NewtonsCradleLast night I was spending some time reflecting on some of the better teachers I’ve had through my life, both in school and through my work life, and when I got thinking about Mr. Stan Wilson I had a Physics flashback and started thinking about how I’ve applied some of the lessons I learned in Mr. Wilson’s OAC Physics class at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in my personal and professional life.

As I was reflecting I remembered Newton’s Laws of Motion (and specifically the first and second laws) which I think we can learn from and apply to life as leaders and as people who are actively engaged in managing the trajectory of our lives and careers.

Newton’s First Law of Motion states:

An object at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by a force. An object in motion remains in motion, and at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force.

Much like the physical world, our lives and careers also follow this same law. Contrary to the assertion of books like “The Secret“, the reality is that simply resting and sending out good thoughts to the universe won’t actually attract good things or propel your life forward. A life at rest will remain at rest and is unlikely to progress in any way without applying some sort of force or action. If your life or career is regressing, then your call to action is clear – without applying force you are likely to continue to slide backwards. But if you are moving this forward, congratulations! Forward motion is also likely to persist, however you need to be aware of the hidden force of friction which will continually slow your progress unless you stay committed to continually pushing forward.

The Second Law of Motion states:

The acceleration of a body is directly proportional to, and in the same direction as, the net force acting on the body, and inversely proportional to its mass.

So in the second law we learn how our life and career paths can be adjusted using force, and also the impact of the size of our goals. First it is clear that you first need to create actions in your life which will result in the “net force” on your life being positive and in the direction of your goals in order to get things moving (and to counteract that pesky friction which works against us seemingly invisibly when we let our guard down).

In addition though this law speaks to the size of our goals (their mass). If for example you are currently working a mid-level job earning $55k per year and your goal is to earn $1 million per year in 2 years you have set yourself an enormous goal which will require enormous action to accomplish. It’s not necessarily unachievable, but based on Newton’s second law the force you will need to apply will need to be equal to it’s incredible size. Setting smaller goals or breaking your big hairy goals into smaller chunks will reduce the amount of force required to get the ball rolling in the right direction, and once you have momentum you can use Newton’s first law to help you increase your pace without increasing your efforts.

The path of our lives and our careers is completely up to our own control, but it requires us to take action to ensure that we keep the forces on our life’s trajectory pointed in the direction of our dreams. Applying Newtonian physics to your life not only maximizes your chances for success, but will also make Mr. Wilson very proud!

About Tim Empringham, MBA
Tim Empringham is a passionate advocate for Innovation in organizations of all sizes as a mechanism to drive growth, create uncontested market space, create new customer value, and drive efficiency into the internal organization. His focus is on disruption of thinking and markets through integrative thinking, structured Innovation frameworks, and leadership development of Innovation and Change leaders within the organization.

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