When I was 15 years old, I saw the original Karate Kid in the theatre, and when Daniel-san kicked Johnny in the face, I cheered.

“Take that, Johnny, you handsome rich kid with amazing hair.”

I may have been projecting a bit.

When my daughter was 15 years old, she wasn’t watching karate movies, she was living them. That’s the year she won gold at the USA Open in Las Vegas. And you know what she’d say about the Karate Kid? “That movie is stupid.” That’s what she’d say.

I mean, it was the 80s; the decade of bad decisions. We thought pastel parachute pants were cool then too.

It might be an inspiring underdog story, but the movie doesn’t have a great message. Beyond winning with an illegal crane kick to the face, the movie perpetuates the myth of the miracle shortcut to success. My daughter won gold because she’d spent the previous decade training as much as 20 hours a week. It was constant, dedicated effort, year after year, to take top spot on that podium, not a few weeks of painting fences and waxing cars.

It’s not just karate that takes dedication to master, it’s everything in life. No matter your goal, if it is an ambitious one, you must log the endless hours to make it happen. People who are good at hard work tend to keep on being successful, which is why my daughter won gold again in Vegas two years later.

But the message of the shortcut to success is pervasive. Whether it’s to get rich quick, or lose weight fast, or learning a language muy rapido, if there is a lofty goal you wish to achieve, you can find someone selling a bogus miracle shortcut to reach it.

Deep down, most of us know such a “miracle shortcut” doesn’t work. We comprehend it is lots of hard work that gets things done, that makes us who we are, that provides the lives we want.

Okay. Now that we’ve got that out in the open, let me tell you about this miracle shortcut to success I uncovered.

I’m only partially kidding. The idea came to me on a bike ride in the summer of 2015.

I’d been wondering what to make my next book about. I didn’t want to rehash something that had been done dozens of times before. My bike is where I usually generate ideas, and it was a serendipitous encounter that made it happen.

“Fell’s book contains a rare combination of searing wit, laugh-out-loud analogy,
and evidence-based research. I loved it.”
—Dr. Sarah McKay, Neuroscientist, Author of The Women’s Brain Book:

The Neuroscience of Health, Hormones and Happiness

It was a beautiful, sunny day. The Rocky Mountains were visible in the distance. “The Spirit of Radio” by Rush played on my iPod. I saw a man running toward me wearing a Boston Marathon shirt and I thought to myself, I did that race.

Then another thought occurred: I really used to suck at running.

And then, a cascade of remembrance coupled with ideas began to spin in my brain. I didn’t used to just suck at running, I sucked at everything. I sucked because I didn’t try. I lacked ambition. In my 20s, I was in bad health, drinking too much, flunking out of school, in debt, and was generally a miserable bag of poo.

“The Holy Sh!t Moment will remind you that real dramatic change is always possible, always. Invigorating for the brain,
heart and spirit, it will remind you of the magic and potential inside you. This is a book that can change
your life regardless of your age, background, belief system, or ideology.”
—John Fugelsang, SiriusXM Radio

And then I recalled how my life switched tracks because of a solitary moment, something that happened in the space of a few seconds. Fast-forward over a quarter century and things are much different. That sudden “Holy shit!” realization set me on a new path that led to success in my education, career, relationships, health, happiness, and more.

Like it is with karate, all those life accomplishments came about because of a metric shit-ton of effort. There is no quick and easy bullshit way to transform your life, or even a specific part of it. Every meaningful accomplishment takes work.

“Outstanding. The Holy Sh!t Momentis one of the most useful, engaging, helpful books I’ve read in years. Change—both personal and professional, can be hard. If you want to make a difference in people’s lives, yours included, get this book. Filled with practical insights, stories, research, and humor, James Fell provides the roadmap to successful transformation helping YOU discover what’s possible when you embrace the challenge.”
—Carey D. Lohrenz, U.S. Navy’s First Female F-14 Tomcat Fighter Pilot, and WSJ bestselling author of Fearless Leadership: High-Performance Lessons From The Flight Deck.

But what can change in an instant is the way you feel about that work; to make what was once drudgery come to feel like destinyTHIS IS THE “MIRACLE” SHORTCUT. You still have to do all that work, but now you want to. You feel compelled, excited, driven.

In a moment, motivation is no longer a scarce resource.

If you want to read about my life-changing moment and what followed, you’ll have to buy the book. It’s not just about me, but many others I interviewed coupled with research that explores in-depth the science of the life-changing epiphany.

Part of why I wanted to write this book was the realization that I’d been doing it wrong.

“Psychologists have long studied the nature of insight and the sudden illumination. This entertaining, informative book ramps the science up to the next level, showing us how to harness such life-changing events for optimal development.”
—Scott Barry Kaufmann, Ph.D., author of Wired to Create.  

