In Praise of Slow

You have an idea. It’s a great idea. You gather materials and carry it out. It doesn’t work. You give up. What made you think that would work, anyway?

Slow motion: One drop of cream being added to coffee.

Wait. Act fast, fail fast, criticize fast. All that speed doesn’t allow you to learn a damn thing. Cutting your losses doesn’t teach you anything except how to cut.

There is a huge benefit to doing things slowly. We live in a super-fast culture, but it’s the same culture that doesn’t like mistakes, that encourages blamestorming as a fair shot in competition.

What’s the benefit of slowing down?

Three water balloons bursting.

You can anticipate. Slowing down lets you think before you act. You can think through the next several steps to see if they are what you want, if those steps move you to the result. If they don’t, you can choose another plan.

Slowing down saves time. Anticipating helps you plan more than one step ahead, create a Plan B, and discover options. All that saves time. Saving time reduces anxiety and possibly money. All because you slowed down.

Practice helps you get it right. Slowing down allows you to practice your steps before you have to do them. Practicing anything, from a piano concerto to a speech, makes you better at it. “Winging it” will just result in making your mistakes public. Slow down. Practice. Then when you do it, it will work, and you will know how come it worked. That allows you to do it again–the right way.

Slowing down slows time down. When time slows down, you see more and you understand more. The more you understand, the more you learn, the more you can use what you know.

Excellence takes time. No one was born an expert. You are not the exception. When you do things step by step you can see mistakes, often before you make them. You have more time to do each step, if you aren’t racing. John Wheeler, the physicist, said, “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.” Take advantage of time.

Quinn McDonald likes the idea of not always rushing.

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13 responses to “In Praise of Slow

  1. The Germans (Pennsylvania Dutch) say: “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

    On another subject, Quinn, I just love some of your sayings and would like to make wall art with some of them to give to a local charitable person for her fundraising and maybe eventually if I get really ambitious to sell. . If I give you as the person the quote is from, do you mind or would you rather I didn’t?

    • It’s sort of “What! When?” moment to think I’ve said quotes worth quoting. As long as I didn’t attribute it to anyone else (even if I said “a friend once said”) go ahead. Can I ask to see an example? I’m curious enough to know what it would look like. And thanks for being so generous.

      • The comments “Excellence takes time. No one was born an expert. You are not the exception.” struck me today, the first sentence maybe by itself, The last two together, with a baby getting up from falling, or a young child playing the piano. or lots of footprints going into the distance. I don’t know why but your concepts just strike me sometimes as things everybody knows but do not notice and need to be “sloganized” like the success posters. . Especially the “you are not the exception.” We were talking in church today about how easy it is to forgive others but not ourselves for the exact same actions. It made me think of that quote. We believe we should be the exception. In this case We should be the perfect people. In the one you mention we should be instantaneously capable. If and when I make one, I’ll send you a picture.

        • You know, I have to learn these lessons over and over again myself. Particularly that I get to cut myself a break from time to time, too. I’m so glad the quote resonated with you. I swear sometimes I just channel wisdom from some future self so I can learn it over and over again. I’m so please it was meaningful to you!

  2. Kristin McNamara Freeman

    Quinn…Another “hit the target” posts from you. Going slow, taking time, breathing, breathing again, waiting, writing, learning….all pieces of this past first year of retirement for me. Always the hand raising volunteer, for everything and anything, when the retirement and settling in to a little bungalow in the Rockies, near family, I gave myself a year of “no joining” . In the time of more writing. walking, seeing, gardening, listening to birds, taking ever so many pictures and creating in the studio space, this time of slowing some of the engine, I have come to know more about myself. Slow has been a positive, affirming change of pace that, in truth, has given more fantastic shows on the journal page and in my every day walk along my own journey.
    Thank you Quinn for again and again connecting with and hooking on to my inner self. I truly appreciate your insights and picture painting with your words.

    • “Slow” is the way of the wise woman. I thank you for being one of those “hands-up” volunteers, because you made someones life easier and helped many, but now, steeping in your own wise-woman learning is important.

  3. well, I am a Jamaican, and the national saying is “soon come”. this could be a week, six months, a year… slow is good.

  4. What matters to me is attention. When I really attend to something, it and I are better together. Sometimes this changes the time something takes, but as it happens attention has a strange effect on time, too; it goes out of focus in a way. Often when I attend closely to something I spend more time on it, which probably appears to others as “slower”. But not always; sometimes I look up and very little time has elapsed even though I seem to have done a great deal.

    All speed is relative, which is another way of saying there isn’t any speed without an observer. The observer chooses a point of view — since the universe can spin and twirl around one point just as well as any other point, an observer can choose to be that point of stillness at any time while the universe keeps going.

    I find it a fun mental exercise to shift my perspective around. Feeling buffeted by events and schedules? I shift my perspective so I’m perfectly still while everything else moves around me. I shift it again so I’m looking at the whole pattern, including myself, from outside the pattern. The more I practice this (I’m talking decades here) the further outside I seem to be able to get.

  5. As the Shakers said: “Go Slow, we’re in a hurry.”

  6. Lisa Brown "Salt & Light"

    The tortoise knows the road better than the hare.

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