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The Excellence Experiment – Week 3 Update

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone - Neale Donald Walsch

Just the Stats:

  • Writing for 1 hour: 18/18 days
  • Reading/studying for 1 hour: 14/18 days
  • Shopping and other personal care stuff 1 afternoon each weekend: 3/3
    • 3 successful shopping expeditions and 1 less-than-successful attempt to imitate a YouTube tutorial on how to curl hair
  • Fitness:
    • Up to 6 push-ups/day (from 3); 1 minute of ab exercises 19/21 days
    • Running: Up to 3.0 miles/run (from 2.5 miles) at 11.5 min/mile
    • Added weight to shoulder and lunge sets in resistance training class
  • Doing something outside my comfort zone: 16/21 days


Cool Things I’ve Noticed:

As all good microresolutions should, I’ve been noticing immediate benefits as a result of these changes. Thanks to my new daily writing routine, my productivity has increased: 5 blog posts in the first 3 weeks of January, compared with a total of 3 posts in December! Perhaps more importantly, I now feel confident in calling myself a writer. I still have a lot to learn about the craft, but I’m not playing at it anymore. It’s something I do every day, whether I feel inspired when I turn on the computer or not – just like other professional writers.

Stepping outside my comfort zone – wow, this has been pretty transformative already, in just 3 weeks, and I haven’t even done anything really radical (yet). I’ve just been putting one tentative foot outside the zone, so to speak. A few of the things I’ve done:

  • Went to some new networking groups and classes (including one that started at 7:00 am – that was wayyyy outside my comfort zone)
  • Wrote (and sent) some emails that were really tough for me (including dropping out of a group that in the past I would have felt obliged to continue attending)
  • Tried out a few new stores and eateries on my own (not earth-shattering, but it’s shaken my brain out of familiar ruts)
  • Tried some new machines at the gym, and got over my fear of looking like an uncoordinated idiot (it’s true what they say, no one is paying any attention to you)

As you can see, the things I did aren’t far outside the zone – but their impact has been pretty profound. I’ve met some really cool new people and had some fascinating conversations. I’ve learned that many of the things I’ve built up in my mind as being scary or uncomfortable actually aren’t, and even if there is a little discomfort (like getting up at 4:30 am for a 7:00 am meeting), the benefits more than outweighed the pain. I’m discovering that all kinds of good stuff exists out beyond my current boundaries.

My little forays outside the comfort zone have given me confidence. They’ve made me wonder: if I can handle these little steps, maybe I can handle even bigger ones… (an unplanned example of kaizen in action!). And that’s led me to a decision that will really blow my comfort zone to smithereens. I’ve decided to move across the country, to Los Angeles. I’ve always dreamed of living in sunny Southern California, but fear has always held me back. No more! So stay tuned as this new adventure unfolds…

Challenges and Lessons:

The biggest challenge I’ve run into is scheduling. Tackling the writing first when I start my work day has been the most effective way to make sure I get it done, and I start the day with a feeling of accomplishment. But I still have all of my normal work to do – and some days it doesn’t all fit. So this is forcing me take a closer look at how I spend my time, looking for time drains I can eliminate, and ways to streamline my routines. It’s going to require some new microresolutions and habits to make what I want to do and what I need to do coexist peacefully.

A second related challenge is planning. In particular, finding things to do outside my comfort zone requires some strategizing in advance. If I wait until morning to figure out what I’m going to do to push my boundary that day, I start running up against my tight schedule and the need for efficiency and productivity. And that pushes me to stick to my familiar routine to save time. So, I’m going to need to experiment with planning my adventures a week or two in advance, so I can work them into my schedule.

Interestingly, one of the expected challenges that I haven’t had to deal with much (so far) is my old nemesis impatience, and its sidekick frustration. Sure, I’ve had a few moments where I realize how many more habits I need to change, and how long it will take to get to some of them if it takes at least a month or two to get each habit onto autopilot. But one of the great things about the microresolution approach to change is that if you pick the right ones, you see immediate benefits – and I can see daily progress with my writing productivity and creativity, my wardrobe is improving, and I’m having lots of fun with stepping outside my comfort zone. So that takes the edge off my natural impatience.

Another thing that I’ve found helpful is learning about people who excel in their fields, and seeing the years and years of effort and practice they put in, and all of the failures they experienced, before they ever reached the level of breakout success. Right now I’m reading Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, and I’m inspired and reassured by the years and years (!!!) he spent learning to play the guitar, studying and imitating the techniques of the best guitarists, playing small gigs for little or no money, long before anyone ever heard of him. It’s a great reminder that excellence takes time and persistence and hard work.


So that’s where I’m at. Overall, the highs have more than outweighed the lows, and the Excellence Experiment continues…


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