Little actions that disturb momentum

Also, how I manipulate social gatherings in Sri Lanka :D

We've all been at that gathering. People keep talking to each other. But it's late. And everyone wants to go home. But no one says they want to go home. So the conversation starts up again. Then dies off. Then rises again. Then awkward silence.

That's where I come in. Right at that moment where I can sense the conversation dying off, I prime myself. Sitting straight. Looking ready to move. And then the silence happens. At that exact moment, I'll lean forward in the chair just like I'm about to get up. Without fail, a chorus of people will say "right we'll be going then". It's effortless. Unconscious. They don't know why they said it. It just felt right. They've barely registered my movement, but it was enough to trick the peripheral parts of their brain into thinking someone else is making the first move.

And just like that, the event is over. With one tiny gesture, everyone is gone.

There are other little gestures I've used mostly to dismantle situations I find personally uncomfortable.

A fight is about to break out between two people? Walk uncomfortably close to the people arguing and allow that moment to distract their conversation. Not a 100% guarantee but it'll defuse a tense moment quite often.

There's an underlying principle to all of this. It's called disturbing momentum. And while the two examples I mentioned above are fairly light hearted, disturbing momentum can be used in extremely destructive ways.

Momentum is one of the most important things for people to progress in whatever they are doing. It's why we are told to write or draw everyday if we want to become writers or illustrators. Because the momentum we gain in the practice will eventually be strong enough to roll over those dreaded "block" days.

It's also why meetings can be so easily derailed. Or a person's creativity switched off with a simple distraction. The effort to build up momentum is pretty high. Consider someone trying to build a case for adopting a new software to automate work in order to free up their team for more important tasks. That person has to highlight a problem, describe solutions, walk through cost benefits and various tradeoffs.

It takes just one person to pick on an individual detail and discuss that to shift the momentum away from moving towards a big picture view to a myopic nightmare. And it can happen so quickly. Once or if that conversation finishes, the person who was presenting a solution then has to rebuild that momentum from the start. They can't pick off where they left things. It doesn't work that way. Most people just give up and go home.

The thing is, I've seen people with the best of intentions become utterly destructive by being a momentum stopper. Sometimes these people are destructive to themselves. And many times it's only because they are unaware of this dynamic within themselves.

There's no real point here. There's no golden lesson in all of this. This is a reflection on what it takes to take away momentum. People assume that once a project has enough steam, it's unstoppable. That's not true. Anything is stoppable with the right combination of little momentum disturbing actions. Learning this is a lifelong experience that can be then employed in any number of ways. It pays to be aware of it.

Posted on March 07 2018 by Adnan Issadeen