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The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level

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In The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks, the New York Times bestselling author of Five Wishes, demonstrates how to eliminate the barriers to success by overcoming false fears and beliefs. Fans of Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, and The Secret will find useful, effective tips for breaking down the walls to a better life in The Big Leap.

224 pages, hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Gay Hendricks

107 books394 followers
Dr. Gay Hendricks has served for more than 30 years as one of the major contributors to the fields of relationship transformation and body-mind therapies. Along with his wife, Dr. Kathlyn Hendricks, Gay is the author of many bestsellers, including Conscious Loving, At the Speed of Life, and Five Wishes.

Gay received his PhD in counseling psychology from Stanford University in 1974. After a 21-year career as a professor at the University of Colorado, he founded The Hendricks Institute, which offers seminars in North America, Asia, and Europe. He is also the founder of a new virtual learning center for transformation, Gaia Illumination University.

Throughout his career, Gay has done executive coaching with more than 800 executives, including the top management at such firms as Dell Computer, Hewlett Packard, Motorola, and KLM. His book, The Corporate Mystic, is used widely to train management in combining business skills and personal development tools.

In recent years he has also been active in creating new forms of conscious entertainment. In 2003, along with movie producer Stephen Simon, Gay founded the Spiritual Cinema Circle, which distributes inspirational movies to subscribers in more than 70 countries around the world. He was the executive producer of the feature film Conversations with God, and he has appeared on more than 500 radio and television shows, including Oprah, CNN, CNBC, 48 Hours, and others

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Profile Image for Cara.
Author 18 books83 followers
January 30, 2013
Holy fuckety fuck, I wish I'd read this two years ago! Self-sabotage? Success/crash cycle? It's in there! Finally, an explanation! I'm only in chapter 2, but so far it's pure gold. Can't wait to read the rest and solve my shit!


Finished. Loved it. I give this my highest recommendation. Even for people who don't sabotage their own happiness and success, there's a lot of great stuff in here about making the most of your life.

Here's what it means for me:
I upper-limit myself because I believe I'm fundamentally flawed and because I'm afraid success will bring with it greater burdens than I can handle.

About the first one, he says, "The fear of being fundamentally flawed brings with it a related fear. It’s the fear that if you did make a full commitment to living in your Zone of Genius, you might fail. It’s the belief that even your genius is flawed, and that if you expressed it in a big way, it wouldn’t be good enough. This belief tells you to play it safe and stay small. That way, if you fail, at least you fail small."

As I read that, I realized I'm not just afraid of failing, I'm afraid my genius is so flawed, if I express it in a big way, I'll bring down some kind of curse from the universe onto myself and everyone around me. (WTH? Where did I get that???)

There also may be someone I'm afraid of out-shining, but I can't think of anyone.

Common ways of upper-limiting yourself:
1. Worry. If it's not about something real that you can act on immediately, it's just a way to stop yourself from being happy. Drop it and look for the positive thing that's trying to come through.

2. Criticism. Usually what you're criticizing someone about is not the real issue. If it's not "please stop standing on my foot now," it's just a way to keep from being too happy.

3. Deflection. Even if you think you sucked, accept the compliment. Add on your "I wish I had done better ____" at the end if you must--AFTER you've let the positivity in.

4. Arguing. Especially money arguments--almost never about the thing you're arguing about. Fights are about who's the bigger victim.

5. Illness and injuries. Obviously, some are real, but many are produced by our own minds to punish, protect, or prevent something.

The commitment:
I commit to living in my Zone of Genius, now and forever.

What is your zone of genius? The things you're great at AND love doing. The answer to "if there were no constraints and you could do anything you wanted, what would you do?"

To look for it, answer these questions:
1. What do I most love doing?
2. What work do I do that doesn't seem like work?
3. In my work, what produces the highest ratio of abundance and satisfaction to amount of time spent?
4. What is my unique ability? (special skill--superpower)

For unique ability,
1. I'm at my best when I'm _____
2. When I'm at my best, the exact thing I'm doing is ____
3. When I'm doing that, the thing I love most about it is ____

Say an enlightened no to things outside your zone of genius.

The mantra:
I expand in abundance, success, and love every day, as I inspire those around me to do the same.

Don't be surprised if it seems untrue and your mind starts arguing with it. That's expected! If you stick with it, eventually it will become believed/true.

Once you transcend your upper limits and move into your zone of genius, it's a continuous upward-floating spiral. But it's something you have to keep practicing all the time. Keep re-committing.

To really master your life, switch from Newtonian time to Einsteinian time: time is not outside of me, I make time. I'm where time comes from. I can produce as much as I need. If I think I don't have time for something, it's really because I don't want to do it. What am I not taking ownership of?

To have awesome relationships:
- make plenty of time for yourself (separately)
- put a priority on speaking the microscopic truth, especially re emotions.
- don't try to stifle emotions (ex. "don't cry!")
- lots of affection
- after intense intimacy, come back to earth by dancing, walking, or something physical, not by crashing (fight or accident)
- form a No-Upper-Limits conspiracy of >=3 friends.

Highlights (many missing--apparently not sync'd, but all visible together in Kindle):

- Highlight on Page 11 | Loc. 148-50 | Added on Sunday, January 27, 2013, 10:08 AM

In my life I’ve discovered that if I cling to the notion that something’s not possible, I’m arguing in favor of limitation. And if I argue for my limitations, I get to keep them. Ultimately we have to ask ourselves, “What’s the payoff for arguing forcefully for our limitations?”
- Highlight on Page 17 | Loc. 225-28 | Added on Sunday, January 27, 2013, 10:21 AM

There’s only one way to get through the fog of fear, and that’s to transform it into the clarity of exhilaration. One of the greatest pieces of wisdom I’ve ever heard comes from Fritz Perls, MD, the psychiatrist and founder of Gestalt therapy. He said, “Fear is excitement without the breath.” Here’s what this intriguing statement means: the very same mechanisms that produce excitement also produce fear, and any fear can be transformed into excitement by breathing fully with it.
- Highlight on Page 18 | Loc. 231-35 | Added on Sunday, January 27, 2013, 10:23 AM

The best advice I can give you is to take big, easy breaths when you feel fear. Feel the fear instead of pretending it’s not there. Celebrate it with a big breath, just the way you’d celebrate your birthday by taking a big breath and blowing out all the candles on your cake. Do that, and your fear turns into excitement. Do it more, and your excitement turns into exhilaration. I find it very empowering to know that I’m in charge of the exhilaration I feel as I go through life. I bet you will, too.
- Highlight on Page 22 | Loc. 276-79 | Added on Sunday, January 27, 2013, 10:29 AM

If you focus for a moment, you can always find some place in you that feels good right now. Your task is to give the expanding positive feeling your full attention. When you do, you will find that it expands with your attention. Let yourself enjoy it as long as you possibly can. As you get more practice, you will be able to use this radical act of appreciation in other areas such as money and love.
- Highlight on Page 29 | Loc. 356-57 | Added on Sunday, January 27, 2013, 10:39 AM

The best way to handle most things in your Zone of Incompetence is to avoid doing them altogether.
- Highlight on Page 31 | Loc. 372-73 | Added on Sunday, January 27, 2013, 10:40 AM

