured me she was right by my side if I needed her help. I thanked her with tears in my eyes and admitted I did not believe myself worthy to be chosen for this scholarship. She admitted the same, sparking a most surprising conversation with the whole group. What a shock to learn we all felt the same inadequacy!

Then it hit us; this was why we were there: to grow, learn confidence, become leaders, resolve to become the very best at what we do, and never stop moving up. 

I now know that it’s never too late to become what you might have been. I show gratitude and reflect on the things that will make me happy each morning. And, I continue to work on pushing myself out of my comfort zone to prove that you can be anything you put your mind to.