Posted: 6/22/18 at 12:30pm. Column by Ed Jordan.
This week I read an African proverb which states: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Most of our culture is geared to go fast. We are addicted to “fast food” that we can pick up without leaving our cars. We want instant coffee, instant tea, instant everything.
Going faster is very much a part of our lives, our culture, and our lifestyle, and it has become one of our values. Much of our on-the-job training is about showing new recruits the fastest way to do something.
As a maid, you learn the fastest ways to make a bed, clean a toilet, and vacuum a floor. In a fast food business, it is all about speed: cook fast, wrap fast, serve fast. Anyone who has traveled with little children or in a large group knows you can get there faster by yourself.
Why is fast so important? Because time is money, and the more time spent on doing something, the more the item will cost.
I am not finding fault with fast food, fast trips, or fast service. There is great value in efficient use of time and money. But fast can lead to a lot of frustration and high blood pressure as well.
The proverb declares that it is faster to do things alone. That is usually true, if getting it done quickly is all that matters. Did you ever try to teach your child to use a hammer? You could have driven in 20 nails in the time it took them to do one. A master chef can cook a whole meal in the time it takes a novice to prep the ingredients. It’s faster to do something yourself than to invest time and energy into teaching someone else.
But if the whole business, or ministry, or production, depends upon my solo completion of it all, then who will complete the job when I am sick, or disabled, or unable to work anymore? Training someone else to do the job you do eventually produces two workers—or more—and likely produces multiplied, greater output over just one lone worker.
The African proverb says that traveling alone is faster, but also that traveling with others makes it possible to go farther. The Bible says it a little differently, but still affirms that doing things together with others is better than going it alone. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT) states: “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
The list of positives of working together from this passage in Ecclesiastes includes: two together can produce more, can help each other when one falls, provide resources or skills the other may not have, fend off the cold, and when attacked put their backs together to defend each other from all directions.
Taking advantage of these positives can translate into doing something better than one person alone. Geese take turns leading the flying V, so there is always a fresh set of wings breaking the wind. Three adult drivers can take turns at the wheel and drive continuously to cover great distances in less time.
In reality, there is a time to make decisions quickly and alone, such as during a crisis or in an emergency scenario. But there are times to involve more people in the whole project and work through a thorough process. Most scenarios in life require a little of both; a faster and farther solution. While it’s great to make lots of progress fast, finding a way to go far and fast together is the best of both worlds.
Take some time to evaluate your default gear in how you do things:
Are you more concerned with faster or farther, or in getting the most possible out of both by doing it faster and carrying it further?
Where do you need someone to help you, so you can go farther? Who could help you?
Who is it that you could invest some time and energy in, so that they can learn your skills?
In what ways do you need to do things faster than you do now? Would it bring better results in the long run?
In your life, is it faster, or farther, or a little of both?