“Be quick, but don’t hurry.” — John Wooden
Speed can be one of your greatest advantages in work and life.
It can make your load feel lighter and keep you from getting bogged down for too long.
When you speed things up in your day, you can find ways to simplify and create more glide paths.
For me, Microsoft has been the perfect place to practice speed.
When you’re surrounded by smart and capable people, you can see how speed can really make a difference.
Speed is also a competitive advantage in many ways, even if you’re just competing with yourself.
Speed Helps You Realize Your Potential
But speed also helps you realize more of your potential because you make it both easier and more desirable to practice the tough stuff.
If everything you do is slow, it sucks the life force out.
It drains you.
You find yourself in perpetual little wait modes, and this creates “death by a thousand paper cuts ” and burns you out over time.
Speed is the antidote. It helps you learn more, achieve more, and enjoy the process.
Whatever you want to get better at, find a way to break it down into smaller parts and speed up the parts.
And if you’re a lifelong learner, speed is your best friend along your journey.
Speed Enables Focus and Flow
Working with swiftness not only allows you to accomplish tasks more efficiently but also propels you into a state of heightened focus and flow.
When you operate at a faster pace, your mind becomes sharper, enabling you to tackle challenges with greater agility and creativity.
Moreover, speed cultivates a momentum that becomes self-reinforcing.
As you experience the rewards of swift accomplishments, your confidence soars, and your appetite for even greater challenges intensifies.
This compounding effect creates a virtuous cycle where each achievement propels you to reach new heights.
Speed Enables Agility and Adaptability
Speed is not about rushing through tasks. It’s about adapting to changing circumstances swiftly and decisively.
Those who can navigate the ever-shifting landscape with speed and grace are the ones who stay ahead of the curve and seize opportunities as they arise.
However, you need to strike a balance and avoid haste.
Speed Builds Confidence
Speed builds confidence. To go fast, you have to break things down.
To break things down, you need to create clarity of the key components.
Creating this clarity, also creates confidence.
And when you can practice things faster, you grow your confidence.
You feel unstoppable.
You know you can try things more. You know that when things don’t work right, your speed helps you work through it.
It helps you try again.
And when you practice things fast, and you find your flow, you grow in leaps and bounds.
And with every leap, you gain another dimension of confidence in yourself.
Knowing Where to Apply Speed is the Art Part
Speeding up does not equate to sacrificing quality or thoroughness.
Rather, it demands a mastery of time management, prioritization, and focus.
Knowing where to apply speed and where to employ patience and precision is the art that propels “Speed Up, Level Up” from a simple mantra to a game-changing philosophy.
Keep in mind that while it’s helpful to speed up some things, there are many things in life that are worth slowing down for.
Stop and smell the roses.
And also keep in mind that in many cases you will have to slow down to speed up.
Speed will lead to some of your best breakthroughs when you apply to the right things in work and life.
Speed Transform the Ordinary into the Extraordinary
Embracing the essence of “Speed Up, Level Up” transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.
By leveraging the underestimated power of speed in your work, you unlock a potent force that fuels your progress, amplifies your impact, and propels you towards unprecedented levels of achievement.
If You Want to Get Good at Something, Do It Faster
James Somers emphasizes the importance of speed in improving skills and achieving mastery in any chosen field, such as writing or bug fixing.
The key prescription is to push yourself to work faster than what may feel comfortable or usual.
By doing so, the task becomes less daunting in your mind, and you are more likely to engage in it frequently.
James Somers writes:
“The prescription must be that if there’s something you want to do a lot of and get good at—like write, or fix bugs—you should try to do it faster.
That doesn’t mean be sloppy. But it does mean, push yourself to go faster than you think is healthy. That’s because the task will come to cost less in your mind; it’ll have a lower activation energy.
So you’ll do it more. And as you do it more (as long as you’re doing it deliberately), you’ll get better. Eventually you’ll be both fast and good.”
Contrary to being careless, working faster allows you to practice more and hone your abilities deliberately.
As you gain experience through repeated practice, your proficiency improves, and you become both fast and adept at the task.
The message here is to embrace speed as a catalyst for growth, unlocking the potential for continuous improvement and excellence in your chosen endeavors.
Being Fast is Fun
Speed is exhilarating, not just in writing, but in any pursuit. When you can move swiftly, ideas flow effortlessly, and you’re not confined to a single daunting task.
As your to-do list shrinks, you’ll find yourself brimming with possibilities, constantly adding more exciting ventures to explore.
