May 20, 2021

Growth vs Momentum

When you first got into your game, you had vision, passion, or at least a driving curiosity. Over time, you got better. And as you improved, you gained (or gave yourself) more responsibility. You expanded how much you were doing, more people joined your team, and your field got bigger.

Because you’re talented, you thought to yourself, “I can do this.” The pressure mounted. You decided to spend more time working—earlier mornings, later nights, giving up the seemingly less important stuff.

Your growth felt like momentum. And in many ways, it was. But chances are you felt something was off too. The increased work ethic was morphing into doing too much and the thrill of growth was turning into the fear of failure. You flipped from working from a place of possibility to a place of fear. You weren’t aware of it, but in that shift, you were experiencing the beginning of a loss of momentum.

Growth doesn’t equal momentum

If you remember from math class (or was it science?) momentum is the product of an object’s mass and velocity. It is also a vector quantity. That means it has both a magnitude and a direction. So, just because your team is growing (increased mass) or you’re delivering a product faster (increased velocity) that doesn’t necessarily equate to more momentum. You might be going in the wrong direction. Anytime someone is forfeiting the things that keep them healthy, direction will inevitably be lost, and so too will momentum.

This is the plight of growth. Size and speed feels good, but if it’s losing direction, it will eventually careen off a cliff like Wile E Coyote in an ice storm (that reference dates me).

You can rebuild momentum by setting direction

Direction is specific. You can only go left or right, you can’t go both ways. Sure, you can backtrack or circle around, but chances are you’re going to exhaust yourself or just find yourself where you started.

Instead, go back to what got you in the game. What were you really good at? Should you continue that or focus elsewhere?

This could be the hardest and most important part of what you do for the rest of your life. The prevailing message in work today is “more.” If you can’t do more, it’s because you’re not efficient enough, smart enough, or resourced enough. But more isn’t a direction, it’s a cliff. And you can avoid it by picking a direction—the one that most aligns with where you or your team’s abilities meet the greatest need.

When you figure out where your focus should be, you’re going to need to delegate most of everything else. In the words of Michael Lopp, “Delegate until it hurts.”

This isn’t a one-time practice. It’s a daily commitment to the phrase: “I can do that and only that.”

Do only what you can do

Delegation isn’t just dumping your tasks on some poor soul. It’s finding someone who’s capable (aka smarter than you), dependable (history of following-through), and teachable (learns your way while also bringing their ideas). And then supporting that person’s growth. There are four things that a person needs:

- Clear mission that ties to purpose (personal or societal)

- Achievable goals

- Resources to achieve those goals (including space/time/autonomy)

- Metrics/Feedback loops to help achieve personal growth

Thinking through these things will seem like a heavy task on top of your already full list, but not doing this is what will hurt your momentum.

Focus and delegation will build it.

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