Newton’s Law of Inertia
Flying through the air with the greatest of ease.
Some years ago I embarked on a plan to lose some weight and I took up Mountain Biking as a hobby. I joined up with a couple of friends and watched them do what seemed to me at the time to be death-defying feats descending what must have been vertical drops, requiring me to take my life into my hands as I nervously followed. Having said that, I recall going back to the same places a year later, and by then I had progressed such that I didn’t even bother to ride these “nursery slopes” again.
I found a great little circuit around some open cycle friendly land near to where I lived which comprised several tricky sections, well, tricky for me as a novice anyway. I used to get together with some friends and we’d all make several circuits, trying to impress each other with our bike handling skills. We all had loads of fun while getting fit and losing weight along the way, and of course collecting some bumps, bruises and grazes too!
One particular part of the circuit involved an intricate route through a narrow, bramble-lined, twisty path, and this is where I learned all about inertia and momentum! Part way through this section there was a tight turn at the top of a mound and it needed all of my limited skill and concentration to make it round without putting any feet down, which of course would be quite unacceptable to our little gang.
As I became more confident I would see if I could make it through more quickly, enjoying the challenge that presented. On my second attempt, I managed to catch a rock with my front wheel causing me to lose balance and take a tumble into the nice sharp brambles growing all around the path. I can remember lying there now with my bike in a heap nearby, and feeling the brambles trying to make my skin a little more porous through the thin, lightweight, anatomically designed cycling kit.
I took a moment to lift my head and take in my new surroundings from this new horizontal position, and all I could see were bramble bushes in every direction. However, I was going to get out of there would involve a whole new set of body piercings! By now my mates had gathered around and were really quite encouraging, with helpful comments such as “that looks painful mate”, “what are you doing down there, taking a nap?” and “you don’t want to take that lying down you know”!
There was no option, I was going to have to make a move and make it look easy and appear pain-free. After a while lying there and finding no other available option I plucked up courage, rolled gingerly to one side feeling every new bramble stabbing me as I did, and got to my feet with a smile and a wave. I then proceeded to start removing the rather numerous needle-like foliage that had accumulated in my clothing. I remember doing the same thing on several occasions throughout the rest of the ride and in the shower later that day too as more brambles made themselves piercingly apparent.
The next time we took the circuit I was much more careful for the first two circuits and made it through without a slip, however the third time I came a right cropper. I seemed to fly through the air for ages and I could already feel the brambles before I even landed. As I was performing these unplanned aerobatics though a cunning plan formed in my mind, and as I landed I simply kept on rolling until I was clear of the bramble patch. It was an absolutely genius move since I was clear of the bush in no time. I collected far fewer brambles along the way and I didn’t have to lie in pain considering which of the many painful routes I would need to get out.
“Without momentum, even the simplest tasks can seem insurmountable. But when you have momentum, the future looks bright, obstacles appear small, and trouble seems temporary.”
~ John Maxwell
Since that day the experience has been imprinted on my mind as a marvellous metaphor for life’s challenges. Sir Isaac Newton called it his first law, which states that “every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force” – or you might say, “things keep on doing what they’re doing unless something happens to cause a change”.
It is so much easier to keep rolling and make a few course corrections than it is to try and get something moving in the first place. It is imperative that every decision a leader takes makes asks the following question: “How will our momentum be affected by this decision” and consider other alternatives that may be available that would cause momentum to increase.
About Roger Fairhead
Roger is a Leadership specialist and uses the PRIZE Winning Leadership model to help leaders improve their effectiveness and that of their teams, through remote and on-site delivery of keynotes, group training events and individual coaching sessions.
He is the author of several books including "PRIZE Winning Leadership" and “Personal Productivity Planner”, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Director of the Global Leadership Network UK with extensive experience in Project Management and Sales.
“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.
Roger also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.