A year outside my comfort zone

So here I am. 1 year, 365 days, 52 weeks, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes (you get the idea) of attempting to live outside my comfort zone. Here’s a story of a 24-year-old guy, just making his way in life, taking on what starts as a personal challenge and ends up being something so much more than that.

I remember the moment I came up with this idea, driving in the car on the way home from work, just pondering life. In my head, the idea of doing a challenge a week would be easy. Would people buy into the idea? I wasn’t so sure.

I remember the moment I told my friend Jake about the idea, the first person to hear about it. We were standing in a bar, with a poster of an open mic night being advertised, and I said, I’m going to do that. I shared my idea to him and he completely encouraged me.

I remember the moment I put that first ever post up. My friends, Dan and Andy, messaged me saying what a great idea, and giving me ideas for challenges. Everyone that saw it were so receptive of the idea.

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I remember the moment I received my first bit of criticism about the idea. A colleague of mine jovially told me what’s a guy of my age doing stupid things like this, every week. I smiled, told him he was probably right, and ignored him.

Here’s the thing – everything single part of this comfort zone challenge taught me something. I’m talking far beyond learning to paint, learning to play guitar, learning a comedy sketch. I’m talking far things about learning things about myself a human being:

Commitment

I’ve never committed to something so intense. When people ask me what the biggest challenge of the year was, I simply tell them, the challenge of sorting out a challenge every week. Once they novelty had worn off, finding the motivation to find challenges became for want of a better a phrase ‘a pain in the a**e’. If someone organised a challenge for me each and every week, I believe this would have been easy.

Unfortunately, in a moment of weakness, three quarters of the way through, a drunk Tom Rose declared to his friends “I WANT THESE COMFORT ZONE CHALLENGES TO END.” And proceeded to ask his friends to “MAKE THEM END!!”. They say the truth comes out when you’re drunk – I can confirm this was the truth at the time.

I’ve never been a quitter, it’s something I pride myself on. During the lowest points of this year, I reminded myself that I would not be quitting at any cost. I remember close friends of mine saying “I recon you’ll only get to week 33” and I was determined to prove these people wrong. One of the great pleasures in life is doing what people say you cannot do – A quote that sits on my wall at work (I do love a quote). What have I learnt – If you say you’re going to do something, do it. The thing is, letting yourself down is the easiest thing in the world to do, but by doing so, I believe the chances of ever achieving something worthwhile are completely shot. If you tell yourself enough you can and will do something – I promise you, you CAN and WILL!

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The fear of failure

Ask yourself what is your biggest fear. Is it heights? Is it snakes? Is it death even? I truly believe the fear of failure is the biggest thing holding us back in life and something that resonates in us all and certainly with myself. In a world where we long for acceptance, failing, prevents us from gambling.

I can think of many occasions over the year people told me “I could never do that”. My genuine reply is, “If I can, you can. What’s stopping you?”. Many people will tell me an excuse along the lines of “I can’t blah blah blah”… In reality, they fear failure.

Throughout my life, I’ve cared passionately what people think of me. The fear of failure and publicly being accepted, prevented me from achieving anything. I have failed before, it’s rubbish, but the feeling of achievement is something much greater and more powerful. You’ll never avoid failure, it happens. I try to use failure and learn from it, or let it motivate me. Dream big and dare to fail.

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Enjoyment

Sorry, another quote to share with you, but I quite liked this one. ‘Some people have such good taste they can’t enjoy anything’. I learnt quickly along the way, just because I haven’t tried something or my perception isn’t something I’d associate myself with, doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy it. So many challenges I actually enjoyed doing. Comedy, performing, bike rides, dancing, beekeeping, horse riding etc. I enjoyed them all. Having the mind-set to enjoy things along the way, made everything that much easier. A smile heals all.

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Things could be worse

No matter how rubbish the challenges were, no matter how bad I felt, no matter bad things got over the last year, no matter how much I got fed up with being asked “what’s this week’s challenge”. I really found out things could be worse.

The final quarter of the year, I had a bit of an epiphany moment.. I was sleeping rough on a mild Septembers night. I was freezing cold, with pins and needles, wrapped in seven layers and a cardboard box and thought, how do people do this? I began to think more and more about the life I had compared to people that are lonely and do not have a home. So when I really needed some motivation to finish these challenges, I decided to dedicate my challenges to two amazing charities. Using the platform, I had created, I hoped I could help some people that really need it.

The support I received was overwhelming. I sit here today writing, having raised over £1500 and counting for the charities. My blog has taken me onto the front page of the newspapers, onto radio, on TV and amassed nearly 16 000 views. What started off as a personal challenge to myself turned into something I’ll never forget and will talk about for the rest of my life (unlucky, if you’re a friend of mine).

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People have asked what my next new year’s resolution is. Whilst not as big and challenging, I have decided to commit to use everything I have learnt from the past year and live by the statements I have made. Amazingly, three people have told me they are going to try something similar. To inspire people to try something similar, makes me proud. If you want to share your stories with me, I will happily post people doing something similar. This isn’t the end of mycomfortzonechallenge.com, I will be posting ad-hoc challenges that I do throughout my life, starting with Brighton Marathon.

YOU CAN STILL DONATE HERE

Ladies and Gentlemen – Life really does begin at the end of you comfort zone.

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