It’s worthwhile to do something you’re not good at if the intention is to enjoy or master it.
- Highlight on Page 37 | Loc. 433-35 | Added on Sunday, January 27, 2013, 02:32 PM

There is something important you should know about the Upper Limit Problem: when you attain higher levels of success, you often create personal dramas in your life that cloud your world with unhappiness and prevent you from enjoying your enhanced success. This is the Upper Limit Problem at work.
- Highlight on Page 43 | Loc. 497-500 | Added on Sunday, January 27, 2013, 02:38 PM

Here’s a new way: when the big stuff comes up, ask your partner if she or he is willing to join you as an equal partner on a learning journey. If the answer is yes, you join together in a relationship of true possibility. If she or he is more committed to being right than to actual, real intimacy, the answer will be something other than yes. Then you must move on, and be quick about it.
- Highlight on Page 48 | Loc. 552-54 | Added on Sunday, January 27, 2013, 02:43 PM

The fear of being fundamentally flawed brings with it a related fear. It’s the fear that if you did make a full commitment to living in your Zone of Genius, you might fail. It’s the belief that even your genius is flawed, and that if you expressed it in a big way, it wouldn’t be good enough. This belief tells you to play it safe and stay small. That way, if you fail, at least you fail small.
- Note on Page 48 | Loc. 553 | Added on Sunday, January 27, 2013, 02:44 PM

not just .might fail. . might brimg the curse of the umiverse down on myself and those around me. yikes.
- Highlight on Page 52 | Loc. 600 | Added on Sunday, January 27, 2013, 05:19 PM

Hidden Barrier no. 3: Believing That More Success Brings a Bigger Burden
- Note on Page 52 | Loc. 600 | Added on Sunday, January 27, 2013, 05:20 PM

to you. greater exxpectations. more responsibility
- Highlight on Page 53 | Loc. 607-8 | Added on Sunday, January 27, 2013, 05:21 PM

The moment I made my appearance in the world, I was greeted with two big mixed messages: you’re a burden; and you’re a celebration.
- Highlight on Page 55 | Loc. 635-38 | Added on Sunday, January 27, 2013, 05:23 PM

don’t shine too much, or you’ll make others feel bad or look bad. The gifted child is often convicted of stealing attention from other members of the family. One unconscious solution gifted children devise is to turn down the volume on their genius so the others don’t feel threatened by it. The other solution is to continue to shine brightly but turn down the volume on their enjoyment of it.
- Highlight on Page 92 | Loc. 1033-36 | Added on Monday, January 28, 2013, 09:55 AM

Many physical symptoms such as headache and back pain are warning signs, like the flapping and wobble of a flat tire when you’re driving on the highway. The symptoms are saying, Slow down, stop what you’re doing, and pay attention, because there’s something out of integrity here.
- Highlight on Page 93 | Loc. 1042-45 | Added on Monday, January 28, 2013, 09:56 AM

Here’s the bottom line on prevention and protection: when you suffer symptoms of illness or experience an accident, you often do so because you’re unconsciously trying to prevent yourself from having to do something you don’t really want to do and/or protect yourself from something you don’t want to feel.
- Highlight on Page 96 | Loc. 1075-77 | Added on Monday, January 28, 2013, 09:59 AM

The next time you find yourself with a stomachache, a throbbing head, or a stubbed toe, ask yourself if you might be Upper-Limiting. Sometimes a headache’s just a headache, but often if you look a little deeper you’ll find that it’s an expression of your Upper Limit Problem.
Then, it’s a signal that you need to expand instead of contract. It’s telling you that it’s time to open up and embrace a new high-water mark of positive energy that’s trying to establish itself in you. Underneath the headache might be an insight that is as powerfully positive as the pain is negative.
- Highlight on Page 97 | Loc. 1090-92 | Added on Monday, January 28, 2013, 10:00 AM

Long before morality came into play, the original definition of integrity had to do with wholeness and completeness. To be in integrity meant you were whole and complete. To be out of integrity meant a breach in your wholeness had occurred; there was a gap in your completeness.
- Highlight on Page 102 | Loc. 1141-43 | Added on Monday, January 28, 2013, 10:04 AM

Early in my work on transcending my own Upper Limit, I made a key discovery: if I could consider, even for a moment, that I was not upset for the reason I thought I was, I could break out of the trance I was in. Then, I could begin to see what the real issues were.
- Highlight on Page 106 | Loc. 1188-92 | Added on Monday, January 28, 2013, 10:07 AM

Here’s something I’ve learned from many experiences of helping people resolve conflicts. Under the surface of most conflicts, you’ll find that the warring parties are actually feeling the same deeper emotions. Two people may be locked in an angry conflict for weeks. When they get beneath the roiled surface of the issue, however, they discover that the real issue is that they’re both sad about something they’ve both kept hidden. They’ve been so locked into proving each other wrong that they haven’t taken a moment to contact the true heart of the issue.
- Highlight on Page 107 | Loc. 1200-1207 | Added on Monday, January 28, 2013, 07:59 PM

To find these breaches and restore wholeness, we need to get good at asking questions like these: Where do I feel out of integrity with myself? What is keeping me from feeling complete and whole? What important feelings am I not letting into my awareness? Where in my life am I not telling the full truth? Where in my life have I not kept my promises? In my relationship with _____________________, what do I need to say or do to feel complete and whole?
- Highlight on Page 110 | Loc. 1230-31 | Added on Monday, January 28, 2013, 08:55 PM

If you’re willing to adopt a playful attitude toward yourself and your shortcomings, you can make extraordinarily rapid progress.
- Highlight on Page 111 | Loc. 1240-58 | Added on Monday, January 28, 2013, 10:10 PM

Here’s what I recommend for daily action steps. These specific actions will keep you on track and on the fast track to living in your Zone of Genius. Make a commitment to keeping an attitude of wonder and play while learning about your Upper Limit behaviors. Say this sentence in your mind as often as you like. It expresses the attitude I’d like you to embody: I commit to discovering my Upper Limit behaviors, and to having a good time while I’m learning about them. You can learn a lot more with a spirit of wonder and enjoyment than you can with an attitude of criticism. Make a list of your Upper Limit behaviors. Here are some of the most common ones: Worrying Blame and criticism Getting sick or hurt Squabbling Hiding significant feelings Not keeping agreements Not speaking significant truths to the relevant people. (If you’re mad at John, he’s the relevant person to talk to. It doesn’t help to tell Fred that you’re mad at John.) Deflecting. (Brushing off compliments is a good example of deflecting) When you notice yourself doing one of the things on your Upper Limit list, such as worrying, or failing to communicate some truth, shift your attention to the real issue: expanding your capacity for abundance, love, and success. Consciously let yourself make more room in your awareness for abundance, love, and success. Use the resources of your whole being, not just your mind. For example, feel more love in your chest and heart area. Savor the body feeling, as well as the mental satisfaction, of success and abundance. Embrace a new story that tells about your adventures in your Zone of Genius. Find a new mythology, or make up one of your own, that shows you enjoying your life in the full radiance of your expressed potential.
- Highlight on Page 119 | Loc. 1330-38 | Added on Monday, January 28, 2013, 10:23 PM