James Somers writes:
“Being fast is fun. If you’re a fast writer, you’ll constantly be playing with new ideas. You won’t be bogged down in a single dread effort.
And because your to-do list gets worked off, you’ll always be thinking of more stuff to add to it.
With more drafts in the works, more of the world will pop alive. You will feel flexible and capable and practiced so that when something demanding and long arrives on your desk, you won’t back down afraid.”
By working on multiple endeavors concurrently, the world comes alive with boundless opportunities. Flexibility and proficiency become your allies, empowering you to embrace any challenge fearlessly.
Being fast at what you love ignites a sense of capability and joy, paving the way for unbounded enjoyment and boundless achievement in all aspects of life.
Google Prioritized Speed for a Reason
Speed is a key feature in Google’s success. By prioritizing speed in their search engine, Google recognized that it prompts users to search more frequently.
The immediate response and rapid retrieval of information encourage users to explore and experiment with their inquiries, enabling a continuous feedback loop.
James Somers writes:
“Google famously prioritized speed as a feature. They realized that if search is fast, you’re more likely to search. The reason is that it encourages you to try stuff, get feedback, and try again.
When a thought occurs to you, you know Google is already there.
There is no delay between thought and action, no opportunity to lose the impulse to find something out. The projected cost of googling is nil. It comes to feel like an extension of your own mind.”
The seamless and instantaneous experience of searching on Google eliminates the delay between thought and action.
It fosters a sense of convenience and accessibility, making Google feel like an extension of your own mind.
The perceived cost of conducting a search is negligible, and this ease of access transforms Google into a natural extension of human thought, promoting a seamless and effortless interaction with vast amounts of knowledge and information.
Fast People are You Most Valuable Resource
In workplaces, a common phenomenon is that faster employees tend to be assigned more work. This occurs because humans naturally seek to conserve energy, and the mere thought of giving work to a slow employee can be exhausting.
The mental image of sluggish progress and the potential tie-up of resources can be wearisome.
On the other hand, fast teammates are perceived as cheap in terms of time, as they can handle tasks quickly and efficiently.
Assigning work to them doesn’t feel like “using them up” because they are readily available for more tasks.
James Somers writes:
“It is a truism, too, in workplaces, that faster employees get assigned more work. Of course they do. Humans are lazy. They want to preserve calories.
And it’s exhausting merely thinking about giving work to someone slow.
When you’re thinking about giving work to someone slow, you run through the likely quagmire in your head; you visualize days of halting progress.
You imagine a resource—this slow person—tied up for awhile. It’s wearisome, even in the thinking.
Whereas the fast teammate—well, their time feels cheap, in the sense that you can give them something and know they’ll be available again soon.
You aren’t ‘using them up’ by giving them work.
So you route as much as you can through the fast people. It’s ironic: your company’s most valuable resources—because they finish things quickly—are the easiest to consume.”
Consequently, companies often route a significant workload through their fastest employees, inadvertently making their most valuable resources the easiest to consume.
This irony arises from the fact that the very employees who excel in finishing tasks quickly become a preferred choice for more work due to their efficiency.
Slow Systems Starve, Fast Systems Get Fed
The general rule observed is that systems that efficiently process items receive more items, while slower systems tend to be overlooked and starve of new inputs.
This principle applies not only to individuals but also to entire organizations.
James Somers writes:
“The general rule seems to be: systems which eat items quickly are fed more items. Slow systems starve.
Two more quick examples. What’s true of individual people turns out also to be true of whole organizations.
If customers find out that you take two months to frame photos, they’ll go to another frame shop. If contributors discover that you’re slow to merge pull requests, they’ll stop contributing.
Unresponsive systems are sad. They’re like buildings grown over with moss. They’re a kind of memento mori. People would rather be reminded of life.
They’ll leave for places that get back to them quickly.”
People prefer to engage with vibrant and lively systems that respond promptly and efficiently.
In both individual and organizational contexts, responsiveness fosters a sense of connection and vitality, encouraging people to stay engaged and remain loyal to systems that value their time and deliver swift results.
When Something is Slow, You Can’t Rely On It
James Somers describes the frustration caused by a suddenly slow undo feature in his text editor.
This inconvenience not only discourages him from using the undo function but also affects his overall workflow, as he no longer feels confident in relying on it.
James Somers writes:
“Even now, I’m working in a text editor whose undo feature, for whatever reason, has suddenly become slow. It’s killing me.
