When do you not care about discomfort? What are you willing to push so far because you care so much about your results? Exceptional results are about sacrifice. Pushing something so far, for so long, that you’re willing to give up something else in order to get there. When Arnold Schwarzenegger was training for bodybuilding championships, he regularly puked in the gym because he’d push himself so far. Regular vomiting was not a big deal to him because he wanted exceptional results for himself and he wanted the most out of his competition. He knew he had to push himself farther than anyone else would be willing to go. So, he kept going, kept pushing, kept exceeding his previous limits. He didn’t care about comfort. He cared about exceptional results.
We all know that Navy SEALs regularly push themselves and each other beyond their limits to test them. Their basic training, bud/s, is designed to do just that and to weed out those who do not possess the mental and physical fortitude to push through really tough situations. Even to become a SEAL, you have to be willing to not care about your comfort and regularly enter uncomfortable situations and deal with them for extended periods of time. If you’re a SEAL, being uncomfortable is normal. It is constant. It is every day. They deal in discomfort because that’s what the mission requires. SEALs live in the unknown, the difficulty, the discomfort. Some SEALs go on to become good writers because they’re so used to being uncomfortable. If you’re a writer, you have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable and the unknown, the blank page.
An early stand-up’s career is fraught with difficulty and discomfort. First, they decide that they want to get up in front of people on a stage and make them laugh. This, alone, is enough to scare most people away. People are terrified of public speaking and will do just about anything to get out of it. This disqualifies about 98% of people. The remaining 2% might one day try stand up. In the early days and years, simply getting stage time is difficult. You hit as many open mic nights as you can, hoping to get up there and practice. People are rude to you. People heckle you. People barely pay attention to you. There may be two people left in the audience by the time you get up at 1 AM. Your early act will suck. Most of your jokes will not work. You’ll feel like quitting. You’ll constantly wonder why you’re doing this. You’ll wonder how people do this. And you’ll live in constant discomfort and anxiety for a long period of time. Long enough that most people would seek therapy. Or, quit.
Stand-ups live in discomfort and have to learn to sit with it and push through it. They don’t have a choice. There is no other way to a successful stand-up career than to get regular stage time, fight back against the rude people and those who stand in your way, and keep working on your act until you are at the beginning stages of getting good. It’s damn hard. Those who choose to push through all the way deserve their success. There may be no more difficult creative performance art out there in which to make it.
Discomfort isn’t natural to us. We push it away. We seek ease and comfort. If something is uncomfortable, we think there must be something wrong with it, not us. Almost no one seeks discomfort out of the gate. Why would you do that? Nearly everyone picks easy street, the path of least resistance, because it is default. And easy. We’re wired for easy, not hard. Only discomfort is where we grow. Discomfort is where we improve. Discomfort is where we find our limits and test them and push them. We push them so far, in fact, that discomfort can become the norm, something natural we choose to sit with regularly. Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable may be one of the most charismatic things we can do.
It is ironic that what is uncomfortable for us is often good for us. What’s not easy is what’s necessary. Working out regularly is not easy, but it is necessary for good health. Eating right is not easy but it is necessary for optimal energy. Saying no to beer and pizza is not easy but you feel so much better if you avoid them. Taking cold showers is not easy but they are great for your mood, your skin, and your hormones. Pushing through the anxiety and pre-show jitters prior to speaking to a group is not easy but it is necessary if you’re going to perform. Things can only get better after you start. But you must start. Getting to bed at a reasonable time is not easy but getting good, adequate sleep is vital for high performance the next day.