Why You Should Be Turning Flywheels, Not Playing On Swings


Thursday, 7.49pm

Sheffield, U.K.

It takes a long time to get good at something, so it’s important to begin as early as possible so that we can improve and begin to see the compounding benefits of the work over time. – Priscilla Chan

Small things matter over time – often more than big things.

Jim Collins writes about this as the flywheel effect.

A flywheel is a wheel with a very heavy rim, a wheel that’s hard to turn.

If you put your back into it, however, you’ll start to overcome its inertia – the weight keeping it in place.

And then, as you turn it, it will move, first slowly then faster and faster until it starts to be pushed along by its own weight, with only a small bit of additional effort required from you to keep it going.

You now have momentum on your side.

A swing, on the other hand, is quick to get on and start going – and you go quite high and it feels good.

Then, at the end, you go the other way and it feels good.

There is a reason swings are rarely used in machinery and flywheels are.

Collins argues that the metaphor of a flywheel is useful to keep in mind when thinking of what to do with your business.

It’s rarely the big swing, the giant push that gets results.

Instead, it’s the gradual build up of capability and competence and experience that does.

It’s easy to believe that it’s the big hitters that matter – the ones that make the difference in a game.

They may the most visible, the most flamboyant.

And you may think that they make a difference – but that’s because you don’t see all the people who tried ot make a big hit and failed.

But all around you, everywhere you look, you can see people who did something day after day and built their careers and their businesses and their reputations.

The sudden elevation to fortune is a romantic myth – something that we try and bring to life because we love stories.

That’s why shows that have a competition with a winner are so appealing – we want to believe it’s possible to jump the queue and get there faster.

It wouldn’t be much fun watching a show following the twenty-year career of an intern who eventually becomes a CEO.

Sometimes it’s easier to hope than work – to wait for that big change instead of working it out day after day.

But when you do put in the hours, the time – the focused effort to build up your capability – then eventually you’ll find that what you’ve created starts working for you.

As Collins says there isn’t one push that matters – all the ones matter until you reach the point where what you’ve created becomes self-sustaining, reaches a tipping point – where it now pulls you forward with little additional effort.

And that’s a good position to be in.

After all, you could be on a swing where, just as soon as you reach your furthest potential, everything starts to go backwards.


Karthik Suresh

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