I spent a good part of my life looking for the easiest and fastest ways to succeed. At everything. From my work and making money to my relationships, I wanted to get to my destination as quickly as possible with minimal work. That’s probably why I was a sprinter in high school and not a distance runner. The sooner I could cross the finish line, the happier I was. I wanted to be uncomfortable for as little time as possible.
Fast forward from high school to 2015, when Cristina and I ran Grandma’s Marathon along Lake Superior. I went from sprinting and running races that took less than a minute to running a race that took me five hours and thirty-two minutes to complete. If you know anything about marathons, you know that based on our time, we were slow. The winner on that day completed the course in two hours and ten minutes. We finished three hours behind him… but we finished and didn’t quit when it hurt.
I shared earlier that I enjoyed sprinting because I only had to be uncomfortable for seconds at a time. The pain, if any at all, was quick. Running the marathon, I was uncomfortable before the race even began. We started the day off in the starting corrals with a cold, pouring rain soaking us to the bone. Even in rain gear, there wasn’t a dry part of my body. When we started running, I was battling a shiver. Discomfort was part of the experience from the very beginning, and it didn’t go away once we started moving. The temps shifted quickly from cold to steamy hot, and my legs seared with pain for miles at a time. One step in front of the other, and then one more…
Even amid all the discomfort, running that marathon is one of the highlights of my life.
It got me thinking. Of all the accomplishments in my life, the things I am most proud of and the most vivid moments, they all required me to step out and get uncomfortable. Not just a little uncomfortable, but a lot. They all involved some level of pain and stretching myself beyond what I thought was possible, physically and mentally. Looking back, they all came with moments of doubt and fear, and achieving the goal only happened after I had endured moments where I wanted to quit.
This idea of embracing discomfort runs counter to what the world tells us we should chase. Everywhere we turn, we’re getting hit with messages that deliver comfort, get-rich-quick solutions, and ways to escape anything hard in our lives. We’re told that we shouldn’t have to pay any kind of price to live the life we want. Instead, the world should just give it to us. Participation trophies are given freely, and that corner office… just give it to me before I’ve earned it. I deserve it. Effort isn’t required – in fact, you should try to give as little effort as possible. Patience and being willing to grind to get where we want to go aren’t necessary. There’s a fast track that will take you there right now.
They’re all lies.
When Guy Roz started the How I Built This podcast and later introduced the book How I Built This, he began to shed light on those lies in a powerful way, pulling back the curtain on success. Interviewing well-known entrepreneurs like Sara Blakely from Spanx, Yvon Chouinard from Patagonia, and Howard Schultz from Starbucks, the real truth came out. Every one of these “overnight” success stories had a tale behind it that included years of challenges, washed-out bridges, and near failure before ultimately winning. There was nothing overnight about their success – it came after they had endured many trials and experienced being uncomfortable at levels many of us will never understand.
Comfort breeds the status quo.
Think about this in your own life. Looking at the areas where you’re the proudest, did you get there by staying comfortable and settling for the status quo, or did you have to rise to a higher level? Did you have moments where you wanted to quit, walk away, or tap out – but you kept going? My guess is this… if you’ve experienced any success in life, personally or professionally, it came with hard work and discomfort. That’s the truth that flies in the face of all those lies we’ve all been told.
If you follow me at all, you know that my story has been filled with uncomfortable moments. Dropping out of college, launching a business, starting a blog, navigating a divorce – each of these experiences forced me to level up and tap into a gear that I didn’t know I had inside. Each required me to step out of my comfort zone and do something that came with some risk, danger, and unknowns. And in each case, the result on the other side has blown my mind. In the end, I wouldn’t trade the discomfort for the world.
And now, I can even say that I crave it.
Many of us flee from discomfort. We want things to come to us quickly, easily, and painlessly. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the world usually works. When it comes to succeeding in the things we want the most, personally and professionally, embracing risk and leaning into the discomfort is just part of the process.
Ask yourself this… What area in your life, if you allowed yourself to lean into the uncomfortable, would lead you toward success? And at the same time, what areas have you been avoiding to stay comfortable? Answer these two questions, and you’ll find the freedom to embrace a little discomfort in your life. And ultimately, you’ll end up closer to the destination you’re seeking.
Ready to get uncomfortable? Subscribe here and I’ll send us all messages and reminders that keep us all from setting for the status quo! – John
Curious about the success stories and uncomfortable journeys in Guy Roz’s new book How I Built This? I just finished reading it and it left me energized, ready for some additional discomfort, and feeling a little more normal in my own journey. Here’s a link… Enjoy!