The Gravity of Success



Legend has it that an English physicist and mathematician named Isaac Newton was sitting under an apple tree when an apple fell on his head. He began wondering why the apple was attracted to the ground in the first place, and as a result, publicized his Theory of Universal Gravitation in the 1680s. It basically set forth the idea that gravity was a predictable force that acts on all matter in the universe, and is a function of both mass and distance.


You see gravity at work every day. Any time you drop a book, step on a scale (unfortunately) or toss a ball up into the air, gravity takes over.


Success has a gravitational pull as well. Sadly, we are face to face with this powerful force played out in the headlines this week. The gravity of success is an intense force that acts on all matter and is a function of size and time. The equally infuriating and deeply disturbing human tragedy unfolding at Penn State University is a narrative of the powerful and seductive nature of this attraction.


Confronted with the moral choice (not legal decision) to act immediately and inform not just dad or university officials, but the police when made aware of an eyewitness account of an adult male sodomizing a child, the university president, athletic director, graduate assistant, vice presidents and iconic head football coach Joe Paterno all succumbed to the gravity of success.


The Penn State football program is so big—generating $80 Million of annual revenue for the University, and Paterno’s reign as head coach so long—46-year tenure at the helm of the Nittany Lions, that gravity set in. It is one of the most powerful moral forces in nature. And, as we are witnessing this week, one of the most destructive.


Bigger can truly be better and a long track record of success can be outstanding. But they can also coalesce into a potent motivation for making poor choices and taking a cowardly path.


Pray for the victims in this tragic tale.


Then, step on the scale and measure your own life. Has the gravity of success set in on your business, relationships or faith? It may just be time to step up, slim down or choose a new and different path.


DO less. BE more.