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Becoming Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Have you ever been to the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas? I was struck by the performers dressed like Italian statues, who stand absolutely still for hours while people place dollars at their feet. What a terribly difficult and uncomfortable job!


Those rock solid performers, with their humor, grace, steadfastness, and ability to withstand discomfort day after day, make me think of ScrumMasters. In my CSM classes I always start with how important it is for ScrumMasters to learn how to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. It sounds like an oxymoron, but the simplicity of this simple phrase was a guiding notion in my development and still holds true for me today, over a decade later.

ScrumMasters, dissuade yourself of the notion that if you know what you are doing and are doing the job right, then it will be easy and there will be no discomfort. That’s rubbish! It’s rarely comfortable for anyone to speak in front of groups, deliver bad news, facilitate a dysfunctional team meeting, or mediate a difficult dispute – even when we have the skills to do the job and years of experience. Yet many of us do this work with confidence, making it appear as if we are feeling quite comfortable. This does not mean that we are, nor does it mean that it’s easy. It’s hard work; but speaking personally, my discomfort helps me to stay alert and focused.

I once gave a keynote at a conference in Las Vegas. At the end of my keynote there was a wonderful teaching moment where everyone got to observe and experience what I meant by learning to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I left the stage and went out into the audience and asked if anyone would like to share their agile stories, and I was met with silence. I stood there and smiled, waiting, while everyone stared at me, the silence stretched out. Everyone was becoming very uncomfortable! But I knew someone would eventually say something – someone always does – and lo and behold, there was a volunteer in the back. His sharing opened the floodgates, and soon hands were up around the room.

So experiment with the art of being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Put yourself in some uncomfortable, but safe, situations and see what happens. Ask a question and hold the silence like a gift – I promise you someone will eventually say something! The more you see how things turn out fine, the more comfortable you’ll come to be with your discomfort.

Article Rating

Current rating: 5 (5 ratings)
"Leadership is lonely, and standing in the heat, under pressure is what turns a lump of coal into a diamond." Very true!
9/29/2016 6:57:02 AM

Kiran Tripurari
Thank you, Michele. What a wonderful article this is! I can't agree more with you. And, I am amazed to know about the "rock solid performers" at Venetian Hotel. Hats off to them!
9/1/2016 4:12:57 AM

This is a good share. Thank
8/26/2016 10:35:49 PM

Deepak Joshi
Complicated life of ScrumMaster conveyed with such Simplicity...

Great article indeed!
10/7/2014 6:09:24 AM

Jon Jorgensen
This seems to be the over-arching theme with achieving greatness. Leadership is lonely, and standing in the heat, under pressure is what turns a lump of coal into a diamond. I've given up seeking any lasting comfort because it never seems be there when I really want it. As a change agent, we will always be outnumbered and meet with resistance. Humans seem to be hardwired to fear the unknown. Change is the great unknown, and not loved by many. So, let's build our home there, and get used to people not rushing up to knock on our door all that often. They need to be invited often, and lead by the hand with reassurances in warm tones all along the way. "Change is seldom perfect, but sure does feel encouraging. Let's hang out there together."
5/1/2014 12:35:17 AM

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