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Chapter 4: Releasing Potential Energy

Overview

Every situation in our lives has some sort of potential energy that is waiting to be discovered and tapped into. This can take the form of tension or unresolved conflict: 'I want this, but I also want that.' Merely focusing on the 'this' or the 'that' does not make for very exciting possibilities. But discovering and releasing that potential energy can lead to some very high-voltage results indeed. This chapter is about finding the hidden conflicts that motivate us all.

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In physics, 'potential energy' is stored energy, energy that is waiting to be released. A tensely coiled spring is just waiting to explode outward and transform its potential energy into kinetic energy.

We all innately long for the resolution of tension. Seeing a coiled spring, you know that it will eventually burst forth; in a suspenseful movie, you know in a quiet scene that something or someone will pop out and scare the life out of you; the last chords of a symphony lead inevitably to the tonic chord, to provide a satisfying conclusion. (Try singing 'shave and a haircut' without topping it off with '-two bits.' Leaving the musical phrase hanging unresolved is almost painful.)

Malachy Walsh, my mentor and friend, teaches that the energy arising from tension is the force that moves society forward. All of us have needs, appetites, duties, and responsibilities that drive us through each day-from short-range issues ('What will I have for lunch?') to long-range ones ('How can I make my family's life better?'). These needs often pull us in a number of directions at once: I want to buy groceries for my family according to my own personal standards, and yet I'd like someone else to do the grunt work so that I can spend my time elsewhere. It seems that you can't have it both ways-you have to either invest a substantial amount of time in grocery expeditions or turn over the responsibility to someone else and take the risk that the task won't be completed in a way that satisfies you.

We'll come back to the idea of potential energy and how to release it, but first, let's take a broader view. You'll see how Thomas Edison's 'turn it upside down' motto applies to the world of brand development.


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