Are you a body at rest waiting for a force to put you in motion?

“It’s really loud. It sounds like a freight train rushing by you. So, you can’t talk -- not until your chute opens.”

“You jumped out of a perfectly good airplane from 10,000 feet?”

“Yep. It was my first jump so I went ‘tandem.’ My jump instructor was strapped to me, and we dropped out of the plane. Eight limbs flying, like a spider dropping from its web. We free fell for 5,000 feet. Then, we opened the chute and everything slowed down. The noise was replaced by peaceful quiet. We floated to earth, but I haven’t landed yet. That was three days ago.”

John Hrubos is a plumbing contractor in Ithaca, N.Y. John is the newest Revolutionary in the Benjamin Franklin Plumbing empire.

Lately, I’ve been getting to know John. I am always concerned as we bring a new company into the fold. Will he, or she, or they, be willing to change? To change who they are and what they do? If not, then that company will be subject to the law of inertia. It will be stuck. And no amount of information or consulting or marketing will make a lick of difference. Once John told me his parachuting tale, I wasn’t worried about him anymore.

Remember learning about inertia in high school physics? Put simply, a body in motion will stay in motion, until another force acts on it. A body at rest will stay at rest. Forever. Unless another force acts on it.

Here’s an illustration of the law of inertia. If your father put a Bell and Gosset pump on the corner of his desk in 1953, that pump will still be there today -- unless another force acted on it and moved it. Did you take over your daddy’s company? Take a look at your desk, the one that used to be his. Is the pump still there? That’s inertia.

Small Or Big?

It doesn’t matter if you want to be a big company, or aspire to a soloist. The important thing is to choose what you want and MOVE to it. Are you a small shop because you want to be? Have you created a lovely niche business that suits your life? That’s wonderful. There are fortunes to be made and lifestyles to be had in small shops.

And keeping a small shop small and vital doesn’t just happen. You have to move, adjust, prune and refine to stay small and in the game. A deliberately small shop can be as powerful and forward-moving as big shop. You can find profits in the form, without an ever-increasing top line.

Are you a small shop because you can’t figure out how to be a bigger one? It’s inertia at work. Consider this: in a small shop, the Customer Service Rep is usually the Dispatcher, too. In the CSR post, he will fret until the number of calls on the board meets the number of calls the Plumbers can easily handle.

Once that number is reached, he moves to the Dispatcher role. He’ll shut down as the CSR. It could be happening unconsciously, but it’s happening. Inertia is why the call count never seems to grow.

Move Something

You walk into your office. You sit at your desk. Your pen is in a familiar place. The phone is in the same spot. You turn on the computer. Then the phone rings, the predictable questions and distractions start -- and today gets sucked into yesterday. Like the movie “Groundhog Day,” the same day happens over and over and over.

Welcome change into your life by moving your desk from one side of your office to the other. Just do it.

Move yourself. Go for a walk. Keep your eyes high, focused on the horizon. If you always walk fast, today go slow. If you like to meander, pick up the pace.

Not using the perfectly good cast iron fittings that are stacked to the rafters in your warehouse? Donate them to Habitat for Humanity. Or -- I hereby give you permission -- throw them out.

As you make space in your life, the universe starts to shift. Another force is in play and new things will come into your life. Start the flow by letting go of things for which you have no need.

Go Long

Go at least three years out and craft your future. Set your goals. Personally and professionally, define your goals in terms of number, dollars, hours and percentages.

“More time with my family” is not a workable goal. It’s too vague. Instead, list the hours you’d like to commit to work and be specific. List the wonderful activities you will do with your family.

Set due dates, not deadlines. No one is going to die if you get behind. I am amazed by the rarity of the written goal. Why haven’t you documented your dreams? What are you afraid of? There are no goal police who come and get you if you don’t make it.

Look to the next season. It’s September now. What progress would you like to make by winter? The days, months and years are slipping by. Commit to something with a Dec. 31, 2002, due date.

  • Track $750,000 in sales, with 15 percent on the bottom line.
  • Spend two weeks in Aruba.
  • Contribute $5,000 to the Red Cross.
  • Give a pint of blood.
  • Read “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill.
  • Hire a licensed, drug-free service plumber.
  • Complete the Dale Carnegie course.
These are workable, specific short-term goals. Now, you do it. Check to make sure that your short-term goals align with your three-year goals.

Book To Outlook

“Outlook” is a day planning program that is waiting for you on your PC. Look around your desktop and find a yellow-green icon with a picture of a clock in it. Click on the icon and snoop around. Find the help screen. Spend an hour learning the program. And start using it.

Set Outlook to receive your e-mails. You can “drag” an e-mail from the inbox to your contacts file. Voila! You can assemble your address book.

Reviewing your goals, what must be done -- within three years, by next season -- what tasks must be accomplished? What to-dos must be to-done?

Plug in appointments. Start with important family functions and work business around them. Check out the recurrence feature. Your regular meetings can be entered once and appear as appropriate on your calendar.

Type in your tasks (assign due dates, of course).

You can take Outlook with you. If you are a techno geek, you are going to love the Palm Pilots and other PDAs (personal digital assistants) on the market. You can “sync” your Palm with your Outlook program and take your tasks and appointments with you when you leave your desk.

Or you can simply use a spiral notebook. Keep it with you all the time. Jot down notes, thoughts, systems and stories in the back. Jot down tasks to be done in the front.

Once a week, sit down with Outlook and your spiral notebook. Make sure the tasks and appointments created on the run get done, or moved to your Outlook problem.

Flog That Horse

I know, I have hammered the importance of time management and goal setting and action planning in past columns. I continue to flog that horse because those are the skills I find missing when I work with contractors who want something different from what they’ve got.

New Age Guru Louise Hay says that change is inevitable. If you are stuck, and unable or unwilling to change, change will ultimately happen. The law of inertia is ultimately a theoretical law. There are always other forces at work. If your life is off course, it will change. If you don’t apply the changing force proactively, the universe will -- in the form of illness or accident.

Sounds harsh? But disturbingly accurate? Look around you. Do you know a person who bounced out of sick-and-retired when he accepted a useful job? Why are some people “accident-prone?” Are you? It’s time to stop status quo and apply simple, basic discipline to your life.

Take small steps if you like. Progress is progress. You could plan and act to increase the number of calls in at your company to 316, for instance.

Or you could jump out of a plane.