Slow Enjoyment

As I wrap up a nearly six-week sabbatical from mentoring, the topic of speed—hurried movement—has been on my mind. As I’ve coached myself to take my time with a product I’m planning to launch in January, I’ve come to realize the need for moving slowly. For making choices deliberately. For not rushing. For pushing back against the religion of speed that has become the token response to how best to accomplish things.

When everything is about speed, it’s simultaneously not about quality. Quality necessitates time. It necessitates focus. Deliberate behavior. That quality is bastardized as a “nice to have” in modern life explains why the quality of our environments and relationships continues to decline. It’s that craving for immediacy that distracts us from doing things in a way that makes them solid, whole.

Saying “nothing is permanent” is a scapegoat. It’s not untrue (there is no permanence in this life), but it’s certainly used as an excuse for doing things halfheartedly. Recognizing things as impermanent should be used as an emotional salve—a tool of detachment—not a convenient excuse for why you constantly cut corners and retreat when “more time” is the obvious solution to a problem.

If time is an un-renewable resource, doesn’t it make sense that the time we have should be spent well? Making things well? Solving problems well? The obvious outcome being that when your time is up, you look back on a life of deliberate, meaningful, effort. Well-carved paths, not a series of roughshod attempts in which you scurried about like a rat sniffing out his next cheese.

The real problem, as with most things, isn’t the individual ability to do this. It’s the social influence that deters one. When “everybody else” is thinking a certain way, to not think that way is to put a target on your back. When the charlatans and gurus of the day publish books read by millions (arguably, a self-fulfilling prophecy, not proof of a better way) that push a culture of speed despite proof of long-term results, to say “hey, wait a minute, this seems off” is made tantamount to slander.

Anecdotally, in every situation where I or someone I knew rushed, the outcome was far from what was dreamed. The millions didn’t come. The praise didn’t come. The only thing that came was the next chase. Another promise. Another jawbreaker-grift to wrap your teeth around just long enough for it to crack before spitting it to the floor.

In protest to this, a life of slow enjoyment and making time for doing things well is suggested. Taking a breath. Waiting for ideas to gestate. Removing influences that tempt premature birth. Not gorging yourself beyond your means, requiring a bottomless trough of resources. Not forcing something into existence because your lack of emotional fortitude can’t contend with the social pressure of not doing so.

The word enjoyment here is key. Finding moments of happiness in backtracking and reworking something to be right. Sleeping like a baby because you know you did your best, not tossing and turning as your hasty failures haunt your dreams. Dying having created a body of work, not a pile of litter, dirtied by tires of the other vehicles rushing past it on the expressway.