Slow is Smooth. Smooth is Fast.
Lessons from 2020 (and StarCraft 2)
Special Forces Operatives have a mantra:
“Slow is Smooth. Smooth is Fast.”
2020 feels like the Universe is giving me a time out and sending me to my room. To slow down. To stop rushing. To stop trying to force things. To make my bed. It has given me the space and time to think and reflect.
In the past few years, or really, in my entire life, I’ve often rushed into situations. I’ve joined startups, taken jobs at big corporations, started business and personal relationships, and I tend to go all-in, right away. I have always been very passionate and love solving problems, wielding raw cognitive abilities to smash them.
“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
Ten years ago, I joined Blizzard Entertainment as a Director of Operations. My first responsibility was to manage the go-to-market launch of StarCraft 2 in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. It was a high energy, fun job. Blizzard had a small team of truly wonderful people in the Taiwan office that I am friends with to this day.
Of course, part of the job was to play Starcraft 2. I joined the company woefully unprepared. I sucked at StarCraft 2. When I first moved back to Taipei, I met Jeff Huang through a mutual friend. Jeff was a Taiwanese hip-hop artist turned nightclub owner turned multimillionaire technology (and now cryptocurrency) entrepreneur and was a huge fan of StarCraft 2, so of course he challenged me, with his brother Stanley, to 2v2 PvP.
I recruited Softball, a local pro-player, who was known as 人皇 ("The Terran Emperor”) to be my teammate. We played many games in a row, for hours. “Again,” Jeff would say every time they lost. Softball was a Monster. He carried us. Eventually, Jeff and Stan resorted to a double six-pool Zerg rush, but Softball was still too strong. We were undefeated that day.
As the years went on, we had charity tournaments with other local tech companies in the TeSL eSports studio where the pro players played. We took the game pretty seriously.
The six-pool Zerg rush is a metaphor for life. Fast and furious may work in the short term, but rush strategies will never get you out of the Silver tier on the StarCraft 2 Ladder.
Since retiring from my video game career, I’ve been working on a fairly diverse range of projects in the blockchain space, industrial hemp, and other industries. I’ve run into a problem where I get pulled into a project with a “crazy founder CEO” who has some brilliant technologist on the team or disruptive technology with world changing potential.
I go all-in before properly doing my due diligence on the project and team without holding my proper value, taking bad deals, because the potential is so exciting. I don’t protect my energy, boundaries, or time. Sometimes there are long term relationships involved where I find out I really didn’t know someone as well as I thought.
It’s the energy of the rush. I see it everywhere now. “Entrepreneurs” without proper experience building platforms to change the world. Execution is hard. It takes time. It takes planning. Relationships also take time to build properly. Years, if not decades. My new projects are years in the making, with people I’ve gotten to know deeply.
When someone asks, “How can we work together?” I now respond, “Let’s be friends, first.” 2020 has allowed me to slow down, create boundaries, devote time for deep study, develop a routine, cultivate intimate relationships, and make progress. One step at a time.
Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.
I’m looking forward to 2021.