Today I have been challenged to write about the last time I left my comfort zone. When I say challenged I must admit I would not have expressed my first thought in polite company. With a background such as mine, the idea of having a comfort zone is somewhat humorous. No! It is downright hysterical in some ways.
My life in many ways has been one big uncomfortable zone. I came from a childhood I would not wish on anyone, and I grew into a man dedicated to proving he was better than the circumstances from which he came. I have known very few times I felt as if I was in a comfort zone. Of course, that is one of the things about comfort zones, we often do not recognize them.
My comfort zone became chaos, challenge, and at least a touch of fear. I mean, what fun is it to accomplish something if there is no possibility of ending up looking like an idiot or in the hospital. I was the flag bearer for all those folks who want to be running around at 100 miles per hour with their hair on fire.
Accordingly, I learned how to fight my way to the top of the heap most of the time. If something kept me from being successful, that was just fuel for the next battle. Yep, comfort zones were for all those other folks. I wanted to be in the thick of it all the time.
Of course, the reality is that was my comfort zone. In some ways it still is, but not to the same level. I have learned I am not in control of everything, and cannot be in control of everything, in my life or anywhere else. The point was driven home to me recently when I was invited to be part of a celebration for an old friend who was once under my command.
He was coming back to our alma mater to be recognized for his professional accomplishments. I would be there to say a few words of congratulations, shake his hand, and get our picture taken together. It was something I have done many times over the years, and I was really looking forward to it.
When I walked into the room where the ceremony was being held, I was as cool as a cucumber for about thirty seconds. Then I realized, most of these people did not know me, and I was at best a supporting character in someone else’s show. Talk about being out of one’s comfort zone.
It was a great lesson in humility. I managed to make my comments without making a complete fool of myself, and my friend’s comments about my leadership and support when he worked with me helped gloss over the inadequacy of my little speech. I did manage to get a chuckle out of the crowd. Truthfully, it was more of a sympathy chuckle, but I’ll take it.
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Eric, You are indeed right when you say that we all have our own comfort zones, even if they seem completely chaotic to everyone else. Some think that it is always essential to be seen as completely calm and collected at all times, but sometimes that can mean we are calm outside, and actually in turmoil inside,. Getting up and speaking in front of many who you do not know can indeed be outside ones comfort zone, but you usually feel somewhat satisfied when you pull it off. Confidence can be achieved in most things, one just has to work at it. Most are not born with confidence, especially public speaking, it just comes with time and experience, and I have proved that to myself on many occasions. Just feel proud of yourself, it works wonders!
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