Slow is Smooth

Updated: Apr 8, 2019

It’s a mistake to think that moving faster means getting more done. My natural way of thinking often got me caught in that trap. If you had known me well in my teen years, you would have thought, this boy will never learn patience. Yet I did learn. I learned much more than that. I learned the power of precision.

I heard it repeated many times over in SEAL training, “never rush to your death.” What is that supposed to mean? Yeah, good question.

The context of that statement was usually during close quarters clearance training. If you don’t know what that is, just think like when you see SWAT teams in the movies moving deliberately through a building or area looking for the bad guys. So during this type of training, we would hear that phrase many times, “never rush to your death,” while at the same time, we were on the clock. You never have as much time as you would like.

So again, what is that phrase really saying? It’s saying,  you only get one chance. You never know what’s around the next corner. Don’t go running around that corner faster than you can resolve the situation. To put it simply, “don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

It’s easy to feel rushed. Sometimes the mission or the need try to dictate how fast we should do something. Remember this, the speed of the need does not determine the pace. “But Garrett, sometimes that’s out of my control.” This is true. Many times things are out of our control, including when something is supposed to be done. Fortunately, the “when” it’s supposed to be done does not control the “how.” That one is up to us.

The art of precision is knowing when to go fast and when to go slow. In the SEAL teams, we learned that you must rapidly switch back and forth between fast and slow. For example, when I am trying to draw my pistol urgently and make an accurate shot in less than 2 seconds, I’ll switch back and forth from fast to slow 3 different times.

Ok, let’s have some fun for a second. I want you to try something. Tell yourself GO, and then I want you to draw your imaginary pistol and fire a shot in less than two seconds. Seriously, give it a try. If you’ve got the courage and confidence, have somebody film your first attempt so you can see it. Do it now.

How did you do? Did it look like somebody put a hot potato in your pocket? Haha, Ok, here’s the real question. Did you even think about what you were trying to hit with your shot? Was your shot a hit?

If you looked smooth and made a great shot awesome. If not, no worries I’ll tell you what to do.

Now it’s my turn.  I’ve trained for this, a lot. I know exactly where I can go fast and where I can’t. If you were watching me perform this, it wouldn’t look rushed. It would look smooth. Another great SEAL one-liner, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” You have to slow down to speed up.

When we would train for this, the goal was “never miss, but get faster.” It was not, hey let’s see how fast we can draw and maybe hit the target. First, you slow it way down, like take 10 seconds in slow motion to draw and fire your pistol. Being as exact as possible with every movement. Nothing wasted. Then you very gradually speed up, never rushing. After enough reps, it’s still smooth as butter and lightning fast. As opposed to jerky and out of control.

Look, here’s the point. I’m not trying to teach you how to be a great pistol marksman. If you want to be better at all the “shots” you get in life, If you want to be more accurate and faster at anything, physical or figurative, work on two things.

1. the slow, deliberate practice of the most efficient movements possible. Get rid of any waste. Inefficiency only gets worse with speed.

2. Develop a precision mindset through timed drills and tons of the above deliberate practice. Over time you will grow a sense of mastery of the clock/timer and a way of thinking that keeps external forces from pushing you to a dangerous and ineffective pace.

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