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Home » Life Happens Outside The Comfort Zone: Anne Even (Transcript)

Life Happens Outside The Comfort Zone: Anne Even (Transcript)

Anne Even at TEDxCentralWyomingCollege

Full text of Anne Even’s talk titled “Life happens outside the comfort zone” at TEDxCentralWyomingCollege conference.

TRANSCRIPT: 

So we live in a world where we strive for comfort. We work hard to have a more comfortable lifestyle, house and car. We strive to make things easier, more efficient. We incorporate technology into our everyday lives in order to simplify, streamline.

We make things consistent, predictable, transform them into a pattern. We try to fit in and be the same. We’ve made a world where you can just exist, function on autopilot and float along. We are present, but not really here.

This is a form of life. But is it living? Is it experiencing all that there is around us?

Now, what could our life be if we stepped outside our zone of comfort? What would it be like to feel more alive?

How do we challenge ourselves to be truly full of life, to live and to not just exist? How do we step outside of what we know to see what’s on the other side?

And what if we had the desire to do the unexpected? What if we remove those mental barriers that prevent us from doing something, even if it’s minor in nature?

What if you did what you or someone else thought you couldn’t?

By stepping outside of what we know, we have the ability to reinvent ourselves. We could become people who aren’t afraid. People who act upon their dreams. People who inspire others to be better.

Now, growing up in a town of 400 people, it was easy to have a label placed upon you as to who you were and what you would become. As a young child, I was to be at the top of my class in academics.

I was tall, lanky, uncoordinated and deemed not-athletic. As simple as those messages were, they would sink in deep. I spent the last 10 to 15 years in raveling that mental barrier of ‘who it was they wanted to be, wanted me to be, ‘who I wanted to be’ and ‘what I would become’.

One vivid memory, I recall, was a Nike commercial. That commercial left an imprint on me. Something started that spark; that inspiration. During that minute long commercial, a female runner goes by and a young girl is in the crowd looking on with a thought bubble of I can do that.

Towards the end of the commercial, a series of men that appear to be running a marathon have thought bubbles ‘if I can’ bouncing overhead, something that day created that spark, that inspiration. It made me think I can do something athletic in nature. I don’t know what it is, but I’m willing to find out.

In the small town, everybody goes out for the sports team. You had to in order to make a team. But by the time I was a junior and sitting at the end of the bench on C team, I figured out that, you know, maybe this isn’t for me. Maybe I should just stick to academics. I had no desire for my parents to come to the game. I didn’t want to embarrass them or myself.

Who was I to keep trying? What was the point?

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The summer after I graduated from high school, I had the deep desire to do something different, to do the unexpected. This would be my first opportunity to strip myself of that label that had become so comfortable to me.

I set out to prove to myself that I can do something different. I don’t know what, but I’m willing to give it that try.

I talked to my fellow Cross Country teammates into joining me for the Cornhusker State Games adventure race consisting of running, mountain biking, canoeing, some team challenges and some more running.

Now not only were we one of the all few female teams there, we were also the youngest ones there that day. That sounds like something to be proud of, but we had also never mountain biked a single day in our lives.

We were from western Nebraska. We didn’t have mountains or trails, and our hoppies with kickstands just didn’t abandon at the start of the race. And we also had to buy a helmet from Alco because we didn’t have one and they were required for the race.

So it was during this race that I started to find out who I was. I learned that if I can put my mind to it, I can do anything. It was at the weakest point, that 10 mile mountain bike course where we got lapped by the leading men’s team that we realized we could use a bit of humor, give it our best shot.

And it was during that time I felt alive. I knew it’s that feeling I’d want to recapture for the rest of my life. It didn’t matter that we got last place that day or that the winners finished two hours ahead of us, we finished.

At the time, people wondered who we were, where we came from and what we were doing. But you know what? It was our team of three. No one we personally knew was in support. We were in an environment completely unfamiliar to us. No one knew our past what we wanted to become one day.

Perhaps this is the easiest environment to challenge that label. We all have a label of some type and we all have the ability to reinvent it to what we want it to be.

In 2007, I set out to run my first marathon, the same month my husband would be climbing Denali up in Alaska. For months leading up to the event, we remained committed to training.

We returned home from long runs on long cold winter mornings with frozen eyelashes. I learned discipline, commitment and dedication.

