I used to work with a tall, slender communications director and business consultant who always seemed to be calm and collected. He and I would often spend our lunch hours together. One time, we were playing pool and each of us had one ball left on the table. After he missed his shot, I was perfectly set up to tap my last striped ball into the pocket and finish the game with the eight ball. My target was so close to the edge, a gust of wind could have blown it in.
Instead of tapping it lightly, I reared my pool stick and gave it a confident and unnecessarily forceful thrust – so hard that when the cue ball struck my striped ball, it quickly dribbled back and forth between the edges and never entered the pocket. I couldn’t believe it. When I looked up at Steve, he simply said one of his most famous lines: Speed kills.
I’ve never forgotten that moment, or those words.
We live in a fast-paced world where speed is celebrated in everything from technology to service to food. But I think what makes things truly great isn’t speed, it’s momentum.
Speed is about pace – the rate at which you move.
Momentum is about activity – the quantity of motion.
If you want to do something fast, don’t spend a lot time on it. Rush it. Move from one step to the next step quickly. You will be speedy.
If you want to build momentum, do a lot of something. Spend time with it. Try it in different ways. Learn how to do it well and then do more of it. You will build momentum.
You can grow fast, which is often celebrated.
But businesses that last and make an ongoing impact, are more concerned about momentum – adding well-researched updates, features, campaigns, gatherings, teammates, messages – that delight their community again and again.
You can’t get fit really fast, no matter how many pills you take or diets you attempt. But if you go to the gym regularly and for a while, you build momentum. Your physique changes, but so do the rest of your habits.
In daily life…
Speed leads to forgetfulness, accidents, fines, and frustration. But a speedy day is different from a full day focused on the right things. The latter leads to peace of mind and productivity.
New friendships, teammates, significant others that spin up within a few moments may seem magical; but they need time and activity to truly blossom. The amount of energy and commitment applied is what builds lasting relationships.
You can’t create a body of work quickly. It needs thoughtful and consistent action. The results of that action need to be shared over and over again. As you create more work, styles are defined, patterns emerge, and a community will inevitably form.
Momentum needs time. Speed doesn’t.
Yet, momentum inevitably leads to speed, just a healthier kind. Speed is what I do when I hurriedly ride my bike home through traffic at the end of the day. Momentum is what I experience when I peddle quickly for 30 miles along the lake at the break of dawn.
And of course, there is a place for speed. Trying new ideas quickly and simply can save you loads of time and resources. Quick tests create space for learning important lessons early. So yes, there is a place for speed, but I’d say, it’s in service to momentum.