Starting Over – What’s Your Minimum Threshold To Action?

Starting Over – What’s Your Minimum Threshold To Action?

The following post was originally published in The Meadville Tribune and titled “Taking action toward a better, healthier, more abundant you?” which ran 10/27/2009.


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, …(1)”  So goes the introduction to the classic  A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. It does not take a rocket scientist to see the parallels to today’s economy. With jobs evaporating, companies collapsing and costs increasing exponentially both locally and internationally, times are tough. And yet, I am reminded of a quote by Napoleon Hill that states “Every adversity, every failure…carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.”(2) Put similarly, Winston Churchill states “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”(3) In other words, no matter how bad it gets, there is always greater opportunity available to any who will seek it and act on it.

Forgive me if I get a bit too scientific for a couple of paragraphs. But, bear with me, and I promise I will bring it all together in the end. While somewhat of an oversimplification, this discussion will help in making my point. In neurophysiology, there is a principle known as the “All-or-Nothing Principle” and it applies to all normal excitable tissues such as nervous and muscular tissues (neurons and muscle cells). Basically, the All-or-Nothing Principle states that individual excitable tissue cells either depolarize and transmit impulse (in the case of nerve cells) or depolarize and contract (in the case of muscle cells) maximally at 100% or not at all. In other words, if certain minimum threshold conditions are met, they activate completely at 100%. If these minimum threshold conditions are not met, they do nothing!

Each motor neuron (nerve cell) that leaves the spinal cord innervates (powers) many different muscle fibers. All the muscle fibers innervated (powered) by a single motor neuron (nerve cell) are called a motor unit.(4) Changes in strength are not due to how strongly a muscle fiber contracts (remember, it either contracts maximally or not at all), but rather to how many fibers are contracting. In the early weeks of a strength training program, increases in strength are the result of recruitment of more motor units and, subsequently, activation of more muscle fibers.(5)

Still with me? Motivational speaker and success guru Les Brown tells the story about a man who goes for a walk and passes by a house where people are gathered together around a porch. Along with them, the man sees and hears a dog whining and moaning in pain. Curious, and rather concerned, the man approaches the gathering of people and asks “What is wrong with that dog?” “That dog is laying on a nail that has protruded through the floorboard of the porch,” he is told. “Then, why doesn’t he get up and move to a different spot?” the man asks. “Because it doesn’t hurt enough to make him move. It only hurts enough to make him complain,” is their reply.(6) How bad does it have to get before you are finally spurred into action, not just complaint?!? Where is your minimum threshold for action?

Once a thought manifests in your mind that you deem worthy of acting upon, your brain triggers a cascade of electro-chemical reactions via the nervous system that activates whatever muscles you need to contract in order to perform the desired action. But, if the minimum threshold level of conditions is not met, nothing happens.(7)

Fear of failure paralyzes and prevents many from ever taking action. Furthermore, prior episodes of failure often damage the self-esteem, causing people to view themselves as less than they really are. Denis Waitley, motivational consultant and trainer to NASA astronauts and Olympic athletes states “You must look at failure as an event, not a person.”(8) Many of the world’s most successful individuals have come from pasts checkered with failure and bankruptcy. Mark Victor Hansen, Napoleon Hill, R. Buckminster Fuller, Robert Kiyosaki, Larry King, H.J. Heinz, Milton Hershey, George Foreman, Henry Ford, Meatloaf and Donald Trump all went bankrupt and so did I. Walt Disney went bankrupt so many times that the bankruptcy laws were rewritten stricter in response. Even Abraham Lincoln went bankrupt twice!

Recovery from failure and bankruptcy is much like recovery from physical illness. Often, what occurs is not a steady straight-line recovery. Rather, it is usually a series of 3 steps forward followed by 2-5 steps backward. However, persistence pays dividends. As Frank Zane, 3-time Mr. Olympia states with regard to his training “My training career has been full of new beginnings.”(9)

So, when would now be the right time to take action towards a new tomorrow; a better, healthier, more abundant you? How about now?! Now?!?

jon m ketcham

Dream re-Kindler to Earth-bound Travelers of Light



  1. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
  2. Think And Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill p. 55
  3. Meadville Tribune, 9/25/2009
  4. Textbook of Medical Physiology, Guyton Chpt. 5 & 6
  5. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Baechle pp. 20, 37
  6. Step Into Your Greatness, Les Brown – Live DVD
  7. “Are You Positive?”, Steve Jeck, MILO Sept. 2008 ,Vol. 16 No. 2
  8. Jim Rohn Weekly E-zine – July 27, 2009
  9. Fabulously Fit Forever – Expanded, Frank Zane p. 46

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