What I learned after fighting over a scavenger hunt in a museum

6ish months into our relationship, Adee and I were visiting her family in Toronto. We signed up for a scavenger hunt at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) one night. It was winter so we walked in wearing 20lbs of ski gear. 

The organizer lady circled up all of the participants and started to read off the rules. I heard a few of them and started to make a game plan of how we would start, tuning out as she continued.

She finished and I immediately started speed walking and yelled to Adee, “This way!” We were given a sheet of paper with clues for each item. As we got to the place I thought the first item was in Adee read off the clues to me. Half listening, I just looked for the item. 

Minutes later she found it. 

She started reading off the clues to the next one, and I took off again. This time leading us to the wrong place and costing us 5 minutes. Eventually we make it to the next one and continued.

This goes on for another 45 minutes. Her reading the clues and me moving really quickly.

At one point towards the end we’re sort of lost because I had sprinted in a direction before I really knew where we were supposed to go.

Then we got in a big fight. Picture us whispering to each other loudly. 

Adee was pissed off that I kept trying to control where we went without really listening to where we were supposed to go. I got pissed back because defensiveness. 

Slowly and painfully I saw that she was right. 5 years later this story is still a source of laughter between us but also of a bigger theme.

I’ve had a habit of rushing through things. Of moving before even knowing what it is I’m supposed to do. This has shown up at work, reading, responsibilities around the house, and just about everything in my life.

Adee used to start busting out laughing at me when we’d work together sometimes because she’d hear me holding my breath, then letting it out all at once, repeatedly. I found that that would happen any time I was rushing through emails.

This worked really well when I was a competitive exerciser where everything was done for time. (The moving quickly, not the breathing) Not so much in the real world.

It has caused me to make more mistakes. It has led to a lack of presence and forgetting what people say to me because I’m focused on doing the next thing on my list. It has led to me not enjoying things that I would usually enjoy such as reading.

In his book, Skin in the Game, Nassim Taleb says that as soon as we try to optimize anything for efficiency it loses its enjoyability. Anytime we just rush through things it tends to suck. 

So I’ve been on a journey.

A journey of slowing down. 

I’m intentionally reading more slowly, to savor and comprehend what I’m reading. To enjoy it.

I’m hanging out with less people so I have more time with myself.

When I work I don’t multitask. I focus on what I’m working on and then move on.

I’ve started a garden. I’m playing music. I’m doing more things for the sake of doing them rather than as a means to an end or a way to “get ahead.”

Because of this I’m feeling calmer. I make fewer mistakes. I’m more productive in less time. I have more moments throughout the day of feeling grateful. 

The most important byproduct of slowing down for me is that I feel more present. More alive.

For me there is no destination at which I expect to arrive. The world we live in is constantly pushing us to do more, buy more, experience more. What no one tells us is that by constantly trying to do more, we never fully experience anything. We’re always focused on the next thing. 

For me this is a practice just like meditation. Every time I get distracted and feel the need to rush, I can bring myself back to center, and slow down.

I see a future where living the Slow Life™ is hip. Deeply connecting with others, spending more time in nature, savoring moments that we used to think were mundane, being fully present in our lives. 

More recently Adee and I had a complete meltdown in a beautiful Paris museum. Picture us pissed and whispering again. But that’s a story for another day.