Tim Ferriss can’t swim. Yes, Four-Hour Work Week, World Kickboxing Champ and World Record Holder in the Tango Tim Ferriss, until recently, couldn’t swim. Was actually AFRAID of it.

When you read about people like Tim who seem to be incredibly successful at everything they do, it’s a bit of a shocker when you discover that even the most amazingly successful people are not good at everything. We all have weaknesses. We all have things we are either lousy at or afraid to do.

Sometimes, when we are working really hard to reach our goals, we are forced to do things we either are no good at or are afraid to try. There are two choices in this situation – either walk away from that which makes you afraid, or just figure out a way to do it, even if it makes you uneasy. Usually, walking away is not an option. So the latter is often the more uncomfortable, but necessary choice.

Lots of people are afraid of cold calling and performing in front of crowds. I used to be terrified of both. I am an inherently shy person, and that shy little girl inside me couldn’t BEAR the thought of having to pick up the phone and sell something to a total stranger. That shy little girl would freak OUT at the prospect of having to stand up in front of a bunch of people she doesn’t know and speak, or (Heaven forbid) sing.

But, in order for my business to survive, I had to learn to cold call. In order for me to teach, I had to learn how to stand in front of a room full of people and present. 15 years ago, I was really bad at both of these things. The prospect of doing either made me immensely uncomfortable. But, my success was dependent on it. So I did it anyway.

The Art of Discomfort is all about embracing that which makes you uncomfortable. Recognize that it freaks you out. Feel the discomfort. Then, take a deep breath, and try it anyway. You’ll do it, possibly make some mistakes, probably even fail the first couple of tries. Feel that feeling of failure, but then try it again. Lather, rinse, repeat until you’ve mastered it. But each time, feel the feeling, learn the lesson, and move on without dwelling.

Tim Ferriss, over-achiever, non-swimmer, is now preparing to do a 1 kilometre, open water swim. I regularly cold-call clients and advertisers and succeed at getting new business in the door. And I teach and present and even sing in front of large crowds. Does it still bother me? Well, I admit that sometimes that shy little girl pops her head in and tries to shut me down, but all in all I really enjoy these aspects of my job now.

The Art of Discomfort – try it on something that makes you uncomfortable and let me know how it works out!

Photo credit: Flying Pete on MorgueFile.