There is a huge fear underneath every complaint: If I took the Big Leap into my Zone of Genius, I might fail. What if I really opened up to my true genius and found that my genius wasn’t good enough? Better to keep the genie in the bottle and coast along in the Zone of Excellence. That way I don’t have to risk taking a Big Leap and finding it isn’t good enough. That way I don’t have to risk discovering the ugly possibility that I don’t have a Zone of Genius. Unless you’re very lucky or very enlightened, you’re likely to hear those nattering voices and feel those nagging fears within you. They’re part of the deal. I won’t try to talk you out of them, and you shouldn’t try to talk yourself out of them, either. Just notice the voices and feel the fears. That’s all you need to do with them. You don’t need to rid yourself of them. Where would they go, anyway? All you need to do is acknowledge them, wave to them, let them know you’re aware of them. Then get busy learning to live in your Zone of Genius.
- Highlight on Page 147 | Loc. 1631 | Added on Tuesday, January 29, 2013, 07:37 PM

I expand in abundance, success, and love every day, as I inspire those around me to do the same.
- Highlight on Page 149 | Loc. 1648-57 | Added on Tuesday, January 29, 2013, 07:41 PM

To use the USM as a formal meditation, find a place where you can sit quietly for five to ten minutes. Close your eyes, and rest for a minute or so until your system settles down. Once every fifteen to twenty seconds, whisper the USM softly to yourself; say the words quietly in your mind, like a faint thought. You don’t need to pronounce the words distinctly, as long as you can feel the concept of the USM. It will go like this: Whisper the USM softly to yourself. (It takes me five to seven seconds to do this.) Pause and rest with an open mind for ten to fifteen seconds. (This is about the time it takes for two slow, easy breaths.) Whisper the USM softly to yourself again. Pause and rest with an open mind for ten to fifteen seconds. Continue like this for five to ten minutes. When you feel you’re at a good stopping place, pause and rest for a minute or two before returning to your normal activities.
- Highlight on Page 154 | Loc. 1706-9 | Added on Tuesday, January 29, 2013, 07:59 PM

Commitment gets you started and propels you through the early stages of any game, but it’s recommitment that ignites your reserves when you feel like you’re going to give up. Those moments of low energy are inevitable (in my experience, at least) when you’re on a quest for any worthy goal. The saving move in that moment is to renew your commitment.
Profile Image for Mary Mulliken.
17 reviews2 followers
March 8, 2011
This book was annoying. The author is arrogant and, while he has some good ideas, doesn't explain them in enough detail for them to be very helpful. It seemed like this book was written in a couple of days and not edited. As a coach, I feel concerned and turned off by his rather broad definition of "success" -- one that seems entirely money and power based without any consciousness of ethics or morality or social/environmental impact. This kind of climbing seems very dated to me, and therefore, so does the book.
Profile Image for Crystal Starr Light.
1,343 reviews813 followers
March 18, 2021
Bullet Review:

Other than saying a person has a tendency to sabotage when things are going good (the so called Upper Limit Problem), this is a load of quackery, with a huckster using his vast number of prestigious clients - executives, CEOs, and stockbrokers - to prove his miracle cure that will make grown people gasp! The depths of this come with the chapter on Einstein Time, a concept that doesn’t exist and is so badly twisted for this pop schlock, the book deserves -1 million stars solely for the scientific travesty (and proof you should NEVER trust a person who use the words “quantum” and “Einstein” and “Newton” as cavalierly like this).

There is no awareness that things like privilege exist (race, sex, and a multitude of others); if you’re a failure, it’s your fault (victim blaming); and we can all be successful in the Great American Way (I.e. massive amounts of money, promotions, etc.) if only we do what Hendricks says - and if we aren’t successful or *GASP* GET SICK, we weren’t doing it right.

Also, the book should have been an article because there’s too much gorram repetition. This concept would easily have fit into a HuffPost article, and honestly, it would have been a million times better for it.

Skip it.

Full Review:
Have you ever had something really good happen to you followed by something really terrible? According to Gay Hendricks, this is the Upper Limit Problem. We hold ourselves back, either because we think we are terrible people, because we are afraid of leaving others behind, because we don't want to outshine others, and because we feel like we're a burden. If we can leave all this behind, we would jump into our "Zone of Genius", where we live in bliss and success, we always have enough time for everything, and we don't get sick for 13+ years. How do we do this?

Basically, by repeating a mantra of "I will live my life to the fullest and inspire others to do so".

And there, I've saved you 200+ pages and 7 bucks of your hard earned cash. For some highlights, both good and bad, please check out my notes.

I'm not saying that this book has zero merits. I do believe I've experienced this "Upper Limit Problem" (called ULP, because Hendricks is of the age where everything must be an acronym - I'm of the age where everything must be called "adulting" followed by avocado toast); I've had moments of great success, namely weight loss, followed by drastic falls (weight gain).

But I've also had moments of failure (losing out on an exclusive project) followed by more failure (having a tree fall on our house). And let's not even TOUCH the ableist, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic nature of what is Hendricks version of the Prosperity Gospel/The Secret/Toxic Positivity - because what did people with chronic disease or pain do to deserve that? What about people born in poverty or to undocumented immigrants or to the "wrong color" or in the "wrong body"? They didn't think the right thoughts so this is what they got??

No, this book is tailored to the White Cis-Gendered Middle Class of America, the ones who get stars in their eyes when they see all these glittery examples of various CEOs, stockbrokers, executives and business owners whom Hendricks consults with and suddenly become even MORE rich and successful than ever! Hendricks never gives an example of the single mom whom he coached who goes from barely making ends meet to living comfortably and having time with her children (who also subsequently live an amazing life). Hendricks never talks about the trans-man he met and helped with transition. Hendricks' clients are almost exclusively of the 1% that none of us will ever reach in our lifetimes - but one we all imagine we are a hair's breadth away from.

So yeah, my biggest beef with this book is that very thing - the advice is only really applicable to a small, teeny tiny portion of the population who are wealthy enough to buy this book and afford to be concerned about this topic, who envision themselves as the next Bill Gates.

The NEXT big beef is the entirety of the "Einstein Time" chapter. At the beginning of the chapter, Hendricks says "it’s based on solid science inspired by Einstein’s physics." I bold this because nowhere is anything Hendricks says about Einstein or Newtonian Time even remotely grounded in actual science. The Theory of General Relativity (Einstein) says that at the speed of light or approximately light, time is not constant, while Newton made time a constant. Numerous website stated that at our speeds, we cannot tell that time is not a constant. There is no such thing as "generating more time" when you are out of time. If the author meant "Stop worrying about time" or "Be honest with yourself and others that you don't really want to do something", fine. But this isn't what you find in the book! Hendricks flings around Einstein and Newton like many hucksters fling around quantum and other physics terms - you don't know what they mean and neither do your audience, but you act like you do, so it impresses your audience. But I ain't impressed.

The final nail in the coffin is the sheer amount of repetition in this book. This is best shown in the following example:
You’ll either have too little of it or too much. You’ll either have “no time at all” or be sitting around with “time on your hands.” You’ll be rushing to catch up or bored out of your wits. In the Newtonian world, we’re either “running out of time” or watching the seconds creep by.

