“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” — Napoleon Hill


SANYO DIGITAL CAMERADuring the Atlantic crossing, a lot of my negative inner dialogue was about how uncomfortable I was. Tendinitis in shoulders, saltwater sores on bottom, tippy boat, damp sleeping bag, grumble, grumble, grumble….

And there was the mental discomfort too – fear, boredom, self-doubt, self-recrimination, wondering why on earth this had ever seemed like a good idea. Every moment of every day – and night – was fraught with discomfort.

Then one day, as I was indulging in my usual whiny self-talk, the penny dropped. In the run-up to rowing across the Atlantic, whenever I was asked why I wanted to do such a thing, I would glibly trot out some answer about wanting to get outside my comfort zone.

And getting outside your comfort zone is, by definition, going to be UNcomfortable.


If I had wanted to get outside my comfort zone, I was succeeding in spades.

comfort zoneNow, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that the voyage was perfect in its imperfections. If all had gone perfectly according to plan, if I hadn’t have had all those problems, endured all that discomfort, I wouldn’t have learned half of what I did. It was the most intense learning experience of my life, precisely because it was so tough. At first I chose to suffer, but the one thing that I did have was oodles of thinking time, so eventually I figured out how to adopt a better, more resourceful attitude.

So now, if an experience is turning out to be something very different from what I expected, and not in a good way, I remind myself that it is the worst of times that have the most to teach me. I tell myself that at some point in the future I will be grateful for the opportunity to, once again, stretch my comfort zone.

P.S. The judicious use of really bad language, even if only in my own head, really helps too. e.g. “Thank you, Life, for another ****ing great learning experience”. 🙂




    • Not that I’m aware of, and my parents did a lot of work on the family tree, so I think I would know. I guess there are a lot of Savages in the world, and we’re not all related!

  • Hi Roz, I am on the journey with un-comfort. While now I feel much better with the bumps on the way.
    Thanks for your sharing and inspiring.

    Happy as Larry

    • I hope you reach some smoother road soon, Larry – and it will seem all the easier for having got used to the bumps!

  • Thanks Roz for this stunning insight into the reality & emotions that take place outside our comfort zones. True magic & growth can only take place under stress, duress, uncomfort & suffering. In my own very long periods of desolation I learned new ways of coping, growing & developing. Although considered to be well mannered, I too found huge release in the private use of profane, explicit language which can make you feel a hell of a lot better! It must be the sportsman in me. Keep up your great work. See you soon, Phil.

    • I hear you, Philip. Why do the most character-building experiences have to be so unpleasant at the time?! But at least it helps us cope with the unpleasantness when we’ve been through it enough times to know that we’ll be grateful in retrospect.

  • I just finish your second book—“Stop drifting, Start rowing”—which had it share of stories about adversity. One piece of downturns that often make failures much much harder to deal with is when they are public. I admire people who can handle and understand their feelings of failing but when you see your failures in print it is much more difficult to handle. It is amazing that many people are willing to try a second time after failing in a public way. Good for you to restart your row after the weather push you back.

  • Roz: you did a great job showing exactly what it means to get out of your comfort zone when you spoke to my company’s All Hands meeting a few weeks ago….I’ve used one of the buzzwords you shared (“debarnicalize” e.g, scrape away the distractions that are below the surface and slow you down) during more than one staff meeting.

    • Hi Doug – I’m so happy that my debarnacling (debarnaclisation?!) resonated with you, and that you and your team are all shipshape and barnacle-free and enjoying some plain sailing!

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