Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast

Embracing mindful efficiency in a hyperactive world.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

The adage “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” comes from the Navy SEALs, a group not typ­ic­ally asso­ci­ated with the slow and steady approach. 1The ori­gin of the phrase “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast” is unclear, but it is often attrib­uted to United States Navy SEALs or oth­er mil­it­ary groups. The idea behind the phrase is that by … Continue read­ing

However, this para­dox­ic­al phrase encap­su­lates a vital les­son applic­able to all spheres of life and work — often, speed is not the end goal.

Here we go:

Lessons From Armed Forces

From the per­spect­ive of a mil­it­ary pro­fes­sion­al, the wis­dom of “smooth is fast” per­meates com­plex oper­a­tion­al drills. 

Whether clear­ing houses, dis­em­bark­ing under enemy fire from trucks or heli­copters, or car­ry­ing cas­u­al­ties, these scen­ari­os demand the seam­less exe­cu­tion of sev­er­al mul­ti­fa­ceted tasks:

  • Weapon pre­pared­ness, bal­an­cing threat pro­jec­tion and safety considerations.
  • Identifying and con­vey­ing per­tin­ent inform­a­tion, such as threats or poten­tial threat locations.
  • Synchronized move­ment with the group, often across chal­len­ging terrain.
  • Completion of any addi­tion­al assigned tasks, like cas­u­alty or equip­ment transport

These tasks must be executed under high-stress con­di­tions, bom­barded with sens­ory overload. 

Artists, Athletes, and Academics

The pres­sure to do everything faster is ubi­quit­ous in a world obsessed with optim­iz­a­tion and effi­ciency. However, we must res­ist this trend and instead lean into the fine art of slow­ing down. 

I’m not advoc­at­ing slug­gish­ness but high­light­ing the mer­it in delib­er­ate thought and action, where the end goal is not speed but the rich­ness of out­put and the joy in the process.

Artists, ath­letes or aca­dem­ics are typ­ic­ally unhur­ried. They delib­er­ately execute their pre­par­at­ory routines, ath­letes approach their bod­ies patiently, and aca­dem­ics ded­ic­ate sub­stan­tially more time to tasks than expec­ted. They invest those extra minutes in tasks like con­sist­ency checks, allow­ing thoughts to mature, spot­ting irreg­u­lar­it­ies, or enhan­cing a visu­al representation. 

This “slow­ness” trig­gers accel­er­a­tion and effi­ciency on a broad­er scale, res­ult­ing in high over­all performance.

Enjoy Smooth Emailing

For a more busi­ness-ori­ented example, let’s reflect on our rela­tion­ship with emails:

The pre­vail­ing nar­rat­ive seems to imply that we should all have an innate aver­sion to our inboxes. “If you don’t loathe all forms of email­ing, then some­thing must be wrong with you.”

At least for me, writ­ing a well-thought-out email is not a dreaded task but a pleas­ur­able engage­ment. It involves pick­ing the right words and craft­ing them into sen­tences that res­on­ate with intent and connection. 

Emailing, for me, is not about rush­ing through an inbox to attain the glor­i­fied status of Inbox Zero but about the mean­ing­ful exchange that unfolds with­in each email.

See also: Pavlov’s Inbox

Enjoy Smooth Meetings

This philo­sophy isn’t just applic­able to email. It extends to meet­ings, anoth­er arena often sub­ject to the tyranny of the clock. 

Yes, no one enjoys a bad, drawn-out meet­ing, but is the solu­tion to make them uni­formly short­er? What about using that time to con­nect, explore ideas, and col­lect­ively cre­ate truly? 

Long, enga­ging meet­ings often lead to innov­at­ive solu­tions and stronger rela­tion­ships that wouldn’t emerge in a com­pressed, hur­ried environment.

Fast is Not Better

There’s an under­ly­ing fear here, an anxi­ety that slow­ing down is syn­onym­ous with lazi­ness. Yet, exper­i­ence and pas­sion often demand a slower approach. 

A seasoned PR pro­fes­sion­al can draft a press release in 30 minutes that a juni­or may take hours to write. Given a leis­urely two hours, the same pro­fes­sion­al could craft a doc­u­ment of such qual­ity that would be unreach­able in a time-con­strained environment. 

Taking your time to enjoy your craft does not imply lazi­ness; it emphas­izes the value of exper­i­ence, cre­ativ­ity, and pas­sion over simple out­put metrics.

Other Proverbs and Sayings

Here are some pro­verbs and say­ings from around the world that emphas­ize the idea that tak­ing one’s time can lead to bet­ter results:

  • Haste makes waste.” This well-known English pro­verb sug­gests that act­ing too quickly can lead to mis­takes that waste time in the long run.
  • Slow and steady wins the race.” This say­ing comes from the story of the Tortoise and the Hare and sug­gests that con­sist­ent, meas­ured effort often leads to success.
  • Measure twice, cut once.” This old carpenter’s say­ing implies that care­ful plan­ning and pre­ci­sion are more import­ant than speed.
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day.” A fam­ous adage reminds us that sig­ni­fic­ant pro­jects or achieve­ments usu­ally take a long time.
  • Do not push the river; it will flow by itself.” A Polish pro­verb indic­ates that things will hap­pen in their own time and that try­ing to force them might lead to unne­ces­sary complications.
  • Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accom­plished.” A quote attrib­uted to Lao Tzu sug­gests that nat­ur­al pro­cesses thrive at their own pace.

