August 28, 2015

How Getting out of my Comfort Zone Saved my Life.

Michigan Avenue

I was going to be broke.

I thought no one was ever going to take me seriously and I was going to be unhappy for the rest of my life. I had just dropped out of college and I was in the kitchen telling my parents.

My dad was so mad he walked out of the house.

I became so depressed and anxious I started having panic attacks. Every day I thought I was dying and it was hard for me to get up in the morning.

I took some nothing jobs just to make a little income. I had no real skills. I was embarrassed, so I ignored all my friends. I was too proud to admit I was doing nothing with my life.

Everyday felt the same. Life had been squeezed out of my pores like a teenager with bad acne. My life splattered on the bathroom mirror.

I would see other 20 year olds walking on the street laughing and I would feel jealous. Something had to change before it killed me.

There’s always a moment in life when you we say, “Enough!”

One day I got on the train to go to work. While I looked out of the window I saw the library. I hadn’t read a book since I left school and that really sickened me. Is school the only place I can learn? I was struck with a new thought.

Learning doesn’t only happen in school.

So I got off the train and went inside the library. I didn’t even have a library card. I would hide the books I liked so I could come back and finish them the following day.

I read everything I could. I carried a pad and pen with me and wrote down ideas about everything.

I then started a project called “Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone Every Day For 100 Days.” Each day I did something new.

I laid on the street of Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It was filled with hundreds of people and I laid down while everyone stared. Scariest moment of my life.

Another day, I snuck inside of the NBC building so I could go to the top floor and look out of the window from the top. While there, someone in a grey suit asked what I was doing. When I said I wanted to look out the window he escorted me out of the building and told me never to return.

I hugged strangers on the street and got rejected many times. This rejection, made me feel terrible. But it gave me confidence.

I asked the cashier for 10% off my coffee. This was frightening because, who asks that? It was hard for me to believe that I was so scared to ask. But everything in life is a negotiation.

Another frightening one was asking the bus driver if I could ride for free. I would explain that I didn’t have enough money and if I could ride for free. Most people would be too scared and just walk home. I am one of those people. But this time, I asked. And he said, “no problem.”

All of these things scared me out of my mind. Every day I came up with excuses why I shouldn’t be doing these things. My brain was firing up because I kept putting it in uncomfortable situations.

But guess what?

After doing each thing, I found that doing things that scare us is not so bad. No one cares how we look. Or how what we say. No one as much as we do. It’s all in our head.

Anything that was uncomfortable I did it. I had to rewire my brain.

Everything I had done in my life had led to me being depressed and in a dead end job. My best thinking got me there. If I wanted different results, I had to do different things.

Getting out of my comfort zone was going to infuse new blood into my system. It was going to help me come up with new ideas.

Every day I did one thing that got me out of my comfort zone.

One thing that scared me. And that’s when it all exploded.

I started writing about my journey on my website. Every day, I wrote about the new thing I did to get out of my comfort zone. And things changed quickly. Suddenly, new projects and opportunities started popping up.

I emailed Nate Damm, who had walked across America at 22-years-old and asked if I could interview him. He said yes. And boom! I now had a podcast. I started emailing more people whose books I had read that inspired me to interview.

I emailed Seth Godin one day about the work I was doing. I emailed him thinking he was going to say no. Much less reply. But I figured, you know what?

If I don’t ask, the answer is always no.

And suddenly there I was talking to Seth Godin. Getting out of my comfort zone caused me to take risks. To not make excuses. It taught me about my boundaries and how I should help other people.

Five things I learned when I stepped out of my comfort zone.

1. Give Value To Someone And They Will Give Value Back. I didn’t just email Seth Godin and ask him to talk to me. I gave him a link to my website showing my project about getting out of my comfort zone in 100 days and how his work had inspired it. Most people are happy to help if you show that you’re truly interested in their work. Don’t be annoying and ask them simple questions you can easily find on their site.

2. Respect Their Time. And you’ll respect them. These are busy people. I specifically told Seth Godin it would take 15 minutes. And he agreed. Don’t email them giving them a list of all the great people you’ve interviewed and why they should be next. Or else they’ll think they’re just another date.

3. Keep Your Promises. I timed myself and after 15 minutes, I ended the interview. How bad would I look if I promised him 15 minutes and just kept going? Do what you say you’re going to do. Be that person.

4. Ask. In Amanda Palmer’s book The Art Asking, she discuses how to ask without fear. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. Some people don’t apply to certain schools because they think they’re not going to get in. How dare you eliminate yourself from the competition without even trying?

When I asked a cashier for 10 % off my coffee, she looked thrown off by the odd request. And she gave it to me. Sometimes, when you ask, the answer is no. But sometimes it’s yes.

5. Choose Yourself. This is the best time in history to invent yourself. You no longer need to impress gatekeepers to let you in. Want to write a book? Self publish on Amazon. Want to build a following? Get on social media. Want to make a movie? Put it on YouTube. Scared you won’t get a good job without a degree? Show employers an awesome portfolio online instead of a degree. Employers don’t want degrees. They want skills. No more excuses.

I don’t really like fancy cars. Or a fancy house. Or expensive clothes. I just want to be able to comfortably pay the bills so that I have the freedom to do the things I love. And be with the ones I love.

I’m getting closer to that.

I loved writing this, for instance. Maybe I’ll go for a bike ride later today. And maybe find someone to fall in love with.


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Author: Efrain Martinez

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: courtesy of the author


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