I’ve recently worked with a couple of different people who are always, always, always in a hurry to get everywhere. They are always in a rush; for them, time is flying, constantly. They walk fast. They talk fast. They do their business deals rushed and don’t allow the other guy a moment to think. They try to make everything happen all at once, and tend to try to solve problems by throwing money at them – theirs or others’ – or by throwing time at them – mostly others’, theirs is too valuable – because they don’t think they really have time to sit down and figure stuff out.
And you know what? Despite being intelligent, charismatic guys with heaps of connections and tons of opportunities, both of these guys… end up with very little in the end. Consistently. This surprised me and startled me when I first saw it. They seemed so confident, self-assured, and certain of the definite nature of their future results. They had boatloads of experience and could reel off strategies to win business big. Why weren’t they winning?
I began to view them as running in place: they were working so hard just to stay where they were. They weren’t ever really making progress.
They’d make rushed business deals that fell apart.
They’d make rushed hires that didn’t work out.
They’d come up with rushed solutions that didn’t work.
They basically built things up like houses of cards, and it only ever lasted so long. Sooner or later a wind came along that shifted one of the cards out of place, and it all came tumbling back down.
Do you know what I’m talking about here? Do you have a personality like this around you – a friend of yours, a coworker of yours, a business partner of yours? Because what I’d like to ask that person is – sit down, breathe for a second and ask: is time flying, really?
Why Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Last night I looked into my computer screen and caught the glare of the reflection of the cityscape staring back at me, beamed in through the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling window I have sitting behind my desk. As I looked at the reflections of the many skyscrapers looming outside, I thought to myself how much time, effort, and work had gone into building each and every one of them. How incredible is it that these buildings got built, that there are so many of them, and that it is this way in major cities all over the Earth?
As I write about this topic now, the question becomes: what if we built those buildings as fast as we possibly could?
Well, for one, we probably could build most buildings faster and still have them be fine. Cut down on inefficiency, streamline some processes, identify the bottlenecks and resolve them before they became an issue.
But what if we went even faster than that?
There is a certain speed you reach where you are doing things recklessly fast and begin building inherent flaws into them because you can’t get focused on getting everything right and simply aren’t taking the time to make sure you do it all right.
This is what happens when you constantly rush.
Speed is important. Initiative is key. Deadlines are crucial. But if you rush your way to the victory line, you’re going to make mistakes.
That sounds like maybe not a big deal. Okay, you make a few mistakes, but hey! You get the win. Time is flying – and you don’t have a moment to wait around.
Not so fast, though.
In business, you never win, definitively, and now the game is over. You don’t get a big sign that flashes “VICTORY” on your computer monitor and then get to tally your score. In business, even when you’ve accomplished something, it keeps going on.
And what that means for the business owner is, if you’ve built something full of inherent flaws, those flaws will begin to catch up with you. Because once something’s built, you can’t go back and fix it later.
Sometimes you can. But usually not.
What if, in a rush to get that building built, a builder used the fastest concrete he could get his hands on? He put a rushed order in for mediocre quality concrete, just because it was available, overpaid for it, and got to pouring.
“It’s okay,” he says to himself, “because now we’re closer to finishing on time.”
Next, it was time to place the windows. But the windows the architect wanted were still on back order. “I’ll just get whatever windows I can get from the local window wholesaler,” he says to himself. “That’ll do.” So he buys all the windows he can from the wholesaler in town and starts installing them. No matter that they aren’t the grade the architect wanted; they’ll just have to do, because this building needs to get built and there’s no time to wait around for slow suppliers.
Finally, doing the roofing, again the builder turned to less-than top quality materials because the ones the building had on order hadn’t arrived fast enough. Again he figured, better to be done early with average quality than done later with better quality.
“The future’s not promised,” he says to himself. “Wait for materials to arrive and maybe this building never even gets finished.”
So, it gets finished, relatively fast, and now it’s ready to start having people move in.
But the concrete’s weak and there are foundational problems. The windows are leaky and drafty and the building’s heating and cooling costs skyrocket. And the roof lasts only a few years before it needs some serious repairs from weather damage.
All of the shortcuts saved time in the beginning… but they tacked on a lot MORE time, cost, and hassle in the END.
The fast-moving builder doesn’t see this though, because by then he’s off to another project. Yet, he complains when he gets penalized by the architect who contracted him for that first building, and he complains again when he finds it harder and harder to find work as word of his handiwork spreads.
“I don’t get it!” he laments. “I put that building up for them, done and completed, in record time, and they penalized me! And now I’m having trouble finding work! Why doesn’t anyone appreciate how talented I am? Look what an amazing job I do – that building was up faster than anyone else could have put it up! And now they’re selling units and making money off of it, when other builders would still be building it!”
To the man who rushes, the world seems like an unjust place – no one ever appreciates his work, despite what he sees as a cornucopia of results proving him effective. Look at all the work he’s done!
