Sam Walton was a young entrepreneur in the 1940’s. He began with a dime store and a passion to sell many different items to the community at a steep discount. He accomplished this by buying in bulk in order to pass on the savings to his customers. He spent seven years developing his first store and opened a second store by the 1950’s. He built step-by-step, gaining slow momentum every year. Over time he experienced success and failure, but he did not give up.
It took Walton a quarter of a century to grow from that single dime store to owning a chain of 38 Wal-Marts. Then, (and this is the exciting part), from 1970 to 2000 Wal-Mart hit breakthrough momentum and exploded to over 3,000 stores with over $150 billion in revenues! These accomplishments led to Sam Walton being chosen for TIME magazines top 100 people of the Century. He can be found under the category of “builders and titans”.
Our culture likes to showcase stories of “overnight successes”, but I’d like to propose that there is no such thing. It’s a myth, an urban legend if you will, especially when it comes to building families.
I hear from people around the nation that are looking to heal wounds and build family connection. One of the greatest frustrations they have is the overwhelming feeling of failure or lack of momentum. People are afraid to make mistakes, so they often stay in old patterns for fear of failing in new endeavors.
What Sam Walton tapped into is something similar to the effect caused by a flywheel. Let me explain:
“Picture a huge, heavy flywheel – a massive metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle, about thirty feet in diameter, two feet thick, and weighing about five thousand pounds. Now imagine that your task is to get the flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and as 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 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 the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort.”*
So after this flywheel (or healthy, connected family) is whirring in action, and someone comes up to you and wants you to identify the one major “push” that gave you all this momentum, how will you answer them? You won’t be able to identify it. It’s all about continued effort, not giving up, not letting the slow progression stop you or intimidate you.
Keep Moving Forward
I love the movie Meet the Robinsons. It’s about a little boy named Lewis living in an orphanage. Lewis is an inventor and is forever trying to build new gadgets that will eventually lead him back to meet his birth mother. He often gets discouraged when he faces failure. But one day, as he’s about to give up on everything, he gets a visitor from the future. He doesn’t know it yet, but this visitor is his son. His son knows that Lewis can’t give up, because one day he will be successful.
When Lewis travels to the future he meets a wonderful group of people named the Robinsons. Lewis has no idea the people he is eating dinner with are his family from the future. While enjoying dinner together, one of the gadgets for serving food breaks down. Lewis’ son encourages Lewis to fix it (because Lewis invented it). Lewis gives it his best effort but is very doubtful of success. Sure enough, the gadget explodes and sprays food all over everyone.
Lewis cowers and starts apologizing, hanging his head in shame. But something happens that he could never have expected. The whole family erupts in applause. Everyone is cheering yelling,
“From failing you learn, from success, not so much.”
The whole family bursts out in song about how when you fail, you have to keep moving forward.
Lewis begins to smile and feel safe in his failure. One of the family members raises a glass to Lewis and says;
“I propose a toast to Lewis, and his brilliant failure. May it lead to success in the future.”
Lewis replies, “Gosh, you’re all so nice. If I had a family, I’d want them all to be like you.”
Lewis realizes later on he is going to have to let go of the past, and keep moving forward.
I am confident that as you and your family pursue new goals in connection and relationship that no one is expecting perfection. Life is not as much about the destination as it is the journey. God is so pleased at your effort, and just as Lewis’ family cheered when he failed, I can imagine heaven is cheering for you when you fail. Because when you fail, you learn. And when you keep moving forward, you build explosive momentum.
The Franklin family did not start where we are today. We built our connection step-by-step, through failures and successes, and now our flywheel is whirring like a well-oiled piece of machinery.
Don’t give up! Keep moving forward.
*The excerpt of the flywheel is found in the book Good to Great by Jim Collins 2001