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


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


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 reminds me of how the pull to check email or send a tweet or scan sta­tus updates on Face­book pulls ME away from actu­ally being present in my real life. It often dis­tracts me on my dates with my daugh­ter. And it sucks up the men­tal space that could have been used to pray or think or — gasp! — just BE.

Oh, the inter­net and smart­phones and wi-fi has got­ten us more con­nected than ever. But are we mak­ing any connections?

Every­thing seems so sur­face level these days; our con­ver­sa­tions have dete­ri­o­rated into small talk boiled down to 140 char­ac­ters or less. It’s bor­ing, mean­ing­less, and a tragic waste of our pre­cious time.  Per­haps the rea­son we are the loneli­est, most depressed, most drug addicted soci­ety that has ever lived is because we are lack­ing real connections.

We deserve bet­ter. Our fam­ily and our friends deserve bet­ter from us.

If you agree, here’s a crazy idea: Next time you’re with some­one, put down the phone. Slow down. Shut your pie hole.

Instead, look. Hear. Be. Prac­tice being present once in awhile.

Open your heart, offer your atten­tion, and make a real human connection.

A small thing, perhaps.

But it’s a Small Rebel­lion of epic proportions.

by Jason Kotecki

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 […]

10 comments Read the full article →

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 […]

4 comments Read the full article →

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 […]

8 comments Read the full article →

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 […]

3 comments Read the full article →

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 […]

7 comments Read the full article →

Nothing Beats an Original

by Jason Kotecki

Have you ever noticed that you can always tell whether a child’s draw­ing was actu­ally drawn by a child or an adult? Adver­tise­ments, sig­nage, or prod­uct pack­ag­ing will some­times con­vey a child­like qual­ity by includ­ing some ele­ments sup­pos­edly drawn by a child. Much of the time, the draw­ing is done by a grown-up mim­ic­k­ing a […]

8 comments Read the full article →