We need to spend more time IN our com­fort zones.

There, I said it.

In the self-improvement cul­ture we live in, we’re con­stantly advised to shore up our weak­nesses and do things that are out of our com­fort zone. It’s appar­ently the magic path to suc­cess, riches, and enlightenment.

And I think it might be rob­bing the world of the best we have to offer.

Of course there is a pearl of wis­dom in this adage. Try­ing new things is a great way to grow, build courage and col­lect won­der­ful expe­ri­ences. But it also has the poten­tial to lead us astray. Here are a few pitfalls:

It can trick us into think­ing that we can be self-sufficient.

Its easy to get caught up believ­ing that we can achieve any­thing, pro­vided we’re brave enough to step out of our com­fort zone and take it. But we were designed to rely on each other. That means nobody is great at every­thing. Each per­son is great at some things, okay at most things, and ter­ri­ble at oth­ers. Although it goes against the myth of the self-made hero, we’re most effi­cient when we’re using our strengths to help oth­ers achieve their goals while rely­ing on other people’s gifts to achieve ours.

It can sub­tly send the mes­sage that we’re not good enough.

No mat­ter how big our com­fort zone is, it’s always too small. There’s ALWAYS some­thing else we’re afraid of, uncer­tain about, or uncom­fort­able with. I could spend all my time run­ning on the tread­mill of expand­ing my com­fort zone, try­ing new expe­ri­ences that scare me. I could go streak­ing. I could sky dive. I could eat snails. I could go deep sea div­ing and play pinochle with sharks. I’m sure I’d col­lect some cool sto­ries, but at the end of the day, what have I built? What value have I added to the world?

It can down­play our strengths.

We have a level of com­fort with the things we kick butt at. Give me a paint­brush, some tubes of paint, and a blank can­vas, and I am in my com­fort zone. Slide me under a car to change the oil…not so much. Sure, I could step out of my com­fort zone and learn how to fix and main­tain my own car. But try as I might, I’ll never be more than a mediocre car mechanic. The world’s all stocked up on mediocre, but it could always use more greatness.

I believe that we’re called to be great. And the only way I know how to be great is to spend a LOT of time doing some­thing you’re already pretty good at. There are no short­cuts. Spend­ing a lot of time expand­ing your com­fort zone is an excel­lent way to col­lect sto­ries, but it can also be dis­trac­tion that keeps you from focus­ing on what it takes to become great.

I’m not con­vinced that the com­fort zone is the enemy we some­times make it out to be. Per­haps it’s there to give us a clue as to how we should be really spend­ing our time. Maybe we should actu­ally be spend­ing more time IN our com­fort zones.

What do YOU think?

by Jason Kotecki


The other day my four-year-old daugh­ter Lucy was skim­ming down the side­walk with her kick scooter.


She was grip­ping the han­dle­bar with one hand and hold­ing an open umbrella with the other. While wear­ing a bike hel­met and snow boots. On a sunny, seventy-three degree day.


It’s so weird that I’d bet any­thing that of the six bil­lion plus peo­ple in the world, not one other per­son was doing and wear­ing the exact same thing. That’s as weird as it gets.

It was also a great big life lesson.

You see, in Lucy’s head, there was noth­ing weird about it. She was in the moment, free of pre­tense, and free of shame. She was liv­ing life the way it was meant to be lived.

Oh how I wish I could be that free again.

In fact, we all were, in the begin­ning. But even­tu­ally some­one sees us liv­ing our bliss, decides it’s weird, and shames us. We get made fun of in the school­yard, on the bus, or across the diner table. For the first time, it occurs to us that some of the things we do might be looked upon with con­tempt by another person.

From then on, we start pay­ing atten­tion. We start notic­ing what’s “in” and what’s not. We take heed of the the things that could get us ridiculed, sin­gled out, and shamed. And we stop doing those things. We smooth out the rough edges and start hid­ing our weird­ness. And one by one, lit­tle parts of us die.

It’s quite pos­si­bly the great­est tragedy of our lives, as we end up spend­ing most of it con­form­ing to the world around us, all to avoid that feel­ing of shame ever again.

Once in a while, you’ll see an elderly per­son who quit buy­ing in. They’re livin’ la vida loca, care­free and with­out reser­va­tion. On the sur­face, it’s easy to write them off as pos­si­bly expe­ri­enc­ing early-stage demen­tia. But if you look closer, you’d see that they have all their wits about them. They’ve just decided it was too expen­sive to pay atten­tion to what every­one else thought, so they stopped try­ing to hide their weirdness.

They dis­cov­ered that peo­ple only have the power to shame us if we give it to them.

Well I don’t want to wait till I’m sev­enty to embrace that truth. I want to live my life like Lucy: free, in the moment, and glo­ri­ously weird.

Won’t you join me?

by Jason Kotecki

On Borrowed Time

by Jason Kotecki on June 13, 2013 · 10 comments


We went to the funeral of friend’s mom recently. She died sud­denly of a heart attack while at home with her hus­band, who was only into his sec­ond week of retire­ment. When my father-in-law Gary heard the news and learned that they were both in the same age range, he reflected, “Wow. I guess I’m really on bor­rowed time.”

He’s right. But not just because he was diag­nosed with severe rheuma­toid arthri­tis in his twen­ties and prob­a­bly hasn’t had a pain-free day since then. And not just because he con­tin­ues to amaze his doc­tors with how long he’s been able to keep on going. No, he’s right because we are ALL on bor­rowed time.

