Leaving the comfort zone

In many things in life there is often an easy option, be it in relationships, business, careers or simply what you’re doing at the weekend. Taking the easy option is what becomes your comfort zone and the longer you stay in it the harder it is to break out, but when you do, you will reap the rewards.

When I was a child I had a speech impediment which made me very self conscious of speaking in public (though on the plus side did mean I learnt to code at a young age). This still affects me now and there are words I intentionally avoid saying and group situations I’m uncomfortable in. So when Kieron invited me to speak at a4u my first thought was no f’ing way, however it was an opportunity to leave a comfort zone I should of left years ago. So in the end I accepted, did my presentation and it has certainly given me more confidence when speaking in public, so thank you Kieron for the push.

In my life I’ve had had 2 jobs that I kept for 5+ years. I worked at Barclays Bank for around 5 years (holy shit) and left that to go to Uni to study software Engineering. At the time I was comfortable on an okay wage (well I thought it was okay at the time), so moving city and losing a reliable wage was a hell of a shock to the system but one of the best moves I made.

In my previous job I was earning a steady 6 figures ($) per year and giving that up to do “web stuff” full-time was a somewhat scary experience. I did have a contingency fund in place but it still wasn’t the most comfortable of times. The end result of both these career changes was well worth leaving each respective comfort zone for, the only regret would be not doing them sooner. In fact Barclays ended up laying people off just after I left and the other company I worked for was sold shortly after my departure.

I’ve still got a few comfort zones and barriers to break down and I will over the coming months and probably years as new ones keep popping up. If I’ve learnt anything from past experiences it is always better and easier to leave the comfort zone at the earliest opportunity, and if somebody offers you a scary branch of help, take it with both hands.

Are you currently in a comfort zone that you’d benefit from leaving and if so what’s stopping you and what can you do about it?

About Al Carlton

Al quit the 9 to 5 rat race in January of 2007, before then he was a software engineer and systems architect of financial system. Nowadays Al spends the days running his various businesses and experimenting with different ideas and opportunities.
Al can be found on twitter at AlCarlton.


  1. I know exactly what you mean Al, I’ve had similar issues in my life and I’m trying to get out of my current comfort zones. It’s not easy done and in terms of my job I’m doing it one step at a time, but hopefully looking back on it in a few years, it will have been the right thing to do.

    There are still other areas of my life that I know I need to leave my comfort zone, I’ve also got my sights on them and some plans for, however my main focus right now is on the work/job side of things.

    Zath’s last blog post..PS3 Hard Disk Upgrade

  2. Hi Al,

    This is a great article. I think everyone has a comfort zone but many are unwilling to breakout until there is an event in their life that forces them to change.

    You see job dissatisfaction and illness as two common causes that tend to force people to make tough decisions.

    It does after all take a lot of courage to leave the comfort zone for the unknown.


    Mike’s last blog post..Concrete Party Tumblers

  3. Sometimes it’s not a matter of a comfort zone. I suffer very seriously from RSI pains. I cannot leave my day job (large software company) that pays a good wage until I earn enough from my online ventures to cover my minimum wage (for bills and some sort of life).

    However, I cannot work too hard, otherwise I end up in serious pain.

    Dan @ PowerDosh.com’s last blog post..How do you measure success?

    • I feel for you Dan. I certainly think you’re doing the right thing. Are there any speech to text services that might help. Also do you have an RSI site, it’s something I can see more and more people suffering from so on the bright side you could make money from it whilst helping people.

  4. What can I say? I’ve quit my job, I’ve done the public speaking thing, I’ve bought my wife a brand new car, and I’ve got my first child on the way. All these were comfort zones I left behind.

    I think my next big jump is raising my prices. I know that sounds stupid, but I’ve got a decent portfolio now, and I know I could be doing better for myself if I go for bigger clients, bigger projects. But that’s way out of my comfort zone.

