Documenting the Coming Singularity

Friday, January 05, 2007

Quantum Growth

"Be not afraid of growing slowly. Be afraid only of standing still." ~ Chinese Proverb

Everyone is trying to sell you the fastest way to personal development. Whether the goal is to lose 20 pounds, get a body as shredded as an anatomy illustration, or become successful in your business, they tell you it can be done "in only 2 weeks!" Or that all it'll take is "just 15 minutes a day!" Qualities that realistically require a lifetime of devoted effort and sacrifice, now can supposedly be had without any hassle at all. Hogwash. Nothing worth accomplishing is either easy or quick. The truth is, anyone who says differently is trying to sell you something, and it's called snake oil. Buy it and all you'll end up with is a thinner wallet and a garage filled with almost-never-used quick-fix products.

We've become so used to the fallacy that growth of any kind is easily and quickly obtainable, that we become frustrated when we find that it's difficult and actually takes quite a good bit of time. I just love it when a ripped to the bone model is shown using some piece of exercise equipment and the voiceover indicates that you can look like that guy or girl by using their machine for just a few minutes a day. They don't tell you that the model on display has had to starve themselves to look like that. You can exercise and grow muscle all you want; if you don't seriously cut the fat out of your diet, the new muscle will remain hidden under a deep layer of lard. Then there are the fad diets that will help you lose bucketfuls of extra weight in 2 weeks. The man behind the curtain, to whom they'd like you to pay no attention, is the reality that you will gain that weight back, and then some. The truth is, real, worthwhile growth takes a lifetime of slow, steady effort. The best writers learned their craft slowly and with lots and lots of practice. The same is true of the best actors, the best…whatever. It all takes time and work. You have to be in it, as they say, for the long haul.

How often have you felt frustrated a lack of results? How often have you become impatient in your efforts, growing more and more convinced with each passing day that you're trying in vain? How many times have you thought, I'm not getting anything out of this. It's easy to feel that you're not getting anywhere, and we often feel that our time is being wasted if results don't jump up and smack us in the face every day. So, how often have you felt this way? My goal is to help you understand a principle that will help you persist until you prevail.

In physics there is a field known as quantum theory, from which comes the term quantum leap. A quantum leap, in this field, is a change of an electron within an atom from one energy state to the next, without passing through any intermediate levels. This idea is what leads me to the concept of quantum growth. It refers to a very real experience that has happened to all of us in one context or another. You work at something for a long time, seemingly with no result. Yet you continue to try. And then, out of the blue, success! No intermediary stages. Not all growth has this characteristic; many times there is a smooth, gradual improvement. But sometimes the gradual improvement is hidden; it's going on, but not in an obvious, or even visible, way. Until a threshold is reached, and then the growth bursts out into the open and becomes suddenly manifest. The electron has jumped to a new orbit.

Quantum Theory says that the universe is not made up of smooth, continuous stuff. At the smallest possible level, both matter and energy are actually particulate, or grainy, in nature; that is, they are made up of tiny particles that cannot be divided any further. We already understand that this is true of matter You can only break matter down so far; eventually you'll get to particles so small that they can't be separated into any more parts. But did you know that space is also made up of indivisible bits? If you divide any distance in half, and divide it in half again, and keep on dividing it in half, how long can you go on doing this? Theorists used to think you could do it forever; you'd just end up with smaller and smaller distances. But quantum physics has shown that there is a distance that defines the smallest bit of space that has any meaning. It's called the Planck length. The Planck length is roughly equal to 1.6 x 10-35 meters (that's 1.6 meters divided by ten 35 times), or about 10-20 times the size of a proton. Time is also similarly granulated. The smallest unit of time is called Planck time, which is the time it takes light to travel the Planck length, which is 10-43 seconds. So time and space are not infinitely divisible. What's the analogy? Simply this: personal growth is not always a smooth curve of ever-increasing achievement. In many cases it happens in quantum leaps. So don't give up. Good things are happening, even if you can't see them right away. Trust that your efforts will produce results and will not be in vain, but instead, will generate quantum growth.

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