Ricky Bobby, Tommy Boy and the Comfort Zone


Last weekend I took in two comedy favorites. I hadn’t seen either in quite a while and was eager to relax and get in some laughs.  Oh, the two?  Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Tommy Boy.  Don’t judge me on why I selected these two iconic modern comedies.  I like to laugh, and these films always do the trick.

So I got to laugh and, more importantly, I saw some learning moments that in previous viewings never occurred to me.  These movies are about your comfort zone, and the ability and the need to step outside of it to move forward, move upward.  

At this moment, some of you may be loosely agreeing, while most of you are probably saying “I don’t get it.”

Here’s the connection between Ricky, Tommy and my idea.  Both heroes are in many ways completely different.  Ricky comes from meager beginnings, has a passion (for going fast), realizes some success and then has a tragic downfall.  He loses his nerve to go fast.  Tough on a race car driver.  

Tommy has a much easier start as a wealthy industrialist’s son on the seven-year college track who is then handed an executive position in his dad’s organization.  Then he too suffers a downfall (the death of his father) and the impending theft of his family’s company from a newly married grifter second wife. He finally has to step up and “save the town” from imminent financial ruin.

What We Can Learn

Where both characters come together is in their need to step outside of their comfort zone to acquire greater results and greater success in their lives and the lives of those around them.   I’m fortunate to be in an advanced coaching program with a group of talented coaches who are learning to be great coaches from even greater coaches. In this program, there’s a mantra that states: “There is no learning in the comfort zone, and no comfort in the learning zone.”  Now that is a mantra! Think about it though, when has there been a time in your life when you were required to move to a new level and it was easy? (Upon reflection, if you do recall an easy effort to shift in a wildly new direction then I challenge you that you didn’t go far enough.)

One general belief in coaching is that human beings must move forward.  If you stand in the same place, you stagnate and die.  Change is uncomfortable and consequently many shy away from the entire idea regardless of what outcomes are possible.  Well there it is, in a world full of pain avoidance, the one thing we need to be better than yesterday is often considered too painful to even think about.  Yikes.  Maybe I should’ve included Groundhog Day in my comedy line-up!

Embracing Change and Planning for Luck

What can you do to embrace change? You can’t guarantee an outcome (even though Tommy talks about guarantees, cows and butchers at length).  And why not?  Well, you can’t predict the future so guaranteeing an outcome is out. You can create a process for change though.  That’s something you can control!  

What do I mean by this?  Well, what’s just ONE way you can change something in your personal or professional life?  Pick one.  Just one.  It can be simple.  You don’t have to reinvent the microchip here.  Then, design how you will make that change.  That is your process!  If you’re trying to structure your day to be more productive, it may be to design how you start your morning. You can’t guarantee that you will be productive. And, after several attempts, you will most likely find that your process needs adjusting.  At some point you will create some sort of outcome.  It may not be the one you exactly wanted; that’s OK, you moved forward.  How?  Well, you took action!  And along the way I will bet that you learned things about yourself, life and maybe how you manage your attention to time.  (Feel free to substitute in anything for managing attention to time and productivity!) 

Highly respected and well-known coach Sanyan Siang says “we plan for luck.”  I love this perspective!  When I look at these ideas together, I see that by taking control of the process for a possible outcome, I am planning for luck.  At the very minimum, that outcome will have a bigger chance of passing in front of me so I can grab onto it, instead of slipping away behind me where I don’t even give myself a chance to see it, let alone create a process to make it mine.

Surprisingly, if you get even a little bit of control when thrust into change, it provides an opportunity for you to have a say in things and that’s important to us humans. Establishing control of something happens in the present, so this is also a great byproduct of instituting a process for change.

Look, Tommy Boy, Ricky Bobby and I will never be roommates, and yet we all look at life a little differently, a little lighter most days, which is good right now.  We embrace change.  So in the words of Ricky Bobby, Tommy Boy and me: Go Fast Go Fast Go Fast; Buy Quality Callahan Auto Parts; and Be Big, Cool and Hippo.  Cause Hippos don’t shake hands, hippos gotta hug…!

I guide emerging sales professionals to build trust, become more relevant, and surpass their competitors, thereby creating the ultimate personal, professional, and financial success for them and their businesses.”  What could your next version of you, the emerging sales professional, be like if your approach was to focus on another’s agenda first? Here’s a link to start creating that discussion right now!


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