Fabian Pfortmüller on How to Break Out of a Comfort Zone

In Chapter 10 of 15 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, community builder and entrepreneur Fabian Pfortmüller answers "What is Your Comfort Zone and What Do You Do to Break Free of Living in It?"  He shares how he gets into a comfort zone when doing overly repetitive tasks.  He shares how creating a risk-taking program at work has helped him to experience new things and seek out others who think big and challenge his thinking.  Pfortmüller is co-founder of the young leader accelerator, Sandbox Network, and HOLSTEE, an apparel and design firm that sells meaningful products to mindful shoppers.  Pfortmüller graduated from Columbia University and its school of General Studies. 


Erik Michielsen: What is your comfort zone and what do you do to break free of living in it?

Fabian Pfortmüller: When I have too often the same task or the same objective on my plate and on my task list, I'm too much in my comfort zone and I feel that if I don’t take enough risk and if I'm not a little bit scared, I must be too much in my comfort zone. We have this tradition at HOLSTEE where we pick one risk a week, where just every week we say let’s just, you know, randomly pick one risk of something we wanna achieve. It’s kind of something we’re scared off, something that we might not do otherwise and it’s so energizing.

It’s so often we get things done like this and we did a little experiment last year where we actually created a whole role about risk taking and we called it Agent99 and Agent99 was an internship that was about 99 risks in 99 days. So, we would pick some risks of things that we thought would be good for our community, would be good for, I don’t know, the world, would have a good impact and would also help us as a brand at HOLSTEE and we then found amazing perfect person who was so willing to take risk and he just went out and achieved it. And I think that’s a great, that’s a great way of doing it.

I think for us really thinking big helps me to get kind of just out of comfort zone and one thing that I believe helps me also is being surrounded by people that really think big. I realize that when I'm surrounded by other entrepreneurs and I kind of get this chilly feeling of like, “Oh, my god, that’s kind of crazy.” That’s what I want for myself as well and that’s what I want for my own idea as well and when I'm missing it, I know something is not good.

It’s good to have a little bit of fear in it because it means you’re really going for a big idea and you’re not just executing something and in the end of the day we’re trying out something new that has not been done before. We’re building something that has not there before and that little bit of like “uh-oh”, in the back of my head is something very healthy.