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If You Want To Be A True Leader It’s Time You Slowed Down

Go slow if you really want to invest in yourself and your ideas

Laurence McCahill
Nov 15, 2017 · 5 min read

We’re obsessed with speed.

Whether in business or in our personal lives we’re in a race to get things done. And we’re all guilty of it to some extent:

‘My daughter has got her MBA — and she’s only 23!’

‘They went from 0 to $2 billion in less than 18 months!’

’14 months old and she’s already said her first 3-syllable word!’

All of these might make those in question feel good, but can make others feel, well, a bit shit. A bit like those ‘round robin’ Christmas letters that some people send each year, giving a rose-tinted view of their ‘perfect’ lives.

Pass me the bucket.

Catching breath

How much you’ve accomplished, and how fast you’ve done it, has become a measure of how successful you are. But why the rush?

Going fast might be impressive, but it can often leave us feeling a little hollow. After all, what’s the point? And, more crucially, at what cost?

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Taking a dip at our annual Summercamp in 2016. Great ideas don’t happen in the boardroom.

Slowness in business

It seems going slow has gone out of fashion. Particularly in business.

Companies that have been around for decades used to be revered. Not any more. The poster-boy startups are those with $1 billion valuations and dubious practices, not those with generations of customers that love them.

But we’re on a mission to change all this. We want to bring the craft and love back to business. And in the process, stop founders from burning out. Here’s why…

At The Happy Startup School slowness is built into the way we teach.

Whilst our Home School course takes place over 4 weeks, many people take months to complete it. And in fact lots go back and revisit lessons even after they’ve started their business.

Our Summercamp has been called a startup decelerator.

And people tell us that our retreats Ashram and Alptitude are ‘beyond words’. All because of the value of the space – and pace – we create.

“I had no idea how much I needed Alptitude — a break from constantly trying to figure it all out, and a moment just to play, breathe and connect.” Track Gushiken, USA

Why, Why, Why?

Part of the reason people take a while to get clear on their ideas is because we tend to ask questions that make people stop and think, rather than speed up.

We believe it’s best to ask the difficult questions at the beginning, when you’re pinning down the DNA of your company.

Questions like:

  • Why are we actually doing this?
  • What will we never do?
  • What values will guide the decisions we make?
  • How will we get people to love us?
  • What will people miss about our company when it’s gone?

Taking a slow approach to bringing a vision to life has many benefits – it conserves energy, boosts your wellbeing, it allows space for your ideas to evolve and it gives you the best chance of making it sustainable over the long run.

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Me and Carlos taking a pause at our first Ashram in Auroville, India, 2016

Practising what we preach

We’ve taken the slow road ourselves. It’s taken us 5 years to find our feet as a business. For 2.5 years we ran The Happy Startup School as a side project in tandem with our digital agency, before shutting the agency down in 2015 to give our all to our now growing community and gatherings.

When we’re in a rush, things go wrong; but when we give ourselves time, amazing things start to happen. The vision, and our belief, just grows.

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Serendipity in action at Alptitude 2015. Kumaran (centre) invited us to India after we met.


There aren’t many businesses that place serendipity at the heart of their plans, but we do. We’ve found that when we follow our nose and focus on the work, stuff gets done.

And the reverse is true. When we try and bring in money, we fail. But when we take time to make something amazing, the money flows.

It’s not just about having the time to explore the things that crop up along the way. In his DO Lecture ‘Doing Things the Long, Hard, Stupid Way’ the designer Frank Chimero refers to the power of the space around the work:

“The ‘ambient space’ comes from being open about the process, and letting the process be messy (and slow). When you create something out in the open and you make your mistakes in the open as well, you add to other people’s experience. If they are doing it too, they add to yours.”

And we can vouch for this too.

We’ve worked out what it is we’re creating with our community. We haven’t locked ourselves away in a dark room perfecting our vision and pitch, we’ve made it quite clear we don’t know what we’re doing – but that’s ok.

If any entrepreneur is telling you any different, they’re just good at hiding it.

Frank Chimero also makes the point that in the past, the slower and more painstakingly something was made, the more inherent value that thing had. A hand-woven tapestry is considered, quite reasonably, to be worth more than a mass produced bedroom rug, even though they do the same job to similar effect. A family heirloom is precious because it has moved from person to person, and down through time.

So if you want to have your ideas become heirlooms, treasured by future generations, you’re going to have to take your time over them. Serious time.

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Creating space for slowness

Our events are our gift to the world, in Frank’s words. An attempt to bring people together to take a much needed pause, not just because they need it on a personal level, but because it will help them make their biggest contribution to the world.

So if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed or in a rush, take inspiration from The Lazy Guru:

“The concept of this book didn’t come from an idea or a business plan but from an insight that arrived on its own: that no matter how hard we may strive, the best way to solve our problems is to stop, relax and make space for something to appear on its own.”

Stop, tune in, let go

Come to one of our events and see what the fuss is all about. Your future self will thank you for it. Just leave your to do list behind, as when you come back you’ll scrap most of that list.

The Happy Entrepreneur

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Laurence McCahill

Written by

Co-founder The Happy Startup School. Building a global community of heart-shaped entrepreneurs and leaders, one event at a time.

The Happy Entrepreneur

For the new breed of entrepreneur that believes there’s more to business than making money

Laurence McCahill

Written by

Co-founder The Happy Startup School. Building a global community of heart-shaped entrepreneurs and leaders, one event at a time.

The Happy Entrepreneur

For the new breed of entrepreneur that believes there’s more to business than making money

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