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What’s the right tempo for you?

Dancing to the beat of my own drum in Costa Rica.

Tempo: Everything a little too Allegrissimo?

I’ve got two books about pace that I love and keep on my shelves.

One’s fiction: The Discovery of Slowness. It tells a version of Sir John Franklin’s life (you’ll find his ghost both here, here and here).

The other, Carl Honoré’s In Praise of Slow, is the non-fiction book that was a seed for a world-wide movement of taking things in a measured, presence-filled way. 

I heard Honoré on the radio the other day, and he said that one of the ways he manages himself is to ask as he enters a situation, “what’s the right tempo?”

The magic of that question is that it doesn’t presume that slow is always good or that speed is essential. It asks you to understand the moment, and adjust to it..

I realize that moments of frustration happen when my tempo doesn’t match the situation at hand. Let me give you an example or two.

Often, the best pace for me to make decisions is fast. Almost none of my decisions are irrecoverable. I can get it wrong, and walk it back. But instead, I’ll tend to linger, “chew the cud,” become a bottleneck, move into denial, and end up irritating myself and others.

Often, the best pace at which to create for me is slow. It’s like kneading dough … there’s no real shortcut, it just takes time for everything to come together. I rush it, and what I create is brittle. I need to keep reminding myself of this Bob Dylan guidance:

“Boy, I hurried… I hurried for a long time. I’m sorry I did. All the time you’re hurrying, you’re not really as aware as you should be. You’re trying to make things happen instead of just letting it happen.”

(HT Madeleine Dore for the Dylan quote – she’s got a great newsletter, and here’s our most excellent podcast chat.)

There’s no right or wrong tempo. It’s just what’s best for you in the moment.

“What’s the right tempo?”

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Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier

I'm the author of five books that have collectively sold more than a million copies. I'm the founder of Box of Crayons, a learning and development company that helps organizations move from advice-driven to curiosity-led. I'm the host of the *2 Pages with MBS* podcast.