If you want to launch a rocket into outer space, you have to do a lot of math. One calculation of particular importance is something called escape velocity.
Escape velocity is the minimum speed needed for an object to overcome the gravitational pull of a celestial body like a planet or moon. If the object fails to reach this speed, it will eventually fall back to the surface, unless further propulsion is applied.
Think about throwing a baseball up in the air. The ball will quickly reach a peak and start falling back down to Earth—unless you somehow threw it at a speed of about 25,000 miles per hour, in which case it would overcome earth’s gravity and continue on into space forever.
Careers have their own gravitational pull.
Time and money spent on a degree in a field you no longer enjoy.
A lifestyle built around your current salary.
Expectations of parents and loved ones.
These forces keep us tethered to a specific path, even when we dream of pursuing something else entirely.
In our pining to break free, most of us focus on dramatic acts to quickly reach escape velocity. Things like quitting a job, moving across the country, or starting a business from scratch.
This approach can work, but miscalculations will lead to disaster. Often we are so focused on escaping we don’t pause to consider whether or not we will truly enjoy the path we’re escaping to.
Reaching escape velocity is also really hard. The bigger and heavier something is (and lets face it, careers are heavy), the stronger its gravitational pull and the more difficult it becomes to reach escape velocity.
Thankfully, breaking free doesn’t always have to be about brute force or recklessly abandoning everything we've built.
In fact, rockets often use something called continuous propulsion to overcome Earth's gravity and other forces like air resistance. As the rocket travels farther from Earth, the gravitational pull becomes weaker, and less energy is needed to continue moving away. If the rocket maintains its propulsion, it can eventually escape Earth's gravity—without ever reaching escape velocity.
Start a small business on the side to see if you even like it.
Take one online course instead of going back to school.
Write 200 words a day for a month before declaring to the world to you’re writing a book.
Dramatic leaps into the unknown get a lot of attention, but more often it’s the continuous, calculated propulsion of small steps that lead to escape from the gravitational pull of a life that no longer resonates.
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