Mel Savage Executive Coaching
The Highly Valued Leader Podcast - Building Your Brand

Episode 57 – The Price of Your Success

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Episode 57 - The Price of Your Success

Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourselves: discomfort is the currency of your success.

Let’s cut to the chase because being aware of the price isn’t sufficient; you need the know-how to make those discomfort payments. I won’t sugarcoat it—this isn’t a walk in the park. The concept sounds simpler than it plays out. Your primal brain resists discomfort fervently, wired to shield you from it. But guess what? You, the high-achiever, needn’t relinquish the wheel to your survival instincts.

Tune in as I arm you with insights into the flavors of discomfort – the ones that fortify your success versus those that derail it. Not all discomfort is created equal.

Additionally, I’ll divulge the daily ritual that equips me to identify discomfort’s territories. With this tool in your arsenal, you can channel your time and energy astutely, accelerating your journey toward success.

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Disclaimer: Some of the content and information mentioned in this episode might no longer be applicable. This includes references to specific links, courses, or programs. As a result, all the links mentioned will now redirect you to our current website. There, you’ll find up-to-date information, resources, and exciting new content to support your journey. We appreciate your understanding and unwavering support.

Hey there, my friends. My ambitious successful friends, how are you? I got to tell you, I am feeling amazing today because today is the first day we are out of lockdown. We have been in lockdown since the day after Christmas. So seven weeks. I don’t know what it is. It’s got to be about seven weeks. 

My roots or as I call them, my executive highlights are not doing so well. I’ve got like two inches of roots. I’ve been able to get my hair cut. My dogs have been able to get groomed. My cleaners haven’t been able to come to the house. Yes, I know. First-world problems. But that’s all over now because the lockdown is over, and so everything’s back open again. And I’m really really excited. 

Of course, I totally respect lockdown. I do. I understand it. I do it. I, of course, am one of those people. I wear the mask, I follow the rules. I’m doing all these things because one, I really don’t want other people to get hurt. And two, I really care about the people in our healthcare system who are being overwhelmed right now. And I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed, as I’m sure a lot of you do. So I don’t want to be adding to the problem if I can help it. But I have to say, I have a hair appointment on Friday and I’m super psyched for it. 

But that’s not why you won’t listen to me today, I just want to tell you that today is an awesome day. And what we’re talking about today is awesome, too. Because when the realization of what I’m going to tell you today actually sunk in, it’s not brain surgery what I’m going to tell you today; but when it actually sunk in, when I finally heard it the right way that connected with me, the number of times I needed to hear it, it changed the game for me. 

Today we are talking about the cost of your success. And some people think the cost of your success is time and some people think it’s money. And maybe for some of you, it is a little bit of both of those. But those things alone aren’t going to make you help you reach your goals. It’s not going to help you get the success that you’re going after success. In any situation, when you’re going after anything, I don’t care what it is, the cost of success is the level of discomfort that you are willing to endure. And when I say endure, I’m not saying put up with or just white-knuckle your way through it. It’s like you’re willing to invite in. 

The cost of success is the amount of discomfort you are willing to feel in your life. And you’re like, What discomfort? What do you mean? Of course, I’m willing to feel uncomfortable. But, what are you? If there is a goal out there in your life, and certainly in your career, that you’re having trouble conquering, it’s because you are uncomfortable with being uncomfortable, which by the way is 100% normal because that’s the way our brains were designed to work. We’re going to talk all about that today. 

But your success is directly correlated to the amount of discomfort that you are willing to feel, that you are willing to invite into your life. The speed of your success is also linked to your ability to how much discomfort are you willing to allow, how often essentially, how much can you take, and how much are you willing to feel. So I want to get into this because if discomfort is the, I’m not going to say the cost of your success, but let’s say it’s the price of your success. If discomfort is the price of you reaching all of your goals, then let’s take a minute to understand discomfort. 

I have said so many times that everything we do or don’t do is because we want to feel or avoid feeling a certain way. Our brains are designed to avoid pain and discomfort. Quite often, when we’re not really conscious of what we’re doing when we’re just on autopilot; when we let our brains do their thing, it’s going to avoid discomfort. It’s going to fight against you doing things that make you uncomfortable. And so it’s going to push it away. And when you push away discomfort, you tend to slow down your progress toward reaching your goals. 

What this podcast is going to be about is really understanding what comfort is, what it looks like, how it shows up for you, and really getting wise to the excuses and the cons that your brain is going to feed you. Because it’s trying to keep you safe. It doesn’t want you to feel uncomfortable. It’s doing its job. That’s the way it was designed to do things. But if we want to grow, we need to figure out how to get past that. 

