It was August 24, 2016.  I was living in Bellevue Washington with my wife Matti, and thirty years prior on this exact day, I was born into the world.  To my knowledge, nothing special was planned for my 30th birthday (I have always scoffed a little at birthdays once you pass 25).  As Matti told me she had reservations at our favorite Italian restaurant, my face muscles involuntarily expanded into a joyful toothy grin, with the anticipation of the 1500 calorie white carb binge I was hours away from.

Walking into the restaurant, I noticed a car that looked just like a friend of mines.

I thought, “thats weird, I wonder what he is up to.”

We stepped into the restaurant and I was taken aback by ten familiar faces shouting “happy birthday,” all at the same time.

Totally surprised, I looked at my wife who was beaming over the assembly of so many of our closest friends coming together to celebrate my day.

After a few hours, the inevitable happened.  A big cake presented itself with 30 sparkling candles adorned across its face.  As the birthday song begun, I started feeling uncomfortable.  

All the eyes of so many of the people I cared about were on me.  I realized I had two choices here.  I could either smile awkwardly at the crowd of people, OR, I could do the classic move of pretending I’m the music director of the choir, waving my hands up and down to lighten the load of the uncomfortable attention.

I realized then, that everyone feels a little weird when they are having “Happy Birthday” sung to them.  And here is why.

  1. We are tribal

It has been said that solitary confinement with prisoners actually creates bigger social issues with the inmate.  And babies who are not held end up having extreme learning issues.  The reason is, we were created with a need to belong, be with others, and be a part of a pack.  

2. Attention is uncomfortable

On the flip side of needing to be a part of a pack, is that when we are no longer apart of a pack, we panic.  In a way, when people start putting attention on you, you essentially are stepping away from the crowd for a moment, and now you are alone (at least on a primal level, your brain thinks you are).

3. Standing out brings vulnerability

When you look at a pack of gazelles being chased by a lion, the lion always tries to isolate one of them.  The gazelle looks for protection from the group and when it is isolated, it is vulnerable.  This primal part of our brain rears up and yells panic.

This is important for TWO reasons

1.  Growth only comes from temporary pain.

2. How you do anything, is how you do everything.

If you find yourself being uncomfortable when attention is on you for your birthday, there is a good chance you also get uncomfortable when you start to excel at something more than your peers.  And running from attention like that, usually manifests as some type of self sabotage.

So If you want to stand out an accomplish things in your life, you are going to have to be OK standing alone.  Which means getting comfortable being uncomfortable.  If you can learn that, you will enjoy where life takes you.

Here’s to Loving the Process,