Getting out of comfort zone an uncomfortable process [UPDATED]Published 8:41am Monday, June 18, 2012 Updated 12:42pm Monday, June 18, 2012
Have you ever wondered what singing in front of people by yourself and hanging drywall have to do with each other?
I really hadn’t either – until this week, that is.
The answer: both are out of my comfort zone.
My recent performance at SummerFest and the remodeling of my bathroom – in which I am assisting – have created situations where I have been forced to stretch.
Those who have read my column in the past are probably more surprised at the former than the latter. After all, I have played onstage and at church services before, while, as a desk jockey, construction has not exactly been a staple for me in recent decades.
But apparently, in my head, the two are no different.
On the SummerFest performance, perhaps Otter Tail County Historical Society director Chris Schuelke said it best to me while stopping by the office this week in regard to my performance last Friday at SummerFest.
“You didn’t look very comfortable up there.”
Asked to perform by a SummerFest committee member after I had brazenly offered earlier in the week, I played a 30-minute set prior to the other bands.
I regretted that decision about 30 minutes before I was scheduled to go on, breaking out in a cold sweat. Contrary to the Concert in the Park performance a couple of years ago, I wasn’t as prepared for this one, and my performance showed. I either forgot, or didn’t know, the lyrics to some of the songs. I abruptly ended songs before their completion because I didn’t know the lyrics. My singing was off. My guitar playing was off. And yes, I felt extremely nervous up there.
I always envision those performers who look as comfortable as they would be sitting in front of their television at night (which is where I typically perform), singing away, pounding on the guitar, telling jokes, etc.
The difference is that they are in their comfort zone on stage, probably because performers — let’s pick Jimmy Buffett — play every night. They are singing and playing the same songs, and since they have different audiences every night, they can tell the same jokes. I, on the other hand, have performed by myself only a handful of times over the past five years.
Similarly, working on my bathroom has caused some mental anguish.
When I mentioned my project to my cousin recently, he said, “I wouldn’t even know where to start.” My response? Neither do I.
Fortunately, I have a relative who is a former contractor. He’s the leader. My job is to a.) lift heavy things, b.) rip out things, and c.) whatever he wants me to do.
You see those construction guys on television, and you think it looks easy – sawing boards, screwing in screws, stripping wires. It just isn’t.
Take hanging drywall. When you screw it in, you have to “countersink” the screw – screw it in so it goes below the surface level – yet not go too far into the paper surface, because if you break the paper, it makes it more difficult for the taping guy. Most of the screws I put in went one of two ways – not far enough in, requiring my relative to countersink it, or too far, thus puncturing the paper. There were lots of words under my breath for that one.
Of course, to my relative, screwing in drywall is sort of like breathing. Then again, he’s been doing it since he was a kid working for his dad.
Based on these two experiences, I have two lessons when it comes to jumping out of one’s comfort zone.
It’s nerve-wracking at first. There’s just no way around it – when you do something out of your comfort zone, you don’t feel comfortable, and you won’t do it well.
The only way to put an activity or skill into your comfort zone, and to do it well, is to do it a lot.
I thought about the things that used to be out of my comfort zone, such as writing this newspaper column or running a distance race.
What pushed such activities into my comfort zone? Nearly 1,000 columns and about 25 races.
There is no substitute.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s Publisher. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org