Go Slow with Effort to Go Faster Effortlessly

September 28, 2023
September 28, 2023 Steve

Go Slow with Effort to Go Faster Effortlessly: A Paradigm for Sport and Business

In a world obsessed with speed and instant gratification, the idea of slowing down to achieve better results might seem counterintuitive. However, the adage “go slow to go fast” has been a cornerstone in various disciplines, from athletics to business. Another concept that complements this is “put in the effort so you can do things effortlessly.”

Merging these two ideas, we arrive at a compelling philosophy: “Go slow with effort, to go faster effortlessly.”

The Athletic Perspective: Technique Over Speed

In sports like running, cycling, and swimming, athletes often focus on speed as the ultimate goal. However, experts argue that to truly excel, one must first master technique. According to an article on Runner’s World, slowing down during training allows you to focus on form, which in turn helps you speed up in the long run.

This is where the concept of “going slow with effort” comes into play. Slowing down doesn’t mean slacking off; it means dedicating time and energy to perfect your technique. For instance, in swimming, the SwimGym Fast Lane blog suggests that focusing on the minutiae of your stroke can make a world of difference in your performance. The effort you put into mastering these techniques will eventually allow you to swim faster, almost effortlessly!

A Personal Case Study: Open Water Swimming

As someone deeply involved in open water swimming, I can personally attest to the power of the “go slow with effort to go faster effortlessly” philosophy. My journey in swimming has been a testament to the importance of technique and deliberate practice. I’ve spent countless hours in the pool and open water, focusing on the nuances of my stroke, my breathing, and my body positioning. This wasn’t about leisurely swimming; it was about conscious, focused effort aimed at mastering technique, mainly thanks to one of my coaches, Julian Harding of Aquahub in Malta.

The payoff from this type of training is incredible. In 2019, I completed the Round Gozo swim with four other swimmers, including our World Record holder and open water swimmer, Neil Agius. The swim was a gruelling 36km open water event in aid of reducing plastic consumption and waste with Wave of Change Malta. I continue to participate in marathon and ultra-marathon swims, like the 17km OceanFestival event organised by Neil Agius in Malta last July. These feats were not just about endurance; they were about the ability to maintain a good pace over an extended period. Without the slow, deliberate technique work I had put in, there’s no way I could have maintained speed over such distances.

Drone shot of the round Gozo swimmers in 2019. Photo by Kurt Arrigo.

It’s a principle that has not only shaped my athletic pursuits but also influenced how I approach projects in business and life.

The Devil’s in the Details: Technique in Swimming and Business Transformation

In swimming, the devil is truly in the details. Every aspect of your technique, from head position to hand entry into the water, to arm alignment during the pull phase, to the way you roll and breathe, matters immensely. It’s not just about moving your arms and legs; it’s about the intricate coordination of your entire body.

This level of detail is strikingly similar to what’s required for transforming companies for growth. Whether you’re launching a new department, restructuring teams, or redesigning products and platforms, the amount of change needed for lasting transformation is immense. And just like in swimming, it takes time and commitment. I’ve experienced this philosophy first-hand in both swimming and business. 

I spent six frustrating and challenging months transitioning my swimming stroke from a sprinter’s (water polo) style to a long-distance, ultra-marathon stroke with Julian Harding and applying this consistently in every swim, be it during training or races. The payoff was not just the ability to swim long distances “effortlessly” — and by “effortlessly,” I mean the culmination of intense effort that makes the task appear easy to outsiders — but also an improvement in my sprinting speed.

In business, the word “slow” is often taboo, but it shouldn’t be. The concept of “going slow with effort to go faster effortlessly” is not about dragging your feet; it’s about being intentional and strategic. Before you can speed up, you need a well-thought-out strategy. This involves taking the time to consult with colleagues across all levels and departments. Understand the interconnectedness of the changes you’re making. Just as altering your arm’s entry position in swimming can change your body alignment and prevent injuries, so too can a well-thought-out change in one business area have a ripple effect across the entire organisation.

In the same way that an athlete invests time in mastering technique, businesses should invest in team learning and development. This doesn’t mean just a one-off training session but a continuous effort to upskill your team. The more skilled they are, the more effortlessly they can perform their tasks, leading to faster and more efficient outcomes.

In swimming, every part of the body must work in harmony for optimal performance. Similarly, in business, departments must work together seamlessly. This requires transparent communication and collaboration. It might take time to set up these cross-departmental channels, but the payoff is a more agile and responsive organisation. Transparency fosters trust, and trust speeds up decision-making. By being transparent about strategies, challenges, and even failures, you create an environment where everyone is aligned and focused. This is the organisational equivalent of a swimmer who has mastered their technique so well that they can glide through the water effortlessly.

It’s about laying a strong foundation, investing in your team, and setting up efficient channels of communication and collaboration. Once these elements are in place, you’ll find that your business can operate faster, more efficiently, and, yes, more effortlessly.

“This philosophy is a much-needed antidote to the hustle culture that glorifies speed at the expense of quality and well-being. It serves as a reminder that true excellence is a marathon, not a sprint.”

In Conclusion

The philosophy of “go slow with effort to go faster effortlessly” serves as a powerful paradigm for achieving excellence in both sport and business. It encourages a focus on technique and foundation-building, advocating for the kind of effort that leads to effortless execution. By embracing this approach, athletes can improve their performance, and businesses can scale more sustainably. So the next time you find yourself rushing towards a goal, remember: sometimes, slowing down is the fastest way to get there.


External links & further reading

https://stevengrech.com/round-gozo-swim-endurance-mindset/

https://waveofchangemalta.com/

https://aquahubmalta.com/

https://reganbach.medium.com/go-slow-to-go-fast-8c3055e723ed

https://suebehaviouraldesign.com/kahneman-fast-slow-thinking/

https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/training/a776622/how-slowing-down-can-help-you-speed-up/

https://swimgym.com/fast-lane/tortoise-vs-hare

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Let me know how I can help your business grow. Contact me via email and I’ll get back to you within one hour.

Outside of work I’m a proud dad of two boys and an avid open water swimmer. My biggest open water swimming challenge so far was swimming ~37km non-stop around the beautiful Island of Gozo in Malta at the end of June 2019. Read more about it here

Steven Grech’s CV is also available at visualcv.com

© 2023 STEVEN GRECH
PROFILE SHOTS AND FOOTER IMAGE BY THE AMAZING & TALENTED HUMAN KURT ARRIGO

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