July 11, 2022

A version of this essay first appeared in Midlife Cues, a weekly newsletter about intentional living in our middle years. Get it in your inbox; you're going to love it.

There was a scene in the first Matrix that I used to wish was real.

Picture Neo, sitting in an old dental office chair, getting a fresh upload of skills from Tank.

“I’m going to learn Jiu-Jitsu?” he asks incredulously. When Morpheus checks in on him later, after hours of training (aka digital uploads), Neo declares, “I know Kung Fu.”

I remember thinking that’s the way to learn. Where do I go for that? Hook me up, Tank.

“I feel the need. The need for speed.”

I wanted to learn without the hours it would take to learn.

I was all about the shortcut. The easiest, fastest way to “there” because there were so many “theres” I wanted to get to.

These days, it’s called a hack. (One of several definitions of the word, anyway.)

To hack something is to find a clever way to beat the system. And so, if learning Kung Fu would have taken x months, a hack would be to learn it in much less time than that. A way to cut the line or skip it altogether.

James Altucher is the best-selling author of Choose Yourself. His latest book is called Skip the Line.

It’s a salute to shortcuts, to not having to wait your turn or pay your dues. To hacking your way to success.

“We’ll get there fast. And then we’ll take it slow.”

When do we savor the experience? When do we take the decidedly long route for the scenes? When do we take a leisurely walk instead of speed walking to the top of the hill?

As I get older — when there are increasingly more sands of time in the bottom chamber of the hourglass than the top — I find myself wanting to slow down and savor more. To not miss out on the experience.

And I realize this means no fast-forwarding past the bad spots. Taking it all in. The good and the bad.

Which is the argument for shortcuts and skipping the line, I suppose.

If we could skip all the bad, why wouldn’t we?

But isn’t there something about success being sweeter because of the pain we experienced getting there? If getting dropped by a helicopter to the top of Mt. Everest were possible, would more people prefer that? I imagine it would feel differently than if they’d reached it through the Hillary Step.


More and more, I find myself going after the quality of things and experiences instead of their quantity.

Is this on account of maturation? Of getting older? Of learning lessons and being wiser as a result?

I don’t know. I haven’t yet found all the answers. But I’ve learned to be patient about finding these things.

Additional Suggested Reading

  • One line that struck a chord with me here was, “We may not always have the luxury of slowness, but we should make a conscious effort to question artificial time constraints.” Anne-Laure Le Cunff of Ness Labs makes a case for slowing down in several areas of our lives. She suggests that we ask often, “Why the rush?” Is speed really adding to the quality of the output of experience here? An Ode To Slowness: The Benefits of Slowing Down
  • We live in a society that encourages the hustle culture. But more and more people are getting smarter and realizing this isn’t the way to success. “The antidote to the ‘always hustling’ mindset is ‘slowness.’ It sounds crazy, but slowing down can be the difference between success or failure, or between thriving and burning out.” 4 Reasons Why Slowing Down Will Actually Make You More Successful
  • Productivity for some means getting more things done as fast as possible. If you define productivity that way, doing less won’t get you there. But if you define productivity as “making the most of your actions, of the time you spend working (or doing anything), of being as effective as possible,” then doing less is the best way to accomplish that. The Lazy Manifesto: Do Less. Then, Do Even Less.

Hear Hear

“Is a sloth really lazy or do they just move more slowly and deliberately? Some things have to go fast, but not everything does.” — Celeste Headlee, Radio Journalist, speaker, author.

Book Recommendation

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
by Jenny Odell

Named one of the best books of the year. In a world where addictive technology is designed to buy and sell our attention, and our value is determined by our 24/7 data productivity, it can seem impossible to escape. But in this inspiring field guide to dropping out of the attention economy, artist and critic Jenny Odell shows us how we can still win back our lives.


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Midlife Cues and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on exploring how to navigate, thrive, and turn midlife into the best phase in our life.