Retired Navy SEAL David Goggins said it best .. “Do you know who you really are and what you are capable of? Don’t worry, you are not alone. In every town and country all over the world, millions roam the streets like dead-eyed zombies, addicted to comfort, embracing the victim mentality and unaware of their true potential.” Those words are as sharp as a double edged sword, which made me read those lines multiple times. For those of you that have not read his book Can’t Hurt Me, I highly recommend doing so. With his horrendous childhood, I would totally understand if he had a victim mentality for life. His upbringing was that bad. Over time, he chose the opposite for himself.
What is it about comfort that we like so much, and why at times do we convince ourselves that it will bring us some type of joy? Even more toxic than thinking being comfortable will bring us joy, is thinking we owe it to ourselves to be comfortable after we face challenges. Have you ever been through something so hard or draining to the point where you convinced yourself of that? I definitely have been there. The more I am “comfortable” the more I feel like I am wasting my life and my purpose.. and how my mind works.. I always feel like the clock is ticking.
Years ago, I began to do a lot of speaking engagements. Up until that point, most of the engagements were relatively small. A large size classroom of people would be considered a lot to me. The captain who I was working for at the time was one of the best public speakers I had ever heard, so I began to be intrigued by the art of public speaking. Every time he would speak in front of larger crowds, I would stand off to the side and take mental notes about what he was doing.
I will never forget the time watching him as he was the keynote speaker at an event with 500 people. 30 minutes before he was suppose to speak, one of the coordinators at the event asked my captain if she could see his speaking notes. He replied “Notes? I don’t have notes. I am going to wing this!” Panic overtook her face, realizing that he was serious. He ended up getting up on stage, giving close to a 45 minutes speech, ending with a standing ovation. It was incredible.
As time went on watching him speak at large events (while I spoke at smaller ones) I began to think that maybe I could do that one day. Opposite thoughts would then immediately consume me, and I would pray that he would never call on me to speak in front of that many people. I told myself I would be too uncomfortable and unqualified to do so. I wanted to continue to sit there right in the middle of my comfort zone, speaking to smaller groups. I even began justify to myself why there is no need for me to ever speak in front of large crowds. I would tell myself things like “I have already accomplished plenty of challenging things in my life. Why do I need to improve my public speaking skills? I am good where I am. I should be proud!” My ego began to be my sympathizer.
My captain informed me one day that he was going out of town, but we had a scheduled conference coming up. He asked if I could go, and of course I agreed. From my incorrect interpretation, I figured I would be sitting at a table with random people, having conversations about careers in the fire department. I didn’t fully realize that I was going to be one of the speakers at the event. UHH OHHH.
I spent about 12 hours the next day preparing for the event, as always horrified and worried about looking incompetent in front of other people. To put it more accurately, in front of A LOT of other people. It was hard to fall asleep that night knowing what the next day was going to entail.
I pulled into the event parking lot the next day, seeing car after car after car after car. There was so many people there, I thought I pulled up to the wrong building. I could start to feel my heart beating out of my chest and I hadn’t even found a parking spot yet. I sat there for a moment in my car contemplating if I should fake my own death, or somehow find a way out of this. I fearfully walked through the front doors of the conference building, and was escorted to my table where the rest of the speakers were. I looked around the room and saw hundreds (over a thousand according to my captain) of important looking people all dressed in suits. I saw camera after camera lined up in the back, with media personnel everywhere.
I introduced myself to all of the speakers at the table, pretending that I was confident about what was about to happen. I looked down at the table in front of me and saw the booklet for the event, which sure enough how my photo along with a description of who I was in it. Sitting next to me was a city manager, who leaned over and said to me “I am always so nervous every time I public speak.” For whatever reason, him saying that to me made me feel ten times calmer. The media team then came over to my table to mic us all up. No backing out now.
As I made my way on the stage, I was partially blinded by all of the lights pointed in my direction. I tried not to look into the crowd as I was walking up, not wanting to give myself another reason to be nervous. I tried not to think about all of the cameras or important people staring up at the stage either. I took one last big breath making sure my mic didn’t pick it up, then it was game time.
After it was all said and done and making my way off stage, a few things came to mind. First thing.. I have a lot of respect for people that public speak in front of large crowds. Second thing.. I feel much better now that my adrenaline isn’t pumping anymore. Third..No more being addicted to comfort.
Although I didn’t do anything great that day whatsoever, I did realize that every person in history who has ever achieved something of significance.. didn’t get there by being comfortable. It takes a lifetime of being intentional about putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations to truly get closer to your potential. The sad thing is 99% of the population will have no idea what they can truly accomplish in life, because they are too addicted to their own comfort. As the saying goes, it is time to start being “comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Stay Mission Driven Everyone.