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April 11, 2024

“If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.”

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I wanted to dive into an African proverb that you’ve probably heard before - “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.”

What stands out to me is the conflict in the quote. If you take the two thoughts separately, they each have individual merit.

It is perfectly reasonable to want to go faster, and therefore not having anyone else with you to slow you down may be helpful. And we know that we can accomplish things far greater than we’re capable as individuals when we work together as a team…

But back to the conflict - Whether this is intentional or not, the quote almost discourages you from going fast and alone because it contrasts so strongly with going far and together. And cleverly what it does is it calls out an unconscious, hard-wired, fatal flaw of humanity to help us realize how much it’s impacting us.

We are neurologically optimized to take action in ways that deliver short-term gratification rather than long-term reward. That’s why as humans we can be impulsive, lack will power, and make choices we later disagree with. It’s an evolutionary bias.

Using that perspective, going fast and going alone is the default pattern. It gives you immediate gratification and a quick win. It seems like the right option in the moment because it delivers the most immediate results.

But there’s a knowing within us that it’s not just about going fast. If we want to accomplish truly remarkable things, we need to pace ourselves and enroll help. And while it is thankless and underwhelming to be patient, we know that it’s the pathway to success in anything we desire.

And that’s the choice we have in this quote. It’s conditional. Either we go fast and alone, or we go far and together. Our logical mind reasons that we should choose the latter, but reflexively we often find ourselves on the path of the former. 

Being able to delay gratification is a super-power. Those who wait are those who win.

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