Chapter 8 of my First book: The making of Captain COMFORT ZONE (A.k.a. “Old Dave”)
CHAPTER 8: The making of Captain COMFORT ZONE (A.k.a. “Old Dave”)
I sometimes think that Winston Churchill had ME in mind,
when he came up with this quote of his.
I had really gotten myself to a place where …
I saw danger (and failure) lurking in each and every corner.
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing grows there”
Captain COMFORT ZONE and his many supporting Personas
It had taken me a while to finally be able to really start living my life of success. Over 40 years to be more precise. But I had done it. I had the wife, the career, the house, the 2 cars, the kids and the cash to fund that dream retirement. How cool was that! It seemed like many of my friends were getting divorced, but not me. It seemed like many of my friends were having issues and challenges in various parts of their lives, but not me. Or, so it seemed. It seemed so at the time. It seemed so at the time because, that is what I was aware of at the time.
In hindsight, I am now aware that trying NOT to be aware of things was part of who I was in those days. It was part of who I had become. If there was anything that I thought could cause me any discomfort whatsoever, I would avoid it. I would avoid it at all costs. Potential confrontations? To be avoided at all costs! Potential feedback that might hurt someone’s feelings? To be avoided at all costs! Potential actions that might lead to failure? To be avoided at all costs! Potential thoughts that might make me feel sad? To be avoided at all costs!
Yes, somehow during my first half, I had become someone that I was not aware of at the time. I had become Captain COMFORT ZONE. And I had ended up building one hell of a COMFORT ZONE. If they handed out degrees in building and maintaining comfort zones, there is no doubt that I would once again, be on the Dean’s Honours list.
So, without further ado, allow me to Introduce you to David Arthur Walker. A.K.A Captain Comfort Zone. Yes. Here he is! In all his splendour! The shaping from his “formative years” was complete. The influencing from his “trying to find Myself” years was complete. And last, but not least, the climbing the corporate ladder days and accumulating wealth had made their mark.
Yes, Captain COMFORT ZONE. Quite the persona. Unfortunately, as he would later find out, the hard way, that was not really his persona. It was not really his personality. But that story is for later. For now, lets get to know Captain Comfort Zone a little better. He is a man of many talents. He is a man of many personas. Here are but a few that he had managed to make habits out of over the years.
The Ostrich Guy (a.k.a. The “AVOIDER” of EMOTIONS a.k.a. NON-EMOTION MAN)
My thinking in the old days, the “Old Dave” days, was that, if I did not have to acknowledge any negative feelings, then I would not have to deal with any. I applied the same logic to any potential tough discussions. I guess I figured that all the tough stuff would just go away, or at least leave me alone if I ignored it. In hindsight, I thought wrong. They just got worse. Like interest on an unpaid loan, the negative feelings just compounded. And if that were not bad enough in itself, by keeping my head buried in the sand, I was also not experiencing a whole lot of positive emotions either. I was not connecting and experiencing much of anything. I was just not connecting. I was not feeling. I was not feeling anything. Not with others, and not with myself.
The SHY Guy
What I remember of ME when I look back on my formative years is someone who was very shy. Shy with people that I did not know. Especially people of authority like adults and teachers when I was younger and then executives and senior leaders when I was older. I was o.k. once I got to know people, but until then, connecting with people was not all that comfortable for me. Not all that comfortable unless I had a little liquid courage to back me up, and by liquid courage, I mean booze. I found that out at an early age. Liquid courage allowed me to open up and be myself. I am actually a pretty fun and funny guy if you can get me to open up and come out of my shyness shell. Networking? Hitting the cocktail circuit? Bring it on! As long as there are plenty of cocktails. Heaven forbid I attend a cocktail that has no cocktails.
The CAVE MAN Guy
If you are not into connecting with people, what better enabler, than hanging out in a cave. In my case, in my Man Cave. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a man spending some quality time in his cave. My problem, which I am now aware of, was that I was spending almost all my time in mine. I started to develop my flair for designing and building Man Caves at a young age. I set up a pretty cool layer at my parent’s house which included a Waterbed, TV, Stereo, Video Recorder etc. I set up an equally cozy place (a.k.a. space) in my first apartment. But nothing compares to the cave that I built in my house. It included a wine fridge, beer fridge, 130-inch movie screen and projector, popcorn machine, surround sound system, over a thousand movies in my DVD collection etc.
And for the odd occasion that I had to venture out of the Man Cave, I set up what I now refer to as my “mini escape pods”, a.k.a. household projects i.e. planting trees, painting a room, cleaning the car etc. I could and would spend hours on them. Always alone or with my son! And usually with a beer or two, or three, or four, or more.
The Checklist Guy (a.k.a. the Lack of Self-Awareness Poster Boy. Heads down. Blinders on.)
I have already mentioned the role that a checklist played in shaping the latter part of my first half. Career? Check! House? Check! Wife? Check! Kids? Check! COMFORT ZONE? DOUBLE CHECK! CAPTAIN COMFORT ZONE? TRIPLE CHECK! I was so good at moving through my checklist that I got to a point where I was essentially just sleep walking through life. I was so good at it, at one point, that if you looked up “checklist guy” in the dictionary, my picture would appear. Oh well, at least I am not alone in that regards. From what I have read and observed, I am not the only one who has suddenly come to the realization that I had been following a checklist. At least I had the wherewithal to try and deal with it, even if it was a little late in the game. Many, many people, don’t.
The Bi-Weekly Paycheck Guy (of the risk averse variety)
Risk? Did someone mention the word RISK? Someone once told me that they could never see me as an entrepreneur. They could never see me in a situation where I did not have a regular paycheck coming in. I was supposedly just way too risk averse. Well, guess what? I certainly did not debate them on that one, despite ME being a debater according to my MYERS Briggs personality self-assessment. I totally agreed with them. The mere thought of such a situation was enough to make me cringe. There was NO WAY that I could ever consider giving up that pay-check. Again, look up risk averse in the dictionary and my picture appears.
The Technical Guy
If you like Comfort Zones, especially career related ones, then I highly recommend that you focus and specialize on just one or two things, the more technical the better. I know. I did it. I did not do it intentionally. I was enjoying what I was doing. People were reaching out to me to engage me on the topic. It made me feel confident. It provided me with an opportunity to travel the world and meet lots of people. It provided me with a feeling of accomplishment. I was proud. But, before you knew it, one thing lead to another and my area of expertise, and my area of comfort, got very narrow, very fast. My passport to stardom and a ticket to see the world soon became my anchor, keeping me from moving on, when I later realized that moving on was what I wanted to do. Later on, when I realized that I NEEDED to move on. I needed to move on for the sake of both my mental and physical health. I had hit a wall, it was the wall of my comfort zone, and at the time, it seemed insurmountable, especially on the career front.
The Non-Sales Guy
Can you say salesperson? Now, try saying NON-salesperson. That was ME. There was no other word in the English language that had the power of terrifying me more than the word “SALES”. I have always feared sales. On a few occasions, I had forgotten my fears. In grade school, I asked for 20 chocolate bars to try and sell. I sold one. I sold it to my Dad. He felt badly for me.
During my “finding myself phase” I actually took on a sales role. It was supposed to be a temporary stepping stone to another opportunity. Well, it was temporary alright, I left cowering like a dog with its tail between its legs within the first 6 months. Luckily for me at the time, I had no kids or mortgage to pay. Wow. What was I thinking back then? So much for stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Yikes. Even in my later roles, I was aware that as I progressed in my career, that sales would take on a more important role. I guess I just figured that I would deal with that little challenge when I got there. Well, once again, that approach did not work out all that well. I got stuck when I eventually got there. Stuck and depressed and isolated.
I sometimes wonder what would happen if I could get in a time machine and go back to that period in time and speak to myself. Tell myself that within 4 years from then, one of the lowest points in my life, not only would I be able to hear the word sales without cringing and hiding under a table, I would be leading the development and delivery of a webinar on relationship selling to over 600 people in my new role with my employer. That I would become one of a dozen facilitators delivering a relationship selling training course to both the senior managers and partners at my employer, one of the largest professional services firms in the world. I often wonder, would I have believed my future self? I am not sure that I would have. That was just too large a stretch of the imagination for me at the time. But that is exactly what ended up happening, but, once again, more on that one in a later chapter.
The Yes MAN Guy (a.k.a. Zero Boundaries Boy)
Just say YES. I don’t think that I could sum up my modus operandi on the communications front any simpler than that. I used it at work, rest and play. “Dad, can I stay up past bed time?” Yes! “Dave, can you take on another project?” Yes. “Dave, would you like to be part of the new committee”? Yes! “Dave, Do you have any boundaries?” No!” Aha. A trick question. No fair!
The NON-CONFLICT Guy (avoid them and they will go away, at least, that is what I hoped)
It only seemed logical to me back in the days, that if one wanted to avoid a conflict, then one should avoid it. Avoid it all costs. As I mentioned previously, I did not like confrontation and/or conflict. In my MBA days, they assigned us a book to read on having tough discussions. I almost wish that I had read it over 20 years ago when it was first assigned. Oh well, I was not in to all that self-help, people hugging, book crap back then. I am surprised I kept it. Captain COMFORT ZONE certainly had no use for it. But, you know what? Captain COURAGE just might. Although I have not read it yet, my hypothesis is that it takes a lot of courage to engage in a difficult discussion. Courage by both parties. After all, it takes “two to tango”. Humm. It might just be time to dust it off. Dust off a lot of dust.
Mister Nice GUY (Don’t worry be HAPPY)
Mister Nice Guy. I have friends who tell me that I am the nicest person that they know. I am flattered. I believe that the feedback was in a positive context. Unfortunately, in hindsight, my motivation for being nice has hindered me on the caring side of things. I was not big on hurting anyone’s feelings so I pretty much let everything go. If someone wanted some honest feedback on something, I was probably not the one that they should have been seeking out. It is pretty easy to say nice things about people, quite another thing when there is some strong messaging and/or feedback to share. Sharing it because you want to help the other person. Sharing it because you care about the other person and you want to help them make themselves better off. It takes courage. And in the old days, “Old Dave’s” courage tank was pretty much running on fumes.
The Scaredy Cat
I can’t think of a better enabler to allow someone to hang out in their comfort zone than fear. Somewhere along the way, I had become afraid of a lot of things. I was afraid of failing. I was afraid of trying new things. I was afraid of meeting new people. I got to the point where I was dreading and fearing almost any type of change. I tried to hide from change, but it always seemed to catch up to me. They say that the only constant is change. Well, in those days, I had another constant going on and it was related to change. That constant was fear.
Summing it all up
Wow. What a mess. Captain Comfort zone certainly had a lot of personas. Some are part of his personality and were shaped long ago, but a lot, I found out in hindsight, were part of his mindset and had been shaped over a much longer period of time. And when I mention, mindset, the growth oriented kind is not want springs to mind. Sounds like time to work on a bit of a mind shift. More like a lot. We are talking about a lot of change here. “Hey Captain Comfort Zone! Are you sure that you are up to the challenge?”
So, What did I learn?
How did I make change EASYer on myself 😊 (or not ☹)
Ever heard of the term Emotional Intelligence? You are not born with it, you learn it. Well, when it came to emotions, and Emotional Intelligence, I had a lot of learning to do, and ignoring my emotions was not making it any EASYer on myself. ☹ But, if avoiding my emotions was not serving me well during this period of my life, apparently, I was not alone. As the authors of the book “Raising Cain: Protecting the emotional life of boys” point out, there are a lot of other dudes, who at some point in time, were, and many still are, not comfortable dealing with their emotions.
Apparently, we Men (a.k.a. Martians) have been brought up by a society, at least in North America, that encourages us to avoid sharing emotions at all costs. We are supposed to be macho and strong and stoic and tough. Guys don’t cry and they don’t share their feelings. The result, as the authors put it, is a high level of emotional illiteracy. The result is a “nation of boys who are hurting – sad, afraid, angry and silent”. Funny, I don’t ever remember feeling angry, but, as you are about to find out when I share my story of my time in my nasty zone, boy, was I ever sad, and afraid, and very, very depressed. I did not realize it at the time, because I did not want to. After all, I am a man and men don’t get scared and sad and depressed. That is being weak, or so I thought. Or so, as it turns out, I was brought up to think.
That was all about me. What about YOU?What are you doing to make your journey of change EASYer on YOU? 😊 (or not ☹)
What are some of your personas?
Are they a help or a hindrance?
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