Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.

Hello intersectional thinkers 👋

Greetings from rainy Vancouver! I was supposed to be writing to you from New York, but life happened… After a lot of sulking, I was reminded of this Navy SEALs adage:

Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.

When I first heard this Navy SEAL maxim two years ago, it left a jarring impression.

The idea made a lot of sense to me intuitively. Yet I couldn’t quite shake off the fact that it didn't make any logical sense.

Transitive law states: if A is equal to B, and B is equal to C. Then A is equal to C.

This means: slow = smooth, smooth = fast, therefore, slow = fast.

Clearly, that’s NOT true!

So what’s up with this Navy SEAL's tried and true paradox?

What is a paradox anyway?



A seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

Mind bending examples:

  • “I know one thing: that I know nothing.” - Socrates

  • “It’s weird not to be weird.” - John Lennon

  • You can never get from point A to point B because you have to first travel half the distance, then half of the remaining distance, and so on, ad infinitum. – Zeno’s paradox

This is the stuff that makes my mind feel so feeble it hurts.

But then, the other day, I stumbled upon the secret to making sense of all this.

The 'paradox' is only a conflict between reality and your feeling of what 'reality' ought to be.
- Richard Feynman



A paradox doesn’t need explaining.

Instead, it’s the paradox that’s trying to explain to us what we’re missing in our understanding of reality.

  • The navy SEALs might be alluding to a non-temporal understanding of speed.

  • Socrates might have tried to expand our limited understanding of knowledge.

  • Paradoxes might be trying to tell us there’s nothing wrong with being true and untrue at the same time.

And if this is making your head spin, here’s another one:

What is important is to spread confusion, not eliminate it. - Salvador Dalí*

* With all this debate around misinformation, “spreading confusion” can be taken the wrong way. I don’t think Dalí’s ‘confusion’ goes anywhere close to misinformation, but, take it or leave it. It’s just another perspective to get us thinking.