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About Me
Page last updated 07/04/2017

My name is Andy. 
I'm currently living in Seeley Lake, MT having just moved here from Port Orange, Florida.
It is generally 40 degrees colder here in western Montana than it is in Port Orange (or at least it seems that way especially in winter) and will take some getting used to.  I am adjusting except for those annoying runny noses.

Previously, I owned and managed a successful pastry shop for 23-1/2 years.  For many of those years, I worked about 70 hours a week and sometimes even 90 hours.  I remember during some Christmas holidays I worked 48 hours straight without any sleep.  I loved making and decorating cakes but working that hard was stressful.  When you own a business like that, one has a commitment to one's customers to complete the orders accepted.  Not having extra help during the holidays meant that I had to pitch in even harder to get the orders completed.  That was over 17 years ago.
To this day, I still occasionally dream at night that I am working there.

I have some great mechanical skills and can repair almost anything.  I also love hiking and riding bikes.

My latest passion is learning more about website development.
This website is my own creation from scratch and will continue to grow.

I am a little bit of a writer and poet and I especially love the poetry of Robert Service since having become acquainted with his work back in the early 70's.  I have memorized several of them including the popular "The Cremation of Sam Magee", The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill" and "The Joy of Being Poor".  The former can be seen on youtube here and the latter here.

I have also written a number of short "essays" with one reprinted below:

Nothing Grows in Your Comfort Zone - Is It True?
2016 by Andy Christen

I challenge the notion that "nothing grows in your comfort zone". I contend that this, possibly overused, aphorism spoken by motivational speakers is not at all true and I'll give you my reasons for it.

Many aphorisms on their surface, when used in a certain context, have that ring of truth. Aphorisms having a ring of truth can be very effective in swaying an audience. There is a technique in play here and it's called faith-prestige. It's akin to hypnotic suggestion. The speaker can say almost anything and you will find audience members nodding their heads in agreement. Preachers use this technique all the time by stating passages from the bible with no challenge by audience members. And rightly so; because the congregation is not there to challenge the speaker but rather to accept the message. In many cases, other than in church, the audience has paid to see the speaker in action and in so doing, has already pre-programmed their collective minds to accept the primary message as truth.

Faith-prestige comes into play even before the audience sits in their seats. According to The Amazing Kreskin in his book, "Secrets of the Amazing Kreskin", on page 77 he states that "The essential quality that makes suggestion work is faith-prestige. Once that's established, the rest comes easy. Put simply, faith-prestige is a conviction-like trust in the suggester on the respect the subject feels for his ability and authority. We see faith-prestige in action every day. ...Faith-prestige can exist on a very large scale."
He goes on to say, "Most people are much more susceptible to suggestion when they're part of a crowd than they would be otherwise, and the larger the crowd, the more suggestible it is.  Part of the explanation is that the crowd response seems to validate our own feelings, forced by hundreds or thousands of crowd members that a particular response is appropriate."

I would contend that as an audience member in a church or otherwise, simply accepting the message of the speaker without challenging it in your mind is part of a phenomenon known as "groupthink". As part of a large group, your path of least resistance is simply to accept the messages of the speaker and move on so as not to appear contentious, insensitive or out-of-place. Personally, I don't follow the crowd. I prefer deeper critical thinking.

Have you been hit with the notion that "nothing grows in your comfort zone?"  Let's examine this a little more closely.  In fairness to the speaker, I certainly understand what he or she is trying to accomplish by using this short quip. They want you to realize that you need to step out of the mindset of the personality you think you are, to become someone else; someone who is more successful, more wealthy, more famous, or more like them. They want you to break the mold you've made for yourself and make a new mold offering greater possibilities than you thought could ever be likely for you. I get it. No pain no gain. I understand the concept of breaking out of one's shell to become a "better" personality and I understand that this can be fearful, upsetting and "uncomfortable". I'm not doubting for a minute that this is very true. Napoleon Hill in his epic book, "Think and Grow Rich" once said that, "every adversity has within it, the seed of an equivalent or greater advantage."  There are countless examples in life of adversity leading to growth. So their point is well taken.

But the message is not for everyone. Moreover, the speaker is actually selling you something and you are accepting it knowingly (consciously) or unknowingly (subconsciously). The aphorisms (many with half-truths) along with faith-prestige are part of their toolbox. Nothing being sold in this world today is "for everyone" and getting out of your comfort zone is one of them, but when you do, you can expect something positive to come of it. Having said this in the speaker's favor I will now present another side of life that they may be missing.

