Never Be Comfortable

Just Jump

Every once in a while in the story of your life, you find things going surprisingly well. Your job is going decently well, you have a platform where you can talk and a small group of remarkable people will listen. You’re in relatively good shape and are able to slowly accomplish a few things that used to seem impossible.

Sure, none of it happens overnight, but over time it does happens. Impossible things get easier and it becomes easier to get comfortable with where you are in life.

Never be comfortable

To a lot of people, comfort is the main goal of life. They work hard enough so they can live a “comfortable” life style. They want enough money to not have to worry about things. They spend time around friends that think the way they do so they don’t have to have anyone question the way they view the world (and make them uncomfortable).

If you’re not careful, you work our whole life to get comfortable only to realize that all the growth happens during those times when you were incredibly uncomfortable.

  • The one time you went to a conference and were completely out of your league.
  • The one time you started writing random thoughts on the Internet and hoped people would read it.
  • The one time you ran a race you weren’t ready for and almost died doing it.

The parts of life where you were extremely uncomfortable were the parts where you grew the most.

Comfort is the kiss of death. As soon as you get comfortable, you start to let down your guard. It gets easy to coast and you lose opportunities to get a lot better. Sure, things could be good enough where you’re at, but if you get comfortable with “good enough”, you’ll never be great.

You can’t take things to the next level when you’re comfortable. It just doesn’t happen. You have to push yourself outside your comfort zone and explore the unknown. The only moments you can really achieve something meaningful are the moments when you make yourself vulnerable to failure.

How often in your life have you been simultaneously comfortable and taking real risks that meant you could fail?

Not often. The two are polar opposites. They don’t coexist. When you’re comfortable, you’re safe. You only have to deal with things you’re expecting. When you’re vulnerable, you’re not

Never be comfortable. If you’re comfortable with where you are in life, that’s all well and good, but you might consider changing something. Growth only happens when things get hard and if things have gotten too easy for you, you might need to change.

Never be comfortable.

Are you comfortable right now? What are you doing to change that? I quit my job on Tuesday. What do you need to do?

[Photo by stuant63]

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  1. says

    WOW!! Congrats on quitting your job!! Wondering when you would do it 😉

    I am most certainly not comfortable right now. I remember feeling very complacent in my last relationship where I owned a house, had a dog, most everything but marriage and kids (phew). I left that life for something exciting and adventurous. During that rut phase, I realized that the happiest time in my life, even though I didn’t realize it THEN, was during college. I was having a lot of fun doing art, challenging myself with creativity and getting the infamous critiques. I was so uncomfortable being constantly compared to my peers (or my mind doing so by default).

    Now I’m in another uncomfortable situation as I try to do the freelance /survival thing and living in some pretty third world conditions. I’m milking it though.. It’s all fun and games for me (usually, when I’m not having mini breakdowns and being dramatic). Because I know that I will figure it out eventually!

    • says

      Good for you, Janet! Most days, my husband is on board with me… I must admit that I’ve had several scary health situations to remind me of the brevity of life and he hasn’t, so I’ve become extremist when it comes to “life is short, do it now, you can sleep when you’re dead” 😉

    • says

      It’s not what you expect :).

      Enjoy the process as much as possible. The things that “suck the most” right now are the same things that make the story so great when it’s all said and done. Hang in there and way to put yourself way outside of your comfort zone.

  2. says

    Perfect, and we all need to be a little uncomfortable to make any sort of progress in life. The discomfort can be on a small scale (lifting heavier weights at the gym to get stronger) or it can be something that I’d consider pretty scary (giving a talk on a topic I don’t know very well at a conference).

    Either way, living comfortably for the rest of our days is akin to death in my book. I could never do that!

    (Yesterday I disjointed a chicken for the first time while cooking a recipe, and every day is slightly uncomfortable yet exciting for me while rehabbing a post-op hip)

    • says

      Good luck on the conference talk! Let me know how it goes.

      I love your examples because they show that discomfort happens on all different levels of life in a bunch of different areas. Thanks Brooke.

  3. says

    it is amazing how comfort and complacency go hand in hand.

    Congrats on the job (I thinK) – definitely looking forward to what you have planned next.

    It is always important to push yourself, all the time. There never is going to be a “right time”. That “right time” is “right fucking now”

    Again, awesome brother, awesome.

  4. says

    Siiiick article Joel! That last line blew my mind and threw me completely off guard. I may have missed the article post on that one, or you purposefully slid it in there stealth mode style! Either way, congrats brother and do some killer impossible things in the “hopeful” down time!!!

    Patrick Hitches

  5. says

    Like Patrick, I was not expecting that last line at all. But I have to agree with the correlation between being uncomfortable and growth. Last summer I was a door to door salesman, which was really hard for an introvert with no conversational skills. That summer was a huge growing period for me.
    Great post and reminder, Joel.

  6. says

    One of my favorite articles on your blog. The other day I was in the water at a break that I had never surfed before and to be honest I more or less got my ass handed to me. But I realize that just paddling out to a place a bit out of my comfort zone was progress even though it didn’t feel like it at the time. So there’s always something to be gained from getting outside your comfort zone. Even it seems like you’re failing you’re making progress on some level.

    • says

      Thanks Sri.

      Getting owned in the waves isn’t fun, but you’ll get owned in a different way every time. Over time, you actually start to figure out subconsciously how things work and learn how to master it. It’s pretty fun actually to realize how something that used to beat you up on a continual basis now isn’t that hard anymore. Keep at it Sri. Hoping to hear how you master that break in a few months :).

  7. Jackie says

    way to go Joel! You will be successful whatever you choose because of who u are! I loved this blog!! :) looking into my world of comfort to decide where i am going to choose to change.. Your posts & blog encourage me. :)

  8. says

    Awesome, awesome, awesome post Joel. Never be comfortable is an amazing message that we hear time and again, but seem to struggle to APPLY. But the application is simple. Case in point: you just quit your job.

    Doing the once-unthinkable is a good way to get uncomfortable. It’s a slow realization, but a true one.

    Congrats on the job quitting! Keep kicking ass :)

    • says

      Thanks Vivek. Sometimes you know everything you need to know. You don’t need to know anymore than you already do. You just need to do what you need to do.

  9. says

    Congrats on the job quitting! That is a good thing! So now what for you?

    I am all for pushing the comfort away. It certainly makes life more exciting. It’s crazy that to live intentionally one must completely rebel against the american dream. excitement is the antithesis of comfort.

  10. Rob in Milwaukee says

    Stay in your strength zone but keep pushing past your comfort zone. You’re totally right. I think I had parts of it right in my heart, but it took me a couple years of spending time with Jeff to articulate the formula. Well, sir, I for one am very excited you took this chance. Let’s see what unfolds.

  11. says

    Oh snap Joel, I did not see that last line coming. Good for you bro, and kudos for keeping your plans under wraps. God knows, I love a good mystery.

    Mystery is the antithesis of comfort. The unknown, risk, imagination, doing the impossible, we crave those things in life. Comfort is like a vampire, it sucks out all the mystery/risk/growth_opportunities_through_difficult_times and we become the walking dead. No real life and comfortable. Dead and completely safe.

    Also, I’ve got a quote for you, my youth pastor used to say this back when I was in high school: “When life has purpose, sleep becomes an interruption.”

    • says

      Joel, you could not have written this post at a better moment – as you know I’m on a countdown to The Great Adventure into The Great Unknown. I quit my job a few months back, sublet the appartment for two years, and these days I’m slowly but surely shedding my belongings – clothes, shoes, books, cd’s etc. Amazing how much gunk a comfort-seeking life will accumulate!

      And I must admit, as I wrote on my own blog just two days ago – I’m feeling the panic setting in, doubting everything and most of all myself.

      But I try to hold on to the greatness ahead, and reminding myself how extremely depressed and UNcomfortable my comfortable life made me just a few short months ago.

      Thank you so much for these words of… – well, comfort 😉

      • says

        Well played Dagmar :).

        The best part about forcing yourself to be uncomfortable…failure doesn’t matter as much. When you’re focused on growth, failure is okay, you’re just focused on pushing it past it and getting to another level. Good luck on the great adventure into the unknown (great name for it btw)

  12. says

    I quit a job two years ago because I became too comfortable. I had a solid paycheck, great coworkers and a very comfortable/easy lifestyle. The problem was that I was bored out of my mind. The most excitement I had at work was organizing company foosball tournaments in the break room.

