S is for Speed, Stamina And Success


Great workers pursue their chosen strategy and also pay attention to another dimension. They aim to do things at the right speed when implementing their strategy.

Sometimes this means going relatively slowly; sometimes it means going quickly. The key is to choose the appropriate speed for performing the particular task.

Such workers may make some decisions quickly. On other occasions, however, they may take longer to make considered decisions. They may do some tasks quickly. On the other hand, they may go slowly when performing certain kinds of tasks.

They also develop the required stamina. They get enough sleep and follow a certain rhythm when working. Because they concentrate fully, they also build in time for reflection, rest and recovery.

Sometimes they employ their second wind. This can be a physical or psychological second wind. This can lead to getting a new burst of energy and going into new dimensions. They then do whatever is required to get over the line and achieve success.

Looking back, can you think of a time when you followed some of these steps? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

You may have been writing a book, running a marathon, climbing a mountain or striving to achieve a goal. You may have been doing a creative project, managing a crisis, recovering from an illness or tackling another challenge.

What did you do then to go at the right speed? How did you go slowly when necessary and also quickly when required? How did you develop and maintain your stamina? How did you make good use of your second wind?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you went at the right speed and demonstrated the right stamina to achieve success. 

Describe the specific things you did to take these steps. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.


Different people do different things at different speeds. So what is the right speed to do things? One answer is:

The right speed is the one that gets the right results.

Sometimes a person may make certain decisions quickly; sometimes they may take longer. Sometimes they may perform certain tasks quickly; sometimes they may perform these slowly. Let’s explore these themes.

Great workers sometimes make decisions quickly in their areas in which the excel. They then use what is called strategic intuition. This is made up of the following elements.

Strategic intuition is made up of a person’s ability:

To draw on their past experience and natural feeling for an activity. 

To see patterns and predict what may happen.  

To explore the potential ways forwards and decide on strategy they want to follow.

Different people have this ability in different areas. They may have it when doing certain kinds of work or tackling certain kinds of challenges. Everybody has intuition. The question is whether it leads to developing a track record of delivering success.

William Duggan, author of the book Strategic Intuition, has described how such intuition works.  The following paragraphs are taken directly from his website. You can discover more via the following link.


Flashes of insight are so important that scholars have written about them for centuries.

The best description comes from an early classic of military strategy, On War by Carl von Clausewitz. 

Clausewitz gives us four steps.

First, you take in ‘examples from history’ throughout your life and put them on the shelves of your brain. Study can help, by putting more there. 

Second comes ‘presence of mind,’ where you free your brain of all preconceptions about what problem you’re solving and what solution might work. 

Third comes the flash of insight itself. Clausewitz called it coup d’oeil, which is French for ‘glance.’ 

In a flash, a new combination of examples from history fly off the shelves of your brain and connect.

Fourth comes ‘resolution,’ or determination, where you not only say to yourself, “I see!”, but also, “I’ll do it!” 

Gary Klein has written several books on this topic. These include Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions and The Power of Intuition.

Bill Breen has written an excellent article on Gary’s work in The Fast Company magazine. You can find it at the following link.

Bill Breen Article

Gary studied firefighters, medical staff and many people who make decisions in pressure situations. Such people often go beyond the process of calculating all the potential options. Speaking with Bill Breen, Gary explains this in the following way.

I noticed that when the most experienced commanders confronted a fire, the biggest question they had to deal with wasn’t ‘What do I do?’ It was ‘What’s going on?’

“That’s what their experience was buying them – the ability to size up a situation and to recognize the best course of action.”

Gary goes on to outline the steps such people then take in high pressure situations.

They reach into their experience – going through it on ‘hyperdrive’ – to scan previous scenarios and see what lessons might apply to the present situation.

They are, at the same time, fully present: they look for patterns and clues to piece together what is happening.

They choose what they believe would be the best course of action and play scenarios about how this might work in practice.

Describing how Gary talks about expert firefighters, Bill’s article outlines what such people do next.

Once they make a decision, they evaluate it by rapidly running a mental simulation. They imagine how a course of action may unfold and how it may ultimately play out.

The process is akin to building a sequence of snapshots, says Klein, and then observing what occurs.

“If everything works out okay, the commanders stick with their choice. But if they discover unintended consequences that could get them into trouble, they discard that solution and look for another one.

