Thursday, November 07, 2013

Comfort Zone Cages

So I wrote about being lucky to have a job where I can help people grow.  It's amazing how much harder this is to do than it sounds.  Some people are eager, some not so much.  Some flat out don't want to budge from where they are.  Others want to learn new skills or hone the ones they have but they just can't quite step out of their comfort zones.  Security becomes more precious than progress.

Think of Monkey Bars on a playground.  The contraption where you can hang by your arms and move along hand over hand.  Guess that's where the "Monkey" part of the name comes from.  So there you are, hanging onto a rung with both hands, knees bent so that your hands are your only support.  The only way to move forward is to let go with one hand and reach out.  It's amazing how many people won't let go!

Sometimes comfort zones can be good things and other times they can become cages.

In the course of writing this blog I've tried to be honest about my own humanity.  In that vein I have to admit that I've felt that feeling of not wanting to let go.  Here's an example.

I'm in a small upstairs gym at an athletic club.  One question is repeatedly bouncing around inside my head.

"How can a guy who's so graceful on a motorcycle be so freakin' ungainly on a dance floor?"

Yep, we were taking dance lessons.

Katie and I grew up as country kids.  Once upon a time we were pretty good at the Square Dance thing.  We knew a few simple steps for slow songs and waltzes.  Maybe it was something she saw on the television.  Perhaps it came up when she was visiting with her girlfriends.  You now those coffee circles where they compare notes on what they've been able to get their husbands to do?  It could even have been the fact that we're eligible for senior discounts and she felt we should learn something new together to help prevent Alzheimer's.  Who knows?  What I DO know is that one day Katie piped up and said she wanted to take Ballroom Dancing lessons.


You ever get that trapped feeling?  Katie was looking me right in the eyes and waiting for my reaction.  My gaze was locked on her face, as well.  I knew she could sense my reluctance.  I could also see the challenge in her eyes.  It was as if she was saying:

"Come on my Swashbuckling Hero (honest to God, that's what she calls me; she even has the Indiana Jones theme song as her ringer when I call her cell phone) what happened to 'I love a challenge'?

I knew whether I refused her request or agreed I'd probably end up looking like one of these. It's a nice looking mule, but still....

You've already had the teaser about which direction it went.  Being associated with a major university, I looked up their dance instructor.  As quickly as you can sign a check we were committed to eight weeks of something called the Night Club Two Step.

It was rough in the beginning.  I developed an instant rapport with the guy standing next to me on the first night.  When the instructor told us to start actually moving instead of standing in one spot I could hear him mutter under his breath.

"This is going to be ugly."

Truer words were never spoken. We were learning the two-step and I had two steps, all right.  My left foot went "Stomp!" and my right foot went "Clunk!"  If only I could have brought Elvira!  Then I'd show them graceful.

Things gradually got smoother.  I learned that the real trick to being graceful (Ok, at least not as klutzy) is to stay up on the balls of your feet.  I scored points with Katie.  Plus we've actually gone out dancing and looked pretty good, if I say so myself.   We actually have some new skills and are having fun in the process.  We may even go back for the intermediate lessons.

Part of my success was due to the fact that the instructor was not only good at imparting the skills but she was also a sort of  psychologist, too.  She had empathy for where us guys were coming from and that informed her approach.

More on that aspect to come.  Specifically on how it relates to gaining new riding skills.

Miles and smiles,



Trobairitz said...

Comfort zones - that is what is hard for me to leave. Large groups and performance anxiety and fear of failure all rolled into one.

Good on you for taking the dance lessons!!

Unknown said...


All I can say is " YIKES ! "

I got roped into ballroom dancing too. We took beginners 4X because it was out of our comfort zone to move up to intermediate. My favourite is the CHA CHA and Foxtrot.

So when is the video coming ?

Riding the Wet Coast

Lucky said...

Comfort zones are a real trick. Because, the thing is... they're comfortable. I mean, overcoming the inertia of comfort is not easy.

I've thought of taking ballroom dancing classes simply because I can't think of anything else that scares me more. If you were to stand me in front of a dance instructor and a skydiving instructor, well, I'd be strapping on a parachute before the dance instructor was able to say hello...

So, good on ya!

irondad said...


Like I wrote, comfort zones can be good things. They help keep us sane. On the other hand, I've seen evidence that you've had the wisdom to let go and reach out. Witness your progress as a rider.

So I return the phrase: Good on you!!

Take care,


irondad said...


Been there, done that, eh?

The video has been ruled as indecent and has thus been censored.

Take care,


RichardM said...

Ballroom dancing, eh. You are a much braver man than I. Maybe you should have a GoPro camera on your helmet when dancing...

redlegsrides said...

OK, two things.

Thanks so very much for again raising the bar for us.....

We want to see pictures, preferably of you dipping Katie whilst doing the Tango, with a rose stem clutched tightly in your mouth....

RichardM said...

I think the bar has been raised to stratospheric levels....

VStar Lady said...

When you are a teacher it is extremely good to have to learn something totally new in order to understand how difficult it is to learn a new skill ... good for you on both accounts...and just think how much fun you will have as those skills become 'muscle memory,' you will become a dancer without having to think through each step.

Troubadour said...

I'm looking forward to your next range visit, you can help throw cones cha, cha cha. Place a cone aaaand dip. Way to add to your famous Elvis pelvis swivel (which I use).
Great write up and analogy! Good for you, as I'm with Lucky strapping the parachute on and jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.

irondad said...

Richard M,

Your suggestion of mounting a GoPro camera to my head has been noted. I'm pretty sure that watching it repeatedly fall to the ground would become boring quite soon, though!

Take care,


irondad said...


Would you settle for a long-stem rose sticking out of the front of a full face helmet?

Take care,


irondad said...

VStar Lady,

I'm so honored to have you grace my blog. Thank you so much.

You are pretty much on track for where I was headed next. Very insightful!

Take care,


irondad said...


Do I sniff out a bit of ridicule, cha, cha, cha? I've read that ridicule is often an expression of fear.

Remember that I approve payroll. Including yours. Which I did yesterday. :)

On the other hand, I've also read that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So swivel on, Elvis!

Take care,


Dean W said...

This is where I'm going to hand-wave the dancing topic, and point out that I ride with the balls of my feet on the pegs...

Reike said...

i still need go to comfort zone

Lucky said...

Hey Irondad! Still waiting for that follow-up post here! Come back!