Sometimes You Need To Hit Rock Bottom

March 26, 2008

“Success Is How High You Bounce When You Hit Rock Bottom” George Patton.

Image by Rob & Lisa Meehan

Sometimes you need to hit rock bottom before you can improve your life and begin to achieve your dreams. This may sound like madness. Surely most sane people wouldn’t want to wait until they’re in a heap of trouble before they try to improve their lives right?

The trouble is, when you’re living quite comfortably - ok job, decent salary, nice house, new car - you don’t have so much of an incentive to improve your life at all. You might dream of starting a business, travelling the world, giving up your job to go freelance or writing a best selling novel. But life is good - it’s easy, so those dreams never materialise because you don’t put them into action.

What happens if you lose that mediocre job with the decent salary? Pretty soon, your nice house, your new car and easy life could evaporate if you don’t do something drastic. And if you’re going through this now, it may sound ridiculous, but this could be the turning point in your life - it could also give you the incentive you need to achieve your dreams.

Every time I’ve had real problems, it’s always given me the kick I need in the right direction. When I was ill with PTSD, sometimes I felt I had no future. My life sucked. I had no job, I was in a bad relationship, I hated the place I was living in - I was afraid to go out of the house. To me, I was in a no win situation. Then, one day, it dawned on me. I was actually in a good situation, because no matter what I did, I had nothing to lose. Plus, if I didn’t do something pretty drastic, I was really going to be in the shit.

Looking back, sinking to the depths of despair did me the world of good. If I hadn’t been ill and I’d just carried on living my life the way I had beforehand, I would have probably got stuck in a comfort zone, with my head full of dreams that I would never make reality.

I bet you’ve heard dozens of stories about people who hit rock bottom before they went on to achieve success. And most of us know that people like Anthony Robbins and Oprah were total losers before turning their lives around and achieving international recognition and fortune. But, what about other non-famous (or not quite famous yet) people like you and me?

Christine O’Kelly is the perfect example of “a not quite famous yet person” who had to hit rock bottom before going on to achieve her dreams. In this article: Lies I Told Myself That Kept Me Broke And Lazy, she describes the lies she used to tell herself that kept her in her day job. But once she was in a position where she no longer had that job, she was able to replace her income quickly with few resources at her disposal. Christine is a perfect example of what you can achieve when you need to put food on the table and a roof over your head.

In Six Months In Business - How Am I Doing?
Caroline Middlebrook describes how her world came crashing down in December when she split up from her partner of ten years. On the weekend of the break-up she wrote an ebook, in one sitting. But she felt as though she’d lost all purpose. Then in January - only two months after the break-up, she made more money online than she had made since packing in her job four months earlier.

What do you think? Have you ever hit rock bottom and used it as a motivator to turn your life around? Do you know anyone else who’s done the same thing? Or are you one of those extraordinary people who is quite capable of achieving your dreams, despite already living a comfortable and happy life? Please share in the comments section?

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32 Responses to “Sometimes You Need To Hit Rock Bottom”

  1. Nez on March 26th, 2008 2:52 pm

    I’ve never really hit “bottom”, but I do know what it’s like to be poor.

    Hitting bottom really lets you appreciate the things you have, in terms of how “high” the first world countries’ standard of living is compared to other countries.

    Doesn’t mean it’s the best way, though. I’m sure the lives of indigenous people before they were “civilized” were satisfying in their own ways.

    I think hitting bottom also shows you who your true friends are — these might be the same people who won’t ask for a cent if you win the lottery.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Catherine.

    Nez’s last blog post..Dial ?M? for Blogger

  2. Bob Younce on March 26th, 2008 2:56 pm

    I hit rock bottom, though not in my own business. After nearly a decade in the IT field, I found myself unemployed and with no desire to ever work in IT again. I nearly lost my wife and family in that whole process.

    Coming out the other end of it, though, I had returned to school to get my Master’s degree and wound up with a successful Internet writing career.

    It’s actually sort of neat that you had this post today, because I’ve been chronicling my journey on my own blog this week, and today’s post is supposed to be about the above part of my life. Very cool, and Good Form!

    Bob Younce’s last blog post..Intermission - Why I am the Next Authority Blogger

  3. Caroline Middlebrook on March 26th, 2008 3:01 pm

    Yes hitting rock bottom can certainly kick you into action but the problem is that often that action only gets you as far as reaching your comfort zone again - it still doesn’t help you get over that hump to reach the next level.

