The Problem of Hurry

I am thankful for a short, 13-minute commute to the Beacon office, which is just long enough time to listen to the Up First podcast to hear 3 main news stories of the day, and 1-2 good songs before starting the workday. Over the past week, I switched up my routine and listened to the audiobook of The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry at the recommendation of a friend. It’s a short book, especially when you listen to it at 1.5x speed (and yes, I realize the irony of speeding up a book with a thesis about slowing down…)

The ideas and suggestions written in this book are nothing new, yet are reminders that I need to hear frequently as the urge to speed up, move faster, and hurry, are ever present desires. Alabama wrote these lyrics in 1992 – before the technology explosion with internet, iPhones, streaming tv, etc.:

I’m in a hurry to get things done
Oh, I rush and rush until life’s no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why?

And boy, do those lyrics still ring true today! Given that we are all returning to a good season full of school, activities, football season, holidays, etc., I wanted to share a few highlights from the book which are applicable to our life in general and our life as investors.

The book title alone is convicting – the ruthless elimination of hurry packs a lot of meaning into few words. I also appreciate a more verbose version of the title: Having no pity or compassion in the complete removal of excessive speed or urgency. Of course, speed and urgency aren’t always things to avoid, but they can also be a detriment to our lives if we aren’t mindful of the why behind moving in a hurry. Often we can’t answer why because we simply don’t take the time to examine our lives.

The author first describes the problem of hurry, which is nothing new to any of us. Next time you are at a stop light, look around to see drivers checking their phones. When you are at the grocery store, everyone is vying for the spot in the shortest check-out line because we just have to get to where we’re going faster. This is nothing against optimization or efficiency – those are valuable tools and skills to have. However, sometimes the speed at which we move can be a detriment to our lives. Instead of getting more time to do things that matter, we are so focused on how to speed up that we miss the chance to enjoy the present and instead, we add more into our life at great cost!

Companies are in a competition for our time and money. Without overriding your notification settings, we receive a barrage of notifications all day long – texts, calls, emails from family, friends, work; promotional emails (and now promotional texts); alerts from apps. The combination of it all creates chaos, hurry, and confusion. Picking up your phone to see the weather too often leads to checking in on the market, stock prices, emails, limited time promotional deals, all of which reinforces the feeling that we need to move quickly to get it all done, get the best deals, and consume more. Because more = better, or does it?

The temptation to hurry is ever present to investors. To take on more risk than we are comfortable with, or than we need, to reach a goal faster. To add the trendy investment before we lose the opportunity to participate. But at what cost? Sometimes there is a clear monetary cost from hurrying, but other times, the cost is more intangible. We spend our time because of added complexity. There’s an opportunity cost, and ultimately, we may gain more by subtraction.

The next section of the book describes the solution. To combat the urge to hurry, we need to create space to examine why we are trying to hurry in the first place. The author calls for us to recognize our limitations, slow down, and simplify our lives, with a result of having more space for what matters. Pause, notice your surroundings and motivations, then choose what matters. Practice unhurrying your life, hour by hour, day by day. And be kind to ourselves when we are whisked away by the busyness of our world, because it will happen!

It is okay, and good, to live a quieter life, although it’s really hard work in a world that moves so quickly around us. This is an invitation to slow down and examine what fills our days and our minds. Where are we going, and why are we trying to get there so fast? The author writes that there is “more to life than an increase in speed” and that we’re on a “journey where you never arrive.”

That’s part of why we create financial plans with our clients and update them as life evolves. There’s a numerical side to financial planning, of course, and I am not minimizing the importance of that! But it’s just as important, or even more important, to ask the questions about where we’re headed, why, and to give time in our days to choose actions that are aligned with our values and priorities.

Ellen Martin
[email protected]

After graduating from UVA (go Hoos!), I moved to Raleigh for the Raleigh Fellows program where I fell in love with the city, its people, and a fellow Fellow who is now my husband, Wesley. I worked for another wealth management firm in Raleigh for seven years before joining the Beacon team in June of 2021. When not at work, you can most likely find Wesley and me walking our dog, Ollie, on the lovely Raleigh Greenways, or enjoying a cup of coffee and a La Farm white chocolate baguette.