If you haven't noticed, there seem to be only two settings on the speed dial of life—fast and faster. We're already at fast. Example: I talk into my Dragon Naturally Speaking microphone and bam! my words are typed immediately on the computer screen—fantastic.
But hold on to your seats: Things are about to get a whole lot faster. According to Bill Gates in his book Business at the Speed of Thought, soon all processes and systems will be united by a so-called "digital nervous system." It will deliver to you tons of information, so you can make quantum leaps in efficiency, growth, and profits—instantaneously.
Yikes! Do we really need such a supercharged workplace? Already we're over the speed limit. We use technology at only 20 percent of its capacity, and we're so inundated with information that we can't make the decisions we're supposed to be making.
There's more. This lightning speed of technology sets up an expectation that everything else in life should happen just as fast. The problem is that virtually nothing operates at the speed of thought, no matter how hard we try to make it happen. In fact, it all seems to operate at a much slower pace—at the frustratingly slow speed of people.
This is where patience comes in. Save for our interface with technology, the only way to get along with most things human (and the slow speed at which they operate) is to be patient. Wise people have been telling us this for centuries. Remember Ecclesiastes: To everything there is a season, a time to plant and a time to reap, a time to speak and a time to be silent. Sage advice. We should learn to follow these rhythms of life. Most distress comes from not accepting things as you find them but trying to speed them up. The Buddhists call it "pushing the river." And they tell us that you simply can't do it. When you try, you wind up frustrated and unsettled.
But don't confuse being patient with being passive. Patience is positive, an acceptance of things as they are. If speed is needed, you turn up the dial. If it isn't (and in most cases it isn't), you turn it back down. Whatever is called for, you react accordingly. Passivity, on the other hand, is a negative, a turning away from life out of fatigue, fear, or just plain laziness.
My recommendation: Now that we're facing life at the vaunted speed of thought, enjoy it, but don't let it beguile you. And definitely don't let it influence all the other parts of your life. Especially where people are involved. After all, who is in control of your life accelerator—you, or technology?
Invisible Men (and Women)
You've heard of absenteeism, but "presenteeism"—workers who show up disaffected, disengaged, worried about on-the-job difficulties—is a crisis in the American workplace, argue Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton in The Invisible Employee (John Wiley & Sons, 2006). In fact, it costs businesses $150 billion per year. The solution? Recognize and reward your workers. Here are the basics:
Be specific and public. General praise like "keep up the good work" is meaningless. Give details about what your achiever did, in front of his or her peers.
Be prepared. Practice for the recognition moment—nothing's worse than a manager getting a winner's name wrong, or the facts confused.
Be fast and frequent. Research shows that recognition is most effective when given every seven days, shortly after the achievement.