A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there

Above: Vasto, Italy photographed on my Canon 5DMK111 and 24-105mm lens ISO 100,F8 @1/1000th sec

You’ve heard the saying “location, location” right? Well, did you know the place you spend the most time in is going to impact how successful you will become as a photographer?

I believe the place you spend the majority of your time will have more of an impact on your ability to succeed than your technical ability. You can be the most technically gifted photographer in the world but if you spend the majority of your time living in this place then it’s highly likely your work will continue to suffer and will struggle to improve or evolve.

I know this because I’ve lived in this place and getting out wasn’t easy. It’s difficult to leave a place that feels so familiar.

Life here is predictable and comfortable. In fact, the place is called Comfort Zone.

When I’m living in Comfort Zone, there are few disappointments, I know exactly what I’m doing every day and feel 100% competent doing it. Life is predictable.

The problem with this place is nothing ever grows there.

Living in my comfort zone is easy. I have a regular routine and I’m not challenged.
Whenever I pluck up enough courage to leave, I notice great things start happening. I’m challenged, there are more exciting opportunities and my work improves.

Stepping out of my comfort zone is challenging. The most difficult part is getting past the Comfort Zone Vigilantes. This is an ancient group that have been appointed to protect me from  disappointment and keep me safe and comfortable. I usually meet Doubt, the Mayor and Uncertainty, the deputy on the road out. I only need to travel a short distance before I bump into  No Guarantees, and Fear, closely followed by Regret and I Told You So.

It’s taken me many years now, but I’m getting used to The Comfort Zone Vigilantes. The further out of Comfort I venture, the louder and more insistent they become. I’m grateful to them because without them I’d make ridiculous decisions like swim in shark-infested waters, attempt to jump 100 buses on my vespa or eat a 10kg jar of Nutella in one sitting.

I’m also glad I ignored them when I ventured out of comfort zone to take my first portrait of a stranger, or switch over to shooting in manual mode. They were very convincing at first, as these guys are professionals.

Comfort Vigilantes: “Where are going?”

Me: “I’m stepping out for the day to try something new.”

Comfort Vigilantes: “Why? It’s tough out there, you’ll probably fail. Don’t bother, stay home with us, eat cheetos and watch Netflix.”

Me: “Nah, I really wanna head out and see what it’s like out there…”

Comfort Vigilantes: “Remember when you were nine and you left us to wear that red jumpsuit, and Silvana Bombonella, and all kids teased you about it? Or the time you were 15 and you left to audition for the high school musical and failed? Or the job interview at Video Ezy you went for when you were 17? Remember?
Don’t go, stay here so you don’t get hurt or disappointed…”

Living out of My Comfort Zone is challenging. It’s hard work, I’ve been disappointed and my heart has been broken. I’ve also had the most exciting, thrilling, mind-blowing experiences here.

Comfort Zone is nice, safe and predictable, all the good stuff happens just up the road. So, if you have a few moments to spare this week, take a trip out of Comfort Zone. You don’t need to stay for long and you don’t need to make big decisions. Start small.

  • Make a phone call you’ve been dreading
  • Share a photo on social media
  • Ask a stranger to pose for you

You can get a lot done in a few minutes and when the Comfort Vigilantes try and talk you out of leaving, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Am I in physical danger?
  3. Is my behaviour putting my loved ones in physical danger?

Chances are, you are not about to abseil nude from the top of the Empire State Building or  pogo stick your way across the Sahara Desert right? You are safe, you aren’t hurting anyone.
You risk being disappointed or feeling rejected but you may also be rewarded with new and exciting opportunities.

My favourite quote on this subject is by Lewis Carroll:
IN THE END… We only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.”

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