2 min read

Hard Work vs. Comfort Zone

Hard Work vs. Comfort Zone
Photo by Austin Distel / Unsplash

Scroll through motivational posts on LinkedIn or Instagram and you'll get your fill of tips on habit building, routines, hard work, and "10x'ing" your life. While this "hard work" refrain is the go-to for self-improvement content, I believe it's only telling half of the story for most entrepreneurs.

The other half of any entrepreneurial story is "getting out of your comfort zone".

Most recently, this has come to light in mainstream self-improvement with Noah Kagan's best-selling book Million Dollar Weekend. In this book Noah recommends several steps to get people moving on their business ideas that are uncomfortable for most people: Asking 3 people to give you money for your idea in 48 hours, or asking for 10% off your next cup of coffee at Starbucks. Asking is awkward! This book focuses on getting past discomfort to create movement quickly and that's a big reason why it's bound to be an instant classic.

Asking is uncomfortable. In starting your own business, you're going to have "ask" a lot of clients and prospects, family and friends. Asking for work, asking for money, asking for time. I remember my first few "side hustles" just being "favors" because that bypassed the entire prospect of asking for money completely. The concept of asking for money, particularly in any meaningful sum, seemed unbearable initially.

Here's what else is uncomfortable when you start your own business:

  • Lumpy cash flow draining your account to $0 at times
  • Late or no-pay situations from clients
  • Talking to strangers and trying to sell them something
  • Standing your ground on your value and rates
  • Charging a premium because you believe in yourself
  • Enforcing boundaries with clients
  • Dealing with the prospect of failure day in and day out
  • Handling complaints or issues with deliverables or misunderstandings
  • Paying taxes in huge chunks or pre-payments
  • Thinking of big expenses as investments
  • And so on and so fourth...

You can work hard in a vacuum all you want, but without addressing the "getting out of your comfort zone" part, you're going to be running on a treadmill.

Working hard is the baseline. If you're a little further along in your career and a little higher up the corporate ladder, chances are that you already know how to work hard. You've been doing it for years! Decades, maybe! Don't confuse working hard with getting out of your comfort zone. Your pals in regular jobs all work very hard, but they are also generally staying in their career comfort zone.

For me, getting out of my comfort zone has been a pretty informal process. I certainly have not gone through any "ask 10 strangers in central park for a dollar" or "wear a chicken suit in public all day" exercises. Personally I would never do that type of thing unless death was on the line, but it must work for some people.

What I've done is simply "try" whatever it is, and let the cards fall. Start the blog, post the thing on LinkedIn, send the invoice, write the proposal, whatever. Sure, I still have fear and doubts about doing any of this stuff but don't let it paralyze me (most days, anyway).

The comfort zone has a few "cousins" such as facing fears, getting out of your own way, and letting go of stories that no longer serve you. Ultimately, it's about getting uncomfortable. That's what's separating the W2 workforce from the self-employed on any given day. Have you gotten out of your comfort zone lately?