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.
You frequently hear that one common trait among successful entrepreneurs is "speed of implementation." Meaning how fast they can go from getting an idea... to getting something done in the real world.
Obviously, one reason taking action quickly is important is that it gets stuff done faster. It allows you to fail faster, learn faster, re-iterate and try something new faster. Most people who are not successful aren’t successful not because they don’t try hard enough, but because they haven’t tried enough things.
Aside from that though, I think another factor is what I just coined ‘Idea Velocity.’
We just came up with a new business idea a few days ago, and now the challenge is in getting something shipped as fast as we can.
There’s energy in the idea. That excitement... the fire that excitement that awakens within you when you can taste opportunity.