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Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.

Slow is smooth.

Smooth is fast.

That's a (relatively recent) mantra of training in the Army. I first encountered it in 2008, after I'd been off active duty for a couple of years, so presumably it came into being during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It makes sense -- trying to everything all at once can get you killed, especially when you're dealing primarily with attacks from cover and IEDs and the like. And also when you're operating in an environment like the Middle East, where moving fast tires out and dehydrates a person much faster than most Americans are used to. When it's 110 degrees out and you have to wear a full uniform and body armor, you learn that efficiency is just as good as speed.

It seems counterintuitive -- of course slow isn't fast, that's why we have different words for "slow" and "fast". But it doesn't take much reflection to understand it. "Slow is smooth" means not to move like a turtle, but to move precisely, to think through your motions before and while you make them, to recognize intellectually that you're moving your rifle from the low-ready position (held perpendicular to your chest, pointing down and toward your "off" hand) into place to fire (keeping it pointed away from your buddies and any civilians in the area, rifle butt snug into your shoulder, cheek at the exact same place you're trained to put it every time, sights lined up, pointing at the enemy), and only then do you slide a finger into the trigger guard. This is opposed to just snapping your rifle up because you think fast is better than smooth, and you end up accidentally shooting a hole in your HMMWV's tire.

Incidentally, "accidentally" was removed from the lexicon around the same time. "Accidental discharges" like that one became "negligent discharges". The Army has always been pretty good at recognizing the power of words: "accidents" just happen, and you can't really do anything about them, but "negligence" is someone's fault. This is also around the time that it was required to capitalize "Soldier" at all times, but that's another story.

So, once you've got the operation (bring from low-ready up to firing position) down slowly, you get smoother at it. You're still thinking through the same steps, but you're doing it quicker now -- _Bring it up, keep it safe, snug in, cheek in, same place, sights lined up, pointed enemy, finger to trigger_ -- just because you've done it before. You keep doing that, and eventually you're *thinking* faster too -- _Bring safe snug cheek place sights point finger_ -- and you're moving faster while still doing it *right*. Eventually, it's _Br-sa-sn-ch-pl-si-poi-fin_, then _Brsasnchplsipoifin_, and you're doing it fast as you would be doing it if you just waved your gun around all willy-nilly, but without the part where you shoot your buddy in the back.

Slow is smooth.

Smooth is fast.

I use that a lot these days. My kids know the call-and-response and finish it every time. Mowing the lawn? "Hey, be careful near the cord. Slow is smooth..." "Smooth is fast. Got it, dad." Multiplying three-digit numbers? "One number at a time. Slow is smooth..." "Smooth is fast. I know." I use a lot of things I learned in the Army as a parent. A lot of it comes in handy.

Recovering workaholic

There Is No 'Cry' in 'Team'