Try this experiment. Ask anyone, even yourself, to offer up an example of a breakthrough. Go ahead, I'll wait... Here are some examples of what you're likely to come up with: Steve Jobs and the iPhone. Arianna Huffington and the Huffington Post. Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Sara Blakely and Spanx. Who and what matters less than the fact that all such examples have these things in common: a false hero, a false image of a single breakthrough idea, and the belief that both appeared from the heavens like a lightning strike.

There are in fact two definitions of breakthrough, one real, one mythical. The real one is that a breakthrough is "an act or instance of moving through or beyond an obstacle" (Merriam-Webster). And in a considered moment you're bound to agree that this is the thing you most want and need. The trouble is even though we know better, we set aside this definition and pine for the mythical one, the definition of a breakthrough that professes the possibility of "a sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development" (Oxford). And that wistful choice quickly steers us off course, away from breakthroughs of our own, and into the realm of lightning strikes, moonshots, and heroes.

The truth is that breakthroughs come from real people - just like you. Rather than grand, their formations are tiny, gradual, and cumulative. Most important, true breakthroughs - the ones that change the game and have lasting impact, are the result not of a single mighty moment or spotlight bright idea, but of something far more subtle, even pedestrian - a simple yet steady tilt.

The Simple Meaning Of The Tilt

The most innovative leaders, the ones who seem to collect breakthroughs, know a little secret the rest of us tend to dismiss. They recognize that, more than anything other factor, their success is a result of simple orientation. And with unwavering consistency, the pattern across them is that they consciously choose to tilt towards the possible.

Stanford researcher Carol Dweck describes such people as having a growth mindset, driven by a belief that there is always something more to learn, discover, or create. Their true power lies not in flash moments of genius or single herculean acts, but rather in filtering all they see and do through this growth mindset.

By contrast, their counterparts see the world through a fixed mindset, one dominated by the belief that what is now will largely always be. With the fixed mindset as your filter, not surprisingly you develop a bunker mentality rather than a breakthrough one. The distinction comes down not to some massive or genetic difference, but instead to a simple tilt - one that makes all the difference if breakthroughs are what you seek.

A Powerful Ripple Effect

It isn't just the tilt that makes breakthroughs more likely. It's the ripple effect of wisdom and effectiveness it catalyzes. The tilt mindset, rather than a swinging for the fences mythology, reminds you that any lasting advancement derives from a game of inches, not miles or even yards. You're afforded the opportunity, even the incentive to test your theories, to check your work, and to constantly incorporate new variables into your calculation. You begin to see opportunity (and reality) more clearly and increase the odds of actually seizing it, not just dreaming about them.

But there's something more powerful still - the tilt approach gradually lifts you out of the problem-solving mentality and instead engages you in adaptability training. Problem solving too easily comes to be defined by fixed points and equally rigid solutions. The tilt trains you to emphasize adaptation instead, allowing the critical thinking and creativity we often associate with problem solving to permeate more fully everything you do, rather than being applied only when you're in trouble or in isolation. You're moves are less kneejerk, more proactive, and more open to "what could be" versus being consumed by a "how do we fix this" mentality. There's a lot of power in a tiny tilt, if only we can get out of our own way to see it.

The Simplest Way To Break Through

The reality is that the longer you hold onto that faulty belief that you must wait for lighting to strike or move forward in moon leaps, the longer you'll continue to believe that a rarified few somehow have a gift you don't. The Jobs, Huffingtons, Bezos, and Blakelys of the world simply and steadily tilt in the direction of 'what could be.' Day to day, most of what they do is small, simple, and not fraught with the risk we think. When they do make bold moves, it's more often true that they only appear bold. Such moves are most often the result of a steady pattern of testing, trying, and tweaking, followed by more if the same - something anyone can tilt towards.

Published on: Jan 25, 2019
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