Get the Ball Rolling: How Physics taught me to get things done

What is the hardest part of embarking on any new project? Usually it’s fear of the unknown. However, when this fear has been overcome, the next hardest thing is actually starting the project. Some people stay in the planning stage forever. Strangely enough, the key is to just begin the project and slowly gain momentum. But, what is momentum?

Momentum – A property of a moving body that determines the length of time required to bring it to rest when under the action of a constant force (Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary)

Momentum is a wonderful term in physics used to describe the relationship between the mass of a body and its speed. If a body is large, it will have a large momentum. If a body is moving quickly, it will also have a large momentum. Using the definition from the dictionary, momentum is related to the amount of time it takes to stop a body that is moving. Once momentum starts to increase, it becomes more and more difficult to stop.  In other words:

Large Body – – – > Large Momentum – – – > Long time to stop motion

Momentum_Rock

Like most scientific principles, this law of momentum is connected to everyday life and human behavior:

Major Project – – – > Major Momentum – – -> Long time to Stop Working

Think about this: Ever been in a situation where you’re just setting up your books to study some material and then someone calls you? Is it more difficult to quit when you haven’t started or to ignore the phone? You might find yourself saying, “Let me finish this paragraph” or “Let me solve these problems and then I’ll call back.”  How about when you decided to start saving up for emergencies? How much easier was it to spend on a whim when the emergency fund was empty as opposed to when you’re a quarter of the way to the goal?

I have been dreading writing my proposal (mentioned in my Goal Report) since I realized I had to do one. This dread led me to continually postpone while I kept thinking about the perfect structure in the back of my mind. Well, I never got the perfect structure I wanted until I began typing. Once I started, my ideas started to take shape and I was able to rearrange and integrate my thoughts better within the structure of the proposal.  The same thing happened when it came to investing. I had been talking about investing since I started graduate school 5 years ago but I didn’t start until this year. I always just told myself I didn’t know enough. Last March, I decided to just plunge in and this forced me to begin to learn more. I initially sought advice from 2 uncles who had been involved in financial markets before and they provided tips on what to look for (one uncle actually thought I had started because I had talked about it so much). It wasn’t until I began investing that I learned the different kinds of mutual funds that were out there and then started looking for funds with low expense ratios.

What have I learned?  The way to overcome the lethargy of beginning a new project is to just start (Nike slogan comes to mind here), no matter how small the actions are. You want to save $1000, start by saving 2%-5% of your income today and slowly increase that. You want to improve your cardio rate: start by jogging for 5-10 minutes a day. You want to start investing:  there are mutual fund companies that begin at $25 and others at $50 per month for mutual fund accounts. It takes time to get the ball rolling, but as time passes with you chipping away, it becomes a lot harder to stop. Take a step today, it may be in the wrong direction but you won’t know unless you step.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anshu on September 17, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    I am so surprised to read this, these are exact same words of my dad. He always told me to overcome “inertia” the force that resists motion of physical objects and how one feels it before starting anything new and once you overcome it things get in motion. He explained in terms of physics just like you did! . Having reached such level of maturity so young in life is amazing and making similar analogy as my dad is freaky! He is an engineer too…..I guess its engineer type of brain functioning that i lack. Its nice to see things from your perspective, keep writing 🙂

    Reply

  2. Lol well you do all that algae stuff which I don’t comprehend so that’s the balance.

    Reply

  3. Taking off is the hardest part of any endeavor. Our mind considers many illusions that prevents us from doing any action. On the other hand, if we just make a move, our momentum will start rolling, just as you have scientifically elaborated above.

    You are totally right in your last statement. Unless we make a move we will never know the outcome. 🙂

    Reply

  4. Sometimes Walter, I wonder where these illusions come from. Why do we think of the impossible prior to the possible. I am sure some psychologist can answer this.

    Reply

  5. This was really motivating. I especially liked the part about major project- major momentum- longer time to stop working.

    Reply

  6. Thanks Deep, if only science teachers back then had boiled some of those lengthy equations into stuff like this, I wouldn’t have been so sleepy in class.

    Then again, maybe not 🙂

    Reply

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