Tipping Point

Put on your thinking caps. Let’s start with defining two phrases central to this article namely, tipping point and critical mass.

Tipping point is the critical point in an evolving situation that leads to a new and irreversible development. The term is said to have originated in the field of epidemiology when an infectious disease reaches a point beyond any local ability to control it from spreading more widely. A tipping point is often considered to be a turning point.

In Physics, Critical Mass is defined as the smallest mass of a fissionable material that will sustain a nuclear chain reaction at a constant level.

Critical Mass can also be defined as an amount or level needed for a specific result or new action to occur.

In other words, loosely we can say that critical mass is defined as an amount or level needed to reach a tipping point.

And that is where we start from.

When I started my blog, I had no idea I would write fifty articles. I did know though, that I wanted to reach 5000 hits before even considering retirement from blogging. So when I reached that target, I took a break but something strange began to happen. The blog hits continued to climb. It seemed I didn’t need to do anything more to keep the traffic coming to my blog; it had become self sustaining. In other words, it reached critical mass. I have a clean 1000 hits unaccounted for!

The principle of critical mass is one of the most crucial elements that you must master and utilize to your advantage in life because many times it gives birth to another equally important but more spectacular phenomenon; the tipping point principle.

With that in mind two issues promptly develop; where you are now and where you want to be. It is possible that in some cases you find yourself just wanting to reach critical mass. You are not looking for anything spectacular or sensational. All you want is to reach that level of equilibrium where you have a balanced ecosystem, so to speak. This is very likely when you are starting out building new ventures like family, business, church or any other. At the beginning you are not necessarily looking for tipping point. You are looking for critical mass.

But the thing about critical mass is that it takes time to accomplish. Critical mass requires you to take a million small steps, day and night and in some cases year after year, till one day you realize you have achieved it. Small dreams do not require a lot of time and effort to reach critical mass. It is the truly great ones that will demand every drop of sweat you have before they give you critical mass.

And because of that, it is far easier to walk away than to stay. What do you do when you have sat the whole night and you just haven’t got any more strength to continue yet critical mass seems so far away? Are you going to catch a power nap and wake up after a few hours, dragging your battered body back to work for another day of trudging towards critical mass or you will hear the alarm and chose to remain in bed because the load is just too much? You know what? You are right. It’s too much and you will never reach critical mass. But the other guy in the other bedroom is getting up and doing what he needs to do so that when you wish you had stayed the course, he will be doing what he wants to do.

What makes achieving critical mass tricky is not knowing when it will be achieved. The question of when to stop will actually answer itself. Some people have gone on till their death trying to reach critical mass and never achieved it. Others have achieved it in a relatively short space of time. Do you quit or you stubbornly continue? No one can give an answer to that. It boils down to what you believe on the inside. As long as you believe in it, it is always time to keep on keeping on. In other words don’t jump ship as long as you are still convicted in your heart that this is what you should be doing.

Thomas Edison tried 10,000 before finding the right combination to create the first light bulb. I bet after 9000 times a lot of us would say, “Hey, it’s time to face reality. It’s time to quit.” Right now there are trillions of light bulbs in the world used by everyone in every corner of the world. We don’t need Edison anymore, to invent the bulb. Bulbs don’t need him no more! That is the power of critical mass.

And so I look at my own life and assess my achievements. I look at the things that break my heart and those that warm it. I pay attention to my losses and revel in my victories. I look at where I am at and compare with where I want to be. One thing becomes clear. For me, it’s not just critical mass I am looking for. I believe I have achieved it. My life is stable. I feel like everything is where it should be. Every department of my life is poised for the next phase. Positions have been taken and guns have been corked. Anything can happen any moment now. I sense the tension in the air. All the facets of my life are pregnant with expectation. I just can’t wait a second longer. I get ready to pull the trigger to usher in…tipping point.

