Life on the Skinny Branches – Becoming Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Our good friends Jaime Taets and Erica Roelike from Keystone Group just released a Superpower Success Podcast episode that asked this question, “Are you comfortable being uncomfortable?” They went on to talk about a simple concept. To grow, we need to put ourselves in uncomfortable positions that challenge us. Put another way, the comfort zone is the danger zone.

With that in mind, stop and think for a moment. Professionally or personally, are you doing anything today that feels uncomfortable?

There are different levels of “uncomfortable” to consider. First, we encounter uncomfortable things that stretch us a little but present hardly any risk. Trying a new hot sauce may be a bit uncomfortable, but there’s no chance of long-term harm. It’s like climbing a tree that has thick, sturdy branches. Climbing further out onto the branch will push us outside of our comfort zone, but there’s no doubt that the branches will hold our weight. Even if we slip, there’s a high likelihood another branch will catch us and break our fall.

On the other side of that, some of the uncomfortable things we’re facing present real risk. We may or may not get the results we want, and there are no guarantees of success. Taking a chance and making the wrong decision could result in some pain – failure might hurt. We refer to this as climbing out onto the skinny branches.

This is the place where it’s easy to get stuck. The reward at the end of the skinny branches can be massive and game-changing, but the risk can be paralyzing. We can get caught in an endless circle of “what if’s” that flood our minds. The questions keep us from doing anything at all. Staying comfortable being where you’re at ends up being the safe choice – and that’s what keeps us from reaching our full potential.

Sound familiar? We see it all the time, at work, and at home.

In business, risk is an everyday reality. For example, think about hiring staff. Knowing when to hire, the right person to hire, and the realities of how you’re going to afford a new hire require climbing out on the skinny branch. This is something we’re navigating right now, and we are definitely out on that skinny branch preparing to take some new risks.

How about releasing new products? Investing time, money, and energy into an idea that you think the world will get excited about requires climbing out onto another skinny branch. Making a move to try something new professionally or shift careers is another “skinny branch” experience. At work, to be really successful, we’re constantly climbing out onto the skinny branches. These things take guts.

How about you personally? Sometimes the skinny branches show up when we decide to pick up a new hobby and try something we’ve never done. Sometimes our skinny branches show up as an investment in strengthening a relationship. Many times the skinny branches require betting on ourselves and all the possibilities we have inside waiting to be released into the world. These things take guts, too.

Fear and failure love to push their way into these conversations. If you try something and it doesn’t work the way you planned, then what? Put a better way (with a more positive spin), so what? At least if you try something, you can say you did everything you could and didn’t leave anything on the table. Many times the fears that paralyze us rises from a pile of unknowns and concerns based on what it will feel like to fail, rather than what it will feel like not to try. We’re spending time thinking about the feelings associated with our potential failure rather than thinking aspirationally about how the success will feel. We get stuck in our heads – and we end up doing nothing.


So what’s this week’s call to action? It’s a gentle push (or hard shove) to get comfortable being a little uncomfortable. If you’re not doing anything today that is making you sweat a little bit, and makes your heartbeat just a little faster when you think about it, then find something. Don’t get stuck in the comfort done, a.k.a. the danger zone. When you play it safe, that’s all you’ll ever be… safe. Stretch yourself, your faith, and your possibilities and see what happens.