Stop Dialing It Back.

Nik Wallenda of the Flying Wallendas beginning the highwire walk at King’s Island August 15, 2009

When I was a very small boy something very insignificant happened that changed the course of my life.

We were poor. Not dirt po’, not sharecropper po’, but we didn’t have much money. My father had been gone a long time, my now-single mother, and her mother, and my older brother were now my only family since we had moved 800 miles from the place of my birth to a little patch of caliche in west Texas.

Yea. We were poor, though I didn’t fully realize it until many years later after we had worked our way out of it. But because of the money situation something happened near a Hallowe’en in the mid 1950’s that shaped the way I live my life. That year we were able to get two, yes 2, pumpkins to carve up as jack o’lanterns. But there wasn’t money for two candles. My mom somehow managed to buy us one large candle that she was going to cut in half. That way we would both get to have a candle, albeit a bit on the short side.

Good idea!

But I had an even better idea. Why wait to cut it? I’d show them how smart and strong I was and just break it in half with my bare hands! Well, I didn’t think that one through too good. I knew I had make a terrible mistake when I saw the two shorter candles in my hands: one had a very long wick, but the other one had a hole in it where the wick used to be.

Naturally, my older brother played the blame game. I was humiliated.

To be honest, I don’t know what happened after that with the candle. I’m sure my mother made everything work somehow; she tended to do that. But I do know that I learned that day, for the first time maybe, that it’s not a good idea to “be smart” or to “take chances” or to “act on a hunch”.

For the rest of my life I followed a pattern of “dial it back”. I didn’t audition for the plays. I wouldn’t try out for sports. I held back, held back, held back.

I eventually did find ways to break the pattern as I grew older. I started ballet on my own initiative and even danced professionally. I pursued spiritual paths through meditation and religion. I embarked on a sales career with no salary or draw and became the top salesman in a national organization. I even became “Coach Michael”… IN PUBLIC. LOL

But all the time, without realizing it, I was still “dialing it back”.  Even today, I still catch myself playing at a 2 level when I have a 10 inside me.

And then, one day I realized that “dialing it back” had become the source of a Super Power I could share with the world.

It has given me a 6th sense. All around me I see people “dialing it back”.  People who could be loving, playing, creating at a 10 level but who keep tapping the brakes or turning it down.

Where are you dialing it back?

Are you playing at a 2 level when you have a 10 or higher lurking inside, crying – SCREAMING – to get out?

Here’s what you do to stop the pattern. It’s simple, really. Just dial it up to 2.25 for a while. Not forever, just for a while. Play just outside your comfort zone for just a bit. And keep the comfort zone in sight. Then leave the dial alone and get comfortable again. Then do it again tomorrow. Then again tomorrow. After a little bit you might want to crank it all the way up to 2.5. Fine. Easy does it. Easy peasey. Then leave the dial alone again. Then dial it up, just little bit. And do it again. And again. And again.

This isn’t about perfection. It’s about PROGRESS.

And remember that Nik Wallenda didn’t start out on that wire in the photo above. But little by little, over time, it became his new comfort zone.

So dial it up. Just a little.

Michael Stammer is a business, sales, and personal coach available for individual and group coaching and speaking to organizations. For more visit


1 thought on “Stop Dialing It Back.”

  1. You are an inspiration, Michael Stammer! Thank you for sharing this incredible story and the invitation to dial it up slowly.

Leave a Comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.