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The 2 Keys to Long-Term Productivity


My wife was sitting on our family room floor, staring at a dozen old photos she’d spread out in front of her. 

Normally, I would have enjoyed the image. 

But not that day. 

We had 18 hours before the movers arrived with at least 36 hours of work in front of us. 

“We’re never going to get packed in time!” I snapped. “Throw that crap in a box!”

Rather than fight back, after my wife was done with her leisurely stroll down memory lane, she looked me dead in the eye and proceeded to move in exaggerated slow motion while packing up the photos. 

Four months have passed since that moment. 

We made it to our new apartment. 

IKEA boxes galore. 

And while I spent Christmas with a jacked-up back and a bag of frozen peas on my right knee, my wife spent her days giggling in our kid’s new bedroom moving slowly but methodically through the last of the boxes.

“Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”

I’ve come across this old adage a few times recently.

The first came in the context of working under pressure in the military in my friend Benjamin Sledge’s gripping new book — “Where Cowards Go to Die.” The second came when listening to Legacy of Speed: Relax and Win, Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast about how legendary running coach Bud Winters bucked conventional wisdom and created a swarm of record-breaking runners by having them focus on chilling out.

Between being reminded the military and world-class athletes achieve speed by fighting to keep their baseline relaxed — and seeing my wife wake up without groaning while getting way more work done than me — maybe this time the lesson will stick. 

Plus, when I think about the times I’ve moved fast in my life, it’s this very idea that got results. 

When I began writing, I made a commitment to write one 900-word article a week. I didn’t care that online growth was claimed to be a numbers game. And I certainly didn’t care what other writers were doing or how quickly they were growing. 

So instead of publishing an article a day or whatever the advice is to make a buck today, I owned my pace and walked my own race.

As a result, over the last five years, I’ve created a portfolio I’m proud of, averaged 20,000+ views per article published, have been able to provide for my family from my words alone, and some people even call me prolific — despite moving at a snail’s pace compared to many other writers.

“What’s my ideal rhythm?” 

“How do I best operate?” 

“What’s the next right small step I can take today so I can take another solid step tomorrow?” 

It’s ridiculous I forgot to ask myself these questions in my race to pack up my apartment to live a quiet life by the sea. 

A strong case could be made that it’s even ironic. 

These questions may not sound exciting. 

You may even think they sound simple. 

But from what I’ve gathered, asking yourself the simple, yet right questions every day is the key to getting exactly where you want to go without busting your back.

My wife is smarter than me.

It’s the main reason I married her. Just like nature, she doesn’t always rush, but she gets everything that needs to get done, done.

On top of this, of equal or arguably more importance, she has a helluva lot more fun.

Instead of saying the past month has been painful and trying to get through it as fast as possible, she’d say they’ve been memorable. 

She looked through hundreds of our kid’s drawings. She paused when packing up their birthday crowns to relive the moment. And she took breaks even when she didn’t physically need one to relax and laugh. 

In the process, even though she’d never say it, her slow movements whooped my fast-ass.

Just because the world is moving at warp speed, doesn’t mean you have to also. 

I need to remind myself of this. 

One photo at a time.
One drawing at a time.
One slowly filled box at a time. 

Slow work is still work and slow hustlers are still hustlers.

My wife serves as a solid example that knowing yourself — and enjoying yourself — truly are the keys to speed.

Thanks for reading and best to you and yours,
 — Michael