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Push, push, push. Expanding your comfort zone (sivers.org)
237 points by royalghost on Aug 13, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

For me the things on the list are not what would expand my comfort zone - because they're things that are outside of normal routine, and therefore are just "crazy adventures" - which I love to do.

More scary for me are the mundane things - like sending back food I'm not happy with, asking for a raise, or trying to speak my embarrassing version of the local language.

It's funny that to think you could be far more at ease lost and hungry in a strange land than asking for a dinner reservation at a fancy restaurant.

Having witnessed it personally, being lost and hungry in a strange land involves mundane things. Think ordering food, trying to get your English understood, etc. I've seen people getting paralyzed in that sort of situations.

I think it differs greatly from person to person what categories of things that affects you, though.

I'm like GP in that there are many mundane thing that are far more outside my comfort zone than "extraordinary things".

E.g. starting a social conversation with a stranger for any reason takes a lot for me. I also don't like making phone calls, and will invent excuses to myself to avoid doing them if I'm not careful. I'm aware of most of the things I try to avoid, and so keep it in check through conscious effort, but it's something I have to constantly work at.

But ordering food in a strange country without knowing the language, for example? That's fun

I went to Beijing a few years back, and one night our hosts didn't have time to entertain we asked at our hotel for a restaurant recommendation. They tried sending us to a downtown tourist trap, but we refused and asked for something local.

After much arguing (they did not like the idea of sending us walking down the road when we did not speak nor read Mandarin), we got a piece of paper with a carefully written name of a local restaurant that should be easy to find, and walked down the road holding it up to compare it to signs.

Nobody there spoke a word of English, and my Mandarin was limited to about 10 words from a phrase book, but we pointed and gesticulated and got a fantastic meal without any problem.

Like GP, to me if something falls in the "crazy (or not so crazy) adventure" category, it pretty much automatically overcomes my inhibitions. For example, I went to France on an exchange while at school and had no problems walking up to total strangers to ask for help in halting French, while at home I'd have worked hard to avoid having to ask anyone for help.

I wish I knew how to trigger this change at will.

This resonates with me as well, why am I so much more outgoing and fearless in strange situations than when I'm back in known surroundings? Strange.

Think of 'reasonably anonymous' accounts on forums you post on.

Are you more cautious with your words when you have your name attached to the post?

It is less embarrassing to fail in a strange situation than in known surroundings.

I dare to interpret grandparent's spirit: the difference is not between "mundane" and "extraordinary" in the action per se, but in the context.

So, if you actually _live_ in a country where they speak $NOT_YOUR_LANGUAGE, trying to order food is a daily thing that would(?) expand your comfort zone.

If you are just passing by in a random country it's just a funny story ("remember that time we had to ask for food in $NOT_YOUR_LANGUAGE?!").

Of course, passing by a random country may be the norm for you :)

In a way, it's like saying: you need to be confident to pick up, and it's something you can learn by trying over and over again. On the other hand, you can also try a lot of approaches while drunk (= not normal/daily state), and the next morning you'll not feel much more confident.

Same here. Rejection therapy seems to deal with that kind of thing a lot. I enjoyed some of the posts here: http://rejection.posterous.com/

Interesting that she notes that it seems harder for her as a woman to participate in rejection therapy -- indeed, gender roles are still so ingrained for many people. You could probably experience success as a male by simply asking women for their phone numbers every day until one refused you, but this approach would likely be more difficult for a woman to pull off.

I think the "official" rules for rejection therapy explicitly exclude hitting on women, if I recall correctly.

That's odd since this is the exact reason many men need rejection therapy in the first place; to learn to better deal with the realities of dating.

But it's obnoxious to drag an innocent bystander into your mind games.

For a one-time investment of $75k, you too can become a citizen of Dominica and offshore your funds... taxfree!



Or you could just pay a few hundred dollars and register a company in the various offshore islands...then use that to move money around taxfree.

The hard part is not making the company, but paying the lawyers and accountants to maintain it properly afterwards. It's like a tax by itself that reaches thousands/tens of thousands of dollars per year.

Wow, that's comforting

Stories about pushing limits gets me motivated and a lot of the "life-glimpses" in the post resonated with me, but the part about the Muslim conversion ceremony made me think: That is far more serious than physically pushing your boundaries.

A conversion involves your whole belief and truth system, and will affect you eternally as you have accepted the faith's beliefs about the afterlife and rejected other faiths.

Such a decision should not come as a result of other people's expectations or an eagerness to push boundaries.

It was understood with the family that I was doing the conversion “in name only”. It made it possible for my wife's family to give her a proper Muslim wedding, which made the Indian relatives happy. No beliefs were changed that day. ☺

Honest question. If it would make your fiancé's family happy, would you claim allegiance to Hitler and condone his actions "in name only"?

Do you really think that it's okay to condone the subjugation or murder of all people that won't convert to Islam, and then say that you didn't really believe the words you said?

Claiming that you are a Muslim is saying that you support and agree with Islamic doctrine and everything that comes with it. I'm not here to argue about what Muslims believe, but you should understand what you are condoning and take it seriously.

