“God Spede” was once a common Old English blessing used by friends and travelers. It is out of fashion now, heard only in classic black-and-white films featuring musketeers, heroes of war, and kings and queens. If “God Spede” were still used today, it would mean “live as fast as you can,” “work as quickly as possible,” and “don’t stop till you get there.” But in Old English, “God Spede” did not mean “fast”; it meant to “prosper,” “be wise,” and enjoy “the highest success.” The word spede is from the Old English spedan, which means “success.”
Once when I was in London giving a talk on Success Intelligence, I hailed a taxi to take me from Trafalgar Square to Paddington Station. The interior of the taxi was decorated with inspirational sayings like “You must be the change you want to see in the world” (Gandhi), “Each day provides its own gifts” (Martial), and “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). There was also a “God Spede” sticker with a picture of an angel sitting in repose.
I told the driver how much I appreciated the words of wisdom in his taxi. “Thank you for noticing,” he said. We talked about the Manic Society and the need to slow down from time to time. He said, “Most people think this taxi is an ambulance. They act like everything is a life-or-death emergency. I should fix a siren on my roof.” My taxi driver told me he drives for ten hours a day in London and never logs more than 80 miles. “Everyone is in a hurry and the fastest we go is eight miles an hour. It’s bloody madness,” he said. As we said farewell, we wished each other “God Spede.”
The “paradox of fast” is that doing things fast isn’t always the quickest way to success. “Fast” has its advantages when used appropriately, but it is not the only strategy for success. Success Intelligence appreciates the importance of fast and slow, movement and stillness, pursuit and pause, action and rest. The wisdom of fast is knowing when and how to change gears, because living fast does not guarantee quicker happiness and working fast does not guarantee more quality. Success requires a strategic balance between fast and slow. Think about it:
- Are the best musicians those who can play their instruments fastest?
- Are the best actors the ones who can say their lines the quickest?
- Are the wisest people you know the fastest thinkers?
- Do the best golfers swing their clubs faster than the rest?
- Do the best athletes force the pace from the front for the entire race?
- Are the best leaders the ones who have had overnight success?
- Are the best companies the ones that grow the quickest?
- Do the best friendships develop fastest?
- Are the most successful people on the planet always in a hurry?
Success Intelligence is knowing when to go fast and when to take things slowly. The ability to go fast becomes counterproductive when you try to doeverything fast. The joy of slow teaches you to discern between busyness and wisdom, effort and grace, progress and truth. Slowing down can help you to stay true to your vision during the fast times. Slowing down can help you to sharpen your focus, adjust any blurring, and be more perceptive. In fact, going slow can help you to go fast better.
Robert Holden, Ph.D., is the Director of The Happiness Project and Success Intelligence. Robert coaches leaders in business, education, politics and healthcare.