This was one portion of a paragraph; the entire paragraph could have been summed up in the first sentence. Most of the examples (if they were even true - with most of these types of books, I am skeptical of this many examples of how so-and-so's miracle method worked with every single person they met) were basically the same story - this CEO/executive/business owner had a minor setback and after a quick talk with Hendricks, they were set on the right path. And then you have the sales pitch - before Hendricks will tell you what his method is, he must convince you it's the best method ever and will totally change your life. I get it already - tell me what it is!

I said it multiple times in my updates: if this entire book had been trimmed for a blog post or Huff Post article, it would have been greatly improved (even more with the exclusion of Einstein time). As it stands, despite the good nugget of being proud of your successes and embracing them, I cannot recommend this book or rate it higher than 1-star. There is absolutely no citation whatsoever in the book; the writing is atrocious (the worst of this pop self-help schlock); the book excludes anyone outside a narrow subset. I cannot in my good conscience recommend this to anyone.
Profile Image for Ted.
21 reviews
July 10, 2015
This is a book that has some truth, some helpful suggestions for how to live life. However, they are few and far between. Most of the book is filler, stories of the author's accomplishments, famous people he has helped, or stuff he has acquired. I would not recommend reading this book.
Profile Image for Shiri.
100 reviews42 followers
November 5, 2016
This book was a confusing mix of startling, deep insights about fear of success and self-sabotaging behaviors, sitting side-by-side with pseudoscientific, feel good, "The Secret"-style B.S. - the latter complete with shaming and victim blaming for illnesses and accidents.

Many of the examples used in the book were contrived or exaggerated to the point of silliness. Paraphrased: "I urged him to follow his dreams, and he said, sure, maybe at some point. I never saw him again. Two weeks later, I heard he died of a heart attack." Uhhhhh.... OK. Correlation is not causality.

When I got to the section about the author's silly invention of so-called Einstein time ("I am the source of time" / "this is simply physics"), I finally realized this book was a lost cause, though I did read it to the end out of sheer curiosity to see what he would come up with next.

I really wanted to like the book. That proved difficult. I'll give it enough credit, and one additional star, for resonating on the big picture, and leading me to look up "self-sabotaging behaviors" on Google - which helped me find other, more grounded and less contrived resources on this subject.
Profile Image for Moira Eberle.
24 reviews
October 5, 2012

Love the ideas in this book. Thoughtful and thought provoking. I am sometimes hindered by the language though. The metaphors and terminology are a bit too sports, big business or California life coach oriented for me to be able to relate (the "zone of genius" and "keys to liberation" for example). But if you forget those verbal shortcuts the concepts themselves are both simple and powerful.
So in the spirit of "take what works and leave the rest" the lessons in this book can really help you break through the "barriers to your success" and help you become the best version of yourself.
And this I think is it's gift.
Profile Image for Mark.
137 reviews1 follower
August 13, 2015
While I agree with many reviews here that the tone can be off-putting, I thought this was an excellent set of ideas and discussion points. There's a lot in this book that is directly applicable in my life, and it's a book I think I'll download as well ... just to have an e-copy always as hand for browsing and dipping in and out. I think this is the only time I have found myself wishing I could talk to the author in a one-on-one session.

However, "Einstein Time"? For heaven's sake, just rip the chapter out as soon as you get the book. Not only is it so vague as to be useless, he concludes with an anecdote so off-putting I really started to question if this was a guy I wanted to listen to.

However, I don't need to idolize the guy to agree he makes excellent points. It's easy enough to take what works for me and leave the rest behind.
Profile Image for Bianca.
1,022 reviews880 followers
April 17, 2021
I can't remember what pushed me to place a hold on this book, I must have heard someone talk about it.

To be honest, this got on my bad side from the beginning. It was because of its tone, the wording - very corporate and prosperity gospel sounding. Hendricks does all that corporate consultant spill - which is hard for me to swallow. I told myself off and pushed on, aware of my dislikes and prejudices. Many of us have self-limiting beliefs and are good self-saboteurs. Some of us even fear success and/or happiness.

This book is filled with anecdotes - for instance, Bonnie Raitt, a friend of the author, used to be a successful jazz musician, known by the connoisseurs. She was also an alcoholic. Only when she decided to move into rock and give up alcohol (not sure which came first, the rock or the alcohol drinking) she moved from her Zone of Excellence into Zone of Genius. *imagine me cuss whenever those words were produced - which was often. For someone who was a professor, Hendricks doesn't include any studies or stats or anything like that.

Like most self-help books, this could have been much shorter.
Profile Image for Andrew Padilla.
15 reviews6 followers
November 1, 2020
When I first began a "sales" career a couple years back, and first experienced the rejection-dense nature of the industry, I thought, naturally, that embarking on a "self-help" reading journey would serve innumerable benefits.

Boy, was I right in all the ways I didn't initially expect. At the time, The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks was one of the first books I read. So much of it stuck with me in a way that many other self-help books didn't. I thought I'd give it another go given the initial impact it made and I'm so happy I did!

The book is largely premised on the idea that we sabatoge ourselves when we endure an extended period of happiness, success, abundance, etc. - an Upper Limit Problem (ULP). I initially thought of it as nothing more than a "regression to the mean," or a baseline we inevitably bounce back to after a life high or low.

Boy, was I wrong in a way I never thought I'd acknowledge being wrong about. I harbor deep reserves of insecurity, anxiety, and guilt that prevent me from really enjoying and expanding upon the nature of good things, events, circumstances, etc. Whether it be getting sick, starting an argument, or deluding myself in daydreams of worst case scenarios, I never allow myself to keep on the satisfaction of a good thing.

This book helped me become wholly aware of that phenomenon. To be real though, I still struggle significantly with allowing myself the lasting embrace of success and happiness, but I would never have acknowledged that had I not better understood the psychology of the ULP.

The Big Leap is an exodus from your "zone of competence" and even, to my surprise, your "zone of excellence," and into your "zone of genius." Hendricks is a warm and creative writer that creates questions geared towards identifying that zone.

As a reminder of what it means to live in your zone of genius, I've borrowed an affirmation of his that I say every single day and hold dear to my heart: "I expand every day in abundance, success, and love and inspire those around me to do the same."

Along with that affirmation, my favorite part of the book expanded on time management, and more specifically, Einstein Time. "I am where time comes from." In other words, I take ownership for how my time is spent. I am responsible for how my time is spent. Time is not something that happens to me, but rather, something that happens because of me and because of what I choose to do with it. Its a profoundly simple paradigm shift where the onus is taken off of an external structure outside of our control, and onto ourselves where it should be.

That concept so deeply inspired me that I decided to take it upon myself to amend it just a bit. I'm not only where time comes from, but also, and most importantly, where everything I want comes from. I am where happiness comes from. I am where success comes from. I am where patience comes from. I am where love comes from.

I hope many people continue to read this book and embrace the concepts within it. If read upon with an open mindset, it can only serve to expose your upper limit problems at worst, and change the way you think about yourself, and your life with it, at best.
Profile Image for Emma Sea.
2,175 reviews1,045 followers
May 29, 2021
I read this without realising it was recommended for people who liked The Secret', and I'm pleased about that, because I would not have picked it up if I'd known.

I didn't love the book. The case studies were scant and lacked information, and the 'Zone of Genius' is slightly too hokey for me. I don't trust the author because he talks himself up a bit more than I'm willing to believe.

