The Power Of The Jim Collins Flywheel

A Mental Model For Success. Tim Ferriss & The Flywheel.

What Is The Flywheel?

The Flywheel is a framework and formula for success which highlights the value of a new endeavour despite it not having an initial audience or response.

It is a framework created by Jim Collins in his book ‘Good Too Great‘. I have adapted the metaphor here referring to a cogs relationship with output, rather than a traditional explanation of the flywheel, (however it means the same thing).

When you first start something (say a blog), unless you have a large audience drawn in from elsewhere (consequence further down the flywheel), your blog will receive little to no attention. Irrespective of the quality.

You are one person forcing the motion of your initial cog. All of your energy goes into moving this one cog. It would take years of moving this cog before you’ve created enough energy to see results.

You have put something out into the world. Every node it touches has some square variable effect, but little is going to allow it to spread quickly.

Adding Cogs To The Wheel

The return on investment you receive for something you have ownership of is considerably larger than any return an hourly salary will get you – assuming what you create gets found.

You have your initial cog (the blog). Now you need to add cogs to the machine so each output is complimenting the other, creating a much higher efficiency in output relative to your input of energy.

What if you made a youtube channel in addition to your blog, covering similar content.

Another heavy steep of effort, and another cog on the wheel.

You are still barely getting noticed and your hundreds of hours of work have paid you nothing. But the formula to your success is as follows.

Formula For Results

Cogs Only As Effective As Their Quality

You have very few chances at re grabbing someones attention. Your cogs are only as effective as their quality.

If you post something on your blog every day, google might respond by boosting your rankings, offering a chance for more eyeballs. But if those eyeballs then go on to forget what they saw, it was a meaningless progression and use of energy.

Retention trumps attention.

And retention is only rewarded through quality.

Quality can mean so many different things.

By my standards, Buzzfeed write low quality content, but my definition doesn’t matter. Buzzfeed adds value and quality by other peoples standards and so their work is validated and successful through them.

I don’t care what celebrities lost loads of weight, but others do.

Retention is the goal, and is only achievable through whatever your domain defines as quality.

Pewdiepie videos have ironically low quality levels of production, but his content is of the highest quality.

It can sometimes be paradoxical. Emulate and learn from your industry leaders.

Do Things That Accumulate

So maybe you add a podcast, maybe you publish a book, maybe you collaborate with higher profiles.

Whatever you are doing, add Cogs, and add value.

Each additional cog will reap no immediate return. But the point of the flywheel is that this is a long term strategy.

Each cog added helps to turn each other cog faster and with less effort. The machine gets better with each additional cog.

King Of The Flywheel – Tim Ferriss

I have written much about Tim Ferriss and my emulation for him before.

This man is the prime example of the compounding potential of the flywheel. Each one of his cogs (all of high quality) has compounded for him over time to yield fantastic results.

It started with a blog which he could leverage through his connections. It justified his ability to write a book (4 Hour Work Week). Which gave him success and further connections to grow his email list (one of the largest in the world). Which then further leveraged his connections to start a podcast (close to a billion downloads). All of this further propagates every one of his cogs and allows him to branch off really at this point absolutely wherever he pleases, and given the effectiveness of each cog in his machine, he is almost guaranteed success in any new venture.

I am here, writing a blog, making youtube videos, and recording podcasts. All my cogs are yielding a sum total nothing.

I think quality is something my cogs lack, and I am striving to improve.

If cogs(x)/quality x (time) is true, then I should hope to see more page views, subscribers, and downloads as time goes on.

Putting things out into the universe is more daunting than difficult.

But it’s just one thing at time, keep chipping away, keep introducing yourself to the world. Perhaps in time, your cogs will form together to compliment and propagate each other into a beautiful machine.

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Cheers for reading through to the end you legend!

Every month (or couple of weeks) I write a short, popular email which highlights the biggest insights I’ve distilled through all the noise of the previous month. This includes extremely cool ideas, exceptional companies, massive stories that weren’t given attention, the music and podcasts that defined that month plus of course the best-written content I came across.


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