Tipping point is that point where you might have achieved critical mass and everything is working as it should but you just know you are due for or really need a complete and irreversible reaction in your life. Life will never be the same again. It is tipping point that ushers you into the next phase of your life. It is that one action, the last is a sequence of many that just tips the scales and triggers everything you have dreamed of and more. And I am saying I smell it in the air. It’s my time to experience tipping point!

The mistake that we make is focusing on the tipping point and not on the process before the tipping point. When we see the explosion, naturally our attention is arrested. No one is there to witness the guy who worked the whole day to mix the chemicals and make sure the conditions are right. We look for the guy with the detonator and we make him an instant hero. And somehow we begin to believe we can reach tipping point instantaneously. That is a fallacy.

Tipping point is a result of innumerable and focused decisions that we will make till we reach critical mass and then things tip for good in our favour. The people who have happy marriages; do they have happy marriages because they are so full of love for each other or because they put in the hours and the hard work that might not necessarily be fun to do but necessary for the marriage they want? They plan holidays and save for them the whole year long. And they achieve critical mass.

And so it is with business. You advertise yourself. You pump money into your business. You work long hours. Maybe you can even breakeven but you are not quite making the kind of money you know you want to make. You can stay where you are or you can put that extra effort relentless until you get that one phone call that will change your life for good. We all know that phone call. It is sweet when it comes but extremely nerve wrecking to wait for.

So life gives us plenty of reason not to continue. It give us plenty of reason to continue. The difference is what you choose to see. What project are you working on? Is it getting tough? Do you feel like giving up? Keep on keeping on. Join me and other visionaries as we keep putting in those little grains of sands that will one day tip the scales in our favour and change our lives for good. It might be closer than you think. It might just be one more grain before you reach your tipping point!


Recovering Lost Time II: Fix This

Time is of utmost importance. There is a reason why they say time is money. Even though you can never reverse time itself in the pure sense of the word, you can salvage the kind of progress you could have made during the lost period provided you apply a few principles stemming from an understanding of the immense value of time.

And just what are those principles? How do you recover lost time? Are there any examples of people who have successfully recovered lost time and have gone on to do far above what even they expected?

Let’s answer these questions.

Retrace your footsteps to the point where you lost your time

“The first thing you need to do when you realize you are lost is to go back to the starting point.”Anon

It is important to know where and how you lost time. There are two reasons for this namely, you will be able to get a more comprehensive understanding of why you are where you are and secondly, you will be able to know exactly what you should stop doing to avoid wasting more time in the present.

Put another way, can you imagine waking up in the middle of nowhere and not knowing how you ever got there in the first place? That has to be the most nerve wrecking experience ever. But if you know how you got there in the first place, you will have an idea of how to find you way back home.

There is also a psychological aspect to this exercise. It is possible to blame yourself for something you did not entirely bring upon yourself, leading to feelings of self defeat, hopelessness and inadequacy. It’s very likely that you are where you are due to choices you have made in the millions day by day but it may not entirely be your fault and it’s important to know what is and what is not your fault so that you avoid developing a self defeating attitude.

Once you have identified where you lost your way or started to lose time, make an effort to quantify the time period. It’s very important to be specific about what you have lost so that you can understand what you are trying to recover.

Take time to analyse the situation and how the time you lost has contributed to where you are but whatever you do, quantify the time you lost and get an understanding of where and why you lost the time. Were you fired from your job? If yes then why? Underperformance? Suppose it is, then how much time do you estimate you lost before you resumed your career? 1 year? If so, in time terms you have to catch up by working an extra 2 hours every week day for the next two years.

Can you see the benefit of knowing exactly how much time you lost?

Stop doing the things that are costing you time!

“If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you need to do is to stop digging.” Anon

This is a very obvious and logical next step in recovering lost time. Because you have taken time to reflect, analyse and find out where, why and when you lost time, you will know exactly what factors contributed to that loss of time in the first place. Therefore stop doing those things immediately.

For example, if you realize that you have a tendency of doing business with partners that constantly let you down or swindle you, then you need to stop dealing with them at some point. They will just cost you more time.

