I used to think you could get rid of every fear.
MJ DeMarco" data-source="post: 964795" class="bbCodeBlock bbCodeBlock--expandable bbCodeBlock--quote js-expandWatch">Anything *new* or something you've never done before can be uncomfortable. If you fear discomfort, you will fail to build any kind of new life.
This is one of the best posts I've seen on here.
MJ DeMarco" data-source="post: 964795" class="bbCodeBlock bbCodeBlock--expandable bbCodeBlock--quote js-expandWatch">Anything new is always uncomfortable to the thinking mind. If you can tap into your unconscious and let it do it, then there will be no discomfort. Walking should be very uncomfortable for babies, and yet they keep trying over and over again. They are not deterred by failure, the way adults are.Anything *new* or something you've never done before can be uncomfortable. If you fear discomfort, you will fail to build any kind of new life.
MJ DeMarco" data-source="post: 941278" class="bbCodeBlock bbCodeBlock--expandable bbCodeBlock--quote js-expandWatch">This is a great post, and actually has some relevance to me. If I'm being honest with myself, I've lived an awfully comfortable life that last ten years. I'm happy of course, but I know I've declined a lot of opportunities simply because I didn't want to be bothered as I focused more on low-drama, or I simply told myself, "You don't need to do that."
I can attest to this.Bump.
In light of everything that's going on in the world. There is something comforting about choosing discomfort. Choosing. And feeling great after. And being a better version of yourself after. Today I realized that I've stuck with Wim Hoff's method since May. I am not tracking it on the app anymore, the cold showers are now just "showers". Discomfort in first 2 seconds is still there, but the rest is no longer discomfort. Yet I am sharp, refreshed and ready to go after a shower. Better than after a first cup of coffee. Not kidding - better. I am sharper.
In my old age, what I discovered about discomfort is as follows: Discomfort is inevitable. It is part of life's plan. But you do have a choice.On July 7, 1978, exercise fanatic Dave Kekich was working out in the gym like any other day. While training, he suffered a freak spinal cord injury. At the age of 35, it left him paralyzed from the chest down ever since.
His injury cost him everything.
He couldn’t engage in his favorite physical activities anymore. He suffered from serious depression. He lost a thriving business.
He spend the next two decades searching for a cure to be able to walk again, to no avail. He eventually devoted his life to identify and fund the world’s most promising anti-aging research, technologies, products and services.
Joe Polish from the Genius Network asked Dave to compile his life lessons. The resulting document, titled Kekich's Credo, offers 100 “success secrets” that have guided Dave’s life.
In the opening rule, he says:
People will do almost anything to stay in their comfort zones. If you want to accomplish anything, get out of your comfort zone. Strive to increase order and discipline in your life. Discipline usually means doing the opposite of what you feel like doing. (…)
In the fourth rule, he says:
(…) Life’s easy when you live it the hard way… and hard if you try to live it the easy way.
How I Went From Easy to Hard to Easy and Why "Easy" Doesn’t Work
I'm about to tell you a little bit of my life story and share more than I feel comfortable sharing. The reason why I'm doing it will be obvious by the time you finish reading this post...
The first time I read Kekich’s Credo, the two observations above resonated with me so much that I got addicted to making my life harder. I continuously expanded my comfort zone. I pushed my body physically and challenged my mind regularly, too. I treated it like the most important job in the world.
I learned how to overcome debilitating shyness through learning how to talk with women, public speaking, and performing some silly feats in social settings. This also helped me develop confidence in my business skills.
I overcame my fear of heights through rock climbing, hiking in high mountains, flying in a hot-air balloon and even skydiving. I was scared SHITLESS when doing the latter.
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ABOVE: I'm not sure what was scarier. Sitting in a tightly-packed old rattling airplane with the door open as it gained altitude or jumping out of it? Both were a total horror. But I'm still glad I did it.
I overcame my fear of the unknown by traveling to exotic destinations like Oman, Kyrgyzstan, and Morocco, as well as climbing expeditions in Europe, and experiencing some crazy adventures there.
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ABOVE: Multi-pitch climbing in Italy. We got lost during the route and had to climb through some sketchy terrain. Previously, I wouldn't even be able to stand on top of a cliff, let alone climb it.
