Slow is the New Fast

Posted 11.18.2009

Yacht1If you happen to have 100 million Euros (about $150 million) to spare, you might be in the market for the yacht, The Why, pictured to the left. Yes, that’s the stern of a boat that was featured in the House & Home section of a recent edition of the Financial Times Weekend

As described in the FT, The Why is a one of a kind yacht with 3,400 meters of guest space and an optimal cruising speed of only 12 knots. (You can see more pictures of The Why at .)

I’m taking a wild guess here, but I’m doubting that very many of my readers are in the market for a $150 million boat. (I know I’m not!  Not in this lifetime, anyway.)

So what’s the point of all this in a leadership blog?  It’s this excerpt from the FT quoting Pierre-Alexis Dumas, one of the designers of the 12 knot yacht:

Dumas believes that, except in the case of aircraft, “speed as an aesthetic is passé”. He questions when we now have time to think. “Time like this is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. If we don’t think, we alienate ourselves in a dangerous way. Going slow is a natural reaction to the artificial speed of light we created.”

Think for just a moment about what Dumas is saying.  “If we don’t think, we alienate ourselves in a dangerous way.”  Even if (especially if) you don’t have the opportunity to spend your thinking time on a luxury yacht, you still need to slow down a bit and take it.

I’ve been doing a lot of speaking to audiences of leaders this Fall and one of the things I’ve been talking a lot about is how, in this world where it seems like everyone is running flat out until they crash, we can find time to slow down and think about what we’re really trying to accomplish and how we need to show up to accomplish it.  I’m sharing a framework developed by David Kundtz, the author of Stopping: How to Be Still When You Have to Keep Going, that goes like this.

Kundtz says that in our lives, we will have the opportunity to take three different kinds of breaks.  They are:

Grinding Halts: which are rare periods of extended down time of several months or more. Examples would include a scheduled sabbatical, time between jobs or retirement.

Stopovers: which are extended breaks and “unplugged from the grid” times of a few days or more.

Still Points: which are those cues that come up throughout the day that signal us to take a short break to pause, think, reflect, relax or rest.

I’ve been asking people lately to identify the still points that come up throughout their day. I’ve heard some good examples like lunch, commuting time and the little cushion that comes from starting or stopping meetings on the quarter hour rather than the half hour. My favorite example was a fellow at a speech in London who said his still point comes when he makes his afternoon tea and considers whether or not he’d like some cucumber sandwiches with his drink.

So, my question for you today is what are your still points and how are you using them to give yourself a break to just stop and think? My observation lately is that most leaders believe they don’t have any margin in their day to stop and that taking a break to pace themselves is pretty much an impossibility. When I ask them to identify their still points and then ask them in the middle of my presentation to stand up, take a few deep breaths and stretch a little bit, they realize they have more control over their think time and stress level than they thought they had.

Give your still points a try. It may not be quite the same as lounging on the sun deck of a $150 million yacht, but I’ll bet it will be an improvement over your current routine nonetheless.