Start doing the right things

This too, is self explanatory and logical. Once you determine what you need to stop doing, you then need to determine what you need to start doing. Continuing from our example above, you would need to be more thorough with your due diligence regarding deals presented to you before you jump into partnerships with anyone, no matter how appealing.

Maybe you have invested ten years of your life into a career you are unhappy with. The fact that you are unhappy with where you are and feel like you have wasted 10 years of your life would probably mean that was never your true passion or is no longer your true passion. In the former case you need to recover lost time and in the latter, you need to stop the process of losing time before it even starts by making a rapid career change!

Emphasize diligence, efficiency, effectiveness and impact over hard work and time related organic growth

The road does not always have to be long and winding. For example, the highways are always the most popular when travelling but sometimes they are not always the shortest route between two points because they can be congested or just winding for no reason other than to satisfy a wider market.

It is not necessary to work for twenty years before you can start your own business. It is also not necessary to work 30 years before you become the CEO of your company. Length of time only guarantees old age. For rapid progress in your career, you need high level impact strategies and tactics. Those are the ones you need to seek out and concentrate on.

Don’t wait to be promoted by virtue of longitude in company service but by reason of exceptional skills and attributes that stand you above the rest within the company. Seek out these high value attributes and work on them day and night and you will realize that something that you would have achieved in two decades can take you only five years.

The key word is not hard labour but diligence. You still work very hard. Oh yes, you still put in those extra two hours but you won’t need to go for two years, and in my case, 22 years before you can recoup your lost time. This is what we call employing a tactical approach.

If it had to take me ten years to get to where I want to be in my career and I have lost eight of those, it’s not necessary for me to recoup the full eight years through the strategy discussed in part I, which would equate to 22 years. I can focus my efforts on high value targets, skills, attributes, contacts and business deals that can catapult me to my goal in just the two remaining years.

When I was fresh from university, I stumbled upon information that opened my eyes to the importance of pursuing high value projects, outcomes, skills, objectives and targets. We calculated that college graduates have  roughly a ten to fifteen year headstart compared to their peers who for one reason or the other did not get a tertiary qualification. And the reason? College education is a high value target, skill and attribute. Of course this applies especially to the initial years but other factors will begin to increasingly play a prominent role as our careers progress.

This therefore means that whatever you do in your career must be characterised by the pursuit of high value targets, skills, attributes and endeavours. Oh yes you will sweat. Oh yes you will burn the mid night oil. And yes you will have to forsake social time sometimes and travel when you would rather be on holiday but in due time the results will show.

That is what makes the difference between overachievers and underachievers.

To sum it all, here is a question for you. What do you spend much of your effort on at work and in your business? Is it a high value endeavour or just one that keeps you very busy but is sending you on a long winding road to a dream that you might never reach?

Set a clear goal within a specific time period

You need to know where you are going and by what time you will get there. Wandering in life believing that you will miraculous get wealthy or rise to the top of your career will definitely get you somewhere. It’s called nowhere, not Norway!

One of the things I have learnt about accumulating wealth is that it is not as exciting as the end product. It involves planning in detail and mundane calculations that will bring tears to your eyes but for the reward at the end.

It involves doing business plans and personally I find the thought of doing business plans as repulsive as any other but I have learnt the value and so have forced myself to master that high value skill. A business plan will set specific business and financial goals for your company and at the same time put all those in a specific time period together with what needs to be done to get there.

Plan, plan, plan. Set specific goals. Set specific times. Go through your goal so frequently that you will recite it in your dream. Believe in your dream the way you believe in the rising of the sun tomorrow. Why do you know the sun will rise tomorrow? Because you have seen it rise since the day you were born. If you see your goal and obsess over it, you will start believing in its fulfilment the way you believe in the rising of the sun.

There are many other principles that can help you recover lost time but I believe the ones I have discussed so far are very crucial and will go a long way toward kick-starting your recovery of lost time.