Busting the myth of faster, harder, more
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What is your speed?
Slow down you crazy child
You’re so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you’re so smart tell me
Why are you still so afraid? (mmmmm)
Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?
You better cool it off before you burn it out
You got so much to do and only
So many hours in a day (Ay)
But you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want
Or you can just get old
You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through (Oooh)
When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?
Slow down you’re doing fine
You can’t be everything you want to be before your time
Although it’s so romantic on the borderline tonight (tonight)
Too bad, but it’s the life you lead
You’re so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need
Though you can see when you’re wrong
You know you can’t always see when you’re right (you’re right)
— Vienna, Billy Joel (click link to hear the original)
This song slays me. And it’s not just because I grew up in Oyster Bay and saw Billy Joel at a football game. It just speaks to our default operating MO which is typically FAST. Bigger, better, quicker, you know the drill. Push, hurry, strive. And that was my way of living as a full-time New Yorker (and specifically as a Manhattanite) until recently. I distinctly remember thoughts of wanting to push the old ladies walking too slowly in front of me out of the way or the time I almost got into a fist fight waiting for a taxi at JFK airport, but I’ll save that story for another time.
Why was I in such a hurry? I probably had to get to some meeting in my very busy, highly over-scheduled life that I thought was important. In retrospect, it makes me cringe. In fact, I actually witnessed a man knock a woman down, breaking her teeth, just to get in a taxi on the Upper West Side. (You can’t make that sh*t up). Thankfully I have changed and for the better. I’m sure it has something to do with COVID, having my own business, getting older and spending more time outside the city. All of which have helped to decondition my nervous system to resonate with CALM rather than STRESS. It took a while and I send deep apologies to all those grandmothers I imagined knocking down instead of honoring.
Finding our own pace
Perhaps you can tell from my reflection that it took me a long time to realize that I need some things to be slower. Much slower than I even considered. Think months and years, rather than days and weeks. This is the state and rate of change. We may not want to hear it, because we would rather push, rush and hurry to our next destination, however this makes us miss out on sightseeing along the way. Our focus on results and outcomes can make us overlook the process and experience.
Sometimes acting quickly is called for (think “speed to market”). However over-indexing on speed can be detrimental when it leaves a negative impact in its wake. So much anxiety that we’re not “there” yet can cause us to take action before we’ve thought through the implications. I’m an advocate of taking action rather than being frozen, but I typically prefer thoughtful strategies to execution for its own sake.
I learned the value from a former boss that doing something is better than doing nothing, but more often rushing to achieve is not the answer. Companies that expect to quickly pivot without appreciating the time needed to gain traction in a new space can become quickly disillusioned. Job switchers and millennials often compare themselves to others, needlessly beating themselves up for not having achieved more sooner while they’re still in their 20s.
We have more time than we realize, but the key is to use it effectively. When we don’t truly consider our goals and needs and what matters most, then we can focus on the wrong things, make bad decisions or execute poorly. A little planning and forethought can go a long way to producing better results.
Focus on the IMPORTANT and ESSENTIAL, not the urgent and irrelevant
- Where are you now? Look at your current situation to assess what is and isn’t working for you.
- What do you want to achieve? Get really clear on your actual goals, those things that are truly important to you. Be aware of focusing on what you think matters, which may not be what you really want.
- How can you move forward? Consider what is actually needed to get ahead. Gather research and information to inform your decisions. This often overlooked step can help us avoid missteps, like getting a graduate degree or certification, hiring another person or making some big change we don’t need, when easier more accessible shifts may be possible. Small steps over time can lead to big results very quickly.
- Which action will make the biggest impact? Look carefully at your strategy, messaging and mindset. As I’ve shared before, do you need to change your situation, what you are communicating or yourself? Sometimes it may be all of the above, but often a slight adjustment may be all that’s needed to point you in the right direction. Our thoughts and intentions are that powerful.
IMAGINE WHAT COULD BE POSSIBLE
We typically overestimate what we can accomplish in one year, but underestimate what can be achieved in five to ten years (find more background on this theory here). I know many clients who didn’t realize how long it would actually take them to make an important shift in their work or business, but then were able to appreciate how much they had accomplished only when looking back in time. My own experience implementing large corporate technology transformations, repositioning businesses to enter new markets and shifting from corporate executive to solopreneur and employee to consultant made me appreciate how long sustainable change really takes.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. It needs some time to cook up something good – think simmering in the pot like a hearty bone broth rather than some hot water poured over a cup of noodles or zapped in the microwave. How might you slow down initially by getting super-clear on what you want to do, so you can then speed up things in the future. Rather than getting nowhere fast, how about going exactly where you want slowly so you can enjoy the trip?
As you look at aspects of your life and work that you may be impatiently wanting to change, ask yourself “what’s the hurry?” And if you want to move faster, know that you can when you align with your purpose and prioritize your actions.
Find the speed that works for you. I support clients with quick decisions and action plans during focused strategy sessions or offer ongoing support for making changes over time. Consider the pace you need to make your next move! I’d love to hear all about it.