I first saw this phrase in a blog post on April 27. I made a note to write about that thought, but unfortunately I did not write down the source. Here I am over a month later, thinking about what it means. I knew it has been used before. I struggled to remember my high school Latin. I gave that up quickly and turned to my favorite research tool—Google.
The first search result referenced the Urban Directory. I was not expecting that. Here is their definition.
To do things the proper way instead of hurriedly and heedlessly; to see urgent things through in a thorough manner.
Translated from Latin to English, ‘festina lente’ means literally ‘make haste slowly‘; this translation also sounds a lot better than ‘hurry slowly’.
Wikipedia offers a more intellectual explanation. I knew the expression had been around for a time. But I was not aware of the back story.
It goes back to the classical Greek as an adage and oxymoron meaning “make haste slowly” (sometimes rendered in English as “more haste, less speed”. It has been adopted as a motto numerous times, particularly by the emperors Augustus and Titus, the Medicis, and others. The Renaissance printer, Aldus Manutius, used the emblem of the dolphin and anchor that has been used since Roman times to illustrate the adage. The photo [above] is of his printer’s mark.
Another search result sent me to Chapter Four of Karlin Sloan’s book Smarter, Faster, Better: Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership. She writes,
“The intent of the phrase is that activities should be performed with a proper balance of urgency and diligence. If tasks are overly rushed, mistakes are made, and good long-term results are not achieved. Work is best done in a state of flow in which one is fully engaged by the task, and there is no sense of time passing.”
As I pursued the search results, I found the following:
- a non-profit organization in Wicklow, Ireland providing equestrian & horticultural related services for people with special needs,
- a guest house in Johannesburg South Africa,
- a Blogger site detailing travels,
- and a coffee house in Amsterdam.
I decided Festina Lente can mean whatever you want it to mean after seeing these sites.
Why did that phrase resonate with me? I am “retired” so what does this mean to me. Since I am active in the Residents’ Council, too many times concerns and issues come up that seem to need some immediate action or resolution. But in most cases, we need to slow down and think about the long-term effect on actions that are taken. As I continue my leadership role, I need to remember this adage that has stood the test of time. Now let me hasten slowly to finish my To Do list before the day ends.