On Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone - Armstrong Tire

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Tuffy's Tips

On Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

Every Friday, Tuffy fields a question that benefits from his worldly wisdom as #TheMostInterestingRhinoInTheWorld.

This week’s question is: “Hey Tuffy, my aunt Betina keeps telling me that I should “”step outside my comfort zone”” in order to grow as a person and enjoy life more. I frequently ask her what that means, but she always replies with “”That’s part of stepping outside your comfort zone””. I was afraid to write you to ask this question, but nobody else has the answer, so I hope you can help me – what does that phrase mean and why should I do it?”

Tuffy’s answer: “My friend, first of all, congratulations! The mere fact that you wrote me means that you’ve already stepped outside of your comfort zone! To put it in simple terms, you step outside of your comfort zone when you do something that you feel apprehensive about, or are afraid of. Now, my guess as to why your Aunt Betina refused to answer your question is because she wanted you to do precisely this – reach out to someone you don’t already know or have a relationship with, and get an answer that way. As for the question itself, let me share my own experience with stepping outside of my comfort zone to give you an idea of what the concept means. When I was a college student at Purdue, my dream was to work either for a racing team, or for NASA. As my history wrote itself, that never happened, and I ended up being the spokes-rhino for Armstrong after being scouted on a post- college graduation trip to New York City. Now, I was a Hoosier, born and bred, and although I’d traveled a little to visit my extended family in Malaysia, I’d never really set foot outside of the great state of Indiana. For me to be scouted and offered a job as the global face of a major tire company was something I never even dreamt about, let alone imagined possible. But here I was, sitting in my parents’ home in Huntington, Indiana, the week after my trip concluded, a job offer letter from Armstrong in hand. I consulted my parents, family and friends about it, and every one of them encouraged me to do what I felt was best for me, which was well and good, but really of no help to my actual decision making process, since I had ZERO idea what was best for me. The opportunity with Armstrong seemed otherworldly – international travel, photo shoots, grand galas, TV commercials and hobnobbing with celebrities – I never would have imagined that as a scenario that would present itself to me. I was scared, yes, and a large part of that fear came from having to give up the version of my dream future that I’d had since I was a wee rhino. I mean, I can recall wanting to be a mechanical engineer since I was 4 years old (hey, we rhinos mature quickly). But the bigger fear was that I was unprepared for the type of lifestyle and the expectations that came with the new job. I had never lived that kind of lifestyle – it seemed so distant – like the stuff you see in movies and on TV, not the type of prospect that daunts the simple rhino that I was. I was articulate, but not charismatic, smart, but not worldly, curious, but unsophisticated….how would I go from what I was to what I felt was demanded of me?

Well, the answer came to me from the most unexpected person, my Uncle Roger. Yes, the Uncle Roger who once hitched his goats to a modified horse wagon to haul his sleigh. We were playing horseshoes in his back yard (if you can call 400 acres of prime farmland a back yard), and just shooting the breeze when he suddenly looked at me and said, “”Tuffy, now I know I ain’t what most would call a smart man, and I know I ain’t got much education in them schools, but there’s one thing that’s helped to make me the man that I am today, and that’s the heart to do what scares me the most””. Now, while I make fun of Uncle Roger for his goat-cart escapades, he was a very successful farmer-cum-businessman, so I valued his wisdom on non-mechanical things. “”There’s never been a shortage of excuses and reasons to rationalize the decision not to pursue the things that appear scary to me, and to choose the path well-trodden. But I’ve embraced every fear that accompanied the big decisions in my life, and treated them as opportunities for advancing and improving myself and my station, and every single time that I’ve done it, I’ve looked back on my decisions from a place of enlightenment and accomplishment, and never regretted it a single time. It’s like the poet, Robert Frost said so eloquently, “”Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference””””. I was agape at this, both because of the wisdom with which Uncle Roger spoke, but also because this was the most articulate and verbose I’d ever seen Uncle Roger. For a brief moment, I almost felt that he had transformed into a luminescent fount of wisdom and knowledge, and I was transfixed. Then Uncle Roger flicked a booger from his nose onto me and let out a cackle-howl of laughter, and I snapped back into reality. So my friend, Uncle Roger said it better than anyone else I know could have. The things that are known and reliable are comfortable, but they don’t allow us to grow much. Stepping out of that space where you don’t have to make a challenging decision, or taking a bold step into the unknown – that is the place your Aunt Betina spoke of and wants you to be. It will help you improve and live your fullest life. If a simple rhino from a tiny midwestern town could make it work for him, I know it will work for you. I wish you the best my friend.”

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About Tuffy

TUFFY the Rhino is more than just the Armstrong Tire mascot. On the surface, TUFFY appears to be a tough, hardened character, and arguably there is “none tougher.” In fact, he’s really a softie at heart, charming folks wherever he goes – a gentleman, for sure, but one who would equally be at home blazing frontiers as he would be dancing the waltz at a grand soirée. Often referred to as “The most interesting rhino in the world,” TUFFY has traveled the world and made many appearances representing Armstrong Tire, from advertisements co-starring stars like Lucille Ball to being featured on many eBay listings. However, he remains a simple, Midwestern rhino at heart, one that’s rooted in empathy, humility, and family values.

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