But there's something in here that hit me in the gut.

I am allowed to be good at shit.

I am allowed to be happy.

I am allowed success.

I do not have to limit my life because other members of my family didn't have the same opportunities I do.

I grew up in a horrible mix of pervasive cultural Tall Poppy Syndrome and a family who would, upon getting home after work, complete to see who had the worst day, and who also believed no one with money could be an honest person.

I've been a grownup for a long, long time. I have to leave the ghosts behind.

For whatever time I have left, I am allowed to fucking thrive.

Profile Image for trisha.
253 reviews5 followers
August 7, 2018
So repetitive. The whole concept could be summarized effectively in one paragraph.
Profile Image for Mehrnaz.
141 reviews93 followers
December 13, 2019
این کتاب از ترس‌ها صحبت میکنه. تا حالا شده دقیقا وقتی به یه موفقیتی رسیدین، با عزیزتون دعوا کرده‌ باشید، مریض شید یا به هر دلیلی مشکل و ناراحتی رو برای خودتون ایجاد کنید؟ آیا وقتی بچه بودید سعی کردید که خیلی موفق یا باهوش ظاهر نشید تا خواهر یا برادرتون رو تو سایه‌ی خودتون قرار ندید؟ ...

این کتاب رو یک روانشناس نوشته و سعی میکنه از سطحی‌ترین تا عمیق‌ترین ترس‌های شما که همیشه بازدارنده بودن، پرده برداره. برای من شخصا بسیار مفید بود. به سطح عمیق‌تری از شناخت خودم و علت رفتارهام رسیدم.
Profile Image for Donovan.
5 reviews2 followers
June 29, 2013
Mind boggling read!
This book was recommended to me by my coach Judymay when I was facing challenges in where is the next level for me. I know now why she chose it.
The book is an easy read yet it packs a punch if you do the exercises and play full out. The foundation of the book is the fact that we are all born to win, but when we get a feel for winning, we back down and go back to our comfort zone. Hendricks also offers so ideas of how we can operate in our genius zone more often.
On the whole I enjoyed the book and have recommended it to a few clients as well as some fellow coaches. As a result of working through it several times, I have found the clarity I need to launch the next phase of my business.
If you just want a quick read and not do the exercises, this book is probably not for you. If you're will to be open to a slightly different concept and interact with the questions, give it a go!! You may find the genius in you that is waiting to surface!!
Profile Image for Jurgen Dhaese.
32 reviews
July 15, 2017
A short book with an amazing message that could've been a whole lot better if it was twice as short.

The key points in the first half of the book are simply amazing :

We have an artificial limit on our happiness, and once we transcend it, we sabotage ourselves and do what we can to keep us unhappy.

Realizing that upper limit problem is the best way to break through it and enjoy more happiness in our lives.

Yet, the second half of the book is very flimsy, doesn't add much, and could've been cut.

Was torn between giving it 3 and 4 stars.

I highly recommend the first part, but think the second half is a waste of time.

Key quotes / summary of book :

The Upper Limit Problem is our universal human tendency to sabotage ourselves when we have exceeded the artificial upper limit we have placed on ourselves. The Upper Limit Problem is caused by a too-low thermostat setting on our ability to achieve and enjoy our ultimate success. The thermostat gets set low early in our lives, at a time when we could not think for ourselves. Later, as we dream about big goals and move up into realms of love, abundance, and creativity that are above our old thermostat setting, we bump up against the artificial lid that was placed on our success through unconscious childhood decisions. Unless we solve the Upper Limit Problem, we will keep finding ways to bring ourselves back down when we’ve blown past our old setting.

We transcend our Upper Limit Problem each time we make more room inside us to feel more love, abundance, and success. It’s done moment by moment, and the moment goes like this: We catch ourselves worrying or starting an argument. Suddenly we realize we’re Upper-Limiting. We let go of the train of worry-thoughts or the huffy point of view, taking a deep breath or two for relaxation. Perhaps we wiggle our toes or stretch our shoulders in a gesture of opening up space to feel more love, success, and abundance. A moment later we break free of the Upper Limit and feel a flow of good feeling again. In wink-of-an-eye moments such as these, we expand our capacity to enjoy more love, abundance, and success. These moments are the springboards of our Big Leap. It may not happen in our first moment or our hundred-and-first, but if we practice with diligence and zeal, one magic day we will look up and realize we have created our beautiful life in the Zone of Genius.
Profile Image for Blaine.
726 reviews582 followers
October 29, 2015
I don't read many self-help books, but my boss recommended this one, so I gave it a try. While I found some of the concepts interesting, in the end I can't say that I was persuaded by the author. All of his points are made through either examples from his own life, or anecdotes about people he knows. There is not a single footnote or source for any of his assertions. Given that the entire thesis of his book is that people engage in constant self-sabotage that prevents them from achieving more success and happiness, some research actually backing up that claim would have helped me accept it. Instead, the book reads a bit like a chain letter. "Joe followed these steps and now he's doing great, but Timmy did not follow these steps and he stayed miserable."

This book was a quick read, so that's a plus. And if you enjoy this type of book, you might get a lot more out of it than I did. I know the author would say that I'm just not ready to shed my Upper Limit Problems and enter my Zone of Genius; he may be right. But I feel like I could have summed up the whole 200 pages with two simple thoughts I heard long ago. 1) If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. 2) "When I'm sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead." -- Barney Stinson.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
277 reviews22 followers
January 16, 2016
It has some good ideas to think about including some reasons about why people self-sabotage. I found a lot of the author's names for his ideas to be a bit grating - like the "Zone of Genius." I'm also sceptical of anyone who uses any variant of 'synergy' without irony.
What really irritated me was that a great deal of the writing makes me feel like I'm reading an infomercial for the author's methods. Instead of being straight and getting to the point, he spends a lot of time talking about how his ideas are going to change your life, just like they've changed the lives of this guy and this guy etc... I think it's because when it comes down to it, the actual practical instructions are only a very small part of the book. Having said that, I did enjoy the personal anecdotes about the author's childhood and why he loves what he does.
I did not like all the hype about how this would transform my life and propel me into my "Zone of Genius" - it all came across as insincere and basically I felt like I was being given the run-around by a shady salesperson.
I'm willing to give some of the questions that were asked some more thought and see if they are helpful when it comes to me figuring out why I do some of the annoying things that I do.
Profile Image for Kirsty.
347 reviews85 followers
August 10, 2021
Waste of time. Basically, it's our own fault for not succeeding because we are all scared of our own success. He calls it the "Upper Limit Problem" but you have probably heard it called "Imposter Syndrome" where we don't believe we deserve or earned our successes and he says we will then self-sabotage ourselves. This basically repeats throughout the entirety of the book while he tells you about all the CEOs and famous people he has worked with.

There's a lot more wrong with this book, but I don't want to waste any more time than I already have.

