We live in a world where everything is about going fast. Technology is disrupting everything. Upgrade now. Evolve or face extinction. Get out of the fast lane or get run over.
At least that is what we are told. Over and over and over.
I get caught up in it. I am sure you do as well.
We are all forced to participate in a race to go fast. And then to go faster. At paces beyond our level of comfort.
But what if speeding up isn’t the answer. What if being slower, instead of faster, is better!?
Below are a few circumstances where going slow is the best option:
- Circumstances with rapid pattern changes – A lot of great ideas come and go. Some come and go so fast that they never actually have a chance to reach the mainstream. Someone who is fast will likely chase after every trend as it becomes identified – often missing the big bets and constantly chasing the next best thing. It is incredibly difficult to grow personally from trend to trend. I guess you just get good at running around in circles. Going slow when patterns shift rapidly, provides an opportunity to capitalize on the right opportunities at the right time. Chasing after each pattern could result in catastrophe or significant exhaustion of resources.
- Circumstances with uncertain future- Often the best ideas require a break from convention, thinking or acting differently, and thoughtfully evaluating and selecting a course of action. Going fast can often affect one’s ability to choose the right course at the right time – particularly if that course requires a break from convention. Being a little slow can help break down and evaluate options before aggressively pursuing a course. Certain outcomes are less known or predictable than others. While going slow does not change this, it does allow for proper preparation and contingency.
- Circumstances with chatter and noise – Many of the choices that we make in life are put through the filter of what others would do or are doing. We are constantly being encouraged to reinforce crowd behaviors. This doesn’t really leave much to exceed expectations or to standout – particularly when you are the crowd. Slowing down, also means quieting the outside influences that affect or unjustly influence thinking. I am not advising to ignore everyone and become an anti-social, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to be selective about the advice sought and taken.
- Circumstances of significant consequence – It can be hard to evaluate which moments in time are of significant consequence. Naturally, moments with life or death outcomes fit into this category, however, often in those circumstances you may be forced to make a quick decision. But what about those that are not related to life or death? Imagine you are faced with a decision determining the fate of your business, a decision about your personal health or well-being, or one related to the proper level of education for your children? In those circumstances, going slow, collecting information, and deciding is required. It also requires significant resolve to decide and stick with it. But again, there is no need to rush decisions of consequence.
As demonstrated, going fast is not always the answer. In fact, it can prove to be highly detrimental. With that said, the next time you see someone who takes their time, is being patient, or is generally slow – maybe you should pause for a moment to understand why – instead of rushing him or her.
Admittedly, the notion of slowness is not distinctively my own. It was cultivated from my recent reading of the book “The Discovery of Slowness” by Sten Nadolny. The book follows British Explorer Sir John Franklin through his arctic travels and highlights moments where Sir John is forced to quick decisions – often of life or death. Despite all of the pressure, his slowness enables him to remain poised – often resulting in life-saving decisions for him and his crew. This book brings into question everything that we are taught. Specifically the notion that the world is scary, fast paced, and if you don’t keep up you will be an utter failure. We learn from Sir John, that despite the rapidity of the world, there is always a need for those that can slow things down.
I hope to apply many of the lessons of Sir John to my personal and professional life by being more thoughtful about when and where it is advantageous for me to slow things down versus speeding things up. I now believe that striking the balance between both can create compelling results.
I plan to slow my role. And I highly recommend that you do the same.