An External Force

“A body at rest will remain at rest and a body in motion will remain in motion (in a straight line) unless acted upon by an external force.”
– Newton’s First Law

You’ve pushed away from the shore; you are flowing down the river. You have officially launched.

The fresh air of decisiveness surrounds you; the current of conviction pulls you along. It is a heady feeling to decide and then to move. And you’ve done it.

And soon, a leak in the boat, an unseen boulder, a confluence of waters, a rapid stronger than it first appeared, will act upon your new endeavor.

You are no longer an object in motion in a straight line. You are now an object that has been acted upon by an external force.

The resistance is real. The external forces, the friction, the barricades, the speed, they confound and frustrate you. And through that narrow space of uncertainty squeezes the internal resistance; the criticism, the voices of your past defeats, the voices of your current insecurities. They are all with you in that leaky, bumpy boat.

You float on, and you remember that it was never about the straight line. You remember that it’s about the joyful gratification of persisting through the jagged line of resistance and solving all of the problems – internal and external – that it represents.

You do not lose heart because you know that with each new leak and bump, you are smarter, wiser and more committed. You persist until there is nothing more you can do or until you get to the place you call “there.”

long exposure photo of river near trees

Photo by Nick Kwan on

Define the future

Your resistance to change makes perfect sense. When the way that you organize the world is called into question or is threatened in some way, why would you let that go without a fight?

It only makes sense to ask, “If I let go of this, what will I have left…what will I replace it with?”

And if there’s no satisfactory answer, why should there be any change? (Humans being human, even when there is a satisfactory answer there is still resistance to and outright refusal to change. Alas, we keep up the fight.)

Absent a vision of the future to live into we are prone to remain in the less productive/healthy/meaningful/functional present. Because it is what we know.

So, please don’t get busy changing. And by all means don’t get busy telling people to change.

Instead, get busy – creatively, lovingly, purposefully busy – designing and defining a preferred future. Give yourself, your team, your family, something to aspire to.

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.