“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Of the many vices that a man might fall for, there is one that is one that is more sinister and more devastating than all of the others.
While it might seem innocuous, this particular vice is more dangerous than any drug, any addiction, or any temptation that you might have, and what’s worse?
It disguises itself as a friend.
What am I referring to?
Yes, you heard that right.
Comfort is one of the most dangerous and seductive traps for which a man can fall and it is the fastest way to sabotage your success, goals, and aspirations.
But how can this be?
Afterall, it seems like our entire lives are nothing if not one long pursuit of more comfort!
Isn’t that what life’s all about?
While the more Epicurean among you might believe that comfort is a noble and worthy goal, I believe that most people reading this will resonate with the message that Bill shared in his TED talk and the message that I will be expanding on for the rest of this article.
Comfort will ruin your life.
It might not ruin it today, or tomorrow, but given enough time… It will always result in the ruin of your dreams and the crumbling of your aspirations.
Don’t believe me?
Then read on.
“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.” ~Henry Miller
Bill had a high-powered job and knew he was doing great work. One day, nine years ago, he came into the office and was called into a meeting with his boss.
The news? “We’re doing a reorganization, and you’re not in it.”
According to Bill, “His words sucked the breath out of me.”
After a drive home that “sucked,” he came into the door hours early to be met by a confused wife. Why was he home already? He told her the news and then preceded upstairs for a three-hour session of laying in the fetal position.
What would he do next?
Several hours later he called his kids into a meeting. He told them, “Dad lost his job today at work. I’ll be OK; we’ll be OK. We’ll make something happen.”
And that he did. Flash forward to a present time where Bill is the President of the EcSell Institute, impacting many more lives through his consultations and talks.
He says the one event of being fired created the greatest amount of discomfort and yet changed his life for the better.
From his story and the painful lessons learned along the way he sums up his philosophy: “What makes you comfortable can ruin you. Only in a state of discomfort can you continue to grow.”
The Growth Rings
“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” ~Benjamin Franklin
In the TED Talk, Bill described the four “Growth Rings” or environments that either inhibit or foster your personal growth.
Ring #1: Stagnation
When you are in stagnation, there is no movement or growth whatsoever… simply a status quo where excellence goes unrewarded and sloth goes unpunished.
Just think about an alcoholic or addict who does little or nothing to escape the chains of their current circumstance.
They continue in a spiral of comfort, refusing to grow, refusing to push themselves, to become uncomfortable and face their demons.
This is stagnation at its finest.
Ring #2: Order
The second growth ring is order.
Order relates to those predictable things in life that plod along as they always have. Jobs, income level, relationships, habits, patterns, etc.
When you are in a state of order, everything is (or seems to be) set in stone.
You are safe, you are secure… Or at least you believe that you are.
Examples of order include global standards such as laws and basic morality but this state of growth also extends to a more personal level.
And this is where it starts to become detrimental.
Yes, a certain level of predictability and security is a good thing. Knowing that you can put food on the table each and every week is not something that you should be ashamed of.
However, when you allow your entire life to become too ordered is when you begin to slowly slide into a false sense of comfort and security.
You no longer challenge your beliefs, you no longer push yourself to achieve more than the current levels, order is possibly the most dangerous growth ring of them all because everything feels ok.
Unlike those individuals caught in stagnation, you are not in a downwards spiral where you take no action.
Instead you simply in homeostasis.
You are in a “good” situation and you are not required to grow in any way to stay in that situation.
However, when you wake up and decide to move on to the next growth ring… That’s when things get interesting.
Ring #3: Complexity
Things get complicated when the order that we previously discussed is changed.
And when complexity is introduced into a system, so is growth.
When outcomes are no longer predictable and life knocks you out of your comfort zone, now you are ready and able to grow.
Just imagine the analogy of training in the gym.
When you start a new training regimen, you will probably do the same 4-5 exercises every time you train a specific muscle group.
But after a few months of training, you notice that your progress is starting to grind to a halt.
Your weight loss and strength gains have plateaued and you are left frustratedly staring at the wall wondering how to fix things.
Introduce elements of complexity.
In order to elicit more muscle growth and continued gains in the gym, you need to shake things up, you need to train new muscle groups, you need to try new exercises, and you need to make your body uncomfortable, introducing movement patterns that it has never been forced to deal with before.
This is true in the gym and it’s true in life.
If you want to grow and become the strongest version of yourself that you can be, then you must introduce complexity into your life (even in small doses).
Whether you pick up a new skill, decide to transfer to a new city, or simply start talking to more beautiful women, any complexity that you introduce into your life will kick you out of your comfort zone and help you grow into a stronger more grounded man.
Ring #4: Chaos
While complexity is often introduced intentionally and in small doses, chaos is not. Large-scale events – external or internal – that hold zero predictability and in which you have no input or influence. Giant business mergers, natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, or national emergencies such as 911.
When you enter the ring of chaos, you are in an environment with 0 predictability and very little control.
From company reorganizations to divorce to emergencies and natural disasters, chaotic situations are not comfortable and often they are completely unwanted.
However, they almost always result in massive levels of growth and action.
How to Get Into Complexity
“The comfort zone is the great enemy to creativity; moving beyond it necessitates intuition, which in turn configures new perspectives and conquers fears.” ~ Dan Stevens
The key to all personal growth and excellence is change and disruption.
However, too much change and too much adversity can break even the strongest among us (and we will discuss this in a moment).
The trick is to strike a balance.
To find that fine line between introducing growth-creating complexity and soul-crushing chaos.
