Leaving Your Comfort Zone
“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” – John Shedd
Humans are meant to travel. For better or for worse, homo sapiens is on every continent and has thrived. We’re social creatures. We travel, we experience, we exchange, we adapt. This is in our DNA, so why should our vacations be any different from our more mundane navigation of the world?
HFH/GV (Habitat for Humanity/Global Village) is not so much a vacation but a sojourn of service, where volunteers spend time getting to really know locals by helping them rather than being helped by locals. There’s also time for a few tourist activities as well. I’ve been on other HFH trips. It’s on of my favorite ways to vacation. This year, my wife and I wanted to go to a tropical island, and we had friend in Fiji who invited us to bookend the trip with them, so to Fiji we went.
My expectations for the trip were limited, but I prefer to approach a holiday that way. On this trip, we’d meet with other Americans and build a house for a particular family. Other than that, it was wide open, as a vacation should be. Doing the same thing, seeing the same places, exploring the same tourist traps, partaking in all the same things you could do at home: this isn’t vacation. It’s routine. The root word of vacation is “vacate,” as in to leave something behind. Vacation is leaving your comfort zone, or more specifically, your routine in order to experience something different, refreshing, and eye-opening.
The HFH trip pulled me out of my comfort zone. I run my own business, and I’m used to being the leader, so I’m not very good at being part of a herd. I don’t like fences. I was always too curious about things to look to those around me for cues. I tried hard not to tell people what to do, even though many of the volunteers didn’t seem to appreciate the risks inherent to a housing worksite. Death and dismemberment are a real and present danger. If someone is above you wielding a hammer, one slip, and if it falls to your temple, you’re dead. A flying nail and you’ve lost an eye.
But I also realized that most people who do HFH are trying to get out of their comfort zones, but leave a world of desk work in one way or another, never facing actual risks that come with physical labor. It’s not real to them yet. Telling people what to do wasn’t going to work, and being the old one who knew everything would get me shut out, because even though we were in Fiji, the worksite was essentially America.
There I was, failing to get the group to work together and not send each other to the hospital. The Fijians, however, were telling jokes, having much more fun. Humor was the way to communicate, the common thread. To get the others from my tribe to communicate with our hosts, I found myself doing the same, never being the life of the party, way out of my comfort zone. But it worked.
I’ve always like teaching and coaching coaching HFH gave me that opportunity to see that I have a real value to offer the next generation and motivated me to make coaching a more central offering in my consulting practice. I truly have something of value to add to the modern workplace and the modern startup.
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” — Bob Marley
No matter how old or experienced you are, you can’t always know what you have to offer of until you’re tested. Everyone should learn to work in a group and figure out what they have to offer, and learn what they have to offer only after they try a new role. We travel, we experience, we exchange. We adapt.
Find a way to leave your comfort zone each day.