But the problem isn’t in the quantity. The problem is in the quality – and the thing about people who rush is, they’re often more concerned with style than substance.
This is why in the end slow and steady wins the race. It’s because quality invariably wins in the end – and those who focus on moving too fast and throwing up too much quantity, to the detriment of the quality of their output – never quite seem to get this. That’s why they keep running in place.
There’s Fast, and Then There’s Too Fast
Think of a race car driver.
If a race car driver pokes along the track at highway speeds – 65 miles per hour, say – he isn’t going to win anything. In fact, he’s liable to cause an accident and get his car totaled.
But if he tries driving at 250 miles per hour, he’s going to wipe out and crash too.
Being a success is not about riding the extremes. It’s about finding that fine line to walk in the middle of the road that gets you to victory.
Who do you think’s most likely to win:
- The guy driving super slow and safe?
- The guy driving fast when he needs to and braking when he needs to?
- The guy driving with his foot glued to the floor, pedal to the metal?
It’s a no-brainer when you put it like that. But all through life, most people are either taking the scenic road to nowhere, or they’re driving so fast they spin off the track. We’re talking about the latter in this article, but there’s plenty to write about the former as well.
But why do those people struggling so hard to stay running in place just to keep up with the breakneck speed they set for themselves keep doing that? Why do they feel the need to move so fast?
Well, there are a couple of reasons for this.
The first is usually negative reinforcement for moving more slowly. They’ve seen too many opportunities lost by moving too slow. So, they shifted to the other extreme and figured that if they move really fast, they could avoid ever having that happen again.
The other is the negative feedback cycle that moving recklessly fast gets people into. It’s this:
- They move fast – too fast
- Things crash and burn and fall apart
- They view those crashes as an inherent instability in the world
- They then come to the conclusion that, in order to avoid future crashes, they have to move even faster, cutting off those crashes before they can occur
- They then move even faster still, burning through money and other resources faster, building things even more slipshod, and leading to even more catastrophic crashes, which leads them to resolve to move faster still
- The cycle feeds into itself and the rusher rushes ever faster to stay in the same place
People moving this fast in business often come to see everyone around them as moving too slow and being a potential liability. Again, we can reference driving; I once heard a quote that said:
“Everybody who drives slower than you is an idiot. Everybody who drives faster than you is a maniac.”
Most people tend to look at a lot more in life as being like this than you might imagine. And to the guy who moves fast, everyone else – the lot of whom are moving slower than him – are idiots. And what do you do with slow moving idiots on the road? You push them to move faster, or get out of your way.
So, people who rush end up doing this to those around them – they push them a lot, to move faster or move aside. It’s why they end up in bad business deals, and it’s why their relationships so often sour. They can’t deal with being told not to move so fast – it’s outside their worldview, and they think the person telling them that doesn’t know a lick about how things work in the world, either.
What to Do If You Catch Yourself Running in Place
I think a helpful thought experiment for anyone feeling like they have to move as fast as possible to win is to stop and ask themselves if some of the greatest and most successful individuals in business, history, or whatever you like took that approach.
Did Bill Gates rush Microsoft into existence?
Did George Washington rush the revolutionary war into victory?
Did Julius Caesar rush to power in Rome?
Did Wilbur and Orville Wright brothers rush the creation of their first aircraft?
Did Charles Darwin rush the theory of evolution?
Did Andrew Carnegie rush to become a steel magnate?
The answer to each of those is “no.” No, no, no, no and no, no, and no.
Certainly each of these individuals was motivated, and stayed in action as much as possible. But hardly were they whirling dervishes of action constantly pushing for more and more and more. They were methodical; they took time. Darwin took 22 years to release On the Origin of Species. Caesar was a member of the Roman government for 21 years before he was appointed Dictator.
The greatest, most effective men in history, and the greatest, most powerful business moguls in history were not men who rushed (nor were they men who sat on the sidelines and let life pass them by, mind you).
Rushing builds flaws into the things you build. Great men know this.
The difficulty lies in pinpointing exactly the right amount of haste to employ.
So what is the right amount of speed to use in pursuing your goals and objectives?
I think there are certain questions to ask yourself that will help you to arrive at the right answer.
1. Do You Know What You’re Doing?
This is absolutely THE key question for determining the speed you can move at. If you do know what you’re doing – if you’re experienced, knowledgeable, and wise in the ways of your project or industry – you can go almost as fast as you want.
Things that do not count as being “very knowledgeable”:
- You’ve read a lot on this topic before
- You’ve had discussions in person or on forums about it
- You’ve had training or gone to class
When I talk experience and knowing what you’re doing, that’s what I mean: you’ve done it before and you know the ins and outs.
If you’re not there yet, however, going too fast is going to lead to you making lots of mistakes that most likely will run you into the ground in the end. Guaranteed.
