Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast: Meaning and Application of this Saying

I was once determined to bake an elaborate layer cake to celebrate a friend’s graduation. Convinced I could expedite the process, I raced through measuring ingredients and threw everything together haphazardly. The result? A lopsided, sunken disaster that was utterly inedible. As I stared at my crumbly failure, the old maxim “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” floated into my mind, teaching me an important lesson.

Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast | Featured Image

Meaning of “Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast”

This intriguing saying emphasizes that slowing down to focus intently on precision leads to smooth, graceful execution, which in turn enables greater speed. Breaking it down further: 

  • “Slow” means resisting the natural urge to rush and instead proceeding with patience and presence. 
  • “Smooth” refers to the fluidity, balance, and control that emerges when you hone techniques to an artful level. 
  • “Fast” signifies the acceleration in pace, productivity, and progress unlocked once skills become second nature through slowed-down mastery.  

Though seemingly paradoxical, resisting hurry and meticulously ingraining fundamentals before accelerating is the counterintuitive key, according to Navy SEALs and other elites. 

Origin of the saying

“Slow is smooth and smooth is fast” originated with the US Navy SEALs. It was used as a training mantra as SEAL teams practiced tactical maneuvers and combat skills requiring both precision and speed. 

The idea was to begin by slowing down enough to get the intricacies of the technique perfected. With extensive repetition focused purely on quality of execution rather than pace, their motion became smooth and efficient. 

Once smoothness was ensured, velocity could then be introduced. This allowed them to operate rapidly in chaotic situations without surrendering accuracy or effectiveness, even under extreme duress.

Why This Matters

I initially scoffed at slowing down as I started learning the keyboard, eager to play advanced songs. But my teacher insisted I first ingrain proper finger techniques. Once those basics became smooth and automatic, my playing dramatically accelerated.  

  • In fitness, perfecting subtle aspects like balance and alignment through humble reps allows you to eventually lift heavier, run swifter, and leap higher. 
  • Businesses founded on strategic clarity and operational integrity can briskly adapt during volatility.
  • Relationships nurtured slowly by knowing partners’ inner world can navigate conflict smoothly.

This saying reflects deeper truths about skill building and performance, which span beyond the SEAL teams into many arenas. We witness the power of perfecting the small components that construct capability in athletics, artistry, academics, and more. 

Whether mastering effective yet effortless running stride, honing the delicacy of surgical maneuvers, or ingraining reliable mental math reflexes through simple quizzes, slowing to smooth out technique precedes soaring to new heights. 

Attempting to accelerate progress without this foundation often ends in discouraging failure, plateauing, and even injury. Patience and persistence are indispensable parts of growth.

Becoming Smooth   

Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast | Quote Graphic | Female US Marine

A few years ago, major life transitions triggered anxiety I’d never experienced. I instinctively tried accomplishing more to push through faster. But that hurried pace only increased stress. Finally, I forced myself to slow almost to a halt – radically simplifying routines, focusing on sleep, and spending more time in nature. 

Gradually, my inner stability returned. Only then could I cautiously rebuild activity. I learned firsthand that smoothness requires patiently pausing. 

Smooth Enables Fast

When skills become second nature through condensed, focused reps, you conserve tremendous energy. My cake-baking practice now flows smoothly from a foundation of slowed-down precision – I weigh ingredients mindfully, level batter seamlessly, and test doneness attentively. 

Having ingrained the process, I can whip up confections swiftly without a frantic scramble. Smoothness begets speed.  


As I impatiently tried accelerating my cake that ill-fated day, I overlooked crumb coat smoothing and frosting finesse. But since embracing “slow is smooth” wisdom, my creations emerge beautifully efficient. 

What skill might you slow into smooth increments this week, month, or year, clearing the path to flow ahead? Forget hurrying – ease is the essence of velocity!

Success Minded

Writer & Motivator with a goal of Inspiring and Helping 1 Million people across the globe to reach their goals. Join the largest self-improvement community on Twitter (700K+) over at @_SuccessMinded_

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