Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone: No Step is Too Small
Did you know that consumers value comfort over anything else when purchasing sports shoes and apparel? According to a Statista survey when purchasing sporting goods, such as sports shoes, consumers consider comfort more important than how it fits or how much it costs. I have been researching possible new markets for our PORON® Materials, primarily in safety footwear and protective equipment. One of the most critical aspects in both areas is how best to provide comfort to the wearer. The goal is to identify possible entry points for Rogers to capture value in this continually expanding market. Market studies claim that the increasing consumer value in footwear comfort stems from the more and more people engaging in athletic activities; therefore urging developers to push the envelope in competitive footwear design.
I believe that valuing comfort reverberates across most of our lives. As human beings we tend to prefer things that are comfortable, familiar, and safe. We can easily get stuck in a routine, whatever it may be: go to work, come home, eat dinner, and do it again. Except for the occasional trip, outing, or long weekend our lives can largely be the same year to year. Even our vacations may be identical over and over again. This repetition, however, doesn’t cheapen the value of a relaxing vacation or a productive day at work. I’ve come to value the upside of repetition, especially since completing my first month at the closest thing to a professional full-time job I’ve had. I now value my free time more because I have less of it. I’m also now less likely to try something new or different with that free time.
I recently went on a family hike to Mt. Monadnock in southern New Hampshire, a popular well-travelled +3000’ family destination with an exceptional view at the top. On the way back down I decided to hike off the trail into what I thought was a shortcut. Earning some humorous remarks from my family coming behind me, I quickly realized my navigation mistake when knee deep in thickets. But I did ultimately end up creating a shortcut of my own and got one last panoramic view through a break in the trees. While not the most spine-tingling or uncomfortable moment, it’s a brief example of how taking the road less travelled, or leaving the marked trail, can be both rewarding and safe.
My younger brother, on the other hand, likes to take the road less travelled whenever possible. A young rebel and true adventurer, he never takes no for an answer. He ended up blazing his own trail for most of the descent down the mountain: dropping, jumping, and rolling down rock faces far out of sight of my parents and me. At one point he challenged me to do the same, which earned me a proliferation of scrapes and a nice bruise on my knee. Apparently I’m not as graceful as he is. This past weekend he shared some videos of his caving trip with the UCONN Outing Club; a 4-hour hike underground through wet, dark, and cold tunnels. He blindly followed the person in front of him deeper and deeper into the cave, sometimes going through passages barely big enough for a man to squeeze through. I shivered just hearing about it. Always daring and willing to do anything spur-of-the-moment, I think we all can learn a bit from his free spirit.
Little adventures like the hidden briar patch and self-blazed trails are all around us. I recently stumbled upon an article about Jesse Itzler. He and his wife are highly successful entrepreneurs (owning the NBA Atlanta Hawks and founding Spanx to start the list). An avid Ultra marathon runner, Jesse saw a Navy SEAL at a race. Jesse was a part of a six-person relay team who were fully stocked with energy bars and drinks. Yet the SEAL ran the entire race alone and brought only a folding chair, water, and a bag of crackers for the 24 hour event. Jesse was so inspired with his performance he invited him to come and live with him and his family for a month. Jesse later wrote a book called “Living with a SEAL” detailing the experience and how it changed his life. One of his key learnings was that you have to learn “how to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” quoting the SEAL, “If it doesn’t suck, we don’t do it.” Jesse names this SEAL the toughest man on the planet. In fact, this SEAL broke the Guinness World Record for the most pull-ups in one day: 4030 in 17 hours. Jesse’s book and story reflects a remarkable outlook on life, one with no limits and filled with possibilities.
One of the many great opportunities I had when in AFROTC (Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps) was being selected to attend the Phase 2 AAA (Air Liaison Aptitude Assessment). Phase 2 AAA is a 5-day crucible training camp and initial try-out for a branch of Air Force special operations. I lasted 3 days, quickly coming to the realization this particular career wasn’t for me and that I preferred a comfy seat in an airplane as a pilot. But during my short time there I experienced exactly what Jesse and the SEAL explain: you have the ability to push yourself far beyond what you think you are capable of. I remember waking up the morning after and physically not being able to sit up because my core was rigid from being overworked; for the entire camp, if you weren’t eating, drinking, in a briefing, or moving, you were almost immediately ordered into the Front Leaning Rest position (a high-plank) until told otherwise. The day before one of the many physical tests was a ruck march for an unknown distance with a 35lb pack. When I was reaching the final bend, my group leader called out how he wasn’t surprised I was bringing up the rear (being last). I took that rather personally and picked up the pace for the final stretch, passing a handful of other cadets before finishing. Overall it was not an impressive performance; all I could think about was dropping my pack and quitting, then I changed my mind and finished the race. Those few days and nights were some of the most rigorous and taxing I have had, but also some of the most rewarding.
I’m not saying everyone needs to hire an ex-special operative to live in their home and invigorate their life. Simply challenge yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone, no step is too small. We can all start by taking baby steps, maybe even by bringing some PORON® Comfort insoles with you to help cushion your footsteps as you venture down that new path.
One thing the market does show us is that you won’t be alone – it’s estimated that over a billion athletic shoes were sold last year. They all drew from a design concept offering an effective balance between performance and comfort. Millions of people are trying something totally different, challenging, and exciting. So can you; and you might find yourself to be more adventurous than you think.
Check out this article about Jesse’s book:
If you’re looking for a fun hike, here is a link to Mt. Monadnock’s trails: