During the First Opium War between Great Britain and Qing Dynasty China in 1839, the British used the Royal Navy as a force multiplier in their campaign.
Their technologically-superior naval fleet let them manoeuvre steam ships up waterways against winds and tides, carry more guns per ship, and outrange Chinese fortifications with better cannons and artillery. It essentially let them sail right up to the strategic points and cities they wanted to capture and simply deploy their ground forces.
Having a force multiplier like a technologically-superior navy, let the British use strategies and tactics that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
In contrast, the Qing forces lacked a naval force multiplier. Their ships were technologically over a hundred years older than the British ships. In turn, this meant that their available military strategies and tactics were also a hundred years older.
There are many examples in history of how force multipliers have turned the tides of battles and wars.
In military terms, they are factors that give people or weapons the ability to accomplish greater feats of warfare than without them, and allow militaries to use strategies and tactics previously unavailable to them.
But you aren’t reading this for the military history. I hope.
Let’s look at how we can apply the concept of force multipliers on a personal level.
What Are Force Multipliers?
The term force multiplier comes from military science.
Military examples include:
They impact both the strategies available and in turn, the tactics used.
If we take the force multiplier concept and apply it on a personal level, we can think of force multipliers as the factors in our lives that give us the ability to accomplish greater feats than without them.
This is another way of saying that your impact in terms of results or speed is greater with the factor than without it.
For example, accomplishing two times the results with the same effort, or accomplishing the same result but in half the time.
You can also think of force multipliers as anything that expands your locus of control.
Examples of Personal Force Multipliers
Let’s get to the good stuff right away — a list of personal force multipliers that you can use in your life.
In no particular order:
- Good mindset/inner game.
- Good health.
- Good systems.
- A platform/personal brand.
- Culture. The hard truth is that some cultures achieve more than others.
- Personal-level technology, like computers, phones and modern appliances.1Just imagine having to wash all your clothes by hand.
- Skillsets, like coding, persuasion and languages.
- Looks and appearance.
Why Are Force Multipliers Important?
Force multipliers are important because they make everything easier. They also accelerate your results.
You can get two times, three times and maybe even more the results, in less time.
They also let you do things that you cannot without them.
As a silly example, if you have a phone and want to communicate something to a friend, you can simply call them. If you don’t have that phone, you would have to go find them in person or send a letter.
And of course, it goes deeper than that.
If you are fluent in English, you have access to the English-language Internet which is a staggering sixty percent of all major content online.2Wikipedia. Languages used on the Internet. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Languages_used_on_the_Internet Just imagine if you couldn’t understand any of that.
If you can code, you can write yourself small programs and scripts to automate things.
For example, I recently wanted to learn the one thousand most common words in Mandarin. So I downloaded a list online, and wrote a small script to segment it into ten-word CSV files that I could import into my repetition app one file at a time. Without this script, I would have had to copy-paste each word one-by-one into the app.
Having a force multiplier like a particular skillset simply lets you do things that others cannot.
You can think of force multipliers as force factors in your life. They exist in the wider world regardless of if you pay attention to them or not — so why not use them to your advantage?
Force multipliers also fit into the larger system of your life. When you add or improve a force multiplier in your life, it impacts everything — your finances, your health, your learning and your relationships.
Rather than have me explicitly tell you, have a think about this:
How has owning a smartphone allowed you to do more in the different parts of your life?
How Do Force Multipliers Work?
Force multipliers affect strategy first, then tactics second.
If you like military history (or play Command & Conquer) then you know that:
- Strategy is the “big stuff” like what you outfit your army with.
- Tactics are the “small stuff” like how you command your army in a given battle.
A personal example of strategy and tactics in say exercise, would be:
- Strategy as the workout programme that you choose.
- Tactics as how you perform individual exercises in a given workout session.
This is another way of saying that force multipliers affect not only what you choose to do, but also how you are going to do it.
Let’s look at some content examples.
Example 1: Good health as a force multiplier
Being in good health is a positive force multiplier.3Yes, there are negative force multipliers too.
Good health gives you:
- More energy through better sleep and a greater capacity to do “work”.
- Physical capabilities through strength, cardiovascular fitness and good signalling molecules (hormones, neurotransmitters).
- Knowledge of nutrition and physical activity.
This translates into better focus and attention in non-exercise areas.
It also multiplies across the various areas of our lives by giving you greater control and more options in each area.
For work and career, being in good health gives you the ability to focus your attention at will, which means better performance and (hopefully) more money.
For health itself, once you’re in good health it’s easier to stay in good health for longer.
For learning and personal development, having implemented the diet and exercise programmes required for good health, means you have the right beliefs and frameworks to learn and implement new things. It also means that you have the abundance of energy (and the clarity that comes from that) for learning new things.
For your relationships, you’ll look better, feel better and have a better mood and vibe, which all help in social situations. Looking more physically attractive to members of your preferred sex doesn’t hurt either.
For your play and downtime, you’ll have plenty of energy to party and play as long and as hard as you want.
Example 2: Location as a force multiplier
Geography and location can be a force multiplier.
- The San Francisco Bay Area has the confluence of factors required for technology startups.
- Shenzhen has all the factors required for efficient electronics manufacturing and distribution.
- Singapore and Hong Kong have the legal and infrastructure factors required for international finance and banking.
- Ho Chi Minh City, Chiang Mai and Austin have the factors that help digital nomads succeed.
Being in the right place for a particular career or business opportunity acts as a force multiplier because it gives you access to things that you don’t have elsewhere.
This could be access to people and talent. It could be resources, knowledge and know-how. It could be favourable laws, regulations, tax codes or government support. It could simply be infrastructure, whether that’s factories or internet speed.4I’m looking at you Australia.
All these factors help force-multiply your efforts in your career or business.
Being in the right geographic location means it’s easier to meet the right people in-person. It means it’s easier to incorporate, file paperwork and navigate financial institutions. It means it’s easier to find new roles or opportunities. It means it’s easier and faster to get work done in general.
What To Do Next
Force multipliers are factors or things that let you do more than you could without them.
You can start by writing out a list of the force multipliers you already have. It could be technology you have access to, your mindset and view of the world, or even your physical health.
And then think about the force multipliers you would like to have and need to acquire or develop.
And then use them!
- Just imagine having to wash all your clothes by hand.
- Wikipedia. Languages used on the Internet. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Languages_used_on_the_Internet
- Yes, there are negative force multipliers too.
- I’m looking at you Australia.
Photo by Flynn Doherty, Nikolay Tarashchenko, Denny Müller, Simbach.