The flywheel

Picture a huge, heavy flywheel—a massive metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle, about 30 feet in distance, 2 feet thick, and weighing about 5,000 pounds. Now imagine that 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 pointbreakthrough!

Jim Collins, Good to Great

The overnight success

In business, we often hear about an overnight success.

Seemingly from nowhere, a company emerges taking the world by storm. Then suddenly, everyone seems to be talking about them.

In reality, as Tom Clancy would say:

An overnight success is ten years in the making.

Just like the flywheel, the overnight success likely started out by simply putting one step in front of the other.

At that point, each step appeared to be insignificant. Not making much impact.

Nonetheless, it kept going.

Soon, each successive step starts building upon its preceding one.

Even then, it doesn’t stop. It kept going.

Then, at some point—breakthrough!

There’s no miracle moment

We like to say:

  • If only we had that magic formula
  • If only we had the right investors
  • If only we were in the right place at the right time

From his study, Jim Collins pointed out that for these companies that went from good to great, there wasn’t a miracle moment that propelled them to greatness.

Neither was it a sequence of random processes slapped together like a grandma’s scrap quilt.

Via Jim Collins:

Rather, it was a quiet, deliberate process of figuring out what needed to be done to create the best future results and then simply taking those steps, one after the other, turn by turn of the flywheel. After pushing on that flywheel in a consistent direction over an extended period of time, they’d inevitably hit a point of breakthrough.

The flywheel and your business

You, like the leaders of these great companies, want to build a business that goes beyond making a profit.

You want to build a business that makes an impact and contribute to the success of those you serve.

Even if you are a small business or a solopreneur.

You know it is possible.

Because, right now, you have access to the resources to make it happen. Where, not too long ago, it was only available to companies with a huge budget.

Would you want to start building your flywheel now?

Your guide to “Build Your Flywheel”

Build Your Flywheel is a project by Melvyn Tan.

You can read more about him here.