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 […]

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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 […]

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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, […]

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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 […]

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