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The Claws of the “Comfort Gremlin”

When was the last time you did something that terrified you? I’m not talking about a butterfly or two. I mean something that terrified you.

Weeks? Months? Years?

It’s probably been a while right? Weeks? Months? Years? I’m going to put a bold statement out there. If it’s been years, there’s a high likelihood that you are firmly in the grip of the comfort gremlin. The comfort gremlin feels, well…comfortable. And because of this, when it has its claws dug deeply into your flesh, you miss out on the best parts of life.

It’s Easter Monday today. As I write this blog, I’m on a train heading into the city gazing around the car at all the people headed my way. It’s still packed even though Easter Monday is a strange hybrid holiday/non-holiday. I’m occupying myself by wondering how deeply each of these people are affected by the comfort gremlin.

I see a half-dozen people slumped over, sleeping/dozing, or whatever it is you call it when your neck seems to have lost support for your head. Several others are plucking away at laptops. And I’d say at least a third of the people riding this commuter train have headphones in their ears. It’s a portrait of the modern day businessperson and on the surface it looks completely normal.

Comfort Gremlins and Train Zombies

But if you look a little deeper you’ll notice something. There is something between a lack of spark and total deadness in many people’s eyes (I can’t speak for the sleepers given I can’t see their eyes – but I have a strong suspicion they’re on the wrong end of the spectrum). I call these people train zombies for obvious reasons. And train zombies are almost always firmly in the grips of the comfort gremlin.

If you were giving advice to a 7 year-old child to help them get over their fear of “the basement”, what would you say to them? Pretty simple right? You’d say “Little Jimmy it’s time to face your fears. Why don’t you walk down those steps into the basement!”. If Jimmy complies, after a few trips he’ll begin to realize it’s not all that scary.

Comfort Is The Enemy Of Greatness

Ok, now for my point – As adults, why do we commonly refuse to descend those steps? Think about that for a few seconds…not immediately answerable is it? The best answer I can offer is that comfort feels good. It’s really that simple. However, I know something else for a fact being a reformed train zombie myself – Comfort is the enemy of greatness.

Greatness can be defined in many different ways. To be clear, my definition in this context is simply to be continually evolving into something better. That’s it. You simply cannot be evolving into something better while you’re firmly in the grips of the comfort gremlin.

The only way I know of to rid yourself of the comfort gremlin is to make friends with fear. That means doing something that terrifies you in the spirit of progress.

Today I will be booking two venues to deliver a speech that I have never delivered before to a group of people who could either become raving fans or the exact opposite. I will be spending $5,000 – $10,000 for the privilege of taking this risk. I have been procrastinating these bookings for a month now. But in the spirit of progress, it is necessary. And I know it. I’ll be making phone calls in the next 60 minutes. I’m terrified of this. Not just a butterfly or two…terrified.

Be Honest – Are You In Love With The Comfort Gremlin? 

If you fell in love with the comfort gremlin, that’s OK too. I mean it. That’s totally OK. But you also need to be honest with yourself about what that little guy’s claws are doing to your ability to approach your potential. Awareness is always the prerequisite of any evolution.

If you feel like I did – that the comfort gremlin’s claws are beginning to grate against your bones – it might be time to do something that terrifies you in the spirit of your personal evolution. If you do this consistently, the fear doesn’t necessarily go away. But you might just learn to replace the grip of that hungry parasite with a friend named fear who is used to practicing tough love. Go ahead…descend.

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Brent C. Wagner