According to the Northwestern website, a spacecraft leaving earth needs a speed of 7 miles per second or about 25,000 miles an hour to leave earth’s atmosphere without falling back.
I formed the habit of using metaphors and hyperbolic language to convey ideas in business. Early in my career, while leading and managing sales teams I intended to make things easy to understand and relatable. I started in sales so I suppose I did it because I sat through too many “sales meetings” where technical details, product details, and all the other dry, boring stuff was presented with all the panache of a cardboard box.
When the Eagle landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, I was 12. Maybe that had something to do with it. Business success, I learned, relied on having a successful launch (take off). But what does that mean? Well, it means you don’t crash. And in order to avoid crashing, you have to keep flying. If you’re flying high, like a spacecraft, then you have to get to orbit where you can safely fly without fear of crashing. That means you have to escape gravity. Technically, it’s escape velocity – the speed required to get beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Thanks to the brainiac physicists and other scientists we know the speed required – 7 miles per second.
Similar comparisons have been made to other forms of flight. Like regular planes. In business, we often talk about runways. Planes need runways. The bigger the plane, the longer the required runway. The visual is easy for anybody to understand. If a big plane is going to achieve lift-off, it needs a longer runway than some little lightweight single-engine plane. A business enterprise needs runway – cash and capital – to get lift-off.
It’s all about getting a lift. Going higher. Getting up in the air. Getting off the ground.
But we’re not talking about business. We’re talking about leaning toward wisdom. We’re thinking about our lives, which very well may include business and careers, but it’s more than that. It’s the total thing – every aspect of our lives. The complete person that is who we are. And perhaps more importantly, the complete person that is who we want to become. Our ideal self.
We’re all trying to escape something.
“I won’t feel sorry for myself,” said Elizabeth the character in Poldark, an Amazon Prime TV series about who lost everything including house and status. It’s a powerful declaration of a character determined to escape the misfortune that had befallen her. “We’ll find economy and rebuild.” Without knowing the end of the story, we believe her because she seems determined to build enough momentum to escape her present reality. She’s headed toward escape velocity.
History teaches valuable lessons. Recently I revisited the 13 subjects crafted by Benjamin Franklin. He created a list of 13 things he wanted to work on to escape his status quo and go to new heights of achievement. Franklin formed the list while he was a printer in Philadelphia swimming in debt.
His idea was simple but brilliant. He’d devote one full week to each subject. After 13 weeks he’d start over again. By the end of a full year, he would have spent four full weeks on each item.
Little doubt Franklin thought by concentrating on these things he’d be able to escape the mediocrity and failure of his current life.
Here’s what Franklin wrote about these 13 subjects…and in this order:
- Temperance – Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation
- Silence – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation
- Order – Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time
- Resolution – resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve
- Frugality – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing
- Industry – Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions
- Sincerity – Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and if you speak, speak accordingly
- Justice – Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting benefits that are your duty
- Moderation – Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve
- Cleanliness – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or habitation
- Tranquility – Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable
- Chastity – Rarely use venery (sexual indulgences) but for health and offspring, never to dullness, weakness or injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation
- Humility – Imitate Jesus and Socrates
UPDATE: Project #CravingEncouragement
Visit LeaningTowardWisdom.com/craving to learn how you can participate in this project (NO MONEY REQUIRED).
Stories, stories, stories. That’s what I want. YOUR story of a time when somebody encouraged you in a meaningful way – a way that made a big difference in your life.
This is it…my final update and last mention of the opportunity to make a financial contribution. And I’m very grateful to all the people who have contributed. Your donations warrant a special, “Thank you!” And now I’m going to stop behaving like a carnival barker. 😀
I’m less than $100 away from reaching the financial goal of adding a Rode Rodecaster Pro to The Yellow Studio. If you care to contribute, then I’ve got some special rewards for you, but no financial contribution is necessary to participate. I still want your stories.
Thanks in advance for participating in this project. Lord willing, in September I’m going to start scheduling some Skype calls and recording stories.
Benjamin Franklin came up with 13 things he felt would make him a better person. A more successful person. He was aiming to grow personally and professionally. By coming up with 13 he figured he could devote a full week to each item over 13 weeks, then repeat the process and repeat it again and again. It was a plan to work on a specific item for a week, to work on all 13 over 13 weeks, and to spend an entire year working on all 13 items four times a year.
Today we know much more about the mind and brain than Franklin could have imagined. But it seems he intuitively knew that forming good habits was necessary to escape gravity’s pull toward failure and foolishness.
That’s common knowledge today, even though we often ignore the power of it. Or fail to put in the work necessary to change or develop better habits. Habits that will accelerate our speed and enable us to reach a higher altitude in life.
Seven miles a second. That’s the speed required to escape earth’s gravity. Seems fast, right?
But in your head is the capacity to experience speeds that are almost instantaneous. You can change your mind in an instant. You can make up your mind in an instant.
The rocket requires lots of planning and building. Every detail prepared with great precision. But when the launch sequence is activated, everything changes. Instant acceleration. Instant progress toward the long-awaited goal.
You can gather facts and information as you prepare your mind for the moment of truth – the launch of something better. Some get stuck in that mode. Plan, prepare, plan some more, prepare some more, learn something else, plan a bit more…never leaving the ground because they never hit LAUNCH.
Learning doesn’t bring about change or improvement. Learning doesn’t provide escape velocity.
The personal development market is more than $10 BILLION annually. And the market is rising. It’s estimated that by the year 2022 it will exceed $13 BILLION.
Question: How much of that money will actually provide a return? That is, how many people who participate will do anything with the information they learn? I’m not a statistician so I have no idea how you’d figure that out, but it’s been surmised that fewer than 2% will put any of it to good use. Fact is, most people will not take any meaningful action to incorporate their new knowledge into something that could improve their life. It means there’s a lot of money invested in learning how to achieve escape velocity, but little is done to make it happen.
“After all is said and done, more is said than done.” -Aesop
Look at your own life. Look at the learning you’ve engaged in through the years. You know more today than you’ve ever known. Truths, opinions, viewpoints are more bountiful in your life today than they’ve ever been.
Do you know enough?
You may say you don’t, but I’d argue you likely know plenty enough to be doing more than you currently are. It’s not a question of do you know enough to surpass all other humans. It’s a question of do you know enough to surpass who you were yesterday?
What’s the answer for achieving escape velocity?
Is it more information?
Is it more learning?
Is there something we just don’t yet know that’s holding us back?
No is the answer to the first two questions, but yes is the likely answer to that third one. There likely IS something we don’t yet know that’s holding us back, but it’s not so much learning as it is understanding.
It’s not more information that holds us back. It’s a lack of understanding coupled with the failure to incorporate that understanding into actions.
We continue to learn new information and mostly we do nothing with it. It serves no useful purpose to help us achieve escape velocity. So we remain stuck in the orbit we’ve long been in. Growing increasingly more comfortable where we’ve always been, but peering out into the future wishing for some magic to take us to a different orbit. We wish for a magic carpet even though we know such a thing doesn’t exist. Dreaming of it consumes us more than the willpower or determination to put in the work.
But let’s not be so cavalier or rough.
Frequently we seem stuck because we don’t know how to proceed. When we struggle with knowing what to do, the easy course is often to do nothing hoping that time may enlighten us.
We’ve all tried such a strategy. It’s highly likely that’s the strategy you’re currently deploying. Even though it has never worked. Even though it never will work.
I get it and you do, too.
We want answers about the unknown without ever making the trip. That’s what escape velocity is all about – venturing into the unknown so we can, at last, find out. And know. It’s the determination to figure it out – not by speculating, but by actually making new discoveries.
You won’t figure it out by just thinking about it. You’ll figure it out by trying things, doing things and going to places you’ve never been.
From what do you want to escape?
What fears stand in your way? What questions weigh heavy? What relationships need mending? What forgiveness need extending? What sins need forgiveness?
Benjamin Franklin formed his list of 13 subjects based on what he felt he needed most. It’s time to form our own list of 13 things. The things we need to incorporate into our life so we can achieve escape velocity and take off for higher altitudes.
It’s not horsepower you need. You’ve already got the capacity to achieve the necessary speed. Mind power.
The power of a mind made up to act. The power of a mind decided. A mind that will refuse anything or anybody to stop them from doing something in an effort to escape the present state of things. A mind determined to reach something higher. Something better. Something wiser.
Are you ready to tackle the beginning work – creating your list of 13 things?
Wait a minute, what? A podcast with homework assignments? Sure, why not?
By the way, did you know that I own the URL WaitAMinuteWhat.com? I do. I thought I might make a podcast of it when I first got it, but I never did anything except think about it. See, that’s how life goes. We do a lot more thinking about doing things than actually doing things.
Okay, back to the homework assignment. This is work you owe it to yourself to do. It’s not for me. Or anybody else. It’s not to prove anything to anybody except yourself. It’s an exercise all about YOU doing what YOU need to do to create the best version of YOU that YOU want. It doesn’t hinge on what anybody else thinks or wants. It just hinges on your ideal version of yourself and what 13 things you know you need to work on to get there.
Some people will think, “Thirteen? I can’t come up with 13.”
Others will think, “Just 13? That hardly seems exhaustive enough.”
Benjamin Franklin, who started out arrogant and quite full of himself, learned to consider himself ordinary. History has proven he was anything but ordinary. A creative man given to carefully and soberly consider things, but a man unwilling to stop there – with merely considering things. A man more driven to achieve and accomplish.
Franklin was a man who considered who he was. And who he most wanted to be. I rather think he had figured out that this is what would make the difference. This is what seemed to drive him to become the man we know – the man history remembers.
He was only 20 years old when he crafted his list of 13 virtues. Before you start thinking how young that was, realize that in the 1700’s you were doing good to survive to reach the age of 35. Franklin was 84 when he died.
By the time he was 24 Franklin had become the official printer of Pennsylvania. He had also formed the Junto, a group that met each Friday evening to discuss life, debate philosophy and devote themselves to self-improvement. He was 3 to 4 years into the habit of working on his list of 13 virtues. Coincidence? Doubtful. The man was dedicated to the work.
He helped incorporate the first subscription library in Philadelphia by the time he was 25. His publishing efforts expanded during the 1730s. It was during this period, the end of 1732 when he published the first edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack. He published it for 25 consecutive years and included many memorable quotes such as “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
Franklin’s ambitions expanded into scientific inventions and business by the time he entered the 1740s. He formed the first scientific society in the colonies. Toward the end of the 1740s he was among the richest men in Pennsylvania.
We can thank Ben for bifocals, the rocking chair, the discovery of the Gulf Stream and the establishment of the University of Pennsylvania. He also invented the lightning rod, the odometer and was among the handful of men who architected the Declaration of Independence.
More than 8 years ago a friend of mine from the U.K., Keith Davis, asked me to record a short video to post on his public speaking website. I fired up my webcam and gave it a go. This is the result…
Today we see the glorious successes of Benjamin Franklin. The failures are largely unnoticed these few centuries later. Truth be told, the failures weren’t likely even standing out in his lifetime thanks to the success. That’s what happens in most lives. Success overshadows failure. That’s likely why he wrote this.
“Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.”
Franklin’s many failures began early with a number of unfulfilled apprenticeships. He had a number of failed inventions. He wasn’t exactly a rousing success as a husband and father either. But it’s his greatness we remember. Not his perfection, which never did exist. Or his imperfection, which always did.
It can never be said that he didn’t contribute and help create what has become the greatest nation the world thus far has ever known.
Leaning Toward Wisdom isn’t about us becoming perfect, or making ourselves more noble and honorable than we truly are. It’s about our working to embrace greater wisdom in our lives, about our doing our best more often than not to behave in ways that best benefit our lives and those around us. It’s not a quest for our personal perfection, but an unrelenting push to get better and better. To reach a speed in our lives where escape velocity is possible. A speed that will allow us to reach new heights, new orbits, new places, and new achievements not possible where we once found ourselves. It’s about making a commitment to not merely think about becoming better – but it’s about doing the work to actually become better. One day, one week, one year at a time.