I love efficiency.  It’s beautiful to watch. When you see a truly proficient element executing tasks it’s almost surgical in how precise they are.  The team becomes a well-oiled machine capable of feats far beyond each member’s individual capabilities.

Who isn’t impressed watching the efficiency of a pit stop crew in a NASCAR race?

When training or operating in Special Forces we always kept one fact in the forefront of our mind: Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

This forced us to focus on smooth, flawless execution for each task we performed.  It does not come easy.  I have hundreds (maybe thousands) of stories of events in which I or others completely ruined training evolutions when developing new skills.  A particular day in a “shoot-house” in North Carolina still comes to mind many years later…


“In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.” Oscar Wilde

Obviously, Special Forces training is hugely different from corporate training, but the intent remains true.  In the Special Operations world blowing past a door and not “clearing it” means potential danger for your teammates.   Mistakes may mean a teammate gets hurt or dies.

In the corporate world no one gets hurt, hopefully, but going too fast through a brief, sales call, presentation, or design may have very far-reaching implications nonetheless.

Experience matters.  In Special Forces we refer to it as “mastering the basics.” We know, however, that mastering the basics takes time and energy and is rarely pain-free.

And yet we embrace it in everything we do.  I don’t see the same mastery with most civilian organizations.

Hiring is often conducted solely to fill a vacancy and we tend to look for bodies rather than experience.  Promotions are the result of tenure with the company, not mastery of a skill-set or inherent ability.

This lack of experience from organizational members may seem small, but their inexperience and lack of mastery will cost you over time.


“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” Aristotle

When teaching military personnel prior to them deploying I would remind myself of the environment for which we were training them.  Generic training only gets you generic results – we tried to tie the training to their future operational environment as much as possible.

The trainees would get tired of me reminding them there are two types of muscle memory when training: Negative and Positive.

Negative muscle memory consists of all the bad habits we have.  It is a byproduct of what is accomplished when you react – often choosing to react emotionally.  Negative muscle memories are ingrained reactions influenced by poor training and overconfidence.

Positive muscle memory, however, are the things that happen by default.  If I were to throw you a ball – your hands would instantly reach up and try to catch it – expected or not.  Positive muscle memory is trained thinking – see a problem and by default your training allows you to formulate a solution.


“There can be economy only where there is efficiency.” Benjamin Disraeli

There is a belief today that after graduating a course or gaining a certificate you become a subject matter expert on all things in that field.  This feeling of entitlement and pride can be disastrous for the organization and is the genesis of many errors.

Instead try to view that new certificate or graduation as your entrance ticket into the stadium.  It doesn’t make you the captain of the team and certainly not an expert in the field, future Hall of Famer or All-Star…

Think of it this way: would you prefer a recently graduated ivy league cardiac surgeon or the surgeon who has performed the procedure successfully 1,000 times previously?  Now choose which one you would want operating on your spouse or your child.

Special Forces operators understand that earning your Green Beret isn’t the end of your learning.  It’s just the beginning.

Select the right person for the job and remember credentials and certificates don’t make exceptional team members or leaders.

Experience and attitude are what matter.  If you don’t have it then find someone to help you.

Don’t rush the job; just do it right.  Then do it right again and again until it becomes second nature to you.  That’s when you’ve started to get it.

Remember to slow down and become truly masterful at the task.  Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.  Fast is good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *