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The Comfort Crisis – Another Reason to Learn

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Apr 17, 2023

easter_Comfort CrisisMichael Easter’s The Comfort Crisis is extensively about his journey into the remote Alaskan backcountry on a demanding thirty-three-day hunting expedition to experience the hunting Caribou. But it’s much, much more.

As he prepares, and experiences this journey, he offers gold nuggets from experts on how constant comfort is a radically new thing for us humans. He shares why scientists are discovering certain discomforts protect us from physical and psychological problems like obesity, heart disease, cancers, diabetes, depression, and anxiety, and even more fundamental issues like feeling a lack of meaning and purpose.

Comfort & Convenience is Harmful

Comforts and conveniences are great. Some would say we’re living in the best of all times. But it isn’t moving the ball downfield in our most important metric: happy, healthy years.

1 out of 3 Americans Dont know theyre OverweightEaster points out, thirty-two percent of Americans are overweight, and 38 percent are obese. That makes a collective 70 percent of us too heavy. Nearly a third of us now have diabetes or prediabetes. More than 40 million Americans have mobility problems. Heart disease kills a quarter of us.

These medical issues were nonexistent until the twentieth century.

Rates of suicide & drug overdose continue to climbToday people suffer more and more from diseases of despair: depression, anxiety, addiction, and suicide. Overdose deaths in the last two decades are up more than threefold, and the average American is now more likely to kill themselves than ever before.

Evidence suggests suicide hasn’t happened throughout nearly all human history. These diseases of despair caused the US life expectancy to fall in 2016, 2017, and 2018.

2020-02-06-INT-US-deaths-expectancy-rate_1000We don’t deal with discomforts like working for our food, moving hard and heavy each day, feeling deep hunger, and being exposed to the elements. But we do deal with the side effects of our comfort: long-term physical and mental health problems.

We have too many ways to numb out, like comfort food, cigarettes, alcohol, pills, smartphones, and TV. We’re detached from the things that make us feel happy and alive, like connection, being in the natural world, effort, and perseverance.

One poll found just 6 percent of Americans believe the world is improving.

Some anthropologists argue humans were happier in all the time leading up to about 13,000 years ago.


Ever wondered why it feels like some events are shorter, while others were longer? Easter explores this in his quest to discover why comfort is putting us in crisis.

clock in handIn his 1890 work, The Principles of Psychology Psychologist William James wrote “The same space of time seems shorter as we grow older….In youth we may have a new experience, subjective or objective, every hour of the day. Apprehension is vivid, retentiveness strong, and our recollections of that time, like those of a time spent in rapid and interesting travel, are of something intricate, multitudinous, and long-drawn-out. But as each passing year converts this experience into automatic routine that we hardly note at all, the days and the weeks smooth themselves out in recollection to contentless units, and the years grow hollow and collapse.”

A team of scientists in Israel confirmed James’s notion in a series of six studies. They surveyed groups of people doing things that were either new or old to them. “In all studies,” the scientists wrote, “we found that…people remember duration as being shorter on a routine activity than on a nonroutine activity.”

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that dementia significantly dropped in people who dedicated more of their lives to learning.

Scientists in the United Kingdom recently found our brain has a trancelike “autopilot” or “sleepwalking” mode. Once we’ve done something over and over, our mind zones it out.

Instead of being present and aware, we get lost somewhere inside our noggin. We’re planning what we’ll eat for dinner, wondering when the new season of that one show will come out, and speculating about our office frenemy’s salary.

We live in a state of constant mental churn and meaningless chatter. New situations kill the mental clutter.

leading and learning - JFK QuoteIn newness, we’re forced into presence and focus. This is because we can’t anticipate what to expect and how to respond, breaking the trance that leads to life in fast forward. Newness can even slow down our sense of time. This explains why time seemed slower when we were kids. Everything was new then and we were constantly learning.

Scaling Up author Verne Harnish repeatedly reminds us, Leaders are Learners. Now you have another reason to learn, life slows down, and it might prevent Alzheimer’s!

To create an environment where everyone is inspired to give their best, contact Positioning Systems today to schedule a free exploratory meeting.

Growth demands Strategic Discipline.

GORE-TEX - Guaranteed to Keep You DryIn Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point W.L. Gore & Associates, the maker of GORE-TEX waterproof fabric, discovered at over 150 employees in their offices had more social problems.   All their offices now contain less than 150 people. The result: a billion-dollar brand consistently named one of the nation’s best companies to work for. Next blog we’ll explore what scientists have learned about the ideal size for communities.

Building an enduring great organization requires disciplined people, disciplined thought, disciplined action, superior results, producing a distinctive impact on the world.

4Dx Cadence of AccountabilityDiscipline sustains momentum, over a long period of time, laying the foundations for lasting endurance.

A winning habit starts with 3 Strategic DisciplinesPriorityMetrics, and Meeting Rhythms.   Forecasting, accountability, individual, and team performance improve dramatically.

Meeting Rhythms achieve a disciplined focus on performance metrics to drive growth.

Let Positioning Systems help your business achieve these outcomes on the Four most Important Decisions your business faces:












Positioning Systems helps mid-sized ($5M - $500M+) businesses Scale-UP. We align your business to focus on Your One Thing! Contact to Scale Up your business! Take our Four Decisions Needs Assessment to discover how your business measures against other Scaled Up companies. We’ll contact you.

NEXT BLOG – Ideal Community SizeDunbars Number & Community Size


Topics: Strategic Learning, The Comfort Crisis, Michael Easter, Leaders Are Learners

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Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

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