Slow Work

The Slow Food movement started in 1986 as a counter to the McDonaldization of modern society. Slow Food is about returning to our roots: eating more mindfully; growing locally, seasonally, and slowly.

Slow Film

A few days ago The New Yorker declared that Slow TV is Here (thanks in no small part to GoPro and more accessible video tools):

"Slow TV runs not at the warp speed of narrative drama but at the rate of actual experience. It is not scripted or heavily edited; it is more concerned with movement than with tension, contrast, or character.

The iconic slow-TV program is 'Bergensbanen: minutt for minutt,' the real-time recording of a train journey, from Bergen to Oslo, in 2009. That show was nearly seven and a half hours long, and consisted mostly of footage from the train’s exterior as it moved. The landscape often changed. Even when it did, though, it did not change much."

A had a major aha moment earlier this year when I attended the movie release for Boyhood at Brooklyn’s BAM theater. The film was revolutionary in that it follows the same cast over twelve years; a scripted movie without the excessive drama, explosions and saccharine endings that most feature films employ. We watch as the main character ages from six years old to 18 when he graduates from high school.

The trailer provides a fantastic snapshot:


The director, Richard Linklater, did a talk-back afterward. One of the audience members asked, “How did you deal with the uncertainty of filming a scripted movie over 12 years? What if someone had died?”

His answer was that it was risky. There were no guarantees. But the project was worth the risk.

Linklater said he would deal with any bumps in the road if and when they came up, and the script was fluid enough to be adapted to what was actually happening in the actors' lives at the time.

Think about that for a moment longer. He set out to work on a 12-year project. It wasn't some flaw in his creative system that prevented him from launching in two years. He purposefully worked on this movie for over a decade.

Slow Work

How many of us aim to get things done faster, to do more with less? Launch! Minimum Viable Product! Ship! While these admonitions certainly come in handy when trying to slay the Resistance beast, they don’t always serve us.

I read a statistic once that 81% of Americans wants to write a book someday. How many writers wish they had the book written already? Published yesterday? Many people eschew the traditional publishing route because they say it takes too long, that it operates at a snail’s pace. So they self-publish instead.

I disagree. Traditional publishing is plenty fast for me.

As I prepare to write my second book, I’m reflecting on the fact that I could work on it every day for the rest of my life and never feel finished.

Every day I learn new things, I make new connections, and I find deeper corners to explore. It took me one year to write and revise the book proposal. It took me four years from when I wrote my last book to feel like I had deep, meaningful ideas worth sharing in this format again—ideas worth dedicating years of my life (and business) to.

Cal Newport often talks about Deep WorkWhat if we were to embrace the benefits of Slow Work too? What if we gave ourselves permission to take a longer, more winding road to innovation and creation?

Social media operates at breakneck speed, but our careers don’t have to.

The Long Game

For another dose of encouragement on why Slow Work matters, check out these fantastic videos on The Long Game, from From the overviews:

"Part One: All of history’s biggest achievers found success in exactly the same way, and it’s the complete opposite to how we think today. This video essay reveals the hidden secret to creativity through the life story of Leonardo da Vinci.

Part Two: There's a missing chapter in the story of success, which reveals the secret to doing meaningful work. But in the modern world, full of distraction, do we have what it takes to do great things?"

The Long Game Part 1: Why Leonardo DaVinci was no genius from Delve on Vimeo.

The Long Game Part 2: the missing chapter from Delve on Vimeo.