To Be Your Best, Try Being 'Uncomfortable'
It seems like our nature is geared toward comfort and the pursuit of comfort. Isn't that the goal of our labors - to achieve some coziness? To be your best, however, the place to be is "uncomfortable." This is not to mean wearing your pants too tight, or putting on Red Sox attire at Yankee Stadium. "Uncomfortable" motivates and clarifies our direction. It gives us insight into the problems around us and our very best innovations come from those very uncomfortable places.
Best Leaps Forward Come From Uncomfortable
The best ideas are cultivated from an uncomfortable place. We are motivated and driven to resolve that conflict which causes discomfort. This could be in the form of improving quality of life, increasing productivity, cultivating community, etc. But there is something that drives us to resolve that issue. The companies we respect and admire were founded on resolving something that was not in the market before that time. Apple, Facebook, Amazon, SAP, etc. were all grown from that original problem to solve. This absolutely applies to consumer brands as well. The Greek Yogurt Wars have only just begun, but were created from a need to enjoy something in the US that our European counterparts have enjoyed for generations.
Being comfortable with the world around us makes us lazy, removes stimulation, and hinders our motivation. Conversely, being uncomfortable forces us to be creative and resolve the discord.
Too Much Comfortable Thinking
Working the conference circuit or just having companies reach out to me because of where I work, there is a commonality to these product or partnership pitches that put me to sleep (with two little kids at home, these mental naps are a high point of my days). As soon as I hear these 6 magic words, I know I can tune out; "We are gonna be the next . . ." for me is just like "meeting Ambien." This is a classic example of "comfortable thinking." This tells investors, vendors, partners, and the market that your idea isn't original and isn't born from some fundamental problem to solve. It is base and devoid of originality. It can be based on money, or ego, or boredom, but it is seldom - if ever- based on solving a problem in the market, about solving the "uncomfortable."
There is nothing wrong with building a better mousetrap, but to what aim - what does that mousetrap do? What problem to solve? Saying you are the next X ("Facebook" and "Apple" are two of my favorites to hear) describes your aspirations, but not your motives. What can you hope to accomplish by just being "better than" - for the sake of just being "better than." We don't need one more feature on our phones to make it the proverbial "Swiss Army Knife" of gadgets just so that we can have another feature for marketing to talk about. "It's a phone, a camera, a GPS, . . . a floor wax and a dessert topping." (For fans of old SNL!!) If the feature solves some need and alleviates that tension in our lives, we will beat a path to your door.
How To Think "Uncomfortable"
Think about the problems around you. What things are causing you and others some anxiety? This type of thinking need not be applied only to new products or solutions, or new companies. Resolving anxiety and conflict can be a powerful motivator in your personal life, around your home, with your transportation, etc. Your ability to be successful is directly related to how often you can put yourself in uncomfortable and challenging situations. Your greatest areas of growth and achievement come because you have ventured out of your comfort zone and tried something new and different.
Ask yourself this: aside from being busy and overtaxed in your life, what is causing you the greatest stress and making you the most uncomfortable? Instead of dreading that aspect of your life, embrace it. Don’t run from it, run to it. Put your energies into resolving that strain. That is where you will be your best!
There is a reason birds kick their young out of their nests. Because falling is uncomfortable. How many would learn to fly if the nest was warm and mom brought you 3 meals a day?
“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” – Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-hour Workweek