Overcoming Inertia

“Nothing happens until something moves.”
― Albert Einstein

Newton’s First Law tells us that an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force. This is sometimes referred to as the Law of Inertia. Objects tend to keep on doing what they’re doing. This natural tendency to resist changes in the state of motion is described as inertia. Inertia is really just another name for mass. If we look around, the external force most apparent is friction.

Friction is a force which resists movement. When you try to slide a chair across the floor, you first must overcome static friction between the chair and the floor. Once the chair is moving you must continue to push with enough force to overcome the kinetic friction between the floor and chair to keep the chair moving. In most real-world situations, static friction is greater than kinetic friction. In other words, you have to push harder to get the chair moving than to keep it moving.

People, and by extension communities, often act like objects at rest or in motion.

This past week I was once again blessed to be able to visit Woolaroc and the Price Tower. As we walked around the ranch built by Frank Phillips and later toured the skyscraper designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built by H. C. Price, I was struck by the distance between the average of their day and what they had a vision to do. These are examples of the work of individuals who overcame inertia and friction.

Woolaroc is home to the collection of Frank F. Phillips. Phillips was the founder of Phillips Petroleum, also known as Phillips 66. His passion for the culture of the people native to the area and for the wildness of the west led him to collect art and artifacts in an outlandish way. He was able to amass a collection valued at over $500,000,000 and more than 85% of it is on display. Today, Woolaroc is visited by people from all over the world and continues to carry on Phillips’ vision to preserve the history of the West, educate and entertain.

The Price Tower was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and commissioned by H. C. Price. Wright had championed the design ideas as early as 1920 for a multi-tower project in New York City that was never built. When Price commissioned him to design a skyscraper in Bartlesville, OK, Wright offered him “the tree that escaped the crowded forest,” which referred to both the design of the building and its original destination in the crowded skyline of New York City. Today the Price Tower is a National Historic Landmark and continues to serve as an example of Wright’s visionary penchant to build unreasonable yet highly influential buildings. Price’s ability to see and participate in that vision made it possible for us to have this landmark and the movement it created in our community.

These are examples of men who, through their life and work, were able to exert a force strong enough to change the motion of the world around them. They were able to overcome inertia and friction by the magnitude of their efforts and the distance from the norm they were willing to go. To borrow again from the world of physics, if you have a long enough lever you can move the earth. Our efforts are magnified if we are pushing farther away from the center of mass.

Which brings me to the reason for this musing. We are here for a purpose. We are here to move things from where they are to somewhere that is better. We are here to make a difference in people’s lives. What we do must have the force behind it and be far enough away from the norm that it shifts the mass.

As leaders we have the responsibility to stretch ourselves and the communities we lead to do the sometimes outlandish and unreasonable things that move the mass and overcome the friction that is keeping us trapped in our current state. We have the opportunity to show others a different way, but in that showing we must push (force) from a position of uniqueness (distance) in order to create a moment that will move them.

Kimray is that kind of company and we are that kind of leaders. The way we conduct business, treat our team members and do life is very different from the mass. We are the force and our difference is the lever. We are changing the way people see the world and the way they do life.

As we look to the future, we must continue to push ourselves so that we can move others. We must address the needs of our community in new and creative ways. We must invest in and support things that, compared to the norm, seem outlandish and unreasonable, but we know they are necessary and needed. We are the force to overcome inertia and move our community to a place where everyone can thrive. We are the force and we are The Kimray Way.