I'm listening to an autobiography of Octavian, the man who went on to become Augustus Caesar.
What's interesting from the book is that Augustus had more patience than his various rivals of the day in large scale affairs and reforms, but he moved with serious haste - celerity - when there was a situation that could be settled decisively.
Around six years ago, I started paying more attention to business and entrepreneurship and generally success and things like that. I remember coming across a lot of literature that encouraged doing things faster - especially in business. Shaving off the shipping time from 7 days to 4 days. Things like that.
Back then, I didn't understood why there was so much emphasis on speed. I thought, "Okay, obviously you wouldn't want to go too slow, but why go so fast? Why does it matter that much?"
And more recently, the answer has been clicking. It's not that getting your package 4 days from now instead of 7 makes such a big difference in all cases. Much of the time, it doesn't.
But when it matters, it really matters.
Let's say someone is building a new wooden fence, but he doesn't know about finishing fences. So he orders a book on it. If the book takes 3 more days to come, that's 3 more days before he can order whatever kind of sealant or paint or stain he's going to use on the fence.
If the stain he orders takes 3 more days to come, he's now six days behind where he could be on a faster schedule.
On top of that, if he's gotten busy or something else has come up in his life, he might not be able to finish the project right now... the six days could make the difference between it getting done now, or never.
Also, even if he stays motivated and nothing comes up, those six days burn some of his thought cycles. It imposes a cognitive cost on him.
Paul Graham wrote about this as well, in the excellent essay "The Top Idea in Your Mind." If the man is thinking about the fence, he's not thinking about something else. If the fence was built, he could be proud and celebrate for a moment, but then stop thinking about it, which frees his thought cycles to do other things, or just to relax more.
Celerity. Speed. Haste.
When you move faster, it speeds up the rest of the process. Sometimes this is the difference between success and failure. But even when it would have gotten done eventually anyways, going slower means some thoughts are never born that would have been. By moving faster, you can discharge action and get it behind you - either so you can relax with lower cognitive burden at the moment, or get on to the next thing.
Augustus realized this. He was patient until he could move decisively, but then he did - oftentimes, the circumstances that would have allowed for a war or a treaty were very temporary, and would have faded if he didn't move fast. So he moved fast, and he looked to conclude things thoroughly so he could move on afterwards.
Think about celerity. About speed. If you can speed up crucial areas of production, maybe you can get important things behind you earlier? It might take 50 hours either way, but if that 50 hours of production time is done in two weeks, then you're more free to relax or get to daydreaming about your next project after it's complete. Whereas for the man it takes two months, his thoughts are dominated by the unfinished project - he's less relaxed and less open to new things he could do.
Celerity. I'm making it a new mantra of mine.
August 11th, 2011. Chiba, Japan.
A mix of confusion and awe as I step off the platform.
I must have made a mistake. But maybe a good mistake.
Birds caw and cicadas click gently, filling the warm afternoon air with sounds of nature. The train platform is open to the air and on the other side of the tracks is a high fence. Beyond it, a bicycle and walking path leading to a park.
Children are running around and playing in the park, but surprisingly quietly. Very Japanese.
It's a dangerous night to be walking outside. Not for me, but for the tiny little frogs that dot the gravel road. I swish my overpowered Surefire flashlight across the dark gravel trying to avoid stepping on them. When I get close they freeze in their tracks, making them harder to see. This would be a good reflex if I was trying to eat them, but it's working against them tonight.
I'm walking down to the beach for old times' sake. It's 2am and I'm in Milton, Vermont. Calling it a beach is generous. Shale rocks densely scattered over green outcroppings of weeds lead up to murky water. There are a few docks and a few boats pulled up out of the water. They're not locked to anything - they're just sitting there.
I crouch, pick up one of the little green frogs, and watch him slowly climb around my wrist as I rotate it. I probably haven't touched a frog in ten years. Playing with frogs used to be my favorite thing to do when I was in Vermont. I liked to catch them in a bucket and then empty it into the nearby creek and watch them swim away. Sometimes we'd throw them in the air so that they'd land in the lake. That seems a bit inhumane now, but we didn't know better back then. We were kids. I lower my arm to the ground and nudge the frog off of my wrist.