slow down.

7 Oct

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  Nice to see you again.

I just got back from Greece and I must say that:

-Greek food is of the gods and should be mandatory consumption for all planet Earth.

-Sailing in the Aegean Sea makes even the doughiest and landlocked Grown Men (I might be talking about me) feel like a trident-wielding Poseidon.


self-portrait

-Exploring new places is good for the soul unless you get lost — in which case, Greece doesn’t participate in the popular “street sign” method of navigation. You end up walking forever to get to a place that was one block from where you started.

-Greek people are tremendous.  Well, not the one Greek guy who wouldn’t let us take a picture of him grilling an entire freaking octopus, but everyone but that dude is awesome.

-There’s nothing better than an uninterrupted week with Mrs. Grown Man (my wife).

Anyhow, it’s good to be back in the intensely jet lagged saddle and getting the opportunity to share with you something else that stood out to me whilst gallivanting around Greece — we move really freaking fast in America.

I first noticed my own Gonzales-ness when we sat down for our first Grecian meal.  In Greece, the waiter wanders over at some point, asks if you’d like water, disappears for a bit, comes back with the water, leaves again, asks if you have menu questions, leaves, takes an appetizer order, leaves, brings bread, asks if you’ve decided, leaves… you get it, it’s slow.  And this phenomenon doesn’t just occur at fancy restaurants where they’re trying to separate tourists from Euros, this is the norm.  They just take at least an hour to eat meals, even during the work day.

The second time I noticed that Americans move too fast, or was rather told quite bluntly that we’re on cultural caffeine, was by a local man named Simon who struck up a conversation with me.  By the way, Greek men actually talk to each other and converse quite freely with strangers.  Anyhow, Simon and I were doing the typical vacation chit-chat where I tell him where we’ve been so far and he asks me questions about American life (“No, most of us only know English — and poorly at that.”  “Yes, we have to pay taxes.”  “No, we don’t generally live close to our families.” “Yes, many people work 7 days a week in New York City.”)  Anyhow, he shared with me that his son had recently visited America and was shocked by the pace of our people.  To quote Simon (he’s speaking wonderful English by the way): “My son says you work all the time, talk on the phone all the time, and are always go go go.”  To Simon I replied (in average English), “Yep, that’s us.”

Grown Men, the Greeks have given the world a lot of great advancements over the years — philosophy, art, architecture, and the crossbow. Now they’ve given us, by way of Simon and yours truly, some important advice — we’ve got to slow down. 

Get ready for an old guy statement, here we go… everything we do nowadays is fast.  We multitask, we “grab a quick bite,” we value working 10+ hours at a breakneck pace, and we generally find every possible way to speed up our world.  I know you’re busy, aren’t you?  Yet don’t you feel like the more gadgets you acquire to save time and the more activities you squeeze into the iCal white spaces, the less actual time you have and the less you get done?  In the words of Kenan Thompson, “What’s up with that!?”  Here’s what’s up: going faster and doing more has diminishing returns on living a life of quality and purpose.

So what do we do? First, we acknowledge the fact that we do live in a fast freaking culture and, though two-hour siestas and evening strolls on the cliffs of Santorini would be ideal, we just don’t live in a society that always allows it.  Second, because we acknowledge that there are demands on our time that are extreme, we must force margins into our life.  Finally, we must guard those margins with all our might.

For example, let’s go back to the Greek (and I’m guessing rest of the world) tradition of taking longer meals: Every time MGM and I were served food, we would take a bite, make those weird mmmmm-ing noises, drink a spot of wine, and intentionally put down our forks.  By habit and culture, we were going to plow through the meal and easily move on to the next activity.  But, because we were doing everything we could to savor the time (and the tzatziki), we made ourselves put just the smallest margin of time around the simple, everyday activity of eating.  What if you started to do the same?  What if power lunches were replaced with just regular old lunches?  What if the morning cup of coffee wasn’t spent in front of CNN, with a newspaper, with the laptop, but rather on the back porch just injecting 20 minutes of silence into the day?  What if those small margins of time were placed strategically throughout every day?  What if I stopped asking questions?

A few weeks ago, I sold my iPhone and got a free, boring one.  Today, I sat with old and new friends for a one hour relaxing lunch.  Tomorrow, I’m going to put away the laptop, go out in the refreshing fall air, and start building a picnic table.  My encouragement to you is to do whatever needs to be done to slow down, create some pockets of free time, and enjoy life.  At the end of the day, it’s not what you’ve done or how much you’ve made, it’s how well you invested in the lives of others and used the time you’ve been given.

