You Can’t Just Be “Comfortable”

Years ago I wrote an article asking Why Is Everyone Busting On A-Listers. At that time it seemed that many people kind of missed my point. That was okay because some people thought I’d missed their point. I’m going to take that on first.


by Jeremy Eades via Flickr

I didn’t miss the point about A-listers and how many of them don’t respond to comments on their blogs anymore. I get it, and I don’t like it anymore than they did. No matter how big someone gets, I feel they should respond to at least some of the people who comment on their blogs. As most of you know, I’m big on bloggers not only approving comments when they’re moderating but also commenting on them, and it doesn’t matter whether or not they’re A-listers. I’ll give those who receive lots of comments a break because, truthfully, some comments are pretty lousy, but many of them deserve to be responded to.

However, almost everyone missed my point, and I’m going to say it’s my fault because I didn’t think I had to be more specific in what I was saying. Sometimes you have to go that extra step and tell people exactly what’s going on; lesson learned.

Most of the time there are more than 2 ways to go about something. We can say there’s a right way and a wrong way but that’s not entirely truthful. Everyone’s “truthful” isn’t the same as everyone else’s; we all know this is true. If it was there wouldn’t be a need for political parties, or a need for different languages or countries. There wouldn’t be prisons to put criminals in, but there also wouldn’t be different degrees of heroes, from those that run into a burning building to save some children or those who called 9-1-1 on their cell phones for help.

When it comes to success, you either shoot for it or you don’t. This doesn’t necessarily mean you shoot to be the CEO or the person that cleans the toilets. It doesn’t mean you have to do what I did, leaving the regular working world and becoming a consultant. What it means is that there’s no way you or anyone else can shoot for the middle.

The middle moves, it’s always moving, and it’s either on the low end or the high end; that’s where “average” comes from. Many people think of the middle as being comfortable. The reality is that no one is ever comfortable unless they have so much money that they have no worries in paying their bills. Trust me, that’s more than comfortable.

Let’s choose a different “C”-word for now; let’s go with “contentment.” I’m using that word because if I start talking about “content” you’ll think I’m talking about blogging again and that kind of content; this is me being more specific. In any case, stay with me for the moment.

The difference in my mind between comfortable and contentment is that comfortable doesn’t take any action steps but contentment does. Comfort is a dream; contentment is a reality. If you’re comfortable you’re not really living; if you’re content, you’ve not only lived but you’re probably still growing in some way. Are you still with me?

I’d like to talk about my dad for a few minutes. Dad joined the military on his 17th birthday. He didn’t have a college degree obviously, but he also didn’t have a high school diploma; he had just started his senior year a couple of months earlier.

This meant that his military career would be limited. Still, he set his sights on the highest position possible for him at the time; master sergeant. He had to switch branches of the military after a couple of years (and being shot & injured while in Korea) to get there and it took some time (after being shot and injured while in Vietnam), but 23 years after he’d enlisted he finally reached the highest rank possible for him.

Just so you know, sergeants don’t make a lot of money; you don’t get rich in the military. For that matter, almost no one makes a lot of money in the military. Still, he wasn’t content to be a staff sergeant or even a tech sergeant. He knew he’d never be an officer, so he went for the best he could reach.

What did that do for him later on? He showed he was someone who wasn’t afraid to work to get as high as he possibly could. He never looked to be comfortable because comfortable for him would have been watching the evening news, having either a few beers or some bourbon over the weekend, and playing pinochle (a game I never could learn). That doesn’t take a lot of money, but to be truly content, you take care of your bills first, you set a living standard you want to enjoy, then you take your shot and go for it. You can’t aim at the middle because you never know what it’s going to be.

Dad didn’t do that. He retired from the military and got a job at a large corporation. They wanted to help him move up but he had to take care of some things first. First he got his high school diploma then went to college. He finished 2nd in his class with a double major in business management and psychology.

He moved up within the corporation he worked at to the point where they flew him all over the world to teach others what he’d developed. He left management and was basically a freelancer within the company. He found true contentment because he got to do what he wanted to do with no encumbrances and made a lot of money doing it.

Think about your blogging for a minute. Do you write an article with the intention of it just being “good enough”? Are you just trying to put out whatever you can and move on to the next one? Do you really care that someone’s reading what you have to say and might be impressed with what you’re saying, enough to get them to leave a comment or share the post somewhere else?

Or are you just trying to be comfortable, going through the motions, not really caring if people comment or not because you know you’re not putting forth your best effort? What’s the middle of blog writing? What’s your intention/

I see a lot of people who say they’re trying but we know they’re not. I visit a lot of blogs; I’ve seen a lot of bad, boring and truly horrific writing. I’ve seen “make money” blogs that have no soul in the writing. I’ve seen a lot of blogs that basically rehash the same garbage over the over, never giving nothing of themselves. That’s comfortable; those are people who are trying to make money with no effort whatsoever; how do you think that’s working out for them?