So it makes sense to understand what discomfort is and how to recognize it. That’s going to help you decide what kind of discomfort you actually want to pursue, right to reach your goals. Because there’s all different kinds of discomfort and we’re going to talk about that. 

Once you decide and get really wise about the kind of discomfort that you want to feel and the kind of discomfort that actually moves you forward, then you can be successful faster. You become that success story that you know that you’re capable of becoming. That’s really the transformation that I want to help you create today–helping you become aware of the discomfort.  So you can choose consciously with your strategic brain versus your survival brain and allow the discomfort as the price you’re paying for reaching your goals. 

In some ways, this is really actually great news because you can control the amount of discomfort that you’re willing to feel. It’s just learning to do that like it’s completely within your control. That is the great part about this. That being said, it takes practice. It takes dedication, strength, foresight, and awareness to do this kind of stuff. And that’s why quite often, people get coaching because this is the kind of stuff that coaching really helps. A lot of the time, people think career coaches are like, Oh, help me write my resume. 

For me, I call myself a life coach for careers because I’m not helping people write their resumes and all that kind of stuff. What I’m doing is helping people manage their minds so that they can reach their goals. This is the kind of stuff that helps you reach your goals. Where are you getting caught up? Where are you avoiding the discomfort? And if you can understand that, then you can get to your goals faster and easier. 

Today, we talk about discomfort because growth comes from doing things you’ve never done before. Allowing yourself to learn and fail along the way. Never giving up learning and failing and not giving up are all things that are uncomfortable It sounds awesome, all those things, but it takes a lot of courage. And that’s why most people fail. That’s why most people don’t reach their goals and they give up because it’s uncomfortable because it takes a lot of courage. 

But like I said, discomfort is the price of your goal. And so, I want to make sure that you’re clear on the different kinds of discomfort that you might feel because there are some kinds of discomfort that serve you and actually move you forward. And there are some kinds of discomfort that actually keep you stuck. In some cases, moves you backward. 

I want to start with my own personal story that actually embodies both kinds of discomfort. I am running on the treadmill. You might have heard me talking about this before, but around Christmas time, I bought an iFit, or a NordicTrack treadmill to sign up for the iFit program. I’m on it. I’m working towards running a 5k. And I’m almost there, pretty much there. But it’s not as graceful as I would have liked it to be. I got to be honest, it’s not as easy as it was for me 10 years ago to do this. And that’s uncomfortable. Like just the thoughts I have around that. Like, how come this is so hard? Am I getting too old? All that kind of stuff. That’s uncomfortable. 

Because there’s some disappointment in that for me. But the biggest part, I think that was disappointing or uncomfortable for me with this is getting to any goal is not a straight line. I want it to be a straight line. When I say a straight line, I want to be like, Today I run this program perfectly. And then tomorrow, I’d run the next program perfectly and the next one, and it’s never hard and I never have a bad day and I never give up. I want it to be like step one, step two, step three. And every step, I just nail it. That’s for me a straight line. 

But success is not that. It’s this wobbly, messy thing where day one is great and day two is great, and then day three, I wobble and on day four, I skip. And then day five, I’m like, Let’s go back to day three. Let’s do this. It’s very, very messy. It’s messy getting to a goal. I hate messy. I like perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind when other people are messy. But for me, I need to not be messy. This thing is like somehow, I need to be superhuman. 

The discomfort for me in this is allowing this journey to 5k to be what it is. Allowing it to have the courage to be imperfect, allowing this journey to be imperfect. So there’s some disappointment around it. It’s not as easy as it used to be. There’s courage that I need to have around just keep showing up and let the journey be what it is, even if I skip a day or whatever. This morning I ran but last week was a gong show. It was like this constant battle in my brain and I was mad at myself for letting it be a battle. There’s the discomfort of beating myself up when I feel like I’m ‘not doing it right’ and feeling bad about myself. 

I’m going to talk about which discomfort is which right now, which one serves me, and which one doesn’t. But I think you’re picking it out as part of my story, which of the discomforts were serving me and which one wasn’t? Then this week, it was like I needed to have the courage again to start. I need to believe in myself. Even though I was so strong in January, February has been really hard, for whatever reason. I need to regroup in my brain. So this whole journey has been like this up and down, where it was, I started great and then it came down. Then I was beating myself up, and I was disappointed. Then I couldn’t do as much as I wanted to do and then I would push myself forward. 

It’s this constant up-and-down thing. And within that, there was discomfort that was helping me get closer to my goal. And then there was discomfort that was keeping me safe and small. There was shame. There was embarrassment because I have lots of friends now who have been doing it ever since I bought my NordicTrack, and I was like, This is the best! So now, four of my friends have bought one too. And they’re like, How are you doing? I’m like, Man, I didn’t work out this week. There was that sort of stuff going on as well. 

