I DON'T LIKE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE — who does? But, when I'm feeling uncomfortable, it's often a marker for new opportunities, if I'm open to them.
Here are four stories from my own life, were my being uncomfortable eventually led to great opportunities.
New City, New Life
When I was 15, our family moved from Chicago to Milwaukee. I left friends, my high school and a familiar neighborhood. In Milwaukee it was uncomfortable to start over again, in a new city, school, having to make new friends. But being uncomfortable in a new city provided opportunities to become outgoing and adaptable in new situations. Moving eventually led me to my beautiful wife, our children and relationships with many great friends and colleagues.
A Haircut Leads to Germany
One saturday morning, I walked into my local barbershop and found my barber speaking to a young man in German. I felt a bit uncomfortable, but stayed. I was curious about this guy, Matthias, which led to a great, long-term friendship. A haircut led me to visit Germany for pleasure and business, brought European friends to my life and formed me professionally as I worked 9+ years remotely for MakaluMedia, a web design & development firm in Germany.
From Printer to Designer
In college I was focused on printing, but my school, Milwaukee Area Technical College, required printing, design and photography students take classes in all three disciplines. It was uncomfortable being stretched in three directions, but through exposure to design I found a love for design as a career. I left the printing department for design, graduated and became a professional designer.
My Speaking Moment
Two years ago I was invited to speak on sketchnoting at Pecha Kucha Milwaukee. Back then I was uncomfortable speaking to crowds, but I accepted the challenge. At first, I was a bit freaked out, but worked hard to prepare. My talk was well-received, which gave me confidence. Now I love speaking to people and am excited for opportunities to share my passion with others.
When I remember these and other stories, I'm encouraged. Uncomfortable situations often turn into great, life-changing opportunities.
What uncomfortable situations am I in?
Is there opportunity under the surface?
Update June 2, 2012
Here's some very relevant discussion from Todd Henry: The Accidental Creative Podcast: Gaining Clarity Through Action. Don’t be paralyzed by fear of the unknown! Do what you’re qualified to do, and stop doing the things that only waste your focus, time and energy.