Momentum Podcast: 646
Your Discomfort Will Lead the Way
by Alex Charfen
We have been conditioned by society to deny discomfort. We grew up in school, work, and social environments where expressing our discomforts would be threatened and penalized. But contrary to what you have been taught, if you learn to eliminate discomfort, you will feel more comfortable, supported, protected, and you will grow a business that will make you a better human being.
You can learn to channel discomfort and lead these into making better decisions for your business, which often leads to building the real business you want. As you will hear on this podcast, this is the opposite of how I did it in my 20 ‘s—a common thread I see among entrepreneurs. When we understand our discomfort, we improve the world for everybody around us. Your discomfort will truly lead the way.
Full Audio Transcript
This is The Momentum Podcast.
As entrepreneurs, we do not want to be uncomfortable. I don't. You don't. It's something that we're born with. We avoid discomfort. In fact, when we start feeling discomfort, or when we feel uncomfortable, we will often deny it, move away from it, pretend like it's not there and focus somewhere else. We try to do everything we can to deny our discomfort. Now, here's the issue. When you are growing a business, understanding your discomfort is the single most important aspect of growing your business into a place you actually want it to be.
I'm Alex Charfen. And this is The Momentum Podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers shot takers, record breakers, world makers, and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum, so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny. We define it. We don't understand defeat, because you only lose if you stop and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future. And instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure. It takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters. Clearly, the most important people in the world, because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution. And we always will be.
Here's the issue for most entrepreneurs who deny their discomfort or here's the issue with a lot of entrepreneurs, just running their businesses. A lot of people find that there's ambiguity and decision making. They don't really know what to do next. A lot of people feel like they're not making the progress that they want in their business. They're not moving forward. They're not feeling the momentum like they want to personally. And a lot of people feel delayed, stalled, stuck, or in a pattern. Do you feel any of these? Do you feel some challenges in decision making? Are you not making the progress you want? Do you feel constraint where you're stuck, where you're not moving forward?
Here's what happens to us as entrepreneurs when we get into a place where those qualities are present. We start to feel stuck. We start to slow down. We could start going backwards. Our business could start doing poorly. Every time we grow our business to a new level, we feel like we've achieved a new level. When we start going backwards, it feels excruciating to us.
And here's what can happen. We can start feeling massive constraint in our business and constraint for entrepreneurs, it makes us feel crazy. It can make us feel like we don't know what to do next. Not having clarity about how to move forward, feeling stuck in place for us, it's suffocating. It feels like we're dying. When we don't know how to move forward, for entrepreneurs like you and me, it will affect us physiologically. Our bodies breakdown. It actually affects us cognitively. We started having trouble thinking, seeing the next step, creating the future. It even affects us chemically. We get to the place where we feel the chemical depression, the chemical drag of being in constraint. I do not want you to be there. In fact, I want you to grow the business you want, to build it to a place that you want and to grow a company you're actually proud of and excited to run.
Now, here's why you understanding where you are uncomfortable is so important. If you don't admit your discomfort and understand where it is, if you deny your discomfort and sweep it aside, if you don't look at what it is that's actually making you uncomfortable in your company, in your business and if you're a leader in your business, in your department with your team... because this goes for executives as well. In fact, I talked about this on the last podcast I recorded Deanna and I are going through understanding her discomfort. I'll share more on that in just a minute.
But if you don't understand your discomfort, if you deny it, shove it aside, put it away. Here's what will happen... not maybe, but what will happen is you're going to build a business that you don't want. You're going to build a business that makes you uncomfortable. You will wake up one day and say, ""Wait a second. The discomfort I've been denying, all the stuff I've been sweeping aside, all the frustration I've been feeling, the anxiety I've been feeling, it's all here now and I can't make it go away."" And we see this in entrepreneurial patterns. We see people who build up huge businesses and then it looks like they all just fall apart and go away.
And here's my interpretation. If we are not aware of our discomfort along the way, we will build a business we don't want. I did it. I've been there. It's hard to talk about, gives me all types of body reactions and emotional feelings. But in my 20s, I built what was considered a massively successful business. In fact, one of the most successful businesses of its type. And I was one of the youngest business owners of businesses of this type. I was a manufacturer's rep and consulting firm in Florida. We were responsible at one point for over $250 million in sales. We were a multimillion dollar organization. I had 50 people, 50, 60 people in the US and Latin America in 14 different offices.
And I woke up one morning after meeting Cadey and realized just how insanely uncomfortable I was, not with part of it, not with some of what I did, but with essentially all of it. It didn't feel right. It wasn't what I wanted to be doing. It made me tired on a daily basis. I wasn't fulfilled. I created this financial success that felt vacant and hollow. I wasn't doing what I really wanted to do. I didn't really like my clients. I didn't love the business that we were in anymore. It was just overwhelming on a day to day basis. And so I sold it and got out. And to the people around me I looked crazy. They thought I was sabotaging my life and how I sell the business, and I was making so much money and things were going so well and I was on top of the world. The year before I sold my business, we had won five or six different awards in our industry for being the top in our industry. And I still walked out because I was so massively uncomfortable.
Now, had I built that business differently, had I admitted my discomfort, had I inventoried where I was uncomfortable along the way, had I made sure that I was eliminating constraint and eliminating pain for myself, that business might've been completely different. But it was a fire sale, because I was way too uncomfortable in it. And I knew that it would take too long to fix it. And I don't ever want to see you do that.
Now, here is how you stay out of that nightmare of building a business you hate. Here's how you stay out of getting stuck like that. There's a clear process here. And I just want to... I will share the process that we use with our clients. I'll share the process that we use in our products. I'll share the process that I've used for decades now with entrepreneurs.
First is get clear on all the discomfort you're feeling. This is hard for people like you and I. We deny discomfort. When I say get clear on all the discomfort you were feeling, oftentimes I can see a physiological reaction from the entrepreneur I'm talking to. Step one is you sit down and you write down everything that is uncomfortable. This is for any leader. If you want to build your organization right, if you want to build your team right, if you want to build your department right understand your discomfort.
I'm going through this right now with one of our team members, Deanna, I'll share exactly how we're handling it with her and why after I share this framework. First, you get clear. You sit down, you write down all your pressure and noise. Where's it coming from in the business or in the department you're running? Where can you feel the discomfort? Where can you feel anxiety, ambiguity? Where do you not feel confident? Make a mess exhaustive list.
Then sit down, look at the list and start grouping things together, clarify. When you do that first brainstorming session, a lot's going to come out and it might not come out clearly. It might even come out in language where later you look at it and you're like, ""Why did I write like that?"" Because you know what happens when we're expressing discomfort? We often slip into a pattern of behavior that is a childhood pattern or reactive pattern or reflexive pattern. When I do this, I often go back and I look at the sheet and I'm like, ""Man, my handwriting was crazy. And I used some weird terminology and phrases there."" It's because when you're uncomfortable, a lot will come out and sometimes it doesn't come out in the best way. Get it on paper so that it's not just... so it's not ready to come out and affect your life.
And then once you're clear... first get clear on everything. Then sit down, prioritize group things together, clarify and start stack ranking. What is the most important thing that you need to take care of that's making you uncomfortable? You just made an exhaustive list of discomfort. Now, start to eliminate it. Get clear on how you're going to eliminate. And then execute. Start making changes. Look at the list of where you're uncomfortable and make massive changes. Make process changes, behavioral changes in your life. Eliminate discomfort anywhere you can.
And then once you've gotten clear group things together and prioritized, you commit to what you're going to do, then you execute and start actually correcting the discomfort. Then execute for a period of time, maybe 30 days then come back and do it again. On a quarterly basis, me and every one of my leadership team goes through this exercise in our product called Momentum Masterclass, that we're soon going to change and call something different and roll into our programs, because it's our personal planning product. And part of it is getting clear on all the pressure and noise you are feeling.
I'll share a quick anecdote. This just came up for us this week on. Deanna Pacino, who runs our coaching and content departments, is one of the most extraordinary leaders I've ever been able to work with. She has a career of being in education, which is one of the hardest environments to work in, where not only does she excel in a very constrained environment, but she became the leader of a school as a principal with 50 educators and 500 students. That is far harder than anything I've ever done.
However, being in the educational system conditioned Deanna to be uncomfortable without a solution. In fact, you, if you've had any type of corporate experience or if you had any type of job experience or if you've had a rough childhood or if you had an abusive childhood or if you had a hard time in school, here's what all of those things do. They condition us to sit with and accept our discomfort. Bad work environments, bad family environments, bad school environments, bad environments in general, condition us to accept our discomfort, and in so many ways, they condition us to deny our discomfort because here's what I would imagine happened to Deanna over and over again as a principal. She would think to herself, ""This is not right. This should be changed. I need more people here. I need more resources here. There needs to be something different than the immediate thought, but we're in a school system. The resources, the people, the different thing is not there. So let's just deny the discomfort, live with it and move on.""
And when you work in environments like that, here's what you do over and over again, deny the discomfort, live with it and move on. Deny the discomfort, live with it and move on. Deny the discomfort and live with and move on. Deanna did that so much that she had to leave the educational industry. In fact, there are some industries where denying discomfort is kind of part of what you do. Unfortunately, in many educational environments, that is absolutely true.
But in an entrepreneurial environment, in you running your business or a leader in your business, here's what we want to know. We want to know exactly where they are uncomfortable. Here's what I asked Deana to do this week. I asked her to go on a walk, shake off some energy, come back and write me an exhaustive list of everywhere she's uncomfortable in our coaching and content department. I knew that that was a massive ask for somebody who's worked in abusive bureaucratic environments, because when you admit your discomfort or your vulnerability, it's often used against you. In fact, when Deanna sent me her list, the first thing that it said, because I said, tell me everywhere you're uncomfortable... the first item said, ""I'm uncomfortable making those lists in full transparency because stuff like this has always been used against me.""
Well, here's what I said to Deanna and what I want you to understand about any leader in your company. When they express discomfort, you should do everything you can to understand where they're uncomfortable, understand why they're uncomfortable. Talk about the discomfort, explore the discomfort. Because if they're in a leadership position, their discomfort is literally the beacon of what needs to happen in their department.
And in the couple page lists that Deanna sent me, I'm so excited to talk to her later today and go through it, because I now understand where she's uncomfortable. I now understand where she feels vulnerability. Here's, what's amazing. It's a lot of the same places I'm uncomfortable. It's a lot of the same places I feel vulnerability. So you know what happens in this situation? When Deanna is willing to tell me where she's feels vulnerable, when she's willing to tell me where the department feels vulnerable, here's the result. It creates massive trust between the two of us.
And as an entrepreneur, when you're willing to share with your team where you feel uncomfortable, where you feel vulnerable, you will create massive trust between your team. Here's how it works for me. When I say that this creates massive trust, this is... I told Deanna that. I said, ""For me, vulnerability creates trust, because is I'm very tuned in as a human being."" I'm more sensitive than most people. In fact, I rarely meet anyone who has the same sensitivities or the heightened level of sensitivities that I do. And if I'm having a conversation with a leader in my team and they're not sharing with me what's bothering them, they're not telling me what the actual problem is, I feel it, but I often can't understand why. So I feel it. And what comes up is that feeling starts to translate as a level of distrust towards the leader.
Ask yourself as an entrepreneur, when you're meeting with somebody in leadership in your business, do you ever feel that that thing in the back of your mind that says, ""Why am I uncomfortable here? Why isn't this working? Why don't I really accept what's happening here?"" That discomfort should be leaned into, because here's what often is. It's a leader who sometimes maybe consciously, but oftentimes inadvertently or less than consciously is not telling you where they're uncomfortable, because they have a long period of behavior in their life where expressing discomfort is not only not welcomed, but it's pounced on as a vulnerability and exploited by the people around you.
Can you imagine in school when we were kids expressing discomfort to the people around you? You'd get piled up on and bullied and made fun of. In fact, in school crying or being upset or showing emotions of any kind would absolutely create a massive negative effect for most of when we were younger. We've spent our entire lives in institutions, in situations and in places where we have done everything we can to deny our discomfort.
Here's what happens when you lean into it. Here's what happens when you actually understand your discomfort, when you lower the noise in your life to where you can get clear and quantify it and lead through eliminating discomfort. Here's what happens. And this is a dream scenario, but this is literally what happens when you lead by eliminating discomfort. You start to build a business that feels better as you grow. You start to build a business where you do not build yourself into pain.
In that business that I was talking about in my 20s, I built myself into pain. Every new contract we signed hurt me more. Every new client we got made it so I was working harder, so I was doing more, so I felt more overwhelmed. That selling myself into pain was brutal, because I didn't know how to turn off discomfort. I didn't know how to go make it go away. I didn't know how to put process or people or something in place so that I no longer felt discomfort. In fact, I denied it so much, it didn't get handled.
The converse of that is if you start feeling your discomfort, you will actually build a business that feels better. If you start to eliminate your discomfort as you grow, you will create more momentum in the growth process. And if you are aware of what's bothering you as you grow, you will eliminate those things and add things that actually support you, make you feel better and make you feel excited and start growing your business faster. And as you grow, you will grow into a business you actually not just want, but if you continue to eliminate discomfort along the way, to help your business make you feel more comfortable, more supported, more protected, you will grow into your business and it will make you a better human being. It will make you a better person, because when we understand our discomfort, our humanity, and we improve it, we improve the world for everybody around us. Your discomfort will truly lead the way.
If you're ready to start growing your business faster and if you like to understand the processes, the systems, the structures you can use to build a business where not only you don't feel uncomfortable, you feel better every day, you feel more supported every day, you feel more protection every day, so that you can go out and change the world, get in touch with us. Go to predictablebusinesssolutions.com. Answer a few questions for my team. Set up a call with us and spend an hour understanding more about your business, getting clear on what you really need and let us share with you how we may be able to help you. Predictablebusinesssolutions.com.