If momentum were a person, it’d be that crazy passionate, unhinged love of your youth.
Play your cards right and momentum will make you. It’s kind words will project an elevated image of yourself and your capabilities to the world, and in return, the world will sit up and take note. Get it wrong and it’ll break you. It'll slam doors, insult your parents, scatter contents of your wardrobe around the garden (much to the delight of your gossiping neighbours), and leave you trying to fix the broken pieces hoping it’ll shine favour upon you once again.
When you’ve got momentum, you know you have. It’s when the world seems at its most possible. When you haven’t, you wish you did. Oversight or neglect can make momentum vanish pretty rapidly, and considering it can be awfully difficult to build, we should be mindful of the things that affect our momentum negatively.
Here are what I consider to be the top momentum killers that I fall foul to far more often than I really care to admit.
1. Failing to focus your time.
Failing to focus your time on the stuff that really matters is the only guaranteed way to plummet your fantastic, revolutionary idea from the soaring heights of artistic brilliance into the dark, vast abyss of irrelevance. And we can all be guilty of doing it. The first drafts of most things I do are generally ill-considered, confused vortexes of dogshit. So in order to ultimately present my idea in its purest and most coherent form I need to allow ample time for several iterations that’ll iron out any flaws within my logic, reasoning and framework. It can take a little time to find the gold buried amongst the crap. But mismanagement of time is like holding a 12 gauge to the head of your creative process and turning its brain into a sludgy, sticky work of modern art.
Now the only option you have left is to get it done as quickly as possible.
Which is also known as the stupid option. Options are one of the key facilitators of excellence. They allow you the luxury of changing your mind and exploring all possible avenues. And what facilitates options? Time. Putting things off until the last minute because it’s easier to procrastinate is the quintessence of frittering away your most valuable asset. Now your options are gone and your output is reflective of your input. Rushed and subpar.
'Goodbye momentum, it was nice knowing you. But you’re right, nobody wants to hangout with mediocre.’
--Everyone that’s gotten a little lazy
2. Failing to follow through.
Saying you’ll do something and failing to do it is bad on three accounts. Firstly, it makes you a bullshitter and people will lose confidence in your ability to deliver. Secondly, it makes you a bullshitter and you’ll lose confidence in your ability to deliver. Thirdly, you can go grab a sledgehammer and start knocking down that momentum you’ve been building up. As far as your audience are concerned you have become, at the worst, a liar, and, at the best, unreliable. Listening to that swooshing sound deadlines make as they fly by and that stomach churning guilt in the pit of your gut when you’ve failed to honour a commitment are all symptoms of not-following-through-ilitis. It’s a crappy, infectious disease you’ll spread like the plague amongst your team by mismanaging their resources and hindering their ability to perform. When you promise a deliverable, especially in the public sphere, and fail to fulfill that promise you become the little boy that cried wolf. Next time people will be skeptical, and eventually they’ll stop listening altogether.
3. Failing to spot the thing that’s working.
The key to harnessing the power of momentum and ensuring its trajectory continues in a positive fashion is understanding what built that momentum in the first place. A sure way of making a moment of brilliance just that, a fleeting and unreplicatable (not a real word, I know) moment, is misunderstanding the formula of its success. If we don’t understand what is working within a particular framework, be it marketing or product related, we may fail to innovate on its formula and keep at pace with advancing markets. Consequently its effectiveness will stagnate. Conversely, we may deviate from that formula too radically and our audience may become unreceptive. This example is somewhat anecdotal and luddite-ish. I drink at a pub with my cohort of thin-skinned weirdo mates on a Friday. The place is wildly successful. But on the surface it’s just like any other watering hole. A bar. Some chairs. A few tables. An exotic selection of headache inducing fluids. Yet we’ll go there over anywhere else in town. Why? It’s figured out a winning formula for audience retention. They understand how lighting breed’s atmosphere. How music volume and tempo influences drinking pace. How having an eclectic mix of staff creates a relatable, friendly vibe etc. And when the newbies see a high-street full of lifeless pubs and one that’s bursting at the seams with hedonistic indulgence, they’ll obviously follow suit. The empty places stay empty.
4. Crisis of self
I was once told that people don’t believe in ideas, they believe in people that believe in ideas. Which is nonsense.
But there is, however, an element of skewed truth in this baseless generalisation... somewhere. Character is the foundation of leadership. If your convictions are flailing, or you’re having a moral crisis and don’t really believe what you’re saying anymore, then you’ve lost the ability to lead yourself—and you can’t expect to be able to lead others. This is the ultimate momentum killer. A crisis of self will compound all of the other momentum killers into one epic meltdown of biblical proportions. Your life will begin to resemble a Greek tragedy. You have become Oedipus Rex.
If you begin to notice any of these momentum killers in yourself, your team, or your business, then kill them swiftly and decisively. Or they’ll kill you.
Written by Tomas Coleman