You know the feeling.

That feeling in your gut that makes you want to avoid pushing yourself.

Staying within your comfort zone feels good. Life outside of it is scary.

It's complicated, it's challenging, and it can result in hard, cold, embarrassing failure.

But it can also result in growth.

Thus, life asks you a tough question – comfort today? Or growth tomorrow?

In the moment, the appeal of comfort paralyzes us, and we default to inaction.

To overcome this tendency in my own life, I started using The Growth Rings program we developed with Bill Eckstrom.


The Growth Rings program helps you identify a goal outside of your comfort zone, specify why it's important to reach it, and create a plan to conquer your fears.

The latest goal I set with the program was to create an affiliate partnership with TED.

Our mission at Educo, after all, is to help people take action on expert advice.

So where better to start than by allowing people to take action on an inspirational TED Talk?

This partnership would be a win-win-win.

  1. A win for customers who get to take action on the Expert’s advice
  2. A win for the speakers who get to create new value from their talk
  3. A win for TED who gets affiliate revenue by improving the customer experience – rather than littering it with ads.

In concept, all these things seemed to make sense.

But, there is always that internal critic telling you that you don't know what you're talking about.

"TED would never partner with a small company like us..."

"Don’t embarrass yourself. They’ll never get back to you."

Or the internal procrastinator...

"Don’t blow your chance. It’s not ready yet. Wait a few months until you’ve grown."

Thanks to "The Growth Rings" program, I was able to silence this voice and take action.


To help you conquer your own growth goals, I want to share with you some of the key questions posed by The Growth Rings that helped me take on this challenge.

1. Why is this worth your best effort?

The first step in planning to achieve any goal – especially those outside your comfort zone – is to clearly state why doing so is worth it to you.

This question helped me remember why it was worth silencing my internal critic and venturing outside my comfort zone.

2. When will you know you’ve reached success?

The next step is to clearly define the ideal outcome is that you want to achieve. It’s very easy to get lost on the way to goal when you don’t have a clear target.

With TED, I knew I wouldn’t be done until we had a deal in writing.

3. Why is this uncomfortable?

Another key question to ask yourself outside of your comfort zone is what exactly it is that is causing you discomfort. Fears only exist in the unknown. And by specifying what makes you uncomfortable, you can start to see the thing for what it is.

For me, I was mostly afraid of messing up our opportunity.

4. What is the worst that could happen?

To make the uncomfortable thing even more concrete, I specified the worst case scenario. It’s easy to imagine things going terribly, but how bad could it really get?

This helped me see that the worst thing that happened is that I made a bad impression or annoyed them. Not ideal, but also not the end of the world.

5. What actions can you take to prevent that from happening?

With the worst-case clear in my mind, I could start planning actions that would prevent the worst case from happening.

This included simple steps like researching who I should reach out to, learning how their partnerships work, and crafting a clear message to them. Once I set that plan, my mind was immediately less afraid of reaching out.

6. What is the cost of not taking action?

This is perhaps the most important question posed by The Growth Rings program. Most of us don’t consider the huge costs that come with inaction.

By remembering the fact that partnerships don’t happen overnight, they grow over time, I knew that every day I put off building that relationship was costing me. I knew it was time to act now.


What happened? None of my fears were realized.

I reached out to them, got a meeting later that week, and I am currently waiting for TED to get back to me with the terms of their agreement.

It may not work out, or it may not end up being the ideal partnership I envisioned, but I never expected success.

I expected to learn, grow, and prove to myself that life outside my comfort zone isn’t as scary as the internal critic makes it seem.

And from my results, I learned a crucial lesson – not asking is worse than not knowing.

Had I assumed that they would never want to work with us in the first place, had I not opened myself up to failure, had I stayed in my comfort zone, I would not have had the chance to create a mutually beneficial partnership that helps people put ideas into action.

On to the next goal.