When I reordered business cards, I changed my title to breakthrough catalyst. I like the sound of it and think that being a catalyst for others is very rewarding work. Do you seek and use catalysts? Your quest to manifest possibilities and generate breakthrough results will be easier if you identify and use catalysts.
What is a catalyst?
Strictly speaking, a catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction. Although they participate in reactions, catalysts are neither consumed by nor incorporated into the products of the reactions. There is just as much catalyst at the end of the reaction as there was at the beginning. Catalysts will not cause reactions to occur, but they will help reactions that would have occurred without them to proceed more quickly or at lower temperatures. In most cases only small amounts of catalysts are needed to increase reaction rates.
Catalysts work by providing easier ways for reactions to occur. In technical terms, they provide alternative reaction paths with lower activation energies. Every chemical reaction has a certain threshold, known as its activation energy that must be exceeded in order for the reaction to occur. A catalyst does not lower the activation energy of a reaction, but instead provides an alternative that produces the same results with a lower threshold. A good analogy is a bridge over a valley. Without the bridge, it might be possible to cross the valley by driving down one twisting road and then back up another. A bridge allows the valley to be crossed more quickly and with less energy. It does not reduce the amount of energy needed to drive down one side and up the other, but instead offers an alternate way to achieve the same results while using less energy.
Another common example of a catalyst is the catalytic converter used to help eliminate harmful carbon monoxide, unburned gasoline, and nitrogen oxides in automobile exhaust. Carbon monoxide is poisonous. Unburned gasoline reacts with nitrogen oxides to form low-altitude ozone, which is different than the beneficial high altitude ozone that blocks UV rays. Rather than being beneficial, low-altitude ozone is a component of smog. Nitrogen oxides also contribute to acid rain and can irritate mucus membranes. Catalytic converters contain honeycomb structures composed of ceramics coated with small amounts of the metals platinum, palladium, and rhodium. Platinum and rhodium speed the conversion of nitrogen oxides into harmless nitrogen and oxygen, while platinum and palladium speeds to conversion of carbon monoxide and unburned gas into less harmful carbon dioxide.
Why use catalysts?
Many beliefs, actions, contexts, and habits have catalytic properties, too. Breakthrough catalysts facilitate faster and/or easier progress much the same way a bridge speeds your passage over a river valley. By providing alternative ways to manifest possibilities, catalysts are jet fuel for the breakthrough explorer. The actions and situations that catalyze one person’s results may not similarly affect others. Breakthrough catalysts come in many forms and they will vary by individual. Even so, there are several catalysts that work for many people including, coaching, making unreasonable requests, meditation and relaxation, a change to an exotic context, the proverbial 2X4, relentlessness, and evangelism.
I listed coaching first for a reason. At its core, all coaching should be catalytic. In fact, I believe that catalyzing success is the primary reason to seek or offer coaching. The coach’s questions and ideas become thought bridges.
I understand that not all coaching is catalytic. You have likely received coaching that failed to enhance your achievement or make your journey easier. A lot of what is called coaching is not and amounts to little more than advice. Advice is rarely catalytic. A coached nudge is precious and can set your mind a flutter with new and easier pathways to success. Catalytic coaching can come from a stranger on the bus or a best friend who has known you since you were both children. To experience more breakthroughs, seek and offer more coaching.
Making Unreasonable Requests
Ask and ye shall receive, right? Making unreasonable requests is not as unreasonable as it may seem. I use the term unreasonable here to mean big. Unreasonable requests are big requests that you are generally too chicken to make. Outrageous requests make great things happen. And talk about a bridge! A well formulated request, when accepted by the person you ask, can reroute your progress and enable you to zoom to success. Unreasonable requests that are turned down can also serve as important catalysts because often a compromise solution is offered that is still higher than you would have normally expected. Mahatma Gandhi said, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” and I believe this to be true.
Meditation and Relaxation
Meditation and relaxation practices promote clear thinking and reflection. Hectic schedules, endless meetings, and mile long to-do lists clutter thoughts and block you creativity. When you relax your mind and body, you make room for new and different ideas. Some people use mental retreats to generate new ideas, refocus, and tap into their goals. Whether away, at home, or at the office, relaxation techniques are critical to your success.
Think about the bridge that spans the river valley again. Without the bridge, you would have to take a long and winding road down one side of the river, then cross through the river and go back up the bank on the other side. You will encounter more potential hazards and burn much more fuel. Now imagine that the river valley represents your busy day. All the distractions and competing demands act like the twists and turns of the road. When we are stressed, it feels like we are fighting against the river’s current. Relaxation is the bridge.
Something is exotic when it is out of the ordinary, striking, saturated with color or foreign. Your context is your setting, surroundings, or circumstances. A change to an exotic context can serve as a powerful breakthrough catalyst. Imagine exploring a different culture, taking a new route home, or sitting in a meeting filled with people from another industry. Exotic contexts stimulate your thoughts and challenge your assumptions. Work pace, policies, and general practices are also part of the context. Shifting your context to something new, different, and even somewhat disturbing can provide a surge of learning and ideas. To change your reality, change your context.
I enjoy Cirque du Soleil shows. They are inventive, imaginative, and stimulating. After one show, it occurred to me that this would be a perfect place to bring a senior management team the evening before an all-day strategy planning meeting. If they went to the show in a state of wonder and inquiry, their strategy meeting, and the end result, would surely be very different.
It feels like you have been hit between the eyes with a 2X4 (piece of wood). When you deliver the 2X4, you give direct, candid, and tough to hear feedback. For some people, the 2X4 is transformative and just what they need to get knocked onto the path of success.
I was given a 2X4 about ten years ago. What a gift! At the time, it felt lousy and my first inclination was to attack back. Fortunately, I thought about what she said and had to agree she her feedback was spot on. My demeanor changed immediately and new possibilities emerged. Today’s reality would look much different had I not received the benevolent whack between the eyes.
If someone takes the time and demonstrates the courage to offer direct feedback, be sure to show your gratitude. It might not be easy to hear, but the 2X4 can jolt you on the right track if you take the information and use it to improve your results. Offered with good intent and care, the 2X4 can catalyze a breakthrough and help you launch forward. You can either be wrong and lost or insightfully wrong and found. Sometimes a breakthrough begins with alienation.
Getting into action is a great way to create momentum and put your goals and intentions into the world. Being relentless about activity has an additive affect that can catalyze major breakthroughs. Often thought of as a negative, relentlessness is the juice behind a “this shall be” attitude. When you resolve to make your goals happen and follow that determination up will an unwavering dedication to taking focused action every day, you will succeed faster and better than you can imagine.
What if, for the next several days, you were relentless about taking on and conquering an important goal or project? Think about a goal that is so dear to you that it deserves an unrelenting focus and implementation. Picture yourself as you cruise through the day. Now imagine what would need to change to jack up your focus and action. How does the relentlessness in your life look? Pick a goal and say, “This shall be.”
Evangelists are passionate, loyal, and dedicated. They are different than the garden-variety fan. Someone who likes a product or company might tell a couple people about their positive experience. Evangelists do that as the appetizer to a seven-course meal. An evangelist gets up on a rainy Saturday morning to hold picket signs for their favorite political candidate.
Evangelists are fans jacked up on caffeine and they imbue the environment with love and fraternity. Evangelism is an excellent breakthrough catalyst because magical things happen when someone believes enough in you and your goal that they willingly advocate on your behalf. These inspired beings will enthuse you and others with their energy, loyalty and passion.
Set breakthrough catalysts in motion and let them do their work for you. Look out, the world is shifting on its axis!