As I was working today, I was contemplating how much faster I’ve gotten on certain things in the short time I’ve been in the lab. There’s one task in particular that, when faced with it for the first time, I had to give it laser-intense focus, and couldn’t possibly cope with doing all the components at the same time. It was like that thing where you’re supposed to walk, talk, chew gum, rub your belly and pat your head all at the same time. The second time I did it, I started to add in the final component. Today, the third time I’ve done it, I succeeded in doing that last step about half the time. I felt quite accomplished.
The wise beyond his years Jonathan Sullivan made an offhand comment on facebook the other day, and it stuck with me. I think he was talking about shooting practice, but it applies to many things: “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”
Yes, that. If you can do it slowly, and smoothly, then you can speed it up. Building the muscles up yields the muscle memory to do it without having to think every motion through after you’re practiced enough. Rushing leads to mistakes. Mistakes are bad. In the lab, or on the range, they can be fatal. Not with the thing I’ve been trying to master, but the principle is that if you’re going to do something, do it well. Don’t half-ass it and rush into it without making sure you’re getting it right.
Which is what leads to hurry up and wait. I was pushing this weekend to get the book finished. But I’m glad I didn’t just push the button last night – there are a few details that need to be sorted out, still. Putting out the best possible product sometimes means waiting until I have the time to do it right. I could just get it done, put it aside, and focus on the day job. Or I can wait until I am not feeling like a zombie, and do it the right way.
It’s frustrating. I don’t like waiting. I got to work today and was sitting there before going in (I can’t get in until the doors are unlocked, and I have a long-standing habit of being early, especially with a long commute), thinking about how much I wanted to go home, work on the book, and write. I’ve got story ideas boiling in my brain, and no time to write, or if I have time, like at lunch today, I’m drooling on myself and can’t string three coherent words together.
Perseverance. Endurance. Stick-to-itiveness. I keep telling myself this like a mantra. One day at a time, just lower your head to keep the rain out of your eyes, and take another step, and then another, and then…
Slowly, you’ll get faster. Faster, you’ll free up some energy and time. Free time can be used to achieve secondary goals. But first, wait. Go hard at the primary goal, and be patient for the other things.
It’s not easy for me. I’m used to charging into stuff and just doing it. Waiting is tedious beyond words. But hopefully this is building skill-muscles that will stand me in good stead for years to come. And somehow, I’ll dredge up the energy for the side goals.
This book is done, just needs a touch of polish. I’ll have it up by the weekend, maybe sooner.