Outpacing the Kardashians

Cal Fussman tells a story about how and when he lost touch with technology. It was in the 1990s, he was setting up an email account, and things just weren’t working, so he called customer support. Over and over again they walked him through the steps, “your name, @ your company’s name, .com” Over and over again he tried, and still, no success, only failure. WTF. Finally, he figured out his mistake. As embarrassed as it was to admit, he had been typing out “dot com” the entire time, instead of “.com”

What followed (in his life) was a gap between him and using technology. It had made him feel dumb, and since nobody likes to feel dumb, he just started avoiding it. Paraphrasing his words, “the guy who was once the fastest at typing in his journalism class had been reduced to one-finger texting on his phone,” and it was all because of writing “dot” instead of using a period.

If speed is how fast we are going, and velocity includes the direction and distance that we are covering, Cal’s life kept moving (he had speed, he was really busy), but the velocity of technology was getting farther and farther away from him. He stopped keeping pace.

Understanding just speed and velocity isn’t enough. We also need to be aware of this concept of pace.

We can look at our own pace. We can measure ourselves against our own checkpoints and milestones. We can also look at our pace compared to others. We can choose to keep up with (or not keep up with) the Kardashians (or the Jones’). When it comes to others, we introduce competitive and non-competitive measurements too.  Sometimes we care if we are “winning,” while other times we are just helping our group along.

People, projects, events, etc. – they all have their own speeds, velocities, and paces. Ask: Are we in lockstep? Are you leading? Are you lagging? Am I? Are you going with the flow or fighting upstream? What about us collectively? These all become significant factors to be aware of.

If we want to make a difference, if we want our work to matter, then pace becomes a central focal point, alongside speed and velocity. When we approach a person or a project, some of our first questions should be to understand where they are, how they got here, where they are going, and what speed and direction they’re currently headed in. Before we can change or alter anything, shouldn’t we at least try to understand this much? I think so. Speed, velocity, and pace are all part of understanding the question of “why” and the logic for how it gets answered.

If you can stay aware of pace, then you can also try to avoid slipping behind. For Cal, despite a heavy nudge from Tim Ferriss to start recording his podcast, it took him almost two years to do it. Why? His fear of feeling dumb over the “dot com” incident. Fortunately, he committed to closing the gap, figured out the speed and velocity required to catch up, and now we get to hear him converse with the Kobe Bryant’s and Seth Godin’s of the world. All it took was that awareness and acknowledgement. It can be a big step, but it’s an essential one.

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