tipping point

What's Your Tipping Point?

Few books resonate with me for longer than the time it takes to read them. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell is one that I continue to refer to in conversations, almost 10 years after reading it. THAT's impact.

Malcolm Gladwell describes the concept this way: "The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire." Gladwell's book is about social and business dynamics; imagine a seesaw with a person walking slowly up the plank, and that very small step he will take that will tip the seesaw the other direction.

I've written about starting over, the excitement and anxiety that comes with a decision to drop what you're doing and try something new. I've written about lessons learned from difficult jobs and stepping out of my comfort zone. But what brings us to the jumping off point? For most of us, that point will shift based on the movement of an external fulcrum - but what if we are moving along the plank when the fulcrum shifts? The fulcrum shift could be the loss of a job, or a traumatic event in our lives, over which we have little control.

Very few tipping points happen as suddenly as they appear. It's rare to have a true overnight sensation. Most commonly, things in our lives have been gradually shifting and we're generally unaware of those tiny steps across the plank. We are constantly learning, observing and absorbing new details, even when we don't know it or understand what is happening to us. When the fulcrum shifts, we are already moving ahead (or back), throwing us off balance. Do we notice incremental changes in our marriages before they fall apart? What about those minor details at work that are leading to our dissatisfaction - and ultimate separation from our jobs? People say "I never saw it coming" but is that really true? When we have a major breakthrough in life or at work, do we think it came out of nowhere? Or do we recognize the daily work that went into that success?

What will you be doing when the fulcrum shifts? Are you prepared for that tipping point into the next stage of your life? Can you be prepared if you don't know what that fulcrum is? I believe you can, to some extent.

The two things that can make a positive fundamental shift are attitude and intention.

I recently read a book by Whitney Johnson called Disrupt Yourself. Her book's theme is that the general movement of our lives and careers are S curves of learning, building confidence, and mastery. She suggests that at any moment we can be at a different spot in the many S curves that make up our lives. She offers tools in her book to help us identify where we are on that S curve. The premise of the book is that we are always somewhere on the curve; the trick is to figure out where we are, whether we want to be there, and how to shift or disrupt our curve if the answer is no. 

I've been blessed with a couple of connections who have pushed me forward on my seesaw, heading toward my tipping point to success in my next adventure. Each relationship I build seems to be leading me to that point. Wendy Weiner Rouge and I met on LinkedIn and scheduled a FaceTime visit. In that brief conversation, she told me about her love for Simon Sinek and his why theory. She suggested I work to figure out my why because I know my what (what I want to be doing, what makes me feel alive). For me that means coming up with a short, simple statement that can become a sort of mantra. Wendy's why is "to incite gratitude".

My next moment came with a FaceTime visit with Arminda Lindsay. I described an event I'm preparing a session for, the general outline of the session and my plans for engaging the audience. She said: "Sarah, you lit up when you talked about that. You were absolutely glowing."

That's when I realized where I am on my current S curve. That's also when I realized that I am ready for my tipping point.

When you're actively learning, growing, and beyond excited for the next part of your journey - even if you don't know the destination - that's when you're on your way toward a personal tipping point. Keep pressing, keep learning, and make sure you tell people what you want (thanks, Bruce Kasanoff) and eventually, you will hit that tipping point, making your dream a reality.

I'm not delusional. I know this tipping point is one of many in my future. I have a lot of interests I intend to explore; still, every adventure must have a beginning, a first step on the plank of that seesaw. And remember, in our individual version of the seesaw, one person doesn't have to come down in order for another to go up.

One of my favorite children's books, Just A Little Bit, describes the difficulty of a seesaw game between an elephant and a mouse. I won't spoil it for you but I'll give you a hint; the ending reminds us that just a tiny thing can make a big difference, but that every tiny addition can get us closer to our goals.

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