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The Power of Going Slow When All You’re Hearing Is “Accelerate”
The development of what should matter most to us—relationships we want to last a lifetime—cannot be rushed.
We may be living in the most disorienting time in human history.
A startup that is hot one moment may feel irrelevant the next.
A fashion trend that is taking the world by storm can collapse in an instant.
A celebrity at the height of their career today can seem like a has-been tomorrow.
A technology that is considered cutting-edge and innovative today can feel outdated and obsolete in a matter of months.
A political movement that seems ubiquitous one year can lose steam and fade into obscurity the next.
A viral video viewed by millions can be forgotten in a matter of days, replaced by the next big thing.
In today's ultra-fast-paced world, everything can change in the blink of an eye, and what was once considered trendy and relevant can quickly become a thing of the past.
It’s so unsettling.
Especially when everyone seems to be telling us to speed up or get left behind in the AI-generated dust.
What do we do if we feel perpetually unsettled?
I’m not sure.
But I think one thing we should do is reevaluate our philosophies about where we spend our time and attention.
The things that the most charismatic, social media-savvy communicators tell us to focus on are not necessarily the most urgent or important things for us to focus on if we care about our long-term well-being.
In fact, the constant attentional paper cuts that are people telling us to hop on the latest new trends are keeping us from devoting more time to that which is timelessly valuable.
What falls into the category of timelessly valuable to focus on?
I cover a number of these activities here:
And of all these activities I list, tied for first is “forge trusted circles.”
What could be more timelessly useful than focusing on deeply trusting relationships?
Groups of mutual love and aid.
In a time dominated by false urgency and ephemerality, there's so much wisdom in doubling down on what's most human and real.
And importantly… going slow when doing so.
Go slow?? At a time when the rate of CHANGE of technological change itself is going EXPONENTIAL?
The Beauty & Utility of Going Slow With New People You Meet
There’s both a timeless beauty and growing utility to going slow when it comes to our relationships.
Regarding the timeless beauty, has there ever been a time when people felt comfortable being rushed into friendship, partnership, or romance?
“I will be your boyfriend, but only if you claim in the next 24 hours!” has never been the start of a romance worth calling home about.
But why is there growing utility?
At a time when AI is dropping the cost of forging surface-level identity to zero, it’s never been more important to take your time when forming relationships.
You yourself may want to rush relationships. For example, you may have an AMAZING community-related product that you believe will add value to any community, and you are rushing to schedule demos with potential adopters (because you think it will be good for these communities to adopt right away).
But let me tell you, nine times out of ten, this approach of RUSHING relationships will backfire.
Because again, it's just uncomfortable to be rushed into anything—especially if the person being proposed to is not in a needy state of mind and being. But also because the wisest and most discerning people today realize that it takes time for any hype product or trend person to reveal whether they are legit or not.
I was recently tricked by a person I thought was someone who just wanted to partner with me on something.
They had a real-looking profile picture. They spoke like a real person. They even had a LinkedIn.
But I got fooled. Even though I contribute to an organization, Gitcoin, which literally builds a bot detection product called Gitcoin Passport.
I think productivity-oriented people like me really need the advice to go slow when building relationships, because we can be easily seduced by an offer that requires little effort but promises a high return.
On the other end of the spectrum, those who are the least needy and don't feel rushed into anything may find it easy to avoid being duped by increasingly sophisticated fake accounts.
It's easy to explain why it makes sense not to rush your most important relationships.
The most important relationships are the ones you want to keep warm for years, if not decades.
Why risk ruining a relationship by trying to speed up the trust-building process by a few weeks or months when the biggest fruits of the relationship will be years down the road?
Yes, in theory you could build a relationship quickly. Trust could be built in days, if not hours.
BUT—treat these cases as the exception, not the rule. If you find yourself flowing with someone almost instantly, let yourself enjoy the moment. But also check in with yourself to make sure you're being wise about who you're getting close to quickly, especially if you're a public figure.
And I'm not saying "public figure" means you're a celebrity. I'm saying that if you have a lot of information about yourself online that reveals what you like and don't like, etc., you give people who want to manipulate you more "training data" to work with.
The more public you are, the easier it is to manipulate you. This is probably part of the reason why people who spend so much of their lives in the public eye develop trust issues.
Who Would Really Benefit From Going Slow With Their Relationship Building
Anyone can really benefit from going slow with their relationship building.
But especially community builders.
This may sound counterintuitive, especially because of the somewhat awful default metrics that CEOs assign to their community leaders, such as
Number of people on your Discord
Number of messages sent
Number of documents or governance proposals written
Yes, these metrics are better defaults than having no metrics at all. But that's not saying much.
The ultimate metrics you should care about when building a community relate to the holistic well-being of your community members.
If you only have 12 people in your community, and they're getting tons of value from being part of the community, there's a case to be made that your community is more valuable than a "community" of 1,200 where each member is barely affected by the community.
If your community members get a lot out of the community but don't send a lot of messages in Discord/Telegram/etc, you should still be very happy. Messaging just for the sake of messaging is just noise.
Finally, if there aren't too many governance proposals being written, that doesn't mean the community is "dead. It's possible that members are coordinating without governance proposals, and are perfectly happy with the community.
Don't compromise the DEPTH of impact your community can have for SHALLOW SCALE—unless your entire goal is just to make money and run.
Relationships take time. A culture that helps a community sustain for years takes months (at least) to form. And the most creative people cannot be rushed.
The logic of "numbers go up" capitalism will prevent a community from developing a magical quality that is hard to describe but every community member feels.
A good metaphor for building a community is not construction but rather gardening.
Plants, no matter how fast you want them to grow, will grow at the pace they are naturally designed to grow.
You can try to feed them all the plant nutrients in the world, but at some point the water and fertilizer will overload the plants and cause them to die.
The way to not overwater community members is to not try to rush their increased engagement.
There’s things you can do to increase their commitment, but rushing them is not a productive one.
The best community builders invite members to grow their commitment at time that makes sense for both the community and member.
Timing is key.
Patience is key.
Creating a liberating environment is key.
Conclusion: Embrace Going Slow As The Superpower It Is
Living in this age of rapid change and information overload can be disorienting and unsettling.
As we navigate through the constant influx of new trends, technologies, and ideas, it becomes increasingly important to focus on the timelessly valuable aspects of life, such as forming deep, trusting relationships.
While it may seem counterintuitive to go slow in a fast-paced world, taking our time when building relationships is crucial for both our long-term well-being and our ability to avoid deception.
As the line between the digital and the real blurs, it becomes even more important to hold on to our human connections and prioritize genuine bonds over superficial interactions.
By reevaluating our philosophies and focusing on what truly matters, we can find stability and authenticity in a world that often feels like it's spinning out of control.
Embracing the timeless beauty of meaningful relationships and going slow in our approach to forming these connections will not only help us thrive in a world of constant change but also provide us with the emotional grounding we need to face the future with resilience and wisdom.
I wish you the best as you nurture the relationships that matter most to you—not overloading your relationships with water, sunlight, and nutrients, but just as much as they need to grow.
Special thanks to Clifford Usher, Vanessa Calas, and Monica Rojas for inspiring this piece. I’ve had some good conversations with each of them lately about the power of going slow—and how, interestingly, intentional slowness has become somewhat punk.
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