I overcame my fear of open water by learning how to swim (now I’m a swimming coach), surf and even scuba dive. I was scared SHITLESS to do the latter, too.
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ABOVE: My first scuba dive. It took me ages to gain courage to tumble backwards from the boat. I was THIS close to not doing it and just giving up. But that would set a bad precedent. And I wouldn't get to see another world.
I even overcame my deep hatred of cold weather and practiced winter swimming and surfing in temperatures as low as 3 degrees Celsius / 37 Fahrenheit.
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ABOVE: Right before cold water immersion. Nothing to feel more invincible than suffering from extreme cold. The ice cut my feet but I didn't feel it since they were numb lol.
I got good at feeling comfortable despite discomfort, learning difficult things and engaging in physically- and mentally-demanding sports and various seminars like krav maga in terrorist situations:
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ABOVE: Hostage situation simulation during a krav maga seminar. No better way to learn how to feel comfortable with discomfort than zip-tied, with a garbage bag on your head.
Eventually, with all the above things going on, I achieved my biggest life goals. And over time, I started taking it a little easier.
“It’s time to chill out,” I told myself. “Constant stress isn’t good for you,” I thought. After all, I had paid the dues already. You want to become financially independent to enjoy life, not to keep pushing.
I didn’t entirely rest on my laurels. I still pushed myself in sports. I still learned new things. But I was no longer as rigorous about it as before. I more often took the easy way out. I avoided discomfort when it could have helped me grow.
I started rationalizing why I wasn’t doing certain things by telling myself things like:
I made myself more comfortable, thinking this would help me live a stress-free life.
- It's not my strength.
- It's too stressful.
- I’m past doing these things.
- I should be kinder to myself.
- This isn’t pleasant.
The joke is that a stress-free life is NOT the one where you don’t have stress. A stress-free life is the one where you can HANDLE whatever stress life throws at you. And the best way to learn how to handle stress is… you guessed it. Expose yourself to it, not hide yourself from it to “chill out.”
This applies BOTH when you’re pursuing your big goals as well as when you achieve them and can afford to "relax."
Ultimately, if you don’t know how to handle stress, you’ll STILL find a way to be stressed out—even when you cash out, move to a tropical paradise with swaying palm trees, free drinks, and a leisurely pace of life.
This doesn’t mean that if your daily job was living hell for you, now you should go back to it just to experience stress. It doesn’t mean that chronic stress is good for you. It doesn’t mean that you should purposefully destroy your life or keep suffering from terrible live conditions to have more stress. It doesn’t mean that life can’t be fun and needs to be filled with torment, either.
What you want in your everyday life is stress that’s voluntary, manageable and aligned with your goals. For entrepreneurs, this may mean exposing yourself to rejection, waking up early, pushing yourself physically, or studying difficult things. All. The. Time. Not just when you’re new to entrepreneurship but even (if not more so) when you gain more experience and assume you know it all.
Exposing yourself to this stress, voluntary or not, won’t be all roses, but it will make you sharper. And it won’t destroy your life quality. Quite the opposite. Constant growth keeps us vibrant, enthusiastic, and energized. Stagnation leads to boredom, apathy, and exhaustion.
I Finally Realized My Mistake
A few months ago I got interested in meditation. This led me to spirituality. This led me to becoming more aware of my everyday thoughts.
I recently noticed some alarming thoughts poisoning my mindset. I started justifying not doing things outside of my comfort zone with statements like: “I shouldn’t stress out so much again” or “I don’t like it.” But as I stopped interacting with discomfort as much as before, not only did I become complacent. I also started losing self-confidence. I also started making more excuses.
I was growing soft and weak thinking I was doing myself a favor.
To give you some examples…
I stopped tracking my caloric intake. This made me less aware of the amount of food I was consuming. My excuse was that it was stressful to deny myself food, let alone track it. As a result, I gained unwanted weight. One day as I looked at myself in the mirror, I absolutely hated how I looked. And that’s coming from a guy who’s obsessed about sports.