And finally, that event arrived. And since Zach was up in Alaska, I thought, maybe I’ll bring my family along, the ones that were in agreement I was the non-athletic type, to maybe try to support me that day.

And maybe this would give me an opportunity to see if they would accept my newly defined label. I started that 26.2 mile journey that day, feeling prepared. I did 20 miles a few weeks before kind of the standard mark and I accomplished that. So I was ready to go.

But I started that race and it was much harder than I expected. I didn’t prepare myself for that thousand foot elevation gain over the first half the race, which I probably should’ve. And by mile 16, I hit that wall that they talk about in the marathon, that point where you really don’t know if you can finish it or not, and somehow managed to make it through that next 10, by sucking it up and walking and running to get to that finish line.

I gave it all I had and I felt like I had nothing left to give. I wanted Zach by my side. I knew he could help me get through it.

With a mile to go and shortly, like right after this picture was taken, I heard a comment from my family who had been waiting for me at mile 25 because that’s maybe how they thought when you watch a marathon. And they said, “Where have you been? What’s taken you so long?”

I was a little shocked and a little angry and a little frustrated. And part of me just wanted to stop. But I knew I had to do this for myself and somehow managed through that last mile alone.

I crossed the finish line that day, but I felt defeated. I was humbled. I gained more respect for the marathon during that one bad run than any other marathon I’ve run.

It had beaten me. I was completely out of my comfort zone. Yet I was ready to step back out of it again. It was important to me because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do something athletic in nature.

As you begin defining your label, I think it’s important to make sure that you have the right support system to help you achieve your goal. And you also have to be comfortable with the fact that perhaps that support system that you once knew may not be the best ones to support you in your new goals.

After that first marathon we went on, we had a set of twins. I remained committed to running. I pushed them in their stroller in the local half marathons.

Being a young and tired mom of twins didn’t prevent me from achieving my goals. It only made me want to achieve them more. I wanted to prove to them that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.

That next year when they were a year old, I went on to run three marathons that season, something that I couldn’t do without the support of my husband.

I met my goal of running the marathon in under four hours, something that I felt like if I hit that mark, I’ve achieved something.

And it was during that process that I found out that: “Do you know what, anybody can do this.” It just takes hard work, commitment, dedication. And this really is just a long, slow slog.

A few years later, I was looking for something more to push me outside of my comfort zone. As the marathon just wasn’t doing it for me anymore, I needed a challenge.

Then a friend told me about Tough Mudder. It’s a 10 to 12 mile military style obstacle course that you complete with the support of a team. You face about 25 obstacles along the way that challenge you both mentally and physically. Females comprise of only 24% of the field, which for me gave me even more reason to sign up.

I remained committed to training because I knew I needed as much physical strength as I could to be able to contribute to our team. Comfort would have been sleeping in each morning. Not getting up before 5:00 a.m., to squeeze in a two hour workout before the start of my workday.

As the event approached, I went through phases of “I can do that.” I remember that Nike commercial told me that I could, but yet I also went through phases of “And who are you to think that you can do this? Why are you doing this?”

That old mentality mindset would start to seep back in. But I wanted to do it. I needed to do it. Living outside the comfort zone had become a way of life.

That first Tough Mudder was a cold four hour test last October in Utah for my husband and I in a good 50 degree weather day. We encountered obstacles like kiss of mud where we crawl under eight inches of barbwire through cold mud, the consistency of snot.

We ran onto obstacles like Arctic enema, a large dumpster that a front end loader keeps well stocked with ice. The idea is you’re supposed to jump in, submerge yourself in the ice by going under the wooden barrier and pop back out the other side.

Well, that worked for Zack, but not for me. I jumped in and I froze and felt like the life was being choked out of me. As I was trying to take a breath to dive underneath that wooden barrier and figured out I can’t do this. And how do I get myself out of this situation?

So I used my creative problem-solving and decided to climb up and over the barrier that they have barbed wired at the top to prevent you from doing that.

But that’s what I did. And back into the ice and back out. So I made it through, but not the right way.

We went on to obstacles where you carry a 40 to 50 pound log, which for me wasn’t too much different than just carrying home my little boy after a long walk when his legs don’t work anymore.

And so that’s not too bad. But you also walk past dead, rotting animal carcasses that really stink, just to add to the challenge.