Profile Image for Elizabeth.
Author 1 book86 followers
February 27, 2015
While there might be a few takeaways for me in this book, I'm certain I am not the target audience. Or if I am, Dr. Hendricks is hopelessly out of touch with non-millionare/billionaire people with family/similar responsibilities. But I think it's probably the former.
Profile Image for Morgan.
430 reviews
November 29, 2020
The insightful parts of this book — and there definitely are some — are drowned out by negatives like pseudoscience, victim shaming, bragging, and so on. This is my first and will be my last read by Gay Hendricks.
Profile Image for Steven Woloszyk - (Wa-LUSH-ick).
39 reviews3 followers
April 14, 2017
Sometimes, you pick up a book and just can't put it down. Something grabs you right away and pulls you along. It's like the author is speaking directly to you. That was the case with this one. There were a number of themes in this book that resonated with me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This book is all about understanding limiting beliefs, discovering from where they are derived, and learning how to bust through your self-imposed upper limit to realize your full potential.

We learn about the four hidden barriers that many of us impose on ourselves that may limit us. It may be one particular item that's limiting us or a combination of a couple. The hidden barriers are as follows:

1 • Feeling Fundamentally Flawed
2 • Disloyalty and Abandonment
3 • Believing That More Success Brings a Bigger Burden
4 • The Crime of Outshining

The author does a good job of detailing each of the hidden beliefs. Many times, it's deep-rooted from our early years and we may not even recognize that we have these hidden beliefs.

The author speaks of working in different "zones." There's the Zone of Incompetence, the Zone of Competence, the Zone of Excellence, and the Zone of Genius, the ultimate Zone where we should play.

The book is filled with all kinds of great suggestions for finding your way past your upper limit and finding your way into the Zone of Genius.

The biggest takeaway for me was the Ultimate Success Mantra. This is something you say to yourself when you meditate. It's something you say aloud to yourself. It's something you program into your neural pathways so you never forget and I happen to like it word for word. The Ultimate Success Mantra is,

"I expand in abundance, success, and love every day and I inspire others around me to do the same."

The only language I've added to it is, "so I may serve more people" and I've inserted this right after the word "day."

This book was published in 2010. It garners a 4.7 rating after 505 reviews on Amazon and a 4.06 on Goodreads with 3,062 ratings and 253 reviews. I actually gave it a 5-star rating and I'm inspired to check out more by Gay Hendricks.
Profile Image for Jon.
Author 31 books2,142 followers
March 7, 2022
Top 5 non-fiction book of all time for me. I’m going to buy a case.
Profile Image for Cav.
638 reviews80 followers
November 23, 2021
"When you reach the end of your life and are wondering whether it’s all been worthwhile, you’ll be measuring whether you did everything you possibly could with the gifts you’ve been given...

I like to read books on how to better oneself from time to time, so I put this one on my list when I came across it by chance. The book was somewhat decent, but not without its flaws...

Author Gay Hendricks is a psychologist, writer, and teacher in the field of personal growth, relationships, and body intelligence. He is best known for his work in relationship enhancement and in the development of conscious breathing exercises.

Gay Hendricks:

Hendricks opens the book with a good intro. He mentions that he wrote it in an effort to talk to the reader directly. I feel he largely succeed in this aim, as the book is written with easy and engaging prose.
He also mentions the self-made billionaire behind Dell Computers, Michael Dell, and talks about his openness to learning. Hendricks name-drops quite often here, using many people as case studies to reenforce his points.

He continues on, laying out a thesis for the book. He mentions the terms he coined: "The Upper Limit Problem" and "The Zone of Genius." He writes on the Upper Limit Problem here:
"Let me show you specifically how the Upper Limit Problem holds us back:
Each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success, and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. When we exceed our inner thermostat setting, we will often do something to sabotage ourselves, causing us to drop back into the old, familiar zone where we feel secure.
Unfortunately, our thermostat setting usually gets programmed in early childhood, before we can think for ourselves. Once programmed, our Upper Limit thermostat setting holds us back from enjoying all the love, financial abundance, and creativity that’s rightfully ours. It keeps us in our Zone of Competence or at best our Zone of Excellence. It prevents us from living in the ultimate destination of the journey—our Zone of Genius. We’ll explore these zones in more detail later in this chapter. For now, though, what you need to know is this: if you make a spectacular leap in one area of your life, such as money, your Upper Limit Problem quickly enshrouds you in a wet-wool blanket of guilt that keeps you from enjoying your new abundance. Guilt is a way our minds have of applying a painful grip on the conduit through which our good feelings flow."

Hendricks also developed this conceptual framework, and expands upon each point:
"Our activities in the world occur in four main zones:
The Zone of Incompetence
The Zone of Competence
The Zone of Excellence
The Zone of Genius"

However, despite finding this subject matter interesting, this philosophy is not without its flaws, IMHO. To start with - I didn't find his theories especially compelling. They were decent, but seemed to be aimed at a very narrow segment of the population.
Not everyone is a genius, or can tap into anything that could rightfully be considered "genius." In fact, by definition, almost no one is a genius. Many (or even most) people will have inherent limitations to achieving positions in the uppermost echelons of society. For example, as much as someone who is unathletic and 5'1" might want to be an NBA star, the likelihood of achieving this dream is roughly 0%.

Hendricks does walk this back a little bit when he covers it in depth in chapter 6. He coaches the reader on how to tap into their own special talent, and then encourages them to exploit that talent. Do what you love, the old maxim goes, and you'll never work a day in your life. A decent prescription, for those who are both extremely passionate, as well as extraordinarily skilled at a particular endeavor. But this maxim quickly falls apart for most regular people not fortunate enough to be gifted with a special skill. By definition (again), exceptional genius, and geniuses are what they are because they are extraordinary outliers. If everyone was exceptionally gifted, it would no longer be exceptional...

Using myself as an example, as suggested he do in the book, I found some problems with the above advice, as well. I love to read books, lift weights, play guitar, and shoot guns. However, I don't know of any way to monetize reading books that would produce a sustainable income, especially in today's political climate. I am not good enough at guitar to make money doing that, either, and I can't sing for shit. And while I do enjoy lifting weights, I am not going to win any strongman competitions with the numbers I move. And making a living competitive shooting up here in Canada is unprecedented, especially with our current gun laws.

A more reasonable goal might be to match a person's personality and abilities with their ideal job. Dr. Jordan Peterson offers a course along these lines, that sounds like a more realistic approach.

There was also quite a lot of pseudoscientific jargon dropped here throughout. Hendricks includes a chapter about how to "produce time," and talks about leaving "Newtonian time," and making the change over to "Einstein Time."
While I get the gist of what he was driving at here, this kind of talk just doesn't resonate with me...

And although Hendricks means well, and I'm sure that a lot of people have found this book useful, much of this advice will not be actionable for large numbers of readers. Life is complicated. Some people do not have the education that would allow them to climb any higher on the wage ladder. Others care for sick spouses, parents, and/or children that prevent them from accumulating the surplus funds required to start a business, for example. The list goes on...

Finally, the book also features a long appendix that felt superfluous, and went on for more time than it was worth...


I did enjoy going through this one for fun, but I feel like this is not a book geared towards people with real fear/anxiety issues. It seems to be more geared towards people who are already performing somewhat decently in life, and would like to break into a higher performance echelon.
Some interesting writing, still.
3 stars.
Profile Image for Nati S.
116 reviews8 followers
December 19, 2020
This book is about the Upper Limit Problem.