So all of these different kinds of discomfort are happening to me throughout this whole process. What helps me grow the fastest is recognizing which type of discomfort I’m in and then making a choice because it’s all uncomfortable. There are days that it feels awesome, and that’s great. My mind is in the right place and I can get on a roll. And then my survival brain kicks in because it wants to keep me safe. It doesn’t like me exerting all this energy. So it’s like, But this is scary. But this hurts. Oh, you’re out of breath. Oh, you should slow down. You’re really tired. It’s telling me all these things. So I have to recognize the messages my brain is sending me and decide which ones I want to listen to. 

I think it’s really important that we just break down which discomfort is which and how you can recognize it. What I like to do is I’d like to imagine discomfort as this huge bucket, like this pail, if you will, of different kinds of emotions. For me, discomfort isn’t an emotion. Discomfort is a word we use for lots of other emotions because discomfort can come from many different places. And that’s what I think is important is we use this word of discomfort or uncomfortable as a blanket emotional statement when really there are all these other emotions underneath it. 

Because discomfort comes from things like fear, rejection, failure, deprivation, doubt, courage, resilience, discipline, and commitment. They’re not all negative emotions. But none of them are easy. Fear, rejection, failure, deprivation, and doubt, some of those for some people can be negative, and some of them can be not negative. Failure, depending on how you look at it can be something that is something you need, and you look forward to because you can understand more once you fail, but for some people, failure is terrifying. 

Courage, commitment, resilience, discipline, and certainty; all sound like lovely, beautiful, positive emotions, but they are uncomfortable. Courage is basically taking action in the face of fear. Uncomfortable commitment is taking action when you don’t want to take action. Resilience is getting back up again, standing back up again when you have fallen down. Discipline is like focus. These are things that are amazing, yet uncomfortable. But in order to reach our goals, there’s this success formula that I’ve talked about before in one of my podcasts where success equals worthy attempts minus failure

In the case of my getting to a 5k, success equals basically how many times I get on the treadmill, and finish my workouts minus the number of times I get on the treadmill and quit early or don’t get on the treadmill or whatever. If it was you, say, working on a new skill. I always do presentation skills because lots of people struggle with that, like getting up and talking to people and that kind of thing. But success for you could be the number of times you get up there and present, minus the number of times you forget your line or screw up the slide or say you don’t want to do it, or avoid presenting altogether. So it’s the combination of those things. 

I would say to you, too, if you’re a manager of people, as a sidebar here, it’s success for your team, let’s say, you have a department goal that you’re trying to reach. Remember that success is still the number of worthy attempts minus failure. Your team is not going to get it perfect every time. Are they making worthy attempts? Are they pushing themselves? Are they doing the things that need to be done to move your department forward? Minus the failures. That’s where the success is going to go. So allowing them to fail, but making sure we learn from those failures. Use those failures as fodder for making the next worthy attempt even stronger. 

So a lot of managers to people don’t want their teams to fail because the survival brain, a part of our brain likes predictability. It likes consistency. It doesn’t like messiness. It likes perfection and all those things. So the idea of failure is threatening because the brain thinks it means danger or death, or whatever it is. Our brain is wired to avoid it. But allowing it, learning from it, and continuing to take steps forward, all of those are very uncomfortable but critical to reaching your goals. Uncomfortable yet critical. So it’s really training your brain. 

The first thing I always say to people is what emotions are in your bucket. So you have this bucket of discomfort full of emotions, what emotions are in your bucket? For me, it always depends on the goal first. So if your goal is a promotion and within that promotion, you’ve got all these little mini goals. Maybe things that you need to learn how to do, relationships you need to build, and mindset things you need to manage, or whatever it is. You have these things going on. What are the emotions that come up as you’re trying to do all of those things? 

Let’s say you’re going on a job search, what are the emotions that are going to come up that are uncomfortable? Fear, rejection, humiliation, courage, resilience. It’s all the same things, basically. But for you, which ones are really rising to the surface? Weight Loss, for instance, or this journey I’m on with the 5k, which is part of my weight loss journey. I’m feeling a lot of ‘deprivation’ because I’m depriving myself of things I like to eat before. So I’m feeling all these urges to eat cookies, or whatever it is. 

I know that’s going to be part of my discomfort. It’s allowing myself to feel this deprivation, allowing myself to feel the failure, allowing myself to feel judgment from myself, as well as little jokes from my friends, because they’re competitive. We all have this goal, and we’re all on the iFit thing together. So I’m prepared for those emotions. Some days, I’m more prepared than others. And that’s part of it. Some days, you’re not going to be perfect.

First of all, I want to say to you that whatever goal you have, what are the uncomfortable emotions that you’re feeling? That’s one of the things that you can do. And then you want to take those uncomfortable emotions and say, Which ones propel me forward, and which ones keep me stuck and spinning? 

A lot of the time, when I say discomfort is the price of your goals, discomfort is the price of your success, and someone feels judgment, shame, or disappointment and they stop doing stuff or fear, let’s say a failure and they think that’s uncomfortable like, Well, I’m feeling fear. I’m not doing anything. That’s discomfort. I’m supposed to be feeling this. Yes, but it’s also not moving you forward. 

In my 5k example, I’m feeling all the discomfort. I’m not just feeling one kind of discomfort. But being aware of which of the discomfort I want to feel more of, which one is propelling me forward versus which one is keeping me stuck, helps me choose which kind of discomfort I want to feel. It helps me choose. One discomfort is basically, the discomfort of growth. And the other one, in a large way, is helping me hide or beat myself up, or giving myself a break from all of this stuff. 

That’s what you want to do. You really want to make the list of emotions, and then decide which ones are serving you and which ones aren’t. It’s hard for me to say, these emotions are discomfort that serves and these emotions are discomfort that spins. That’s the way I frame it. Discomfort that serves versus discomfort that spins. Because for everyone, it’s different, and then for every situation, it can be different. 

Like fear is part of courage. Fear can be part of discomfort that serves in little bursts. But if you’re always operating from fear, that’s going to be exhausting. After a while, you want to stop that cycle. But fear can serve you and fear can also spin you. Rejection, humiliation, those things usually shut you down. But something like failure, feeling failure, or shame, for instance, the shame part of failure shuts you down. But failure can also be part of resilience. It’s hard to say it’s one or the other. 

Only you will know, because you know you. If you sit down and actually think about you, you know where it’s coming from. If you don’t know where it’s coming from, that’s where you want to find a coach who is going to help you. If you’re really serious about reaching your goals, a coach is someone who is trained to help you separate your emotions, understand where they’re coming from, and then allow yourself to get past them through them so that you can reach your goal. 

Once you know what your emotions are, you can ask yourself. One of the things that’s a good trick is saying, I feel fear right now. What’s the thought that’s driving this fear? Or I’m feeling failure right now. Or I’m feeling humiliation right now, what’s the thought that’s driving that?  If your thought is something like, I’m not good at this, this is too hard. This is confusing. That kind of thing. I’m never going to be able to do this. I’m not good enough, and all of that kind of stuff. If those are the thoughts you’re having, that is probably discomfort that’s spinning you out. 

Because you’re beating yourself down, you’re judging yourself, you’re holding yourself back from really taking action. You’re putting yourself in this spinning, suffering, state of discomfort. But if you’re having thoughts, like, I want to be better. I’m trying something new. I’m putting myself out there. I’m challenging myself to do new things. Just from the thought, you can kind of hear yourself, Yes, this is me moving myself forward. Versus the kinds of thoughts like, I’m not good enough. This is never going to work. This hurts. Why do I bother? 

Right away, you can hear those thoughts are going to be the thoughts that keep you spinning. All of those thoughts create discomfort. All of those thoughts create emotions that are uncomfortable, even when you’re saying, I want to be better. And that creates courage or resilience or depends on you or motivation or whatever. It’s still uncomfortable. So it’s fine either way. You just have to know and expect it. And the more you’re aware of the kind of discomfort that you’re feeling and where it’s coming from, the more that you can switch. 

You can say, No, I’m going down the rabbit hole here. I’m going down into discomfort that’s going to spin me out. I need to regroup here. One of the ways that I have found the most useful for me to be able to really understand where my discomfort is coming from is I do for myself a daily post analysis. I call it journaling. You can call it paper thinking. You can call it post-analysis, whatever it is, but it’s like getting my thoughts out of my head, and I have it in four buckets that I use. 

One is what’s working. I always start with what’s working. I write down what worked today. What didn’t work is the next bucket. First, I always go with what’s working. I want to start on the positive, all the things that are working, and what didn’t work. And then what am I going to do differently? Those are the three standards. And that really helps me. When I say what worked, what didn’t work, and what will I do differently, it’s not just about the actions. 

As I look at the actions, like I got on the treadmill today, it was great. I finished my workout. I was so proud of myself. I look at the actions, then I also look at the emotions behind those actions. So I got on the treadmill today. What was that emotion? It was determination that helped me get there. And what was the thought behind that? I deserve this was my thought today. I want this was my thought today. I want this doesn’t always drive happiness, easiness, and joy. I want this means focus, determination, and courage. So I always go to what was my action? What was the emotion that I felt that helped me take that action? What was the thought behind the motion? And I do that for what’s working, what didn’t work, and what will I do differently. 

Then I have this fourth question that I ask. It’s more of a statement, a fill-in-the-blank statement. It’s what was my little step forward. In fact, to frame it, my little step forward was… It’s usually something that’s coming from what’s working, but it’s like the new thing I learned or thing that really worked or thing that I’m exceptionally proud of for myself. 

My little step forward yesterday, was that I actually decided to stop a program that was not inspiring to me and start a new one. And that’s hard for me because it feels like I’m quitting sometimes, but I’m not quitting. I was pushing myself to do this program with this trainer that I didn’t because I had started it and I thought, I started it so I’m going to finish it. But then I thought to myself, there are all of these other programs in here. Why don’t I just find one with a trainer that I actually like, in a place of the world that I actually want to visit? So then I did that and it was awesome. 

For me, a little step forward was making the decision to make a change without feeling like a failure. And that’s different for everyone. I think the important thing to know is that discomfort is like a loving discipline. When you actually are focused on letting yourself feel the discomfort that serves you, it’s like a love discipline. Discomfort is a form of self-care. If you think about self-care, it’s not all spas and robes and massages. Self-care is not a cuddle. Yes, you can do a little treat for yourself. 

But mostly, self-care is eating the things that are good for you, exercising, getting dressed in the morning, looking your best, treating yourself well, not beating the crap out of yourself with negative self-talk, pushing yourself through fear to try new things at work, all of those kinds of things, and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. When I first started working from home, my daily self-care went out the window. 

People often people think, Oh, I wish I could work from home because I’m going to have all this time. If I could just work from home, I would cook meals every night. I would work out every day because I have all this time on my hands. But it’s not the time that you need to perform self-care. It’s the willingness to feel uncomfortable. It’s the willingness to do things. It’s the thinking in your brain that allows you to do it. 

I had all of this fear when I first started working from home that my business wasn’t going to work out. And how would I replace my income and bla bla bla bla bla. I didn’t have to get dressed, I didn’t have to brush my hair, I didn’t have to exercise every morning, or even put makeup on if I didn’t want to, and all of those things. All sudden, doing all those things became a choice. It was always a choice that I was making. But I was doing it for other people like I was choosing to brush my hair and brush my teeth, and get dressed because other people expected it of me. 

Now, I have to decide if I want to do it for me. I learned to value myself. So that was an uncomfortable transition, actually getting back into a routine of getting up and getting dressed top and bottom because people don’t see the top half of me most of the time, putting makeup on, and doing all this stuff. That was uncomfortable getting into that routine. Working out in the morning, getting up at six o’clock in the morning when I didn’t have to commute, sometimes 5:30. Self-care is work. Self-care is putting yourself in uncomfortable situations for you, not for someone else. That’s what the discomfort of growth is all about. 

I want to end today with just a little bit of a summary. We’re talking today about discomfort as the price of growth. Discomfort serves us at the highest level, and it allows you to be the best version of yourself. First, you want to understand the emotions that make up your discomfort, then you want to understand which discomfort is the discomfort that serves you versus this discomfort that spins you out. You do that by just recognizing the emotions and understanding the thoughts behind those emotions. 

Then the more you get aware of that, which I do with that daily practice of what’s working, what didn’t work, what will I do differently, my little step forward, that little ritual that I have, that helps me get aware so that I can choose my thoughts. I can choose the discomfort I want. And I’m doing it for my own growth, not for anyone else. And that is so empowering. 

The last little idea that I want to leave you with is when you go up against a goal, you’re going to feel discomfort. The two sides of the coin on this are not comfort and discomfort. The two sides of the coin are discomfort that serves and discomfort that spins. So you’re going to feel discomfort, anyway. The question then becomes, if discomfort is the currency of your goal, where do you want to spend your energy? Where do you want to spend your discomfort?  Where do you want to invest your energy, into the discomfort that serves or the discomfort that doesn’t? Because they’re both uncomfortable, my friends, but the choice is yours. 

Have a fantastic day and I will talk to you next week. Bye for now. 



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I have 20+ years working as a leader in the corporate world. I know what you need to do. And I combine that with four years of training as a cognitive behavioral coach. I know how to help you naturally think like the leader you want to be.

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Mel Savage

I have 20+ years working as a leader in the corporate world. I know what you need to do. And I combine that with four years of training as a cognitive behavioral coach. I know how to help you naturally think like the leader you want to be.
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