In an earlier post, I ended with the questions, “What’s the worst that can happen? Can you live with that?” My parents have always been well traveled – I was born in Bukavu, a small village on the Rwandan border of the Republic of the Congo – but they had never really traveled in their own back yard. Last summer, they took a trip with my sister and brother-in-law and an old, restored camper across the great fruited plains of America. This year, they got their own camper and set out on their own for another trip across America. They chose to get out of their comfort zone.

I know: good for them, right? What’s my point? It’s this: do something nuts. Do something you’ve never done. The picture at the top of this post? That’s my mother. She’s in her 70s, and she has never once ever before gone fishing. Until last week.

Getting Out of Our Comfort Zone is Hard

We are all creatures of habit, some more than others. I love a routine, and once I’m in a nice groove for diet, exercise, work, play, hobbies, home improvements, or anything else, I get a lot done. When that routine gets broken – like it does every summer when the kids are out of school – I get far less done. However, it’s during those non-routine times that I am most able and willing to try new stuff, crazy stuff, non-comfort-zone stuff.

Why Is It So Much Fun?

Many studies have proven that change is good for our bodies, our minds, our spirits, and our overall emotional health. Here are a few examples.

  • Workouts – the whole cross-fit craze is based on NOT doing the same old fitness routine day after day. Instead, throw a huge tire around, jump over a box, climb a wall. Challenge your body to do new things, and you will get new results. On the other hand, if you run 5 miles everyday for 10 years, you’ll be in shape for exactly that one exercise, but not much else. The more you change things up on your muscles, the more muscle growth you get.
  • Vacations – why do you feel refreshed after a good vacation? Change. Bust up that routine and do some crazy stuff…for a while. Yes, every now and then someone goes on vacation and never comes back…like my parents. They lived in Massachusetts for 20 years until they visited the low country of South Carolina. They bought a house and never looked back.
  • New Jobs – remember the last time you started a new job? Talk about an adrenaline rush! That first week is exhausting, hopefully in a good way. Then you settle into a routine, form new cadences, new habits based on your location, coworkers, customers, etc. It’s a change that wakes up your senses.
  • Surprises – Sometimes good, sometimes bad. I recall one episode when we returned from a weekend away from Atlanta to a massive rain storm. Our garage was all wet. Not flooded, but all wet. Because it had never done that before, we knew something had changed. At 11pm at night, we figured out that the gutter beside the garage had clogged and then broken, and all the water that should have gone out into the yard had been redirected into the garage. Surprise! But who knew I was capable of dismantling and then reconstructing a clogged gutter in the middle of the night. In the rain. After a long weekend, knowing I had to get up at 6am and get to work the next day.


We Should Do This More Often

We learn so much about ourselves when we get knocked out of our comfort zone that we really should plan to get out of our comfort zone more often. Now, back to my mom. Never fished before in her life, and to put it into her words:

After we set up Hilda (they named their camper) we decided to try fishing for our dinner.  The campground has you use their equipment and they are nearby to coach newbies.  Roscoe insisted I try my hand at this fishing thing – took 20 seconds to get a BIG bite and another five minutes to work him in.  OMG – this is one big trout!!!  Weighed in at 7.75 pounds and 24″ long.  I have been wishing for fresh trout since our trip out West last year – be careful what you wish for!!!  We found fresh bagels in town so after our dinner tonight we will have bagels and “trouty-cream cheese spread” for breakfast.  The rest?  We may have to knock on camper doors tomorrow and give it away.
Get out of your comfort zone and try something new!
Remember, she’s retired. She doesn’t have to do anything. She could be working in her garden like she does almost ever day. Or taking a long walk, playing bridge, reading, or watching House of Cards. Instead, she decided to get out of her comfort zone and go trout fishing!

Every. Single. Day.

Bringing this thought full circle back to entrepreneurs and startups: if you are ever in a comfort zone in a startup, you’re doing it wrong. Every single day should be a surprise, a challenge, a trout fishing when you’ve never been trout fishing adventure. You won’t always catch a trophy on your first try.

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