    Justin Cook’s last blog post..What to do when you’re dropped from Google’s index

    • Sounds like your way of ahead of me Justin, congrats on your progress. Provided you’re not doing any work for me I reckon you should raise the prices now 🙂

      Looking at your recent blog post I know somebody who may need your services, I’ll pass your details on.

  5. My day job is in the public sector, so in these uneasy times its become even more comfortable (arg!!). A lot of friends are worried about their jobs, whereas I will be getting a small salary increase this year.

    Makes it so much harder to leave!

    I don’t know if anyone else gets this, but I seem to be so much more motivated towards the end of a month when funds are limited…then lethargic at the start of the month when the pay arrives.

    What can I do about it? I guess if I spent as much time working on my own projects as I do reading blogs and books trying to inspire myself I would be half way there!

    • That is very similar to my situation in my last job Paul, I was on a decent wage of ~£48K per year but had access to unlimited overtime, time and a half in the week and double at weekends (which was insane and generally unheard of in the IT industry). This made simply doing overtime a difficult comfort zone to leave, but very worthwhile in the long run.

  6. I think that everyone has these comfort zones and so do I. I’m still in my daytime job and working on my IM business when I get home. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be leaving my job when my IM business can pay for the lifestyle I want to have.

    Al, what are you’re current comfort zones?

    Mikael’s last blog post..Topic Research Just Became Easier

  7. Hang on a sec, 6 figures? How high up were you?

    Daniel Harrison’s last blog post..Available .co.uk Domains and some ideas…

    • Was 6 figures US 🙂 , though when I was doing silly overtime 40+ extra hours a week it would of pro-rata to 6 figures sterling (if I’d kepy it up). Official job title was “Senior Software Engineer”, though did most of the system architecture and team leading, I was a big fish in a very small pond.

      Was fun for a while but am pleased to of left that career behind now.

      • Ah, see at that level of income, it’d be easy (easier) to build up a stack of cash as a backup. My salary is less than £30k, and I can afford very little extra as a backup.

        The best I can do is work as hard as I can to earn enough outside of my salaried job, both as a backup and to grow the business to a size that can give me a practical salary.

        Daniel Harrison’s last blog post..Available .co.uk Domains and some ideas…

        • Back then I was in the rat race good and proper, big mortgage and expenses to match the salary. In hindsight I was pretty dumb and should of saved a lot more early on rather than overspending. It is difficult breaking away from the rat race but with work you can certainly do it Daniel and I’ve every confidence that you will.

        • Oh yeah, I’ll do it eventually. Just not yet. I have a strict budget, good savings, and a modest mortgage. It’s going to take time and patience. I’m rubbish at patience. 🙂

          A huge tip for anyone, have a budget and stick to it. You’ll see your savings creep up surprisingly fast.

          Daniel Harrison’s last blog post..Available .co.uk Domains and some ideas…

        • Dan, Have you thought about switching to contract work? My sister did software version management for one of the big banks as a contractor, and was getting paid a good six figures (GBP). Given the current banking problems, times have probably changed. But there will still be well paid contract opportunities that may help you gradually move towards focusing on your own business. BTW, nice blog – I’ve subscribed.

          … As for my own comfort zones – the main one is a result of having a small residual income from my business that requires no work. I’m in a dangerous position, because I don’t earn a lot at all, but what I do earn is enough to survive on. I need to step out of that comfort zone, and really stretch myself.

        • Hi Chromate,

          I have thought about contract work, but I don’t want to limit myself to earning a salary based on my hours. Particularly with my limitations with RSI.

          I’m with a very good and safe company who understands my limitations. In terms of flexibility, I’ve got an arrangement already where I only work 4 days a week, in return for a 10% pay cut (because I compress 4.5 days into 4 days).

          Glad you like the blog!

          Daniel Harrison’s last blog post..Available .co.uk Domains and some ideas…

        • My only fear about contracting is fear of over working, until you’re really successful, it must be quite difficult to book holidays etc.