“They might run through several choices, but they never compare one option with another.  

“They rapidly evaluate each choice on its own merits, even if they cycle through several possibilities. They don’t need the best solution. They just need the one that works.

“Experts come up with a plan and then rapidly assess whether it will work. They move fast because they do less.” 

Doing Some Things Slowly 

Great workers also sometimes choose to do things slowly. They may do this when making key decisions or trying to find solutions.

Different people do this in different ways. They may choose to go for a walk, sleep on something, do an unrelated activity or let their ideas incubate. They then find that things sometimes fall into place.

Carl Honoré explains this approach in his books In Praise of Slow and The Slow Fix. He believes that human beings can enrich their lives by doing some things more slowly. You can discover more about this approach at his website.


Carl is not against speed in itself. In fact, some things need to go more quickly. On the other hand, people can become addicted to filling their time with as many activities as possible. Sometimes this is necessary, but sometimes it is counter-productive.

Good decision making, for example, often calls for balancing fast thinking and slow thinking. Fast thinking generates the pieces of the jigsaw, but slow thinking helps us to make sense of the whole picture. Many of our epiphanies come from doing some slow thinking.

Doing Some Things Slowly But Swiftly

Great workers also demonstrate another quality. Sometimes they go into their equivalent of the zone. They think they are doing things slowly but others see them as doing things swiftly. 

Peak performers often seem to have more time to do things in the activities in which they excel. They may do this when playing a sport, making a decision or managing a crisis.

Such workers often make complicated things look simple. They have a natural gift for the activity but they have also put in the hard yards. They have practiced, practiced and practiced until they can forget.

They are simultaneously able to see the big picture and yet have attention to detail. They also quickly see patterns. This gives them the ability to know what will happen before it happens.

Al Siebert, author of The Survivor Personality, called this gift personal radar. This gives them more time and space to use their repertoire of talents to deliver great results.

So what happens when people use their personal radar? Entering the situation in which they excel, they feel alive and alert. Employing their antennae, they rapidly gather information about the following things.

They clarify the big picture and the small details.

They clarify the potential picture of success.

They clarify the best strategy for achieving the picture of success.

Great workers then use their repertoire of tools to achieve the required picture of success. This sounds a long process, but sometimes it takes just a few seconds.

They go at their own pace, which for them may seem as if they are doing things slowly. For other people, however, the events seem to move swiftly.


Great workers know how to pace themselves. Sometimes this means doing things at the equivalent of a sprint. Other times they need work at a steady pace. Sometimes they need to use their second wind. This calls for developing their stamina.

Different people do this in different ways depending on their chosen activities. The sprinting and stamina required to write a book, for example, is different from that required to run a 10 kilometre race.

The key is knowing how to manage their energy. Sometimes they will need to work intensely, but it is impossible to maintain this level for long periods. Great workers therefore build in time for rest and recovery.

After regathering their energy, they rehearse the next thing they are going to do and refocus. Going in their equivalent of the arena, they click into action and aim to deliver the required results.

Such workers often follow a certain rhythm. Some map out their schedule and organise their time in blocks. They aim to become absorbed in the activity rather than get lots of interruptions. They then follow their chosen pattern and channel their energy in a positive way.

Second Wind

Great workers sometimes employ their second wind. This can be a physical or psychological second wind. It can lead to them getting a new burst of energy and going into new dimensions.

Such workers know their prime times. These are the times of the day when they have most energy. They aim to protect and make the most use of these times.

Different people have different prime times. Some writers, for example, do creative work in the morning. They may then potter around or take a nap.

They then make use of their second prime time. This can be the equivalent of their second wind. They use it to complete the work they have done earlier or get new ideas for the next day.

Some people take a break to let ideas incubate and get the creative equivalent of their second wind. They may take a walk, listen to music or do another activity.

Letting their minds wander can help things to fall into place. The person gets a new insight that provides energy and puts wind into their sails. They then move on to the next stage of the journey towards reaching their goals.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation where you may want to focus on your speed, stamina and success? This could be in your personal or professional life.

What can you do then to go at the right speed? How can you go slowly when necessary and also quickly when required? How can you develop and maintain your stamina? How can you make good use of your second wind?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to go at the right speed and demonstrate the right stamina to achieve success.

Describe the specific things you can do then to take these steps. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.

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