August 19, 2023




Speed Matters

At a glance

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Today’s Fast Summary:

  • The rate at which you’re able to do a task—your speed—matters. Time is your greatest asset. Maximizing it through speed is crucial.

  • Those who complete their work fast are perceived as more successful and productive. Speed is habitual, and practicing it increases your efficiency.

  • Decisions become momentous. Making a choice—regardless of the outcome—primes you to continue making decisions.

  • Execution speed creates momentum. The more you do a task, the sooner you master it, and the sooner you can complete another.

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Speed Matters

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney

Recently, a friend of mine was searching for a new position. They’d interviewed with a few firms and received an invitation for a final interview at three.

Each of the positions was similar in salary and requirements, and all three interviews were to be held during the same week.

The last interview was held on Thursday, and they left feeling dejected. They called me afterward, saying, “There’s no way I’m getting that job.”

I encouraged them. Sure enough, they had a job offer in their email the next day. When the recruiter called, they were apprehensive and asked to think about it over the weekend.

Thirty minutes later, they received a call from the Vice President, urging them to take the position. When they asked for more time, the VP said, “We’ve gotta do this today—we need you now.”

My friend accepted the position. Two weeks later, the other two firms reached out with offers, but they were too late.

Today, they’re happier than I’ve ever seen them.

The rate at which you’re able to do a task—your speed—matters. Had my friend waited, they wouldn’t be as happy as they are today.

Time is your greatest asset. Therefore, maximizing it through speed is crucial.

The Benefits of Speed

“Lost time is never found again.”- Benjamin Franklin

How are small startups able to compete with large, longstanding firms? The answer is their speed.

Speed is a defining characteristic of every successful person, thing, or company:

  • Responsive leaders deliver speedy, impressive results.

  • Companies that act quickly define the market for a certain product.

  • Successful relationships are those in which both partners are quick to respond to dissonance.

We believe that speed is the antithesis of quality. This belief is rooted in perfectionism.

When we believe that something must be perfect, or that our idea must be entirely formed, we become stagnant and prone to inaction. We’re scared of failing, so we don’t do anything.

The truth is this: No one cares whether your report has in-text citations or not. Most people don’t mind small errors.

However, they do care if the report is late. Getting things done quickly leaves a more favorable impression than late, perfect results.

Studies show that those who complete their work fast are perceived as more successful and productive.

Speed thwarts procrastination. Consider activation energy: The faster you complete a task, the less activation energy is required to do it.

When activation energy is low, you’re more likely to complete the task without procrastinating. Lowering your activation energy tricks your mind into completing necessary, high-ROI tasks.

When activation energy is low, you engage in the task more often. It takes less time, so we perceive it as easier to complete.

Speed minimizes regret. You’ve likely heard Wayne Gretzky’s quote, “You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.” Speed allows you to promote and execute important plans.

Regret is more often experienced due to inaction or delay than it is action. You more fervently regret not doing something than doing it and failing.

In other words, regret occurs when the gap between thought and action becomes too wide.

Julie Gurner’s “Closing The Gap”

Julie Gurner, CEO coach, created the “Closing the Gap” framework.

The Closing the Gap idea refers to our dissonance between thought and action. Time—the gap—lapses between our idea and its execution. The amount of time lapsed becomes the size of the gap.

The gap’s size is also a result of our brain’s perception mechanism. Our brains don’t weigh the cost of inaction thoroughly, causing us to delay results.

When the gap is too wide, we simply think about the action and forget about it. Or, we explore it, then become distracted.

Gurner notes three modes of speed used to close the gap:

  • Speed of response

  • Speed of decision-making

  • Speed of execution

The Speed of Response

The speed of response refers to the amount of time it takes you to respond to stimuli. Speed is habitual, and practicing it increases your efficiency.

Responsiveness is a valued trait of successful people. Use the 5-minute rule to increase yours:

The 5-minute rule: If a task will take under 5 minutes, like an email, text, short call, etc, do it immediately.

This rule’s key feature is that these tasks should never go on your to-do list. Save it for long-term, meaningful actions.

The Speed of Decision-Making

Many people avoid decisions because of their fear of failure. However, when a decision is made is more crucial than which option is chosen. Fast decisions are more optimal than slow, carefully planned ones.

