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Monday Motivation


Forward, ho!

If you weren't raised on movies about the Western United States, like I was, the above title may appear a bit cryptic.

Each week as "Wagon Train" or "Rawhide" or some other western would come onto the television screen, at some point, the wagon master or cavalry would raise his arm, and shout either "wagons ho" or "forward ho."

This morning as I was walking into work, it struck me how important this kind of thing becomes to our lives.

Look around you -- I bet you'll see a number of people who are essentially sitting in the same spot they have been occupying for years, either literally or figuratively.

It drives home the point that if you're not moving, it really doesn't matter a lot if you're headed in the right direction or not.

I've probably related this story before, but it bears repeating. Years ago, when I was a student in college, I spent some time in a college physics class. Well, the class was a night class, and the topic was sometimes rather detailed, and I had the habit of skipping out on class at the mid-class intermission, along with 60 percent of the other students.

One night, however, I remember Professor Dudley talking about velocity. "How much velocity does a house fly have?" he said. There were various guesses, but the correct answer, at least according to him, is that the house fly doesn't have velocity -- velocity as a measure of force requires speed and direction. The house fly's direction is continually changing (watch one for a minute if you don't believe me), and so it never really goes anywhere in a directed fashion. It has speed, yes -- but no actual sustained progress.

Try as I might to forget that physics class, I haven't been able to -- that one concept has stuck with me for the last 20 years -- we have no real velocity, and as such no real force, unless we have a direction we are moving.

Over the years, I've remembered this principle, which I refer to as "The Law of the House Fly." Sometimes I remember it fondly, at times when I am moving ahead in a constant, sustained manner. Sometimes, I remember it with some chagrin -- at times when I'm not really moving in the direction I would prefer, but rather moving around and around like the house fly.

I imagine you can look back at times in your life and see the same law at work in what you've accomplished. When you've had a goal, a destination, and a plan, and worked surely in the direction of that goal, you've made progress.

This law holds true even if your progress isn't too rapid -- remember the principle -- as long as you've got speed and direction, you've got velocity.

Altogether too often, we expect to accomplish great goals in a day or an hour. We think we should be able to do as we would do with a microwave oven -- put our goals in the thing, push the button, and out they come, fully cooked and fully fulfilled. But sometimes, our progress may not be rapid, but it's sustained -- and often, that sustained progress is really all you need to progress.

Think back, if you will, to those wagon trains, that once crossed the American continent. To them, 20 miles was a good day; 30 miles was usually unheard of. The thought that we might travel someday at 80 miles an hour over roughly that same path would have floored them -- it was a goal that was inconceivable. But the pioneers who followed those wagon trains, and the ones who sailed around Cape Horn, or the ones who would pull handcarts, or walk the distance -- they still made their goal, through sustained effort in a defined direction.

Eventually, the railroad would push those wagon trains into western folklore; automobiles and airlines would, in turn, take over much of the passenger traffic hauled by the railways.

But even now, we depend on the same call -- "forward, ho."

Like the wagon master of years gone by, we must continue to lead ourselves to constant and unending forward motion -- always moving along, always keeping our path toward our goals, and always following our path toward our final destination.

There is a lesson to be learned for all of us in those fateful words -- "forward, ho." No longer should we persist in staying in one place for the remainder of our lives. No longer need we spend years upon years mired in the "same old thing." No longer do we need to stay "where we've always been" in our lives.

No progress will ever be made by someone who constantly changes direction -- or worse yet, by someone who never moves at all. A person who doesn't move, doesn't grow, and doesn't change will not affect life for the better. We really don't need many anchors in life -- what we need are the sails.

All we need is a little bit of velocity, and the call of "forward, ho."

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