And yet I often wondered what that man behind me thought as I was quietly singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to myself, as we were crawling through Trench warfare to a small, dark dirt and closed tunnel, which you can’t see through to the other side.

Because I was trying to mentally remove myself from the predicament that I was in and that was the only way I could do it like pretending I was singing to my kids at night.

So I made it through. I knew I could physically crawl. But mentally, you don’t think that you can.

We made it to Everest. It’s a quarter pipe that you run up and try to leap to the top of the platform. I made it to the top with support of strangers, as you can see. And as I was at the top, I witnessed a lot of people simply just go around this obstacle, simply too tired to go on.

But yet I also witnessed a wounded warrior in a wheelchair who had no legs get to the top with the support of his team. It’s very powerful experience to watch. Zach made it up shortly after we remained at the top, helping others complete the challenge.

We realized that we had as much fun helping others that day as we did completing the obstacle ourselves. We stayed there until we were too cold to be up there any longer.

We decided to climb down the backside to our last obstacle, which is electric shock therapy. Because the finish line is right ahead and this is your last path to get there, and somehow you have to find a way to get through.

The wires ranging electricity up to 10000 volts, which is enough to make you blackout, which does happen. We wrote as much as we could about the obstacle. We watched a lot of YouTube videos, but nothing really prepares you for it.

Zach went ahead of me and his thought was just run for it, which worked for a little while until he blacked out and face planted into the mud.

And I’m behind just kind of laying in the mud, as you can see, trying to figure out what am I going to do. So I thought, well, maybe I could just crawl under the wires and avoid them altogether, but they placed those hay bales there to force you to get up.

So I started through and eventually I got zapped bad, blacked out. Saw my life flash before me through a series of pictures, Ended up on my back, looking back to the start.

And I realized I need to get out of this place in the mud. And yet I’m still getting shocked because it conducts electricity that I learned that.

And part of me that day just wanted to put the world on pause, get out of the obstacle; hit play and resume my life, but you can’t. And so somehow I mustered enough guts to make it through and just got zapped one more time in the arm, which stung for like a good hour after the race. But that was OK.

Zach and I, we crossed the finish line that day and I felt empowered. It was cold. We were tired. We were hungry and we couldn’t seem to find a hot shower in sight. They did have some showers, but they were just ice cold. And those thermal blankets, they really do work. I always wondered if it was just like for decoration.

And a few months later, we decided to recruit some more friends. And we did Tough Mudder again down in Colorado this June. And we did it this time in honor of Corporal David Sonka, who was killed in Afghanistan, about a week prior to… or about a month prior to our event.

Each course is different. Yet the concept of Tough Mudder is still the same. I was proud of a few things during this race. I carried Zach on my back for 50 yards, which I thought was pretty good, if you know how big he is.

And I didn’t make it across that plywood wall, assuming along with my fingertips to avoid the water pit below. But yet I was still frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t jump off that 15 foot cliff into the water below. And this time, I’m sorry, I couldn’t even force myself to jump into that ice bath.

As a team, we decided to run through the shocks together. This changed the dynamic of the electricity and I think it is a better technique. I felt shocked constantly in my arms, but it was dampened slightly. But about three quarters of the way through, it becomes unbearable. And our team simply fell apart.

We cut to the finish line and I realized a few things. I do Tough Mudder to figure out what I’m made of and what I’m not; To get to the point where I’m the most raw version of myself to see what decisions I make.

After completing two tough mudders, I wondered what comes next.

And then I heard about TEDx. I knew my next toughest challenge would be sharing my personal story and hopes to inspire others to try to help them realize that they can, that you can be whoever it is that you want to be.

To encourage you to get comfortable being uncomfortable, because by doing so, you have the greatest opportunity to grow and turn away from it. That you can find out what it means to truly be a wife. But it just takes a step outside of that comfort zone.

Well, it’s been 18 minutes now, and I just crossed that TEDx finish line.

Resources for Further Reading:

Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone: Yubing Zhang at TEDxStanford (Full Transcript)

The Hidden Code for Transforming Dreams into Reality: Mary Morrissey (Transcript)

Bill Eckstrom: Why Comfort Will Ruin Your Life at TEDxUniversityofNevada (Transcript)

Run for Your life! At a comfortable pace, and not too far by James O’Keefe (Transcript)

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