Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast: 5 Lessons

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Do you rush around to get all you can get done and still end up feeling like you haven’t accomplished much? Maybe tasks are done, but only haphazardly, and it seems like large blocks of time were wasted.

Instead of satisfaction and relief, you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or frustrated. You’re forced to push back tomorrow’s schedule in order to complete yesterday’s tasks. This can translate to missing important appointments, work deadlines, or facing disciplinary action.

You’re not the only one who falls victim to the quick-paced living trend. It seems like many of us have gotten sucked into the culture of “rushing around like headless chickens.” From hurrying up work projects, to speeding to get to wherever, to rushing into relationships.

We may not even stop to factor in the risks and consequences. We’re just laser-focused on getting it done and over with. What’s the rush anyway when “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast?” 

This popular phrase originated from the Navy SEALs. I’m about to explain what it means and teach you 5 important life lessons we all can learn from it.

What Does Slow Is Smooth Smooth Is Fast Mean?

The beautiful yet nuanced phrase, Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast” originates from the Navy SEALs. The old saying dates back generations among sailors.

They practiced the “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast” approach to successfully accomplish missions. It is believed that they first used the principle after realizing their ship was at risk of sinking if they sailed too fast.

When you take your time (move slowly), things and tasks move along without hiccups (smoothly). Without setbacks, you end up finishing fast. In other words, slowing down leads to success faster!

The saying is similar to “Take your time in a hurry,” a powerful piece of advice given by famous American gunfighter, Wyatt Earp. Earp also said.

Napoleon’s version of the Navy’s old adage is “Dress me slowly, I am in a hurry.” Earp also said, “Fast is fine, but accuracy is final.” The question is should you take the risks of going fast?

Here are a few other interpretations:

  • “To get it right, you have to take your time, and the more precision you apply, the faster things go.” (MindByDesign)
  • “The key is to move slow enough to ensure that everything works smoothly — and that’s how you go fast.” (”
  • “When we slow things down and seek perfect effort, our body and mind absorb the concepts and techniques more completely. This ensures they are available for us in “smooth is fast” form when we need to act.” (

How to Apply “Slow Is Smooth Smooth Is Fast?”

The two-pronged phrase “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast” has been interpreted in different ways. The important thing is to recognize the subliminal meanings that teach some critical lessons. These lessons are applicable to different aspects of life.

The Workplace

Nationally renowned brand expert, Amanda Brinkman, says the mantra is “a reminder that the best way to move fast in a professional setting is to take your time, slow down, and do the job right.

Here’s a question? Was there a time when you were given a task to complete? It was a complex task, and one you usually don’t enjoy doing. The only thing on your mind was getting through it as quickly. Besides, it was a long day, and you were ready to clock out.

So you zoomed through the steps. You even relied on multi-tasking techniques to cut back on time. Essentially, you rushed the process. While multitasking has value, applying it to fast-track the process often leads to poor-quality output.

You then realized you skipped a few critical steps, which resulted in redoing the work to fix the error. Time was wasted.

You learned the hard way that going fast compromises accuracy and work quality.

Of course, digital resources, such as time-saving and productivity apps, are available to fast-track tasks more efficiently. However, digital productivity resources may still require human input.

For example, inputting accurate information necessary for a smooth workflow. Hurrying this part of the process may still lead to errors.

Also check out this video to learn 9 habits that will help you become more productive at work:

Romantic Relationships

If you ever rushed into a relationship and totally regretted it, then there’s a chance you’ve learned it’s best to go slow. Things ended just as quickly as they began.

People speed up relationships because of a lack of patience or fear of losing the person. When we’re impatient to go through the natural stages of relationships and are eager to commit, we hurt ourselves and others.

Cultivating a healthy long-term relationship takes time to understand your partner. It takes discussing expectations, planning, and setting realistic relationship goals. These preliminary steps provide a clearer sense of direction and up the chance of a long-lasting relationship.

What Happens When You Don’t Take Your Time?

I find that when I try to dress too quickly, it slows me down and I end up being late. Telling myself “To go fast, you have to go slow” has been my mantra ever since. I think I heard that line from watching the McGyver series as a kid. Sometimes going too fast makes you late or causes harm. So why rush?

People hurry things along for various reasons. Most times the issue is a lack of patience and eagerness for the end results. Rushing sometimes has to do with a dislike for the task at hand. They’d rather get things over and done with, so they can move on to more gratifying activities.

The chance of making mistakes increases by not stopping to be intentional, deliberate, and methodical. Choosing speed over slow compromises your output and the quality of work.

If it’s a relationship that you are fast-tracking, there’s a strong risk of failure. Healthy happy relationships take time and effort to build. Skipping the steps and jumping from barely dating to married is like courting divorce.

5 Lessons to Learn from Slow Is Smooth Smooth Is Fast

The famous Navy SEALs quote is like an affirmation intended to remind you that the quickest way to complete a task is by being methodical, careful, and deliberate. The message has underlying meanings that teach valuable lessons.

Here’s a look at 5 things you can learn that can benefit your personal and professional life.

Lesson #1: Rushing can be costly

Almost everything worthy of achieving has a process. Taking the slow approach gives you time to observe. You may pick up on important details that can potentially be a problem down the line if overlooked. Missing key details can lead to a loss of time or money, or jeopardize your career, safety, or well-being.

Even when there is a legitimate urgency for speed, slowing down can be the best decision. Even the ambulance driver reduces speed when the risks of getting the patient to the hospital quickly outweigh the benefits.

Lesson #2: Thinking before you act can lead to better outcomes

Acting or reacting too quickly before thinking can lead to poor judgment, poor decision-making, or missed opportunities. Pause, think, and then decide what is the best course of action. Being slow to act allows you to engage in critical thinking, and assess the risks and consequences involved.

You’re able to think ahead and plan accordingly based on the outcome you desire. Depending on the goal, you may need time to create a motivational vision board.

Before acting, there is time to check and cross-check. These critical steps allow you to anticipate roadblocks and formulate strategies to solve them. You also make better decisions, which ends up lowering the overall risk of error.

Lesson #3: Going slow can increase productivity

Being deliberate and intentional facilitates a smooth operation. This lends itself to increased productivity and higher work quality. Taking time to think before you proceed lets you focus more on the smartest way to set and achieve your goals.

Creativity also gets stimulated, as you think of the most effective ways to maximize output and solve challenges as they arise. New ideas you have not considered before might surface.

By taking your time to arrive at solutions, you may even get a chance to test those new ideas to determine if they are more effective for accomplishing tasks. As you master the skills of the job (become effective), you’ll naturally pick up the pace and increase efficiency over time.

Lesson #4. Slowing the pace can improve your quality of life

In addition to facilitating quality work, not rushing can improve your quality of life in three vital areas. Work, well-being, and relationships.

Practicing fast-paced habits in your personal and professional life often leads to stress and burnout. Staying focused and motivated can be challenging when you’re stressed or frustrated.

You’re better able to sustain a practical, reliable, and balanced work pace by slowing down. Efficiency and productivity levels go up as a result. You also save time and other valuable resources by not having to redo tasks that were done incorrectly.

That translates to more availability to relax and enjoy your hobbies, socialize, and spend time with loved ones. We tend to be more focused, creative, and successful when we feel good about ourselves, our work, and our relationships.

There’s really a domino effect here, as going slow to go fast leads to success in multiple areas of life. See it as a win-win!

Lesson #5: Patience is truly a virtue

Patience is one of life’s many virtues. “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast” is an apt reminder of this wonderful life lesson that has not lost its significance. Getting things done and goals achieved requires time.

Lacking the patience to go through the necessary stages or processes may lead to frustration, stress, and giving up. Rushing the process inevitably creates more room for errors.

Practicing patience provides an environment for you to envision what you want and cultivate the presence of mind to tackle the task. With enough time to carefully consider what needs to be done, you’re usually in a better mindset to commit wholeheartedly.

The sense of calmness that comes with being patient enables you to properly prioritize matters. Prioritizing filters out the mundane stuff, so you can focus on the important matters.

Your pathway to your goals becomes clearer. Having clarity empowers you to make the right decisions and motivates you to accomplish set goals.

Making Going Slow to Go Fast a Habit

Getting things done can become easier and more simplified if you practice slowing down the pace. Apply the mantra daily to manage work, family, or relationships. Eventually, it will become embedded in your brain. Actually, this is how habits are formed.

Before you know it, taking your time to do things will become a part of your nature. Watch how it transforms your experience at work and creates ongoing success in other areas of life.

Want to learn how to turn your goals into habits? Then watch this video:

Final Thoughts on Slow Is Smooth Smooth Is Fast

Certain circumstances require you to go slow to go fast. In those situations, moving too quickly prevents you from planning and problem-solving before you begin.

You’re likely to overlook steps, procedures, and systems vital for a smooth and successful outcome. With little to no strategy to mitigate the potential risks, projects can go up in smoke.

Applying the Navy SEALs’ old adage can make all the difference, saving time and resources by not having to do things over. There is time to pause, which prevents physical and emotional burnout. You’re less likely to abandon goals, plans, projects, and even relationships.

Going at a slow pace leaves windows of opportunities to take breaks. During the rest period, you can reassess to see if you’re on the right track and make necessary adjustments.

Above all, context matters. You’re closer to the situation. You understand the nuances and the risks. Therefore, the onus is on you to determine when to apply the slow is smooth smooth is fast principle. 

Ultimately, the end goal is to be accurate, efficient, and effective to avoid wasting time and effort. Learn the 7 Ways to Stop Wasting Time and Get Things Done.

And if you're looking for more resources on how to be productive, be sure to check out these blog posts:

Finally, if you want to level up your productivity and time management skills, then watch this free video about the 9 productivity habits you can build at work.

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