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Identifying, using and empowering ourselves through tipping points

Laura Lewis
sep 18
8 min read

As a local female business owner, our Founder and Managing Director, Laura Lewis, was asked to speak at a PWN Norway event. We thought it might be interesting for others to get insight into what she said. So here is a summary of her talk. Hope you enjoy it…

In preparation for this evening’s talk, I reached out to a few friends and asked them a simple yet thought-provoking question: What does a tipping point mean to you? The responses I received were as diverse as they were intriguing. One friend jokingly referred to her husband, another spoke of her kids, and someone even quipped about the perfect moment when a wine bottle tips just right into a glass – a delightful analogy, although not exactly what I was aiming for.

So, I turned to Google and discovered a plethora of definitions, some veering toward discussions about climate change, others diving into societal tipping points where a significant portion of society alters its behaviour. Then, there’s Malcolm Gladwell’s well-known book, «The Tipping Point,» which delves into how minor changes can lead to major impacts.

Regardless of where you look for a definition, one thing is clear: Tipping points are abstract, and each of us likely has our unique interpretation of what they entail. However, as an English graduate, the classic Oxford English Dictionary definition resonates most with me: «Tipping points are a series of small changes that result in a bigger change.»

Fundamentally, tipping points are all about change, and I’d like to illustrate this with an analogy, which as I skier I particularly cherish: the avalanche. Picture a mountain blanketed in snow, slowly accumulating layer upon layer. Over time, this snowpack reaches a critical depth, and it takes just the smallest addition—a single snowflake, a gust of wind, or the sun’s glare—to trigger an avalanche, dramatically reshaping the landscape. The buildup of snow represents the accumulation of factors or conditions that eventually reach a point of no return—a decision—the tipping point.

Now, let’s bring this concept closer to home. How many of you are not originally from Norway but now find yourselves living here? I, too, share this experience. Each of us likely has a unique story, but I doubt any of us simply woke up one morning and boarded a flight to Stavanger. The tipping point that led us here was the culmination of a series of smaller incidents.

For me, it began when my husband started traveling to Norway more frequently for work. Eventually, he was asked to work Monday to Friday in Stavanger, a challenging proposition for a pregnant wife with a new puppy. After the birth of our son, when the request came again, we decided it wasn’t feasible: either we all move, or none of us do. So, in 2016, we relocated to Norway, a significant and life-altering change.

As we’ve established, tipping points signify change, and they can be viewed from both negative and positive perspectives. Negative tipping points often evoke the feeling of being «tipped over the edge,» but they can also serve as catalysts for transformation and substantial growth. These points in our lives can:

  • Be transformational: leading to significant change.
  • Result in growth: if recognized, they can be leveraged.
  • Enable informed decisions: they offer foresight for planning.
  • Facilitate adaptation: in a state of change, agility is crucial.
  • Fuel personal growth: opening new opportunities.
  • Create societal impact: encouraging innovation.
  • Empower us: enabling positive change.

The last point is especially significant. Tipping points often culminate after incremental changes, and recognizing them allows us to identify, control, and harness their power for personal empowerment. Although it might be an uphill battle, we can lay the foundation for change by putting in the necessary building blocks.

Change can be accompanied by feelings of uncertainty, resilience, and excitement. Remember, no change means no growth.

Now, let’s delve into the process of identifying tipping points in our lives. Do any of you recall the character Rachel from the TV show Friends when she ran through her life plan at her 30th birthday party? Well, I was a bit like that, working diligently toward my plan in my early twenties. My focus was firmly on climbing the career ladder, and by the age of 28, I had achieved the title of Vice President of Marketing, Branding & Communications for Archer VP—a significant milestone, or so I thought.

However, life has a way of revealing new perspectives. I had a serious boyfriend at that point, who is now my husband, and I soon realized that the corporate world, with its demands and the feeling of being pulled in all directions, was not quite as glamorous as it seemed. I knew that to achieve the next items on my plan, I needed a change.

Opportunity knocked when I stumbled upon a job opening with a small company that used sports to engage employees. They organized corporate sports tournaments, and they were in need of a marketing manager to shake things up. With my passion for sports and organization, I saw a thrilling opportunity. I accepted the job offer, even though it meant a 50% pay cut and a shift from a large corporation to a small team of eight. I was well aware of the dramatic change that awaited me, but I embraced it.

Intuition and gut instinct play vital roles in identifying tipping points. Knowing yourself and your skill set is crucial. Patterns in our lives can provide clues to impending shifts, and self-reflection on past tipping points can help us identify future ones. Whether these tipping points are substantial or subtle, recognizing them is valuable because they pave the way for empowerment.

Tipping points also mark the end of a buildup or accumulation, and once identified, we gain the ability to control and harness their power. They may require effort, but the incremental nature of change allows us to set the stage for the transformation we seek.

Furthermore, the outcome of one tipping point can serve as the starting point for another journey. For me, moving to Norway was a pivotal tipping point in my life. At that time, the oil and gas industry was in a downturn, I didn’t speak Norwegian, and I couldn’t start working until my son started barnehangen. I felt like I had lost my identity and craved something more. Despite the challenges, I leveraged my background and network to start my own business.

I began as a freelancer, offering flexibility to support different companies while accommodating my family. I joined the SR bank Grunderhus and embarked on the journey of building my business. Along the way, I became inspired and co-founded Requestify, a music app designed for collaborative playlists. This journey was like a rollercoaster, typical of startup life, and I tried to manage both businesses. Eventually, I committed to Project Neon and dedicated myself fully to my own company.

The point I’m making here is that the path to a tipping point isn’t always linear. We learn, adapt, and grow, embracing the changes along the way.

When making decisions and implementing small changes to reach a tipping point, it’s essential to consider what success means to you. Society often imposes expectations of what success should look like, but it’s a deeply personal concept. For instance, my definition of success at 28 was drastically different from what I aspire to today. Even during my seven years with Project Neon, my perception of success has evolved.

Initially, I wanted the freedom and flexibility of being my own boss, with control over my work hours to accommodate my family. However, as the business grew, so did my responsibilities. Success transformed from personal work-life balance to ensuring my team’s quality of life, a shift that continues to guide my decisions.

Change inevitably involves aspects of risk and vulnerability, but sometimes tipping points are entirely out of our control. Take, for example, the inevitability of certain life changes for us as females, such as menopause. While we can’t stop these changes, we can empower ourselves to navigate them effectively.

To do so, we must:

  • Acknowledge inevitability: understand that change will happen.
  • Maintain a positive mindset: embrace change as an opportunity for transformation.
  • Empower with knowledge: seek information and demystify the process.
  • Make healthy choices: prioritize nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, and mental health.
  • Cultivate adaptability: embrace the ups and downs of the journey.
  • Build a supportive network: find your tribe, share experiences, and seek advice.
  • Practice self-kindness: understand that it’s okay to struggle and take care of yourself during challenging times.
  • Tipping points offer the opportunity to redefine what you want in life, and one tipping point can lead to another.

To conclude, I’d like to leave you with a beautiful quote from Viktor E. Frankl:

«Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space we choose how to respond.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.»

This quote underscores the idea that we are in control, and we have the power to choose how we respond to tipping points. Yes, the journey to a tipping point can be daunting, and it may bring stress, pain, and anxiety. However, it also presents opportunities for transformation, growth, and freedom. In that space between stimulus and response, we have the ability to take the small steps needed to create a tipping point.

Change is not always easy, but it is always a chance for growth. Embrace it and remember that every tipping point is an opportunity in disguise.

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