The Danger of the Comfort Zone

I like to read the stories of great people, and recently I read the story of Andrew Carnegie. It’s an inspiring story; I learned a lot from it. Here I’d like to share an important lesson I learned from it with you.

The lesson comes from the contrast between Andrew Carnegie and his father, Will Carnegie.

Will Carnegie was a handloom weaver. That’s a job he had had for years, and life was good. But then the situation changed. The 19th century Industrial Revolution was reaching its peak, and machines replaced a lot of manual labor. As a result, there was less and less demand for his craft as people could get cheap, mass-produced products instead.

Unfortunately, Will didn’t adapt to the new situation. Rather than learning a new skill, he just kept doing what he was comfortable doing. He just kept weaving and tried to sell what he had made. Not surprisingly, his financial situation declined over time.

His son, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. Andrew eagerly learned new things. He thirsted for new knowledge and experiences. He didn’t just do what he was comfortable doing—he pushed boundaries. As his biographer put it, Andrew was a “bold experimenter.”

Andrew, for instance, learned the ins and outs of telegraphy when it was a cutting-edge technology. And he wasn’t satisfied with just the normal level of skill either. While most people needed to write down the dots and dashes of a telegraph message before transcribing it, Andrew could transcribe it directly from its sound. That’s a skill very few people had, and it shows his passion for learning.

Once, when he was a telegraph operator at a railroad company, there was a jam in the railroad routes. It was his boss’s responsibility to give train orders to resolve the situation, but he wasn’t there. So what did Andrew do? He took on the risk and gave the train orders himself. By the time his boss came, the problem had already been solved.

How was he able to do that? He learned how simply by watching his boss doing it. So he didn’t just do his job; he opened his eyes and ears to absorb new things.

With such a trait, it’s no wonder that he was able to seize new opportunities as they came. He eventually became a very successful businessman.

The lesson is this: you must move out of your comfort zone if you want to grow. Just staying where you are is a recipe to being irrelevant. The world may pass you by if you do.

Be a bold experimenter. Take risks and do new things. Learn new skills, take new courses and increase your knowledge. It’s easier said than done, but the reward is a life of progress and adventure.