15 Jul Speed isn’t always the best answer
a moment of sudden revelation or insight.
Middle English: from Greek epiphainein ‘reveal.’
I came to one recently when I realized virtually every major mistake I’ve ever made in my life could be traced back to moving too fast.
A decision made in haste. A choice selected before all the facts were in about the other. An innate need to get on to the next thing.
And then, I realized that I could apply that same level of personal understanding to almost every mistake I’ve ever seen anyone make in business.
The only worse thing than making a decision too speedily is the inability to make a decision at all, but that’s for another post.
Speed, though, is almost always viewed through a lens of admiration. Quickness, swiftness is a good thing. Something to aspire to. Apollo was a god, after all.
I grew up as a runner. I ran cross-country and track for most of my younger life and, as a result, always valued speed. Time. Timing. When your success is measured by who crosses the finish line first, eventually everything inside your head starts to revolve around speed and you equate speed with success.
Hammer, Meet Nail
They say when you’re a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Well, when you’re a runner, every solution starts to look like speed.
And when I started working for a living, that mentality never really shifted. To be honest, it didn’t need to. Time is money, right? I worked on a daily newspaper where we lived and died by deadlines.
Businesses measured expenses by hours per person so getting a job done quickly, getting a product to market swiftly, mattered most.
When I went to work for a digital agency, I loved the feel of the place. It was a holdover from the .com days so the startup mentality pervaded. “Never let process get in the way” was a mantra.
Account execs were rewarded for seeming busy 24-7 even if they weren’t actually busy 24-7. Speed and productivity. Seeing emails from pushy execs with a 3 a.m. timestamp meant they were important. Listening to coworkers blare on about how busy they were all the time was mandatory.
Now, as the owner of my own marketing firm, I work with entrepreneurs every day who carry much of the same logic inside their very busy brains.
And recently, I’ve begun to realize.
It’s not that time doesn’t matter. It’s not that speed isn’t important. What I’ve noticed is that speed has a direct corollary to quality and execution.
I remember one late night on deadline when we were getting ready to send the last page of the paper to the typesetter. Everything else was ready to roll on the presses, but the front page and the front page of the sports section were still on the composing room boards.
Five, count them, FIVE editors stood there reading and re-reading and proofing and reading backwards every hed, every lede, every jump line, to be sure it was right. Forty-five minutes before deadline, we all were making sure. Time was ticking. And just after the executive editor approved the page to fly, one of the composing room guys reached over his shoulder with his Xacto, cut two letters out of the banner headline and swapped them around.
“I before E, fellas,” he said as he grabbed the page to be shot into a plate, the five of us just staring at each other asking the obvious question.
Daily newspapers get the information out quickly. That’s their job. Speedy and honorable pursuit of the truth. But too much speed means the chinks in the armor show. The occasional typo makes it into print. Awkward phrasing that would inevitably be smoothed out if you had an extra 4 minutes to look at it. But a news story is a ongoing conversation with an understanding that deepens over every news cycle. Or at least it’s supposed to be.
Begone, Shiny Thing!
Another very very dangerous side of this that I see almost every day is being quick to change your mind. Entrepreneurs are famous for this type of “chase the shiny object” behavior.
We have a plan to change the world. We have a product and a business plan and a map we’re going to follow to execute on it. But… what about those 14 great ideas we had yesterday? What do we do with those?
If you take the time to work out a plan… a well thought-out strategy, but you get distracted by the shiny things that take you off course, or worse, the shiny things make you choose to course-correct mid-stream based only on the fact that they grabbed your attention…
No Place Like Home
As storytellers and as message marketers, we need to understand the way the human brain absorbs and gets convinced by a story. Too many breaks in the path distract them from the goal. Sure, the journey is the point, but the journey is a quest, not a wander.
Where was Dorothy going? She wasn’t just taking a stroll down the yellow brick road.
She wasn’t even rushing to get to the Emerald City to see the Wizard.
She was trying desperately to get to the Emerald City to ask the wizard to send her home.
Home is the goal.
The apple trees and the poppies and the witch’s broomstick were all just impediments to home.
Speed was important and the journey was unavoidable, but the focus and the goal were central.
Speed is a helpful tool. Speed is about tactics. Speed is about execution.
But it is a strong plan with a focus on a clear goal with a known benefit that beats speed alone every time.
It’s the long game. It’s small ball. Swinging for the fences is exciting when you connect, but base hits win ballgames.
What Are You Trying to Accomplish?
I know writers who work out the last line of the story first, or jot down the key feeling they want their readers to take away and they paste that above their screen or their desk where they have to look at it all day, every day.
The main goal. The main idea, can never leave their mind. Not for a moment.
Use your speed to your best advantage, but don’t let it distract you from your strategy or your goal.
Take the time to get it right.
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