The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Comfort Is The Enemy Of Progress …
September 2, 2011, 6:02 am
Filed under: Comment

I’m a classic Gemini.

In my personal life, I love stability and comfort but in my work life, I like new and interesting.

Like Shane Warne, I blame my parents for this more than my star sign.

You see they brought me up with a very solid and secure family life.

We were close and strong and supported each other in our goals and ambitions.

However where ‘professional life’ was concerned, they drummed a different set of values into me.

Where work was concerned, the most important thing was doing something that made you feel happy, excited and challenged.

It wasn’t about throwing your toys out the pram when things didn’t go your way or only going for the easy option … it was about doing things that let you feel you were accomplishing things. Big things. Things that could make a difference to how your life panned out.

Of course it didn’t/doesn’t always work out that way, however one thing that helped ensure I stay on course is – as the old cynic poster I’ve used for this post proudly proclaims – my fear of the comfortable.

I should explain there is nothing wrong with feeling comfortable.

As I said, in terms of my personal life, it is something I regard as very important – however where my professional life was/is concerned, it’s always about moving forward.

That doesn’t mean you have to be blindly ambitious or want to fuck people over [whatever Andy may say] … it’s about having a desire to keep learning and exploring and experimenting, both individually and with others.

One thing that doesn’t mean however, is changing your job every 2 minutes.

Personally I think people change their jobs way too quickly.

While I appreciate some people are underpaid &/or under appreciated – I’d say the number who have a right to say that is far less than the number who claim that’s their motivation for moving on. Regardless, I still believe the optimum time to change jobs is when you start to feel too comfortable with where you are.

You can tell when it’s happening …

You feel very settled in your job. Everyone knows you and everyone likes you – however if you were to ask them why, they’d probably say it’s because of you’re a “nice person” and “you’ve been at the company for years” rather than because you’ve done something really interesting recently.

Part of that could be because you’ve been working with your client and their process for so long that whenever you get a request, you either [1] know what [you think] the answer is before you’ve finished reading it or [2] try and remember what you’ve done for them before that can be re-jigged with minimum fuss.

You find yourself saying to new colleagues “that’s not how we do things here” and can write creative briefs in 10 seconds with your eyes closed.

I should point out this does not make you a bad employee or a talentless employee – far from it.

However for me, when I start to spot these situations, I feel nervous and I look to make some changes.

I should point out this does not automatically mean you have to change your job.

Believe it or not, I’ve not had many jobs in my 22 odd year career – and while a lot of that has to do with me being unbelievably lucky in working for companies that wanted to keep pushing and challenging themselves, clients and me … it’s also because I have a desire to keep pushing myself because underneath it all, I don’t think I’m any good and I am continually looking to prove to myself that I might be.

Haven’t got there yet though.

Anyway, the way I’ve been able to ‘self manage’ my fear of comfort is to mix things up like bringing new people into the idea development process … going to chat to experts from other industries to get fresh inspiration and thinking from their news/views and opinions … asking other planners to get involved … pushing to to work on different accounts [which I believe should be something you do every 2-3 years anyway to keep you – and the account – fresh] … work at clients offices for a couple of weeks … come up with ‘research projects’ that would allow me to look at my client’s situation in new ways … asked to get involved in pitches … basically, whatever could shake me from a feeling of comfort, I’ve pushed to make happen.

Of course that doesn’t always work – or it’s not always enough – but what I do know is that if you have a fear of comfort, you will end up meeting, working and doing amazing things with amazing people regardless of your circumstances or situation and that has to be a better starting point than going through the hassle of seeking out a new job. Besides, what you will often find is that if you adopt these sorts of pro-active discomfort ideas, new opportunities will start coming to you rather than you having to go to seek them out.

There is another important reason why you should embrace professional discomfort.


In these bean-counter days, companies want people who actively contribute to their success, not just keep things ‘ticking over’ and so those on a decent salary are under greater scrutiny than most.

It’s all too easy to mistake comfortable for effectiveness, however as the guy who ran GUESS clothing once said:

“I used to think I’d decide when I’d had enough working here, but I was wrong. Companies decide when they’ve had enough of you working there”.

If you can’t demonstrate what you’re bringing to a company – be it clients, profit, new thinking, new ideas – you might find that one day, you are a victim of a company who can’t justify why you should still be there, regardless of past achievements.

But it gets worse.

If a company can’t justify keeping you – at least at your present salary – it’s going to be equally as hard for a company to justify hiring you – at least at your present salary.

Of course some companies act this way because they’re cold hearted, bottom-line focused, anti-employee investing pricks … but regardless of that, being seen as relevant and valuable is an incredible asset and one that should be continually invested in – especially if you find yourself in a situation where you are out on the streets looking for a job, and let me tell you, it can happen to everyone and anyone, no one is immune.

That might sound like I’m peddling fear – and maybe I am, though it’s not my intention.

The reality is there’s a whole host of amazing things waiting to be done and seen, however too many of us miss out on them because we favour a professional life of comfort rather than exploration and for this industry, I find that quite sad.

Now I know you might think this is all very easy for me to say given where I work and where I’ve worked – and I do appreciate I am in a more fortunate position than most because I have been able to move countries for opportunities without causing too much hassle in my personal life – however that aside, I know my fear of being too professionally comfortable has definitely helped me achieve interesting and fulfilling things in my working life and so if you also believe a career should be an adventure rather than just a job, then my advice would be to not just evaluate your current situation in terms of work, position, money, success or ego, you should ask yourself one thing:

“Am I too comfortable?”

48 Comments so far
Leave a comment

campbell writing about the fear of comfortable. of the fucking irony.

Comment by andy@cynic

I was asking for that wasn’t I.

