I only managed to do 28 of the 47 things I planned to do yesterday.
Tomorrow’s list will have to be a little longer.
The list will only ever keep getting longer. And the items which come in last will start to wear down the shininess of the ones at the bottom.
How can we fix this?
By slowing down to speed up.
The long cut
The best work we can do is solving interesting problems. However, to solve interesting problems, we first have to think them up.
Thinking up interesting problems is no short-term endeavour. It takes time to be able to see the world for how it is and then speak up about what could be better.
Thinking is hard. Especially when everything works pretty well as it is.
Ideas aren’t as fun as interesting problems. Ideas are everywhere. In some cases, right in front of us.
Ideas are a quick solution to something. Ideas are a shortcut.
It’s easy to look at a problem and say, “we could just do this.”
But take too many shortcuts and you’ll end up taking the long way.
Sometimes it’s beneficial to take the longer route in the beginning.
With shortcuts, we can see the end of the road. It’s right in front of us. A solution waiting in the safety of certainty.
The long cut isn’t so clear. It’s the uphill trail at the fork in the road at the base of a mountain.
Does the long cut always work? Of course not. But it makes a far more interesting story.
Blocking out the noise
There is more noise in the world than change. One of my roles is to try to block the noise from people really doing the work.
— Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
Cook has virtually unlimited money to and 50,000 employees to play with. Apple could work on anything it wants. Instead, you could lay out all of the products it makes on your bedroom floor and still have space to dance. You couldn’t do this with many other hardware companies on Apple’s scale.
If you load up any social media feed, or news website — including the one you’re reading this on. It’s likely you’ll find more information than you could possibly consume in a lifetime. Much of which will be telling you how you should be doing more and moving faster.
What you should be asking yourself is,
Is this relevant to the interesting problems I’m trying to solve?
It’s a hard question to answer. You never know what might come in handy. But that’s exactly why you should be stopping to think. Most won’t and don’t.
What channel could you change to — to block out the noise? If there aren’t any, create your own.
Not everything has to be in a hurry
I’m not against trying and failing fast. But don’t forget the difference between speed and velocity.
Speed = distance over time.
Velocity = speed with direction.
If you’re always in a rush, it’s likely you’re operating with speed. Moving fast but with no direction. Eventually, you end up doing circles around yourself and crashing.
In motor racing, there’s a saying. “Fast is slow and slow is fast.” It’s kind of counter-intuitive. But if you go too fast into a corner, it’s hard to course correct. You’ll lose seconds on your lap time.
The same thing happens when trying to find interesting problems to solve. Standing up to solve a problem takes courage. But don’t use all of your initial momentum heading in the wrong direction. Slow down into the corners.
You can have all the drive in the world but you still need gas.
What’s your guiding light?
If you’ve found an interesting problem to solve, you’re winning. Not against everyone else but against yourself.
Having an interesting problem to solve gives us meaning. It’s something we should all spend our lives trying to find and then trying to solve.
For some, it will happen quickly. For others, it won’t happen at all.
You won’t know when you’ve found it. It won’t hit you in the face like a right hook.
Don’t browse your newsfeeds feeling shame, they push us to be in a hurry and worry about nothing except what’s on the surface.
What matters is often never on the surface. It’s buried. Like a coin stuck between couch cushions, the closer you get the harder it is to grab.
But the chase is what makes it all worth it.
I’m putting a little less on my list today. Less but better.