I stopped waking up at 5:30. Instead, I set the alarm for 6:30 only to hit snooze and get up an hour later. After all, it was stressful to wake up so early. And, I told myself, “I don’t have to wake up so early anymore. I’ve done that already in the past and paid my dues.” But in reality, because of sleeping late and getting up groggy, I was wasting my favorite part of the day.
I stopped exposing myself to adverse conditions. I taught myself that it was okay to back out when things got uncomfortable. Previously, I’d push even if it was extremely uncomfortable. Later, when I became supposedly "successful," I was fine giving up. Can you see what kind of a bad precedent it sets?
Inevitably, these weak behaviors affected my entrepreneurial life, too.
I started rationalizing my lazy business decisions by saying that, for example, I didn’t like social media so I shouldn’t use it to grow my business. Or that if I wasn’t good at something, I shouldn’t do it. (But I shouldn’t find another person to do it, either, because I wasn’t good at finding people to help me.)
As you can see, that's a perfect recipe for a vicious cycle.
Whatever new things I wanted to start, I had crippling doubts. Why? Because I was no longer comfortable feeling discomfort and doing it anyway. It had been a long time since I took expanding my comfort zone seriously.
That's when I realized something had to change.
I forgot what got me here: living my life the hard way.
I started counting calories again. I’ve already lost some weight and am on track to reach my goals by the summer. I feel better knowing I control my diet again, even though it’s not “stress-free” to weigh my food and track my caloric intake.
I started getting up at 5:30 again. The night I decided to start waking up early again, I naturally got up the next morning before the alarm clock. The firm decision alone was enough to bring back my old instincts. I now feel way better the moment I get up because I score a big win right when I start my day. Waking up at 5:30 after 8 hours of sleep gives me more energy than waking up at 7:30 after 9-10 hours of sleep. The harder option is easier.
I started exposing myself to adverse conditions again and pushing myself more physically. I now feel more confident in my abilities again, just because I’m yet again willing to endure discomfort if it means growth.
I started taking new risks in business and exploring new opportunities I didn’t feel comfortable with before. I feel like a complete beginner now and that’s great because it means I’m learning.
I have plans to do other new uncomfortable things like sleeping alone in the woods, mastering handstands (work in progress), as well as get good at marketing (my big weakness in business).
I also decided to publish this in-depth post along with some personal pictures even though I was nervous to do it. I knew that the message was more important than my discomfort so I had to put it out here.
Note that none of these things mean that my life is now terrible and filled with suffering. That's not what I'm proposing at all. My life is again filled with productive, fun challenges that may not always be pleasant but that are always rewarding. Before, when I was enjoying my hard-earned success thinking I was the shit, I was closed to these opportunities. I thought that since I was experienced, I was “better than that.” Now I'm just back to humbly inviting discomfort in my life and letting it be my teacher.
Deterioration or Growth—Your Choice
You may not enjoy suffering as you expand your comfort zone. But it’s this discomfort that pushes you ahead. It’s this discomfort that makes life interesting and creates rich experiences. Name one achievement in your life that makes you proud and I’m pretty sure it involved a lot of discomfort.
As Farnam Street’s article on entropy emphasizes, “for a change to occur, you must apply more energy to the system than is extracted by the system.” When you fail to apply continuous energy to improve your life, it inevitably goes toward disorder and disrepair.
Of course, over the long term we can’t prevent entropy as we have this thing called death. But why not pass through the time between your birth and death in a fun, rewarding, and meaningful way?
Whether you’re only beginning or are already a seasoned entrepreneur, remember that this journey never stops. Discomfort is the name of the game.
Life lived the hard way is what makes it engaging, satisfying, and also great for those around you as you inspire them with your strength and grit.
As for Dave Kekich, my other favorites of his are #27 and #62. I’ll let them speak for themselves:
27. The choice to exert integrated effort or to default to camouflaged laziness is the key choice that determines your character, competence and future. That critical choice must be made continually - throughout life. The most meaningful thing to live for is reaching your full potential.
62. If your purpose of life is security, you will be a failure. Security is the lowest form of happiness.
So there you have it, my ode to discomfort. Let it always be present in our lives regardless of our level of "success," for it makes life worth living.
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