Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone

According to the monitor hung on the front bulkhead, I’m 31,ooo feet in the air just Northeast of Fiji. I’ve been in Cairns, North Queensland, Australia for the last two weeks for Tony Robbins' famous Date with Destiny! This Date with Destiny started last Monday and lasted six 12 hour days, which were literally life sculpting!!! I created scripts for my life which consisted of;

  • New Mission Statement
  • New Primary Question
  • New Values and associated rules
  • New Relationship Vision
  • New Power Virtues
  • Top One Year goals

After the conference itself, Becky and I had 2 additional days in which to explore Cairns…and what is there to explore in Cairns you may wonder? Well, in the city of Cairns itself, you can pretty much explore the majority of it within a day or two! There is a great boardwalk that runs the length of the waterfront, a public park that runs its length as well including a great running/bike path, multiple play structures, public gas barbecues for anyone to throw their shrimp on, a massive public swimming pool, and tons of people out enjoying it all! In addition to the beautiful waterfront, there is also the busy harbor that grants access to the beautiful South Pacific!

Walk inland a few blocks and you are treated to an eclectic experience of socioeconomic stimulus that ranges from a majestic Louis Vuitton store that looks like it’s on Michigan Ave in Chicago, to a public square hosting native aboriginal fist fights! There are a TON of empty storefronts that are for lease, lot’s of gentlemen’s clubs, bottle shops with pokies, and one of the most amazing Saturday markets I’ve seen in a long time!

But as fun as all those other things may be, what really is a must see when you’ve made it all the way to charming city in North Queensland is one thing…the majestic Great Barrier Reef! That’s right…Cairns is often best known for its proximity to the amazing Great Barrier Reef. In fact, the majority of people that we met while in Cairns that weren’t there for DWD were there to go diving in the Great Barrier Reef!

When in Rome…do as the Romans! When in Cairns…go dive the GBR! So we decided to take the opportunity to hire a snorkel and introductory dive tour from Cairns to the Outer Reef! We selected the SilverSwift for our tour, and I’m so glad we did! The boat was top notch, the staff was super friendly and knowledgeable, and the equipment was awesome!!! The tour stated with Tea, Coffee, pastries, and motion sickness pills! The water conditions were identified as “Moderate”, so everyone was strongly recommended to take at least a ginger pill to avoid getting sick! Becky jumped all over the pill…and I took it to please her…but thank God I did!!! That water was rolling and that boat was moving!!! I felt like I was going to get sick even though I took the pill!!!

Dedntal Marketing Specialist Michael Fleming preparing for first dive at the Great Barrier Reef
Dental Marketing Specialist, Michael Fleming, gets ready to Scuba Dive in Australia

The boat ride out to the Reef was about an hour and a half…and that boat was MOVING! So needless to say, the reef is quite a bit out! The tour we hired offered 3 stops for the passengers to either dive or snorkel at each stop! I signed up for the Introductory dive lesson, and I was assigned the second dive group…so I wouldn’t dive until we reached our second stop! When we finally reached our first stop, all the snorkelers went out to the back of the boat where we were assigned googles/snorkel, fins, and a full body Lycra suit in case you came into contact with any “stingers”! Becky and I are seasoned snorkelers from our adventures in Mexico and Honduras, so we couldn’t get in that water fast enough!!! With Go-pro in hand, we dove in and…OMG!!!

There were so many fish!!! I literally can’t tell you how many fish we saw when we jumped in…hundreds? Thousands? It was a little intimidating because there was so much life in the water! Oh…and did I mention that someone mentioned just seeing a reef shark before we jumped in??? So needless to say, we were looking for that as well!!! Although we never saw that shark…we DID see the real life version of Disney’s Finding Nemo!!! So many colors! So many shapes…so many sizes! It was truly amazing to see so many beautiful and colorful fish! In addition to these beautiful fish, we also saw an eel, a sea turtle, and a sting-ray! This was truly an awe-inspiring experience! Oh yeah…in addition to these amazing fish, there’s also this thing called the Great Barrier Reef! We had to swim out a bit to reach the reef…and when we finally did…it was like nothing I’ve ever seen in person! I have seen pictures of the GBR online and in books…but as you can imagine, those pictures in a book or on a computer screen don’t do the actual location any justice!!!

The shapes, the colors, the living organisms, the animals, the coral, the coral sand…it was all so amazing!!! The ocean was rolling a bit…so that made the rays of sun dazzle against the surreal plants, animals, and coral that was abundant in this area. We were literally mesmerized by the amazing sights we were taking in! Just when we were through being amazed by one sight, we then came across another amazing sight! It was on and on like this until the boat sounded it’s horn, which meant it was time to get back on the vessel so we could embark for the next stop! Becky and I were literally the last two people back on the boat!!!

As we embarked for the next stop, the divers were asked to start suiting up for the second stop! That meant I had to say goodbye to Becky and start getting my Diver’s gear on! In addition to the full body Lycra suit I already had on from the snorkel, I then was issued a “shorty” (shot-sleeved) wet suit, a dive vest with tank, a weight belt, and a new set of diving goggles. It was time to suit up! After I poured myself into the tight wet suit, my instructor helped me with the weight belt….and then it was time to get my dive vest with tank on! My first impression was that this was HEAVY! Becky came out to take a picture of me, and I almost fell back when I first stood up!!! It was pretty funny…and I quickly learned my new center of gravity…but there was really no time for more oi that because once I had a couple pictures of me taken in this bad ass dive suit…it was time to jump in!