When you are willing to say things that you don't believe, you make your words meaningless.

Do you really think that it's okay to condone the subjugation or murder of all people that won't convert to Islam, and then say that you didn't really believe the words you said?

Claiming that you are a Muslim is saying that you support and agree with Islamic doctrine and everything that comes with it. I'm not here to argue about what Muslims believe, but you should understand what you are condoning and take it seriously

I don't believe that the "subjugation and murder of all people that won't convert to Islam" is in fact a central tenet of "Islamic doctrine". Certainly not in any formal sense, and even the more negative interpretations of Islamic history indicate that forced conversion was rare - despite the fact that subjugation certainly occurred.

While it is true that Islamic history is marred by conflict, I would posit that 1) un-provoked conflict is not specifically called for in Muslim religious texts and 2) even in the case of conflict, forced religious conversion is not indicated in any fashion nor carried out in practice.

If either of the above points are incorrect, please point me towards an appropriate source indicating otherwise.

Indeed, I believe it is a central tenet of Islam. Whether most Muslims believe it or not is another matter (most don't).

In short, this verse from the Quran sums it up pretty well (http://quran.com/9/5):

"And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful."

This shows that Islam calls for death of non-believers or it requires conversion — "repent, establish prayer, zakah (basically Islamic tax)". I said subjugation because the Quran does allow for non-believers to live as long as they are subdued and pay the tax (http://quran.com/9/29).

If any would argue that this is not relevant, you must first understand the Islamic doctrine of abrogation. This surah was chronologically the second-to-last surah, and therefore it wins in any dispute or contradictory scripture.

Again, most Muslims don't believe this. But according to Islamic law what I said holds firm.

The context of the verse show the command was for a specific situation when there was a breach of a treaty (http://quran.com/9/1-11). The very next verse commands the aid for those non-believers who seek protection.

Further explanation in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFC8uQfJgDo

It's a shame you're not here to argue about what Muslims believe because you obviously are extremely confused in that respect.

To me, this comment is more proof that muslims are the new gooks.

I didn't get it. Honest. Can anyone explain (in "Like I'm 5" fashion) what is the point of this post?

The start is supposed to trigger emotions of discomfort, or empathy with Derek's discomfort.

The point is, he became comfortable with all of those situations. They felt tough, but that's just something to overcome.

Now he uses discomfort as a heuristic. If he's uncomfortable with something (for no obvious good reason), then he should do that thing, because it will make him a better person.

The post probably could have been called "grow, grow, grow", if that helps.

I'm personally about to start something that makes me uncomfortable, but I think it will be a good thing. It was nice to read this.

For a more explicit relationship to HN, consider how similar this narrative is to the way that founders reflect on their startups. How they were confused and frightened about making so many choices that they didn't fully understand. This isn't about starting your own business, but it speaks to that aspect of entrepreneurship.

Graeme just put it better than I did. Thanks Graeme! ☺

The point is that doing things unusual to you is making you more clever, more open-minded, more interesting.

This is common sense. No need to expand too much on this, but there is a flipside on the experiences that Derek Sivers did not talk about. When you do unusual things, when you go deep enough into another culture, you will be changed. You must leave a part of your (cultural) luggage at the door.

For instance, for any Westerner, going into China for some time will change you own vision of the world, and sometime not only in a superficial way. Your political beliefs will probably be shaken (in China left is right, and right is left, compared to France). Your values will be questioned (confort, friendship, professionalism are different).

What is interesting is that there will still be some invariants. Even after many years in China, I am still French. My political beliefs have changed. My values have changed. What have not changed is probably what defines me the best.

Yes! Thank you Guibog for an important point. I mentioned the quick and visible events, for the sake of story-telling, but the stuff you're talking about is deeper, more powerful, and harder to talk about.

Sorry I didn't think it'd go onto Hacker News. It's not really meant as an educational post with a lesson. Just my personal blog sharing a thought I was feeling this week. If it doesn't resonate, no need to force it.

I like reading stories of my peers and heroes that are doing life-expanding things I'd never considered. Then I realized I'd never shared mine.

I actually think this is a perfect post for HackerNews, part of the learning that we get here is getting out of our comfort zone, discovering new things, and always learning. Thankfully, not every post is like this, but every once in a while, it exposes us to more diversity, which is great.

The diving one scared me a bit, I just finished my certification 2 days ago for open water (18m). It seemed odd to me that you were at 40m on your third dive when basic certification (PADI) required 4 dives. Not sure what it's supposed to take for 40m, but I remember it requiring some special steps (safety stop) if you go that deep. Would you mind sharing a bit more about that particular experience?

I got my basic PADI with only one real dive. (+ a few quick tests). Then I went straight for my advanced PADI, and this was my 2nd dive of my advanced class. It was just me and the instructor, and I think he was breaking the rules, unfortunately. I wasn't asking for it!

I have no idea what the rules were when you did it, but it definitely sounds like a bit of rule bending if they were anything close to what they are today. Either way, I am sure it was a memorable experience!

