Comfort, the enemy

Comfort, the enemy

by Metallica.

That sounds like the title of a song they might have written. Something metal about comforting your enemy. It isn’t. It is, however what I took away from the charming conversation with James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett on the Nerdist podcast. Yes they call it a conversation, not an interview, and they’re right.

James talks about how with accomplishment and age comes the want to be comfortable and how you can’t create art when you’re comfortable. Art is the way you express your discomfort, he says.

Now I don’t know much about art but what I know and have found to be true in my life and the life of others around me is that comfort is, indeed, the enemy of growth.

Comfort stalls self development.

This thought ties in nicely to the topic of this other podcast I was listening to – the Freakonomics podcast where psychologist Anders Ericsson talks about how his 10,000 hour rule was misunderstood. Ericsson talks about deliberate practice. He says just doing something you’re already good at over and over again isn’t enough to make you great. It’s when you do things outside of your comfort zone that you grow.

As a master procrastinator and all around lazy person, this hit me hard. Life goals, I have found, need to be adjusted every few years or maybe even oftener. Growing up, my life goals were simple, they weren’t lofty because I was always the realist but they were what I needed to achieve, to get where I wanted to get.

Some good fortune, being at the right place at the right time and, dare i say it, my natural talent for talking myself into things meant that I found unexpected success early on and before I knew it I was comfortable. My lowly life goals had been achieved.

I was doing well, and what that meant soon enough, I found, was that I didn’t have a purpose anymore. This is where I should have adjusted my life goals, aimed a little higher and moved ahead.

Comfort however, is like a warm bed on a winter morning. It’s there, it’s yours and you don’t really feel like getting out of it. When life is easy, who else but a madman, would willingly welcome hardships into it ?

But I always thought the crazy were the happiest people in the world. Well, there was this homeless madman in our neighbourhood and he always looked happy, especially when he was walking around naked in the summer, scandalizing the neighbourhood ladies.

But I digress. The point I am trying to make ( to convince myself, really ) is that comfort kills. Before you know it, you reach another January 1st  and realize that you haven’t really done anything that different in the last year. Nothing’s changed. You’re okay, you don’t want for much, you’re comfortable. But you’re not happy.

Because happiness requires purpose.

Now purpose, of course, is relative. It might be a promotion at work for someone, a shot at an elite grad school, something as deep as working towards providing a better life for their kids, or for someone else even something as simple as losing a few pounds ( it’s not so simple ).

I am something of a quote collector and a recent favorite one is from a video game I play, Dragon Age : Inquisition where this old and wise priestess, after a particularly moving moment in the game tells our protagonist ( me, it’s always me ) that an army needs more than an enemy, it needs a cause.

And that is true of every individual as well. What’s life without a cause.

Or a couple of causes, or a quadruple. Or multiple, changing every time you reach a milestone.

There’s nothing wrong with a comfortable existence. A decent, quiet life. But to be truly happy I believe everyone needs more than that. Everyone needs a goal to work towards, a destination. Because while the journey may be more important than the destination, when was the last time you went on a journey that had no destination ? Even if you didn’t exactly know where you would end up, you knew there was somewhere you wanted to go.

Well, for me, the destination this morning was my workplace and as I was listening to the Nerdist podcast on my way there, these were the thoughts in my head, my musings if you will. And If they sound preachy ( guised as philosophy ), it’s because they are meant to be. For me. It’s meant to be a wake up call for myself, a kind of resolution write up. To make me go outside my comfort zone this new year, do things I haven’t done before, and maybe end up somewhere unexpected.

To not be comfortable. To throw away the covers on a winter morning, however hard that may be, and jump out of bed. (This is essentially a 800 word essay on motivating myself to wake up early this year. My doctor suggested it. I hope he’s happy.)

Maybe I’ll get somewhere with this. Maybe i won’t. At least I wrote about it.

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer,to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life”

– James Thurber


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