Get comfortable being uncomfortable

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The world makes us believe that a big gift box is magically going to show up on our doorstep one day when we are least expecting it. When we see it, we’ll know it’s our passion and what we were always meant to be doing. How will we know? “It will just feel right,” they tell us.

Yeah, right! The reality is your passion is not just going to jump in front of you one day shouting “It’s me! I’m here!” and you probably aren’t finding it anytime soon.

In the years of our 20s we are living in a huge sea of the unknown. There is a lot of questioning about life that goes down (especially in college). Questions like “What do I want?” “Who do I want to be?” “How will I find what I am meant to be doing?” Sound familiar?

Of course it does. And guess what? It’s N-O-R-M-A-L.

I’m not really sure how or why it started, but every twenty something is faced with this extremely heavy pressure from the outside world to have life figured out. When I say heavy, I’m talking barely breathing in between panic attacks because you don’t have a “plan.”

I’m here to tell you that the unknown isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s actually pretty awesome.

When I was 21 I started a company by mistake. I was a junior at the University of Florida and wanted a pair of jeans that I absolutely couldn’t afford. So, to pay for them, I put an ad on Craigslist to clean a house in order to make enough money to buy the jeans. Well it turns out that my small house cleaning number turned into a pretty big business. Six years later my company, Student Maid, now has two locations and we employed more than 500 students last year. We clean houses, apartment complexes, commercial offices, we run errands, we walk dogs, we house sit, we pet sit…you get the drift. We are working like crazy to grow our brand to college towns all over the country and we are working on a book to share our experience with the world.

But here’s the thing. It happened by mistake. I went to school for finance (after changing my major about five times). I was pre-med until I shadowed a dermatologist for one hour and realized blood isn’t for me. At one point I had approval for a double major in accounting and interior design (because everyone needs a CPA who can also tell you what color to paint your walls, right?). I ended up with finance and my ultimate dream was to move to The Big Apple and become an investment banker.

Life got in the way though. I cleaned one house to buy these jeans and then ended up meeting someone who offered me a cleaning contract for a big apartment complex. I had to hire a bunch of people to help with the work and there you go—the rest is history. The business grew and grew and when I graduated in 2010 I was offered that “dream” six figure finance job I thought I always wanted.

But I immediately turned it down.

Why? I was super into my house cleaning business, even though at the time it wasn’t making any money. I knew there was a chance it could fail tremendously, but I decided to take a chance on the unknown. If there’s one decision I’m so thankful for it’s that one.

Was I passionate about house cleaning? Heck no. Did I know when I turned down the finance job that this cleaning business would mold itself into my dream career, one where I could touch the lives of young people and teach them how to be successful through our culture at Student Maid? No way. I didn’t know any of this. To be honest, I didn’t really figure it out until a couple of years ago (and to be even more honest, I’m still figuring it out every day). I’m totally okay with that.

I’ve learned that the unknown is where it’s at. It is only in the unknown that we are pushed out of our comfort zone. It’s where we learn about ourselves and it’s the only place where real growth happens. Get comfortable being uncomfortable and you will be surprised at what can happen.

The next time someone asks “What are you passionate about?” or you begin to question yourself about your life and your plan, stop, breathe, and smile to yourself. Say with confidence “I don’t know yet” and own that answer.

Here are some other tricks that will help you as you are swimming in the Unknown Sea:

You will not know anything until you try a lot of things. The only way to figure out what you love and where you want to go is through experience. Volunteer, intern at different companies, apply for positions on campus, take the job you never thought you would, etc. When looking at an opportunity you should be asking yourself, “Will I learn something from this?” If you approach it that way it becomes a completely different experience.

Pick something that is interesting to you. The worst thing you can do is spend too much time choosing the “right” major or career. Instead, pick something that is exciting and something that interests you. The more you experience, the more you will learn about yourself. You will probably come to the realization that the things you thought you loved weren’t really interesting to you when you actually did them. Kind of like my finance job!

Go with the flow. Stop being so uptight! Learn to go with the flow and take opportunities as they come. Don’t spend too much time thinking about the “what ifs” and try to spend more time in the “right now.” How boring would life be if we knew every step that we would take from now until the day we retire? Yuck. The key is to just say YES to any opportunity that could be interesting or one you learn from. Just because you say yes doesn’t mean you have to commit to doing this thing for the rest of your life. Take it easy, killer. Say yes and see where it leads.

You never know what doors it will open, who you will meet, or what you might learn when you are living in the unknown. Embrace it.