Bottoming Out

It is a basic tenet of life that one needs to bottom out completely before he or she can make any drastic, meaningful change in life.  Many will take exception to this idea but the facts far outweigh the opinions of the masses.  Most simply trudge through life hoping for things to change yet never reaching the point where it is bad enough to do something about.  In short, their life does not suck.  People who have crappy lives will have the willingness to alter their behavior.  Sadly, the majority of the people do not fit into this category.


People are driven by pain.  It is the easiest way to get individuals to respond.  While pleasure is a human motivator, people simply do more to avoid pain than they do to gain pleasure.  This is evident in every walk of life.  Those who do not change simply view the actions required to achieve that end as more painful than remaining the same.  That is why most experience the same thing year after year.

We all know the story of boiling a frog.  If you do not, I will relate it here.  When trying to boil a frog, the instinct is to put the water on the stove until it reaches the desired temperature and then put the frog in it.  Following this recipe will result in the frog jumping out of the water.  The reason is because the water is to drastic a change for it.  Therefore, the successful approach is to put the frog in the pot in cool water, set it on the stove, and let it boil.  The frog will literally sit there because the change in temperature is gradual.

I relate this story to point out the fact that most are like the frog.  We become accustomed to our pain.  Since it is not drastic and slapping us in the face, we grow comfortable with it.  That is why most continue along the same path.  There is no bottom because one does not realize he or she is going downhill.  The incline is so gradual that little is noticed.  Of course, if this person does look back after 30 or 40 years, then he or she notices what happened.  But, then it is often too late.

Therefore, we need to achieve a great deal of pain about the present situation if anything is going to change.  Being content with how things are never leads to advancement.  Yet most people find contentment in their misery.

Reaching A Bottom

Recovering addicts are well versed in the bottoming out process.  Many of the recovery programs talk about the need for someone to reach this point before he or she will take the action to change things.  While there are valid reasons for ceasing the addictive behavior long before, rarely does this occurs.  An alcoholic or drug addict is going to continue until there is nothing left.  Sadly, death is often the result.  The addiction is carried right to the end and a bottom never reached.  However, those who do overcome their addiction, in every instance, they will reach the point where they say "no more".

Have you reached this point?  Are you ready to make a change?  Remember, without it, no major change is likely to ensue.  As much as we like to think that people do things for virtuous reasons, the truth is we do them to avoid pain.  So, are you tired of living how you are?  Is the job too much?  Are you disgusted with how your body is shaped?  All of these questions emphasize pain.  If you can reach this point, then you might have the willingness to do something about it.  If not, keep sitting there like the frog.  Ultimately, you will be cooked.

Change is never an easy road to take.  It is more comfortable to leave things exactly how they are.  Fear is a common trait among people and fear of the unknown is at the top of the list.  Altering out behavior takes us from the known and instantly throws us into uncertainty.  When this happens, we are afraid.  The mind begins to conjure up numerous scenarios all of which reinforce this idea.  Walking through all of this is what successful people do.  However, only those with enough pain will keep going.  No matter what the pursuit, obstacles will arise.  The memory of the bottom helps to overcome these pitfalls when they arise.  Persistence is often nothing more than a desire not to go back.  The fear of experiencing that bottom is a healthy motivator.  But it only exists if one reaches it.

So I ask you, have you bottomed out?
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"I am the greatest" -Muhammad Ali

This quote was uttered by arguably the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time.  Many people who read this will take it the wrong way.  When you consider what Ali was saying, what comes to your mind?  Do you think him cocky?  Is his brashness something that turns you off?  Are you one who thinks that a person needs to show some humility and not speak in such a manner? 

If so, this article is for you.

Greatness Is Misunderstood

Greatness is one of the most misunderstood terms in the English language.  While many seem to know it when we see it, few can define it.  At the same time, greatness as a goal is something that we are conditioned to avoid.  Humility is a characteristic that we are taught is admirable to strive for.  However, going after greatness is viewed as arrogant.

Are you the greatest?  If you are like most people, you are not even close.  The average person tends to excel at mediocrity at best.  Few having the desire nor mindset to strive for greatness.  Instead they justify the shortcomings using many different rationalizations.  Ultimately, the outcome is the acceptance of mediocrity.

But the question arises, why should you not be the greatest?  What is wrong with setting out to achieve this in whatever you do?  The truth is someone has to be the greatest in every endeavor.  Right now, someone is the greatest basketball player on the planet.  There is also a person who occupies the spot as greatest attorney.  Somewhere out there is the greatest schoolteacher walking the face of the Earth.  And finally, the greatest salesperson in the world is out helping people enjoy his/her company's product.

