Flywheel language (and how we end up asking the wrong questions about success)

Yesterday, when TW pulled it out at the Masters, I noticed something happening…

Some sort of liquid was accumulating on the outer surface of my eyeballs and I soon realized why.

flywheel language tiger

His comeback story has not only been classically archetypal (the hero flies too close to the sun, falls from grace, and is reborn from the ashes, better, wiser, fulfilled), but it also was fully, publicly documented so that everyone (like myself) was able to watch his every move along the journey.

Which made it seem that much more inappropriate when after winning, members of the press kept asking questions like:

  • Was there anything specific that you leaned on to win?
  • Was there anything specific about the past few years that comes to mind?
  • You appeared very calm down the stretch. Can you attribute that to gum you were chewing?

They, like most people curious about the dynamics of success, were looking for “the thing” they could write about.

The real answer should be: “all of the things.”

Last week I brought up the flywheel analogy.

I think it’s a much more appropriate way to frame the “success discussion.”

Tiger spent pretty much every moment since the day he was born, getting his golf flywheel spinning as fast as humanly possible.

So fast, in fact, that right around 2008 it completely spun off of its axis.

Since then, he’s spent the first part of a decade trying to figure out how to get it put back together, and the second half of a decade pushing it, bit by bit, physically, mentally, spiritually, to get it spinning again.

And today that bad boy is humming along at full speed.

Question: What got it spinning fast enough to culminate in a victory at one of the most difficult tournaments on Earth?

Answer: Everything he did, day in and day out, for 10 years.

The Point: The same exact thing can be said about lead generation.

I’ll leave you with this today.

It’s an excerpt from Chapter 8 of Jim Collins’ Good to Great, and I think it perfectly describes how we should think about this:

“Picture a huge, heavy flywheel — a massive metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle, about 30 feet in diameter, 2 feet thick, and weighing about 5,000 pounds. Now imagine your task is to get the flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and long as possible.

Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward, moving almost imperceptibly at first. You keep pushing and, after two or three hours of persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn.

You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster, and with continued great effort, you move it around a second rotation. You keep pushing in a consistent direction. Three turns … four … five … six … the flywheel builds up speed … seven … eight … you keep pushing … nine … ten … it builds momentum … eleven … twelve … moving faster with each turn … twenty … thirty … fifty … a hundred.

Then, at some point—breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn … whoosh! … its own heavy weight working for you. You’re pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster. Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort. A thousand times faster, then ten thousand, then a hundred thousand. The huge heavy disk flies forward, with almost unstoppable momentum.

Now suppose someone came along and asked, “What was the one big push that caused this thing to go so fast?”

You wouldn’t be able to answer; it’s just a nonsensical question. Was it the first push? The second? The fifth? The hundredth? No! It was all of them added together in an overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction. Some pushes may have been bigger than others, but any single heave—no matter how large—reflects a small fraction of the entire cumulative effect upon the flywheel.”

Have a great week.

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