Embrace Temporary Ignorance

“I don’t like learning new things” ~DMV employee

O Monday I was at the DMV getting my driver’s license renewed.  Before I left, my wife mentioned she heard on the news that the DMV would be working with a new computer system that launched the same day as my appointment.  This should be fun!

After I was called to the counter and told the DMV employee what I was there for, I asked how the new computer system was working.  She gave me a look that made me think things hadn’t been going well, so I let out an, “Oh no!”  Actually, she told me, things were going pretty well, largely due to all the training they had prior to launch.  She said she didn’t like not knowing all the answers to the computer-related questions her colleagues were asking.

That’s when she dropped the quote at the top of this post on me.  She mentioned she’d been doing her job for the last 22 years just fine and knew all the answers to all the questions and would rather not have to learn a new system and feel like she was starting all over again.

I get it.  When we learning something new, we have little experience and lots of ignorance.  It puts us out of our comfort zone, and that doesn’t always feel good.  For me, however, remaining intellectually stagnant, by not continuously learning new skills, is much more uncomfortable.

When learning something new causes me to be pushed outside of my comfort zone, I remind myself that I’ll only be uncomfortably ignorant for a relatively short time.  The discomfort of feeling ignorant will soon be replaced with confident competence.  It’s a cycle that should be familiar to life-long learners.

Don’t allow the discomfort of temporary ignorance to keep you intellectually stagnant.  Embrace the discomfort, knowing that your continued drive to learn the new skill will soon result in competence and the confidence that comes with it.


Your Comfort Zone and Beyond               

We all know that in order to stretch and grow we must consistently get out of our Comfort Zone.  But just how far out of our Comfort Zone should we be going?  Is there a limit?

I think there are 3 sections relating to our Comfort Zone that look like the following:


The characteristics of each section are as follows:

Our Comfort Zone:

  • Things you attempt are easy to accomplish
  • Success is almost certain
  • This space can expand as we master items in our Challenge Zone

Our Challenge Zone:

  • Things in this zone represent endeavors we have not yet attempted, or are in the early stages of trying
  • Success is not certain, but is likely with practice and continued effort
  • Mastery of items in this zone causes those items to move out of our Challenge Zone and into our expanded Comfort Zone

Our Danger Zone:

  • Items in this space represent skills or talents we do not yet , or may never, possess
  • Outcomes are disastrous at best; dangerous at worst
  • Items in this space can move into our Challenge Zone, and even our Comfort Zone, but only after significant effort, failure, and disciplined practice; it is a slow process

When we step out of our Comfort Zone, we should look for those items that lie within our Challenge Zone, perhaps those items close to, but not exceeding, the far edge of our Challenge Zone.  These items are the ones that will stretch us the most and cause the most rapid growth.

Take for example, a person who wants to be an airline pilot who has never flown an airplane before.  They would not start out flying a 500+ passenger aircraft for a major airline.  That would certainly be in their Danger Zone and would have disastrous consequences.  They’d first start out learning to fly small single engine airplanes.  Initially, this would be something that would be in their Challenge Zone, but as they spend time with a flight instructor, they would eventually develop mastery in this area.  At that point, flying small single engine aircraft would be in their Comfort Zone and they would be ready to move to move up to the next larger aircraft that is in their Challenge Zone.  They would continue learning to become familiar with increasingly complex aircraft, until that 500+ passenger aircraft has moved from their Danger Zone into their Challenge Zone.  At that point, they would begin training in that aircraft, until its mastery, which was once in their Danger Zone, becomes part of their Comfort Zone.

Moving items from the Danger Zone to the Comfort Zone is a process that is usually timely and slow, so patience and discipline is required.

What items would you like to add to your Comfort Zone?  What item in your Challenge Zone can you begin working on today to move you one step closer to its mastery and an eventual placement in your Comfort Zone?  Don’t wait!  Get started today and begin seeing your Comfort Zone expand as you achieve things you never thought possible.