Isaac Newton Could Have Predicted Our Technology Attitudes

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Last week, friend and colleague John Jantsch wrote “What’s money got to do with it?”. In his article, he examined how deep-seated attitudes about money can hold us back. As he pointed out, “Many a wonderfully creative, self-promoting, innovative, passionate and seemingly successful entrepreneur has stumbled mightily when it comes to … making money ….”

I’d like to take a page out of John’s book and look at how a law of nature can shape our attitudes toward technology and get in the way of growing our businesses and becoming wildly profitable — the way we know we were meant to be.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “yeah, but I love technology. I get a thrill every time I get a shiny new laptop or the latest Blackberry model in a sleek color or some other exciting new gadget.”

And that’s great. But some technology lacks the instant gratification of an enticing new gadget.

Instead, we are more likely to be afflicted by a principle identified by Sir Issac Newton centuries ago — the law of inertia:

“A body in motion tends to remain in motion, a body at rest tends to remain at rest.”

Inertia is a force that can hold us back in all kinds of things and especially when it comes to technology — if we let it. If you’ve ever had thoughts like the following, chances are the law of inertia is affecting your decision making:

  • We feel like slaves to email, but we just “accept” the status quo and don’t bother to investigate whether there are time saving solutions.
  • We plan to get to growth initiatives, but we never seem to reach the point of automating the repetitive daily work that keeps our staff from tackling those new initiatives.
  • We don’t take steps to protect our business data with backups and disaster recovery plans, because it requires a couple of extra steps.

Attitudes and behaviors like these can prevent us from growing our businesses; from becoming more profitable; and from protecting our businesses from harm.

Implementing new technology usually requires us to step a bit out of our comfort zones. It requires us to do extra things — usually not much, but it feels like something extra.

So it becomes easier to just muddle along with the status quo. Making no decision and taking no action involves less effort, than taking steps to learn about technology ourselves or to put together project teams to implement productivity solutions, or to do something that deep down inside, you really know you should be doing (like disaster recovery planning).

So, I say, confront those attitudes. Recognize that Mother Nature’s force of inertia is at work and you will need to expend a little extra energy to overcome it. Make it a goal to pursue those growth initiatives you’ve been dreaming of. Figure out how to free up your own time and your staff’s time. Commit to yourself that you will improve productivity through technology by 10% or 15% or even 25%.

Plan and be smart about it, of course — but don’t over-think. Too much thinking leads to doubt and doubt delays action.

One thing I know: if you don’t boldly take a step or two, things are not likely to change. Your dreams may never be met. Don’t allow your business to just “happen.” Run your business purposefully. Seize the day!

12 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

12 Reactions

  1. Martin Lindeskog

    Interesting post. I have to chew this a bit.

  2. My favorite line to remind me of this is ->

    “The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started!”

  3. Anita, you are so right. Very insightful post.

    And there is another way inertia hurts us financially: So many entrepreneurs just slide along with financial information generated by others rather than run their own financial statements regularly. This is the “I have money in the bank so I am OK” syndrome. That isn’t financial management, it’s just what you describe: inertia. What is better is to have a time every day to look over real numbers, but making the transition is, as you say, a matter of overcoming inertia.

    Another example: I could explore the internet all day, and learn a lot, but that is not what will make my bottom line strong. In order to be more efficient, I need to “step away from the computer, from the flow of business” and determine what the most important things are that I need to do. As you say, it is way to easy to get caught up in reacting to information.

    SO LET’S TURN THIS LAW OF PHYSICS AROUND: If I want to operate at a higher level, I need to make inertia work for me…make my default actions more effective rather than time wasters. Robert Fritz calls this the Path of Least Resistance and it is a critical component of being creative in the world.

    SO…..I would create routines that makes it easier to do those important things.

    EXAMPLES:

    – I have a Vanilla Latte (skinny, of course!) at the local Starbucks at 4:30 PM every weekday, where I review my financial statements.

    – I have an auto-email sent daily to remind me to spend 20 minutes on that new marketing idea.

    – I carry a recorder with me everywhere to record my ideas. I transcribe them every night into a private blog that I can access everywhere.

    etc. etc. You get the idea….make inertia work for you!

    Anita, what I so love about your column is that you make us THINK! I am so excited about what you have written that I am making a lunch date with myself to think about how to better implement inertia-incentives in my own work. THANKS SO MUCH!

  4. Carpe diem! Funny you wrote this because I just had a similar conversation with a friend of mine the other day, although not relating to business. But the law can be applied to any aspect of our lives. If you don’t forcefully move towards your goals, whose going to come along and push you to them? Chances are – no one. It’s up to you so we should all get moving :-)

  5. I agree. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut. If you want something, you’ve got to reach for it. So many people just wait for someone to hand it to them. I like to make a list of weekly things I want to accomplish. I make sure that by week’s end, everything is crossed off. It actually forces me to address the items cause I want that satisfaction of crossing them off my list. It makes me feel good that I can accomplish new things every week.

  6. Yes, very true. People also forget the importance of spoken communication. Email is so impersonal and lacks the human touch that builds strong relationships with clients.

    Technology is good, relationships are priceless.

  7. “Plan and be smart about it, of course — but don’t over-think. Too much thinking leads to doubt and doubt delays action. ”

    I have to stressed out on this point you presented because this is really one of my mistakes before. My brain could not just stop thinking about what had happened, what will happen next even when I’m off to sleep. And I ended up, exhausted then lost that momentum to think with a clearer objectivity.

  8. Anita:
    I love this kind of post from you — it’s so inspirational to me. When I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, I like to click over your blog. It never fails to provide some idea or bit of information that is useful.
    Thanks for writing!
    Chris

  9. I’m so glad that you wrote about this! I actually named my company “Third Force” based on this exact principle! I’ve found that it’s easy to get caught up in the inertia of comfortable activities that actually keep us in this useless rut. But if we could just ACT – and initiate a Third Force that will move us OUT of the rut and into the next right action that will take our business toward its best “self” that it is meant to be.

    Of course, I get caught up in it as much as every one else. But another lesson you wrote about – getting help – has really been a solution for me. I don’t have to do everything. I can get experts to help me get to where I need to be.

    You inspire me – :)

  10. TJ McCue

    Terrific kick start Anita.

    @Susan Kuhn — don’t use a recorder, check out http://www.jott.com
    i’ve replaced my recorder with these guys AND my digital voicemail service which transcribes most of the message (Vonage) correctly and leaves me a copy of the .wav file, which is easier than syncing up a digital recorder in my opinion.
    Just some ideas.

    Now, back to that latte and my financials.

  11. “A body in motion tends to remain in motion, a body at rest tends to remain at rest.”

    And this is the reason why entrepreneurs should not waste time doing nothing. And like Ivana said, ACT is the only way to take our business to where the best it could be.

  12. “@Susan Kuhn — don’t use a recorder, check out http://www.jott.com

    Hi TJ McCue, thank you for bringing that up. I’m interested to learn more about them.

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