Which one do you want to be? Do you want to try to be better, at least have something to say, put together posts that have some passion in them, something you hope someone else picks up on? Or do you want to be comfortable, writing bad posts and not really caring, trying to find the easy way without really working for it?

Do you want people to comment on your blog articles without caring whether or not you respond to them, or are you willing to follow through on what I consider is your obligation to acknowledge that someone took the time to leave a comment which you thought was good enough to remain on your blog so your potential audience feels like you care about what they have to share with you?

Give that some consideration, add it to your life in general, then be truthful with yourself. Does being comfortable take on a different meaning now? Is that really all you want out of life? Wouldn’t you enjoy being content instead?

I would.
 

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18 thoughts on “You Can’t Just Be “Comfortable””

  1. Very inspiring, hope to become a better blogger and not just one of those boring bloggers out there you just mentioned on this very long but very specific post.

    We should not be contented of what we are doing, but aim to become a better blogger/writer everyday.

    Thanks for challenging us to not just be comfortable,
    Nhick

    1. Great stuff Josh, and welcome back. I’m starting to get back into that zone and it feels pretty good I must admit. Always aiming to push forward towards that ultimate state of contentment. 😉

  2. At my age, having retired after reaching the top most positions that I could have reached in my line of work, now, I just want to be comfortable and content. My writing is to give me an outlet to express some odd ideas that come to me in my blissful retired life and I am blessed with enough readers who comment to keep my blog alive. I like to read your blog and leave comments whenever I can on topics that resonate with me.

    Your father’s and for that matter yours too are remarkable life stories. I doff my topi to both of you.
    Rummuser recently posted..Renunciation.My Profile

    1. Thanks Rummuser. I can tell by your writing that you’re really in a state of contentment these days. You struggled some when your dad was there, as I do with Mom. I’m hoping to get to where you are, whether Mom’s here with me or not. I appreciate what you do.

  3. Thank you for sharing your point and story, Mitch. I think it is true that people should always think about the value they want to give in their work, whether it is blogging or anything else. Only by giving value I think that we can have other people enjoy to what we “sell” to them and in the end, it can make us successful.

    Like you said about the A-listers, it is also important to always remember to not to be too hard to reach when you already make it. In terms of blogging, it is important too that you still try to engage by responding to feedbacks to your articles although not all. It is understandable if you cannot respond to all comments when your blog is already popular as there will be many feedbacks but some, like you said, deserve to be replied. By trying to engage then we can have more value and impact which we want to give to the people who enjoy our products/services/articles

    Like the story of your dad too on how he always tries to do his best on what he wants to do. I hope that I can always try the best to do to chase the dream that I want to realize

    1. The only thing every person owes themselves is that they actually tried their best in their endeavors instead of maintaining the status quo. That’s not only boring but you can’t get anywhere without at least trying to get somewhere special. Even if one doesn’t get there, at least there will never be any regrets.

      I love sharing stories about my parents; I’ve learned a lot from them and their experiences, good and bad. 🙂

  4. Your dad is inspired, Mitch. I love doing what I do so much that I blog right into my fears, well outside of my comfort zone. All the sweetness sits there. Power message here.

    Ryan

    1. Thanks Ryan. I’m in the process of re-discovery, though I’ve never lived to only reach “comfortable”. The next few years should be interesting… at least I hope so.

  5. I’m always the contrarian; I neither write for the purpose of garnering comments, nor do I write just enough to get it posted.
    I have comments turned off on all of my blogs, because I do not want to chat on those platforms. Email and forums and even Facebook Groups are better than the best commenting system on WordPress, in my opinion–speaking with respect to the platform maintenance requirements.

    Technically, I’m not a blogger, so I shouldn’t answer the question. I like to write my thoughts and imaginings. I sometimes like to share those for anyone who stumbles upon my website.

    Cheers,

    Mitch
    Mitchell Allen recently posted..Rusty BadgeMy Profile

    1. Well, you don’t have to answer the blogging question, but what about the general question about comfortable vs contentment? You seem pretty content to me, which includes your writing challenges and not accepting comments on your blog. One of these days I hope to be content across the board.

  6. Oh, Dahlink, you know I was sleeping like the dead when you left your comment, having wrestled Divi to the ground on that (re)design. I’m hardly an A-Lister to anyone but Alexa, these days. But to be fair, I have to teach the new blog’s bouncer that YOU are an A-Lister and not to hold your comments in the Green Room. So sorry about that…

    About your statement on “truth” – I used to think that “facts” and “truth” were synonymous, but now I think that “truth” is “facts + faith x opinion,” or some such nonsense. For someone whose blog has had some variant of “perspective” in the title for 7 years, or so, it seems I should have realized that “truth” is just a matter of perspective.

