What Jiu-Jitsu’s Teaching Me About Business and Life, Lesson #6: All Growth And Progress Happens Outside Of My Comfort Zone


This lesson is a “brutal fact” that I am learning to accept.  But that doesn’t make it easy.

It takes a lot of repetition, determination and conditioning to become comfortable being uncomfortable.  

And it takes a ton of discipline to continually put yourself in an uncomfortable situation, but I am learning that in Jiu-Jitsu, all of my growth and progress is taking place outside of my comfort zone.

It seems that my Jiu-Jitsu “learning curve” thus far does not resemble a positively sloped line, neither does it resemble a staircase.  For me, this is what it is looking like:

learning curve

The inclined portions of the line represent my learning, progress and growth.  They also represent the times that I am outside of my comfort zone.  What ends up happening however, is that over time, what was once “outside of my comfort zone” eventually becomes comfortable.  It becomes familiar.  At this point the learning and growth starts to plateau and level off.  This is represented on the graph by the flat portions of the line.

For example, consider my actual experience thus far.  When I first started, everything was outside of my comfort zone.  Even positional drilling was unfamiliar, and feeling what it felt like to be choked, or have a submission applied, even if it was in a controlled setting, was outside of my comfort zone.  As a result, even the simplest exercise presented an opportunity for growth.

Over time, drilling became more comfortable, and I started becoming more familiar with what a submission felt like in a controlled, 50% resistance setting.  At this point I started to feel that I needed to expand my comfort zone in order to grow, because drilling alone wasn’t sufficient to grow.  I had to get uncomfortable again. For me this meant starting to “roll”, that is, actually grappling in a full contact situation where an actual “submission” will be applied.

This is exactly where I find myself right now, entering the first “plateau” on the curve and facing a new incline.  For me the initial growth incline was simple drilling (since I had no prior Jiu-Jitsu experience).  Now, the next incline, and the one that I am now facing, is for me to become comfortable rolling.

This new incline however is initially uncomfortable, especially as a white belt, because I know that for quite a while I am going to be consistently submitted.  I am going to have to roll with more experienced individuals who have better technical skills if I am to get better.  However, this is literally the only way to learn.  Even though it may be uncomfortable for the time being, I know that I have to go through this in order to progress.

I believe that this curve will continue indefinitely, and when I view my very skilled peers, especially the brown and black belts, it is clear to me that they have to continually expose themselves to greater challenges in order to progress as well. So this phenomenon doesn’t seem to be something that just relates to “white belts”.

It appears to be a universal law: all growth and progress takes place outside of the comfort zone.

The good thing is that this process: continually increasing the complexity of a setting as your skill increases is actually really fulfilling, and frankly very addicting.  The only precursor is one’s willingness to go outside of their comfort zone in order to trigger the next growth curve.

Without a doubt this applies to all aspects of my life and my business.

I really enjoy the phrase “what got you here, won’t get you there” because it reminds me to always be learning, always be growing, and always move outside of my comfort zone. 

So if you find yourself stalled, or facing a plateau in any aspect of your life or business, perhaps you should apply the curve above.  Maybe your “stalling” is self-inflicted, in that you haven’t moved outside of your comfort zone for a while.  Perhaps the best thing that you could do is to take a risk, or set a new and difficult goal that will require you to stretch, move outside your comfort zone, and learn new skills.

I believe that if you continually do this, not only will you see results in your business and life, but more importantly you will really enjoy the ride, as the process of continual improvement by stepping outside of your comfort zone is intrinsically rewarding, independent of any “result”.

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