So how do you enter into complexity and ensure that you are in a perpetual state of growth without being in a perpetual state of chaos and confusion?
Typically, complexity happens in one of three ways.
1. It is Forced Upon You
Straddling the line between complexity and chaos, this scenario is the proverbial “plot point” or beginning of your hero’s journey.
Maybe you are fired from your current position, undergo a challenging (but not devastating) breakup or divorce, or perhaps you are forced to cope with a rare medical condition that forces you to change your habits and daily routine.
Whatever the case, these events are rarely (if ever) invited into your life, however, they can be an incredible catalyst for growth and success if you learn to respond to them properly.
2. Someone Else Pushes You into Complexity
While this might seem like a redundant spin on the previous point, there is one subtle difference.
When someone pushes you into complexity it is done for you not to you.
When a boss fires you, complexity has happened to you.
However, when your partner or best friend intentionally presents you with a difficult scenario designed to make you grow, complexity is happening for you.
For example, you might have a spouse who buys two tickets to a personal growth retreat that you have no interest in attending, a manager who gives you a project to test your abilities, or a parent who allows their child to make a mistake instead of rescuing them from the pressures.
3. You Trigger Complexity Yourself
If you are serious about your personal growth and you are ready to take a leap of faith, step out of comfort, and become the man you were born to be, then you have only one option…
Step into complexity yourself.
Whether you decide to quit your job and start a business, move to a new city, leave your current relationship, or simply take on a challenging new task at work, intentionally stepping into complexity is one of the most beneficial actions that you can take.
How Much Discomfort/Complexity is Enough?
“Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.” ~Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich
You can’t have every aspect of your life in disorder and disarray. That would be completely overwhelming.
That would be chaos. Not advisable.
And while it would certainly lead to tremendous growth, it is also not advisable.
So before you go throwing your whole life into disarray, take a step back and take a deep breath.
It’s ok to have order in your life, to have a routine, to have discipline and predictability.
In fact, many of these things are part of the bedrock of achievement.
But, says Bill, you can have at least one area of your life in a state of complexity; perhaps it’s in the professional arena or the educational arena. Review your life and make some choices.
You don’t need to to take wild risks in some uncontrolled way. It’s different for each person. Bill says he risks based on what he is passionate about. He’s willing to step out of the comfort of order if he has passion about an activity and the potential of life-changing results.
Bill says he risks based on what he is passionate about. He’s willing to step out of the comfort of order if he has passion about an activity and the potential of life-changing results.
And just know, no matter what you plan, life may come along and dictate where you are ready to go and ready to grow. You may be stuck and not know it. It’s in those stuck areas that you get the biggest kick in the butt.
Stagnating at a job, cruising in a romantic relationship? You may be like a computer that is sluggishly running on an old operating system from the 1990s, and you may be ready for an upgrade.
Oh, and in case you thought you had arrived at your ultimate destination – on the lounge chair or not – you are never a finished product.There will always be another upgrade around the corner.
There will always be another upgrade around the corner.
Where Do I Start?
“When you come to the boundaries of what you know, it is time to make some mistakes.” ~Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad , Poor Dad
So, now that you know your comfort may be killing your dreams and ruining your life, where do you start?
How do you take this action and apply it to your life to maximize your growth and ability to impact the world?
Well, luckily… It’s pretty simple.
Step 1: Discover what you are passionate about
What makes you come alive? What do you enjoy doing? What would you do each and every day for no money?
Spend some time in silence to answer this question, and when you have reached a conclusion, write it down and move on to the next step.
Step 2: Determine if you are holding back in this area or playing it safe
Now that you know what you are passionate about and what you truly love, sit back and ask yourself if you are holding back in this area of your life and playing it safe.
Are you passionate about helping children in third world countries but working in a cubicle from 9-5?
Do you love fitness and helping people transform their bodies but wasting your days as an accountant?
Are you playing it safe and robbing the world of your talents and abilities because you are scared?
Take some time right now to answer this question for yourself.
Step 3: Take one small risk
Now that you know where you are playing it safe, it’s time to get uncomfortable and introduce some complexity.
Don’t go overboard here.
You don’t need to quit your job or fly to a new country unless you really want to.
Instead, start small.
If you are the accountant who loves helping people transform their bodies, invest $100 in a Facebook ad and just get one personal training client that you can work with part time.
If you love traveling but you are spending 9 hours of your day locked away in a cubicle, then talk to your boss about a remote working arrangement.
Just do something!
Step 4: Acknowledge yourself and be kind no matter the result
Now that you have taken a risk, you have either failed or succeeded with that risk.
Regardless of the outcome, you need to be kind to yourself and acknowledge yourself for trying.
You have taken a grand leap and this deserves reward and praise.
Step 5: Rinse and Repeat
Take another small risk, appreciate yourself for it and rinse and repeat until you find yourself taking humongous strides towards your goals.
This is it.
This is your opportunity
A chance to wake up from your slumber. To take a stand for your greatness beyond all that stagnation, order, complexity and chaos. You reside somewhere underneath it all – making choices for your awesome self.
Now you know the lazy life is impairing you, and you can nip the harmful habits in the bud. It may be hard to realize in the moment when the crap hits the fan, when life throws in a monkey wrench, but in looking back you may see life has given you a gift.
You are thrown into complexity and struggle so that:
- You can change.
- You can grow!
- You can make your life fascinating and exciting.
- You can, in the trickle down theory, positively impact those around you.
And finally, maybe most importantly, this all happens so that you can realize as Bill Eckstrom says: “It’s not what happened to me, but what happened for me.”
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