You’re a Grown Man, slow down.

11 Responses to “slow down.”

  1. Ian 7 October 2010 at 8:07 am #

    I totally agree with the too-fast culture we live in. I was in France living with a French family, and life was just so much more peaceful! I always make it a point to enjoy my breakfast and coffee doing something I enjoy (reading blogs) or just sitting gazing out of the window of my apartment. I also use my running as a way to detox from this culture of gogogo we have created. I’m glad you savored every moment of Greece 🙂

    • You're a Grown Man 7 October 2010 at 8:36 am #

      Thanks, Ian! I’m glad you’re creating that space in your life…I’m starting to run tomorrow morning. We’ll see how it goes.

      • Jay 7 October 2010 at 11:52 am #

        Grown Man, Thank you for your article! Life has been even more incredibly busy than usual the past two months, so I definitely needed to hear a spot about the importance of stopping to smell the proberbial roses.

        Good luck with the running thing. I have been training for the Marine Corps Marathon for just over two months, but unfortunately injured my arm in late August, therefore putting me way behind my planned training schedule. I concur with Ian, running is a great way to detox. That is, unless you encounter a loose growling german shepherd along your route. Just remember to carry some pepper spray and you’ll be fine.

        God bless.

        Jay

  2. Emiliano Carvalho 7 October 2010 at 11:19 am #

    Clap clap clap clap clap clap clap…
    Bravooo! Bravooo!!!

  3. Bayan 7 October 2010 at 6:22 pm #

    Every time I travel to Europe the first thing I notice, no matter which country I’m in, is the speed — or lack thereof — of life. Thanks for doing a wonderful job addressing an issue that doesn’t often get addressed in America.

  4. Heather 7 October 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    Isn’t that interesting… I remember hearing once, that about fifty years ago, the technological gurus predicted by our day we’d have all kinds of free time on our hands due to technology streamlining life so much. We’d be free to spend more time with family and do the things we really wanted to do.

    Guess, what we really want to do is stay busy, maybe…

  5. Grown Woman 8 October 2010 at 7:02 am #

    I love this post. It makes me take a deep breath in and let it out slowly. Just yesterday I was realizing that the more I focused on my ‘to-do’ list, the more my kids stressed me out. Even though some of the things on the list are important (i.e. keeping my professional license up to date) there are a lot of things that aren’t. Congratulations on your iPhone-ectomy….my respect for you just grew.

    Wielding my Poseidon’s Triton to protect my margins,
    Grown Woman

    • You're a Grown Man 8 October 2010 at 8:02 am #

      GW,

      Professional licenses and children are important things to maintain (in ascending order). I applaud your efforts however to still protect those margins even with the demands of what appears to be a busy life. You are rad.

      As it turns out, Poseidon is Greek and Neptune is Roman… I had no idea, GM

  6. Katja 11 October 2010 at 11:28 am #

    Dear GM,

    I agree. I recently moved to the States to marry my (US) husband, leaving my tiny little country of the Netherlands behind. Though I had long workdays there (work from 8 until 4.30, study from 6 until 9), I always had an hour of lunch with my coworkers, and 2 coffee/tea breaks of 10 minutes each. If absolutely necessary, we used that time to discuss work, though most of the time we let the sun shine on our faces or just talked about pleasant things.

    I try to incorporate these breaks into the life of me and my husband, though he did not care for it at first. Now he strangely likes, as it helps him (and me) to focus better and to be more relaxed. In my opinion, winding down is essential if you want to be a relaxed, pleasant human being.

    Thank you for your post.

    Katja

  7. MD 13 February 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    Really liked the blog, but I don’t agree with this sentiment completely. I’m from Chile, and the pace is faster than Europe but slower than the US, but I am moving to America in part because of its trademark work culture. I’ve enjoyed a slow life living in a small town here, and I don’t feel any less of a man because I prefer something different than slow. Of course we need to pause every once in a while, it keeps us sane and better focused for later.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Ask a Grown Man: Vol. XV | You're A Grown Man - 24 June 2013

    […] Comrades (at his wedding, all his groomsmen cried and talked about what a loyal friend he is) and #74 – Slow Down (he’s present, he listens, and he has margin in his […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: