Critical Mass

In physics there is a term call “critical mass”. This is the amount of material needed for a specific atomic reaction to occur. Until that point is reached the reaction will not begin or be self-sustained. In the business world this same concept is called the “tipping point”. Once you hit it, things just start to happen on their own. The name actually comes from the idea of pouring water out of a bucket. Once the mass of the water overbalances the mass of the bucket it tips over from that point all on its own.

When you think about it everything, and that especially includes people, has it’s own tipping point. People are unique in this area simply because theirs is more emotional than physical. That is, they put up with things for only so long and then, “snap”, something happens and they are over the edge. When I was in 7th grade I hit my tipping point one day and it had a profound impact on me.

I was a skinny little 7th grader in a Catholic school, among other skinny little 7th graders, and into our class came Jimmy Goodman. He was a foot taller than the rest of us, he had muscles, a girlfriend and actually had to shave! In some ways we were in awe of his male prowess, but in other ways we knew he was trouble. He quickly took the “alpha male” position of the pack and the rest of us were left to pick up the scraps he left behind.

I was never a scrap eater, and even at the age of 12 it was in me to buck the system and go my own way. I did this either by stealth or by simply using my brain to analyze people and manipulate them into following my lead. Jimmy, however was too ignorant for stealth and to brutish to be manipulated. His idea of leadership was to pulverize any threat and openly challenge anyone who dared go with what he did not agree. Thus I ended up in his cross hairs more than once but quickly learned how to blend into the background and avoid trouble.

However one fine spring day I had reached my tipping point. Jimmy entered our classroom well before the nun who was teaching, and proceeded to walk down each row.  He gave every boy a sold fist in the back just to announce the fact that he was there. As he approached my seat, I could feel his eyes bearing down on me and I knew his sledge-hammer of a fist was raised and about to connect with my backbone. At the last moment I jumped to my feet and glared him right in the face. The room fell silent, and to the shock of everyone, so was Jimmy.

I heard myself saying “go ahead Goodman, show everyone just how powerful you are.. Wow you are such a big man, you can punch people. Go ahead, be a big man and punch me”. There was a momentary pause as Jimmy took a step back from this encounter with open resistance. My words had actually penetrated the thick bones of his skull and for a moment a question and a look of disbelief flickered across is eyes. Then it was gone and his fist slammed into my unsuspecting stomach. .

Every bit of  life-giving breath was driven out of my lungs. I hit the ground like a sack of potatoes and was gasping for air like a fish out of water. However, to my amazement, that act of violence had finally turned the tables. Four of the other boys in the class jumped from their seats and knocked that Neanderthal to the ground. They were on top of him, giving him a dose of his own medicine when in walked our teacher, Sister Thadeus. We were all frozen in place and fully expecting the wrath of God to fall from heaven.  To our surprise she simply gave a smile, went and sat behind her desk and after a few moments said “well….. get in your seats”.

From that day forward Jimmy Goodman’s reign of terror was over. His iron fist never hit another person. Best of all he had been outsmarted, but was unable to figure out why. That fact alone was a sweet, satisfying victory I greatly enjoyed every time I saw him.  Why did it happen? It had happened just because I finally hit my tipping point, my place of critical mass.

How about you? In your life situation when will you finally have enough and begin to do what must be done? One thing I know for sure, as long as the “Jimmy” in your life goes unchallenged,  it will continue to rule. If it’s to find a job, then go out and begin to look with fresh eyes. Reinvent yourself and look in places you have never considered before. If it’s to have favor on the job then step up to the plate and do more than what is required. No matter what it is, face your giant, step out and take a risk. You might be shocked at how good things will turn out. Yes, you may get punched, but it’s well worth the rewards that come to those who dare to try!

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