hatever scares you, do it. Now.
Escaping your comfort zone can make
you happier, smarter, more confident,
more grateful, and more satisfied with
life—while strengthening ties to the
people you love. Here’s how.
Cooking pasta for 42 children seemed
like a great idea—until it was time to
cook pasta for 42 children. My wife
and I had volunteered for two weeks
at a children’s home in Kenya, and
cooking dinner, we thought, would
be a helpful way to thank the home’s
three overworked “moms.” But once
we saw the tublike pot needed to
boil 12 boxes of noodles, and once we
began chopping a mound of veggies
the size of a Ford Taurus, it occurred
to us that—eek—we’d never cooked for
so many mouths, let alone in a third-world kitchen with knives so dull they
frequently slid off the carrots.
And then, a bigger dilemma. The
water for the pasta wouldn’t boil.
Kenyans typically cook on charcoal
stoves, and this one, a creaky outdoor
model, was struggling to generate heat.
Twenty minutes passed. No bubbles.
The sky grew dark. My wife and I
grew nervous. Inside, 42 hungry kids
wondered: “Where the heck is dinner?”
Finally, after almost an hour, the pot
began to gurgle. We soon served
up mass quantities of spaghetti—
one girl had a noodle on her head
after licking her bowl—and the beef
in our sauce was the first meat the
kids had eaten in more than a month.
We felt relieved, exhausted, and
invigorated, common feelings for
anyone who’s dared to escape his or
her comfort zone.
Recently I went to New York
City. A coach told me to use
LinkedIn and find people who live
there and tell them I was coming
(and no, I don’t know most people in
my LinkedIn network). I picked three.
One answered. She invited me to meet
an amazing group of
innovators and entrepreneurs, and it came
from simply contacting a stranger and saying, “Want to meet for coffee?” —Susan Biali,
M. D., author of Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to
a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You
On a muggy morning
in 2005, my father col-
lapsed after 18 holes of
golf. An employee at-
tempted CPR. An ambulance arrived.
I raced to the hospital with my wife,
but Dad was dead before he reached
the ER. All that remained were long
forms on clipboards and unexpected
funeral plans; the dumb, numb shock
that accompanies sudden death.
I hate to call what I experienced
after Dad’s death a midlife crisis,
because that seems so cliché. It was
more like a midlife evaluation. The
way coaches adjust the game plan at
halftime. Dad’s grieving friends wrote
to say how he’d changed their lives,
and I thought—“What will people say
when I’m gone? What have I done
I was struggling to find my purpose.
And then a friend gave me some ad-
vice: “You only know about yourself
when you’re outside your comfort
zone.” Without really planning on it, I
started volunteering around the world
and plunging myself into sometimes