Outside My Comfort Zone With Work, Bikes, and Blondie

Comfort breeds complacency. Why is that such a bad thing? We spend a large chunk of our lives trying to get comfortable, and then one day, our comfort suddenly changes from something that we are happy and, forgive the circular reference, comfortable with, to a hinderance which makes us want to kick ourselves later.

Here’s an example: I can bomb down the same mountain bike trail a dozen times, taking the same route and hitting the same bumps and rocks, and it never seems to get old. I’m comfortable with it, so I stick to it. But sometimes I go out on a limb (literally, when a felled tree has been made into part of the trail), manage to clear it, and say “Wow! Why didn’t I try that before?”

“Because you’re afraid of getting hurt, you idiot!” (That was my inner, logical voice speaking.) The reality is I rarely get hurt when trying new things, but complacency and the threat of pain steer me toward a “safer” option. But in the long run, what have I gained?

Here’s another example from last night. I’m single. While I’m not out desperately seeking “the one,” or a committed relationship right now (not ruling it out, mind you, just not desperate, got it?), I certainly wouldn’t mind some more female companionship from time to time. The problem? I’m terrible at asking girls out because I’m too shy. That’s right, this guy, a black-belt, mountain biker, serial entrepreneur and, according to some, not terribly bad looking*, is, more often than not, too shy to get a girl’s number (or email, or name (for Facebook stalking, of course) or whatever it is these “kids today” are doing). Last night while I was waiting for a table at a restaurant with my friend Steve, a rather cute girl sat down next to me, introduced herself as “Kim,” and struck up a conversation. I should have, at very least, used this as an opportunity to get a number (email, Facebook, whatever) as a Tim Ferris style “comfort challenge.”

And I didn’t. I guess the fight or flight reaction is still too strong. No, I did not deck the poor girl. After a few minutes, our pizza-slice-shaped pager went off and it was time to get our table, so I excused myself and got up. What I should have done was ask her to join us at our table, as she probably had a 45-minute wait ahead of her. Hindsight is a wonderful thing which, unless frequently accessed, does absolutely nothing except make you regret bad decisions. Granted, I’m guessing she’s 12-15 years younger than me, and I didn’t want to tell her that I probably had most of the 80’s music she likes on vinyl or cassette at one time or another, but it’s the principle of the thing.

At work, I also get complacent. Although I want to tackle new and more challenging projects, I fall into habit and routine, doing the same old stuff, despite some clients’ best attempts to keep us on our toes every day. Again, the fear of rejection and the unknown often reigns supreme. I’m tackling this by rallying my troops and delegating tasks which I don’t enjoy or excel at. While this might work in this instance, asking someone else to jump a boulder or get a girl’s number just isn’t going to cut it. This is one reason I’m looking forward to relocating to another country, (Brazil is currently in the lead,) for a while. I will likely be forced out of my comfort zone, and growth won’t be an choice.

As for you, Kim, I’m sorry. Rest assured, it’s not your fault. It’s a shame I didn’t speak up because we could have had all sorts of stimulating conversation about Michael Jackson, Cindy Lauper and Blondie (the band, not the Clint Eastwood character). I’m sure some other guy got your number. Or Facebook. Or whatever.

I think I’ll go take my bike over some new boulders now.

* Female relatives, you don’t count here. Sorry.

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