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Force, Energy, and Change
by Ray Strackbein

Energy produces force. Force produces change.

Hydraulics taught me that. I studied hydraulics as a toddler. I piled leaves and rocks into the gutter to stop the water.  I learned I could stop the water for a while, but then, somehow, it would always get past my dam. Sometimes, the water went around my dam. Sometimes, it went over the dam.

As I got older, I made more sophisticated dams and learned a lesson: I might be able to stop the water for a little while, but eventually so much force would accumulate that the water would eventually go over the dam, around the dam, or knock the dam down. Not only does that lesson apply to the force and energy of water, but it also applies to the force and energy of change. I might be able to hold back change for a little while, but as I do, if the forces or energies causing the change continue to build, they will eventually overcome any obstacle I place in their way.

Change does not exist without force.

To understand how force works is to understand the universe.

Let's start with a simple example: the four forces of flight: gravity, lift, thrust, and drag.  Lift makes an airplane soar; gravity helps it land. Thrust moves it forward; drag is necessary to stop. Changing any one of the four forces will change an airplane's direction. Without all four of these forces working in the proper balance at the proper time, airlines wouldn't exist. We would still be earthbound.

All four forces are necessary for flight. Without the force of gravity, people can't stand and airplanes can't land -- nothing would stick to Earth, drifting instead into space.  Without gravity, there would be no need to invent flight ever.  Instead of flight, the big invention would have been landing.

Without the force of lift, we would all be slime adhered to the Earth. There would be no vertical dimension.

Remove the force of drag, and perpetual motion becomes possible. Without the force of thrust, motion is impossible.

Balanced forces are essential for stability.

The fact that balanced forces are essential for stability is widespread across disciplines.

In government, the coordination and balancing of opposing forces is called "balance of power" or "checks and balances." Such a system of checks and balances was designed into the government of the United States over 200 years ago. Checks and balances were designed into the Constitution. The United States Constitution specifies three branches of government -- executive, legislative, and judicial -- as well as strong powers to each of the 50 states. Each influences powerful forces to keep other powers in check.

Unchecked power demands opposing power.

New unchecked powers often induce new forms of opposing powers.  Almost a century ago, powerful Industrial Age companies created a demand for a new force to balance their power giving rise to labor unions. In many areas of the country, anyone who wanted a job had to work for a particular company -- there was just no choice.  The workers were trapped by large companies, then mobilized by labor unions.

Today, labor unions are declining in power because of increasing choice and increasing personal, technical, and economic power.  Transportation, communication, and the new global market now balance the company town.  Rather than having to work in a given occupation for a given company, people have many options.  They can relocate, commute to another area, or form their own business.  The Internet is a new force to counteract unbalanced existing forces: established media moguls, conglomerates, well-entrenched interests, and government. All are trying to understand, harness, and assimilate the power of the Internet.

The pendulum swings.

This tug-of-war of energy, power, and forces swings the pendulum of civilization.  One force dominates; another then rises.  The pendulum swings, then changes direction.  The rising force dominates. Soon new forces emerge to balance the new dominating force, pulling the pendulum of civilization yet another way.

    Few people seriously examine, understand, and predict the effect of these forces.  Many people speculate.  Most people apply old labels to a new world.  Is the Internet communistic or capitalistic?  Is the Internet a savior or a new Satan?

The Internet is a new force, pulling us in yet a new direction to balance the forces that unbalance our civilization and our world.

Like the air that surrounds us, the pendulum has always been in our lives. Few people even notice. Even fewer people seriously examine, understand, and predict change.  Forces cause change.  Inertia resists change. If you want to understand our changing universe, examine the forces affecting that pendulum.  Examine forces to predict position, motion, and momentum.

The fact that our civilization, technology, lives, and cultures are changing indicates universal forces are changing. Are things really in chaos, or have the forces merely changed to take us in a new direction? Or are things in chaos because the forces are in chaos?

Change cannot be resisted.

More important is how I decide to use my energy. Trying to stall the forces of change wastes my energy.  Yes, in the short term, it can build my strength as I get stronger and stronger resisting the change.  But if the forces of change continue to build, they will eventually overcome my efforts.  I can conserve my energy by accepting the change and using it to propel me.  If I do that, I may get weaker as I just drift along. Or, I can learn to swim downstream, find an inviting place to pause and build a refreshment stand to serve those who come behind me.

    Implementing each strategy requires different skills, interests, knowledge, and strengths.  Drifting is different than resisting is different than swimming. Each will teach you about the energy of the mixed metaphor of energy and change. The person who resists will explain the energy one way.  The person who drifts will explain the energy another.  The person who swims will describe a totally different experience.

My lessons moved past the force and energy of water to the energy of electricity while I was still in grade school. From electricity, I learned that I cannot see energy, I can see only the effects of energy. If I look at a household wall socket, I can not tell whether there is electrical energy or not. If I plug in a lamp and turn it on, the electricity will cause the lamp to light, causing an effect I can see.  If I neglect to test the wall socket for electricity and take it apart to work on it, I might soon feel the effects of the energy.

When I started my career working with electricity, computers, telecommunication, and broadcasting, I started seeing other effects I could not explain. I learned to see the effect of business, society, and civilization.  I was a change agent.  I brought people these wonderful, new electronic tools of the Information Age.  I watched them get shocked. Even now, throughout my daily life, I see people getting shocked by the energy of change.

Some people adopt change and technology before the energy is there to support it.  That is like someone watching the water rise in an empty lake behind a dam.  They can run off yelling, "Evacuate!  The water is rising.  The dam will break!" If the lake is empty, rising water will not threaten most substantial dams.

Others wait far too long to accept the change. A person fishing on the dam might marvel, "I can't remember the water ever being this high before. Somebody should open the gates." As the rains fall and the water continues to rise, he might start catching a lot of fish.  He might not even notice the water washing the bait bucket over the dam. He might concentrate on fishing so much that they get swept away, so to speak.

    The reasonable thing to do is to observe the changing forces at work and take the reasonable action at the reasonable time.

Watching the effects of those changing forces will tell you when to buy a fax machine, digital TV, change jobs, move to a new location, or even change careers.

Unless you see the changes and understand them, you rely on others to tell you what actions to take.  Even then, many people still do not heed the warnings of the dam authority to get off the dam.  They continue to focus on catching that bigger fish.

The Connection Experts recognize changes as they begin to emerge, helping clients to make timely, strategic decisions.

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copyright (c)  RayStrackbein.

Permission is granted to reprint this article in
your newsletter or magazine with the byline:

 Ray Strackbein is a speaker and author.
To find out more about his programs and services,
 or call 703-262-0361.


Ray and Sally Strackbein
PO Box 710540
Herndon, VA  20171

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