[Life Back West] July 2009 – The Road Trip

Top of Mt. Hood, Oregon

Image by Tony the Misfit via Flickr

Life today seems to move ever so quickly. Though it’s likely an observation shared by people throughout the centuries, our Twitter / 24 by 7 news cycle lives seem to almost eliminate the time to pause, to think, and to talk deeply. It seems true for people, and it seems true for organizations.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Earlier this month I had a chance to catch a reunion of college friends from the small liberal arts college (“the first university in the West”) from which I received my undergraduate degree. A chance, it would seem to reconnect, to spend time with people who informed my critical development as I moved from teenager to adult.

The usual way to attend would be to do what many of us do: fly in, attend, and fly out – squeezing several transactions in the smallest time possible so that we can move on and squeeze another series of transactions in the shortest possible time. Rather than doing less and doing it “better”, we all try to do more assuming that doing more will be doing it better.

It’s not.

One of the many things that being a parent has taught me is that if you don’t hang (out) in unmeasured time with people – including yourself – you miss out on the little and big things that happen in an unscheduled fashion. To crib a line from a quality expert I knew from the ‘90’s, to go fast you first go slow. How? In slowing down your sense of what is important is sharpened, and your ability to not just cut to the chase, but understand the chase is heightened.

So how do you slow down?

As author Ram Dass might suggest, you start by staying in the present: the “be here now” mantra espoused by nontraditional resources .

You also take time for reflection, with yourself and with others. Like reflective listening , the act of being with, and being present helps you to hear, and experience more.

This slowing down time is possible but you may have to work at it. Sometimes you can catch it in a small dose, and sometimes you’re lucky to have several days at a time.

In my case, I was fortunate to have the latter. Best friend from college in tow from his flight from Los Angeles, we drove two days up from San Francisco to Portland, and two days back. For someone I’ve known for over 30 years it was a chance to catch up, and more importantly, simply be with. Not so surprisingly, the quality of the reunion with many friends in Portland was better as well. Instead of rush-rush, it was sit back and catch-up

Sometimes the tortoise, rather than the hare, wins the race. Not by speed, but by perspective.

Slowing down for ten minutes – or ten hours – or – lucky you – ten days gives you the chance to uncover and discover what’s really important.


Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, new role, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.