You don't have to apologize, you're of course entitled to post anything you wish in your blog. I just really didn't understand it because I was looking for some "deep message". It's comforting to know that you did not, if fact, mean it it contain a lesson.

I am the one who post this on HN. I got this through Twitter.

I think it is a great post esp. when I am also the kind of person who likes to do new stuff, travel new place and keep pushing my boundary.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

OT, but you struck a nerve. If we really have to explain everything in "Like I'm 5" fashion, Hacker News is deader than disco.

I can't believe some of the "I don't get it" comments that seem to pop up now on every single article.

You know, there is a merit to balancing descriptions between technical and understandable to the uninformed. That doesn't mean every post has to explain what a monad is or the ideology behind NoSQL vs SQL, but you can't just assume everyone knows something, or even where to search for to figure it out. Dropping keywords and giving sources I think helps a lot towards this.

Maybe to eliben, this is all second nature, so he's never understood the point of such a post? Or perhaps it's completely foreign to him...

Meh, "Explain Like I'm 5 (eli5)" is a great idea, I think. Even better if you also give links to more professional explanations as well.

I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for clarification if you don't understand something.

Wow Internets....thnx.

I have come to a place in my life where I am considering doing a switch. A complete switch, professionally, and have been nervous and even thinking of not bothering.

But this post just reminded me, that sometimes it's good to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone.

P.S. I love Derek's posts.....always so poignant and pseudo-poetic.

Sounds like a post written by the Old Spice guy.

Or The Most Interesting Man of the World http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Most_Interesting_Man_in_the...

You can push your comfort zone without the risk of losing your life. I would exchange all the experiences in the post for not forcing my kid to go to the singaporean army, losing two years of his life.

Tell me about it...not only have I lost 2.5 years of my life, so will my 3 sons...

Then again...if having a boy in Singapore is the limits of the comfort zone, I might feel more comfortable working the list backwards...right? :D

That was my thought reading this. This guy's child will get to pay for his father's expanded comfort zone.

So to be ethical, everyone who's currently a citizen of singapore should emigrate and renounce their citizenship due to military service. To a country where there isn't military service? The likelihood of any sort of agressive or defensive military action by singapore is small.

If slavery is defined as involuntary servitude, then I don't see how conscription isn't slavery. Condemning one's children to that may be necessary in some situations, but in my ethical framework, I certainly wouldn't exchange 2 years of slavery for some supposed cultural enlightenment. Even more so, I certainly wouldn't do it to my own children.

If my kids really wanted to join the Singaporean military when they grow up, that's fine, but locking them into that when it's completely unnecessary seems selfish in this situation. I'd certainly have that opinion of my parents had they done the same to me.

I imagine that 'education' that most kids are forced to have to be considered as 'involuntary servitude', then. Age withstanding, even if you don't see them fit to make their own decisions.

Slavery seems more defined by the master-slave relationship, the turning of a person into property. The point isn't what the master is specifically forcing the slave to do, but that the master literally owns the slave. So from this, I can't call forced conscription slavery. Everyone is forced to do things; the morality of being forced into very limited military service is a much more individual one.

I recently read a similarly themed article that had an interesting perspective on risk:

"To be alive is to be at risk, to be free is to be at risk, and to be powerful is to be at risk."



This is a fantasy because none of Sivers bad experiences and times of pure hell or near death experiences were written about. None of the heartache, none of the strife or regrets.

Half of any story makes it nothing more than a creative license fantasy.

You can't fit everything into one blog post. Derek has written about his pains and failures separately: http://sivers.org/loss

Most acquaintances of mine who have embarked on "adventures" like this have ended up dead, maimed, homeless or with major regrets.

That said, a small number of them have had an overall very positive and life enriching experience.

I am not surprised that Sivers is a musician. I tend to stereotype aspiring artists and musicians as wanderers/dreamers who will most likely never make any money and end up bitter and impoverished for the rest of their lives. Gypsies they call them in Romania.

Can you imagine a whole society of people with this attitude. Hippie commune comes to mind.

Yeah... except Derek Sivers had his multi-million exit not so long ago with the sale of CD Baby. Your point, again?


I suppose his point is: why look for happiness in a disruptive engagement?

If you're happy/content/satisfied with a vegetative state ... well, good for you. You've controlled your desires, an important aspect of remaining peaceful.

But if happiness ain't about "lying on the sofa" for you, you've got to face the truth: get off your arse and get disrupting like a gypsy!

But I really love that brilliant comment on Siver's blog:

"If you want to have something you've never had before, you're going to have to do something you haven't done before." Rev Barbara King

My point is that most aspiring rock stars or world travelers will only end up as junkies or bums. It's like the Klondike. Sivers clearly found a gold nugget whereas most will only find a couple of flakes (if they are lucky).

Sivers talks up all the exiting things he has done, but does not mention all of the work that he put in and all the luck and good fortune that he came across to come by so much wealth which in turn allowed him to be able to do such things.

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