We lined up at the port side of the dive platform, and we were shown how to grab our weight belt with our right hand, and then hold our mask and regulator with our left hand as we “walked” out off the platform! I was a natural! Having grown up in So-Cal…I was always around water. If it wasn’t a swimming pool, it was the ocean. Once in the water…it was AWESOME!!! I had just got through snorkeling at the last stop…so this was just like snorkeling with a bunch of shit on! Once we all got in our group, we started to descend by hand walking down the anchor rope that held the boat in place. We did our starter exercises as planned…which consisted of pulling our regulator our of our mouth and re-inserting, as well as clearing our sinuses, and clearing out our goggles. All was well! We started to descend…and then I looked up!

At that point all I felt was one think…FEAR!!!

I can’t tell you what exactly came over me…but I gave the thumbs up sign to let them know I needed to go up to the surface. Since there were 2 instructors, one broke off with me and we floated to the top of the water. I yanked the regulator from my mouth and breathed “real air”! When the instructor asked what was up…the only thing I could say was it felt “claustrophobic”. I’m not sure if it was actually that…or the foreign experience of breathing underwater, or the drag of the weight belt…but it didn’t matter…I was scared! The reason “why” someone is scared is often irrelevant.

I remember getting caught in a rip current one time I was out surfing. I had actually used this current many time before to “get out” behind the break…but for some reason that time felt different. I turned around and paddled against that rip current…and do you know where I got? Nowhere! The more I paddled, the less I moved, the more I got scared, the more exhausted I got!

From the safety of the beach, had I seen this bloke paddling around this current, I would have known that this was a futile effort! In fact, all that needed to be done was…nothing. The current spit you outside the break…and then you could just paddle into a wave to ride all the way into the beach!

But when you’re scared…there is no logic or reasoning…only fear!!!

What did I do when I was caught in that current to get myself free from that current? Nothing. I finally just stopped paddling…and then everything was just fine! I rode the current out…paddled into a wave…rode it back into the beach…and then sat on the beach grateful to be back on land.

Back to the GBR…as I floated on the surface with the instructor, I told her I was scared, and that it felt claustrophobic. She looked at me really calm and said…”Michael, you look really calm”.

I replied, “I am”.

One of my favorite learnings from Tony Robbins is his quote,

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”.

The relevance of this quote is for those of us that are stuck in the day to day “grind”, or habits, and we are resistant to try new things because we are comfortable in current patterns or habit loops. This idea of habit is really explored deeply in Charles Duhigg’s novel “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do”. The concept is that it’s very easy to fall into a very comfortable habit, especially if it appears to positively serve us, but it takes a lot of effort to break a habit once it’s been a part of your “loop” for a prolonged period of time.

Knowing this to be true, Tony Robbins talks about learning how to identify when we’re in one of these patterns -particularly if it is a self-defeating pattern, and pushing beyond your comfort zone to move past this fear! So here I was…floating on the surface of the water in full dive gear, while the Greats Barrier Reef was 30 feet beneath my fins.

“Then why don’t we try it again…but this time a little bit slower”, she said. I took a deep breath, put the regulator back in my mouth, and we started to descend again! I made it down about 10 feet below the surface hand walking down the rope…and then stopped again. I couldn’t seem to catch my breath…I gave the thumbs up again.

When we surfaced…I was embarrassed…and I couldn’t quite tell her exactly “why” I felt I needed to ascend to the top. The words that came out of my mouth were still…I feel claustrophobic…but that wasn’t really what it was. And again…she told me that I looked calm. I didn’t know what to do…but right  then I got out of my fear loop and realized that I just entered the…

end of my comfort zone”

Knowing this to be true…I took a deep breath to acknowledge what was happening. She then looked calmly into my eyes and said,

“Michael, you can go back to the boat…but I really think that you can do this”.

I took a deep breath and then thanked her for her patience, and told her…

“I’m ready now…”

She smiled, as if she knew this to be true, and once I put the regulator back in my mouth, we started to descend slowly. We were linked at the arms…and she kept giving me the “OK” finger sign, and which time I was expected to return the “OK” finger sign myself acknowledging that I was indeed OK. What happened next was amazing…and eel stated to pass across us from our left to our right, we started to follow it, and then before you know it, I was diving!!! I got the hell out of “my head” and discovered the beauty around me!!! After that, the boat photographer came over and took a bunch of pictures and video…and when you see these, you would have no idea that I had surfaced multiple times out of fear prior to these shots! In fact…I could have just kept this little secret to myself and showed you that dive video and pictures and you would just think I’m a freaking’ bad-ass!!!

Dental Marketing Specialist, Michael Fleming, Scuba Diving at the Great Barrier Reef

Instead…I wanted to share my story with you because every single one of us either consciously or subconsciously avoiding opportunities on a daily basis because of fear. Whether it’s fear of failing, fear of looking stupid, fear of rejection, fear of losing money, (the list could go on!!!), we are constantly stopping just short of that bridge that leads us outside of our comfort zone, which is where our greatest growth opportunities reside!!!

Are you afraid to write that book? Are you afraid of buying that second rental property? Are you scared of opening that second practice? Are you scared of asking that person out on a date? Are you afraid to tell your significant other that you miss the passionate love you once used to share? Are you afraid of re-claiming your masculinity/feminine? Are you afraid of building that online course?

Knowing that you’re holding back on something right now so that you can remain inside your comfort zone, I just wanted to let you know…

“…you can go back to the boat…but I really think that you can do this!”

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