To begin, we are born into a comfort zone. The warm, loving, nurturing place where most of us were born is a comfort zone. This is a place where babies start their lives in safety and security without fear of harm. This is necessary for an emotionally well adjusted child. The world is a scary place and what mother or father would not want to protect their child from all of the scary things in the world? From these secure beginnings come all of the pain and pleasures and possibilities that life has to offer.

Besides security, comfort zones also offer dreams and excitement for the future. My own childhood was a comfort zone. I look back on my childhood with fondness because it provided the foundation of who I became as an adult. I was able to dream about the future and only saw great things to come for the country. (Reality didn't quite live up to those dreams.) I was excited by all of the possibilities. I was able to contemplate new ideas or things that I could invent and was very creative. I read a lot and had a zest for learning new things. In the environment of a stable and loving family, I grew strong and fearless to some degree; even to the point of overlooking possible pitfalls.

Of course, not everything was peachy. Yes I had some fears and believed everyone else had them too. Some of that was learned after suffering a few accidents and some others just seemed to be there from the start. One thing I CAN tell you is that LOVE of life and LOVE of learning grew out of my comfort zone.  Besides Love, there is also Caring, Pleasure, and Serenity in my comfort zone. Beauty grows in comfort zones. Flowers, plants and trees... heck, life itself all grow in their respective comfort zones.

My parents took all of us kids on trips to the national parks in the summer. From those wonderful experiences grew even more positives; "Awe" at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Sequoia, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks; "Inspiration" at Mount Rushmore and Monticello; "Pride" at the Kennedy Space Center and the Statue of Liberty; and "Gratitude" at the Alamo and Independence Hall in Philadelphia; they all grew from my comfort zone. We were also taken to Disneyland and the Atlantic City Boardwalk piers by our parents not to mention the beaches. "Joy" and "Amusement" also grew from my comfort zone.

A quick internet search under "nothing grows in your comfort zone" yields a lot of results. At the top of the list was a site by a Dr. Jacki Jones who provided this pictogram shown below:

Notice what she includes in her comfort zone circle: Mediocre Life, Surviving, Getting by, Fear, and Depression. Yet in her text, even Dr. Jacki Jones describes your comfort zone as a "Beautiful Place".
"Ahhh the ever familiar comfort zone. We all have one. It's the place of stillness and quietness. It's a beautiful place, a familiar place. We know where things are, we understand how things are supposed to work. We rest well there because it's where we can hide away from the challenges of life. It's where things are normal."


Who's hiding? I say we rest well in our comfort zones because the body needs to rest in comfort. Let's face it. Even motivational speakers retreat to their comfort zones at the end of the day. The challenges of life will be there for us regardless of who we are. From that, there is no escape except in death.

When I described my comfort zone, I didn't include: Mediocre Life, Surviving, Getting by, Fear, and Depression. Instead I found: Dreams, Excitement, Love, Caring, Pleasure, Serenity, Beauty, Awe, Inspiration, Pride, Gratitude, Joy and Amusement. And Dr. Jacki Jones has has placed some things OUTSIDE the comfort zone circle that I would include INSIDE: Security, Certainty, Fulfillment. These all came from my comfort zone.

Some would retort that that kind of comfort zone is not what they are referring to. They would say that it pertains to who you can become in your adult life. Perhaps so, but many are already happy in their adult lives. What of writers, authors, poets, nature and tour guides, painters, pilots, and countless others who are already content and loving life and living in great relationships? Do they too need to leave this "beautiful" place? I believe that literally everyone needs a comfort zone. The statement that nothing grows there is simply incorrect because in fact, we ALL grow there. And IF some of us didn't or don't have a comfort zone, I feel very sad for you.

I once came home from a long bicycle ride (in my adult life) after 2 am from being out on a dangerous lonely back-road highway with cars whizzing by, not more than a foot from me. By the time I got home, I realized that I was NEVER MORE THANKFUL that I even had a home and a wife who loved me. The feeling of love and comfort was so overwhelming that I craved and devoured myself it it and will never forget it.

But of course, the question is not if we have or have not a comfort zone but whether anything grows there. Let's not kill off the comfort zone by believing that nothing grows there. The soul grows there and in the words of Khalil Gabran in his work, "The Prophet," he says,
"Say not, "I have found the truth," but rather, "I have found a truth."
Say not, "I have found the path of the soul."
Say rather, "I have met the soul walking upon my path."
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals
."

Here's an aphorism for you to think about. "Just Because My Path Is Different, Doesn't Mean I'm Lost." (healthyplace.com)