‘We are so accustomed to the comforts of “I cannot”, “I do not want to” and “it is too difficult”, that we forget to realise when we stop doing things for ourselves and expect others to dance around us, we are not achieving greatness. We have made ourselves weak.’ – Pandora Poikilos, author of Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out.
I recently met an incredible force of nature in Jade Hameister, a 16-year-old Melbourne student. In January 2018, Jade became the youngest person to ski coast to South Pole and the first woman to set a new route to the South Pole unsupported and unassisted. In doing this, she became the youngest person to complete the Polar Hat Trick (North Pole 2016, Greenland crossing 2017 and South Pole 2017). We are talking over 1,300km over three expeditions in 75 days! Check out her TEDtalk here.
Her story of courage, enthusiasm and inner fire got me thinking about what it means when we don’t take chances. What happens when we stay within our personal squishy squashy comfort zone sofas?
What does being in a comfort zone mean to you?
Does it mean that you are stable and able to cope with day-to-day life without feeling overwhelmed? Has it become more about keeping your head down and hidden whilst all around you goes crazy? Maybe it’s about keeping silent with your ideas or opinions, out of fear of shaking things up or upsetting others. Maybe the thought of sticking your neck out, doing something different and possibly failing or even looking stupid is way too scary?
What it absolutely does mean is staying static, not changing, not growing and in this world of busyness where business is trying desperately to keep up, those sitting in the comfort zone are at risk of becoming irrelevant.
Imagine if the late Steve Jobs hadn’t gone back to Apple as its CEO or invested in PiXAR. If he had been happy to say ‘well, I tried – and it didn’t work, so I will just stay where I think I may be comfortable.’ No iMac. No iPhone. No iPad. No visionary steering Apple to extraordinary heights.
Think of Instagram launching despite a declining market and against all advice. As Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said, Instagram was a company with “lots of buzz but no business model” – but it didn’t stop him from buying it for US$1billion in September 2012. He recognised the potential of what its creators had seen from the start. And they only saw it because they were prepared to take a chance.
There is no denying that stepping out of the safety of where you are most comfortable is scary as hell. It often means big ups and downs – a rollercoaster rather than a gentle turn on the merry-go-round. You will probably feel as though you are without a safety net much of the time, and that can be extremely confronting. This is when you have to pull on the network of you more than ever and imagine the possibilities of what could be.
In business, and in life, there is no free ride. It is those people who are willing to challenge themselves, who make themselves accountable for their own success, and ultimately their own happiness, who engage with others – who recognise the need to reach that little bit further or higher – who end up with the biggest satisfaction.
See yourself as an adventurer – take the leap.
You may stumble a little, admittedly – but ultimately?
You will fly.