Yet rarely do we see a person set out to be great.  Instead, an assortment of other ideas are put forth as a goal.  Regardless of what it is, the end result is usually mediocrity.  Perhaps it is time to set your sights a great deal higher.

It Is Within Everyone

Greatness is something that resides within each and every person on this planet.  The truth is the world is full of underachievers.  The human potential is absolutely incredible.  What the average person is capable of is beyond comprehension for most.  However, what most people achieve is so underwhelming it is disgusting.  If people would tap in to even 15% of their potential, most of the world's present problems would vanish in a short period of time.  Instead, most sit back and waste their life going through their mundane existence.

Excuse making is an international pastime.  To start, people in the Western cultures have distinct advantages over those who were born into parts of the world where extreme poverty reigns supreme.  The truth is that anyone in America has no excuse for not succeeding.  Claiming poverty is a horsecrap excuse.  Americans have no idea what poverty is.  If you want poverty, move to Haiti.  That is true poverty.  Western cultures offer more opportunities than people know what to do with.  Yet too many are conditioned to deny themselves greatness.

Therefore, it is time to change your outlook and decide to be great.  This is something that you are 100% capable of being.  You just need to exercise your ability to embrace it.

Get Started Right Now

People mistakenly believe that greatness is a one time event or a conclusion that is reached.  This simply is another part of the misunderstanding.  Greatness comes from being able to apply oneself as best he/she can each and every moment of the day.  Regardless of the activity, it is crucial that you be 100% present in that moment and do that task properly.  Successful people know that it is much easier to perform the action properly the first time as opposed to having to go back and do it again.  This is part of the conditioning that one needs.

Michael Jordan was considered by most to be the greatest basketball player on the planet in his time.  Obviously, he had natural skills that most others did not.  Yet, that is only part of the reason for his success.  The biggest piece was his willingness to work over the years to attain the level of greatness he desired.  Also, when his skills were honed and he was playing at the highest level against the best in the world, Jordan was known for his ability to focus in the most pressure filled situations.  His desire and level of concentration far exceeded even the greatest of athletes in the world.  In this regard, he was the greatest.  And this manifested in the results on the court.

No matter what you are doing in the next hour, approach that task like it is the 7th game of a playoff series.  Attain the mindset that it is the most important thing happening in the world.  If you are going to wash the dishes, do the very best job you canThis mundane chore can exemplify your commitment level to greatness.  Again, greatness is the result of many actions taken over a long period of time.  It is best to adopt the mindset so you can set out after it now.  

Greatness is within you.  Embrace this idea so that it can transform your life.  The time to start is now.   

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There are thousands of self help ideas out there each touting a specific thing that you need to do in order to alter your life.  Many refer to motivation, focus, goals, overcoming fear, and an assortment of other variables which ultimately create success.  Overall, I would say these are wonderful topics to discuss yet are only part of the equation.

In order to change our lives, we need to determine what is wrong.  There is an age old reference that identifying the problem is half solving the problem.  Hence, if we can isolate the problem, then we are half way to achieving the result we desire.  That is the one point that all the other concepts miss.

So what is the problem?  My answer is very simple: productivity.  People quite simply are not productive enough to be successful.  This reveals itself in two ways.  The first is that they are focusing upon the wrong thing.  In other words, the path they are traveling is complete against what they need to do to achieve.  The second way is to exert only minimal effort when tending to a particular activity.  Either of these two reasons will end up leading to failure.

Being on the wrong path is a self explanatory idea which does not need much attention.  Doing something that you despise rarely will lead to long term success.  While it might achieve a particular end such as generating a lot of money, it will not net one things such as fulfillment.  Obviously, it is up to each person to decide what success is.  Nevertheless, a lot of money does not replace the emptiness which comes from not being fulfilled in my book.

The second avenue is the one most people commonly take.  Even if they are on the proper path for their life, they seem to fail because of the effort they exert.  Productivity is the measure of action versus time.  It is a concept that few make the effort to understand but is crucial in life.  Failure to grasp this realm is what leads to people achieving mediocrity.

Time is the great equalizer.  We are all granted the same 24 hours each day.  Someone told me the other day that "it was a long week".  My response was, "no, it was 168 hours just like every week".  Time is the one constant in our lives.  There is always 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour.  That was true before we arrived on this planet and will be in operation after we depart.

