The 4 Cs Formula Needed To Create Transformative Personal Breakthroughs

Ross Thornley
November 26, 2019
Human Potential
November 26, 2019

All of us, in life, want to make breakthroughs, unless we are in a really unhealthy frame of mind, which sadly is the case for some. However, the majority of us want success, we want to make steps forward, we want to grow, and we want to break-through. These breakthroughs are relevant to where we are, who we are, and what our priorities are. A break-through could be a health goal, as seemingly small (but in actual fact colossally significant) as taking a first step after serious surgery. Or, it could be a business goal, of growing x-amount by x-date. The possibilities are endless, but the impetus to grow remains the same.

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Most people are goal-setting all the time, and yet, sometimes it can feel like very few of us actually achieve those goals. We strive to improve ourselves, but often ineffectually. We promise to do more exercise, or eat better, or work harder, and often after a few weeks of effort, these objectives fall by the wayside. There are many factors that create this falling off. For one, we live in a world with more distractions than ever before: social media, streaming on every device, a constant barrage of communication.

When we talk about big goals — goals which impact thousands, or tens of thousands, or even millions of people, then there is a more profound reason why we might fail, and it has to do with our ever-accelerating world.

The technological and sociological landscape is shifting at lightspeed and the speed of change is only likely to increase. The Future of Jobs report 2018 (World Economic Forum) observed that

‘The fundamental pace of change has only accelerated further since the World Economic Forum published its initial report on this new labour market — The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution — in January 2016.’

One of the most significant areas was accelerated technology adoption, which showed ‘85% of respondents are likely or very likely to have expanded their adoption of user and entity big data analytics.’

With this speed of change, many of our goals can be made redundant before we realise them.

It is hard to hold on to a goal when infrastructures, industries, and sociological structures are being radically disrupted by technology, shifting perceptions, and looming planetary crisis. Yet, it is so important for us psychologically as human beings to have goals that we can meet. In addition, we have to keep growing to keep up with the pace of change. Those that aren’t able to change and adapt, that keep repeating the processes and ideas of the past, risk being left behind. There also may be wider consequences for us failing to change, particularly for our environment, food-supplies, and planet as a whole. The speed of our exponential world has created a need to adapt like never before.

I’d like to share with you a formula created by Dan Sullivan, a good friend of mine, my mentor and coach at Strategic Coach. This formula is a simple model for growth called the 4 Cs. This model will help you to make transformative personal breakthroughs. It also ties in beautifully with adaptability, helping us to take on new challenges in order to adapt to the frequency of change. It is a method I have embraced for the last 6 years, with unquestionable success and break-throughs.

Here is the 4-step model:

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Nothing starts until you commit to achieving a specific, measurable goal by a specific date in your future. Without that commitment, there is no drive or focus. A McKinsey & Company study, The 5 Trademarks of Agile Organisations (2017), highlighted that the number one factor in organisational success as an agile company was strategy, or in other words, ‘Shared purpose and vision’.

The goal also needs to be specific and measurable, with a due-date. This may be reminiscent to you of SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely. Whilst I believe specificity and measurability are important, as well as a due date to galvanise you towards achieving the goal, I think that words like ‘achievable’ and ‘realistic’ set a cap on your ambition, and in our world powered by exponential technology, even the sky is not the limit.

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This links with the concept of moonshot innovation (I wrote a book on the subject) — not just settling for the known, the predictable, the microscopic gain, but actually putting yourself out there to achieve something massive and transformative (which is often made of multiple smaller steps, of course). One of the key aspects of a moonshot is that it is not just a ‘big goal’, it is beyond that. It is about stepping into the unknown. If you know how to do it, it’s not a moonshot!

We call it a moonshot because when Kennedy announced that he wanted to put a man on the moon, he freely confessed that they didn’t know how to do it yet, but they were going to try. That is the essence and spirit of a moonshot. Don’t limit your ambitions, but discover a problem that is worth solving, and set your sights on it.


