The Dangerous Jaws of Failure This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

September 26, 2010
We all have a comfort zone. Every one of us on this planet has a shell in which we like to hide in…in which we like to bury our heads. Why? Because life is menacing, scary, and in many ways beyond our comprehension. Nobody wants to face life head on; nobody wants to enter battle without a suit of armor and a shield. So, we hide in bubbles of safety. And in these bubbles we can’t grow, we can’t succeed…we just stay the same forever. Despite its obvious flaws, I have learned to love my comfort zone. Time and time again, I bathe in its glory, and when I am outside it, I crave its safety and warmth. My comfort zone is a world where failure can’t harm me; in fact it’s a world where failure doesn’t even exist. When I am in my comfort zone I don’t ever take risks. Instead, I always take the safe route. I don’t play to win, I play not to lose.
For nothing is more terrifying than failure.
My whole life I’ve been listening to “successful” people telling me what to do. It seems that my school has a new speaker every week. Sometimes it’s a Wall Street tycoon and sometimes it’s an athlete, an author, or an environmentalist, yet every speaker seems to be preaching the same messages. Work hard! Listen to your teachers! Try new things! I feel tremendous resentment when I hear one of these lauded speakers telling me to try new things. If something is new, I probably won’t be good at it, thus if something is new, failure becomes an option. Yet the summer after eighth grade I had a very different reaction to a speaker. I was at film camp listening to this big time producer’s speech. The first half of the speech was all BS, yet as I was drifting off to sleep he said, “If you’re scared to fail, you already are a failure.” It took a couple of days for this to sink in, but by the time I was back home it became clear that it was time for me to start taking some risks. I forced myself outside of my comfort zone knowing n this was what had to be done.
And so I signed up to take Mandarin. I knew from my older sister that Mandarin was going to be a challenge. Studying foreign language has never come easily to me and Mandarin seemed to be a dialect from outer space, but I took it because it was something different…something new, and I was ready to venture forth. The first day of class was horrendous to say the least. Within five minutes my teacher had us pronouncing impossible things in front of the class. At least to me they seemed impossible, yet every other kid in the class seemed to be doing this brilliantly. And then my turn arrived...and things did not go well. Everyone was laughing, the teacher seemed angry, I was sweating profusely, in other words I was failing. I was outside of my comfort zone.
I continued to massacre the language for another week or so, and then quit before things could get any worse. I guess quitting has always been my reaction when I leave my comfort zone; quitting is the easiest way to get back to my bubble. Yet I learned a lot about myself by taking that risk. First and foremost, I uncovered further evidence that I am handicapped as far as foreign languages go. I also learned that when I am outside of my comfort zone I become a nut case. I sweat. I stumble. I stutter. I become a totally different person. But most importantly I learned that quitting is my solution to every problem. After dropping the class and reflecting on the experience I was hit with a revelation, I will never be able to get better at anything if I don’t pursue that which I’m bad at.
In addition to failure I don’t like heights, small planes, exotic food, and I really, really, don’t like snakes. But now I know that I will have to learn to like these things if I ever want to skydive, or visit the Amazon. I have heard so many people tell me how their rainforest voyage has changed them for life. I want to be changed for life, but I need to step beyond my comfort zone to experience that kind of transformation. Yes my Mandarin experience scarred me, but I will not shy away from the challenging forever. It won’t be everyday, but little by little I would like to take on more challenges and accept that this will inevitably expose me to the possibility of failure.
I know that I am not the only one who suffers from comfort zone dependence disorder. In fact, everyone in the world has a comfort zone; some are just bigger than others. I have learned to accept the fact that my comfort zone is on the smaller side. Maybe it’s because of the way I was raised, or maybe it’s because of my genes. In the grand scheme of things, the reasons don’t really madder. No two people are alike, and the same can be said about comfort zones. Yet, those of us with small comfort zones need to break free, and for me freedom can only come with failure. I need to break out of my comfort zone, or at least extend it; for hard-won success will only be obtainable if I stop hiding from failure. I need to be brave and meet it face to face, only then do I have a chance of winning the battle.





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Mike said...
Dec. 29, 2010 at 6:13 pm
One of the best articles I have read! 
 
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