Slow is Confident

“Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”

Here is what happened. Kate was working Saturday, so the boys and I decided to head out for a drive through the mountains in North Carolina. We made the drive up Highway 276 and stopped in the mountain town of Brevard for a walk around. Then lunch at our favorite hot dog stand at the entrance of the Pisgah National Forest. Micah was behind the wheel as we headed north on the narrow and winding road through the park.

It was a typical busy Saturday in the National Forest, plenty of cars, motorcycles, campers, fellow sight seers and even bicycles on the 50MPH road. One more thing. No shoulder. My friend Ron, an avid long-distance biker knows all about sharing the road with cars. My son Micah got his first experience at sharing the road with bicycles. No one was hurt, but it was a great “learning experience”.

I had just mentioned to Micah that he needed to slow down as he was approaching a slowing line of cars. In a few seconds we realized the slowing was for a mountain bike in our lane. Each driver had to time their passing of the bike just right to avoid the stream of oncoming traffic. When Micah’s turn came, he followed the example of the vehicle in front of him and sped up instead of slowing down.

Unfortunately, this was timed at the same moment of an oncoming car – a sheriff’s car. The officer’s alertness averted a collision but just around the bicycle traffic was at a complete halt. No sooner had Micah stopped, that the same officer was now behind us with his lights flashing. After a well-deserved verbal reprimand (no ticket!), we were back on our way.

However, the drama was not finished. Back on the road, Micah began drifting slightly off the road each time an oncoming car approach. Here is where the learning comes in and I bet you think it was learning for Micah. Well, it was a bit, and trust me when I tell you that Micah was a quick study. But the lesson was for me mostly and perhaps you can relate.

Slow is confident.

I would love to tell you that I displayed extreme emotional control throughout this experience and that I handled the whole thing like a champ. I did NOT. I let some phrases fly that would make a sailor blush and it wasn’t helping anyone. You really don’t want me to repeat what came out. Not the kind of talk that makes a mother proud.

Once I calmed down. I helped Micah understand that no matter what the speed limit said, even under the speed limit, he was driving too fast to remain confident and inspire confidence in his passengers. He got it and responded well, but the person that really needed to slow down was me. Micah’s driving was not the thing that took me to the panic zone. That was my own decision. I had a choice to slow my mind down. Tires coming off the road when there is no respectable shoulder is dangerous, but I chose to go to DEFCON 4 emotionally. I let my emotions speed up and handed off my confidence to fear.
Does that ever happen to you too? Come on! Admit it.

All of this was a great reminder of the unwavering process of learning. Taking on new skills, including higher degrees of emotional intelligence, goes from our conscious mind first and then to our subconscious mind. Micah will soon handle busy mountain roads like a pro. He just needs a few trips of extra slow driving to allow time for the skills and situational awareness to make its way into his subconscious mind.

We see this in the dojo all the time. The techniques we are learning are design to cause pain and even injury. By executing them slowly many, many times we maintain control and each person remains confident that we are in a safe space for learning and skill development. From time to time we/I try to go too fast and the execution gets sloppy.


Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Slow is confident and eventually fast becomes confident too.


As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it this way,


“That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do. Not that the nature of the thing has changed, but that our ability to do has increased.”


Does this make you think of any area of your life in which you need to slow down and regain your confidence? I would love to hear about it.


Rick Burris


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