“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:
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 mail.
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:
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.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Winslow_Taylor
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.
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.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_movement_(culture)
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 achieve the right balance between 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.
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.
|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.|
|Frederick Winslow Taylor. (2023, May 24). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Winslow_Taylor|
|Slow movement (culture). (2023, May 8). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_movement_(culture)|