Overcoming Adversity? Aimee Mullins at TED.com

How can I get through the obstacles to something better on the other side?

Aimee Mullins was born without her fibular bones, the smaller of the bones connecting knee to ankle.  The doctor had to tell her parents that she was disabled, had to amputate what was left of her legs and tell her parents that the prognosis was not good for a full life.  She would not be normal.  She tells that at the age of 15 she would have traded anything to get rid of her prosthetic limbs and have “normal” legs.  She would have given anything to get rid of her “problem”.

Now she is not so sure.

Life is not what is beyond the obstacles.  The adversity, the obstacles, the difficulty is life.  There is no “other side”.

“Comfort is the worst kind of slavery because you’re always afraid that something or someone will take it away” Seneca

Comfort is the absence of growth, the absence of learning.  Panic and fear would be the other extreme.  Between comfort and panic lies learning and growth.  I often begin my classes with a diagram of three circles on the blackboard. The smallest circle is the “Comfort Zone”.  These are things you know you can do.  People sitting passively in the classroom with their arms crossed, not raising their hand, are in their comfort zone. They are not growing as people.  The Largest circle is the “Panic Zone”.  This represents the things that are far beyond my competence and instead of allowing growth, they induce fear and impede any process of growth or learning – the animal part of my brain just wants to get out of there and kicks in the fight or flight responses (making my human brain disengage and dumbing down my potential responses).  The zone in the middle between the Comfort Zone and the Panic Zone is the Learning Zone.

As I spend time in my learning zone, my comfort zone expands as there are now more and more areas in which I become competent and proficient.

“A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” John A. Shedd

Here is the video of Aimee Mullins at TED (on the blog).

I finish with a quote that I liked a lot.  “I think that there were only two people in my high school that were comfortable there, and I think they are both pumping gas now.” Grant Show

Happy Easter to all.  I spent about 3 hours procrastinating instead of writing and it resulted in a redesign of my blog layout using the new template designer that blogger.com launched yesterday. I hope you like the new look.

Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action.

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