The first time I heard that phrase, it was during golf lessons. It took a little while for it to sink in with me because I kept wanting to crush the ball and I thought I had to swing as hard as possible to hit a 300 yard drive. My reptilian brain just couldn’t get it though and the more I watched my 5’8″, 150 lb golf instructor crush those 300 yard drives with ease, the faster and harder I swung trying to force the ball to submit to my will. Eventually, the instructor got me to slow it down and smooth it out and I was able to hit some consistently straight and long drives back then.
I was reminded of this phrase tonight when Jeff Bezos accepted the Goddard Award for space accomplishments in 2016. Bezos let us know he was wearing tortoise cuff links and that his team’s motto is slow and steady, one step at a time. Tying this back to yesterday’s post, I wonder how many Americans have this patience. Bezos”high school girlfriend went on record saying that he founded Amazon in order to fund his space exploration efforts. He confirmed that tonight. Talk about slow and steady–the Chinese don’t have that kind of patience. I admire that approach. I’m frustrated regularly by senior leaders who push for short deadlines and quick wins that aren’t aligned with meaningful strategic objectives that result in real mission accomplishment or lasting transformation. I often think some leaders believe transformation is like a magic trick and if you just figure out how to pull the rabbit out of the hat it will be good. Real transformation requires patience and direct engagement with individuals–one or two at a time. The investment is expensive and the results are slow like molasses, but the end result is far stronger and durable–and faster because you’ve gone slow and smooth. The hasty push is chaotic, destructive and fleeting. Slow it down and savor the process.