Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Comfort Zone

Some years back when I was much younger and more na├»ve, a friend talked me into joining Amway as a distributor. The premise seemed simple and attractive; Amway offers a range of cleaning and household products that – so they claim – are superior in quality and comparable or cheaper in price. In addition, Amway’s system of compensation – as they described it – allowed the opportunity for distributors to build a network which would lead to income based on other people’s work – a Ponzi scheme, as it turned out, although Amway laid things out carefully to avoid prosecution for fraud – everyone knew what the company was doing, but could not prove it. Since discovering the lies and hypocrisy of Amway and cutting my losses, I have encountered a number of other people who believed the company’s promises and quit when they found out the promise was false, but never yet anyone who made a successful career with the company. The relevance to today’s post, is that Amway pushed its distributors to ‘get out of their comfort zone’, to take risks without carefully considering the full costs against desired benefits. In that light, it should hardly be surprising that so many people who joined Amway suffered losses they never expected, and who found the company lacking in integrity and ethics.

Most of us have heard of the ‘comfort zone’. We are told that we get into habits and certain ways of doing things, and that we get used to the routine and resist change, even when it can be good for us or even necessary. People telling us to ‘get out of our comfort zone’ include doctors, bosses, and teachers, but we also run into this from people trying to get us to do things for their benefit more than for our own. A key sign of what sort of motive a person has for pushing you to ‘get out of your comfort zone’, would be whether they are willing to let you think through the argument, and consider in detail what risks and benefits you are facing if you accept or decline the offer or proposition. Anyone pushing you to accept their demands without proper consideration may reasonably be considered a con man more than someone with your interests as a priority. For example, when I was first diagnosed with abdominal cancer in 2006, my initial oncologist wanted to schedule radical surgery, and became very upset when I wanted to get a second opinion. His conduct verged on unprofessional then, as he hid my medical records in a childish attempt to keep me from sending them to the other oncologist. I had a rare condition he wanted to treat for his own intellectual interest, and he could not have cared less about me as a person facing a serious condition. Like others, he pressed for me to agree to major surgery simply because he felt I should have it, and in his argument he argued that my reluctance was more from my ‘comfort zone’ than to reasonable concern to make sure it was the best course of action. In the end, I had to threaten his office with HIPAA to get the records released, but my experience with my oncologist at M.D. Anderson was night and day better, as MDA found a non-invasive way to treat my condition. In truth, staying in my ‘comfort zone’ became impossible once I was diagnosed, but demanding my rights and pursuing all of my options were not at all to do with a ‘comfort zone’, but responsible deliberation of the situation.

The ‘comfort zone’, of course, also shows up a lot in politics. We have seen this with the Global Warming hoax, best demonstrated by the demand from activists that there is no time to verify their claims of cataclysmic climate change, but draconian measures must be immediately undertaken without debate, let alone proof. The con men doubled down with the laughable lie that the science is proven and the debate settled. The hoax has begun to fall apart in recent weeks, but the scheme progressed alarmingly far with little public scrutiny of the hoaxers’ motives and claims. The same propaganda tool was used to pass massive spending programs through Congress, hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars spent on pet projects on the pretense that immediate action was needed to avoid a rise in the unemployment rate – which continued to rise after the legislation anyway, largely because the spending in the bill had nothing in truth to do with protecting or creating jobs in major industries or to help small companies, which make up most jobs. It was, the public is beginning to realize, a lie to cover a money grab for their buddies. More than the Tea Party protests, more than preference for a political party, the public outrage over being lied to is what is fueling the move to throw out incumbents.

That’s not to say that no one should worry about the need to get out of their comfort zone. Those politicians who think they can support Obama’s Chicago Con bills in March and still enjoy re-election this November are in for a nasty shock, as are the party leaders, Republican as well as Democrat, who still ignore the need for reform and attention to their grass roots and the ideals that made them relevant to Americans before the present era. Earmarks and special interest favors are the comfort zones of politics that the public is demanding be ended. The future of American politics depends on the leaders who first recognize and acknowledge that the people are America, and not deep-pocket special interest groups.