If you’re stuck living a life you wouldn’t have consciously chosen if you had it to do all over again, what can you realistically do about it?
The Black Hole
By “stuck” I mean truly, deeply stuck. You’ve finished school but can’t find a job that is fulfilling. You want to start a business but you just don’t have the resources to start up or maybe you’ve even got the stable job, the family, and the mortgage. But even though your situation looks pretty good from an external standpoint, you’re not happy about it. It’s not fulfilling, and you know you should be doing something else, but at the same time, you know there are no guarantees, and you feel as if the only way out would be to destroy what you’ve got and rebuild from scratch. And that isn’t something you’re willing to do.
It’s not like you haven’t tried, but realistically you can’t see any viable, intelligent options to get things moving in a new direction. It’s like you’re in a black hole, a gravitational well that makes it impossible for you to ever reach escape velocity. It seems to take you a massive amount of effort just to move an inch, and if you let up for an instant, you’re sucked right back down again. You feel trapped, maybe even depressed, and perhaps you even wonder if you should just suck it up and take it. It’s not really that bad compared to most people, right?
On your best days, you’re consciously aware of your situation but still don’t see a way out. But on your worst days, you’re in denial about the whole thing and may succumb to escapist tendencies.
You might read books that even directly address your situation, but they don’t help you much. Their solutions don’t seem practical for you. Perhaps they rely too much on things like putting your faith in the universe and hoping things will work out, and that sounds risky and foolish to you.
What can you do in such a situation? Is there a way out?
Yes, there is a way out. The solution is people. Throw different people at the problem.
When you’re stuck in a black hole where it’s impossible for you to reach escape velocity, your only hope for escape is to find an even stronger gravitational field to pull you out. People act a lot like gravitational fields, and when you put enough of them together, all tugging at you in a consistent direction, you’re going to move.
On the positive side, this is how groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Weight Watchers work. Take an overweight or alcoholic person, surround them with people who will help pull them up to a new level, and given enough time, it works.
On the negative side, this is how cults work as well. Take a person out of their ordinary environment, surround them with crazy people, and a nutso they become.
Unfortunately, most people join the cult of mediocrity without realizing it because they surround themselves with average, ho-hum, dull, going-nowhere people. This cult is one that many people join by default.
If the people in your life right now are causing you to remain stuck, you need to find ways to spend less time with them and more time with people who can help pull you up to a new level. It’s really that simple. Drop the losers lest ye be one.
If you find that the people you spend the most time with are high achievers, I’d bet you’re either a high achiever yourself or quickly becoming one. And if the predominant people in your life are going nowhere, you already know how stuck you are.
To escape mediocrity requires that you surround yourself with the exceptional. Steal time from your mediocre relationships, and invest it in building new relationships with people you find extraordinary. Join clubs and organizations you’re just barely qualified to join. Apply for a job where you’ll be surrounded by highly competent people. Join a gym that intimidates you. Volunteer for assignments that allow you to work with higher caliber people, even if you do it for free.
Once you meet such people, give expecting nothing in return. Build the relationship first, even if it seems very unbalanced in the beginning. The energy of such people will rub off on you. And with enough rubbing, you’ll have raised your own energy and awareness enough to reach escape velocity and break out of mediocrity.
So much of success is nothing but a mindset, and mindsets are contagious. You limit yourself unnecessarily when you surround yourself with people who are just as limited. Instead, spend more time with people who intimidate you until you’re no longer intimidated. Find a herd where you’re one of the slowest stragglers instead of one of the pack — you’ll move a lot faster and make rapid gains that way.
Whenever you want to pull yourself up to a new level of performance, start by asking yourself, “Who’s already getting the results I want, and where can I find them?” Then just start showing up where they show up. Introduce yourself to as many people as you can, and go from there. But most importantly, show up.