Move Slow, Build Things
Why We Should Put Slow Drivers in Prison
by Tim Sweetman
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Hate is a strong word, but the people I hate the most are known for a very particular behavior. Many intelligent people have suggested jail time, extensive fines, or other excessive means of putting out this disastrous act of malice. It ruins lives, destroys families, and angers thousands every single day.
I am, of course, speaking of those criminals camping out in the fast lane.
Just the other day I found myself once again the victim of this malevolent and hateful behavior. I was running a few minutes late to work, so I gently eased from the slow lane into the fast lane to pass the car in front of me, only to be forced to violently slam on my brakes. The offender was driving a faded green truck, moving along without a care in the world. As I was screaming into the void at this crime, I remembered a fact:
Human beings are extremely slow.
We can debate all day long whether or not 40 years to life is acceptable punishment for driving in the slow lane, but we all have to admit homo sapiens weren’t really born to break the sound barrier while driving a metal box. We all walk 3 MPH.
The human species was created and crafted to be unhurried. Somewhere we went from working 3-4 hours a day to thrive to 90 hour weeks to survive.
As a certified “type-A”, I resent this reality. We’re known for high achievement, competitiveness, and impatience. I want to be there and to be there right now. I am always on to the next thing, constantly drafting and re-drafting my to-do list, and considering how I can “hack” my way more quickly to the finish line. My library is littered with books dedicated to going faster and epitomize the famous Zuckerberg phrase: move fast and break things.
A few years into my career, I found myself walking through the automatic sliding doors to the local pharmacy to buy eye-drops because I had to keep doing “the work” and my eyes were so strained and dry from staring at my glowing portal to what I thought was success.
As I stood in the aisle, searching for the best eye-drops to hack my way to the top, with dozens of unread messages waiting on my phone from my wife at home with the kids — I was overcome with that shaky emotion that bubbles up from deep inside. I tried to cry but couldn’t. There was absolutely nothing left. I grabbed the eye drops, got back to the office, tugged and dripped solution in my eyes — and sat on my office floor and wept the tears from that bottle.
What was I doing? I was racing, running, sprinting towards what I thought was being the best at my “craft.” I believed that my worth was in the hurry.
But the best, I learned…they rest.
The best slow down. They hesitate, they calm themselves, and they slow down.
Even Kenyan long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge trains 82-84% of the time at an easy or light intensity.
“What this means is that Kipchoge gets better at running fast mostly by running slowly,” says Runners World.
There’s a place to race, but most of the time we need to slow ourselves down to an unhurried pace.
The best don’t see slowness as a weakness, but as an opportunity to improve through careful, methodical training and small improvements that compound over decades.
So when my daughter walks up to me and asks “Read book, Dad?” I say yes. There’s a twinge in my heart, if I’m honest. Sometimes she looks like a slow car in the fast lane. But I know it’s time to slow down for a moment. These are the moments that really matter.
What if our best work starts from a place of rest and pause instead of waiting for that rest to come after utter exhaustion?
We must pause, breathe, consider.
Pausing to pick up the book, read a story about Bluey, and give her a big hug and receive a smile.
Breathing each morning for 5 minutes, fully engaging the body and grounding myself in the moment, disengaging even for just a second from considering the past or future and being fully in the present.
Considering and meditating each day on what gratefulness looks like, thinking about what true success should be, and affirming the truth about myself.
As someone who oft-believes that rest is reserved for the never-arriving “later,” I have had to work so hard to see the sights as they pass me by. Like many, I realized that none of my kids are impressed when I work those extra hours. They just want to see me fully engaged at home. Alan Fadling puts the danger this way: “Hurry rushes toward the destination and fails to enjoy the journey.”
The best — they rest.
What I am not saying is that slowing down 80% of the time means sipping cocktails poolside all the time. I’m talking about being unhurried in a way that allows you to notice, to learn, and to evaluate the world around you. Whether it’s investing capital or it’s engaging with the kids, being distracted by the “next big thing” is unhelpful.
“If you really want to be the outlier in terms of achievement, just sit down on your ass and read — and do it all the time,” Charlie Munger has said.
That sounds a lot like sitting in the slow lane and doing what others might consider a crime.
The best…they rest.
Putting down the phone (mine turns off at 6pm these days).
Clearing out the calendar (block out times and days for rest, including for days away alone) .
Breathing for an extra 30 seconds before sending that email (even better, download an app and do breathing exercises daily).
Your value is not in your efforts and your finished checklists. Rest is good. It’s an amazing gift you can reach out and receive with joy. You must put down the obsession with efficiency and effectiveness, slow down, and embrace the slow lane for just a moment.
Come join the best…and rest.