Lauroly- Welcome Carl. I am truly honored to have the opportunity to do this Q&A with you. You are truly a wise guru and can’t wait to share your work, ideas and book with everyone. I guess we should begin by touching on what the “slow movement” is and how it really began in the early 1990’s in Italy with the SLOW FOOD movement. It is wonderful to see the paradigm shift spread positively to other areas of culture. It is no surprise that there is a slow movement, as we are literally living in a world that is always in “fast forward” mode.
What makes you so wise to me is you were able to step back and observe your own life as you were swept up in the culture of rushism. Self-reflection and individuation is a challenging thing to do when the prevailing culture is demanding your submission to “get with the program”! Tell us what personally inspired you to write your first best-selling book “IN PRAISE OF SLOWNESS”.
Carl Honore: For me the starting point was deeply personal. My life had become an endless race against the clock. I was always in a hurry, scrambling to save a minute here, a few seconds there. My wake-up call came when I found myself toying with the idea of buying a collection of one-minute bedtime stories – Snow White in 60 seconds! – to read to my son. Suddenly it hit me: my rushaholism has got so out of hand that I’m even willing to speed up those precious moments with my children at the end of the day. There has to be a better way, I thought, because living in fast forward is not really living at all. That’s why I began investigating the possibility of slowing down.
Lauroly Q- I always ask this question…”Is culture shaping us or are we shaping culture”? It seems “the culture of speed” is being shaped by us. It still amazes me to see soccer Moms in their SUV’s driving and texting at the same time ( U.S phenomenon I am sure). How did we ever accept this as “ok” in our culture knowing we could endanger the lives of passengers in our car and others on the road? Texting while driving is some form of compulsive behavior which is just as destructive as any other irrational compulsion no? What are the three tell tale signs of a speedaholic?
Carl Honore: Sadly, what you describe is anything but a U.S only phenomenon. The virus of hurry has infected most of the planet. You find soccer moms texting and charging through red lights all over Europe, believe me. One almost ran me over this morning when I was out rollerblading. She was texting as she turned into a side street. When I complained, she just swore at me.
To me, the three tell-tale signs of a speedaholic are the following…
1. Chronic multitasking. The human brain cannot do more than one thing well at the same time. When we try to, the result is that we do the things less well and take more time doing them. That is a scientific fact. But our hurry-up, do-everything-faster culture has turned multitasking into a virtue. If you often find yourself doing several things at once, that is a sign of speedaholism.
2. If you’re tired all the time, or suffering from illneses . That is often the body’s way of saying you’re moving too fast and need to put on the brakes.
3. Failing memory is another sign. There is an intimate link between slowness and remembering. When life rattles along at breakneck speed, everything becomes a blur and nothing sticks. You end up skimming the surface of experiences, accelerating your life instead of living it. A common symptom of this is struggling to remember anything. Like what you did last weekend. Or ate for breakfast. Or what your partner whispered to you in bed the other night.
Lauroly Q- Your new book THE SLOW FIX really delves into the real genius of “slow” and aims to show us how the quick fix is never a wise modus operandi. Problem solving is a slow process and a creative process yet nobody seems to have the patience for any slow development these days. We worship companies like Apple who really didn’t succeed overnight did they? They tweaked, refined and made a few “mistakes” before becoming a behemoth technology company. I like how you explain the human brain mechanisms, System 1 and System 2 in your book. Share with us the psychology behind our quick fix mentality and why we humans are so vulnerable when it comes to the allure of “speed” and instant gratification.
Carl Honore: I think two things are going on here. First, biology. Our bodies and brains are wired to reward us for seeking out short-term solutions that require minimum effort. But on top of that we’ve created an entire culture that pushes us into the arms of the quick fix. The media demands instant remedies for every problem; the financial markets reward short-term thinking; the political system favours those who think in terms of the next elections rather than long term. The self-help industry peddles endless quick fixes. Underpinning all of this is a culture that glorifies speed for its own sake and holds up busyness as a badge of honour. Put all of this together and it’s no wonder we reach for a band-aid solution when deeper surgery is needed.