Have you noticed that your moments of serenity are always fleeting? Have you ever had a whole day where you felt peaceful and joyous? Moments of joy seem to always be interrupted by thoughts or feelings which break the feeling of joy.

This reminds me of something I read on How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence:

If you imagine yourself as a snowy mountain, your thoughts would be like the ski marks. They lead you from once place to another while you move on the mountain. You see, as you age, those ski marks get deeper and deeper. This means they automatically take you from one point to another without your conscious awareness. The upper limit problem is one such deep ski mark that takes you away from your moments of joy. It acts as a sort of circuit-breaker to stop you from being joyous without limit.

How do you get some fresh snow so that you can stay longer on top of your joyous mountain? This book will answer that question.

Side note: I found a quote in this book that totally transformed the way I understood meditation. I want to share it here.

The art of meditation is in the way you let go of your wander-thoughts and return to the mantra.
Profile Image for Zach Freeman.
477 reviews4 followers
September 2, 2015
While parts of this book are definitely pseudo-psychological nonsense (since Hendricks asserts that your mind controls your body he describes a situation where a colleague subconsciously gave himself laryngitis in order to avoid giving a presentation... but when Hendricks got to the root of the issue, the man's laryngitis DISAPPEARED!), there is a lot to like here and really it's all very straightforward self help guidelines like focus on what you're good at, don't sabotage yourself and take control of your schedule. The writing is straightforward and easy to follow and he's an engaging narrator. But still, even people who love this guy have to admit that he's a straight up madman to assert that when you get in an accident it's probably caused by your subconscious sabotaging you because you don't believe you deserve to be as happy/healthy/lucky/wealthy as you are.
Profile Image for Janisse Ray.
Author 24 books204 followers
September 24, 2022
I’m not sure what is driving me to self-help books these days, but I can’t get enough. I found Hendricks’ idea of 4 zones, one being the zone of genius, very intriguing. This is amazing material. If you’re trying to move the needle of your life, read this book.
Profile Image for Sascha Schuenemann.
2 reviews1 follower
August 14, 2012
Well, so this i going to be my first book review :-)

I kinda liked the book. It's an easy read, the language is easily understand and Hendricks takes his time to explain in simple terms his ideas. And those ideas, those insights were pretty informative and in parts even eye-opening for me. What annoyed me was the way the author presents them as the ultimate and only truth. As if all that helds us back from "taking our life to the next level" are the obstacles he mentions and by simple following his advice we will be able to overcome these obstacles. So for people like me that like to get new ideas but have a problem with people presenting them as the ultimate truth I present the main insights of "The Big Leap":

Gay Hendricks book is about the obstacles that hinder us in unfolding our true potential. In his view Success, Love and Happiness can easily be achieved once we tackle those obstacles.

One obstacle is to find something Hendricks calls the "Zone of Genius". It's the field in which the individual's outstanding abilities lie, the field for which one is perfectly suited for. Once the "Zone of Genius" is found one has to try to spent as much time as possible within it.

Another obstacle and measured by the amount of pages he talks about it the main obstacle is what he calls the Upper Limit Problem (ULP). The idea is that we have this barrier concerning the level of happiness and which we are (unknowingly) unwilling to go beyond.

Say for example I would get a promotion and some days later me and my wife start an argument about something stupid like the color of the furniture we want to buy. The argument turns into a discussion about who is making all the decisions in our relationship, lasts days and becomes a real burden on our relationship. Hendricks would argue that the reason for this stupid argument is my need to counter-balance the happiness I got due to the promotion.

So in order to enjoy real happiness one must find the causes for this upper limit so that one can reach into the area beyond it. Hendricks names several reasons for it: constant pressure during childhood to stop excelling your siblings; the firm believe one is not good enough and therefore does not deserve to be so happy, etc. Once the individual causes are identified one can build strategies to counter those long held beliefs and overcome the ULP.

Another concept Hendricks mentions is what he calls Einstein Time. Basically he tells the reader that time is relative and created by us not given by some obsure power in the universe. Depending on the task time runs faster or shorter. We have the power within ourself to create time, at least according to Hendricks. So everytime we have the feeling of not having enough time we should remind ourselves that we create time and we should stop letting some imaginary force control our lives and take time into our own hands.

Well, basically those 3 ideas are what I took away by reading this book. I have to admit, I might have to reread some parts of the book since I realised while writing this review that some things are still quite unclear to me and I might have overread something important.

But I have the impression that the book just fells short in clearly explaining the background of these concepts. While reading I had the impression that everything was pretty clear, since Hendricks writing is easily understood. But now I just realised that it's quite easy to question the things Hendricks presented and it is hard to argue why the things are the way described in the book. Maybe I have to reread it but I'm left with the impression that Hendricks just left out some important parts in order to persuade his reader into following his advice.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Joya Cousin.
224 reviews77 followers
April 2, 2021
Have you ever had something amazing happen to you -- a new job or professional recognition, an academic or sports award, finding a new love -- only to start sabotaging your own happiness or success?

Have you ever achieved something more awesome than you ever expected -- earning a lucrative contract, getting a huge bonus, being noticed by your gorgeous, long-term crush, finally hitting your goal weight, and then proceeded to burn it all down?

I have.

I have burned down my own life multiple times. Over the course of my 46 years, I have sabotaged myself more times than I can count.

I started painting four years ago in April. It was an experiment that turned into a passion and then a new career.

In the short space of a year and a half, and mostly during the pandemic, I've attracted clients from all over the world, and sold over 60 paintings. Recently, I secured my very first public portrait commission. This was a SIGNIFICANT personal milestone for me. I literally couldn't believe it.
Although the painting is almost finished, in the last few days I've felt my motivation waning, my energy starting to dip. It's as if I'm asking myself: Who are you to be happy AND healthy AND loved AND doing what you love AND financially rewarded by it?

So I picked up this book by Gay Hendricks. In it, he describes a phenomenon he calls 'The Upper Limit Problem', where we start actively tearing down our own happiness once we begin approaching the maximum level of success we subconsciously think we deserve.


I mean, I've heard of imposter syndrome, but this runs so much deeper. Forget the glass ceiling, this is like a brick ceiling, because we can't even see through it.

This was the one big idea for me that makes this book five-star worthy. It has caused me to carefully examine the limitations I've placed on my own happiness and success. It has been a tremendously enlightening experience. Now comes the hard work of putting knowledge into consistent practice, and to leveling up. I'm determined not to repeat my own vicious cycle.

If something in this message resonated with you, please take the time to check it out, because you deserve all the love, abundance and success in the world!

