We’re sprinting in a marathon and wondering why we’re burning out
For a generation that is addicted to “results” and the visible trappings of success, addicted to hacks and shortcuts, we struggle with the patience required for dealing with complex, intractable problems. This is mostly evident in our time scales for seeing desired outcomes.
We want a 21-day diet to reverse 21 years of genetics, diet and (lack of) exercise. It used to take years, decades even, to build a business; these days with growth hacking and other esoterica, we have people chasing the next unicorn. It has become hard to read 300-page books, so we settle for 10-minute audio summaries that we can listen to on the go, while we also clock in a workout session. Optimisation.
This impatience with the process also shows up in what we measure. We settle for proxies, poor substitutes for what is of real value. We see this everywhere. We would rather tick boxes than cause real impact. I see often settling for short term gain as opposed to long term benefits. Quantity over quality. In the end, we wind up with a lot of stuff that is only skin deep, no genuine change.
This thought keeps recurring in my mind, different shades of it. Some things are slow. Some things are messy, unpredictable, difficult. Others we cannot control, bend to our wishes, intentions or even best efforts. They will only budge in the face of slow, steady, painstaking action. And by extension, we may have to admit that we won’t always be able to measure impact or progress, not because there isn’t any but because it’s happening at a pace and in places that our modern eyes are not accustomed to seeing.
Slow and steady doesn’t win sprints. Agreed! But very few things in life are sprints. So, maybe we need to stop this focus on quick wins — not every battle can be won quickly.
It may addle the modern mind but slow and steady wins long races.