• Eric Dahl

Outside of the Comfort Zone

Everybody likes the comfort zone, me included. Just like a familiar pair of blue jeans or tennis shoes that always feel right. Daily routines have a way of comforting us like flopping on the couch when we get home and turning on the TV while we check social media on our phones. Work and our outside passion projects can fall into a comfortable rhythm that becomes repetitive and feels safe. But, I propose that most new and good things live outside of this comfort zone. It’s funny if you consider that we go to college, gain certification or acquire years of expertise in our chosen fields with a goal of becoming comfortable after we have supposedly mastered it. The only true and continued method of growth and expansion is to go beyond our self-imposed boundaries of the comfort zone. From my personal life, many of these examples have bettered me and taken me in new directions that I never dreamed of while placing my foot on less than solid ground. While living in Las Vegas our church Pastor came to visit me at a casino gig I was playing and proposed that I help him launch a Praise Team at our church. Although flattered, I was honestly didn’t know a lick of worship music and told him I only knew blues, rock and country covers. He told me “It’s the same music, but with Christian lyrics.” Prior to this I had a preconceived, and wrong, notion that Christian musicians were lesser musicians because they played in a church instead of in public. Little did I know how much more pressure there was performing for a congregation and in support of your faith. I accepted the Pastors offer and I was the first guitarist to ever play at that church and this developed into a full contemporary Christian band (bringing drums into church did take a council vote). It helped me to grow as a musician and a person, I gained new friends and it opened new doors of music I had never been exposed to! After moving to Nashville, all our friends assumed I would fall right into playing gigs and church in Music City but they didn’t realize how flooded the town is with great musicians. I also discovered that there weren’t many places to play cover songs in town, except on Broadway for tips. If you wanted to play a songwriter round or open mic you had better have your own originals songs. I hadn’t written songs in many years and I always struggled with writing them and performing them. A friend of mine, Ed Beaver, signed me up for a Songwriter Round that he was leading at the Millennium Maxwell House here in Nashville. I had played in bars and casinos since I was a teenager, but sitting on a stool in front of forty people playing and singing songs by Eric Dahl had me petrified. Thankfully, now that Ed broke me in, I try to play a Songwriter Round at least once a month. Not because I feel that my songs are that terrific or that Tim McGraw is going to pick one to record. It’s because it forces me to write and practice my own songs and perform them in front of others. The benefit is that it makes me a better musician and I always meet interesting people at these rounds that I learn from and appreciate. In fact, earlier tonight I played one and I had the nervous jitters as always and practiced for two hours before driving into town. What are some things that make you uncomfortable that will expand your current comfort zone? Is it public speaking, singing in public, acting, writing a book or helping a charity. None of us get better or grow by following our same old routines, it becomes a jail cell that stifles our creativity and keeps us from reaching our true potential. In the past ten years, I have found myself racing towards things that I was previously afraid to do or try, because in the end the benefit always outweighs the fear that I place upon it. It is sad when we allow our fear of trying something new, challenging or different keep us from achieving more. I always like to seek out people that I consider to be the best in their fields and areas of expertise and none of them have ever said “Wow that was easy and it took very little work to get here.” Hardship, hard work and pushing the comfort zone is the only way to reach the stars. We all have areas where we can be better in our jobs, family and side projects, but if we settle for being just comfortable then we are shorting the people around us and ourselves. So, this week let’s all take a few steps out of our comfort zones and see what benefits that yields? I don’t personally feel the need to be the best, but I do want to be better than I was yesterday. I hope you can achieve that and more!

The path out of the Comfort Zone isn't easy!