It’s one of the oldest clichés in the book…
“Get out of your comfort zone.”
We hear it so often that it’s easy to just kind of ignore it.
“Oh, yeah,” we tell ourselves. “I know that already.”
It’s occurred to me, however, that there are many things with which we’re familiar…but that we don’t fully understand.
We’re all familiar with the principle of gravity, yet most of us don’t really understand it. Not to the degree that we could harness it to create something like an airplane, anyway.
It’s easy to be familiar with something—to know a concept—and still not get anything useful out of it. Finding the real value in something requires understanding.
After all, the Hebrew word for wisdom means “a deep understanding of principle.”
With that in mind, consider the following theory:
We’ve heard how important it is to “get out of our comfort zone” so many times that we think we get it…when in reality, very few people have taken the time to develop a deep understanding of what it really means. Because of that, we’ve extracted only a miniscule amount of the very real value this principle holds.
So, let me ask you…
Are you ready to go deeper on this principle?
Then let’s go!
A Personal Story About Comfort
Last summer, I did something for the first time in my career as a speaker—I brought my boys, Austin and Adam, on the road with me for a four-day series of speaking engagements in four different cities.
The trip was going to take us through Dallas, Los Angeles, Denver, and Seattle, and the boys were very excited. As we were packing for the trip, however, I did something that unintentionally tempered that excitement.
“Here, put these in your backpacks,” I said as I handed both of them several copies of my children’s books, The Kid Who Changed the World and Henry Hodges Needs a Friend.
“When you see a family with a little kid in any of the airports we visit, give them a book.”
It’s only now, looking back, that I realize how deflated they sounded in their response: “Oh…okay.”
See, to me, this assignment was nothing out of the ordinary. Ever since my first book was published, I’ve made a habit of loading my carry-on with signed copies and giving them away to people on planes. I want to make myself valuable. I want to get the word out about the books. It’s an easy thing to do and people love it.
Fast forward several days—it’s the end of the trip and we’ve made it back home to Orange Beach. I’m pulling luggage out of the car and notice something odd about the boys’ backpacks. They seem very…heavy.
“What have you guys got in these backpacks?” I ask. After feeling around for a few seconds, I answer my own question.
“Do you still have all these books in here?”
If you’re a parent, you know the look they gave me. It said more than any answer could have.
“Seriously, you have all these books?” I continued. “You carried these books around four different airports and didn’t give a single one away?”
Still no answer. Just more of “the look.”
“Guys, what are you doing? Why didn’t you give a single book away?”
Austin, who was 15 at the time, finally spoke up. “Dad, we are not going to just give somebody a book in the airport,” he said.
“Dad,” he said, finally resigned to giving me the actual reason, “it’s…weird.”
I looked at Adam, who immediately confirmed Austin’s response with a slight raise of his eyebrows. Yes, dad, the look said, it’s extremely weird.
I thought about it for a second. I didn’t want to disagree with them just because “I’m bigger than you and you do what I say to do.”
Do I have a reason for this? I thought. Are they right?
Obviously, I’m not always right about everything. I know that and the boys do, too. I’ve told them it’s okay to ask or challenge me if they don’t understand why we’re doing something.
After thinking it over for a few seconds, I realized exactly how I needed to explain the situation to them.
“Guys, if you ran up to a random family screaming like a crazy person and threw a book at them…that would be weird,” I said.
“But, to approach parents who are already a little nervous about taking their child on an airplane and politely offer them a free hardback book that’s signed by the author…that’s not weird at all.”
I had them right where I wanted them.
“It’s not weird,” I said. “It’s different.” Then I added a little understanding. “And it’s different because nobody else ever does it. Because nobody ever does it, that particular action feels harder to do. Therefore, it’s much more comfortable to just stand there and do nothing.”
The Real Cost of Staying Comfortable
At this point, it may seem like I was making a bigger deal out of this than I needed to. But here’s what I wanted my boys to understand…
You are not the only one paying the price of staying in your comfort zone. The cost is also passed on to everyone else who might otherwise have been positively influenced by your actions had you chosen to move beyond comfort.
Who knows what could have happened to a child’s life, or the lives of that child’s parents, if those books been given away? Maybe the message would have helped them. Or maybe it wouldn’t have even been about the book—maybe just that simple act of kindness from a stranger would have been enough to begin a positive Butterfly Effect in their lives.
When my first novel, The Traveler’s Gift, was finally published (after publishers had turned it down more than 50 times) it spent six weeks mostly just sitting on bookstore shelves. Since no one was buying it, the publisher (and the bookstores) had moved on.
So I bought as many copies of my own book as I could, and just started giving them away in airports. Eventually, one of those copies somehow found its way to Robin Roberts, who made it Good Morning America’s book of the month. Now it’s a bestseller and printed in over 20 languages.
All because I gave them away.
Now, was any of this comfortable for me?
It wasn’t comfortable to keep going when over 50 people had turned the manuscript down.
It wasn’t comfortable to use my own money to buy tons of copies of my failure of a book and then give that failed book away to people in airports.
And yet the actions I took during those periods of discomfort have not only been hugely beneficial to me, they’ve also benefitted the millions of people who went on to read the book!
What Is Your Comfort Preventing the World from Getting?
I believe we all have something positive to offer others, whether it’s a book, a business, a skill, or just a kind word.
But the hard truth is that releasing that thing to the world is rarely a comfortable experience. It takes courage and persistence, often in the face of adversity, to do it.
It may be your comfort zone, but getting out of it impacts so much more than you.
So ask yourself…what is your comfort preventing others from getting?