I love speed. Working on the CBOT trading floor for nearly 20 years required a keen ability to think quickly, react to opportunities with just the right amount of forethought to consider the risks but not so much time to miss the short-lived opportunity. Likewise, riding a sport motorcycle most of my life required quick reflexes as well as a disobedience to physical intuition. The ability to move quickly is a well-honed practice that actually requires a counter-intuitive move: slowing down.
Let me explain… when a sharp corner appears ahead, whether in a car or on a motorcycle, in order to move through the corner as quickly as possible it is imperative to set up the right angle of attack and throttle back – both of which seem counter to what your senses say should be done. This is a matter of physics regarding weight distribution and how the power to the wheels is applied.
But it’s the metaphor that I’m finding is so appropriate as it relates to making key decisions. Typically, a day starts very early and we hit the ground running - powering through fast reps in the gym, speeding through emails and feverishly driving to the first appointment, hoping to arrive only 5 minutes late. Just writing this down, my heartbeat is racing and I know the routine all too well. But here’s what I’m finding: when I slow down my pace first by letting my body wake up slowly before getting out of bed (not by hitting the snooze button though!), taking a few minutes to gather my daily intention and consciously transitioning my body from sleeping to being awake, I’m able to start my day much more productively.
The same goes for heading into a meeting, preparing a presentation and answering a phone call. Taking a moment to get centered by taking a breath, remembering my purpose for the activity and physically feeling my feet on the floor I am able to move more efficiently through the activity and at the end of the day I recognize that so much more has been accomplished.
That said, I fail frequently – at least once a day, if not once an hour! However, I’m learning that part of the slowing down is letting go of the judgment about my failure. Acknowledging the failure with a quick, “How fascinating!” helps me maintain the speed needed to accomplish all that needs to be done.
They key is how to remember all this in the moment, right? For starters, how about if you join me this month in finding one place to try mindfully slowing down – so that you can move even faster than you did before? I really think this is the only way to make real progress given the overwhelming demands on leadership. Let me know how it goes.