    The the hero who calls 9-1-1 may be thinking about the family he has to live to support, while the one who rushes into the burning building may be thinking of what he’d want someone to do for that family, if they were in there. Perspective. No judgment, unless they’re out there selling popcorn and taking photos.

    Likewise, “success” has different connotations, doesn’t it? I’m not sure anyone consciously “shoots for the middle.” But for some, “average” IS an aspiration. They don’t WANT to stand out, but they don’t want to live under a bridge, panhandling at the nearest intersection, to put food in their bellies. To have just enough material wealth to cover what makes them comfortable and keeps life fun for them – it’s fine, if they’re truly happy and can accept that a day may come when they can’t cover some disaster that befalls them. I’ve had three friends whose babies were micropreemies, with medical bills in the millions. You could run through a lifetime maximum real fast that way, but what price could you put on a life? All three children have turned out to be beautiful, intelligent, healthy young adults. Sometimes, priceless joys come at incalculable costs. And sometimes, we don’t even get the joy that goes with those costs.

    Some people might describe “comfort” and “contentment” differently – in fact, they might reverse your definition in their understanding. I’ve usually seen “contentment” as akin to enjoying the status quo, where as “comfortable” meant enjoying sufficiency, not necessarily satisfied with inertia. I think of COMFORT as the reality; contentment is the dream. When we’re truly content with what we have, we’ve “achieved success” by our own yardstick. That’s how I’ve grown up understanding the two. Comfort is a firm mattress; contentment is being satisfied with life, despite a lump or two in the mattress. 😉

    I wonder if the very wealthy don’t also live in fear that one day, it will all vanish, and they will be poor. The poor tend to be more generous and empathetic, whereas the rich often seem fearful of imminent shortage. Objectively, we look at someone who has so much money they would have to work HARD to spend it all in their own lifetime as having enough, but maybe they are terrified that it will never be enough to fill some void they perceive in ways the rest of us might find laughable – or simply “normal.” I remember hearing, when I was little, about Germans after WWII having to cart literal wheelbarrows full of money to the bakery to buy a loaf of bread. My brain wrapped around that and came up with two “truths” – one, that “enough” might NEVER be enough; but also, two, that there’s little point socking it all away, because fortunes DO change in a heartbeat, and maybe what matter is resilience and an ability to bake.

    Some sharks have to keep swimming forward, or they’ll die for lack of oxygen. What do you feel you MUST keep doing, or die? For me, it’s learning. For some, I suspect it’s just “making money.” I think we ALL have our “identity politics” – but what defines us in our own minds is what matters to our survival. I have NEVER seen myself as “average,” and always chafed at the notion of a Bell Curve as applied to any human endeavor. I don’t know why, exactly. I never aspired to be at either end of it, really. I never aspired to be #1 in the world at anything. I have loved having interests and abilities that surprised or pleased other people. (I’ve never understood this business of writers saying, “I write for myself. I don’t care if anyone else likes it!” Oh, bullfeathers. Writing is an act of creation and communication and I’m far too lazy to bother if others can’t be arsed to read it. For that, there’s daydreaming.)

    In talking about your dad, though, you’ve introduced the idea of responsibility and duty. He led you by example, as a good man, husband, and father should. I think that he would find comfort and contentment in knowing that his lessons weren’t lost on you. Neither comfort nor contentment really come easily, depending on your character. My post last night went into that, as well; some of us can’t really appreciate the wins that come TOO easily, which is not the same as saying we want to spend our lives fighting to run uphill in a literal rat race.

    Those bloggers you mention, on the other hand – well, they think they’re trying. Trying to earn a billion dollars in their sleep, and probably spending money right and left from the “gurus” who promise to reveal all the secrets to a cushy “passive income.” I figure they get what they deserve. I don’t imagine that’s comfort OR contentment. They’re halfway uphill with an avalanche of plague rats. You and I are on a different street. Do we make any more money with our blogs and our more thoughtful writing? Or can we just look back and say, “At least I didn’t just copy and paste the same ol’ sh** that people were copying and pasting a decade ago”? Not all bloggers WANT to be “writers.” A great many HATE writing. But someone, somewhere, has promised them a pot of gold at the end of the Information Superhighway, and they’ve bought into it without realizing that the “secret” lies in selling the dream, not in BLOGGING.

    You know me and comments. I got terribly burnt out and it has taken me, what – seven, eight years? – to get over it and enjoy blogging for the writing and the conversation again. I’m not entirely sure I’m there, again, YET. But I’m sticking with it, and you’ve helped. I think you know that. So you know how I’d answer your questions, here.

