I got offered a new job today from a really big company. One of the few companies I’ve always wanted to work for. I gracefully declined. Not just because I love my job at IBM, but because there is SO much that I want to do here with the technology that we’ve got and I haven’t even got started yet.


But that’s the problem with fast moving industries such as technology or marketing. Business are constantly looking for new talent to energise their teams or drive their new thing forward, and it’s easy to be seduced and flattered when somebody else starts to take notice of you.


Some people constantly bounce between jobs.


Others stay and try to get things done.


Both have their own merits  (obviously), but one thing I have noticed is that the first ground of people focus on themselves, and the second group focus on others. Why?


Bouncing between jobs and climbing the career ladder is a sure fire way to promotion and more money. Staying somewhere to get things done, is usually not as lucrative – but it usually results in creating something productive and meaningful.


The first situation lacks momentum, because you are constantly stopping and starting and trying to get up to speed with your new company / team / learning curve.


The second situation is driven by momentum.


Seeing a project with momentum at a large company like IBM is a wonderful thing. Of course it has its challenges, politically and organisationally, but once a project or idea gains momentum there is no stopping it.


All of this reminded me of a wonderful story I heard about momentum from John Maxwell.


A 400-tonne freight train traveling at just 30mph could power through a 1-metre thick steel re-enforced concentrate wall, if one was placed in front of it on the tracks. If you take that same train, and place a block of wood onto a few inches square in front of the drive wheels when it is stationary, that train will never be able to get going. Why? Because in the first instance the train has momentum. In the second case, it does not.


And so it is with people.


Swapping and changing projects or jobs regularly is really hard. It takes a while to get up-to-speed and a long time to gather any momentum. eg. Building a community, growing a new brand, starting a new business, launching a new podcast…


But people who focus on a slightly longer term vision are usually the ones who gather momentum. It might take a few months or years before you have it, but once you have it, there may be no stopping you.

I’m thinking about people like Gary Vaynerchuk. The famous social media superstar was once not so famous. Years ago, he took over his fathers’ wine business and immediately cancelled all their advertising spend, only to focus on building an online video show WineLibraryTV. For 6 months the company was losing 24% a month, as a result of dropping their advertising spend from billboards, press and trade magazines like Wine Spectator. But once the podcast gathered momentum, this started to change. The community grew, sales followed, and within 7 years the $2M wine wholesaler had growing into a $60M online wine business.


For @GaryVee – it wasn’t just his vision and his hustle which made all the difference, it was his momentum.

Some other stuff Maxwell has to say about momentum. (If you like the cut of his jib, you should but some of his books. He’s

It is never the size of your problem that is the problem.
It’s a lack of momentum.

John Maxwell

5 truths about the momentum:

  1. Momentum magnifies success.
  2. Momentum shrinks problems and obstacles.
  3. Momentum energizes.
  4. Momentum enhances performance.
  5. Momentum makes change easier.

(Adapted from: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by John Maxwell. — Must reading for all leaders.)

Momentum isn’t:

  1. Cheering people on.
  2. Giving compliments and affirmations.
  3. Positive feedback.
  4. Pumping people up.

These four things may fuel momentum, but they aren’t the Big Mo.

Momentum can’t be faked.


  1. Momentum whispers, “You matter.”
  2. Momentum feels things are getting better.
  3. Momentum believes wins are probable.
  4. Momentum is hope, courage, energy, and focus combined.

The difference between excitement and momentum is depth.

Building momentum:

  1. Momentum is a series of successful endings not beginnings. Excitement happens at the beginning. Momentum builds at the end.
  2. Momentum sneaks up on you. One day you look around and say, Wow! we’re going places. Excitement flares up; momentum builds up.
  3. Every win is one step toward momentum. If you can’t define the win, you can’t achieve momentum.
  4. Reach big wins through a series of small wins. Successful leaders build small wins into big initiatives.
  5. Momentum begins with successful endings, but requires next steps. Momentum cools when you stop moving forward.

Successful leaders build momentum. Lousy leaders destroy it.

Momentum busters:

  1. Devaluing small contributions.
  2. Talking problems more than progress.
  3. Separating deliverables from people. People, not processes, get things done.
  4. Focusing on weakness rather than strength.
  5. Controlling rather than releasing. When people ask permission they lose momentum.

Momentum builds slow with hard work. But, lousy leaders let the steam out quickly. Of all the things you do, make building momentum a priority.

Communications Designer @IBM • Climate Reality Leader • Lover of Old Business Books, Clever Technology and the NHS • Based in London, UK.

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