Saturday, September 24, 2005

Curious about the Flywheel? The Perfect Metaphor for Many Endeavors

In Jim Collins’ excellent and enlightening book, Good to Great, he uses the metaphor of a flywheel. It is heavy and massive - weighing 5,000 pounds. He asks us to, "Imagine that your task is to get the flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and long as possible."

You almost feel the effort of pushing and pushing, just to get it started a bit. Then you keep on until "at some point - breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn … whoosh!"

Collins goes on to point out that if someone asked you what was the one push that caused it to go so fast, we wouldn’t be able to answer. "No! It was all of them added together in an overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction."

One of my fitness students just shared that she was having problems losing weight until she started taking my weight lifting class. She has been working hard in the step, the stability ball and the toning classes, but hadn’t stayed for the weight lifting. In three weeks - with no other changes - she has lost 6 pounds.

What a great example of the flywheel. Yes, she has added the weight lifting, but I seriously feel that it was the consistent working out and then adding that extra hard "push" that caused her "breakthrough." So often we give up on a goal because the initial pushing is hard - and can be discouraging.

I know from experience that it takes time, effort, discipline, persistence and heavy pushing to get the flywheel in motion.

It may be in the field of fitness - so many quit because it isn’t easy and can even hurt. I still remember the first weekend back in 1983 when I started my new membership at a fitness facility. By Sunday I told my children not to even make me smile - my abdominal muscles hurt so much.

As an independent professional, free agent and freelancer, I have times that are slower than others. During the slower months I remind myself to keep plugging away and pushing the flywheel. Right now it has lots of momentum, but as Collins reminds us, "Good to great comes about by a cumulative process - step by step, action by action, decision by decision, turn by turn of the flywheel - that adds up to sustained and spectacular results." The operative words here are "cumulative" and "sustained."

As always, I was curious about others approach to momentum, so here are a few of the quotes I found:
  • I wonder if Virgil was referring to a flywheel back in B.C. when he wrote, "She acquires momentum as she advances."
  • Annie Lennox was right on when she said, "When you're that successful, things have a momentum, and at a certain point you can't really tell whether you have created the momentum or it's creating you."
  • My mentor and favorite motivator, Tony Robbins, expressed it perfectly, "Success comes from taking the initiative and following up... persisting... eloquently expressing the depth of your love. What simple action could you take today to produce a new momentum toward success in your life?"
  • And Michael Korda sums it all up, "One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals."

You will find some great material on Jim Collins’ website. Click HERE for his page on BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals).

And, do keep pushing that flywheel! A breakthrough may be close!