What physics teaches you about your career or business

Idea Journal Weekly 3


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Idea Journal Weekly 3

September 11 · Issue #260 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Inertia and momentum are helpful concepts outside the field of physics. You can use them as mental models to choose your next job, identify a promising product, and stay motivated.
(~4 min read)

#1. Follow the momentum
Researchers Lauren McCann and Gabriel Weinberg write in Super Thinking that inertia and momentum are physics concepts that can help you understand how things change.
Momentum and inertia are related concepts, and here’s a quick review of what they are.
Momentum = mass x velocity.
And you may remember from school that inertia is an object’s resistance to changing its state of motion. Inertia is a function of mass.
For example, a heavy object at rest has a lot of inertia because it’s hard to move. But it has no momentum since its velocity is zero (i.e., it’s at rest).
Once the heavy object starts moving, it gains momentum quickly. And the faster it moves, the more momentum it has.
OK, so what?
You can use these concepts to find career opportunities that have high or increasing momentum.
For instance, if you’re deciding between two organizations to work for, choose the one that’s starting to take off. Maybe the organization is applying an idea or a technology that’s beginning to go mainstream.
Why choose the organization with more momentum?
Because whatever contributions you make to the organization will get amplified by its momentum.
#2. Momentum can help you identify promising products
Cartoonist and entrepreneur Scott Adams writes in How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big that a key predictor of a product’s ultimate success is the level of enthusiasm it generates in the beginning.
For Adams, this is true even when the quality of the initial product is poor.
In fact, one reliable predictor of success is customers clamoring for the bad versions of the product even before good versions are invented. Over time, the products that inspire excitement evolve to have quality too.
He cites The Simpsons as an example of this tendency. 
When the show launched it 1989, it was immediately a national phenomenon – even though the original artwork “looked amateurish” and the writing was bad slapstick.
Adams recalls that wherever he went, the show came up, with people asking: Did you see it?
The Simpsons was a hit despite its surface quality, and it grew to become of the most creative and influential shows of all time.
As Adams puts it, the pattern he’s noticed is that things that things that will someday work out start out well in some way; things that will never work start out badly and stay that way.
He acknowledges that overcoming obstacles is typically an unavoidable part of the process of becoming successful. But you can also stick with a bad idea for too long out of some misguided sense that persistence in itself is a virtue.
If the first commercial version of your work doesn’t excite anyone to action, it may be time to move on to something else. 
But if your work inspires some enthusiasm and some action from initial customers and fans, “get ready to chew through some walls.”
You might have something worth fighting for.
#3. Once you've found momentum, keep it going
Unfortunately, our plans don’t always maintain momentum like the heavy object described in Idea #1 above.
Entrepreneur Darius Foroux writes on his blog that when we try to create something new, too often we only think about what happens at the beginning.
“We start a business, a new job, a YouTube channel, or a new habit without giving much thought to what happens after we start.”
That’s because starting is hard. It requires a lot of energy. And once we get over the start, we often run out of fuel or get distracted.
But as Foroux points out, physics provides two lessons that can help us follow through with our plans:
  1. It’s easier to keep a moving object in motion.
  2. It’s harder to stop a moving object in motion.
If you keep up your momentum, you’re more likely to keep going because now you’re difficult to stop. 
Foroux acknowledges that momentum is the main principle he’s used to build his career as a blogger. 
When he started in 2015, Foroux spent hundreds of hours designing, picking a direction, and finding an audience. It took a lot to get the blog off the ground. 
But keeping his blog going is relatively effortless. He no longer has to spend energy on the things that he had to do at the beginning.
As he puts it: “I might take a break for a week or two, but after that, I always come back to publishing new articles. Somehow, the blog has taken a life of its own.”
Quote of the week
“A river is easier to channel than to stop.”
- Writer Brandon Sanderson in his novel Shadows of Self
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