14 Life Lessons I Learned From Physics That Are Way More Relatable Than You May Think

The universe works the same way, at all levels, for everyone.

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At 33, I graduated with a bachelor's degree in physics.

I’m not a great mathematician, but the physics concepts were easy to get because so many of them were analogous to life.

Here are 14 of the most poignant, profound, and helpful life lessons I learned from physics.

1. Like charges repel. Opposites attract.

The more similar you are, the less necessary one of you is. There will also be subtle competition that undermines the relationship. It’s not so much that opposites attract. It's more that they don’t impede and infringe upon one another.


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2. Gravity is the weakest force, but it’s the only one that affects everything.

A weak force that affects everything is better than a strong one that affects a few. It’s often better to be on good terms with everyone than on excellent terms with a few and horrible ones with others.

It's popular "wisdom" to say that if you aren't polarizing some people, then you aren't being authentic. However, what personality traits must you manifest to actively repel people?

I'm not advising you to be something that you're not to appeal to more people, but you don't win anything by making yourself radioactive to some for the chance to be more magnetic to others.


3. Newton's laws of motion also apply to human behavior.

1st law: People don’t act unless pushed or stop unless interrupted. All living organisms assume the most energy-efficient configuration.

This is the most general way to say we all choose the easy way. As Coach Boone (Played by Denzel Washington) in "Remember The Titans" said, "I don't scratch my head unless it itches. I don't dance unless I hear music."

The corollary to this is that if a person is allowed to do something that benefits them, they'll continue to do it, even if it hurts other people. If you don't stop bad behavior at the start, you'll have to deal with worse behavior that's armed with the advantage of momentum.

2nd law: Force of influence = apparent intention of attempt x importance of attempter.​


The easiest way to shape behavior is by relying on authority. If you can couple authority with intentions that appeal to a person's need for safety and security, you can achieve massive influence.

3rd law: Every social movement has an equal and opposite countermovement.​

Most social progress is merely an overcorrection of previously held ideas and assertions. The pendulum always swings back the other way.



4. Relativity: two observers can witness the same thing, disagree, and both be correct.

The “what” of a situation is rarely under debate. People are more often arguing about the future impact, current intent, and past factors that lead to present situations.


This is also why making your decisions based on raw data rather than second-hand interpretation of the data is essential. If crime is up by 500%, you need to know the original crime rate to know just how serious this is.

There's a big difference between going from 1 to 5 and 500 to 2500.

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5. Heisenberg's uncertainty on success.

The more certain you are of the outcome, the easier it will be to attain. The more difficult the process, the more incredible the success will be.

When things are easy to attain and abundant, they are worth less, almost to the point of being worthless. Success is found in taking on calculated risks and investing energy into projects that may not turn out well.


6. If you want more energy, move faster, do more, or push yourself further

I won't bore you with the formulation, but all forms of energy are a function of velocity, distance, or mass. If you want more energy, it’s not always about resting. Sometimes you have to do more. You lack energy because you won’t expend it.

7. If two people coordinate on the same frequency, their output is much greater than the sum of the parts

When you link up with a person on the same frequency, you can accomplish more than the sum of your parts. Resonate frequencies have a greater amplitude, but only during certain intervals.

This holds for all relationships. 1+1=7. However, there is a corollary to this that is also true. When two waves have the opposite frequency, their interference cancels out both of their individual properties. Analogously, a bad relationship brings out the worst of both individuals to the point of them being useless.

8. It doesn't matter how much energy you exert. No work is done if nothing moves.

Work is a function of distance. If there is zero displacement, there is zero work done — no matter how much force is applied. Even physics recognizes the difference between being busy and making progress.


9. Moving at the same speed is effectively sitting still.

Step it up or go home. Let's get a little technical for a moment. Velocity is how fast you're going. It's the change of your position. 15 miles per hour is a velocity (I know it's technically speed, but the idea is the same).

Acceleration is the change in your velocity. One second you're going 15 mph. The next, 16 mph. The next, 17 mph. And so on. This is a positive acceleration.

Zero acceleration occurs in two situations: an object isn’t moving or moves at a constant speed. Force is a function of acceleration, and forces cause things to move.

As per number eight, if nothing moves, no work is done. So the goal is to be a force because being a force gets things done. This means you need non-zero acceleration.


You need to be getting faster, or you're getting slower. If you're not getting better, you're getting worse.



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10. Sometimes the fastest path isn't the same thing as the shortest distance.

Water and electricity take the path of least resistance, even if it isn’t the shortest one. For many things worth doing, the hard way is actually the easiest.


You end up taking more time and doing more work all because you want to avoid doing hard work in the first place.

11. Potential is useless until there's movement.

If you ain't making progress, you may as well be dead. In theory, anything with mass has energy. But until it’s put to use, it doesn’t matter.

“Not doing” is indistinguishable from “can’t do,” and the results are similar. As the old saying goes, "Potential is just a nice way of saying that you haven't done anything yet."


12. 100% efficiency is impossible.

But quite a lot can be accomplished if you prepare for this situation. There will always be waste. The goal is to minimize it.

And if you’re clever, you can do a lot with it elsewhere. The heat in a car is an example of using the waste generated by the inefficiency of the engine (heat) to warm the car.

When my son was born, I used the time I rocked him to sleep to simultaneously get my 10,000 steps in and work on my chess game. Where can you find ways to use the inefficiencies in your life?

13. Necessity isn't always the mother of invention. Sometimes it's curiosity.

It’s a catchy saying, but most of the advances in physics have come because people were simply interested in learning more. You can do a lot when you’re forced, but even more when you’re motivated.


14. Most things are amoral.

The same concept can power a city — or level it. The same body of knowledge that allowed Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be leveled also powers satellites and cities.

It’s not what it is. It’s what you do with it that matters. The rest is up to you.

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Ed Latimore is a retired American professional boxer, influencer, and best-selling author. His work focuses on self-improvement and a practical approach to stoic philosophy.