Momentum and Feedback Loops
“An object in motion stays in motion “— Newton’s First Law of Motion
Momentum and positive feedback loops are one and the dirty secret of the human condition. We are manifestations of our physicality bound by the same laws of Newton. When I speak of momentum, I am speaking of our energetic momentum. It can be hard to gain momentum, but when we do, the results are clear.
Most true winning streaks seems to defy probability. I think back to several years ago when the Golden State Warriors had a record breaking 24-game winning streak. To win often is plausible but to win always is momentum. Success breeds the expectation of success and morphs the energies of all parties to all but ensure the expected outcome inevitable. This positive feedback loop is the mechanism of momentums for humans not only in groups, but particularly for individuals.
I would posit that we have all have positive momentum in some facet in our life. Perhaps there is a video game you were good at when you were young. I remember by friend Shafiq always beat me at multiplayer Goldeneye. I was particularly bad and he was particularly good. At that age I didn’t give up easily so I would valiantly try almost every day to beat him. Small and seemingly erroneous wins for me aside, his momentum was never lost. It’s worth noting that mine wasn’t either. Though we sometimes forget the second half of Newton’s First Law.
The second, and mathematically equivalent, interpretation of Newton’s First Law is that an object at rest will stay at rest. Note that I’m excluding the qualifier, “unless acted upon by a force,” from both interpretations. Clearly momentum can change, but that takes Work in the physics sense, or work in the human sense. For roo many people, it is sadly this interpretation that may seem to resonate more strongly in their lives. Many of us feel stuck, never getting to experience of positive momentum, or feedback loops. When it’s all working for us, they are basically one in the same.
We can be stuck zero in our careers, in our social lives, and in our sex lives. There are infinitely more areas in which we can be stuck at zero, but these feel like the big ones. If you’ve had any professional success, it can be hard to conceive of what it would be like to have professional success. If you’ve never had many friends or been the most popular, it can be hard to conceive of what it would be like to have social success. If you’ve never had much sex, or any, it can be hard to comprehend life for someone who has and does.
Note that I’m not saying that one can’t fantasize about these states. People certainly do, as evidenced by our fondness for celebrities and social media stars. But I would argue that those fantasies don’t even begin the resemble the actual energetic, or subjective, reality of any of them. The fantasies of those who feel they are lacking in vital areas cause pain. For those who have a healthy success, and not overindulgence, in those areas, the positive momentum is generally happy, joyful, and pleasurable.
We know it’s true, but it’s worth restating that is easiest to make money when you’re already making a lot of money; it’s easiest to make friends when you’re already popular, and it’s easiest to have sex when you’re already having a lot of sex. Underlying every important facet of life is the positive feedback loop that maintains our momentum (in the real energetic world, mirroring the physical, we can imagine a sort of friction or drag that would cause us to eventually slow down).
For those who have all of these and more, it can feel easy. It is perhaps too easy to lose the empathy for others who lack momentum, forgetting that it takes much more work to attain a state than to maintain it. I call on those with momentum in some, most, or all facets of life to sympathize with those still yearning. Perhaps we can learn to share the energy.