A groundbreaking guide to breaking free from the thoughts, habits, jobs, relationships, and even business models that prevent us from achieving our full potential.
Almost everyone feels stuck in some way. Whether you’re muddling through a midlife crisis, wrestling writer’s block, trapped in a thankless job, or trying to remedy a fraying friendship, the resulting emotion is usually a mix of anxiety, uncertainty, fear, anger, and numbness. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Anatomy of a Breakthrough is the roadmap we all need to escape our inertia and flourish in the face of friction.
Adam Alter has spent the past two decades studying how people become stuck and how they free themselves to thrive. Here he reveals the formula he and other researchers have uncovered. The solution rests on a process that he calls a friction audit—a systematic procedure that uncovers why a person or organization is stuck, and then suggests a path to progress. The friction audit states that people and organizations get unstuck when they overcome three sources of friction: HEART (unhelpful emotions); HEAD (unhelpful patterns of thought); and HABIT (unhelpful behaviors).
Despite the ubiquity of friction, there are many great “unstickers” hidden in plain sight among us and Alter shines a light on some exceptional stories to share their valuable lessons with us. He tells us about the sub-elite swimmer who unstuck himself twice to win two Olympic gold medals, the actor who faced countless rejections before gaining worldwide fame, the renowned painter who became paralyzed and had to relearn to paint with a brush strapped to his wrist, and Alter’s own story of getting unstuck from a college degree that made him deeply unhappy.
Artfully weaving together scientific studies, anecdotes, and interviews, Alter teaches us that getting stuck is a feature rather than a glitch on the road to thriving, but with the right tweaks and corrections we can reach even our loftiest targets.
Adam Alter is a professor of marketing and the Stansky Teaching Excellence Faculty Fellow at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He also holds an affiliated professorship in social psychology at NYU’s psychology department. In 2020, he was voted professor of the year by the faculty and student body at NYU’s Stern School of Business and was among the Poets and Quants 40 Best Professors Under 40 in 2017. Alter is the New York Times bestselling author of two books: Drunk Tank Pink and Irresistible.
“Those feeling stuck in their circumstances will find several paths forward thanks to breezy takeaways from scientific studies, plus more than a few engaging A-list anecdotes.” —Wall Street Journal
“Rooted in science and enlivened by stories, Anatomy of a Breakthrough offers insight after insight and the rallying cry of “action above all” as an antidote to enemy #1: inertia.”—Angela Duckworth, Ph.D., author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance”
“This book is something special: it’s as captivating as it is constructive. Adam Alter demystifies the science and practice of uncovering motivation, unlocking creativity, and unleashing change. If you’ve ever felt like you’re languishing, these pages hold the keys to regaining momentum.”—Adam Grant #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the podcast ReThinking
"Adam Alter marries research-based solutions with genuine insight. This book is an invaluable guide to turning hurdles into breakthroughs."—Scott Galloway, NYU Stern professor of marketing and author of Adrift
"A deeply researched and compelling guide to breaking through the inevitable obstacles on the path to meaningful accomplishment."—Cal Newport, New York Times bestselling author of Digital Minimalism and Deep Work
“Anatomy of a Breakthrough is important, entertaining, practical, and timely. Alter reveals how to turn sticking points into breakthroughs in pursuits as diverse as entrepreneurship, art, music, writing, athletics, friendship, and personal relationships.”—Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global
“A brilliant detective story about the sources of human creativity. I loved it.”—Malcolm Gladwell
“Whether in a career, a creative project, or a relationship, everyone will get mired in a rut at one point or another. Anatomy of a Breakthrough brings the often-private struggle to get 'unstuck' into the light, and provides a handbook for moving on from your personal plateau. Adam Alter is simply one of the best science communicators at work.”—David Epstein, New York Times bestselling author of Range