Slow Down & Wander

Wanna know what I did a few days back? I spoke on the phone with a one-off customer for 40 minutes. Just talking. A meandering conversation on our love of the South. Just because. It felt good. Because I could. Because I’m not under pressure by a heavy handed VC to achieve a 30x revenue goal. Because I’m on a slow growth path. Because I care about my customers.

It’s tempting to get caught up in the startup speed game. This industry tends to embrace it. Encourage it. The notion that moving faster equates to more sales, more growth, more success.

Back in 1995 I was living in New York, and worked around the corner from the Angelika Film Center. That summer, the movie ‘Smoke‘ premiered. It helped changed my perspective on a lot of things. Especially ‘speed’.

In the film, Auggie (Harvey Keitel) is sharing his personal photo album with Paul (John Hurt). The scene is brilliant. Auggie is an amateur photographer, and his ‘subject’ is a street corner in Brooklyn. Every morning he takes a photograph there. Rain, snow, sleet, it doesn’t matter. He then stores it in his album. Below, he’s sharing that album with his friend, Paul.

 

“You’ll never get it, if you don’t slow down my friend.”

Slowing down. That concept intrigued me. I was 23 at the time, a period when most folks try to hurry up.

Hurry up in career; hurry up in relationships…

…and when seen through the startup lens: hurry up in growth; hurry up in profit; hurry up in expansion….

Up until that point, I subscribed to that notion. And by hurrying up, I found I created stress. More friction. More unease. And it was all non-existent. I created it all my subscribing to hurry up.

The idea of slowing down …. No… make that – the permission to slow down, was a welcome wrinkle. Even coming from a fictional movie character.

And the moment I shifted my thought into that plane, I felt an initial release. Friction release.

By slowing down, I purged speed for persistence. Persistence lead to patience. Patience to empathy. And empathy lead to focused wandering. That wandering lead me to domain names.

Now, sitting here 22 years later, I recognize the importance of that small decision.

Stefan Sagmeister has the right idea. Guess what he does every 7 years? He takes a semi-retirement. He slows down. Check out how that impacts his life & work:

 

It not only influences his work, it defines his work.

Michael Lewis, author of “The Blind Side” and “The Big Short” has a wonderful quote: I spend too much time trying to spend less time.”.

Something so succinct and devoid of hyperbole, I instantly related. And of all places, I found the quote on a soda cup at Chipotle.

It’s not speed that wins the game, it’s focused execution. Slow execution in my opinion. Allowing a business the freedom to grow at its own pace. The freedom for that business to meander, if need be. The freedom to lay a solid foundation.

I encourage you to slow down. If this is something you’ve considered, don’t let the seeds of doubt litter your mind. You’re doing the right thing. Focus on your customer. Focus on creating authentic relationships. Good things will come.

Patience & persistence wins.

“Strange, what being forced to slow down can do to a person” – Nicholas Sparks