I recently made a comment about how our brains will do whatever it takes to stay in its comfort zone. The problem is that the comfort zone is comfortable and rarely exciting. Thus, inspirational sayings like:
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
“Great things never came from a comfort zone.”
“When was the last time you did something for the first time?”
About a year ago, I decided I needed to give my comfort zone a stretch. So, I signed up for an Improv workshop that would conclude with a Friends and Family show. Like many people, I hate performing in public.
For me, the difference between public speaking/performing and having a conversation with a group of people where I do most of the talking is the price of admission. I don’t want to have to justify the price of admission – even if admission was free.
When I gave software training classes, the people in attendance were there because I had information they needed. There was nothing I had to justify to them, just tell them what they needed.
Similarly, selling chocolate wasn’t a problem because, honestly, no one gets dragged to a chocolate tasting party. My audience wanted to be there.
An improv show, however, is something different. That would definitely make me uncomfortable.
So, I took the workshop and six weeks later we had a show. Now, it wouldn’t have been much of a stretch of my comfort zone if I didn’t have anyone in the audience, so I invited almost everyone I came across. My business networking group – and let me tell you, that invitation alone almost made me vomit – all my local Facebook friends, the people I work out with. I had a good crowd in the audience.
It wasn’t that bad.
For one, with the lights, I couldn’t see the audience. For another, one of the great things about improv is that if you screw up it just makes things better!
I decided to keep taking improv workshops and doing shows. I have fun, I learn new things, I’ve met some new people. It’s good.
The Next Step in Discomfort
After several months, the guy who got me into improv decided he was going to offer a stand-up comedy workshop – with an open mic night to act as “graduation”!
The thought made me so nervous, my hair hurt. I knew I had to sign up.
An improv show has other players and they provide a type of safety net. Stand-up would be a solo gig. No safety net. And, microphones go a long way to transforming a conversation with lots of people to public speaking/performing.
As of this writing, the idea of open mic night still gives me a case of the wigglies, in part because I haven’t done one yet. I told my mentor that until he actually scheduled one (and dragged me to it) I wasn’t going.
In the meantime, I keep going to the workshop and I keep working on my material. I even have a bit that’s about ready for “prime time.”
What’s better is that I am getting comfortable with the idea of doing this thing that makes me HORRIBLY UNCOMFORTABLE.
Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
So, what does this have to do with anything? A lot, actually.
First off, improv has helped me do my job better. I’m listening better.
Second, growing my business, being successful with it, requires doing things that I find scary. If I don’t keep my comfort zone flexible, if I don’t push myself, I’m not going to have success.
Every now and then, we need to scare the bejeebies out of ourselves to prove to the world, ourselves, and our brains that we can survive.