Here’s a great new year’s resolution: slow down and do less.
Have you ever noticed that we move at technology’s speed?
During the middle of the 20th century, the national speed limit was 30 miles per hour.
“Speeding,” if the rugged road conditions and your patched tires permitted, meant doing 35.
Then came the interstates, and better cars, and now if we aren’t moving at 70 mph, regardless of the speed limit, we feel like we’re moving backwards.
In living memory, if you wanted information, you went to the library and looked things up.
Or you wrote a letter, found an envelope and a stamp, walked it to the mailbox, and waited a week and a half for the reply.
You sent the letter airmail if you were in a real hurry.
And then came faxes, and then email, and now texts, and I’m sure engineers are sleeping on mattresses in their labs, figuring out how to transmit thought without any technology at all.
The human brain, which developed placidly over the millennia, simply has not caught up to the warp speed in which we all live.
So if you are looking to have a bright and successful New Year, my suggestion is let your brain work at it’s own pace, not at the pace to which technology has accustomed all of us.
Here’s the real question: am I my iPhone’s master, or its servant?
Could an alien from another planet tell?
If a little green person came from Mars, he, or she, or it, would most likely conclude, based on available evidence, that human beings exist to monitor the needs of their cell phones.
That’s why we keep checking them, to see if they need something.
Wait a minute, that’s not right.
Or is it?
I get a lot done, between running a business, tending to the needs of my wife and four kids, running a couple of marathons each year, doing a lot of yoga, and trying to maintain some semblance of a spiritual life.
But I do pretty much everything terribly slowly.
Embarrassingly slowly, if you could watch me.
I seldom rush, because I know that if I rush, I’m going to louse up whatever I’m working on.
Errors may range from typos to a general screwing up of the entire project.
Haste doesn’t make waste; it makes catastrophe.
As my cousin Abe, who spent years in the concentration camps and was saved by Oskar Schindler, used to say, “Nothing is running away.”
He became one of America’s most successful builders, building and selling houses in his adopted homeland, the United States, before he could even speak English.
If it worked for Abe, I figured, it would work for me.
And it does.
Hoagy Carmichael, the great songwriter, put it best: “Slow motion gets you there faster.”
We can all speculate on what “there” refers to in Carmichael’s aphorism.
I certainly have my ideas.
But it’s true. In fact, the cardiologists who coined the term “Type A behavior,” referring to activities and a life approach that promotes heart disease, said that “hurry sickness” was one of the leading causes of heart attacks.
Incidentally, they came upon their discovery of Type A behavior when their upholsterer came to redo the chairs in their waiting room.
“I’ve never seen chairs worn out like yours,” the upholsterer said. “Everything on the chair is fine except where people grip the front of the armrests. It’s like they’re hanging on for dear life.”
A proverbial light bulb went off in the heads of the two cardiologists, and they eventually made a scientific connection among gripping chairs too tightly, gripping life too tightly, and myocardial infarctions.
So the benefit of slowing down isn’t just to ensure that you will get better results.
You might just save your life.
I love New Years Day. I love the idea of a clean slate.
As a friend of mine, retired CEO Lew Kling, says, “On January 1st, in the corporate world, all the numbers go back to zero.”
It’s a fresh start, an opportunity to bury the mistakes of the previous year and build on the successes we created.
But don’t let technology, or anything else, lash you into working faster.
Whether it’s cousin Abe, Hoagy Carmichael, or the cardiologists who first recognized type A, the verdict is clear.
Life is a rush, but you don’t have to be in one to get the most from it.
Happy New Year!