It disinclines me, for one thing, from undoing stuff. But it’s also probably subtly changing the way I work. I feel like I can’t rely on undo.
So if I want to delete something but think I might want it later, I’m copying it to the bottom of the file, like it’s the 1980s.
All this because undo is so slow that it might as well not exist. Undo, when it’s fast, is an incredible feature; at any moment, you can dip into the past, borrow something, and zip back.
But now it feels like a dead end.”
The slow undo feature has become a hindrance, leading James to adopt cumbersome workarounds, like copying content to the bottom of the file, reminiscent of practices from the past.
The once powerful and efficient undo feature has now become a dead end, depriving James of the seamless ability to navigate through his work history and borrow from the past as needed.
From fast to slow is a transformative impact with ripple effects well beyond the undo feature.
Speed of ChatGPT Matters
I remember when I first tried ChatGPT. It was too slow. I couldn’t take it.
I paid for the subscription and it was life changing, as ChatGPT responded much faster, making our interaction much more fluid and
The speed of ChatGPT is crucial as it determines the responsiveness and seamlessness of the interaction with the language model.
Just like how Google prioritizes speed in its search engine to eliminate the delay between thought and action, ChatGPT’s speed enhances the user experience by reducing the time between formulating a query and receiving a response.
When ChatGPT operates swiftly, it allows users to think more fluidly and have a conversation that feels more natural. There is no clunkiness or lag, making the experience like an extension of your own mind.
The rapidity of ChatGPT’s responses ensures that users can quickly explore ideas, find information, and engage in meaningful interactions without losing the flow of thought or impulse to inquire further.
Similar to the projected cost of googling being almost nothing, ChatGPT’s fast-paced operation enables users to engage with the language model effortlessly, feeling like an integral part of their thought process.
Be Quick, But Don’t Hurry
I remember hearing this phrase from John Wooden:
“Be quick, but don’t hurry.”
“Be quick, but don’t hurry” is a piece of wisdom that encourages us to balance between speed and caution.
Here’s a breakdown of its meaning:
- “Be quick” suggests that you should be efficient, decisive, and proactive. It encourages you to take action, seize opportunities, and not waste time.
- “Don’t hurry” means that while speed is important, it should not come at the expense of accuracy, thoughtfulness, or safety. Hurrying often leads to mistakes, oversights, or poor decisions because you’re rushing and not giving the task the attention it deserves.
I thought it was the perfect phrase to encapsulate the idea of doing things faster, but not in a frenzy or harried state.
It’s a reminder to act swiftly and decisively, but not to rush in a way that leads to mistakes or poor decisions.
The image it formed in my mind is someone who is fast, decisive, moves with intention, but is not frenzied or rushed.
They do what they do with speed, accuracy, and a sense of calm, with a high degree of focus and alertness.
How To Practice Be Quick, But Don’t Hurry
To practice this principle, you can consider the following steps:
- Prioritize: Understand what tasks are most important and focus on those first. This helps you be quick in addressing the things that matter most.
- Plan: Before diving into a task, take a moment to plan your approach. This can help you work more efficiently (quickly) and reduce the likelihood of mistakes (hurrying).
- Stay Focused: Concentrate on one task at a time. Multitasking can lead to mistakes and inefficiency.
- Practice Mindfulness: Be present in the moment. This can help you work quickly but also carefully, as you’re fully engaged with what you’re doing.
- Learn from Mistakes: If you do make a mistake because you were hurrying, take it as a learning opportunity. Reflect on what happened and how you can improve.
- Balance Speed and Quality: Always remember that while getting things done quickly is often important, the quality of the work is just as (if not more) important.
- Take Breaks: Regular breaks can help maintain your productivity and prevent you from rushing through tasks just to get them done.
Speed Transforms You
We covered a lot of ground fast, with speed. Let’s recap the main idea:
“Speed Up, Level Up” is a transformative concept that emphasizes the power of speed in productivity and achievement.
Speed, when practiced correctly, is not just a competitive advantage, but a catalyst for unlocking potential, fostering focus, and enabling adaptability.
It helps you avoid the draining effects of slow progress, often described as “death by a thousand paper cuts.”
By breaking tasks into smaller parts and speeding up their completion, you can enter a state of heightened focus and flow, leading to swift accomplishments and a self-reinforcing momentum.
In our fast-paced world, speed also equips you with the agility to adapt to changing circumstances, seize opportunities, and stay ahead of the curve.
By balancing speed with caution, you ensure you don’t compromise your quality in your pursuit of quickness.
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