Disrupting the Status Quo -- A Guide to Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone to Live An Empowered Life

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We discuss the number one enemy in life: the status quo. Learn how to challenge it and break out of your comfort zone. This advanced English conversation is perfect for improving your skills and learning about an interesting topic. Improve your English and empower yourself to live a more fulfilling life.

Mary Daphne: Hello, Advanced English learners. Welcome back to another episode of Advanced English. I'm joined by the one and only Greg. Hello. Hello. Welcome, Greg. Thank you for joining me. Alright, so today we're gonna talk about the number one enemy that you're going to face in your life. And just before, as a little side, I wanna remind you that the reason we do this is to help you improve your listening comprehension skills, your vocab acquisition, your use of colloquialisms and idiomatic expressions, and phrasal verbs, and conversation techniques, and also some interesting topics for you to be able to share with your own group of friends and business associates. Alright, so without further ado, let's jump right in. 

Alright Greg, so what or who is the number one enemy that we're all gonna face in our lifetimes? ? 

Greg: uh, I can think of a few different a few different obstacles.

But one that I think is worth discussing and comes up a lot is the status quo. 

Mary Daphne: Yes. Status quo. So let's first define status quo. 

Greg: Yeah. So the status quo is the way things are currently. So status quo is a Latin word. Quotidian is like the day to day. The status quo is like the current status of things.

A lot of the things that we're used to, the things that we think will never change, the things that we think have always been this way, that is the status quo. 

Mary Daphne: Almost the things that people tend to take for granted. So it's just the way that things are and have always been in recent memory or forever.

And a lot of times, people have to fight hard to combat those feelings of anxiety when dealing with change, when dealing with disrupting the status quo or challenging the status quo. And that can be very difficult for a lot of people. 

Greg: Yeah, the status quo serves an important role in culture, tradition, and society.

It's the way that the people in power maintain power. It's the way that cultures that, exist peacefully, maintain peace or exist, without peace, maintain that sort of disruption, right? Whatever the case, it generally is there for a reason. Humans tend to trend towards status quo because we like predictability.

We like to know what's going to happen. So that we're not surprised, right? It just goes back to that sort of caveman mentality where the more we know about a situation, the more comfortable we feel, the less likely there is for a lion to jump out and get us right, or for a warring tribe to come and take us over.

So the status quo is there really to protect the institutions that currently exist and it's comforting, but it can also be suffocating. 

Mary Daphne: Okay, so now let's talk about that aspect of it. So why is it perceived as an enemy that we will have to face, and why is it a problem? 

Greg: Yeah, that's a great question. If it's so useful for preserving society why would we try and disrupt it? Sometimes the things, the way things are done are not the way you would like them done, right? There are traditions or laws right, that some people just don't agree with and think life would be better if they were changed. And so by disrupting the status quo, people are taking agency in their ability to change the way things are and hopefully their intent is to change things for better. 

Mary Daphne: So I wonder, what are your thoughts as to how to start going about changing the status quo? What are some steps someone can take? To do such a thing. 

Greg: Yeah. So far we've been talking about big picture, societal, status quo, changing laws, changing institutions.

Those can be really big challenges to tackle. They often require a lot of people and a lot of resources and a lot of time and luck, honestly, because oftentimes people try to change those things and fail and they get put in jail and, it doesn't end well. There are other ways to challenge the status quo at a personal level.

And these are ways that are much more approachable and can have a much more immediate and, tangible impact on the quality of your life. 

Mary Daphne: 100%. So let's talk about that, challenging the status quo within your personal life, trying to figure out ways of leveling up and not taking the same old as the, be all, end all of your life. 

Greg: Yeah. One of the status quos, I can speak for myself personally. Yes. One of the status quos that I've challenged throughout my life, throughout my adult life is this idea that we need a steady nine to five job, right? You need to be employed with a big employer.

The bigger, the better. This idea that being an employed person is the safe, low risk route to a happy. and for me, that's just never really resonated. I like to jump in and out of different projects. My view is I have a lot of faith in my own ability to provide for myself. I don't like the idea of a big company telling me what to do and having bosses telling me what to do.

I prefer to make those decisions myself. And so for me what I've been challenging is this idea that I have to have a traditional job and I get pressure from my parents, from my friends from the media that I read, right? Everyone talks about how desirable it is, to get that investment banking job or that management consulting job, right?

I went to business school where the purpose is you literally, you spend your entire time there trying to get these, high paying jobs and that just didn't interest me. Instead, I went for a random little startup out of business school something that was scrappy. It didn't pay that much and had an adventure instead. To me that's more appealing. 

Mary Daphne: So it's really interesting what you say, right? We understand what the status quo is, oftentimes by the reactions of the people around us. And the other noise that comes from society that we're constantly inundated with these messages that we see in the media, on on social media, in the news, from friend groups, from business associates, from family members, whatever it might be, where someone's checking in and saying you're not aligning with society and societal expectations. Why are you flouting convention? What's wrong with you? So we get these signals from people who, for better or for worse, share their thoughts. And sometimes I think it's done with the best of intentions. Other times it might just be, people's own insecurities that they're projecting onto you, for example, and that's when that internal, compass really needs to show up for you because just imagine, you are presented with a big job opportunity where it's a fancy job, a nine to five, we say like a cushy job, right? Good perks, good, this and that, but your heart might not be in it. And instead you've been working on a side hustle and you've made some really good strides with that. And the scary thing to do would be to say no to that nine to five job, and then to try to work on the project that you've had as your side hustle and to make something of that.