    Caroline Middlebrook’s last blog post..Easter Egg Hunt WINNERS! (and a contest summary)

  4. dawn on March 26th, 2008 4:25 pm

    I’ve hit pretty darn close to rock bottom…
    About three years ago as I was about to separate from my hubby of 24 years - he finally fessed up to a secret he had been keeping; he had become an illegal substance abuser. NOT GOOD…
    But at least there was a reason for his personality & behavior changes. He found the courage to tell me his problem - so I found the compassion to give him a chance to clean up his life. It was a long and bumpy journey to now…
    Yet in reality it was the kick in the behind we needed to step it up in all areas of our lives. We made a bunch of life changing decisions from that point on - sell our rental properties ( we were burned out from 24 years in that business), cut loose negative family & friends that were bad influences & holding us back ( the whole misery loves company sort of thing), prioritize what really was in alignment with our passions and values. All steps we might have taken years to do, if not for “the rock bottom” point in our lives…

    dawn’s last blog post..The Power of Our Thoughts…

  5. cathlawson on March 26th, 2008 4:28 pm

    Hi Nez - that is so true. We have far more here than they have in many countries, even when we feel as if we have hit bottom. Although, as you say, many of our ways our not necessily better.

    Hi Bob - It’s great that it led you to doing something you love. I’m looking forward to reading your story. I’m guessing this is also your competition entry for SOBcon - they’re offering some cool prizes.

    Hi Caroline - That is a really good point. I’ve felt that way sometimes too. You can sort of YoYo up and down if you’re not careful. But, I really have a good feeling about your new StumbleUpon course and I have a feeling that it’s going to bounce you over that hump.

  6. cathlawson on March 26th, 2008 4:31 pm

    Hi Dawn - Hope you’re recovering from the flu. I bet that was a huge shock for you - substance abuse is a pretty scare thing.

    It’s great that you managed to work through it and you’re now on the right track though.

  7. Ian Denny on March 26th, 2008 4:39 pm

    There is always somebody worse off. And that’s what I told myself when our company went bust. We fought like hell to keep the roof over our head and avoid personal bankruptcy.

    But still, imagine being without food? Shelter? That’s really rock bottom.

    So when you think things are bad, it’s actually just your own perception. And you are probably mourning the loss of lifestyle your business or well paid job gave you.

    But Cath is right. Reaching a low point makes you realise you have little more to lose and everything to gain. Like Bob did, you should maybe change what you’re doing.

    Hitting a low point is actually a great opportunity to do something you may not have if those circumstances hadn’t forced your hand.

    P.S. Saw a programme on BBC2 last night - Horizon I think it was. They showcased a new drug for treating PTSD. Amazing really because it messes with your memory.

    Apparently the brain creates strong links to emotionally charged memories. Scientists had originally thought these memories were unbreakable. But they discovered that when you recollect something from the past, at that very moment, the memories are malleable.

    There is a drug that you can take. After you’ve taken the drug, you have to recall the memory by writing about what happened. Because the memory is in the process of being recalled, the drug apparently loosens the strength of the circuit in the brain which links the memories and emotions/associations you have with it. The effect is not that you forget, but rather that the emotional associations are weakened.

    It helps the PTSD sufferer weaken the negative associations with the event that affected them. I’m no expert on it, but it fascinated me how science is beginning to understand how memory works and manipulate it physically rather than psychologically.

    Ian Denny’s last blog post..Sky TV: Bad Customer Service Or Theft?

  8. cathlawson on March 26th, 2008 4:53 pm

    Hi Ian - thanks. And that is true - there’s always someone worse off. My grandmother used to say that - often!

    That drug sounds really interesting. It would be really beneficial to many people. Even though I’m over the worst of it I reckon it might help me a lot too, as I still have symptoms that I probably wouldn’t suffer if I wasn’t stuck with that memory. I’m going to look it up. Thanks.

  9. Christine OKelly on March 26th, 2008 5:06 pm

    Excellent post Cath! Thanks so much for sharing your story. I love what you say here: “Then, one day, it dawned on me. I was actually in a good situation, because no matter what I did, I had nothing to lose. Plus, if I didn’t do something pretty drastic, I was really going to be in the shit.” That is the wonderful thing about hitting rock bottom. We have nothing to lose and that gives us the freedom to do all kinds of things we never thought we’d do.

    I’ve hit “rock bottom” a few times. Sometimes I even put myself there purposefully. Thought it sucks, these are the times I learned and grew the most.

    Christine OKelly’s last blog post..Lies I Told Myself That Kept Me Broke and Lazy

  10. Hunter Nuttall on March 26th, 2008 5:24 pm

    Those are great examples, Catherine. Christine and Caroline (gee, that’s a lot of “C” names) are great to read because they’re so honest with everything, even their setbacks.

    It might not be necessary to actually hit rock bottom, but it’s unlikely that someone is going to work their butt off if they’re already perfectly content.

    Hunter Nuttall’s last blog post..Men With More Than Just Pens

  11. Barbara Swafford on March 26th, 2008 6:39 pm

    Hi Catherine,

    I love the picture. She’s probably a blogger. haha.

