“So, what have you been taking in? What are your latest inputs?” he asked me, his slice of pepperoni slowly dripping towards the cuff of his black Adidas tracksuit. The West Village was at its usual level of buzz outside of Joe’s Pizza on Carmine. It had been roughly half a decade since we had last seen each other, and his first question was the same as the one he’d asked me a few hundred times before.

I was catching up with my mentor from college. He’s now retired from teaching physics and administering university happenings. Despite retirement, his first question possessed the same enthusiasm and eagerness that it always had. He was chronically fixated on what those around him were reading, watching, and learning. He was rarely interested in the traditional small talk (unlike other former professors who frequently ask, “What’s your job like? What trends do you see in the market? Will you make a donation to the university?”). Instead he had an unwavering fascination with the content that people choose to ingest.

Decades ago, I forthrightly asked him why his first question, at each and every encounter was always, “What are your latest inputs?” He explained to me that a number of scientific laws applied to both inanimate objects and to people: One such law comes from thermodynamics where we find that if any system is closed off, it will inevitably go from a state of higher energy to a state of lower energy.

A simple example of this law in everyday life can be seen when we look at a car. If you don’t put fuel in a car it will inevitable go from a state of high energy (eg, a normal running/functioning car) to a state of low energy (a broken-down car that won’t run unless you refill it with fuel).

He went on to explain that this law from thermodynamics that governs physical systems similarly rings true when applied to people as well, and includes both individuals and organizations.

Any person that fails to have a consistent stream of inputs will intrinsically move to a state of lower energy. Without inspiration, without facts, without fiction, without a narrative, and without poetry we will inevitably lose energy. Little by little, people will move to a state of lower energy. Our creativity, insight, and ability to steer the world around us will inevitably wane without a constant and diverse stream of inputs.

Unlike a car, the shift to a state of lower energy is not always as obvious in people. While many physical systems are relatively binary (it clearly works, or it doesn’t) we as people often aren’t as cut and dry. This reality punctuates the need to constantly surround yourself with new inputs. New inputs don’t simply prevent us from trending toward atrophy but provide us with the opportunity to benefit from the inverse effect, as we move to a state of higher and higher energy.

He went on to explain that as a physics professor this didn’t lead him to only takes in new information about physics. “That would be boring,” he told me. You should take in a diversity of information. “Sure, sharpen the saw within your craft but there is so much to be gained from other disciplines. Why would you not want a higher octane?”

The best way to ensure that you have a constant stream of new and fresh inputs is to look to those around you. Ask what they’re reading. Ask what recently surprised them. Ask what recently made them laugh or cry. Ask what was the last thing they learned that changed their mind. These inputs ensure that we won’t atrophy as individuals or organizations because they constantly replenish what we need to stay in a state of high energy.

At DDB Health we are constantly seeking new inputs to ensure we as an organization are leading the healthcare industry to a state of higher energy. We connect with patients at advocacy events and fundraising walks. We host thought leaders at think tank events like UrbanPharming. We cross-pollenate internal best practices through a lunch-and-learn series called InspirationRx. If you are looking for a new input into a campaign that may be moving to a state of lower energy, look no further than DDB Health.