You’ll get there faster if you slow down

I’ve spent a lot of time in the fast lane, traveling at speeds that are dangerous but feel good. Life in the fast lane is ultimately not a way to live. And when you find yourself drifting off from a comfortable 70mph and into the left most lane, you should really consider how much time you spend there.

The fast lane is when everything needs to be rushed. You’re perpetually running out of time to supersede your competitors or yourself. Everything needs to be finished yesterday, and you forgo any social priorities, like life and family, to get things done. Going so fast, your peripherals are completely blurred, and you fail to see the destruction you cause around you.

I’ve worked a majority of time under this fast-paced mindset of “I’m running out of time. I need to finish this immediately.” The problem of course is that “completing" software always exceeds the time you give it. You put on your racecar helmet, strap in your seatbelt, and say, I’m going to drive 100mph and get there in a week.

Of course, a week turns into two, and two turns into four. Before you know it, you’re still driving 100, and you’re two months in. Your rear bumper has fallen off. You’re running on two spare tires. Your passenger side rearview mirror is hanging on for dear life. And you’ve been going so fast, that you’ve passed up great people and an opportunity to live the nice life you’re speeding towards anyway.

In a word, speed is healthy in moderation, but not as a lifestyle. I know a friend who has been in the fast lane for the last six years, destroying relationships and forgoing a calm life to ship a product he thought would be finished in under a year. And really, the fact that he’s driving so fast contributes greatly to the perpetually missed deadline: you can’t comfortably and precisely steer a vehicle traveling 100mph. So you sort of just end up where the speed takes you, and it’s always towards chaos.

I told this dear friend that you might actually get there faster if you just slowed down for once. Take it easy. It’s taken you six years, but if you went at half the speed, you’d have double the product in half the time. You’d have held on to the people that mattered.

I speak of my friend, but I’ve spent my fair share of time in the fast lane, and can confirm that it’s no way to go about building products. You know you’re in the fast lane when you can’t seem to get yourself to step away from the problems. You have this one bug or feature, and you must complete it by the end of the day, no exceptions. So you skip lunch, you skip the date you had planned, and you work incessantly until 8pm, but figure out this still needs another 12 hours. So you repeat again tomorrow, driving at breakneck speeds and destroying your psyche in the process. Not only is it a poor lifestyle, it’s also a poor way to create quality in your products.

As for me, I’ve long merged into the middle lane. There are cars going faster than me on the left, and cars going slower than me on the right. But I’m able to enjoy my drive at a nice 70mph. I’m in full control of the steering, and can go left or right anytime I please. I easily walk away from problems and let both of us rest. It’ll still be here tomorrow. And when tomorrow comes, the problem is almost always easier to solve with a clear mind.

It turns out, if you slow down just a little bit, you might just get there faster.

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