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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

The Missing Benefit of Slowth

WTF is Slowth?

I thought I had invented a new word until Google revealed the ever-trustworthy Urban Dictionary already beat me to the punch.

Seriously though, I'm going to use slowth as a portmanteau for slow growth as I try to communicate an idea here.<...>

In the last year, I read two books ("Shoe Dog" by Phil Knight and "Let My People Go Surfing" by Yvon Chouinard) that sparked this idea of slowth. The respective books are about companies that were respectively founded in 1964 and 1973, making them very old relative to the startups companies with whom we interact these days.

What was striking in reading the accounts and perspective of the founders of their respective journeys at Nike and Patagonia, was just how slow things sometimes moved. Everything was slower back in those days, so they had time and space to truly make mistakes, reflect, learn from those mistakes and figure out the next steps. Even if they were impatient or short-term in their thinking or actions, they were not going anywhere slowly.

When I read that, it almost has a zooming-out effect for me, where a bigger, holistic and more wholesome picture becomes apparent. I get a sense of calm, reality and inevitably. (I wrote more about this here.)

This is a significant contrast to the way that I have mostly lived my life and built my business(es) in the last ten years, where speed and faster growth have been important considerations.

I can't help to think that we're missing out on having that benefit of being able to move slower; being more mindful, deliberate and purposeful about the things that we are doing.

Instead, we're firmly entrenched in a culture of more and instant gratification. While, in business, we have this hyper-vigilance about what our competitors are doing and how we need to beat them to market on everything. Similarly, we build businesses to sell; not to last for decades. The latter notion isn't surprising either because as consumers we are buying more and more cheap shit (most of which we probably don't need), because I can get it to my doorstep within 24 hours on Prime. The things we buy don't have to last anymore; we can just buy the new version next month. All of which puts us in a vicious cycle. I digress.

Even though I have only known a speed-driven society as an adult (being involved with technology businesses has not helped either), I have a certain nostalgia for slower times. I imagine it as being the best of both worlds: experiencing slowth within my business and enjoying being truly present in the rest of my life. Maybe even learning to paint.

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