Past Midway Ramblings on Business & Life

Physics and Life

I needed to test a new microphone. So, just to have something to say for the audio test, I began discussing potential & kinetic energy as a analogy to life… a thought I have been contemplating for more than a decade. I expected the idea would eventually be a written blog post, but I thought the initial rambling in the video was decent, so I just kept talking… for nearly 10 minutes. A single take.

Here’s the uncut video, published “as is” – unscripted, unrehearsed, unshaven, and underdressed. Maybe someone will find it interesting, or even useful.

(Also, I didn’t like the audio quality from the new microphone. Too bad. Maybe I should have checked that before talking this long. Turn up your volume.)


  • Always a pleasure mixed with not just a little pride. This didn’t catch me unaware because, unlike others listening to this, I get the benefit of previous conversations. This particular subject, however, left my head spinning because, well, because of the subject. I have often pondered memories & how they can become skewed, but, to glean wisdom, even from flawed memories was an insight I don’t think I could have articulated. Putting physics & philosophy together like this, for me, is utterly fascinating. It’s kinda akin to the pairing of your dad & mom…analytical/emotional. It doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. Good job, son.

    • “Pairing of your dad & mom” is exactly right, Aunt Judy. This Blog had more than a sprinkle of each parent’s wisdom/energy weaved into the fabric.

  • I’ve thought about this same concept a great deal myself. Energy, time, life. Meaning.

    To build on your analogy, consider this point: E=mc2 teaches that mass and energy are balanced. Because the constant (“c”) is an incredibly high number (the speed of light squared!), there is indeed an enormous (almost unfathomable) amount of potential energy wound up tightly in all of us. An average-sized adult with a modest frame harbors 7×10 18th power joules – enough to explode with the force of 37 very large nuclear bombs. Life decisions determine whether this potential energy is “activated,” “used,” “wasted,” or in some cases, remains untapped and “dormant.” But, over a span of, say, 100 years, this experiment called life affords us roughly 900,000 hours of lab time to find our potential and put it to use. Countless and random “action/outcome” trials, as you put it. During this time frame, some are busier than others. However, for all of us, there is ample time and enormous potential to gain wisdom and pass it down.

    Fantastic analogy, Andy. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes, Paul. I was thinking the same thing – we all inherently have near limitless potential. If potential energy is already limitless, we can’t add to it. We can only access it more efficiently. Furthermore, perhaps friction should be the focus. If we were to think of it this way, I see two points.

      Firstly, we can’t bequeath potential energy to others. We can, however, share wisdom gained and offer support to others that allows them to reduce/eliminate their life frictions so that they may convert more of their potential into positive experiences sooner and perhaps at a greater speed. A very high level example of this would be the advancement in technology that has led to longer lifespans. And on an individual level, I can see it in the courageous breaking of toxic generational patterns to better equip children to transverse the world.

      Secondly, I wasn’t a great Physics student, but perhaps their is a law that supports kinetic energy begetting additional kinetic energy – like the snowball effect. Momentum must make it easier to overcome friction, right?? If so, the more we convert potential to kinetic energy, the easier it becomes. Friction becomes less likely to hold us back. The effect is not additive by exponential!

      P.S. I thought the audio quality was very good. The video quality was excellent. Very cool idea Andy! Thanks for the Saturday morning brain teaser.

  • Nice to hear and see you as you share your thoughts, Andy. The audio quality on my end was great.

    I was never a physics student, so not coming at it from that angle. 🙂

    You mentioned that when we are young, we have lots of potential energy and many paths we can take. That is true, but I think as we age we tend to sell ourselves short. We settle for less than what we can truly achieve because of what we perceive to be a limitation on our potential. Sure, there are examples, like the professional athlete you mentioned, if we don’t start young, it’s not likely to happen. Although with that example, I think most of us don’t have the talent to pull it off in the first place! haha But I think there are many other areas of our lives where we have untapped potential energy.

    I’ll share a personal example. When my son, Nathan, went off to college, he left a vacancy as drummer for our church’s worship band, After a few weeks of missing the beat in our worship songs, a thought flashed through my mind. “I wonder if I could learn to play the drums?” That was quickly followed by, “What am I thinking?” “I’m a 46-year-old woman who’s never drummed a day in her life!” “I could never learn to the level that I could play with a band.” “It’s too late to learn.” Well, I decided to challenge that thinking and give it a try. Long story short, for the last 7+ years our church has had a new drummer! And now what I try to say instead is, “It’s never too late!”

    The same thing can happen in our careers. We proceed so far down a path in a specific career that we think it isn’t possible to jump ship and try something completely new. But I think if we are willing to take a risk, we have more potential energy than we give ourselves credit for. Think of the stories of individuals 50 years and older going to medical school. I am so inspired by those stories!

    Afterall, when it comes down to it, we don’t know the number of our days, so why not jump out of those ruts, challenge ourselves, and reach for a higher level of potential – no matter our age. It leads to growth and sure makes life a whole lot more exciting!

    I enjoyed what you shared. I thought I’d add another angle as someone who, like you, is not as young as we were at TU!

    I better sign off. I need to go practice my drums for church tomorrow before Troy gets home! (Note: We should’ve put in sound cancelling material where I practice! haha)

    All the best,

  • The audio was great for me. You should record more Andy, it sounds just like our conversations :).

    Friction is the third leg in this equation that consumes potential energy and prevents it from converting into motion. It presents itself in the young as doubt, fear or unwillingness to commit to a “try”. As you grow older you realize that failure is life’s teacher and success follows from the lessons.

    As a parent you try to teach your children to be careful when they are little. “Don’t run by the pool”, “watch those rocks”, “don’t jump with that skateboard” (I’m leaving out some of the more colorful Soren and Nikki moments). As they grow they become capable human beings and now the push needs to be towards taking flight. As a parent I look for times and places where I may have created friction and do what I can to remove it. “I worry that I might disappoint you papa” breaks my heart.

  • I’m in the minority that prefers text to video (can’t control the speed of consumption with video) but I watched most of it and always appreciate your considered perspective. I like the conceptual framework and especially the idea of giving back through mentorship and increasing the potential energy of the next generation.

    At the same time, I think too many people feel stuck after that initial kinetic energy runs much of its course. For many, mid-40s (or 50s) and they feel like their moment has passed and they’re locked in to whatever path they’ve chosen. It might be too late to be a professional athlete, but most paths are still open to those with the willingness to challenge the idea they’re too old to learn new tricks. Most VC-backed companies are founded by those in their 40s, and there are great examples of authors that didn’t write their first novel until their 50s.

    Rather than a roller coaster, I think our life energy should be more like nuclear fusion—it needs the right raw material but ultimately the energy is created within us based on our motivations and goals. As we get older, many of us lose a bit of that raw fuel or find our goals have changed (time vs money, as you opened with) but whatever our goals are, we should set them and use them to fuel our own generators. We create the potential energy for our next ride!

  • Great analogy, and the new approach with video is a fun addition to your blog. As a society we of course stand on the shoulders of giants, and each generation makes those giants a little taller for the next. But as individuals we all pretty much start in the same place at birth. Some are fortunate to be given a higher lift than others from that point forward. This is a good reminder of the importance of lifting other individuals when we see a need. It’s also important to continue climbing, at any age as Krista noted above, but allow ourselves to enjoy getting lifted when we need an occasional break.

    You were clearly paying attention in McCoy’s physics class. He’s still there and probably still the best teacher of physics since Sir Isaac Newton….

By Andy Jones
Past Midway Ramblings on Business & Life

Recent Posts