Courage is required because you actually have to take action before you have acquired the capability. You have made the commitment, now you have to act. In reality, most of us will not act unless we feel we have capability, because we are embarrassed, scared, or we don’t want to lose face (or all three). But the only way to learn new skills and change old habits is to do something without capability.

I think the most helpful way to look at this is with a simple example.

Imagine you wanted to lose quite a bit of weight, and one of the things you want to do was go for two runs a week. You have made the commitment, now you have to start running. You are probably not very good at running. You might also be ashamed of your physicality or appearance. However, you have to have courage to start running, because it’s only through doing that we can acquire capability and inturn perhaps mastery. Theory is one thing, but practice is another. Even in professions that are predominantly in the mental space (such as writing, for example) we still have to do and physically practice. It takes immense courage to go on those first few runs, or write our first few articles and perhaps even commit to a whole book!

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There is a Chinese proverb that illustrates this very powerfully. This proverb states the factors that will determine victory in a conflict or fight:

‘First is courage, second is strength, third is Kung Fu.’

Kung Fu, or in other words skill / capability, is actually the last step! The most important factor is courage. Of course, if both fighters have courage, strength and skill come into play. But very often the courageous fighter will defeat the skillful one. We see this time and time again.

For a literal example:

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there was a recent upset in the boxing world, where the spirited underdog Andy Ruiz Jr. overthrew heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. Anthony Joshua is taller than Andy Ruiz Jr, athletically built, has a longer reach, and a multitude of titles to his name. Ruiz is considerably overweight, and simply didn’t look like anyone’s idea of a boxer. In fact, he was only brought in because of a last minute cancellation. None of this mattered, because he had the courage to take on the heavyweight champion, and knew he could win.

Moving away from the literal, we can view this through the lens of business and personal development. Young and dynamic leaders and companies, who are almost making it up as they go along, are overthrowing the established giants of yesteryear, because they have the courage to do new things:

to experiment, and to rapidly pivot when new data comes to light.

Rapid experimentation is one of the core aspects of a successful business in the exponential world of tomorrow. Having the courage to take these bold risks on a new process, new product, or a new idea and is not easy, but can lead to break-throughs.

Dan Sullivan tells a powerful story about courage in his Strategic Coach podcast. He had been drafted into the military out of university, and was handling live-grenades as part of a training exercise. His Sergeant at the time asked him if he was scared, and he said he was. His Sergeant said:

‘Fear is wetting your pants. Courage is doing what you’re supposed to do with wet pants.’


Capability is created by commitment and courage. Once we have the courage to try, we learn capability. Our commitment keeps us coming back, and our courage allows us to push through hard times. I’m not only talking about specific capabilities either. For example, the capability of running in the previous example. I also mean our overall capability to adapt and change, which itself is a skill and muscle that can be worked and improved.

Adaptability in itself is swiftly becoming one of the most desirable skills in new employees, as well as one of the core aspects of a company-survivability. Most companies now operate in multiple industries. For example, Uber was in the ‘human’ transport industry, but is now taking on Deliveroo with its Uber-Eats home-food-delivery app.

We can no longer rely on business models, processes, or past-information to guarantee survival, but must instead constantly adapt ourselves to thrive in the new environment. One of the ways we can do this is by using tools to first measure, then improve our adaptability. At AQai we have created such a tool, an assessment that measures AQ (adaptability quotient) and offers insights into where you might need to upgrade your skills. If you are you responsible for over 25 people in your team or organisation, you can find out more information by signing up to any of our programs available


Confidence comes as a result of our newfound capability. In our primary research at AQai, one of the key dimensions of adaptability is mindset. Our self-beliefs and mental tendencies (either towards optimism or pessimism) have a disproportionate effect on the outcomes of what we do. The words of Henry Ford are still so relevant today:

‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.’

Of course, we have to back up our confidence with the commitment, courage, and capability. Blind confidence can lead to disastrous outcomes. But, if we follow this model, and build ourselves up in the right sequence, we can achieve the transformative breakthroughs we desire, and, without putting too fine a point on it: change the world.

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Then round and round we go, through the ever increasing growth that comes from this amazing formula.

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