The Flywheel of Our Lives


Posted January 7, 2015

Happy New Year to you all—what a year 2015 will be! There are minds to persuade and hearts to touch, so let’s get started with a familiar exercise.

For many, grade school instilled a tradition that dictates how, with every New Year, individuals must create various goals to achieve. We term these goals New Year Resolutions, yet many of us lack the resolve to follow through; in short, we need help.

As such, I’d like to take a little time to investigate what I will personally hold as the word of 2015: momentum. Physicists define momentum as the product of an object’s velocity multiplied by its mass, and it’s oftentimes greatly unrecognized or anticipated. Interestingly, in Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, he speaks to this very phenomenon and explains its power. More specifically, Collins imagines a large, heavy flywheel weighing 5000 lbs., which represents its mass. He goes on to explain how turning the flywheel just once takes a fair amount of energy, and even then, the velocity is minimal. Furthermore, only after pushing and pushing and pushing do you get a single revolution.

However, Collins notes how if you keep pushing and pushing and pushing—even with the same amount of energy that you started with—a second revolution happens. Employing the same logic, Collins points out that through persistence, a third revolution, and then a fourth and a fifth revolution can be achieved. In fact, Collins focuses on how soon you go from buildup to breakthrough; soon you have achieved a certain level of efficiency and sophistication such that the 5000 lbs. fly wheel now turns at 200 revolutions per minute, and you’re still pushing with the same effort from when you started this endeavor.

For Collins, this momentous condition can only be met when you surround yourself with the right people. Similarly important, Collins correctly posits that when you achieve this level of efficiency, not only have you assembled the ideal team for the task, but the entirety of this disciplined group consistently focuses on doing the right things; they likely have stopped doing the wrong things. To this point, we now must recognize that having a “Stop Doing” list is perhaps equally important as compiling the “Let’s Do” list.

Perhaps obvious by now, but our lives and our businesses work the same way. When we keep doing the right things and stop doing the wrong things—moment to moment, day to day, week to week—momentum builds. Buildup to Breakthrough.

So, as we step gracefully into 2015, I implore us all to remember this simple, yet oft forgotten, allegory. When we do, our strength and determination fortify, and we can capitalize on the buildup we’ve worked for and achieved. Provided you are able to, I hope you will join me in resolving to hold fast to this idea so that we can truly bear witness to just how powerful we are.

A very Happy (Momentum-Filled) New Year to you all!


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