    P.S. You really need to update your CommentLuv plug-in, Mitch. It will fail most of the time, now – it tells me to “Please use h t t p in front of your url” (ironically, trying to copy the error as is gets my comment bounced for “too many URLs,” so next time MY bouncer gives YOU a hard time, I’m not sure I wanna hear it!) Given how Google and Bing and other search engines are starting to penalize all unsecured sites, these days, you may want to consider the newer version. (I can change the URL from h t t ps to h t t p; it will redirect to the secure version, anyway. But it’s something to think about.)
    Holly Jahangiri recently posted..A Fresher PerspectiveMy Profile

    1. I had to break this up so I could respond to areas properly. This is the first bit I can start commenting on. Actually, I think the majority of people consciously shoot for the middle, even if it’s only because it’s what their used to based on where they live and what they’ve seen. I also don’t believe any of them truly accept that when a disaster comes they can’t cover the costs of it.

      You used a drastic instance, but what if it’s something more regular like a blown transmission that might cost $1,500 but the amount is higher than the credit card allows and there’s only $300 in the bank, which needs to go to something else? Unless they live near a bus line and know how to use it, they’re going to panic because they hadn’t planned far enough in advance for emergencies. That’s where the first problems come when trying to live comfortably.

      Overwhelmingly, people say they want to live comfortably, not contented, which is why I chose that phrase. I bet if you went to 10 people and asked them how they want to live that if they didn’t say something like “I want to be rich” they’ll say they want to be comfortable. You have to acknowledge that you’re “above average”; yeah, I said that! Lol You’re the type to have thought about it long and hard; heck, your comment proves that. But we both know that most people aren’t thinking that far ahead.

      My definition of being comfortable is having $10 million in the bank. I’m reaching high because it keeps me pushing forward. I’m at the age where I might back it down to $5 million because that should be enough to protect me for the rest of my life.

      I’ve always wanted to be #1, but I lost my killer instinct in college and I think that’s a good thing. I wrote about it on my business blog; I used to win a lot but I was never happy because I didn’t just want to win, I wanted to crush. That’s why I have my personally specific rules for writing. Sure, I’d love to be read by as many people as possible, but I’m not willing to acquiesce to the “writing rules” of people who’ve grown large audiences by pandering only to the needs of others. If I’m going to write, I have to enjoy what I’m writing about, which is why I’ve always said people should write for themselves first. I think we both know lots of people who’ll say they hate writing; we’ve certainly seen that from our high school & college days, and it doesn’t change because people get older.

      People writing only to make money are the bain of bloggers everywhere. These days a lot of people aren’t really writing and are making it big; someone explain that one to me. Truth be told, some folks figure out a plan and others are constantly working on it; I’m in the second camp. However, I don’t buy the secret sauce that indicates the only way to write successful blog posts are using H tags, highlighting categories within an article and a whole lot of other nonsense. When writing what I’ll call a personal blog becomes that kind of work, it’s not going to last too long. You’re right, you and I love our sense of creativity too much to copy and paste what someone else has said.

      As for your own sense of burning out… you’re doing just fine. 😀

  7. Great post, Mitch! The pull of comfort is strong, but contentment is, indeed, the better choice. I always claim that I can post every day because I don’t worry about providing content of value, but that’s disingenuous: I DO consider what I post and craft it for the maximum value I’m capable of providing that day, whether it’s amusement or interest or usefulness. Granted, that isn’t always obvious….

    1. LOL! I’m sure it’s always obvious, but you’ve gotten the general picture. I think the only time we can be comfortable is if we wake up after surgery and we’re told we’re being made to be comfortable. lol Otherwise it’s a pipe dream; we have to be more than thinking about comfortable to be comfortable. That’s why I’ve always said I wanted $10 million in the bank. In today’s world, where we’re told by economists that not even a million dollars is enough for us to be comfortable in retirement, it seems the best thing to shoot for.

  8. Interesting post and comments, Mitch. Happy New Year/Decade. I think I’m both comfortable and content, yet I still have goals and things I’d like to see and do and become in this decade, so less content than comfortable, maybe. One thing that would be fabulous, as I turn 75, would be to see the start of another decade 10 years hence. My goal for this year is to become more contemplative (in the Christian mystic sense of the word). I suspect achieving that goal will make me less comfortable but more content. 🙂

    1. That’s good stuff Bob. I know I’m not either, but I’m shooting for contentment. Maybe when I reach your age I’ll shoot for comfort, but I have a ways to go yet. I hope you get to enjoy more than the next 10 years; I think magic things are going to happen, and I hope we’re both around to see them. 🙂

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