Anatomy of a Breakthrough: How to Get Unstuck When It Matters Most
By Adam Alter
Almost everyone feels stuck in some way. Whether you’re muddling through a midlife crisis, wrestling writer’s block, trapped in a thankless job, or trying to remedy a fraying friendship, the resulting emotion is usually a mix of anxiety, uncertainty, fear, anger, and numbness. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Anatomy of a Breakthrough is the roadmap we all need to escape our inertia and flourish in the face of friction.
NYU Stern Professor Adam Alter has spent the past two decades studying how people become stuck and how they free themselves to thrive. Here he reveals the formula he and other researchers have uncovered. The solution rests on a process that he calls a friction audit—a systematic procedure that uncovers why a person or organization is stuck, and then suggests a path to progress. The friction audit states that people and organizations get unstuck when they overcome three sources of friction: HEART (unhelpful emotions); HEAD (unhelpful patterns of thought); and HABIT (unhelpful behaviors).
Despite the ubiquity of friction, there are many great “unstickers” hidden in plain sight among us and Professor Alter shines a light on some exceptional stories to share their valuable lessons with us. He tells us about the sub-elite swimmer who unstuck himself twice to win two Olympic gold medals, the actor who faced countless rejections before gaining worldwide fame, the renowned painter who became paralyzed and had to relearn to paint with a brush strapped to his wrist, and Professor Alter’s own story of getting unstuck from a college degree that made him deeply unhappy.
Artfully weaving together scientific studies, anecdotes, and interviews, Professor Alter teaches us that getting stuck is a feature rather than a glitch on the road to thriving, but with the right tweaks and corrections we can reach even our loftiest targets.
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