I once heard Michael Jordan’s ability to leap described by a scientist. The idea was that Michael Jordan was able to break a very low layer of gravity allowing him to jump for heights and distances that almost no one else was able to reach. I have no idea of how accurate that idea might be, but I do know there is a direct correlation between this and success.
The last couple of decades have allowed me to observe, and be part of, an interesting culture that prides itself on its ability to produce leaders, the U.S. military. Through this, I developed what I call my theory of social gravity.
I have watched, and personally experienced, young men and women struggle to succeed, to become more than they are, and almost invariably one thing happens. Those around them, maybe in some twisted desire to maintain the equilibrium, do their best to pull them back down.
Humans have an innate desire to want those around them on the same level they are whether that’s success or some other aspect. When a person makes the conscious decision that they are going to improve their circumstances, to lift themselves up, those around them instinctively try to pull them back down.
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Anyone who has ever been told that they’re working too hard, need to take a break, or that their work-life balance is all messed up knows exactly what I am talking about. Anyone who has been told they are too intense or too extreme also knows what I am talking about.
Most people subconsciously try to pull you back down to the same mediocrity in which they exist.
I was once talking to a group of coworkers about success. One of the people then jokingly asked how many Tony Robbins books I had read. The irony was that I was currently reading “Awaken the Giant Within”. Of course, that set off another round of jokes, but it also made me think. Tony Robbins has achieved a level of success regardless of the metric by which you measure. Financial? check… Personal fulfillment? check… Happiness? check… and yet, here I was being made fun of for attempting to learn from him.
This is the first layer of social gravity, where everyone is pulling you back down. They are telling you to “take it easy”, or “you need to take a break”, or “you only live once”, or any of the other sayings that get repeated without much thought.
They will make fun of your effort or try to minimize it. Even more than that, they will disparage your ability to reach new levels, subtly telling you that you have no chance at real success. They want you to believe that the success you seek is for the lucky few who were somehow born different.
This is utter garbage.
It is so easy to fall prey to this line of thinking. But here’s the reality: If you want extreme results, put in extreme effort. You must stop accepting the advice of people who you would never want to be like. Look at these people… How many of them do you actually admire? Do you really want to be like them?
NO… you don’t. So, stop listening to them. This layer of gravity is the hardest to escape but what you will find is that as you do, it becomes easier and easier to climb. Just like actual gravity, as you climb ever higher, social gravity weakens before disappearing altogether.
As you escape this initial layer of gravity, you will find that the people around you have a different mindset. They are oriented towards success. The attitudes they have, the effort they put in, it is all vastly different than those who simply exist. They expect and demand more for life.
Just like the gravity on this planet has less of an effect as we gain altitude, so does the effect of people who have decided to live in mediocrity. Their attempts to pull you down have less and less of an effect.
But here’s the amazing part, as you climb, as you become more and more successful, you will find that suddenly you are being pushed up by the same people who were pulling you down.
Your success has changed their views of who you are and how you should act. They now expectyou to behave in ways that lead to success. You are different! Suddenly, you have become one of the lucky, the gifted, the talented. They don’t view you as being like them, and now you will hear comments like, “I wish I had your drive” or “If only I was born with your talent” or “If I wasn’t so busy I would…” . Comments like these are both self-justifications of why that person is where they are in life and acknowledgment of your effort and success.
People admire those who succeed, but often only after they succeed.
What most people don’t realize, especially those who have accepted mediocrity, is that while success may appear to be sudden or overnight, it never is. Success is built on a foundation of time and tremendous effort. Much like an iceberg, they only see the part rising above everything else, not the foundation of blood and sweat it is built upon.
So how do you escape from social gravity?
Almost every one of us feels the negative pull from it. There are four simple steps you can use to escape the pull of mediocrity.
1. Recognize it, for what it is. It is a barrier between you and everything you want. It is a slippery slope into the hell that is mediocrity. Recognize it and dismi ss it. Don’t waste time fighting it or trying to explain it. Focus your effort and energy on leaving it behind forever.
2. Realize that success takes tremendous time and effort. When you are in the trenches struggling toward your dreams and goals, you probably won’t feel successful. The temptation to give in to that subtle pull and be swallowed by average will constantly be there. Refuse this pull and push past it. You are building the base, the foundation, upon which your success is built.
3. Surgically remove those from your life who are keeping you from your (massive) potential. Look, it’s not personal. You either want success, or you don’t. Hang on to the people who want your level of success to justify their own, no matter what their intentions are, and you will fail. One day you will wake up and ten years will have gone by, and you will either have accomplished your goals, or you will have failed. It’s your decision, and only you are responsible for where you end up.
4. Be the person that pulls others up! The truth is that we all know the importance of the people you surround yourself with. Jim Rohn’s famous quote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” is absolute fact. But there is a flip side to that as well. Be one of the five people others want in their circle. Be the person that encourages others who are actively working to improve their own life. Relentlessly support them. The dividends will be amazing.
The most important of these is simply recognizing that it occurs. Rarely is it intentional, but it is human nature. Recognizing it allows you to discount it and negate the effects.
The reality is that you can do almost anything you put your mind to… if you are taking steps to put yourself in a position to succeed. The importance of not only surrounding yourself with highly motivated people but being one of the people you wish to surround yourself with, cannot be overstated.
The next time you have the urge to share a goal, or life lesson, or anything related to success… do it. Stop worrying about what others might think of you or the comments they might leave. Put yourself out there, and you can rise higher than anyone gives you credit for.
This article was originally posted on Medium.com by Daniel Truex