Every now and then I’ll hear a story about someone starting a business up really fast, making lots of mistakes along the way, and then miraculously turning things around and getting it all working properly before the inherent flaws in the business eat it alive. This is an exception. There’s a reason it sounds so remarkable – it’s because it almost never happens.
Trust me, the vast, vast majority of the time, when you don’t know what you’re doing and you build your business too fast, it doesn’t end well.
Move a little faster than you feel comfortable moving. That’ll keep you on your toes, force you to learn, and keep your eyes on the prize. But don’t move so fast you’re unable to keep up with what’s going on, or you’re forced into having to pretend or exaggerate to appear bigger or more successful or further along in the product development cycle than you are – that’s a recipe for disaster.
2. Are Mistakes Piling Up?
Are you having mistakes occurring regularly? Are people on your team rebelling against you? Does it seem like you have to fight the world to get anything done?
If so – you’re moving too fast. Stop, fix the mistakes, get buy-in from people, and stop trying to fight your way to victory and start getting everybody else on board, too.
No quick fixes here – if you let mistakes accumulate, they’ll be the end of you. You absolutely, positively, cannot ignore mistakes and forge on ahead anyway. Get things working before you start pouring onto the cracked foundation just for the sake of expediency.
3. Are Your Competitors Racing You Somewhere?
Sometimes you’re hauling tail because you legitimately have a reason to be – you’re trying to get your product out before a competitor launches a competing product, for instance. But much of the time this won’t be the case.
In fact, it’s pretty rare that your competitors are targeting the exact same product and the exact same niche that you are. If you’re moving at a reasonable clip, and you’re pursuing an original idea, you’ll be able to get done in time.
4. Is Rushing Honestly Going to Save You Significant Time?
If you are in a time crunch, ask yourself whether rushing is going to get you where you want to get to faster – or if you won’t get there more quickly by staying calm, keeping a cool head, and methodically planning out and executing on everything that needs to happen.
Most of the time, not only will rushing cause you pain later on down the road, it can serve as a distraction right now, as you let too many scattered thoughts and ideas distract you from remaining on-point.
Stay focused on the important stuff, and trust that if you keep moving forward at a reasonable pace, you’ll get there.
5. Are There Things You’re Doing That You Don’t Need to Be?
If you feel like you always have to rush, there’s a chance you’ve got too much on your plate. Start clearing it off.
- What are you doing now you don’t need to be?
- What’s taking up all of your time?
- What improvements can you make to take things off your plate?
Ask yourself these questions – and make sure you answer them, and actually act on your answers.
And then try not to go back to rushing again once you’ve cleared your plate.
Once It Begins, Is Time Flying Forever?
Once you start rushing, it seems like it never ends. Even after you clear everything off your plate, you’re still in a hurry.
There’s too much to do.
It’s all due too soon.
You’ve got cash flow problems to figure out.
Employee problems to figure out, if you run a business.
Promotion problems to figure out, if you’ve got a job.
Leisure time problems to figure out, no matter what you do.
And don’t even get me started on when you’re going to spend time on relationships, friends, and family.
It can all feel like too much, and there’s no end point, and it just doesn’t stop. And in the back of your head, you know you’re just running in place.
Believe it or not, this is a mentality – and it’s a mental addiction, of sorts. It’s a way of thinking about life and the world.
And actually, it’s a mentality that’s along the right path.
When you’re thinking about the world in these terms, you’re thinking of yourself as a dynamic, constant actor – someone who’s got to keep the pedal to the metal to keep things moving, and someone who’s responsible for his own progress in life. You’re doing a much better job of steering your self than the individual who just drifts along, buffeted about wherever life takes him.
Yet, you’re not fully in control of your life, either. You’re a slave to your obligations.
In some sense, we all are, but the rushed person is more so than anybody else. The rushed person feels chained to the things he has committed himself to; he is in a near-eternal struggle to stay one step ahead of the crashing, roaring, sweeping tide of duty.
How do you break this cycle?
The only effective way I’ve seen has been a prolonged period of time off. A few months not working, with very few obligations, where you do nothing but sit around and vacation. This is why people take sabbaticals; it gives them a chance to disconnect, unplug from the frenzy, and stop rushing so fast that they destroy the things they build.
This works because you deprive your mind of all the sensory overload it normally goes through, trying to process everything you have to do. You force yourself to unwind, because you leave yourself no other choice.
But what about if you don’t have time to take time off? Well, part of being caught up in the rusher’s pace is that you really never think you have time to do anything. So if you’re speeding through life at a reckless pace, chances are you won’t think you need time off.
And if you think you don’t have time to take time off, that’s the biggest sign that you need it more than anybody.
P.S., whether you’d like to start building the kind of team that can take the burden off your shoulders so you can stop running in place, or you’d like to find somewhere a little more fast-paced than where you’re at right now, let me invite you to check out Yamjac. We’re building a very special place where people can find the people they want and need, and exactly the place in the world they need to be. If you haven’t been there yet, you need to go see it:
Talk to you next time.