I remember always being in a hurry when I was a young boy, impatient to get wherever I wanted to go. On those occasions my mother used to say to me slowly, in a deliberate and gentle voice, “dress me slowly, because I am in a hurry.” It sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but it worked!
The origin of the expression is attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous French emperor and military leader. It is reported that when he was preparing to lead his troops into battle, he used that phrase with his “dresser”, the personal aide that helped him into his uniform. The point Napoleon was stressing was this; when preparing for an important and urgent task, you must slow down enough to be methodical, careful, and deliberate. You need to operate at a speed that will allow you to focus on the details as you prepare.
Over the years, I can’t tell you how often I’ve repeated that phrase to myself; as I get dressed for an important function, as I gather my files for an urgent meeting, when I approach a work deadline, or even as I get ready to leave for vacation with my wife.
Mistakes are part of life, no one is perfect. In my engineering classes long ago, I learned about error rates in human and automated processes. There is one thing you can be sure of, the more you rush your work, the more you are apt to make mistakes. Consider that to be a universal constant.
In business, as in your personal life, mistakes can be very expensive. Estimating the cost of a project is a complicated undertaking involving many factors. There are interpretations, assumptions, decisions, and deductions which must be made concerning a limited amount of information, facts, and conditions that are known. There never seems to be enough time for you to prepare the estimate. However, rushing an estimate can produce the kind of mistakes that could be very costly to your business.
Detailed, analytical or accounting work is another area where rushing the work produces expensive errors.
On a managerial level, critical or important decisions should be thought out carefully, after considering all the facts and weighing the options available. Rash decisions, made in haste without the necessary information, usually end up being regrets or disappointments.
Perhaps the most common and costliest of all mistakes occur during the physical construction of a project. Failure to note required details or to adhere to the mandated standard can result in non-conforming work that must be removed and re-installed. The additional cost and time to correct work in the field can be multiples of what it should have taken to install it correctly in the first place.
The lesson to be learned here is this, when you are faced with an important or urgent task, tell yourself “dress me slowly, because I’m in a hurry”.
——— A Personal Note ———-
On July 9, my dear mother’s life expired after 95 years. She was a wonderful mother of 7, and a loving wife to my father with whom she shared her life until 1996, when he passed away. Although I am saddened by the loss of both parents while still being “relatively young” by today’s standards, I am fortunate to have many wonderful memories to enjoy. Most importantly, my parents’ love endures with me and will continue to sustain me.
The collective experiences and life examples from my past that were provided by my parents, have helped mold my character and greatly influence who I am today. They continue to serve as “Lessons Learned” from which I will benefit for the rest of my life.
If you have also lost one or both of your parents, I urge you to take some time to re-visit the memories and take stock of everything which they taught you directly and by example. That is one of the ways I have found to continue to honor my parents now that they are gone.
Rita M. Farach 1919 – 2014
My mom in 1936, the year she met my dad.
“Dress me slowly, because I’m in a hurry.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
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