A few years ago, entrepreneur Derek Sivers lived in Santa Monica, California.
His home was right at the beach, and he could quickly get onto a lovely bike path along the ocean.
On weekday afternoons, the track was almost empty.
So, a few times a week, Derek got on his bike and finished the fifteen-mile loop as fast as possible.
And every time he did, it took him almost exactly 43 minutes.
Then one day, he decided to ride his usual path, but in a completely different way.
Instead of pushing himself to go hard, he would purposely dial back his effort by 50 percent.
And when he did, he had an epiphany.
Less Effort ≈ Same Speed
Over time, Derek had started to associate his bike rides with exhaustion.
So this time, as he was cruising along the path, it was a welcome change of pace.
Derek was barely giving it any effort at all. He was relaxed, smiling, and attentive.
Instead of rushing past his beautiful surroundings, he was taking it all in.
At one point, he saw two dolphins in the water. And at another, a pelican flew right over him.
Derek felt like he could keep this pace up forever without hardly breaking a sweat.
When he finished, he looked at the time and couldn’t believe his eyes.
The trip had taken him 45 minutes, as opposed to his usual 43.
Apparently, all the extra effort he usually put into his bike rides only saved him two minutes.
That meant Derek didn’t have to push so hard. He could take it easy, enjoy himself, and finish at about the same time.
And instead of exhausting himself, he could come home rejuvenated.
Make Haste Slowly
Derek’s biking story1 provides a powerful metaphor for this counterintuitive insight:
If you want to do things fast, it’s usually best to do them slowly.
The idea itself isn’t new, though. If you go down the rabbit hole, you can find advocates of slowness at least as far back as Ancient Greece.
The Roman emperors Augustus and Titus, for instance, used the motto “Festina lente,” which means “Make haste slowly.”2
And the Greek storyteller Aesop touched on the same idea in his famous fable, The Tortoise and the Hare.3
In that story, the tortoise surprisingly wins a race against the hare by crawling slowly and steadily, while the overconfident hare takes a nap before the finish line.
The moral of that story is ambiguous, but in the context of this article, one relevant interpretation is the proverbial saying, “More haste, less speed.”
Go Slow to Go Fast
More effort often just leads to unnecessary stress, more mistakes, and worse results.
So, whenever you feel compelled to go harder, try taking it easier.
You’ll enjoy the task much more and probably finish it at least as quickly.
Thank you to Derek Sivers for inspiring this article.