Do you know about real growth and success? The kind you recognize within yourself and those around you because it’s evident and irrefutable? Well, if you do, then you know it doesn’t stem from being comfortable.
Comfort breeds complacency. We typically get to a point in our lives where we feel relatively stable, relaxed, and overall comfortable. It’s not to say this isn’t a great feeling, because you’ve worked hard to feel this way. To kick back, put your feet up, and reap the benefits of your labor. A lot of times, that’s the end goal of success, isn’t it? To make enough money and buy enough things to live a comfortable lifestyle. Yet, I hope that’s not your only vision of success because there’s much more to it than that. Hopefully, at the forefront of your image of success is the growth and development you receive throughout the process of becoming successful. Because the most tangible things you obtain from success aren’t materialistic; rather, they are riddled deep in the context of becoming successful, such as gaining wisdom and enlightenment.
To become successful in many areas of your life, you must recognize where you are comfortable and uncomfortable. You see, in the areas in which you are most comfortable, you are likely most successful. Why? Naturally, you’re going to have more success in areas you feel you have more control over, making you feel safe, while the opposite ones leave you feeling out of place and with little power. However, you must confront the areas of life you are most uncomfortable with to become a more well-rounded person. Because sooner or later, life will come knocking at your door, and you want to be able to answer it when it does.
You must first look at engaging in uncomfortable situations as a means for growth, which will ultimately lead to your success. If all you do is turn your head to every uncomfortable scenario, you’ll stay the same forever. You’ll stagnate, and even worse, you won’t be living life anymore. Life is all about going through experiences, good and bad. These experiences, though, equip you with the foresight and knowledge necessary to improve.
An extremely uncomfortable area for me in life used to be public speaking and interviewing for jobs. In several of my college classes, I was forced to speak in front of the entire class. I was a nervous wreck and could only hear myself stutter in my head when I spoke. After the first time I gave a speech, I felt idiotic and vividly remember hearing myself say um at least 20 times throughout the speech. However, that uncomfortableness gave me the experience necessary to do better the next time around. For one, it shedded that initial fear of speaking to a group of people I didn’t know, but it also caused something else.
As a person who doesn’t like to lose and loves to win, my competitive fire told me to research speakers and learn how they navigate these potentially awkward speech waters. I listened to TedX after TedX, symposium after symposium, all to gain a better understanding of how to speak in front of my classmates. The very next speech I gave, I was much more confident. One, because I’d already taken the leap and gotten my first experience over with, and two, because I know I did the research. I was confident in what I was talking about because I spent endless hours researching it and attempted to exude the same level of understanding as to the subject matter experts I watched on video.
Another area of feeling uncomfortable for me, interviewing, was as horrifying as public speaking, possibly even worse. The older you get, the more high profile interviews you have with perhaps 3 or 4 members, or even an entire panel or hiring committee. The task of coming in, having multiple people grill you with questions, and answering them all promptly, without stumbling, is a daunting one. As someone who has steadily changed positions throughout the years, I recognized the days of having to impress only one person at an interview were gone. I’d have to impress a group of people, all of whom were different, and try to do so in a very succinct yet effective manner.
Up until recently, I remember sweating profusely in almost every interview I’ve ever had. Mainly because I feared being asked a question I didn’t know the answer to, stumbling on my words, or flat out saying the wrong thing, and you know what? I did. I often sat in that chair facing that committee, and I felt I appeared something close to illiterate. I either said too much, too little, or went on a tangent entirely off-topic. I saw the looks of regret in interviewing me in the first place on the faces of those conducting it and even had an interview cut short before because I couldn’t answer every question correctly. Do you know how it made me feel? Egregiously uncomfortable. I wanted to retract into my little shell and never interview again. But I knew that wasn’t an option. One, because my determination and will wouldn’t let my uncomfortableness and this group of people stop me, and two, I knew it was merely an area I needed to develop in, and so I did.
For months and months on end, I watched countless interview videos, scouring the internet for thoroughly detailed interview articles with practically every possible question and response. I read them, watched them, and rehearsed them until I couldn’t anymore. Doing my research and being confident in myself worked wonders for me, but me getting out of my own way was just as crucial. In doing so, I allowed myself to thrive in interviews, speaking with unbridled confidence because I knew what I was discussing. For the first time, I realized these individuals were just people. Nothing more, nothing less, and they weren’t any better than me. They didn’t know anything about me, and it was my job to explain my background and experiences eloquently. With each interview, I got better and better, and now, I still get a little nervous, as anyone does, but I know I can run with the best of them.
The point here is that I had to expose myself to extremely uncomfortable situations to reach a place of success. I had to be vulnerable and put myself out there when I spoke to my class or interviewed for various jobs. If I retreated into my cocoon, I would’ve never faced my fears, become successful at what I was horrified of, and transformed into a butterfly. You have to get out of your comfortable cocoon. Change is hard, and the process is complicated, but vulnerability and uncomfortableness lead to success, allowing you to develop into the person you were always destined to be.