I was in Beijing on business (though most of my posts look more like a vacation, to be sure). But I was actually there for a training.
At the beginning of the training, the instructor put this quote up on the screen:
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
Then we modified that to Growth begins at the end of your comfort zone. And Learning begins at the end of your comfort zone. And Discovery begins at the end of your comfort zone. So, it should have been no surprise that we were going to be taken out of our comfort zones, though I’d already considered wandering alone in a country halfway around the world as having fulfilled that.
My comfort zone ended in a Chinese restaurant where no one spoke English and the menu offered up delicacies such as pig’s ear, turtle, jellyfish, and pig snout. (Though the menu had English descriptions, no one spoke the language. I just pointed when I found a picture of beef.)
My comfort zone ended when I was trapped inside a tiny souvenir shop outside the Great Wall by a large, aggressive seller who wasn’t going to let me leave without a sale. She forced me to haggle, and I got pretty good at it.
My comfort zone ended when I squatted over a toilet alongside a road in the country. And when I used chopsticks. And when I crossed the streets full of zigzagging traffic. I don’t think I was ever actually inside my comfort zone in China.
But none of that compared to the networking activity after the training when our class of 47 Chinese twentysomethings and I were given Salsa dancing lessons and yoga instruction — in Chinese.
Needless to say, I didn’t understand a word and could barely keep up with the smooth-muscled gyrations of our incredibly talented instructor. She danced beautifully. I, on the other hand, could not even move in the right direction and managed to tangle myself up with my equally ungifted dancing partner. We managed to stay toward the back of the class for the Salsa lesson, but my new Chinese friends would not let me hide during yoga.
I found myself standing barefoot and flat with my back against a wall, watching the grimaces and exaggerated ‘bad posture’ examples of the yoga instructor. I thought I got the gist of what she was saying (“good posture is important”), but my new Chinese friends took it upon themselves to translate for me. And to contort my body into the correct yoga positions — no matter how much my body resisted.
I left my comfort zone far behind, and wished for an outer body experience to leave my body behind, too. But true to the quote, I felt personal growth and achievement when I managed to twist my body in ways it really should never be twisted at all. It was a fantastic night of networking and camaraderie. The Chinese students were so gracious and friendly. I was taken out of my comfort zone, but found that I was grateful for that. That night turned out to be one of the most enjoyable of my trip.