Excerpt from The Other F Word – Failure No.3
– Being Devoted to the Trappings of Success

I often ask participants at my “Self-Development” workshops: “Are some people more interested in the trappings of success than actually achieving success itself?”
I ask that question because it enables us to recognize the third failure, being devoted to the trappings of success – that is, being more concerned about looking good rather than actually being good. This kind of mindset has a lot to do with our comfort zones, the range of environment or activity in which we are completely comfortable.

Each and every one of us has an internal comfort zone and for the most part we try to remain within that zone. The easiest way to perhaps think about the comfort zone we possess psychologically, is to liken it to an air conditioning system.

Engineers design the air conditioning system in most offices with the goal of keeping the temperature at around 20degrees. Without a comfort zone, here’s what would happen:
Every time the temperature in the room would drop below 20degrees, the heating system would come on and heat the room to 20degrees. Every time the temperature went above 20degrees, the cooling system would come on and cool the room to 20degrees. One of these two systems – heating or cooling, would always be operating. The system would quickly wear out because it would be constantly in use, so to avoid destroying the system, the engineers built into the system a ‘comfort zone’.

Normally it’s a range of about 4 degrees, and here’s how it works. If the temperature falls below 18degrees – the heating will come on and heat the room to 20 degrees. If the temperature rises above 22 degrees, the cooling will come on and cool the room back to 20 degrees. As long as the temperature remains within the space – this 4degree area- nothing functions, nothing happens – it is a dead space.

The comfort zone that you and I possess, both intellectually and psychologically, is different from the air conditioning system in the office in many respects, not the least of which is that the air conditioning system functions on electronic feedback. We function on tension feedback. Here’s what happens. Any time we find ourselves on the brink of participating in a new activity or getting into a strange environment, we feel tension. That’s the reason the sales person elected to have coffee down the street, because of the tension he felt about making the first sales call.

There have been many young men and women who have become engaged in a business and said – “If I’m to accomplish what I wish to accomplish and reach the goals and objectives I have in life, then I must do things differently! I’ve got the willpower and the strength to forcemyself outside of that comfort zone.” 

They do it. They’re successful, and they have a coronary at age forty-two.

The secret is having the ability to expand our comfort zones by taking small steps. We never eliminate the tension, but at least we reduce the stress, we put ourselves in the position to be able to engage in new activities with an acceptable amount of tension.
Therefore, to grow, we need to modify our behaviour and our thinking process.
Ask yourself, “What are my chances of success and what kind of result can I expect?” whenever you take on anything new.

Intelligent people will expend effort only when they can fully expect results. They don’t have to believe they will be successful at every instance, but they do have to believe that the result justifies the effort.

Intelligent people don’t engage in acts of futility or impossibility, nor do they repeatedly bang their heads against brick walls.

Regardless of money, titles, stuff or respect the one thing that we all work for Is Self Esteem. We won’t engage in any activity often enough, or consistently enough for us to be able to develop that activity into a habit, unless we can personally derive self esteem from it. When we think in terms of facing new challenges and getting outside of out comfort zones, most of us have an extremely difficult time of it. The reason for this is because we have not learned to derive self esteem from failure.

So, think about that air conditioning system. Think about ways that you can both steadily and realistically expand your ‘comfort zone setting’, and don’t be afraid to fail and start again, because until we can derive self esteem from stepping out of our comfort zones and failing, we cannot succeed.