How to Make a Catapult Launch Farther

I was trying to help my younger son understand the difference between potential and kinetic energy. (Whether we like it our not, Covid-19 has made all of us parents into amateur teachers. I now have even more respect for the teaching profession.)

He and I were sorting through pictures of different objects at different points in their journey…a roller coaster, an airplane, a sprinter in the starting blocks, etc…when it occurred to me that when we embark on our passion project, when making our art, we harness the power of both kinds of energy.

You might be saying to yourself, “Uh-oh. I smell a metaphor coming.” Right you are! Stay with me here…

Think of your average, ordinary catapult. (Not the ancient ones used to fire hot, molten lead and other ammunition to storm castle walls.). The more we pull back on the catapult arm, the more potential energy we store, which then enables the object in the arm to fly further and faster, to have more kinetic energy. (Kids, don’t try this at home.)

Let’s take producing a play…Pulling back the catapult arm is akin to all the tasks we need to do prior to opening night. Casting, crewing, fundraising, budgeting, scheduling, marketing…it’s a long list. The more we lean into those tasks, do them with excellence and generosity, the further back goes the arm. More potential energy is stored.

Which then gets released and converted into kinetic energy on Opening Night. That kinetic energy, that intense joy that comes from getting to do our art, is felt by all. And that joy coupled with all that converted energy, carries us through the rest of the run.

Put another way, Newton’s First law States, “A body in motion stays in motion.”

One more thing…

At some point that potential energy does need to get expressed. Otherwise, it becomes a sad, cautionary tale.

Wasted potential.

Don’t let that happen.

Make your art.

P.S. – I love the song “Catapult” by Counting Crows. Especially this live version.

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