    Most people thought I was crazy for quitting my well-paying, comfortable job in the middle of a recession. I should just “be thankful for what I had”. But I quit anyway, volunteered in a 3rd world country for a while, traveled a bit and I don’t regret breaking the chains of my cube at all.

    Now I’m in the midst of another set of challenges and it hasn’t been comfortable, but I know that’s not what I’m after anyway.

  13. says

    I saw that last line and scrolled back up to see if this was a guest post. Congratulations! Sounds like you’ve got some great stuff coming, can’t wait to hear about it. This is what you were hinting at before, isn’t it?

    I am pretty much never comfortable these days. Way too much going on, in over my head all over the place, and making a lot of mistakes. But I’m learning and getting shit done, and I’m happy. Great post, and definitely an idea to hang on to.

  14. says

    yay for you! i see even more great things in your near future! thanks for sharing your go out and get it lifestyle! :) and, yes, i’m doing things to stay uncomfortable…good way to put it! i love your quote ‘comfort is the kiss of death’. excited to see your writings and your next adventures and good luck this weekend doing your marathon!

  15. says

    Congrats on quitting your job Joel! This post really resonated as I have just done exactly that! I am now feeling absolutely petrified but completely freaking excited about my next steps. A really timely post to remind me of why I am pushing my boundaries and taking that step into the unknown. Thanks for the awesome content :)

  16. says

    Congrats Joel! Way to slide that big kicker in at the very last second. :) Milwaukee is a lot closer to us, and we usually head that direction for Summerfest! Maybe we’ll see ya there.

  17. says

    Personally I prefer a mixture of comfort and going outside comfort zone. Brief periods of comfort make a great contrast, and help you recharge your batteries.

    I look forward to hearing the next episode of your life journey Joel!

  18. says

    You inspire me Joel! I’m definitely not comfortable and it keeps me motivated. I do not and have never lived a content life. Being content and comfortable (one in the same to me) means no growth and no growth means death on every level.

    Looking forward to hearing your next chapter! 😉 Stay uncomfortable – you’ll help change more lives! Double ;)!


    • says

      Can we change “content” out with “apathetic” – Playing with syntax here I guess, but I feel like there are definitely times to be content…however there’s no place for apathy for someone doing the impossible.

  19. says

    I think with comfort we also begin to (subconsciously) take things for granted; which I think is probably the most ‘damaging’ aspect of being too comfortable. If you’re not constantly testing yourself, you aren’t aware of how good you usually have it. Even if you fail at the things you set out to do, you become acutely aware of your own physical and emotional strength.

  20. says

    Hi Joel :)
    Being comfortable makes you, most of the time,lazy and being lazy is killing your soul and your mind
    But, no matter how comfortable you are,you can always grow and learn more.It’s just up to you :)



  21. Steve says

    Your bomb dropping line is something I’ve come to expect from you in my short time with BIT–take that as a compliment. :)

    Your post lines up well with what I have told my players for years when it comes to breaking through barriers, making improvements, and thriving in pressure-packed circumstances: You have to learn to become comfortable in being uncomfortable.

  22. says

    I mostly try to get back to being comfortable as soon as I can whenever I feel uncomfortable. Taking SCUBA lessons is an attempt at forcing myself to be uncomfortable. Right now I can only do little things at being uncomfortable.

    Congrats on quitting your job!

  23. Christopher Tracy says

    one of my good friends sent this to me after hearing how i was feeling. in two and a half months i plan on self-publishing my first novel and i am terrified. i’m not terrified that people will hate it, rather that i will succeed. i am completely afraid of succeed for the exact reasons you stated, it means i have to move out of my centre of comfort. the beauty of it is that despite my fear of success, i have never let it deter me from what i want. i have achieved a master’s degree (in a field that doesn’t have many jobs but that i enjoyed), i have lived un numerous countries, i have eaten crazy food and have friends of every kind. because of not letting my fear keep my down, i have had a truly beautiful and blessed life. yes i am still afraid to get my book published because then it means that i have seen another dream come true and have started my career, but by doing so i have become a better person. thank you for writing this message. i seriously appreciate it :)


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