Ball Bearings and Claws

How's Your Momentum?


At a  friend’s birthday party last week, I ended up watching an old Peter Sellers movie called The Party. Full of fumbles, sight gags, and awkward moments, there comes a point where the main character is attempting to repair a toilet he  just broke, and gives a tug on the roll of toilet paper. It promptly starts spinning at an alarming rate and empties the entire roll onto the floor. Someone else watching the movie with me made the comment “they don’t make ball bearings like that anymore!” Pair that with the Ellen DeGeneres comedy routine where she refers to the claw that you have to contort your hand into when trying to retrieve a shred of toilet paper from those jumbo commercial dispensers, and no  matter what you only get 2 or 3 squares at a time. There you have a lovely pair  of examples of the extremes of momentum.

You know  what I’m talking about? There are those projects or ideas that just click along  on magic ball bearings and you can barely keep up with them, and then there are  the ones where you have to employ the claw to even move forward at a snail’s pace. What gives? We addressed the question of Motivation  a few issues back, and that is truly part of the equation. What you’re not  motivated to do takes a lot more effort, structure, and just plain hard work to  get done. Where does momentum come from? Can you make it? Is it destiny? Pure chance? Divine? As usual, I think the answer lies in a mix.

Let’s take  the “making your own momentum” part first. We know that starting a project  small, taking ‘baby steps’, and doing a little bit every day does start to move things forwards. There will be no momentum without some steady effort on your part ... it may build slowly, but it will eventually build. How do you  pick up speed and start to see some of that seemingly magic “I didn’t put in  that much effort but it happened anyway!” kind of results? Here are several ways  ...

  • Heroic effort. This means (as Dave Ramsey puts it in his The Total  Money Makeover book ... a great read by the way) gazelle intensity ... total and complete focus on your goal to the exclusion of all else. You pour every ounce of energy, drop of sweat, dime of your inheritance ... whatever you have to give to the cause, you give it ALL. This calls for many kinds of sacrifice, and you have to be prepared for the costs in terms of your relationships, health, finances, whatever is getting left by the side of the road while you focus. Know your limits, and make sure you can stand the costs before you start the run. This truly builds momentum.

  • Partnership. You know that feeling of meeting someone for the first time, and discovering that you have a lot of things in common? The more you talk, the more areas you find to connect to, and you lose track of time. This kind of connection, when you find it relating to your project of choice, is golden. The back-and-forth between two people who share a common goal can rapidly build momentum, and keep the ball rolling even when you miss a step or two.

  • Networking. It’s a tired and overused word, but it’s too true to leave out. TALK about your project, write about it if you can, and never stop spreading the word. Sooner or later the words will find the right ear, and  things can really start to move. Getting the word to someone who has the power, influence, or financing that you don’t can seem impossible, but it will never  happen if you don’t get the word out! This may build momentum that you can’t  initially see, but it will come back to support your cause.

We can’t  leave out the other influences, however you view them. Destiny, chance, divine  intervention ... players in the game other than ourselves. Can they change the  grade so your road is more downhill or uphill? I certainly believe they can ... whether it’s meeting an ideal project sponsor the day after you have the idea, or running downhill towards a closed door and having it whip open just before you get there. The game can and does change overnight sometimes, and the more homework we’ve done and the more faith we have, the more resilient and ready we’ll be to roll with the changes. Whether you build it slowly or get a  big boost from somewhere, momentum does build to the point where you can retire  “the claw” for a bit and enjoy the ride on those magic ball bearings. Do what  you can, believe in the rest, and let it roll.