Decisions become momentous. Making a choice—regardless of the outcome—primes you to continue making decisions.

So why is decision-making so difficult? Perceived inadequacy.

We don’t make decisions because we believe we’re incapable. We believe we don’t have all of the information, so we lag, resulting in no resolution.

Decision-making isn’t a matter of having all the information; it’s about having enough information.

Gurner believes that decision-making occurs at the intersection of these three factors:

  1. Expertise

  2. Experience

  3. Confidence

Expertise refers to having solid comprehension of an idea, which boosts speed.

Experience refers to whether or not you’ve encountered the situation previously. Prior experience and knowledge of previous outcomes aid your ability to execute actionable results.

Confidence is the feeling of trust in oneself. You must trust yourself to make a good call.

Bezos’s Irreversible versus Reversible decisions framework is one you can use to hack lags in decision-making:

  1. Decide the decision’s reversibility.

  2. Analyze the stakes.

High-stakes, irreversible decisions are those such as college decisions or product releases. You can’t take these back. For these, move quickly while conducting research.

Realistically, few decisions are irreversible. Most choices can be undone in some manner.

Low-stakes, reversible decisions can be executed easily. Don’t dwell on your choice of toothbrush or whether to use a certain word in an email. Act on instinct.

My friend faced a high-stakes, reversible decision. Employment is an important choice but can be reversed relatively easily. For these, use your instincts and make a choice relatively quickly.

Use this quote from Dave Girouard, CEO of Upstart as a guide: “You know you’re going fast enough if there’s a low-level discomfort, people feeling stretched. But if you’re going too fast, you’ll see it on their faces, and that’s important to spot too.”

The Speed of Execution

Execution speed creates momentum. The more you do a task, the sooner you master it, and the sooner you can complete another.

Take running for example. The more often you run, the faster you become.

Doing a task repeatedly tricks your mind into thinking it’s simple. Over time, you’ll become not only fast, but you’ll master the task.

Once again, the issue is inaction and low confidence. We believe we’re incompetent to take action, so we do nothing.

Over time, we learn to justify inaction. We make excuses like, “I’m waiting for X, Y, and Z, to finish so I have all the information,” or, “I don’t think I can do this alone—let me consult my team.”

These are excuses. Waiting for an outcome or more information is ineffectual. Working in tandem with your team to complete a project is more effective.

It’s important to consult necessary individuals when executing a plan, but don’t fall into the consensus trap. Consensus with your team—or needing to be on the same page—is important but often wastes precious time.

Go to your team and superiors with a plan or idea in place, and ask for confirmation, not input. They’ll be impressed you created a plan.

Speed is created through:

  • Identifying and eliminating bottlenecks and inefficiencies

  • Optimizing tasks and outsourcing

  • Working in parallel with team members

  • Cutting unnecessary steps

Work smarter, not harder.

This week, we’ll practice closing the gap using a situation or decision you’re facing in your life. While employing this exercise, consider the traps (perfectionism, low-self confidence, etc) you find yourself engaging with. Identifying and dispelling these is critical to understanding how you can increase your speed.

  1. Close a gap. Consider something you’ve been trying to or thinking about taking action on. This might be a professional, personal, or achievement matter. Think about the idea or thing tangibly.

    a. Create a list of steps you’ll need to complete to close the gap on this action. Cut out those steps that merely complicate the action and cause bottlenecks in progress.

    b. Map out these actions/steps on your calendar or to-do list.

    c. Follow through with your plan.

  1. Make a speed habit in one of the three areas we discussed in the newsletter.

    a. Identify one of the speed areas you feel you could most improve on.

    b. In practice, try the frameworks and tools provided to improve your speed. The 5-minute rule is especially simple and remains an easy way to boost your speed at smaller tasks.

    c. Track your progress with a list or on your calendar.

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.” —General George Patto


I’d love to hear from you:

  • What did you learn about the value of speed?

  • Which limiting beliefs did you hold to be true prior to reading this newsletter?

  • Is there an action you’re delaying today?

Tweet at me (@_alexbrogan) or respond to this email — I’ll try to respond to everyone.

Have a wonderful Saturday, all.

Until next time,


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