So it's really interesting, right? How do we navigate those feelings internally and then also externally with the people around us? 

Greg: Yeah and one of the big challenges with this as well is when to sta challenge the status quo, right? It doesn't always make sense. If you're just getting started in your career and you need money, maybe you have school school loans to pay off. Maybe you live in an expensive city, right? Whatever the case may be, you might need to suck it up and do something that is the status quo to get past that barrier or to get past that initial hump. But throughout your life, you will be presented with opportunities where you can challenge the status quo, and you, if you've, worked hard to create a stable foundation for yourself, you can really take advantage of those opportunities and do so.

What got me thinking about this recently was a great Tim Ferris interview with the comic book designer, I'm forgetting his name right now but one of the very famous comic book designers who worked on the incredible Hulk. And ultimately created Venom, right? Which was a huge comic book, graphic, graphic novel series super successful guy.

And he was the most sought after comic book illustrator artist at during the, in the nineties, right? During the heyday of comic books, eighties and nineties. And everyone wanted him, but he was driven crazy by the industry because there were so many rules around how you could draw the different comics.

What you could show, what you couldn't show, what you could say, what you couldn't say how you could develop a storyline. All these things he had his own opinions about. And every time he tried to do something a little different, he was intercepted and they would say, no, you can't do that.

Do it this way instead. And finally he threw up his hands and said, you know what? I know I have a great setup here. I know I have a great salary. Instead, I am going to rally as many people as I can to push back and say, we're gonna go off and do our own thing. We're gonna self-publish, which was unheard of at the time.

But he ended up doing that and becoming one of the most successful comic book creators of all time. 

Mary Daphne: 100%. So it's really interesting here. What I'm understanding from that sort of anecdote is timing is everything, right? If this person did this right in the nascent stages, the early stages of his career, it would have a very different outcome.

He wouldn't really have established himself as a comic book illustrator. He wouldn't have the people to rally. To say, yeah, come on. Let's do this together. He needed that experience to be able to then say, I've done what convention says I've done the status quo. Now I'm ready to flout convention.

I'm ready to transcend the status quo and challenge it. 

Greg: Exactly right. The status quo can help you, right? It can be a tool that you use for as long as you need it, all the while knowing in the back of the head, in your, of your head that you plan to challenge it at some point in some way.

And actually approaching it that way is very powerful because, like I said, you can build this foundation, this really solid foundation, whether it's a foundation of money or it's a foundation of skills or knowledge or your network right? You build up, you, you take advantage of the status quo to build up that foundation, and then once you have a really solid footing, you go and challenge it.

I think that's the most successful way to do this. 

Mary Daphne: I'm in agreement with you there, Greg. We have a great expression in English, which is to pay your dues, right? So in any real industry, when you're starting to learn the ropes, when you're learning the industry, when you're trying to skill up and level up and you know you're in the beginning of something, you are going to have to pay your dues, right?

You're gonna have to do things that you don't necessarily feel like doing. Maybe the comic book writer and author didn't feel like drawing the characters the way that he was told he had to draw them or the writing that he had to do or whatever it is. So you pay your dues up until a certain point.

So having that game plan in your mind, that exit strategy will help you make the most out of the status quo. And then figure out a way to challenge 

Greg: it. Exactly. And the trick becomes when you have that opportunity to take it, right? Because what happens often is staying in the status quo is comfortable.

And when the opportunity finally comes to challenge it, you're like, actually I'm really comfortable where I am. I don't really wanna risk you know, shaking things up, I'm just gonna stick to what I have here. And you can do that but you might regret it, right? The older you get, the fewer opportunities you have to challenge the status quo.

And I always like to think on my deathbed, will I be proud of the things I accomplished? Or more importantly, it's not even so much that I accomplished, it's more so will I be proud of the risks that I took of the things that I attempted. I actually think the attempt is more important than the outcome, and I think the more that I challenge the status quo in a responsible way, the happier I'll be with what I've attempted at the end of the day.

Mary Daphne: It's definitely about the journey and just thinking about the trade off. So you could say that you'll stay in that cushy job, but then what happens when you know you wish you had taken that route when you could have, and you then find yourself saying, oh, I have all these regrets. I really should have coulda woulda, coulda, shoulda, whatever it is.

And if you had taken the challenging route, and which is very challenging, fraught with a lot of difficulty, but had an adventure, learned a lot, got outta your comfort zone, and that led you into cooler opportunities, different things that ultimately paved the way for a different type of success for you, then maybe it was all worth it in the end. So really putting it in the perspective of the journey, not so much as the destination. So really trying to understand which journey and am I going to prefer more? 

Greg: Yeah, I really like that framing. 

Mary Daphne: So many cool things to think about. I would challenge you to start thinking about what ways you've already challenged the status quo.

Is it by learning English? Is it by taking on certain jobs, creating your own opportunities, whatever it is, just share that with us. We're always open to your ideas and your thoughts and input from you as well, so we'd love to know that. And definitely check out the blog post that goes with this lesson, you'll find the transcript as well as the worksheet that you can get if you're signed up for our newsletter and we love hearing from you.

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