We’ve just arrived in America. We packed our bags several months ago and have taken our biggest venture yet. We quit the high paying jobs. We sold our dream car and our first furniture. We left our memories in Abu Dhabi and all the other firsts we had there together.
We’ve come with few expectations and lots of them at the same time. Expectations of work and doing the things we love. Expectations of the things we can't do.
Our expectation was that we would live well, do a couple of high paid projects each year and retire the rest of the time. I woke up this morning with an email—a dream project proposal that was exactly what we’d hoped for. But it did not come through.
I was crushed.
We’ve been in the States for months now. The honeymoon is over. The bank account numbers are decreasing. We've attempted to network. We've not received the responses we'd hope we'd get. Things have been slow. The questions, doubts, and anxiety have started to kick in. What will happen next? Did we just make a huge mistake? We’re in serious limbo.
As our expectations fail us, we are starting to get really uncomfortable. And sometimes I find myself wanting to do anything to avoid this discomfort. But, as much as it feels like a major downer and discouragement, at the same time it feels…
The last time I felt this kind of uncomfortable was five years ago when I left a dream job as a youth worker. I loved being a youth worker. But we were getting too comfortable and we wanted something new. I wanted to make films.
I thought I was making a huge mistake leaving my youth worker job. What kind of videos would I be making? What good would it do for the community? Why would anyone want to work with me, let alone pay me? What should I say to clients? How would I support a family? I hated asking for money. I thought it was greedy to ask for what I needed. I most certainly did not think this was possible.
When I left that job five years ago I never would've thought that three years down the line I would became a filmmaker - get paid for my work (and well), manage a talented team, make TV episodes and films for royalty.
My point is not to tell you some secret recipe for success and how I "made it". Success will always be subjective. But if I had continued to doubt myself, I never would've found out what I was capable of doing. I would have stayed comfortable but I wouldn't have developed confidence.
What did it take to get past the doubts? It took becoming uncomfortable.
It took rejection emails. It took meetings with people who said I didn't know what I was doing. Learning new terminologies. Learning to deal with people in the corporate world and speaking their language, which was unlike the non-profit world. Being in a position of asking questions. Lots of them. Keeping the ego aside and not pretending to be an expert. It took listening, observing, and letting go of my assumptions, expectations, and ego. And that was not comfortable.
Slowly but surely, I discovered what I was good at. People wanted to work with me. I got good and familiar. And when I look back at how afraid I was at leaving my youth worker job and how my identity expanded, I find myself thinking, “Man, I had such a low opinion of myself back then, didn't I?”
And when I look at how afraid I am of being uncomfortable today - moving to a new country with no idea what I’m doing - I'm reminded of three things:
- My identity and understanding of myself will always be smaller than what's coming next. Just because my identity has expanded doesn't mean that I've arrived at my maximum potential. I will continue to stretch and I will always be surprised. Sometimes I look back at my journals from five years ago and think, “Man, I was immature,” but then five years into the future, I’ll say the same thing when I look back at where I am now. Where we are today is not the limit. We will always expand.
- Comfort is a slow death. Discomfort fuels direction.
It’s okay to be uncomfortable. Comfort won’t show us what we’re made of and what good we’re missing out on. Discomfort puts us in a position to think outside the box. To stretch. To get creative and think of new ideas that will satisfy the discomfort. It forces us to stop and listen to the voice in our hearts.
- Imperfection is for the good. We have to let go of thinking that one day we will achieve perfection and embrace ourselves as we are today. As a result of my imperfection, I'm in a position to be vulnerable, to learn and be humble. And if something doesn't work out, it's okay. If I make a mistake, it's okay. In fact, I don't mind failing again and again. We need grace and forgiveness for our imperfections. No one is perfect. Everyone is struggling, whether they're hiding it well or not. And people are drawn to those who are not afraid of being imperfect.
Have you been too comfortable? How is the fear of pain and risk of discomfort holding you back from your heart’s desires?
Today, I choose to let go of the comfortable
and embrace the joyous adventure of discomfort.