Today was a special day.
I sang for the very first time in front of an audience.
That’s right; I sang a song, all by myself.
I’ve been taking voice lessons. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since my teenage years but never got around to because I was scared. I always managed to find an excuse not to go through with it. I noticed fear and staying in your comfort zone makes you really good at that. I also noticed that time doesn’t make your desires go away; it only makes your desires grow stronger, so much to the point where the joy of staying in your comfort zone is no longer worth the pain of not following through. In my case, it took 10 years to get out of my comfort zone and do what I’ve always wanted to do.
“Just because it feels comfortable, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you.”
On the same note, just because something is uncomfortable, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad for you.
This bit of knowledge comes from my voice coach, Ellen Robinson, who, despite my limited experience as a singer, I believe is one of the best voice teachers out there. Singing often requires that we reach parts of our voice that may feel a bit uncomfortable. She demonstrated how our normal speaking voice requires a rather minimal effort to make a sound and how the ease of regular speaking only covers a limited range of notes. When we sing, we must force ourselves outside of the narrow range we have grown accustomed to and go beyond our comfort zone. It is only by doing so that we can truly tap into the potentials of our voice.
Ellen likens getting out of your comfort zone to building an attic.
First, you have to make the decision to get up there. And when you’ve done so, start by dusting everything out. Then you need to give the walls a fresh coat of paint and start moving in some furniture. Who knows, maybe you can even put up some window curtains and lay out a few pictures. You’re venturing into foreign territory so it may feel a bit intimidating but that’s why you need to build it out slowly. Then you need to hang out there.
When you’re getting out of your comfort zone, you’re essentially creating a new space for yourself. It’s going to feel a bit alien the first couple of times. It requires getting over your fears and inhibitions. On a more tactile note, it is a process, often a very slow process. That’s why you need to keep going up there, going through the necessary steps, and work through your discomforts. Remind yourself that just a tiny bit of progress is still progress. You’ll be surprised to find that eventually, you will have created a new space for yourself in a place you never imagined possible. In fact, you might quite enjoy being up there.
How I built my attic:
I came in on the first day only planning to sit in and observe because I was afraid to commit. Little did I know, I ended up participating, loved it so much, and officially enrolled in the class. Each class started by warming up our voices through a series exercises. Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So. Then came the sheet music. Key signatures. Vocal ranges. More music. And suddenly we’re talking about major and minor thirds, key changes, codas, al codas, triplets, and harmonies. This happened for one hour a week. Before I knew it, there I was singing a solo for the first time in front of a real audience, instead of doing it drunk at a karaoke bar. I was actually singing. This was what building my attic was like. Just one hour a week. Imagine what you could do with an entire lifetime.
I sang “How Little We Know” by Frank Sinatra.
Here is my rendition with all its imperfections:
I share this story with you today because I feel that life provides us with a lot of space to really build something beautiful and magnificent. This space comes in the form of time, and if you are staying in your comfort zone out of fear, then I would like to remind you that you don’t have time to waste. Time passes, and you will get older whether you like it or not. You cannot control that, but whether or not you set out to get what you came here for is up to you.
How far will you reach outside your comfort zone? How many extra rooms and attics will you build inside your home? What will you do with these seconds of opportunities that life provides you every day?
Remind yourself that just because something feels good, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. In order to reach our best selves, we must be willing to trust the process and do things that absolutely terrify us from time to time. Don’t just get out of your comfort zone -- build out your comfort zone.
by Jason Lam