    I think “rock bottom” is different to different people. Over the years I’ve been in situations that probably looked like rock bottom to others, but for me, it wasn’t. I may not have had money in the bank, or a job, but in my mind, I was o.k. Later, when I would tell the story to others, they would say, OMG, how did you do it?, I guess I just learned to put one foot in front of the other and kept moving forward.

    There are always others who are worse off. All the more reason to be grateful for what we do have.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Join Me In Helping A Fellow Blogger

  12. cathlawson on March 26th, 2008 6:56 pm

    Hi Christine - thank you. I loved reading your story and Caroline’s because I they gave me a real wake up call and I realised that if I didn’t stop being so complacent, I was going to wind up in the shit again.

    I understand what you mean about deliberately putting yourself there. Sometimes I feel as if I deliberately cause problems for myself. I don’t know if it’s just for something to do, or through carelessness.

    Hi Hunter - that is true - I suppose they would have less motivation to improve. Mind you, I’m going to be interviewing someone soon who had a comfortable life already and still went on to do some pretty amazing things. But, I’m guessing those types are pretty few and far between.

    Hi Barbara - I bet you’re right. I think that even I would not resort to doing it in the street though!

    I understand what you’re saying - I think your perception of rock bottom definitely changes. I certainly can’t image reaching the lows I reached before. Then again, I never imagined even being ill then - never mind long term illness. I suppose you never know what’s around the corner and as you say - there’s so many people who are worse off. We’re just lucky that we were born in a safe place.

  13. Ian Denny on March 26th, 2008 9:31 pm

    It was 9PM on BBC2, 25th March. I think the prgoramme was “Horizon” - I missed the first 10 minutes, but think that was what it was called in the credits afterwards.

    The PTSD girl was Canadian and it was Canadian experts they were quizzing on the drug and how it affects memory.

    Hope that helps if you want to look it up. Sorry I can’t remember the name of the drug!

    Ian Denny’s last blog post..Sky TV: Bad Customer Service Or Theft?

  14. Steve Mills on March 27th, 2008 2:23 am

    Hi Cath,

    I hope that stories like these serve as a wakeup call to people that they don’t have to wait until they have hit rock bottom before they start making positive, life changing decisions and turn their life into one they get enjoyment out of.

    It’s never the wrong time to start taking steps in the right direction

  15. Scott Sweeney on March 27th, 2008 12:08 pm

    Hey Catherine! Been on vacation plus away from the blog world for a bit, but I have been catching up on things.

    I hit rock bottom about 18 months ago in most facets of my life, my band broke up, me and my girlfriend of 7 years split up, and I was unemployed questioning every choice I have ever made in my life

    It took getting to that point where I knew what I wanted to do / needed to do with my life so I look at it now as a blessing :)

    Hope all has been well with you!

    Scott Sweeney’s last blog post..Using Twitter to Promote a Blog

  16. Kelly Rigby@ SHE-POWER on March 27th, 2008 1:21 pm

    Hi Cath

    My life has been one long roller coaster ride so I’ve definitely hit rock bottom on a few occasions. I’ll probably do a post about it one day, but I like to compare my first 20 years to some bad Daniele Steel style soap opera. All the worst things that can happen pretty much did.

    But you’re right these experiences definitely made me stronger. I’ve always been a fighter and a risk taker, and because I’ve proved to myself I can live through anything, I’m prepared to shake things up and challenge myself. It’s not that I don’t get scared, I just don’t let that stop me.

    I also like to think that all this enforced personal development has made me a more empathetic person, a better writer and a more open and honest friend/partner. I wouldn’t change my “rock bottom” moments for anything because then I wouldn’t be me.


    PS. I can really relate to the comfort zone not pushing you further, though. I am in this at the moment with my blog. Wanting to move forward with some ideas and opportunities, but comfy in meandering along, while being a mummy and a wife and living in La la KellyLand. It’s nice here, but it’s not going to achieve my goals!

    Kelly Rigby@ SHE-POWER’s last blog post..I’m Going to Spain!

  17. Cath Lawson on March 27th, 2008 1:53 pm

    @ Ian - Cheers - I found it. It sounds interesting, so am going to read up on it some more.

    @ Steve - that is so true. Doing something when you begin falling would be so much easier.

    @ Scott - Hi. Hope you had a good time on vacation. It’s good that you’re on the path you want to be on now. I’ve spoken to a few people who tell a similar story to you - they’ve usually had to have huge problems in more than one area of their lives before they turned it round.

    @ Kelly - that’s interesting. I bet a lot of people feel that way. At the time, they probably wish all those awful things weren’t happening to them. But, later they appreciate how much those experiences have improved them as a person.

    Now, I know that you know exactly what you want to do with your life, which is a great start. As you say, it’s just a matter of moving yourself out of your comfort zone. You are doing pretty well though. I like the way you’re putting your fiction on your blog. Because it’s a continuing story, you’re committing yourself to writing it, because we’re expecting to read it.

    jessica noble’s last blog post..27 Ways to Fuel Your Imagination And Come Up With Great Ideas

  18. Akemi - Yes to Me on March 27th, 2008 3:25 pm

    Good point. And I think sometime the rock bottom comes to us to give us the drive to take action. I’ve seen people complain about their jobs for years and wanting to start their own businesses, but just can’t take the action, and one day, they let go from the jobs they hated — and they finally start the process to become entrepreneurs!

    Akemi - Yes to Me’s last blog post..True Life Purpose Goes Beyond The Illusion Of Self

  19. Sterling Okura | bizlift on March 27th, 2008 3:58 pm

    Inspiring post Catherine. Sometimes a kick in the pants is the best motivation to transcend your comfort zone.

    I really liked Christine’s post on $100K in 25 minutes. She does a great job of openly sharing the “excuses” that got in her way and how she conquered them.

    Sterling Okura | bizlift’s last blog post..Walking On Water Miracle Revealed. You Won’t Believe Your Eyes.

  20. cathlawson on March 27th, 2008 4:44 pm

    Hi Akemi - I was thinking about you when I wrote this post, because you’re one person I know that didn’t wait until you hit rock bottom. And I bet you’re great at inspiring those who are on a downward spiral into doing something with their lives.

    Hi Sterling - Christine’s 100k in 25 minutes is an awesome post isn’t it. She proved that you can achieve anything when you really need to. And it’s also great that she shares exactly how she did it.

  21. Akemi - Yes to Me on March 28th, 2008 5:39 pm

    I didn’t wait for “the rock bottom” when I was leaving my home country nor when I left my corporate job, but I was spiritually starved — different kind of bottom. And also, I have hit more typical rock bottoms in my marriage and in my entrepreneurial endeavors. So I know what it is like. I consider it as gifts now that I can use the experience and the lessons learned for the good of my readers and clients.

    Akemi - Yes to Me’s last blog post..True Life Purpose Goes Beyond The Illusion Of Self

  22. cathlawson on March 29th, 2008 1:48 am

    Hi Akemi - that is a good point. Everyone has different perceptions of what rock bottom is. And just because you’re financially comfortable, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re comfortable - or happy.

  23. MonkMojo on April 1st, 2008 7:58 am

    Great topic and comments!

    I did a webcomic for this post some may be able to relate to.

    MonkMojo’s last blog post..following your passion

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  25. Will on July 24th, 2008 4:40 am

    This is so funny that i found this post. I have just had a rediculously similar situation happen so i googled it and this came up. For those of you who care to read, Here’s my story…

    I was unhappy with my current situation in my easy life and wanted to explore and travel more. I wanted to see the world. This summer i went to NY for the first time from Atlanta GA and it really opened my eyes to what else the world had to offer. Long story short i had some female trouble and was really bent outta shape over it . Randomly i thought of how my friend invited me to come work with him in Argentina and while i laughed it off earlier suddenly it became a real option. Now i decided to start anew in Argentina and join into a growing company that will hopefully soon be doing VERY well. I would never have done this had i not hit rock bottom right before.

    Figured id tell a story while i was at it haha.


  26. cathlawson on July 24th, 2008 4:58 am

    Hi Will - That’s a brilliant story and a brave new start. Good for you. I hope things work out great for you in Argentina.

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  31. wilhb81 on December 5th, 2008 9:01 am

    Cath, I loved your article, as I agreed that “The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step!”

    wilhb81’s last blog post..Glad That You’re Happy, Debbie!

  32. Ryan on January 4th, 2009 6:33 am

    Yes I have something to say. For nearly three years now, I’ve been in a spiritual battle. You see I’ve recently fallen on rock bottom and I know how devastating it is. I’ve lost good friends that I used to jam with in Christian retreat, my drummer broke up with his girlfriend and it broke her heart. And we became best friends and I got my heart broken all because she wanted to stay friends and nothing more after we told each other we liked each other. Then to make the long story short, all that heartbreak and insecurity of her ever leaving me had long everlasting emotional wounds. I’ve lost my faith. I’ve also lost trust in people. I recently got dumped by my girlfriend all because I’ve been to depressed about life. So depressed I wanted to party with friends but I can’t all because I have strict family and I’m 23. So I know that I’ve lost a social life and it left me feeling like I’m a social outcast and it made me lose my reputation at work. I was once the happiest worker and now being the saddest team member.

    Basically a guy with no faith, no self esteem, no courage, no trust, no soul, no friends, no lover, no best friend, no social life, no spiritual direction, I’m devastated. The only thing I have is my mom, my brother, my job and school and hopefully those tools that I have left will help me heed to my betterment to a happier and wholesome full life.

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