The First Law of Motion

Newton’s first law of motion is also called the Law of Intertia:

Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

Everyone’s heard it before as it applies to physics, but it applies to your personal life as well.

I recently created a small list of things that I fear. Under each topic, I listed the things about it that might make me afraid of it. It was a great exercise that helped me identify my fears as well as why they scare me. I’ve found that most of the time, fear is the result of not knowing. Getting a new job. Moving out of my parents’ home into an apartment. Starting a business. They’re all scary because they all involve unknowns.

Getting a new job is scary because I don’t know what it will be like or what it will entail. What if I find I can’t do what is expected of me? What if I end up working a lot of overtime? Staying in my current job is easier. Moving out is scary because I don’t know how much money I’ll need for certain expenses. I’ll need to actually start doing my own laundry and cooking my own meals and shopping for my own groceries and paying my own utilities. All of these take up money and time I didn’t need to worry about before. Staying at home is easier. Starting a business is scary because I could be entering into a world of legal trouble. I don’t know what legal obligations I have. Maybe there is an obscure tax I missed? I could get into a lot of trouble. Not going to into business is just easier.

So fear really is the “little death that brings total obliteration”. Fear makes it more appealing to stick with the familiar. After all, you are already there, so why change? Change seems difficult. Deal with the devil you know rather than the one you don’t.

Of course, if I let fear get the better of me, I’d never do anything. I’d stay at home, stay in a boring and unfullfilling job, and never start my business. I’d be stuck in a rut. Once I started to analyze what it is that makes these things scary, I found that it was just due to my lack of questions. That is, I had vague reasons for why something was causing me fear, and those reasons would have been vanquished easily had I asked the correct question.

For example, while I might not know what a new job would entail, I also have to remember that I didn’t know exactly what my current job would entail before I applied for it. Besides, if the new job turns out to be wrong for me, I can always just stop. I can put in my two weeks’ notice, and find a new job. Until I consciously thought about it, I had some vague idea that a new job would be overwhelming. Focusing on those vague thoughts helped me to clarify them, and I found that it was mostly just fear of something different that I didn’t know well at all.

What does it all have to do with the first law of motion? One of the things I noticed was that it is very easy to stick with what you know. Fear makes the choice easier for you. I can stay in my current job or at least until the company fires me. To change jobs, it would involve updating my resume, sending it in to companies, going in for interviews, sending cover letters and thank you letters, and it all seems like a lot of work. Until I do something different, my intertia keeps me where I am. I continue on the path that I’m on.

The other part of the law of intertia? Once I submitted my resume and made a call, I found that I was being called in for an interview. Now what? Well, it’s a lot easier to keep going once I’m going. It isn’t a huge ordeal to get my suit cleaned and go in for the interview. If there is a second interview, I can easily go to that one too. My path would be on the way to a new job, and once I start, it is a lot easier to keep going.

Finding an apartment was a vague idea a month ago. Then one day I went in to an apartment hunting service, and shortly after looking at a couple of places I had put down the deposit. Within the week, the first month’s rent was due. At the end of this week, I’ll be moving in. I wasn’t getting an apartment, and then all of a sudden I had one.

I’ll be forming GBGames into an LLC this month. I’ve been talking about it for a few months, and I was vaguely thinking about starting a business for a couple of years. If the law of intertia holds, I’m sure that I’ll be surprised by the quickness of progress I’ll be making…which by definition means that it shouldn’t be surprising, so I’m not sure how that makes sense.

Anyway, the point is that there are two important aspects of the law of intertia. One, you should check to see if you are doing anything just because it is what you have always been doing. “It’s what we’ve always done” isn’t a good enough excuse. You should know that what you are doing is exactly what you want to be doing. Two, you should make sure to start doing what you aren’t doing yet. If you think you should be moving along a certain path and aren’t, then start moving down that path. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll make progress. Once you make some progress, it will be easier to make more progress. One foot in front of the other eventually completes the 1,000 mile journey.

2 comments to The First Law of Motion

  • Nice analogy. I’m sure I’ll be using it on one of my friend when I go on one of my ‘you got to make choices’-rants, again. 🙂

  • Thanks! I’m glad that you found my post useful.

    By the way, I actually got an email from a different department asking me if I was interested in a different position from the one that I applied for, so I went from having no job prospects to two, and I only applied to one. I wonder what I’ll be thinking about this post six months from now.