Ever since I was a child, I’ve been used to discomfort. The discomfort of not knowing what school I would be going to next year, (I went to five different schools in elementary up to Junior High,) who my friends would be, when I would see my father, (my parents divorced when I was 8,) what kind of emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse I would deal with when I got home from my stepfather, or just the discomfort of not really being able to forge a relationship with my mother due to the fact that she was too busy being squashed under the thumb of a tyrannical partner in said stepfather.
I learned to familiarize myself with the discomfort of knowing that I had a slow metabolism and couldn’t enjoy food like other people. The discomfort of said metabolism didn’t matter much anyway though, because many times all I had was canned corn or green beans to eat for dinner. I learned to become familiar with the sensation of swelling in my head and constant brain fog associated with autoimmune conditions, and not being able to lay down to sleep and actually being able to rest without laying there for hours.
And while none of these things are good things, to be sure, they taught me an invaluable lesson. A lesson that can’t be bought, bartered or begged for. You must earn it through the hard knocks of living it. That lesson?
My life experiences made me relentless and untouchably resilient. In my book, “Where In The World Is My Woosah,” I talk at length about the importance of gratitude. I never mention the pains mentioned moments ago or the difficulties involved in achieving goals, because they aren’t relevant to the reader’s goals. I stick to the point, as it is a short book, and it’s brevity was the whole point. There is no fluff. But I do talk at great length about the importance of cultivating gratitude. And I mention that because there is nothing more threatening to the cultivation of gratitude than excessive comfort.
It is the classic case of one who always takes the high road. It is the person who never walks anywhere because it’s so much easier to be Ubered, taken by train, plane, or helicopter, than to walk for himself. And what happens to the man or woman who doesn’t walk anywhere for himself? He develops heart disease, weak legs, and a fat stomach. He is the man or woman who is carried atop the shoulders of others, while relishing the delightful flavor of greasy slabs of ham and wine. If you make comfort a habit, the only thing that will change about you, is that you stay in the same place, and just get older.
Growth necessitates discomfort.
When you are sitting down inactive, ALL electrical activity in the human body slows down. Your body is primed for rest in this state, and EEG brainwaves reflect this. Caloric burning drops 33% from when you’re walking – even normal paced walking. Studies showed that women who were physically active were over 50% less likely to die from breast cancer than women who were physically inactive. Bodybuilders grunt when lifting weights because it isn’t comfortable. But that discomfort it the catalyst of change.
And let’s talk intellect. Those who always have others around them to think on their behalf develop jelly-like intellectual capacities. You can never develop competence in something that you never practice, exercise, or stimulate. Your brain, despite what you may think, doesn’t WANT you to be too comfortable. It doesn’t want you to let other people think for you. It wants you to be uncomfortable so it can find solutions, and stay healthy. Alzheimers is an increasingly frequent diagnosis, and it’s no coincidence that we are increasingly letting others do the thinking for us. This includes subscribing to other people’s ideas without doing our own research first.
Indeed, if comfort is the killer of gratitude and resilience, it is also the killer of competency.
Another area where this becomes of dire importance is in relationships. Anyone who makes the mistake of sitting on their laurels with relationships and fails to feed the passion and fire of the union because they’ve already “won,” are kidding themselves. The divorce rate reflects that. And men in particular are in the most danger because – and many of you men may not want to hear this, but it is a fact – women seek novelty no less than men, and arguably more so. They are creative, imaginative, and they love fantasy, mental play, and ideation. If you can’t satiate that, you are in trouble, and at the least, her long-term satisfaction will be, even if she stays.
But what made me think of any of this in the first place is the fact that it has been very hot in California, for the last few weeks in particular, with temperatures in the 100s. And I keep hearing people talk about how unbearable it is. But that’s the problem we humans have. We love to talk about how miserable we are when things are bad, but we don’t love to equally be thankful for how great conditions are when things aren’t unbearable. Where’s the balance We don’t like to give thanks for our air conditioner until it stops working. We don’t want to pray until a family member gets sick or dies.
When it’s hot outside, I see this as a perfect opportunity to get familiar with the discomfort of living a few degrees hotter than baseline. I see it as an opportunity to be thankful for having a roof to provide shade. And I say this as someone who works in a garage in California where there is no air conditioner. I work here for 12-16 hours a day because I know that once I get too comfortable, I am sticking a knife in my ambition, passion, hunger and drive. It keeps me hungry and focused on my goals. It’s also an excellent way to learn to be grateful for winter. Nature has a beautiful and perfect balance. Day becomes night, and night becomes day, oscillating one to the other with perfect harmony. Those 24 hour cycles perfectly correlate to the yearly cycles as well.
I’m not the only entrepreneur who thinks this way. Many successful people learn to see opportunities where others don’t. It reminds me of successful ‘Shark Tank’ entrepreneur Daymon John’s book, The Power of Broke. He too is a firm believer that not having the comfort you want can be a great motivator. It can ignite the passion and fire in you to change your circumstances or find new ways of thinking, growing, or doing things. Being constantly uncomfortable isn’t the goal. The goal is to live a life whereby you are able to recognize discomfort as not only a part of life, but as an opportunity to grow toward the things you desire.
The point is, if you enjoy being too comfortable too often, you probably aren’t doing much with your life to actually contribute in meaningful ways to the world around you. If you want to live a remarkable life, keep your marriage alive, or simply not die prematurely, you must step outside of your comfort zone. You must keep adding life experiences, try new things, step out into the unknown and push yourself. Because if you want to live a life that is memorable, you have to live a life worth remembering.
“Nobody ever died of discomfort, yet living in the name of comfort has killed more ideas, more opportunities, more actions, and more growth than everything else combined.” – T Harv Ecker