In my anniversary issue, I called out an idea that I wish to revisit. In Brandon Turner’s real-estate book, I picked up the term ‘comfortable discomfort.’ His hypothesis states, as so many already have, that growth happens outside of one’s ‘comfort zone.’
And yes, that piece of sage wisdom did win the No Shit, Sherlock awards last year. Nothing novel about that idea, but Turner breaks the uncomfortable zone into two distinct zones.
By drawing three concentric circles, Turner suggests we can operate in one of three areas: comfort, comfortable discomfort, and uncomfortable discomfort. We all know comfort. Doubtless you are wrapped in a blanket of comfort right this moment—and if this column makes you uncomfortable, please contact our customer support, they will not help you.
At the outermost circle we find uncomfortable discomfort; this area is fraught with impostor syndrome, failure, and immense anxiety. In a paraphrased example, Turner imagines an investor beginning her real-estate career by renting out a spare bedroom.
After 6-months spent as a landlord, she goes from managing one rental to managing 801-rentals; she purchases a skyrise. As the universe pours discomfort into her Big Gulp, she forgets to say ‘when.’ And as a consequence, the project quickly overwhelms her.
Even though some elements are familiar, purchasing and managing a skyrise worth of apartments depends on experience earned somewhere between renting out a spare bedroom and the investor’s current, massive undertaking. Doubtless, our investor was driven by big rewards, so she took a big risk.
Turner understands that people often find themselves driven by one of two motivators: the rewards at the end of a journey or the fears at its beginning. If we focus too heavily on the rewards, we skip the necessary self-development required to reach our goals with dignity. On the other hand, we also fear failure.
And fear prevents us from taking even the smallest steps necessary to reach our goals. If I’m honest with myself, I admit to suffering both flaws. Thankfully, Turner’s perspective reduces my anxiety.
Before, I saw most of what lies outside my ‘comfort zone’ as uncomfortable discomfort—that only by feeling great discomfort can I grow in a way that I’m proud of. Yet those large steps are the most frightening; and fear prevents me from seeing the smaller steps I can and must take to get where I want to go. Turner advocates for the small step: reaching for something just beyond our current perceived limitations.
By conquering a challenge adjacent to our capabilities, we grow our circle of comfort by 1% and shrink the distance between our comfort zone and the uncomfortable discomfort in which our greatest rewards lie. If our investor repeats this often enough, the big skyrise with 800 units eventually becomes her next small step.
In a personal marketing example, content production is deeply rooted in my comfort zone. Content has been there so long that you can see it’s ass-print every time it gets up off the couch. And plopped right next to content is me sharing a piece from this column with one or two colleagues, at most.
However, nestled somewhere outside my cozy cottage and likely buried in martian soil is me partnering with a PR firm to promote my column in a major U.S. city. Not only am I far from comfortable allocating funds to such a project, I am certain to fail in attracting and retaining valuable readers through such a campaign.
Somewhere between telling two close friends about this post and retaining the services of a top-tier New York public relations firm lies my comfortable discomfort. Which brings me to my next natural thought: what does lie at the border between comfort and comfortable discomfort?
I’ve previously stated that my goal with The Mmm...letter’s second year is to grow its audience by no more than 10x—as of March 1st, 2023, you will be an audience of 170, but not significantly greater. To reach that goal, I plan to peak outside, put on some bunny slippers, and take the tiniest hops into the wilderness.
I hope you’ll join me.
🐇 My first bunny hop
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