💕 Joya
Profile Image for Sinclair.
Author 44 books202 followers
January 13, 2015
I found myself skeptical of the concepts throughout the book. I believe that we are all capable of self-sabotage, but it's hard for me to swallow that that is what is keeping me/most of us from actually achieving success, abundance, or happiness. Some of it seems scarily close to victim-blaming. Though on the other hand, I think we do have a lot more control over our lives than we tend to accept. I just hate that there's no mention of any sort of systemic, institutional oppressions, as my experience as a queer person and in various activist and marginalized communities is that we talk a lot about the systemic oppression we encounter. So if I do the work of assuming that these concepts don't apply to systemic oppression, but rather to all the parts *aside* from that that we have control over, then ... maybe. But it takes me a bit of mental gymnastics to buy into the concepts. Still, I'm curious, and I'll remain curious about the places where I am "upper-limiting" myself, or when I can have more control over time than I claim to (that chapter that I found quite mind-boggling). I'll bring it to my mastermind group and see if we can't parse out a bit more of it.
Profile Image for ABAgail.
79 reviews5 followers
April 2, 2021
This was an amazing book!!! It's really helped me to change my mindset and realize why certain things happen.
Profile Image for Daniel.
179 reviews37 followers
April 26, 2022

Every now and then I like to read a book I know I'm going to disagree with. Self-torture builds character, and reading a book leaves no permanent physical damage, so I recommend that over going medieval on oneself. But Gay Hendricks comes close to inflicting physical harm with mere words. I could almost feel myself losing IQ points on every page.

After reading this book, I lost respect for Stanford University, which somehow granted this pseudoscience peddler a Ph.D. in "counseling psychology." Whatever that is, it evidently doesn't involve statistics or the scientific method or controlled studies or replication or citing sources like the rest of psychology that I've read. Hendricks doesn't bother with any of the trappings of real science as he generalizes recklessly from his selective anecdotal evidence. I also lost respect for the highly successful folks like Michael Dell who apparently paid real money to get advice from this guy.

Does Hendricks satisfy his customers? Perhaps he does, but so do homeopaths, astrologers, spirit mediums, Uri Geller, psychic healers, crystal shops, Joel Osteen, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, etc. The world teems with quacks getting rich off confirmation bias and the placebo effect. In fact most of medicine before the year 1900 consisted of placebos (with a few exceptions such as the smallpox vaccine). Only the introduction of modern statistics during the 20th century (mainly after WWII) allowed evidence-based medicine to become a thing. At least in the regulated subset of medicine, we no longer have medicine-show hawkers flogging their snake oil and miracle cures. If you want to market a medical treatment in the civilized world, you have to demonstrate its safety and efficacy with something stronger than selective anecdotes. In short, you have to prove your cure is better than a sugar pill, and - ideally - not much more dangerous. But apparently in the unregulated world of "counseling psychology" it's still the Wild West.

Hendricks does cite psychological projection. That's one of the few concepts from mainstream science he cites by name, without distorting it. Elsewhere he mostly presents his own idiosyncratic terms that leave the reader struggling to figure out their possible counterparts in actual science. Thanks to user Kirsty for reporting that what Hendricks calls the "Upper Limit Problem" is at least reminiscent of what actual psychologists call the imposter syndrome. There is also the unrelated (in mainstream science) self-destructive behavior. However, I doubt there is any peer-reviewed science that tries to confirm Hendricks' extraordinary claim that "Upper Limiting" causes accidents and disease. So much for that germ theory of Pasteur and Koch and all those Nobel Prizes awarded to scientists who demonstrated actual causes of diseases - Hendricks says you're all wrong. Colds and flu aren't caused by respiratory viruses, but by not allowing yourself to enjoy your success. Now that we find ourselves in a full-blown respiratory disease pandemic, I wonder if Hendricks would say COVID-19 was also caused by Upper Limiting - millions of people all started to think more improperly than they had been thinking, thereby manifesting the pandemic. And I wonder how many people have been killed by COVID-19 as a result of believing this kind of bunk instead of, say, getting their free vaccinations.

As evidence for his anti-germ theory of disease, Hendricks claims he hadn't gotten sick in 13 years at the time of writing. He did say that he felt the onset of cold or flu symptoms a few times, which he explained by his having slipped into Upper Limiting, but then he caught himself. Hendricks neither acknowledges nor tries to falsify any alternative explanations, such as the Dose–response relationship. That's the finding that for at least some infectious diseases, the severity of a case can be a function of the size of the initial dose. On this account if you have only brief contact with an infected person, you might inhale only a small number of virus particles, causing your resulting infection to be less serious. That's because viruses take a while to replicate up to large numbers in your body, giving your immune system more time to recognize the new invader and mount a response. If you get a large viral dose, the virus effectively gets a head start on your immune system, potentially making you very sick before your immune system can catch up. So if you feel a cold "coming on" but you feel fine the next day, a possible explanation is that you were exposed to only a very small initial dose of the cold virus. Another possibility is that you were exposed to a virus that is genetically similar to a virus that infected you earlier, and your immunity to that previous virus partially carries over to the new virus.

Dose-response seems to bear out in reports from the COVID-19 front lines. So-called "superspreader events" have happened in circumstances like choir practices, church services, political rallies, and so on, where people spent extended times indoors in crowded settings, doing things like loud talking or singing which cause people to spew more spit droplets into the air. In contrast, fewer people seem to be dropping dead after quick visits to the grocery store.

And that's a difference between a scientific thinker and Hendricks. A scientific thinker tries to account for every possible explanation for an event, and then rule them out one by one, until only one remains that can't be ruled out. When there isn't sufficient evidence to rule out alternatives, the scientist avoids leaping to a conclusion. But not Hendricks, he simply elevates his pet hypothesis immediately to the status of fact.

Anyone who absorbed the first lesson about correlation and causality will recognize that Hendricks has not. Hendricks claims bad things happen to people because something good happened to them and they're compensating by punishing themselves, somehow manifesting the misfortune by some unspecified magical mechanism. Hendricks cites anecdotal evidence as proof. There's a Latin name for Hendricks' fallacy: post hoc ergo propter hoc ("after this, because of this"). Just because one thing follows another thing, it doesn't mean that the first thing caused the second thing. For example, the rooster's crow does not cause the Sun to rise. All causes precede their effects, but not everything that precedes an effect is a cause. And Hendricks' anecdotes don't even agree with my anecdotes - as I think back on bad things that happened to me, I can't recall any that directly followed anything especially good.

But it's not hard to imagine finding such anecdotes if one were motivated to look - as Hendricks is, now that he's found what he thinks is a Theory Of Everything. After all, life has its ups and downs. If a life event is bad, it's probably worse than some life event that came before - how else could we recognize it as bad? So you can probably always identify some good event that happened some time before a bad event, particularly if there's no time limit. Hendricks has probably counseled thousands of clients, so in a sample set that large we expect to find some people who suffered bad things after good things.

While Hendricks doesn't cite The Secret or the law of attraction by name (he doesn't cite much of anything by name), he presents similar anti-science notions that our thoughts create our reality, attracting or repelling money, success, romantic partners, accidents and diseases, and other goods or harms, depending on whether we think the way Hendricks orders us to think or not. Sadly, I live in a country where about half of opinion poll respondents claim to believe in a literal Noah's Ark, so it's hardly surprising that millions of people fall for the quantum mysticism of The Secret and the elements of it that filter through to Hendricks.

But even though science denial is evidently fun for millions of people, and may actually help Hendricks' clients and fans feel better about their lives, it comes with a cost. Hundreds of thousands of Americans just died from COVID-19 vaccine denial. As I write this in April, 2022, highly safe vaccines have been abundant and free in the USA for about a year (vaccine supply caught up with demand in April, 2021). Since then, the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have been to unvaccinated people. The bad habit of thinking that Hendricks promotes - his rejection of critical thinking - is like playing Russian roulette. You may get away with it for a while, but sooner or later reality collects the bill.
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