Fast but not faster (Day #4)

Alex Barrera
3 min readDec 4, 2016
Image credit: Jennifer Pack / Shodo brushes (Flickr)

There is such a thing as too fast. We live in a society where it seems everything is about speed. Everything needs to be instant. It’s all about real-time and instant gratification.

I’ve seen myself speeding up many times. Jogging instead of walking. Mumbling instead of listening. I do make a big effort not to speed. When I catch myself jogging, I’ll start crawling. When I catch myself talking too much, I’ll shut up.

There is one experience that, don’t ask me why has been quite enlightening for me. Brush cleaning. Yes, you heard that right. A little background first.

Shodo is one the many things I do to keep myself centered. Shodo is the way of the Japanese Calligraphy. In Shodo we work with three major ingredients, the fude or brush, the sumi or ink and the washi or paper.

Once finished, you need to rinse your brushes to avoid ruining the hair of the brush with the ink. Like with many of the things you do in Shodo, it’s more a ritual than a task. It sometimes can be intoxicating to watch the ink pour and pour into the running water.

One thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes I’m in a hurry to move on to some other task and I try to rinse the brush as fast as possible. There is technique to cleaning a brush. You can make the rinsing more efficient and speedy.

We naively believe we can make everything grow faster forever.

What I discovered though was that, no matter how many times I tried, the ink wouldn’t drain faster. It gets to a point where you just need to be patient and wait for it to go out of the brush.

It used to frustrate me. But it made me think of the speed of things. Many things in our lives aren’t designed to go beyond a certain threshold. You can get them to go fast, but not faster. Once they hit their top capacity, they’ll just remain there indefinitely.

We naively believe we can make everything grow faster forever. We can’t. Some things just take time. Wisdom takes time. Living a life takes time. Love takes time. Raising kids take time.

The typical example I use is startup ecosystems. After devoting most of my career working with nascent ecosystems, I’ve come to appreciate the natural order of things. I get asked many times what do I think of a certain ecosystem. Can they do things better? Grow it faster?

My answer is always the same. Yes, there are things you can put in place to make it grow healthier and quicker. But eventually you’ll hit the ceiling and you’ll have to wait. Yes, I know, WAIT! How can you tell us to WAIT!? It’s so outrageous! We live in the era of instant startups, and still, we need to wait.

Well, an ecosystem is like my brushes. It can go fast but not faster. There is a point where you just need to be patient. This notion applies to many other situations and I think it’s a great life lesson.

Next time you want something to go faster, meditate about it. What we want and what the universe deals us are two very different things and we need to learn how to live at peace with it. Open your eyes.

This post is part of my 30 Days Writing Challenge. If you want to check out the previous posts, here you have an index.



Alex Barrera

Chief Editor at The Aleph Report (@thealeph_report), CEO at, Cofounder & associated editor @tech_eu, former editor @KernelMag.