Adventures In Expanding Your Comfort Zone

by Jason Kotecki on · 10 comments

I often wonder why I care so much about what other people think.

I shouldn’t, and I like to think I don’t, but I do. Not always, but more often than I should.

The irony is that the worst-case scenario is always the most terrifying when it stays in our head. If we were to actually speak our fears out loud — to shine light upon them — we would realize how ridiculous it is that we allow them to enslave us.

When my wife Kim and I wrote The Escape Plan, we identified this unfortunate but all-too-common trait that keeps us tied down and hastens the spread of Adultitis. And so we wanted to include a challenge to address it. We called it, “G’Day Mate,” and it was simple: Talk in a phony voice or accent to a complete stranger.

Simple, but not easy.

This is a challenge sure to measure exactly how much you care about what other people think. For some of us, the idea alone scares the snot out of us. (It did for me.) And yet it is a perfect example of how the fear in our heads is more terrifying than the reality. Because what are we afraid of? That the person might think we’re weird? Recognize our accent as a fake? Laugh at us? At the risk of stating the obvious: WHO CARES?! It’s a stranger! One we’ll likely never see again.

I’ll admit, when I did this the first time, I tried taking the easy way out. I went through the drive-thru at McDonald’s and ordered a few cheeseburgers in my best English accent, which was still very, very bad. I thought I’d avoid a face-to-face interaction, completely forgetting that the ordering part of the process leads to the order receiving part of the process, which of course, is done face-to-face.

“Do you want any ketchup or extra napkins, sir?”

I stumbled through the rest of our interchange while wondering if the McDonald's employee called me sir because she assumed I was a knight. Meanwhile, Kim tried desperately to muffle her boisterous laughter.

Afterwards, Kim and I both erupted like school girls. An enormous weight was lifted off my shoulders. I had done something I was afraid to do and came out unscathed!

Which is, of course, usually what happens when we do something we are afraid of. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. When we are able to let go of worrying about what others think of us. Not only do we come out unscathed, but we come out stronger. Braver. Freer.

One such action does not always cure us forever. But consistent practice can grow our comfort zones larger and larger, until we come to a place in which we give no thought to attempting something that would have paralyzed us with fear just a year or two earlier. Children could care less what other people think of them — have you seen the way they dance or dress themselves? — but we adults need to practice in order to return to those carefree days, before Adultitis took over.

I can speak from experience; “G’Day Mate” is a great place to start. I'd love to hear how it goes for you.

by Jason Kotecki

Jason Kotecki is an artist, author, and professional speaker. Jason and his wife Kim (a former kindergarten teacher) make it their mission in life to fight Adultitis and help people use strategies from childhood to design lives with less stress and more fun. Stop by for more tips for escaping adulthood.
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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

marquita herald June 13, 2012 at 10:52 am

Great message and analogy. There’s a terrific quote which I’m probably going to mess up but it goes something like “We wouldn’t worry so much about what other people thought of us, if we knew how little they actually did.” Your story reminds me of an incident that happened to me on one of my many trips to Australia with the Hawaii Visitors Bureau – I was out shopping in between meetings and shows and a lovely young woman at the register said to me “Oh, I just love your accent!” I stood there stunned, mouth open, looking ridiculous. We Americans, I’m embarrassed to say, tend to live in a bubble where everyone ‘else’ in the world has an accent and this was such a funny eye opener, I burst out laughing. Poor thing probably thought I was a total looney until I finally got it together to explain!
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Jason of Kim & Jason June 19, 2012 at 4:15 pm

I can relate, Marquita…I didn’t realize I had an accent until I had dinner in New York City and the waiter pegged that I lived near Chicago. And now that I’ve been in Wisconsin for 12 years, people out west and down south often like to poke fun of my “Wisconsin accent.” 🙂
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Deeone Higgs June 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm

G’day mate! 😀 I thought I’d give it an ole try here. I am constantly saying it, Jason. Of course, I get a very strange look whenever I do – it could very well be that my North Carolina accent tends to overshadow the Australian one. I hate when that happens. 😀

Good stuff here, bud! Thanks! 🙂
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KCLAnderson (Karen) June 14, 2012 at 8:03 am

This cracked me up…and now I have to try it. Wonder if I can get my practical engineer husband who doesn’t like to appear foolish to do it with me?
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Jason of Kim & Jason June 19, 2012 at 4:21 pm

You could always try speaking in some annoying accent until he relents and agrees to do it with you, Karen. Just a thought 🙂
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Deborah Mortlock June 15, 2012 at 9:37 am

i can see i have a lot of expanding to do 🙂
i felt really uncomfortable for you. wish i could get past that.
i’m going to start working on it.
i heard something once. you walk up to your comfort line and take one little step over it, before you know it you are further from the line than you could imagine. i already speak in an english accent perhaps i should try the aussie one although that seems like an extraordinary large step at the moment.

thanks for the post. it made me smile and started my day off well.


Jason of Kim & Jason June 19, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Deborah, those little steps do add up over time. Also, you could always try a Southern accent. Or a Pirate accent. Or something even more uncomfortable… 😉
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David Stevens June 16, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Hi Jason (&Lance),
Me being Australian…”G’Day mate” is part of my everyday vocab…and it’s a great way to start a conversation. People can be very straight when they need to loosen up a little, so anything that ‘breaks the ice’ is a good thing
be good to yourself
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Jason of Kim & Jason June 19, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Ah, the tricky double accent. Sure to confuse anyone you use it on — love it, Deeone!
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Jason of Kim & Jason June 19, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Ooops…that last comment was meant for Deeone above…

As for you, David, all I can say is someday I want to learn how to speak Australian. (It’s on my bucket list 🙂
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