Take the Ride

I want to be comfortable.  I like my daily routine and sleeping in my own bed.  I want to be around people like me and do things I’m good at doing.  But the truth is, I know that comfort is at odds with being fully alive.


Last week, we took the kids to Disney World.  I initially felt frustrated by the overpriced hotel, anxious about washing hands and annoyed by crowds.  By the end of the experience, though, I didn’t want to leave – even though I had contracted pink eye and spent more than 10 hours waiting in lines.

Instead, I appreciated Disney’s call to the adventure of far away places and other times. At dinner the last night, our table was between two families that looked just like ours in terms of age and numbers.  The difference was that one family was Indian, living in London, and the other was Japanese.  The family from London had arrived in the US hours earlier, and the family from Japan was due to depart at 4am.  Both had, at any given point, one child sound asleep at the table.  These families inspired me as they pushed the limits of travel and fatigue well beyond my own usual comfort zone.

Let’s find ways to regularly move beyond our comfort zone by:

1. Leaving.  In Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins is initially undone by the intrusion of roaming warriors into his tidy and predictable home.  Their behavior seems rude and destructive though Baggins senses a freedom and joy in this band of brothers, which stirs something in him.  He asks whether or not, if he were to join the band, his safety would be guaranteed.  Of course it can’t and, with a pause, he steps forward into the unknown. When we leave our comfort zone, we grow or we fail.  I’d rather risk failing than endure the slow death of a life devoid of risk.

2. Sacrificing.  I recently read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, the incredible story of Air Force officer Lou Zamperini who survived a plane crash over the Pacific and horrendous treatment in P.O.W. camps in WWII.  His family and the other American families in this generation are often referred to as the “Greatest Generation” for their courage, endurance and sacrifice.  I want that for our generation and I’m not sure it’s possible without a willingness to risk and forfeit our comforts.

3. Self-Assessing.  The day after returning from vacation, I facilitated a workshop on the topic of Employee Engagement.  Amidst an April snowstorm and exponentially longer commutes, 45 strangers gathered to talk about how to improve the way their employees feel about their jobs. Many participants shared vulnerably about their challenges as leaders and the need to place greater value on employees.  Getting to the workshop and entering into authentic dialogue required effort and a willingness to be uncomfortable, though it resulted in greater awareness and motivation to be better leaders.

In 1777, Abigail Adams wrote to her son John Quincy, “It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed.  The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties.  Great necessities call out great virtues.  When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.”

Consider commenting on how you can step out of the calm of life.



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1 Comment

  • paulbatz
    April 15, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Nice message Matt: I like how you are finding personal leadership lessons in the full course of life: especially at Disney World. Anyone who owns their own business shares what you know to be true about stepping out of the comfort zone. We all know that pit in your stomach is one of the greatest reminders of being alive!