Your comfort one is a behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk.  It provides a state of mental security and offers obvious benefits: regular happiness, low anxiety and reduced stress.

Psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson explained through the findings of their classic experiment back in 1908 that a state of relative comfort created a steady level of performance.  In order to maximize performance, we need a state of relative anxiety – a space where stress levels are slightly higher than normal.  This space is called “Optimal Anxiety,” and it’s just outside our comfort zone.  Too much anxiety and we are too stressed to be productive, and our performance drops off sharply.

Comfort zone is neither a good or bad thing.  It’s a natural state that most people trend towards.  But if someone’s comfort zone is literally on the couch in front of the TV, and doing anything else would cause too much stress and anxiety, it’s an unproductive and unhealthy way of living.  On the other hand, one of the worst things we can do to ourselves is pretend that fear and uncertainty don’t exist and therefore take unnecessary or harmful risks.  The results can be devastating.  So the trick is to find that sweet spot where stress and anxiety are optimal.

A couple of years ago, I stepped outside the safety net of my normal life and made a conscious decision to do something different – write a book.  And because of that decision, my life has changed and I’ve opened new doors to a new world of aspiring writers, writing classes, new friends …

Next Saturday my personal boundaries will be stretched a bit more: hosting my first official book signing.  I am most confident and comfortable in a known and controlled environment where there is little ambiguity and uncertainty.  As the scheduled event is approaching, my mind was taken over by uneasiness and doubts, “What if nobody shows up? What should I say to the people (if they do show up) who come for the book and my signature?  Do I shake hands with them?  Do I shake hands standing or sitting?  Other than my signature, what else should I write in the book for someone I’ve never met in my life?”

I recognized that the unsettling feeling came from the ego because it ultimately led back to the underlying need to please and the need for others’ approval.  So I addressed my own questions one by one.  Some people will definitely show up: my family at least and a few friends already emailed to say they would be there.  I’ll just be myself at the book signing although a bit more preparation won’t hurt.

What I’ve learned over the last few months is that selling a self-published book is a tough job.  These days, small publishers are leaving the daunting task of book marketing to the authors themselves.  Medium and large-publishers are very reluctant to take on new authors. I know there are people out there who will benefit from my struggles and triumphs told with brutal honesty in LET GO and recorded in  It is my job to reach them and connect with them.  Whatever it takes, I am willing to get out of my comfort zone to meet them and share my life with them. And the more I reach out, the better I’ll get at it.

We are all anxious to achieve in this world, often driven by the false belief that if we do something really important or become something powerful, we will finally be recognized and successful. Believe me, I have that urge too from time to time.  But then I remind myself of why I write, how writing has transformed my life and my family, how far I’ve come along and how lucky to be where I am today.  I have nothing but gratitude in my heart.

It means a great deal to me if I can have the honor of your presence at the book signing.  At the same time, I understand that this day and age we all lead busy and demanding lives.  I still love you if you can’t make it.  All proceeds from the book signing will go to the Overseas China Education Foundation (, a wonderful charitable organization that offers financial support to children in the rural areas of China who can’t afford the continuation of school otherwise. Joe and I have been a part of the organization for over a year.  We love the pure-hearted people and its worthy mission.

So starting today, take small steps to skip out of your comfort zone, like ordering a different dish at your favorite restaurant, switching machines at the gym or looking for a new job that will put your talents to better use.