Agree, Disagree? Really Skillful People Never Appear Busy.

“Speed is not part of the true Way of strategy. Speed implies that things seem fast or slow, according to whether or not they are in rhythm. Whatever the Way, the master of strategy does not appear fast….Of course, slowness is bad. Really skillful people never get out of time, and are always deliberate, and never appear busy. ”

–Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings

Agree, disagree? In my observation, this is very true.

  • Candace

    This describes state of flow. No sense of time and deliberate practice. Someone who is skilled always make it look easy.

  • Mimi Gregor

    True. Whenever I am taking my time and seem relaxed, you can be pretty sure that I know what I’m doing. However… when I am manically stomping around and leaving a trail of detritus in my wake… you can be certain that I haven’t a clue how to actually accomplish whatever it is I am trying to do. I may look busier in the second scenario, but I am actually accomplishing very little.

  • ProvincialDeskJockey

    I watched a guy fitting carpet tiles once and this is what I thought, although I couldn’t have put it into words as well as this. It was the inexorable, competent, smooth way the carpet tiles just spread out across the floor.

    • gretchenrubin

      I know just what you mean. It’s so compelling to watch skillful work like that.

  • Love this topic Gretchen. I mostly agree with this. I believe it depend on the degree the tasks they decided to take on during the day. Whether they are doing just 3 priorities or a more ambitious load of work in relation to their actual skill level at it. Of course it is important to attempt to push the envelope in the pursuit for greater achievements in life, however on average if the individual is skilled at the tasks at hand it should look more easy over time and they more or less should not appear stressed the majority of the time, which you tend to see in many organizations.

    There are definitely a lot of mispairing in organizations. Some people are better off being skilled and knowledgeable subject matter experts instead of stressed out ineffective micromanagers.


    All the best,

    Randy Parson [Health and Productivity Engineer, Big Picture Philosopher, Critical Thinker]

  • tsimitpo

    The expert was once an apprentice who has learned which efforts pay off and which ones don’t from much failure – whether their own or that of others. Experience properly applied results in very little wasted effort and great efficiency, thus “looking” easy.

    From another angle, moving quickly is not the same as being in a hurry – that’s usually distinguished by planning and preparation yielding anticipated results.

  • P Kemner

    I’ve seen this both in classical music and fiddle playing. I call them ‘angelic virtuosi’ – they’re totally in the zone and in control. I’ve also seen ‘pop’ fiddle players who cut some of the hairs on their bows so the hairs will go flying when they play. They don’t play that well, but it certainly impresses people who don’t know much about music.

  • John Nordstrom

    I used to do wood working and have started to build new items. I often contemplate them in my mind as I walk down the street, thinking about how each board fits in relative form to the next one. Often doing drawings from scratch by memory, only to throw them away before purchasing my cut list.