Lauroly Q- You compare the slow fix to a special recipe which requires the blending of key ingredients. What do you think the most important key ingredient is when trying to slow down in a culture of speed? Can we really beat the culture?
Carl Honore: As a natural optimist, I definitely think we can beat the culture. I believe strongly that we have reached a point in history where change is not only necessary but also inevitable. For at least the last 150 years we have been accelerating everything. And during most of that time speed did us more good than bad, which is why the proponents of slowness (such as the hippies) remained on the cultural fringe. But in recent years, with the explosion of information technology and the global economy, speed has entered the stage of diminishing returns. It is now doing us more harm than good – look at what the constant hurry does to our diets, health, work, relationships, communities and the environment. And that is why the Slow revolution is gathering momentum.
The economic crisis of recent years is a searing wake-up call, a reminder that our fast-forward way of life is pernicious and unsustainable. The economy was all about fast growth, fast profits and fast consumption – and look at how it almost steered us into an economic apocalypse.
People are starting to understand that we need profound change in the way we run our economies and societies, and in the way we live together. There is a real hunger for change, for doing things differently, for living at the right speed rather than as fast as possible. Slow is not some fashion you read about in the Sunday newspaper and then it’s gone two months later. I believe Slow is a powerful philosophy that can change the world.
I would direct the skeptics out there to look at the history of other social revolutions. Take the rise of feminism. In the 60s, when feminists said the world was unjust and the moment for change had come, the mainstream reaction was: “No, the world has always been this way. You can’t change it. Go back to the kitchen!” But look at the world today. Obviously there is a long way to go to create a world of perfect gender equality, but a woman today could hardly imagine how severely life was limited for her grandmother. I look at my sister and my grandmother and marvel at the change in just two generations. And the green movement has followed a similar arc: it was dismissed as a plaything for hippies and tree-huggers thirty years ago but today is near the top of the political agenda. The message is that the world can change, if we want it to.
For a cultural revolution to occur, you need three factors: the need for change; an awareness of the need for change; and people willing to put that change into practice. We now have all three factors in place for the Slow Revolution to push on. I think the Slow movement is at the same point as feminism or green-ism was 30 or 40 years ago. We won’t change the world, or make it Slow, next month or next year. But it will happen.
You asked what is the key ingredient of the Slow Fix. If I had to choose one, I’d probably choose the first one in the book, which is why I made it the first chapter: that is, the willingness to admit to mistakes. This takes time because you have to deal with the discomfort and emotional fallout that usually attends a mea culpa. But it’s almost always the first step to clearing the air and unlocking the door to fresh thinking on the problem.
There is also a meta point to be made here. By the same token, the first step towards moving the Slow revolution into the mainstream is also the willingness to admit the folly of our ways, to accept that faster is not always better. The flip side of our roadrunner culture is a deep taboo against slowness – slow is a pejorative term, a byword for lazy, torpid, unproductive, stupid. This means that even when we can feel in our bones that putting on the brakes would be good for us, we are afraid or ashamed to do it. The first step towards smashing this taboo is admitting that we were wrong to create it in the first place.
Lauroly closing: I could go on forever talking with you about the fascinating culture of speed and it’s degenerating effects. But I don’t even know if any of my readers actually get to the end of my blog posts! lol. Thanks so much for joining me Carl and I look forward to more of your enlightening cultural insights in whatever format you deliver it. Take your time–I promise to be patient because I know it will be really good!
What a great conversation! In the spirit of creating change and spreading wise ideas, I hope you share this blog post with others by using the share buttons provided below. You can also learn more about Carl at his website and follow him on Twitter @carlhonore. Come support Carl’s message at our WWB FACEBOOK Page where we will also share this Q&A!