By Gerald Daniels
Last week when Jim Whitt wrote about learning to be comfortably uncomfortable he told of two telephone conversations he had. One of those conversations was with me — I’m the guy who is starting a new business. Starting a new business at any time is a challenge but in the current economic climate it is especially uncomfortable. So, I want to share the stories of a couple of people who have inspired me to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Although Thomas Jefferson lived in colonial comfort he deliberately made choices that were clearly uncomfortable. Some of the most difficult times our country has ever faced were during his tenure as the third U.S. President. He was known as a wise and noble man with great vision, yet he knew the value of not becoming complacent or resting on his past laurels. We think of Jefferson as the person most responsible for authoring the Declaration of Independence but the most difficult decision he faced as president was the Louisiana Purchase. The idea of making an 828,800 square mile land purchase, roughly one fourth of the United States, made the majority of our early citizenry uncomfortable. The asking price was high and it was dangerous territory. Did the young country really need all that additional land? Would it pass constitutional muster? These were all major issues at the time. But Jefferson believed it was an issue of national security. Without the purchase foreign countries could easily block our access to maritime trade routes. But Thomas Jefferson was comfortable with being uncomfortable. He knew it was a part of life and leadership.
Linda Cathy is a name you may not recognize, yet she is an unsung hero to many. The last few years have brought many uncomfortable circumstances to her and her family. Three years ago her husband was involved in a catastrophic car wreck. The injuries ran the whole gamut from a broken neck to brain injury and to more stitches than could be counted. After months of hospitalization he was able to come home and began the arduous task of recovery. In the midst of this extremely difficult time her mother began to develop dementia, they had to sell her home and property for escalating expenses and her doctor recommended she be admitted to a full-time assisted living facility. The last straw for many people would have been when their health insurance was cancelled. But not for Linda Cathy — she has held down her full time job in the midst of this emotional, physical, and financial suffering. Linda is an example of just how much we can endure and accomplish when life becomes uncomfortable to the point of where it would be easier to give up. But sometimes when life brings the most difficult of circumstances our way it serves as a catalyst to strengthen our resolve and commitment to one another. Her commitment to being comfortable with being uncomfortable may not be one she can articulate or explain — she just does what has to be done.
I asked myself a couple of months back what I would be willing to give up or change in my life to move more in the direction of fulfilling my purpose. Then after reading last week’s Road Sign For Success it occurred to me that I would have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. The lives of Thomas Jefferson and Linda Cathy have little in common. Yet they both serve as examples that no matter your place in history, your fame, fortune or lack thereof, being uncomfortable does not necessarily mean that you are doing something wrong. It’s often a sign that you are doing something right. When we come to that realization we can accept discomfort as a prod, a little poke to get us going in the right direction. It is to perhaps remind us of our need to change, to grow, to challenge, and to learn. And I am learning to be comfortable with that.