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April 21st, 2022


Why is it so important to edge outside of the comfort zone? And why is it called the comfort zone if we’re supposed to get out of it? Perhaps it would be better names the stagnation zone? What exactly occurs in this stagnating comfort zone? We do what is entirely predictable. We stick to the script, ensuring the reliable outcome. There’s no risk in this place, and because there’s no risk, there’s no possibility of any kind of reward outside of what comes with the usual routine. The comfort zone is a holding pattern, and the farther outside this holding pattern we venture, two things happen: our risk of messing up increases, but the size of potential reward also increases.


This is why small bets are so important. Staying inside the comfort zone is like placing a bet in a rigged game: the odds aren’t just high, they are pretty much guaranteed. But so is the pay off of that non-risk, which isn’t anything new or better or interesting compared to what we’ve always been doing. In short, there’s no real risk, and so - no reward. But venture out of the norm, and suddenly there’s a degree of risk. Try your hand at a new skill, test the waters with a business idea, ask that cutie out on a date. All of these suddenly introduce uncertainty, which is synonymous with risk. By mixing our own skills with the randomness out in the world, we engage that uncertainty, take that risk, but also discover and learn, no matter how badly we lose. Getting rejected by the cutie can have the unexpected effect of creating resilience in the face of rejection. A failed business project is almost always replete with lessons about what it means to enter the market, and finding out we have no innate talent for some new skill can create a strange and refreshing sense of being a beginner, like a child working through the first steps of learning.


All of these are relatively small bets. Pouring one’s life savings into a first business project would be a big bet - and an unwise bet. A better version would be to take perhaps 10% of those savings and create the minimum viable version of that business idea and see if it can garner any kind of success - any kind of small win.


Small wins lead to more small wins, and introspect, a course of exploration can look like one giant inevitable win. But like the montages in movies, that’s not what it is. Success begets success. Small wins beget more small wins.


The impulse may be to increase the size of the bet. A small bet worked, why not go for a medium bet this time, and if that works, why not a big bet after that? Surely this is a good direction!


But there in lies the error. The direction of that first small win might not be the overall direction. It might just be the entrance. In the same way that the front door to a house doesn’t indicate the direction to the bedroom. There’s navigation to be done. Which is why its best to creep toward success with a series of small bets and small wins. At any juncture, it might be wiser to cast two or three small bets to see which direction is best instead of one big bet in the wrong direction. 


It’s a bit like playing Marco Polo. Each call out of “Marco” gives an idea of where you should head. But a bunch of small bets versus one big bet is the difference between saying “Marco” a bunch of times to zero in on your opponent, and saying “Marco” once and heading off in that direction which is nearly guaranteed to be immediately outdated. 


Success is a moving target, and each small bet is an experiment to see which direction success might lie. 

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