Momentum, says my dictionary, is impetus gained by movement. We learned the essence of it in high school physics when we were taught this principle: a body in motion stays in motion; a body at rest stays at rest. It's easy enough to see how that applies to a Frisbee, but not always so obvious when we're thinking about a project, idea or dream. Every endeavor begins as a body at rest. It's up to us to apply the momentum to get it in motion.
The more momentum-minded you are, the more dreams you'll achieve. It's as basic as high school physics. People who have not exercised their entrepreneurial muscles, who have spent years working for others, frequently fail to understand the importance of building momentum, nor how to do so. They don't realize that the real enemy of success isn't failure. It's inertia.
How can you create impetus and keep it going? By all means, read Malcolm Gladwell's
The Tipping Point, if you haven't done so. It's the closest thing we have to a manual for building momentum. You can also depend on the following six surefire tips.
- Momentum is fueled by passion. It's not impossible, but it is extremely difficult, to make things happen if you're lukewarm about doing so. Entrepreneurs are often driven by the passion for freedom, creativity, curiosity, independence, the opportunity to serve others, personal growth and adventure. If the thought of any of those things doesn't make your heart beat faster, your passion reservoirs are dangerously depleted.
- Give up ambivalent commitment. I believe that's an oxymoron, but there are plenty who think they're committed when they're not even close. It is not making a commitment to say to ourselves, "I'll just try this and see what happens." Genuine commitment says, "This is what I'm going to do and keep doing until I succeed." You can't spend your days spinning straw into gold and spend your nights turning it back into straw.
Excuses and explanations about why things didn't turn out (or couldn't possibly turn out), supports inertia, not momentum. "Those who would reap the blessings of freedom," wrote Thomas Paine, "must be willing to undergo the fatigue of supporting it." It's still true.
- Make haste slowly. When things happen quickly or prematurely, there's little chance of longevity. It is far wiser to take the long view, building bit by bit until your foundation is strong and unshakable. Visionaries often have a hard time with this and their impatience sends them back to square one over and over until they figure it out. Making small daily moves is far more effective than taking one occasional leap.
- Put problems, setbacks and obstacles into perspective. Why didn't someone tell us, in a positive way, that life is an ongoing problem-solving exercise and if we embrace it with enthusiasm, solve the problems in front of us, we're on our way to upgrading to a better class of problems? Since that message hasn't been widely circulated, many people treat problems as punishment or failure. "Why is this happening to me?" they wail.
"Because you can't grow without challenge," I want to reply. The only people who don't encounter setbacks are not going anywhere to begin with.
Very often, the act of solving a problem creatively contributes more to our momentum than any other act. I remember hearing Norman Vincent Peale talk about problems and saying on the days he woke up and couldn't find any problems to solve, he got down on his knees and prayed, "What's the matter, God? Don't you trust me? Send me some problems!"
- Build a brain trust. We all need sounding boards, people we can call on when we're stuck or when we have cause to celebrate. These momentum builders will not show up in your life if you're sitting in your living room waiting for them. Go to seminars and conferences. Approach people first. As you reach out and show genuine interest in other people's projects, your own brain trust will naturally form itself. These relationships only will work, however, if the empowerment is reciprocal.
- Stay focused on the ultimate rewards. Letting yourself be pulled ahead by your vision can create a huge amount of momentum. One of the best ways to enhance this is to keep visual reminders around you. Pictures, inspiring words, representations of your final results can keep your mind paying attention to the right things.
"Nothing is impossible," said La Rochefoucauld. "There are ways that lead to everything, and if we had sufficient will, we should always have sufficient means." That's momentum building in a nutshell.