Today’s post is the featured article from the February 2009 issue of  The Front Porch Newsletter.  If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

blumbergface1It sounds like such good advice when we are giving the advice to someone else … you need to stretch yourself and push yourself right outside of your comfort zone. This is true. It is the zone in which we grow. It is the arena in which we discover new things … especially new things about ourselves.

Last night I was in that arena alright. Literally … our high school’s basketball arena. On the court to be exact. In front of hundreds of people. But I wasn’t speaking. I was yelling … with all the other dads of the Naperville Central High School Varsity Cheerleader Squad! Yes, once a year the cheerleaders’ dads take to the court, at halftime, with their peppy daughters. Let’s just say it makes for great crowd entertainment … so they say, laughing with you and not at you. Right!

You are probably thinking … what’s the big deal? Surely they dumb-it-down to some simple cheer and let you just stand there. If so, we might be able to actually pull that off. No. We’re talking a cheer with several stanzas, full arm and leg movements, a clap/stomp rhythm in the middle of it all … and, of course, a full up-in-the-air mount at the end. Don’t forget … with a 26-2 division championship basketball team … there are hundreds of spectators in the stands! I was definitely zoned out … zoned right outside my comfort zone.

When it comes to doing a major keynote, I simply don’t get nervous. Last night I was more than nervous. As the designated “high-flyer” for our mount team, I was especially nervous about the end … a tumbling face plant had come to mind!

There is no question that being “zoned” outside our comfort zone brings its own challenges, but it also brings huge benefits. And last night, for a whole squad of dads … the benefit was being side-by-side with our daughters. And that benefit far outweighed the risk of the certainty of making a fool of ourselves!

Being outside your comfort zone is a lot easier when it is about something or someone bigger than yourself. In counseling young professionals, I have always offered a consistent word of advice: that is … to master the road to success, you eventually have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Last night was a little uncomfortable.

How comfortable are you right now? Are you zoned-in or zoned-out? I am convinced that leaders of substance are focused … but they are also zoned-out! And they are willing to look foolish when it comes to being about something or someone bigger than themselves.

What have you done lately that has really taken you outside your comfort zone?

As for cheerleading … I still prefer being the proud dad in the stands watching Julie go flipping non-stop from one end of the court to the other. I don’t mind being in front of the crowd … but I think I will stick to keynote presentations … yet still pursuing a regular opportunity to zone-out of my comfort zone!