Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

Rethinking how we use our time to achieve more with less

It’s 5:30 am Pacific time, coffee in hand. Candles are lit, it’s the season. And the shack is filling up with Simon & Garfunkel’s The 59th Street Bridge Song:

“Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy
Ba da-da da-da da-da, feeling groovy”

That’s right, we move too fast, gotta make the morning last. Feeling groovy.

Let’s rewind back to 1996. I had just attended a web publishing course at Apple in Cupertino, CA. On my way back to the hotel I swung by the Stanford University bookstore and picked up a fresh copy of Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte.

I always stayed at The Cardinal in Palo Alto when in Silicon Valley during the 90s. It’s an inexpensive, European-style hotel with walking distance to everything I needed when in town. I still had to rent a car to get around but it was nice to not have to drive for breakfast or dinner. The super power of walking is underestimated.

I read Being Digital on the flight back to Europe and was blown away. I was tasked to lead an interactive media group within a small but growing and later very successful startup in Stockholm and everything I learned fed into that mission. But there was one sentence that would change my life forever:

“It makes no sense to ship atoms when you can ship bits.”

The book talked about digital transformation and how the world was going to shift from moving atoms (things) to bits (data). Negroponte talked about how technology was going to become ubiquitous and how “software was going to eat the world” as per Mark Andreessen’s now famous quote.

Today we move more bits than atoms. Robots are building our products and artificial intelligence is taking care of the machinery. We order everything we need online which will soon be delivered to our doorsteps with self-driving trucks. And Starbucks, with the help from Amazon, is opening up cashierless coffee shops in New York City.

By letting software do all the hard, repetitive, and boring work we should be able do enjoy more leisure time, right. But that is not what seems to be happening. Everyone is just getting busier, more stressed out, and unhappy in their work as per research. Now why is that? Isn’t the idea with technological innovation to make everything easier and free up time, money, and attention for the really fun stuff in life?

I think part of the problem is that while digital technologies have revolutionized the world over the past 25 years we human beings are still thinking in atoms and not bits. We are getting more addicted to the mindless distractions of the digital world and less engaged in the real opportunities this new brave world offers.

Instead of slowing down to understand the new paradigm shift we are accelerating and becoming busier and busier. But when we move too fast we get tunnel vision and our ability for a 360-view of the world disappears. We are running faster in a hamster wheel that is broken and that will eventually lead nowhere. But we have to change as we are on the cusp of a large-scale human revolution in lifestyle and being.

Slow will be the new fast. The ability to zoom in and out, from strategy to action, from the world to the present moment will be the new human super power. Always on, always connected, always moving, always busy will be replaced by personal lifestyles designed by ourselves, taking charge of our own time, grooving to our own tunes.

Surf in the morning, crypto trading, exercise, research, meeting friends, self-sufficient living, reading books, cooking and growing real food, exploring new hacks, and deep work will all easily fit into the 16 hours we all have access to every single day. By freeing up time, money, and attention we’ll be able to accelerate by working less.

Just image if you had taken time to research and reflect over Bitcoin in the earlier days and then taken action. You could even have waited a whole decade before you made your first investment and still made over 2,000% in return if you sold last week. Perspective when the world is accelerating is priceless. Slowing down works.

Like Seneca wrote two thousand years ago in On the Shortness of Life:

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested.”

So slow down, you move too fast, you gotta let the morning last.

It’s 6:19 am and the sun is rising.

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Have a groovy week,

Per Håkansson

Encinitas, California