Momentum is Everything

In a 2004 basketball game, Tracy McGrady scored 13 points in 33 seconds to bring his team back for an improbable win.

It was historic. If McGrady scored at that same rate and played all 48 minutes, he’d have 1200 points in the game. That’s how ridiculous that stretch was.

When McGrady took the go-ahead shot with mere seconds left, there was no doubt it was going in. He was making everything, even low probability shots. But that’s only half of the story. The other team made several uncharacteristic mistakes in the final 30 seconds, including fouling a three point shooter and losing the ball to set up the game winner for McGrady.

McGrady’s momentum was so powerful that it affected both teams. And it began with one shot. 

You’re One Shot Away

Consider what McGrady felt like just before the run. His team was in a dire position; being down 8 points with 37 seconds left to play is nearly impossible to overcome in basketball. And they had only scored 68 points, so scoring was not coming easy for them. 

This glorious moment followed a dull, uninspiring 47 minutes. But when that first shot went in, it gave him some confidence. After he made the second shot, his momentum increased tenfold!

The power of momentum is not linear, it’s exponential. Why? Think about the difference between winning once and winning twice. If you win once, it might be a fluke. You might think it is. Others might think it is. There are countless one hit wonders in music and sports. But when you do it a second time, you prove to a meaningful extent that the first time might not be a fluke. 

Many of us are feeling down this year for obvious reasons. But a momentous change is one shot away. I talk about consistency for all the reasons above. That first step in a better direction changes your momentum, and consistently doing it amplifies its meaning and power.

Humans Overvalue Current Context & Undervalue the Power of Momentum

Humans chronically and habitually overvalue the importance of their current situation. This works both ways, both to our detriment.

The fortunate person doesn’t see downside risk. Do you know how many successful businesses were completely destroyed by the pandemic? I know of one. A sensory deprivation float place that I loved had to shut down because their business involved shared space/water. That’s not good in a pandemic. Many people have been blindsided, and are now caught in a negative momentum spiral. Not everything can be prepared for, of course, but this is where the second part comes in.

The misfortuned person doesn’t see a better future. Where you are currently is a snapshot of your life, not a prison cell. You can change your situation more easily than it appears because of momentum’s exponential power.

Too often, we look at potential actions in a vacuum. We acknowledge the initial impact of a pebble hitting the water (immediate result of action), but not the many ripples that emanate from its impact (momentum).

When it comes to action, don’t focus on its initial impact, focus on the momentum it can create. Every action or inaction is loaded with momentum-shifting properties that may affect your next 10 actions, which have their own momentum. 

When you acknowledge this truth, which is no different than acknowledging what happens when a pebble hits the water or the first domino is tipped, every action looks different to you.

  • One push-up a day? Small initial impact, but significant positive ripple potential
  • Binge eating or drinking? Moderate initial impact of pleasure, but significant negative ripple potential
  • Any action for 5 minutes? Significant potential for it to ripple into more time

The biggest mistakes in my life are easily traceable to innocent, small actions that snowballed out of control. The greatest triumphs in my life are easily traceable to easy, insignificant actions that created amazing results and opportunities. If you look back on your life, I bet you’ll see the same thing.

Momentum rules the world. What direction are you moving?

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