That becomes obvi­ous when we hear of sud­den heart attacks and car acci­dents. When we are faced with sto­ries of tor­na­does that drop out of the sky, end­ing lives at ran­dom, or see the after­math of trou­bled souls who decided chil­dren are suit­able tar­gets for acts of terrorism.

Life expectancy may be 78 but that doesn’t mean we can expect to make it there.

Gary is on bor­rowed time. I’m on bor­rowed time. And so are you. The real ques­tion is, how are we invest­ing this time we are borrowing?

By watch­ing more TV? Keep­ing busy with activ­i­ties that don’t really mat­ter? Stay­ing put on a career path we don’t really like?

Or are we build­ing some­thing won­der­ful by liv­ing with a sense of urgency and mak­ing hard choices that lead to a bet­ter story and a last­ing legacy?

The choice is yours. But hurry, the clock is ticking.

by Jason Kotecki


When we were young, we had no trou­ble dream­ing big. There was no other way to dream. We dreamed big, often, and with reck­less abandon.

But some­where along the way, our heart got bro­ken. A dream didn’t come true and it hurt like hell.

That hurt stayed with us, even if only on a sub­con­scious level. We trained our­selves to set our sights a lit­tle lower, to keep from ever feel­ing that way again. Many of us chalk up that “dream­ing big” thing to a child­ish habit, and our prac­tice of it goes the way of our belief in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.  So we “mature,” and lower our sights to more “real­is­tic”  levels.

And then, in between the rebrand­ing of our dreams into “goals,” it hap­pens. With­out ever con­sciously real­iz­ing it, our lives set­tle into the groove of mediocrity.

But I cau­tion us all — includ­ing myself — to be care­ful about what we label as real­is­tic. At best, it’s too often a lim­ited esti­ma­tion of what really IS pos­si­ble, and at worst, it’s a cop-out.

Was the prospect of air travel “real­is­tic” to the great grand­par­ents of Orville and Wilbur Wright?

Was the prospect of an African Amer­i­can pres­i­dent “real­is­tic” to the great grand­par­ents of Barack Obama?

Was the prospect of using a wire­less tele­phone to have a video call with a friend on the other side of the world “real­is­tic” to the great grand­par­ents of Steve Jobs?

The dreams we dis­re­gard and deem unre­al­is­tic today may turn out to be things our great grand­kids take for granted.

The prob­lems we face as a nation and as a global com­mu­nity are large. But the hope for a bet­ter future lies in big dreams, not real­is­tic ones. Your story is des­tined to be great. But the peo­ple who col­lect amaz­ing adven­tures are the ones with big dreams, not real­is­tic ones.

The pain of bro­ken dreams is real. But just as real is the exhil­a­ra­tion of see­ing an “impos­si­ble” dream come true. The only dreams that have no chance of com­ing true are the ones never dreamed in the first place.

Now is NOT the time to down­grade your dreams. Now is NOT the time to be realistic.

Now is the time to dream BIGGER.

by Jason Kotecki

Small Talk in 140 Characters

by Jason Kotecki

Some­times I long for the days when an Etch-a-Sketch was the most tech­no­log­i­cally advanced gad­get I owned. Yes, I love my shiny iPhone and all the won­der­ful things it lets me do. But I hate when a fam­ily is out to eat and I see them all face down in their smart­phones. I hate it because it […]

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An Important Life Lesson from Gordon Ramsay

by Jason Kotecki

Kim and I love watch­ing Mas­terChef on Fox, star­ring one of our favorite TV per­son­al­i­ties, fiery chef Gor­don Ram­say.  Mas­terChef con­ducts a nation­wide search for the best home cooks in Amer­ica, and through a series of excit­ing elim­i­na­tion rounds, turns one of them into a culi­nary mas­ter. In the ini­tial audi­tion episodes of the first […]

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What You Can Learn From a Lincoln Log

by Jason Kotecki

Are you Hall of Fame mate­r­ial? Go ahead, think about it. Are you? While you’re mulling that over, let me ask you another ques­tion: Did you know that there is a National Toy Hall of Fame? It’s true. As you might imag­ine, it fea­tures things like Lin­coln Logs, the Hula Hoop, the Slinky, and even the […]

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Snow Forts

by Jason Kotecki

I loved build­ing snow forts when I was a kid. For those of us who grew up in cli­mates with frosty win­ters, it was a clas­sic child­hood pas­time. After a big snow­fall, it was it was easy to start vision­ing what sort of fort you would build. Your imag­i­na­tion kick­ing into high gear, you’d think […]

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The Seasons of Life and a Stress-Reducing Secret

by Jason Kotecki

I became a father a lit­tle over four years ago. Before that, my wife and I had been mar­ried for eight years and worked together on our small busi­ness. We were used to work­ing long days, com­ing and going as we pleased, and eat­ing out at nice, quiet restau­rants. We used to have a Cheerio-free […]

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7 Foolproof Ways to Feel Less Alive

by Jason Kotecki

  Dear friend, Do you ever suf­fer from that dreaded emo­tion of feel­ing alive? Are you always com­plain­ing about that spring in your step, the annoy­ing per­cep­tion of joy in your heart, or the gnaw­ing sense that you’ve found your pur­pose in life? If you ask me, no one should have to live that way, and […]

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