The elephant is one of the most powerful and massive animals in the world, it can easily lift logs with its trunks and knock trees over using its heads. You might think it is strange then to find that a circus elephant is usually kept tied up by its handlers with a length of rope that it could easily break. This is because it has been conditioned: Trainers accomplish this through the use of a heavy metal chain to tie the elephant while it is still young. The elephant learns during its development that it cannot break the bonds and it associates them with its limits, boundaries, and freedoms. Later, when it is fully grown and is of adult size and strength, it still believes it cannot break that bond and so, it never really try. From then on, only a rope is necessary to keep it from breaking its bonds, freeing itself and realizing its true strength and potential. By now you may have realised that I am not really talking about elephants, right?
When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone? I can remember the last time I personally did. It was on a recent holiday trip to New Caledonia. My wife asked me about the types of activities I would like to try. I told her I would love to try jet skiing since it is something that I have never done before. She bought a ticket for me and I was really excited and looked forward to it.
After a long drive, upon arrival in front of a small building of a business called Mabojet in the oceanfront. I saw about a dozen jet skis parked on the dock. My attention was then immediately drifted to the sight of the vast ocean right in front of me, it then suddenly dawned on me that I was going to be riding a jet ski alone in the middle of it, with no swimming skill, and no experience whatsoever on a jet ski. To make matters worse, I suddenly remembered that two great white sharks were sighted a few days before that day on different occasions in the same city. At that moment, there was only one voice in my head, “you are an idiot Mo. You don’t know how to swim, never been on a jet ski, but you want to ride a jet ski in this large body of water.”
Afterwards, a middle-aged man approached us saying “Bonjour! Bonjour!” We introduced ourselves to each other. Afterward, he immediately started going through the instructions with me; “put on your life jacket, buckle it up, if you fall down into the water, use your hand to pull down the life jacket against your tummy”. In my mind, I was asking myself, “wait, what is he saying, why the hell will I fall into the water?” He then continued, “this is how you accelerate and decelerate”. Further on, it got even scarier when he said, “when turning, accelerate”. In my mind, I thought, this contradicts everything I have been taught about driving bikes and cars and I was like oh my God, what have I gotten myself into? After he finished going through the instructions, he then started repeating “no suicide, no suicide” and I was like what does he mean and what is he trying to say, why will I want to commit suicide? However, my wife who is French quickly interrupted and clarified to me that he was literally translating don’t worry from French (pas des soucis) to English. The translation was a huge sudden relief because I was about to give up riding the jet ski.
We then took off on the jet ski into the ocean. I was on one of the machines by myself, while the instructor was 500m ahead of me on his own machine at the beginning, he then zoomed off even farther ahead a few seconds later. I was really scared to death, I started accelerating slowly hoping that doing so will make me feel better, but I soon realised that I will be left far behind, alone in the middle of the ocean, the waves were hitting the ski and moving it up and down. In addition, it came to my realisation that I stand a higher chance of being dragged into the ocean by a shark if I continue going slowly. As a result, I started accelerating faster, turning left, then right, while salty water was splashing and hitting my face while trying to catch up with the instructor. Suddenly, I realised that although it was a scary moment, it was also one of the most blissful experiences of my life, my confidence had increased without even realising it.
In the end, it was one of the most frightening things I have ever done, but also the most thrilling experiences I have ever had. The lesson for me was why was I scared before getting onto the jet ski, before I even started riding in the ocean, why do I need that fear for? My question to you is, when was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone? What is it that you are not doing because of the fear of failure? Finding a new job, giving a speech, leaving a job you don’t enjoy, starting your own business, giving compliments to strangers, asking someone out for a date, doing something you’ve never done before?
I see life as a constant fight against our comfort zone, you push it, it pushes back. What is the fear that is holding you back, what are you not saying or doing because it is outside your comfort zone? I challenge you to find that comfort zone today, bravely step out of it and as you get comfortable again, push it even further. Don’t try to get rid of fear, accept that you will be afraid and then go do it anyway. Much has changed in the past few decades, and much will change in the coming years. Sometimes it’s good to check if the chain can still hold you. Do not be tamed by the tug of history. Maybe with a few new tools and techniques, you can just get up and walk away to a place you’ve never seen or been before.
“What makes you comfortable can ruin you and what makes you uncomfortable is the only way to grow” – Bill Eckstrom.