Nowadays, everyone is in such a rush. Traffic moves faster than ever, apps provide shortcuts to our favourite sites, and we communicate electronically with just about everyone. And we expect a more-or-less instant reply. Through great leaps in technology life has moved on at a blistering pace. But is it any better?
Back in the 60s, well before the internet, email and even mobile phones, Paul Simon’s famous lyrics urged us to pace ourselves. “Slow down, you move too fast, you got to make the morning last” he sang. He went on to suggest, “Just kicking down the cobblestones, looking for fun and feelin’ groovy.”
Who doesn’t love kicking cobblestones?
In business, as in life, it’s often assumed that fast is best. We want faster broadband, shorter journey times, instant gratification, and everything yesterday. But according to Aesop’s fable, slow and steady wins the race. So which is it? The hare or the tortoise?
On Wall Street, traders are greatly rewarded to think and act quickly, earning millions for their clients when they correctly anticipate a market shift. But when some sleep-deprived trader puts a comma in the wrong place at two in the morning and pays $20 a share for Lehman instead of $2…well it all goes a bit pear shaped. More speed, less haste, as another saying goes.
Thing is, the more expert somebody is at a job, the faster they work. They don’t rely on slow, system two thinking. Instead, their fast, intuitive, visceral heuristics take over. And like you, I don’t really know what that means but it sounds good so I’m going to keep it in. On the other hand, highly conscientious, highly neurotic people, are likely to be slower but no less accurate. So, in an industry where precision really matters, the ‘tortoise’ is probably the more highly prized employee. In fact, in business, you can deliver a solution so quickly that the client thinks you haven’t thought it through. The problem is we think the world wants us to be a hare not a tortoise, so we wrongly equate speed with accuracy.
I bought Sarah Millican’s autobiography for my book club last year and it was voted the worst book of 2018. The last chapter was a recipe for a chocolate cake.
It was obvious that her publisher had asked for another 5,000 words sharpish. So she turned to her Granny’s recipe book because that was the fastest way to generate the numbers. But it wasn’t the best way.
Ultimately, greatness is about performance, not speed. It’s about the thing that’s produced, not the velocity with which it’s produced. For you, then, not being in such a hurry, finding a slower way to hone your power and realise it in a truly excellent way might make much more sense.
As Simon says, “Spend time with no deeds to do, no promises to keep, dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep. Let the morning time drop all its petals on you. Slow down, you move too fast.”