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Brian Kight

Do you know the difference between speed, velocity, and vector?

Yesterday, one of our founders at Rallyday Partners asked me to prepare some thoughts on the value of velocity compared to speed for an upcoming team meeting.

He read about the difference on Farnam Street, Shane Parrish’s tremendous website resource that I encourage all of you to read. Here’s a link to the article: 5 Mental Models to Remove (Some of) the Confusion from Parenting. An excellent read for all parents! (If you listen to podcasts, check out his show, The Knowledge Project. This isn’t an ad or promo. I just think it’s valuable).

As I prepared my thoughts and read over my notes, I knew I had to share them here. In addition to understanding velocity compared to speed, you’ll also want to consider your vector.

To brush up on your (intentionally simplified) physics:

  • Speed is how fast something moves.
  • Velocity is how fast something moves in a given direction.
  • Vector is how fast something moves in a given direction and the length or duration covered between start and end points. In physics, this is called magnitude.

For our purposes here, think of it like this:

  • Speed = how fast or slow
  • Velocity = speed + direction
  • Vector = speed + direction + duration/length

Velocity (speed + direction) matters. When in doubt, do anything purposeful with velocity and course-correct as you go.

Vector (speed + direction + length) might matter more. How long will you work with speed in that direction? How far will you go? How far do you need to go?

Velocity can drop off sharply after a certain distance or time. Vector considers the amount of ground you need to cover and the magnitude of the overall effort.

The personal connection here is that your best impact depends on working with speed, in the right direction, for a non-trivial length of time. 

People may match your speed and direction, but if they can’t match your magnitude (length/duration), you will outperform them.

Answer the call. Do the work.

Share your thoughts


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