Comment by Rob

oh youre asking for a fucking load more than just some blog sarcasm campbell. and i intend to give you it. every last fucking punch of it.

Comment by andy@cynic

you didnt ask if you could use my fucking poster for your fucking post. copyright viofuckinglation. $1 million bucks in my account by sunrise or im going to launch legal napalm on your fucking arse.

Comment by andy@cynic

Actually I think you’ll find it was “owned” by cynic and as I own the name, I can do with it as I like.

Look at me, I’ve turned into Rupert Murdoch!

Comment by Rob

well you certainly both look the fucking same.

Comment by andy@cynic

if this is your justification for fucking over my livelihood its not fucking working.

Comment by andy@cynic

Anyone share my nostalgia for his short blogpost?

Comment by john

im nostalgic for when blogs didnt fucking exist.

Comment by andy@cynic

and planning.

Comment by andy@cynic

and nottingham.

Comment by andy@cynic

nice to see youre writing proper fucking comments these days doddsy, not the joke intellectual planning wank you dabbled with a few fucking days ago.

Comment by andy@cynic

at least its better than w+ks “fail fucking harder” or “walk in a stupid bastard” which sound like the macho bollocks nike put out as fucking endlines.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m saying nothing. Nothing at all. Not even a whisper.

Comment by Rob

Brilliant post. Thank you Rob, I needed to read this.

Comment by Matt Petersen

you mean you read it? all of it? are you a fucking sadist. you better mean you needed to read it because you were having trouble getting to sleep or the men who have jackets with no fucking sleeves are on their way round to give you a free fucking fitting.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hi Matt, nice to have you pop by. I hope you needed to read it for reasons other than the ones described by Andy – but as long as it helped, that’s good, I doubt my rubbish has any positive effect usually.

Hope you come back again soon.

Comment by Rob

It’s one of your longer posts buy it’s one of your best posts. Lots of great advice here. I particulary love the story of the Guess jeans guy. It’s very relevant, even more so if you’re in your mid to late 30’s, work in advertising and don’t want to go into an operational management position. Been a great week of reading Rob.

Comment by Pete

i thought planners were smart. do you not yet fucking realise campbell didnt move you from project to project to keep you fresh and hungry but so youd do his work so he could write his blog bollocks? fuck me pete, campbells an evil bastard not mr nice. on the fucking brightside, hes my evil bastard so that makes everything alright. except when im his victim then i need to give the fucker a good kicking. again.

Comment by andy@cynic

I feel like a Madoff victim. Thank you for showing me the light.

Comment by Pete

Is that how you see me Pete? Operational management.

Comment by George

seems youll be finding some disfuckingcomfort in your job tomorrow morning pete.

Comment by andy@cynic

An inspirational operational leader?

Comment by Pete

I’ll consider that.

Comment by George

Easy for a rich bastard who works at W+K to say. This post is like Branson saying money isn’t everything or John Holmes claiming a big cock is a curse. (for you information ladies, it’s not)

Comment by Billy Whizz

hiring you was our disfuckingcomfort. hiring campbell was w+ks.

Comment by andy@cynic

You’re saying I’m like Branson and Holmes? Thanks … that is definitely the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me.

Comment by Rob

This is some of the best career fulfillment and longevity advice I’ve read in a while. Ever since I scribbled down our original version of the “fear comfortable” mantra I’d say.

Comment by George

kick him george. thats the fucking spirit. i knew we could make a man out of you one day.

Comment by andy@cynic

You mumbled it. I perfected it.

Well, that’s how I remember it anyway.

Comment by Rob

Well we certainly prospered from you making life uncomfortable for us, so I guess you must be right. Good read Robert, if a little long.

Comment by Lee Hill

Tough love is still love. Ha.

Comment by Rob

This is probably the right time to share that I’m bored

Comment by northern

With this blog and post? Yep … I agree with you.

Comment by Rob

Good post, was it that which bored you?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

For once, no

Comment by northern

Things must be bad. Should I guess or is it something we should keep in the box for a little while?

Comment by Rob

Oh it’s work related, but to be honest, amidst a minor operation, the birth of a baby and moving house one might argue that a little boredom might be good, but a little like yourself, I’m not too good at dealing with sameness at work

Comment by northern

Is all good with the little op thing now?

And you’re right, a little boredom might be good but if you’re anything like me, you realise that as much as some things might get on your tits, contentment gets even more on your nerves. At least after the first couple of days. Hope all is good …

Comment by Rob

Hope you are ok mate.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

We can say what we want here anyway, the only people that read this blog are industry black sheep and John Dodds

Comment by northern

And I dont actually read it.

Comment by john

Who does!

Comment by Rob

Andy, it’s all he has apart fom Orrely Men

Comment by northern

im sitting in a fucked up leather armchair in the overdpriced and overdue fucking woodwork and tin, mills and fucking boon pretend palace of she who must be obeyed and i wanted to tell you campbell that im feeling pretty fucking comfortable right now and i dont give a fuck what you think that means about my future or attitude. so screw you and your tinpot theories because lifes pretty fucking good though it would be a whole lot fucking better if the fucking fire hazard wasnt sitting in fucking canada.

Comment by andy@cynic

[…] + Don’t Settle […]

Pingback by Lemmingification … « The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

[…] bleak story is to always go after what you believe in, because that’s much better than just wishing you did. Even if it all ends up in tears, failure and absolute […]

Pingback by Life Lessons From A Positive Pessimist … | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

[…] I’ve written before, my parents always wanted me to live a fulfilled, rather than contented life, and as part of that they have always encouraged me to follow what excites and intrigues me. That […]

Pingback by The Answer To Life … | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Leave a Reply