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The Pendulum Theory

Posted on August 31, 2015

This is the first in a series of three posts where I will share how Newton’s three laws of motion relate to business. Starting with the third: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I like to call this my Pendulum Theory, as a pendulum’s swing is as high at one end as it is on the other, symbolizing range, scope, and distance. I use the Pendulum Theory for three different business realities to help young managers understand the concept of “perspective”. Unfortunately, issues with perspective most often come from lessons learned firsthand. However, there are frequent opportunities to learn from the experiences of others and avoid having to learn all our lessons the hard way.

Best Thing/Worst Thing

Every one of us has a “worst thing that ever happened to us” and a “best thing that ever happened to us”. I believe that the human condition provides us with a nearly uncapped ability to survive by adapting to our situations. Through this journey, the “worst thing” feels nearly identical for each of us, regardless of its severity in regard to the bigger picture. For someone whose “worst thing” was not getting into the college they dreamed of, their devastation might feel very similar to someone whose dog was run over by a car. One might argue that death is far worse than having to go to your safety school, but that first individual might still feel at the farthest end of their emotional spectrum, or pendulum swing. Likewise, the “best thing” feels similar at the individual level. The first time you made a layup on the playground was exhilarating, but once that becomes easy, you have to stand farther and farther away from the basket to feel progress and accomplishment. So once you’ve mastered a challenging task or project, the high that it once gave you fades, and you can only get that same satisfaction from mastering a new skill. When the best or worst things shift dramatically, your center shifts to create a “new normal” and resets your tolerance and expectation levels.

Applied to business, we should understand that we are all on our own journeys. Just because you personally might have “been there, done that”, know that a colleague experiencing something for the first time will need flexibility to grasp their situation and adjust their center. Be sensitive, patient and respectful, as you hope your peers will be with you as you continue your own journey.

Best Attributes/Worst Attributes

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. A solid organization is built by having a superior process for maximizing their employee’s strengths and categorizing weaknesses. These go into two distinct buckets: those that with mentoring, time and practice will become less of a barrier (maybe even a strength), and those that will likely always be a struggle for this person. Managers need to be able to invest their time wisely. Teach when the teachable student will benefit from the effort. When it’s a moot point, create a work-around to ensure that someone’s shortcomings will not negatively impact the company or your customers, allowing them to focus on their strongest areas of contribution.

Swing Big!

Each of us has a natural risk/comfort level. Some are willing to take huge risks for the opportunity to achieve great rewards. Others are more comfortable maintaining a more “sensible”, low-risk approach to life and business. As growth requires us to put ourselves outside of our comfort zones, I always encourage people to “swing bigger” than their normal inclinations. We are stronger than we know. Not only do you stand a reasonable chance of success if you give it your best effort, if you fail (this time), you are 100% guaranteed to learn something from the experience. It makes you smarter and more likely to succeed next time.



Sherry Orel

Sherry Orel is the CEO of Brand Connections, an independent global media and marketing company that specializes in Making Marketing Easier for Marketers™, providing tailored solutions that link critical marketing disciplines to help marketers connect the dots to deliver a better business outcome. She has 25 years experience in working with Fortune 500 brands to develop strategic, multi-channel solutions, integrating disciplines from out-of-home, digital, mobile, social, promotion, sponsorship, experiential, CRM and retail activation.

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