Everyone knows we are granted only so many years on this planet.  Life ultimately comes to an end.  While some will live longer than others, the truth is today in terms of time, we are all on an equal basis.  The difference is how we use that time.  This is where productivity enters the picture.

I will use exercise as an example.  When one studies this arena, there are a few differences between the top athletes and the average person.  To start, the top people in this arena spend more time than the average person.  This is a choice they made and might not be in keeping with everyone else.  I can accept this.  Most are not in a position nor have the willingness to work out 4 or  5 hours a day.  People who opt for this path obviously need to sacrifice in other areas.  This tradeoff is something we are all confronted with.  There is a saying, you can do anything you want, you just can to do everything.  Time is, again, the great equalizer.

That being said, in exercise have you noticed that the top people make better use of the time they are there?  In a nutshell, they achieve a greater amount of productivity.  For each hour they spend, they attain greater results than the average person.  A professional weight lifter, as an example, will do his rep, rest, and then do the next rep.  Once that exercise routing is complete, he goes to the next one without delay.  Contrast this with the average person who delays getting started, does a set, goes and gets a drink of water, talks to the cutie working out on the way back, and then does the other set.  As you can see, this person is not going to achieve anywhere near the same results even if the same time was expended.  His or her productivity is much lower.

Success people are simple more productive than unsuccessful people.  In the time they are allotted each day, they create better results.  It really is that simple.  The effort they put into each task creates a better outcome in less time.  They understand the penalty for not doing something right which is a wasting of time.  Their approach is such where the goal is to do the very best the first time through.  Mistakes happen but not from a lack of effort or focus.  Whether the task takes 5 minutes or one hour, maximum effort is given to achieve the desired result.  In this regard, washing the dishes is the same as running a Fortune 500 company.  To look at it another way, how can one expect to run a Fortune 500 company if he or she is not even able to wash the dishes properly?  One who understands that success in life is being able to do the best job possible in the least amount of time by giving maximum effort to each and every task.  If you can do this, success is guaranteed to result.

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Laying the Perfect Brick

Perfectionism is characteristic that hinders most people.  Too often we see people who are unwilling to do things simply because of the fact that they are not perfect at it.  The truth of the matter is that whenever someone is starting a new activity, there is a tremendous learning curve.  However, over time, with practice progress is made.  The key factor is the person started the activity.

There is a reverse to this idea.  It is common for people to give a half hearted effort in the things that they do.  When this is done, we see this concept manifest in the results.  Lackluster results are most often due to a less than stellar effort being put forth.  The old saying garbage in, garbage out applies.

So what is the happy medium.  How do we exert our energies in a way while protecting against the perilous mindset of having to be perfect?  The answer is fairly simple.  When we look throughout history, we see the wisdom of the sages.  Every discipline talks about this concept one way or another.  Without going into the different dogma, I will explain it with a simple analogy.

A mason is tasked with building a wall.  Obviously, it is his intention to build the best wall possible.  Depending upon the neighborhood, the customer is going to require a wall that seems perfect.  Thus, our mason is tasked with building the "perfect" wall.  How does this person go about it?

I will tell you that nobody every achieved a wall of this sort by setting out to build the perfect wall.  It is impossible.  The outcome (the wall) is a result of the actions undertaken.  Hence, the mason needs to focus upon the activities which go into that finished product.  And here is where we see the genius at work.

Our mason only need to focus upon one thing once all the measuring and laying out of the wall is complete.  Instead of focusing up the end result, the mason only need to concentrate on laying the perfect brick.  Nothing else matters other than the brick that is presently in his hand.  All the other bricks are already set in place and, hopefully, aligned.  The future bricks are sitting in a pile awaiting use.  In this instant, the past nor future means anything.  Our mason has control only over the brick he is about to lay.  If he can put this in position perfectly, everything will progress forward.  However, if he messes up that single brick, the entire result (wall) will be awry.

Do you see how this change of thinking creates different results?  Too often people focus upon what they did (the wall) as opposed to each action.  A prime example of this is going to the gym.  Many people go to the gym and think they accomplished something.  The truth is that what one does while he or she is there is what dictates the results.  Posing in front of the mirror for 45 minutes nets little.  The world's best body builders take an approach much different from this.  The same is true for any walk of life.

In conclusion, focus on the action that is in front of you.  Do this single action to the very best of your ability.  Understand that all goals are the result of stringing specific actions together.  And it is this singleness of focus which allows us to increase our productivity.
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