on the cusp

In inspiration, learning, motivation by Jay Clouse

I’ve felt a strange sense that’s been getting stronger and stronger over the last few months.

It’s hard to put a name to it, but I’d describe it as the feeling of being on the cusp.

It just feels like the work I’ve been doing for the past several months have landed me near the doorstep of some sort of breakthrough. And I’m not totally sure what that is, I just feel like my there is a lot of stored energy.

In James Clear’s new NYT best-selling book, Atomic Habits, he describes the idea of a “plateau of latent potential” with the analogy of an ice cube sitting in a room.

Imagine that you have an ice cube sitting on the table in front of you. The room is cold and you can see your breath. It is currently twenty-five degrees. Ever so slowly, the room begins to heat up.

Twenty-six degrees.
Twenty-seven.
Twenty-eight.

The ice cube is still sitting on the table in front of you.

Twenty-nine degrees.
Thirty.
Thirty-one.

Still, nothing has happened.

Then, thirty-two degrees. The ice begins to melt. A one-degree shift, seemingly no different from the temperature increases before it, has unlocked a huge change.

I feel a lot like that ice cube. The room hasn’t reached 32 degrees yet, but the temperature is rising.

It’s a weird feeling, because even though I feel the difference, there’s not an outward, noticeable difference.

Here’s the difference between us and an ice cube though – we have power over the room around us. While the ice cube sits and is impacted by the room around it, we have a direct influence on the environment around us.

So being on the cusp is not the same as waiting for the inevitable. If you’re on the cusp, it’s because you’ve put yourself there through the action you’re taking, and so you need to continue taking that action.

That’s the real work. Staying the course.

If you were sitting in a room and the temperature rose from 0 to 20 degrees, you’d notice. But moving from 25 to 26 degrees, you probably wouldn’t. And the hard thing about progress is that it’s often in “one degree” increments, instead of 20.

It’s why I wait too long to get a haircut.

It may be clear that you’re much closer to the breaking point than you were a year ago, but it’s difficult to sense the difference from a month or three months ago.

Is this still working? Is it still getting warmer in here? Am I closer?

Great questions. I’m right there with you.

Guess I better get back to work.


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