While emphas­iz­ing patience and delib­er­ate action, these adages do not dis­cour­age effi­ciency or timely actions. They merely stress the import­ance of doing things right, not just quickly.

The Tyranny of the Clock

Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856 – 1915) was an American mech­an­ic­al engin­eer widely con­sidered the fath­er of sci­entif­ic man­age­ment, or “Taylorism.” Preceding his stud­ies at Harvard Law due to health issues, he joined the Midvale Steel Company as a machin­ist and rose to become chief engin­eer. 2Frederick Winslow Taylor. (2023, May 24). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​F​r​e​d​e​r​i​c​k​_​W​i​n​s​l​o​w​_​T​a​y​lor

Taylor believed work­ers were inher­ently lazy and that a stop­watch could enhance pro­ductiv­ity. He observed work­ers’ beha­viour in mono­ton­ous fact­ory set­tings and con­cluded that labour pro­ductiv­ity could be sig­ni­fic­antly enhanced by elim­in­at­ing unne­ces­sary movements. 

This ideology’s linger­ing vestiges remain in glor­i­fy­ing speed and effi­ciency. However, it’s time to move bey­ond this dated perspective. 

We should encour­age young pro­fes­sion­als to deliv­er high-qual­ity work, even if it requires extra time, rather than instilling a fear of per­ceived inefficiency.

See also: The Acceleration Theory: Use Momentum To Finish First

The Slow Movement

The “Slow Movement” is a cul­tur­al shift towards slow­ing life’s pace. It emerged in response to the per­ceived speed­ing up of daily life, espe­cially in mod­ern indus­tri­al­ized soci­et­ies where time has become a highly val­ued commodity. 

The move­ment began with “Slow Food,” which star­ted in Italy in the late 1980s as a protest against fast food. It has since expan­ded to include vari­ous domains like “Slow Travel,” “Slow Living,” “Slow Parenting,” “Slow Fashion,” “Slow Cities,” and even “Slow Work.” 3Slow move­ment (cul­ture). (2023, May 8). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​S​l​o​w​_​m​o​v​e​m​e​n​t​_​(​c​u​l​t​ure)

These are all based on the fun­da­ment­al idea of tak­ing the time to do things well, rather than quickly.

In essence, it’s an approach that seeks to bal­ance effi­ciency and enjoy­ment, recog­niz­ing the value of the human touch in our fast-paced, tech-sat­ur­ated world.

Creativity, Passion, and Experience

Instead of push­ing for relent­less speed, we must foster an envir­on­ment that cel­eb­rates cre­ativ­ity, pas­sion, and experience. 

As we move towards a future where AI and auto­ma­tion increas­ingly take over repet­it­ive tasks, these human-cent­ric qual­it­ies become even more valuable. 

They can’t be rushed or stream­lined.
They need time to flourish.

Savour the pro­cess of writ­ing that thought­ful email, indulge in the cre­ativ­ity that arises from a long brain­storm­ing meet­ing and enjoy your cof­fee one slow sip at a time. 

After all, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” 

And it might be just what we need to nav­ig­ate the com­plex­it­ies of our fast-paced world.

Signature - Jerry Silfwer - Doctor Spin

Thanks for read­ing. Please con­sider shar­ing my pub­lic rela­tions blog with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. If you have ques­tions (or want to retain my PR ser­vices), please con­tact me at jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: Reading List

Crawford, M. B. (2015). The world bey­ond your head: On becom­ing an indi­vidu­al in an age of dis­trac­tion. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Newport, C. (2016). Deep work: Rules for focused suc­cess in a dis­trac­ted world. Grand Central Publishing.

Duhigg, C. (2014). The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and busi­ness. Random House Trade Paperbacks.

Sutherland, R. (2019). Alchemy: The dark art and curi­ous sci­ence of cre­at­ing magic in brands, busi­ness, and life. HarperOne.

Schwartz, T. (2010). The way we’re work­ing isn’t work­ing: The four for­got­ten needs that ener­gize great per­form­ance. Free Press.

PR Resource: Productivity

1 The ori­gin of the phrase “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast” is unclear, but it is often attrib­uted to United States Navy SEALs or oth­er mil­it­ary groups. The idea behind the phrase is that by tak­ing delib­er­ate and con­trolled actions, even if they are slower, one can ulti­mately achieve a faster and more suc­cess­ful outcome.
2 Frederick Winslow Taylor. (2023, May 24). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​F​r​e​d​e​r​i​c​k​_​W​i​n​s​l​o​w​_​T​a​y​lor
3 Slow move­ment (cul­ture). (2023, May 8). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​S​l​o​w​_​m​o​v​e​m​e​n​t​_​(​c​u​l​t​ure)
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has


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