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When your effort is enough

Did you have any discouraging moments this week?

Did you work hard to reach out to a donor who didn’t end up giving much? Are you finding it hard to get others to understand the importance of your work?

Do you feel like you keep putting one foot in front of the other, but you’re having trouble moving your organization forward?

Take a minute to think, then, about Jim Collins “flywheel” mashal.

"Picture a huge, heavy flywheel—a massive metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle, about 30 feet in diameter, 2 feet thick, and weighing about 5,000 pounds. Now imagine that your task is to get the flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and long as possible.

Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward, moving almost imperceptibly at first. You keep pushing and, after two or three hours of persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn.

You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster, and with continued great effort, you move it around a second rotation. You keep pushing in a consistent direction. Three turns ... four ... five ... six ... the flywheel builds up speed ... seven ... eight ... you keep pushing ... nine ... ten ... it builds momentum ... eleven ... twelve ... moving faster with each turn ... twenty ... thirty ... fifty ... a hundred.

Then, at some point—breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn ... whoosh! ... its own heavy weight working for you. You’re pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster. Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort. A thousand times faster, then ten thousand, then a hundred thousand. The huge heavy disk flies forward, with almost unstoppable momentum.

Now suppose someone came along and asked, “What was the one big push that caused this thing to go so fast?” You wouldn’t be able to answer; it’s just a nonsensical question. Was it the first push? The second? The fifth? The hundredth? No! It was all of them added together in an overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction. Some pushes may have been bigger than others, but any single heave—no matter how large—reflects a small fraction of the entire cumulative effect upon the flywheel. … "

You’re working. You’re pushing. And you’re feeling like you’re not achieving what you need to be achieving.

But know that you are. Every little action, every push, even the ones that don’t produce immediate “wow” results, is doing its part to help your organization gather momentum.

The calls that don’t bring in much more than disappointment.

The painstakingly slo-o-ow relationship-building.

The few minutes you set aside every day to work on your fundraising skills.

Every push counts. And if you keep consistently putting in the little pushes, no matter how unyielding that flywheel feels -

You’ll hit a point where it’s suddenly charging forward on the strength of its own momentum. Your organization will start moving forward at a rate you never thought was possible.

It begins now with the next push.

What push on your ‘flywheel’ will you make sure to do today?