Which is better? Being in your comfort zone or being out of it? For me, I obviously prefer being in my comfort zone. After all, being comfortable is what the majority of us want. Sometimes the thought of being out of our comfort zones bring on worry, doubt, and anxiousness. I like being in my comfort zone most of the time, but thinking back, I realize most times I was out of my comfort zone; I learned something new. As Mark Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” For that reason, I’d encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and experience something you never have or do something you’ve doubted you could do.
Here’s a perfect example of one of the many times I’ve found myself out of my comfort zone. I was guiding on an elk hunt for my brother, who at the time was an outfitter. The hunt started off very slow. We had experienced one of the driest years in New Mexico history. The days where so hot that the elk just weren’t moving during daylight. That evening we ate steaks, baked potatoes, salad, and some French bread. My hunter, Gary and I had decided we would go to a spot in the morning that takes an hour and a half drive to get to. We hoped the drive to the isolated area would be worth the trip. After filling our stomachs full of protein and carbohydrates, we made our way back to the bunkhouse to get some well needed rest. Ironically enough, it started raining. I could hear the rain pounding down on top of the pro-panel roof above our heads. The rain was persistent and hard. I thought to myself, “Wow! What are the odds of this? That drive tomorrow morning is going to be a muddy mess!” The road we planned on driving on can become a sloppy monster truck mud bog mess when wet. The thought of driving in the dark on muddy roads made me feel a little out uncomfortable. I had driven on thousands of muddy roads, but the worry of not knowing how bad they’d be planted a seed in my mind. These thoughts put me out of my comfort zone. There were two sections of the road that required some advanced skillful off-road driving ability. Some other parts required a pedal to the medal 4-wheel drive approach. Most of the time when both of those sections are saturated with water; you could wind up driving sideways. Back and forth, back and forth, while the tires try to grab a rut, a rock, or a drier patch of mud. If someone where to watch from above, it would look like the truck was a sidewinder rattlesnake, switching back and forth with mud flying everywhere. This type of driving would definitely be classified as white-knuckle driving. As I drove up on the first mud hole, I put my truck in 4-wheel low. I turned on the windshield wipers and squirted washer fluid on my windshield and hit the bog with high speed and torque. Instantaneously, the muddy mess engulfed my truck covering my windshield effecting visibility, but because my wipers where on I could still see where I was going. As we where driving through the mud, I could see a downed tree that took up 1/3 of the roads width. Ironically enough, directly across from where the tree had fallen was a large rock. If I hit it, it would cause serious body damage to my truck. The rock was so large that if it where hit straight on the collision would cause any lifted truck to high center and get stuck. As I got closer to this obstacle, my truck was still fish-tailing back and forth. I had to time my fish-tailing and over-steer just right to make it through without puncturing a tire or getting stuck on the large boulder. Before I knew it, I had made it through the obstacle, at which point Gary said, “That’s some damn good driving!” We made it through the first obstacle and had about 25 minutes to recuperate to prepare for the next mud bog. We passed the time listening to country music, but I also had a million thoughts flowing through my mind, hoping the next mud bog was easier. I was completely out of my comfort zone. For the simple reason of not wanting to get stuck out in the middle of nowhere. Approaching the next obstacle, I told Gary “hold on, here we go.” The strategy for this mud bog was the same as the last. ¾ of the way though the bog got a little rockier which made it a little easier to get traction. We made it out with a fair amount of speed when suddenly my truck violently made impact with a rock under my truck. Gary and I both hit our heads on the ceiling of my truck with our seat belts on. How is that possible? Don’t ask me but it did happen. My uncomfortable feelings of being out of my comfort zone washed away with laughter. Gary laughed and said “%$@#!” We’d made it through and now all we had to do was drive a few more muddy miles, park the truck and hope I didn’t do any real damage to my under carriage. Unfortunately, the rock struck my starter square, but luckily (by some miracle) didn’t affect my truck from starting.
We made it!!! We parked the truck in the dark. Getting out of the truck was a great relief and the first thing that hit my senses was the amazing smell of wet pine trees. I could hear drips of water falling off the trees onto beds of dry pine needles. A fresh scent so amazing, it felt like the whole forest had been given a bath to clean it off and bring it back to its intended beauty. Gary and I had a 45 minute hike in the dark to get to where we wanted to be once the sun came up. Arriving at our sunrise spot, we could hear a few bugles but they where a long ways off to our south. After observing the area and watching the sun crest over the mountains to our east, we hoped that our drive and hike would pay off. We sat, listened and observed using our binoculars for 20 minutes but there was no activity. We could still hear a sporadic bugle off to our south. I asked Gary if he wanted to go check it out and he though it was a good idea. I told him judging by where that bugle is coming from, the elk is heading to a bedding area so we needed to get there as fast as we could. We threw our packs on our backs and proceeded to walk briskly. The terrain was flat, but littered with ankle twisting mossy rocks, prairie grass, cedar, alligator juniper, pinion, and pine trees. After a good walk with no stops, we could hear the bugles getting louder and louder. Because the bull was heading west at a good rate of speed, we had to try and head the bull off before it got into the thick timber where we’d never see it. We started walk/running. The bugles got louder and louder, and we were in front of the elk. I turned to Gary and told him, “We’re in front of them. Get ready. We’ll set up right here and they should come through right in front of us.” I sat down and could see though a group of trees that would provide a shooting window for Gary. Gary sat and positioned himself and we waited. Within 20-30 seconds, elk began to file through in front of us in single file. I knew the moment was upon us. The bugling bull came though the opening and I cow called. The bull stopped and… BOOM! The bull went down (a clean fast ethical kill). Gary and I both high-5’ed and congratulated each other.
We’d done what we set out to do. It was a lot of work and at times nerve racking. So much so, that my comfort zone was breached several times. From that experience, I reaffirmed Mark Twain’s words of “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened”. All my worries leading up to that moment never happened. The one thing that did happen was reaching the goal at hand. May all your worries be just that and all your goals be reached.