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A Night in Paris: Going Beyond My Comfort Zone

A Night in Paris - Chris Cook at Jim Haynes Dinner

“In France, they kiss on Main Street—amour, mama, not cheap display” (as Joni Mitchell would say).

Are you living your life within your comfort zone? Most of us are. But try to imagine what is possible when you move beyond your comfort zone. All our lives, we’ve been conditioned to move toward the familiar and stay clear of the unknown. However, when we live this way, what are we missing out on?

A few months ago, I heard a story on NPR about a guy in Paris who hosts a dinner for 50–80 people every Sunday night in his atelier. His name is Jim Haynes, and he has been doing this for 35 years. To receive an invitation, one merely has to email Jim with a short blurb about yourself and the date you hope to attend.

As luck would have it, I was going to be in Paris one Sunday this July, so I sent Jim an email and got an invitation! Cool, I thought! But that’s when the skeptics started with their rousing chorus of, “Are you crazy? You don’t know this guy. He could be a [insert your word of choice here]. What’s he trying to sell you? Is this to raise money for something?” and so on. But I love to meet people and expand my network, so I got my Metro ticket and headed his way.

I share this because my leap of faith brought me into contact with an array of new people—both travelers and residents—who were also looking to expand their networks. There was a budding actor from New York studying clowning in Paris, an HR professional from Boulder who was chasing her dream of finishing that novel, an adjunct English teacher from the University of Maine (a self-described Francophile), a jazz pianist from Toronto, an NYU student originally from Cairo and about 60 other seekers.Chris Cook and Jim Haynes in Paris, France

Talking with Jim at the end of the night, I listened to him recount many a story involving celebrities. But the stories that seemed to resonate most deeply were the ones involving meetings that resulted in marriages, children, friendships and even business ventures.

This is Jim’s dream—to introduce the whole world—and he is continuing to illustrate every week how something special can happen when you take the opportunity to move outside your usual comfort zone.

What have you done lately to explore beyond your day-to-day? What possibilities have arisen?