Win the Inner Battle with Mawi

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Activation Energy

by Mawi on January 3, 2011

I don’t remember much from my high school Chemistry classes, but one concept I remember is called Activation Energy.  To understand Activation energy, just think about what it takes to boil water.

Room temperature water in your home might be at 70° F  depending on where your thermostat is set. If you want the water to boil, you need to get it up to 212° F. When you turn on the stove, even if you turn it on super high, nothing happens for a while. You may notice a few isolated bubbles, but for the most part, the water is still.

What happens if you stop at 200° F? Will the water boil? No.  You could be just 12 degrees away, just one minute away, if you stop, the water will not boil. That’s why 212° F is called the boiling point, where the  Activation Energy is released. It’s the point at which something seemingly magical happens: Water turns from liquid to vapor. It boils. You see some clear results.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know this is the point when I transition from random example to a lesson about success.  In the world of success, there is a force that appears as invisible as water heating to a boiling point. This success force builds over time, and may release a few random bubbles here and there, but otherwise does not do something magical unless it hits an activation point where vast energy is released. In the world of success, this force is called Discipline. Discipline is taking small, repetitive actions – like heating water 1 degree at a time – that cumulatively create an incredible result.

Before a pitcher can hurl a killer curve ball, they have to overcome an activation energy barrier of, let’s say, 10,000 practice pitches. If they stop at 4,000 they may notice the equivalent of a bubble here and there, but they will not transform into a magical pitcher.

Before someone can learn a new language, they must speak and write incorrectly 10,000 times. Each time they are failing and struggling, it seems that that they will never experience the magic of being able to speak effortlessly.

We turn on the stove and wait because we believe that the water will boil. We must continue to practice day after day at whatever we want to improve in because we believe that something magical is possible. That all the little things will add up to something extraordinary.

And that is why spectacular success is both so hard and so easy. It’s easy to pitch one pitch or to speak incorrectly on just one day. But it requires tremendous faith and discipline to keep doing the little things even when it seems that there is no progress.


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