Applying the flywheel and avoiding the doom loop beyond business

Several years ago, I picked up a copy of Jim Collins’ Good to Great, a business reference on why some companies thrive while other companies fail. In it, he made a number of great observations supporting the premises that the enemy of great is not bad, no “Good is the enemy of Great.” He speculates that because we preceive ourselves as being good at something, we can be lulled into acceptance of the status quo rather than incentivized to improve to the point of greatness. At least when we recognize we are downright awful at something we know to either quit altogether or seek additional help. With good, it is too easy to say, ehh.. it is good enough.

His book is really focused on the business world, but as I have embarked down the path of authorship and grown as a parent, I have found that many of his observations and tips for moving away from being just good enough to get by have applications beyond the office.

One of my favorite chapters in the entire book was on the topic of the flywheel and the doom loop. I’ve paraphrased a bit, but the two concepts can be summarized by the following steps:

Tunnels of Time
By fdecomite (Tunnels of Time) via Wikimedia Commons
The Flywheel

  1. Take a step forward consistent with your goal
  2. Verify Results
  3. Cultivate an audience of fans
  4. Build Momentum
  5. Repeat steps 1-4.

The Doom Loop

  1. Receive disappointing results
  2. React to results without understanding why the results were what they were
  3. Over-correct with new direction, new program leader, new event, etc
  4. Lose your audience & fans
  5. Repeat steps 1-4

The concept of the flywheel is simple, by taking small but determined steps according to a plan we grow a network of supporters which therefore makes repeatable success easier as it becomes nearly self-sustaining. A real life example is this: I am not a runner, but was talked into joining my husband on a 5K. I didn’t just show up for the race, I trained for weeks leading up to the event. At first it was just me putting one foot in front of the other. A successful day was merely getting home without walking most of the way. Then my family started to ask about how I was doing and suddenly I felt compelled to force myself to run just a few yards longer than I had the day before. On the day of the race, there were crowds of people shouting encouragement and offering water. I ran the entire way without stopping.

The doom loop is just as easy to understand. One of the bloggers I follow recently wrote of how she just received her first negative review. I can only imagine how devastating that must have been for her after working so hard. She easily could have gone on the defensive and lashed out at the reviewer. She might have caught herself questioning whether or not to continue to pursue her current project. In either case, the reaction could have cost the author her readers all together. Obviously creating a future of additional disappointing results. She did not do either of these things. She stayed clear of the doom loop and is most likely stronger for the experience. I wish her continued success.

I have found that writing in addition to working a day job and parenting is much like training for a race, except that this one is closer to a marathon than my little 5K. I have to pace myself to avoid injury and/or burnout. As long as I keep putting one foot (or in this case – one word) in front of another. Provided I keep watching my steps, I know that there will be someone just up ahead with a cup of cool water shouting encouragement. I will avoid the doom loop. I will finish this race.

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