Lord of the Flywheel

Spoked flywheel

Like this only made of stone and weighing 2000 pounds

I’m not sure what a flywheel is exactly, but Jim Collins describes it in his book “Good To Great” as a large heavy stone on an axel of some kind. Sounds pretty medieval I realize but OK. My imagination places this contraption off the ground at about eye level.

Like this, only made of stone and weighing 2000 pounds.  Great big stone with a an iron pole running horizontally through a hole in the middle.

OK then, if you were to try and turn the wheel, you obviously could not make it turn 100 MPH instantaneously, right? It would take all your strength to just move it an inch. So you take a try and indeed it just moves an inch or so. When you realize that you’ve only moved it a little bit, then what?

That’s always the question isn’t it? There are only two real answers: move it again or give up and look for a lighter wheel to turn. So, your answer to that question begs another question: how bad do you want it?  Momentum can only be built on a fly wheel by turning it little by little. With each turn a little more momentum is gained and the wheel gets easier and easier to turn.

The problem is in this fast paced, want it now, tweet it now, buy it now and have it all now world, the concept of daily toil to build momentum over time seems out of place. Mostly I blame advertising and the Kardashians for this, but like it or not, achievement demands that you struggle turning the wheel as much as you can each day. Over time all those small turns add up until the wheel can turn freely and quickly.

I read somewhere that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to gain mastery over any endeavor, be it playing a musical instrument or directing traffic. That latter one scares me for obvious reasons, but let’s make that assumption. If you were to work on the fundamentals of building a business, craft, practice, etc… for one hour a day, it would take you 27 years to gain mastery. Work 8 hours a day at it and it only takes 3.42 years to gain mastery.

Here’s the beauty of it all though: hidden within this 10,000 hours resides the effect of momentum in the form of compound knowledge that we gain by so much practice. As you invest more time in any activity the benefits come back to you exponentially. That is the beauty of momentum. That is the beauty of the wheel turning faster and faster the more you make small investments in turning it.  When the flywheel gets to turning very fast, you are really looking at all of the knowledge you’ve gained spinning the wheel on its own.

Even Kim Kardashian can do it.  One day she’s clubbing and dating football players, releasing sex tapes and showing up on every red carpet she can find. Next thing you know, she’s a judge of a talent competition show?  How does that happen? Based on what? Certainly not talent.  It’s based on the flywheel.

You see, it doesn’t matter the reason you decide to turn the wheel, it matters THAT you turn the wheel.  You choose, you can save the world like Mother Teresa, or you can be the Mother of all self promoters.

I would like to think most of us are more like Mother Teresa, but I have a feeling we’re either somewhere in between, or at the very least, just trying to figure out how to move our careers forward in subtle and unassuming ways.  Yes, I think I’ll go with that.
The Flywheel is a very powerful thing.  Daily practice of one sort or another is the message here.  Knowing what your goals are and committing to moving the wheel a little at a time is the exercise. Having faith that all your effort will get you where you want to go is the discipline.
As for me, I’m off to turn the wheel a bit.  I’m taking an African orphan to The Country Music Awards….
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2 responses to “Lord of the Flywheel

  1. You seem a little obsessed with the Kardashian thing, are you getting tired of blondes?
    Aside from that love the post and remeber there’s lots of joy in the mastery because hopefully you’re trying to master something you love,
    the journey is as good as the mastery!

  2. I really like the idea of momentum. Not in general, I mean in the article haha. Thanks for another great and funny post.

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