In my writing and coaching I had preached the slow and steady path to success while forgetting that wasn’t the way I’d done it. I even had a science-based weight loss book published (Random House Canada, 2014) that contained a program where readers were gently eased into both dietary and physical activity changes in their lives.

And the baby steps approach does work for some people. When it comes to theories of cognitive behavior change, the prevailing advice has often been to behave like a tortoise rather than a hare. You are recommended to engage in a slow and plodding forced march across a tipping point, one desperate and determined step at a time, until habits gradually begin to form.

The problem is, the failure rate for such slow and steady methods of change is high. Conversely, the research reveals that when someone experiences a life-changing “Holy shit!” moment, the change is both more substantial, and has a significantly higher success rate. FYI, I’m not throwing out “baby steps.” Sometimes it requires a temporary slog of such slow and steady while you work on having sudden inspiration arrive. It’s not always this or that. A combination of efforts may be the path.

“Tiny moments make big ripples in the stream of life. Through rigorous research, captivating storytelling,
and practical tips, James Fell will take you on a wild ride to identify defining moments in your own life
and how to harness their power. Your life will never be the same.”
—C. Nathan DeWall, Ph.D., Bestselling author of 
Psychology, Exploring Psychology, and Psychology in Everyday Life,
and ultramarathon runner

I interviewed some of the leading researchers on the planet analyzing the psychology and neuroscience of the life-changing moment. The book also explores the philosophical and religious interpretations of such an event, because epiphany is something humans have been examining since we first fought off saber tooth murder beasts from turning us into a tasty treats.

The real-life stories in the book include tales of dramatic weight loss, breaking addiction, major career shifts, coming back from the brink of suicide, and even one woman who changed the world because of her sudden inspiration to make a difference.

Are you convinced you want this book? This next paragraph is for you. Want to know a bit more about the big picture science of how a holy-shit moment works first? More details are below it.

Coming from St. Martin’s Press for North American release on January 22 (and from Harper Collins in the U.K.), you can order The Holy Sh!t Moment now on the platform of your choice. If you want the audio version, I hope you don’t mind the sound of my voice, because I’m doing the recording.

Perhaps you have additional questions prior to ordering. Perhaps you’re wondering how the life-changing moment works in terms of enhancing motivation.

It took me an entire book to properly address that question. But … have you seen Shrek? Ogres are like onions and all that? Social Psychologist Milton Rokeach’s Model of Personality asserts there are “layers” to who we are, with superficial actions and thoughts at the surface, followed by beliefs at the next layer in, then attitudes, followed by values. Finally, the most interior layer is the “self”—that person who you really are, deep down. Couple this information with new research into the “identity-value model of self-control.”

That probably tells you a whole lot of nothing thus far.

Most of us have external, surface-level behaviors that are not in line with our true selves—that most interior layer. We behave in ways that are reactionary to the environment and social pressures. Focusing on changing these external behaviors (quitting an addiction, exercising, eating better, being happier / kinder / more passionate and driven etc.) is extraordinarily difficult because we’re not addressing root causes. A life-changing moment is one of massive realization regarding what our true self and values are, and permitting them to reign supreme, letting them drive behavior. There’s no struggle to alter problematic behaviors or need to suffer through tasks we don’t like. Rather, we begin to act in ways that are in sync with who we really are because we’ve suddenly found our True North. Such change isn’t something that happens gradually, but is a hard pivot that unleashes a new understanding of what you’re meant to do and be.

There are no guarantees. I’m clear about that inThe Holy Sh!t Moment. The sudden strike of epiphany is often due to a rapid reorganization of information in the brain; it is directly related to creative thought. Such sudden insight happens when you’ve gathered a lot of data regarding your life and the possibilities of what you could do with it, followed by engaging in behaviors that give that knowledge a chance to percolate and coalesce in a profound way. And there are scientifically proven methods for enhancing this type of creativity that leads to lasting life change arising from a single moment of insight. I’ve had many people over the years tell me that one of my articles changed their lives with an instantaneous wave of emotion and understanding. And several beta readers of the book have already begun telling how it helped them have a life-changing epiphany.

Again: no guarantees, but lots of possibilities.

The Holy Sh!t Moment is coming from St. Martin’s Press for North American release on January 22 (and from Harper Collins in the U.K.).

If you’re convinced to give it a go, you can choose your preferred platform for purchasing on this page.

 

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James S. Fell, MA, MBA, has bylines in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, the Guardian, TIME Magazine, and many other publications. His blog is read by millions of people a year and he is the author of two books: The Holy Sh!t Moment: How Lasting Change Can Happen in an Instant (St. Martin’s Press, 2019), and Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind (Random House Canada). Order them here.

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