          Dave Marshall’s last blog post..Web Developer at Hoop Associates (London)

        • I can’t speak from first hand experience. But my sister had plenty of holidays while she was contracting. I think you can agree a certain amount of leave when you’re putting the contract together. The most worrying thing about contracting seems to be that you can’t decide to leave if you absolutely hate it, like you can in a normal job. It would be breach of contract.

        • There’s also the challenge in trying to find work locally as a contractor. I work with contractors in my job. Most of them travel quite a way.

          Daniel Harrison’s last blog post..Available .co.uk Domains and some ideas…

        • I was a Contractor for 3 years living in Glasgow, working in London. Those Sunday afternoon Easy Jet flights soon took their toll!

          The money was great, but when your the only on in the office between Christmas and New Year chasing the £££ is gets a bit much.

          Its all about a balance of work life imho.

  8. Thanks for commenting Mikael. I have a few personal comfort zones I need to break away from, this is probably not the best of times or places to share them at the moment.

    I am also in a bit of a comfort zone with business at the moment. I have a nice residual income which I should be doing more to grow and enjoy.

  9. Realy it’s very difficult to get away from the comfort zones I still can’t get away from mine, but I’m trying

  10. I find that friends and family can also be a hinderance when trying to make the leap from your comfort zone. Found this on another forum a while back and not sure how true it is, but I’ve certainly found negativity in the past.

    “In the US, if you intend to set up your own company, your friends and family will encourage you, support you by investing in the stock of your company and share in the financial rewards of your success.
    “In Asia, if you want to set up on your own, your friends and family will support you by working in your business, helping you to become a success and sharing in your rewards as an integral part of your company.
    “In the UK, if you intend to become self employed, your friends and family will tell you that it’ll never work and that you’re mad to try. When you become successful, they’ll scratch your car.”

  11. About time I developed the .uk domain from the title.

    In the current climate life’s like being on the deck of a small ship in a choppy sea. Feeling seasick most of the time. Certainly no comfortzone.


    StephenB’s last blog post..Domain Phishing Scam. Look after your domains.

  12. On the spot.

    I think that is the difference between achievers and followers: achievers leave their comfort zone.

  13. Leaving the comfort zone is probably not an easy thing to do, but I do respect the brave move to seek grounds on uncharted waters. At least, the move has reaped dividends for you. Congratulations!

    Keith’s last blog post..WordPress ??? Display – Show Chinese Characters

  14. Good stuff as always AL 🙂
    Been working hard for the last 2 years to make an online income so that I will be able to leave my comfort zone (the day job). I need more focus, and must work on one thing at a time !

  15. True, fear is what holds us to our comfort zones. We become to afraid to do anything different and more risky than our usual life routine.

    Where there’s great risk, there’s greater returns.

  16. Congratulations on leaving the comfort zone and doing so well as a result with your sites – hopefully this is something I will be doing once i’ve built up said contingency fund!

  17. Great post Al. Having seen your presentation at the WordPress North meetup, I think you’ve successfully left that comfort zone 🙂

    With the current economic climate it looks like a lot of people are going to be forced out of their comfort zones in the coming months, whether they want it or not.

    Cheers, Jon

    Jon’s last blog post..Salon Websites – Google Search Engine Optimization Guide

  18. Its always important to dig deeper, and to leave your comfort zone. If you do not take that “risk” you may be missing out on opportunities. As they say “not taking risks is risky” I was in this rut where I was deciding on whether or not to leave for California where I received a nice job offer. The thing is I didn’t want to leave the job I already had, or my friends. Well.. I took the job. Sure it was tough at first, but the opportunity was amazing! During my time off, I go back home to visit my friends, and sometimes they come westward so overall I am extremely happy I took the risk!


  19. Hi Al
    I have many comfort zones but I shattered the Public Speaking one many years ago.
    Believe me iot wasn’t easy.
    I’m now trying to get other people to believe that they can do the same.

    Guess the credit crunch has forced lots of us out of our steady job comfort zone… well done to you for jumping!

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