BusinessLifeSelf Work

The Illusion of Glass Ceilings

window, glass, wet

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you would’ve heard people talk about “hitting the glass ceiling”.

The concept of the glass ceiling refers to a certain level of growth that the business can’t seem to break through. It results in stagnation — perpetually staying stuck in the same spot because it has reached its limitations.

Glass ceilings are often mistakenly associated with a certain revenue number or the size of a business. However, when you’re able to see past the illusion, one of the most important Laws of Life will be revealed to you.

To better understand the illusion, let’s visualise the game of business building through the game of playing Monopoly — where the goal is to build as many houses and hotels on the land you own so you can collect rent from the properties you build.

The houses and hotels represent the businesses you’re trying to build.

With the desire for a better life, many people roll the dice, go into business for themselves and attempt to build hotels.

“Go big or go home, right?”

They imagine the status, money and fame that comes with being the proud owner of a successful hotel in a big city… so they work their butts off trying to make the vision their reality.

Instead of becoming ‘hotel owners’, they become ‘house owners’ years or decades later — houses that cannot easily be turned into successful, fully operating hotels.

Now they feel stuck and trapped.

Unlike fully operating hotels with self sufficient teams of people, the owner has to keep maintaining the house they built since something always needs fixing… and they are the only person who knows how to fix it.

When a hotel construction expert is called to assess the problem, the cause of the problem is easily and quickly identified by the pair of trained eyes.

Turns out, the foundation the house is sitting on is unable to withstand the bigger structure of a hotel.

Which means, every time the owner attempts to build a bigger building, the walls become unstable and eventually collapses in.

The real problem isn’t the “glass ceiling” the owner appeared to have hit. 

The real problem is the depth of the foundation.

The depth of the foundation is what determines the height of the ceiling.

In other words, the deeper your foundation, the higher you can go and the longer your building will stay intact and upright.


What’s Your Foundation?

Your foundation is your capacity as a human being.

Your capacity is your self awareness, your self understanding and your use of your energy.

Your capacity is also your self esteem, your confidence, your ability to trust yourself and follow your inner compass to navigate the path you’re forging for yourself.

The better we’re able to operate as our true selves, and the more we expand our capacity, the better we’re able to energetically hold and maintain the things we’re creating and realising in our world.

Building bigger businesses, managing more people and creating a greater impact usually means bigger and more complex problems to navigate and solve.

The real question is…

Are you becoming the person with the capacity you need to navigate and solve bigger and more complex problems while ensuring you’re not crushed by the business you’re trying to build?

If you’re building a house, a hotel or a skyscraper, it make sense to take the time to establish a solid foundation to ensure the building you want to build is grounded, stable and can last, no?

Often in business, when we’re attempting to reach new heights or accomplish new things, we’re bumping up against our own mental, emotional and physiological patterns that’s keeping us stuck and blocking our flow — these are usually places in ourselves where uncertainty, unworthiness, doubt and fear lives.

Despite the global uncertainty we’re seeing, the sense of safety, security and trust we feel within ourselves is what grounds us when external chaos ensues.

External conditions will always be changing and out of our control. That’s a fact.

The question is… have you built the capacity you need to navigate your internal obstacles and break through your limitations when you hit your glass ceiling?

If your foundation isn’t solid and stable, what’s above it will always collapse — it’s just a matter of time.


Important Law of Life

Glass ceilings, like gravity, are invisible. But every human can feel its effects.

Sir Isaac Newton wasn’t a business man, but his Third Law of Motion tells us everything we need to know about building Exceptional Businesses.

“…for every action (force) in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Sir Isaac Newton

In simple terms, our business is our mirror.

Everything that shows up in our external world is a reflection of our internal world.

Our business reflects our pain, our wounds and our issues back to us just like our romantic partner can reflect our issues back to us.

If you want to receive love, safety, security, worth and value in your external world, you also have to create it for yourself in your internal world.

In my experience, that’s non-negotiable.

We can choose not to like gravity, we can wish it weren’t real, and we can swear our heads off in frustration. But the moment we jump off a cliff, gravity wins.

Every time.

Business is just a part of life. Like gravity, it operates under laws and principles.

The success and failure of businesses is ultimately hinged to the human’s capacity and how they shape it — the capacity to make the right calls, the capacity to follow through, the capacity to take the right actions, the capacity to ask for help, the capacity to self correct…

People who choose to expand their capacity to adapt, evolve and grow in life are those who tend to flourish despite their external circumstances.

Many business owners make the mistake and attempt to “smash business blockers” with business solutions, failing to realise that the biggest business blocker is often ourselves.

Our conscious and subconscious capacity is what creates the life we live and the business we have.


The illusion of glass ceilings reveals the critical relationship between our personal growth, continuous improvement and the success we seek to find and maintain in life.

To break through glass ceilings and achieve sustainable success, we must always be willing to look at our own shit, our processes, and how we operate so we can find better ways.

At the end of the day, our business is just a form of an expression of ourselves.

For growth-oriented people like us, business is one of the greatest teachers of life we have. It’s an excellent vehicle that teaches us about Self Leadership, and to reflect where we need to do our own self development work.


This is one of my all time favourite quotes by Japanese samurai, philosopher, and writer — Miyamoto Musashi.

Everything is within - Miyamoto Musashi

I’m Jen Kuo — operational efficiency consultant, systems thinker, writer. But really, I’m a multi-passionate creator.

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