Stepping Way Out Of The Comfort Zone

Stepping Way Out Of The Comfort Zone
tacofleur / Pixabay

Most people have nightmares about standing onstage in front of an audience with no idea what they’re doing. Perhaps an even worse fear is finding yourself naked (or nearly so) in public.

Mash those two phobias together and you pretty much get how last weekend went for me.

All For A Good Cause

Many readers know I do CrossFit pretty regularly to maintain a functional level of fitness. I wrote at length on the positive impact it has had on my health in this post: The New Me.

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Well, at the start of 2017, the coach of our CrossFit box (‘box’ means ‘gym’ in CF-speak) mentioned offhandedly to a few of us that he had signed us up for a bodybuilding contest in April.

As he tends to joke around a lot, we didn’t take him seriously. And it’s not like any of us have the big muscles one associates with bodybuilding. So we quickly forgot about the comment.

But 2 months ago, we learned the contest was indeed for real. And our names were already committed to it.

Of course, we all tried to immediately back out.

But then we learned that a friend of ours was the one organizing the competition. Which was specifically designed for first-time amateurs like us. That raised funds for charity. Specifically, for children with muscular dystrophy.

The more we found out about the event, the more we realized there was no good excuse for chickening out. How could we let those kids down?

Waaay Out Of The Comfort Zone

So, 60 days ago, I committed to a pretty rigorous workout and nutrition schedule to get ready for the event. It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure.

Those of you who recently spent time with me at the Summit At Sea or at the Rowe seminar likely heard me gripe about how little I could eat of what was served at mealtime. Sorry about that.

But I must say, it turns out that the pressure of being on display for all eyes to see is an amazingly effective motivator (at least for me) for staying disciplined. Knowing that there was no place to hide that cookie or breadroll if I ate it kept me from cheating.

You see, psychologically, the specter of the contest was pretty terrifying for me. For much of my life I’ve carried more padding around the middle than I’ve liked, and have always felt self-conscious in public with my shirt off. To be up on stage, not just in front of an audience — but of judges grading me on my physique(!) — is material pulled straight out of my nightmares.

But it was all for a good cause. And more than that, Chris and I talk often about the importance of models as a means to inspire and motivate. So, my hope was to use this opportunity to model for you, the audience, as well as for my daughters, that fears are to be overcome, not submitted to. That pushing ourselves far out of our comfort zones is often exactly what is needed to make progress in life.

I wanted to show to you, and myself, that through focus and discipline, real life change can be achieved. And in a relatively short period of time.

My goal was to get into good enough shape that I could be credible on the stage. There were no delusions about winning; in my case I’d need a year or more of prep plus some serious illegal steroids for that. I just wanted to be seen as a legitimate contestant.


Two months ago I weighted in at 190 lbs. When I stepped onstage last Saturday, I weighed 168.

That’s 22 pounds shed in sixty days.

(Note: I’m not recommending others follow my lead here, nor claiming that what I did here was “healthy”. I followed a plan specifically designed for me by an experienced bodybuilder who monitored me along the way.)

Ultimately, I was pretty happy where things ended up. I’d been able to get rid of just about all my excess body fat while keeping my muscle definition, strength and energy at acceptable levels.

When the time came for all of the competitors to get together the night before, we were impressed with the progress each of us had made. The group vibe was really supportive and encouraging. After all, we were just a bunch of “regular people” who decided to take this journey together for charity.

At this point, all that could be done was done. So we laughed together as we received our spray tans (so dark!). The guys made fun of each other after they shaved off their body hair (so hairless!). We were all getting into the spirit of the event.

And when the time came to step onstage the next day, we just did it. None of us really had any clue what we were doing — we just followed the orders barked by the judges. Turn, pose. Smile. Turn, pose. Smile. Turn, pose. Smile.

The entire event is largely a blur in my mind due to the cocktail of terror/adrenaline/fun that coursed through me. But I’m very glad to have done it.

  • I proved to myself I could face a lifelong fear and be mentally stronger for it. That has added resilience to my Emotional Capital.
  • I’m leaner, lighter and have put nothing but healthy inputs into my body for the past several months. That has added resilience to my Living Capital.
  • And I’ve worked with friends to raise funds to support deserving families in my community. That has added resilience to my Social Capital.

While sharing this story and the photos below still makes me feel a little uncomfortably vulnerable, my hope is by doing so I give you the courage to allow yourself permission to step out of your own comfort zone in pursuit of something that matters to you.

What’s an accomplishment or goal that has remained elusive for you? What’s a step you could take out of your comfort zone in order to get closer to it?

Think about it. Write it down. If you want some support in pursuing it, share it in the Comments section below. We’ll cheer you on.

After all, what’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like you’ll end up standing nearly naked in front of a packed audience….

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