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Slow down, break addiction to instant gratification

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The Slow Fix

Solve Problems, Work Smarter, and Live Better in a World Addicted to Speed

By Carl Honoré

Knopf Canada, 320 pages, $32

ENOUGH with the shortcuts and instant gratification, according to Canadian-born author Carl Honoré's new paean to taking it easy.

In The Slow Fix, Honoré, a journalist who lives in London, England, follows up on his earlier bestseller In Praise of Slow.

In his view, adopting the tortoise's world view can help us all. Honoré scolds about how all too many of us seek the quick fix to a problem, and "maximum results for minimum input."

He uses the example of social protest. In the old days, this was accomplished by committed individuals through signed petitions, envelope stuffing and town-hall meetings. He then compares the past to today's less-involved form of protest: click "like" or send a sympathetic tweet.

Health care gets a particularly hard knock for its "selling of the promise of instant healing," rather than finding root cause of ailments and then working towards a cure.

Honoré uses his own back ailment as example: for years he tried the latest gimmick or orthopedic mattress to solve a nagging back ache, without ever really completing a series of appointments with a single doctor.

Honoré writes that the world has become addicted to the quick fix, when a slower approach is what is needed to actually solve problems. He blames our brains, drawing parallels between our primitive "hunt or be hunted" days and the thrill of advancing yet another level in a video game.

Add to that human traits that have been around forever -- we're optimists (the divorce rate is 50 per cent but we keep getting married), we prefer the familiar solution, and we don't like change (so we sit in the same spot in class or stay with the same bank).

To fix all that, Honoré devotes just over 300 pages to ways to arrive at better solutions to problems, rather than just applying Band-Aids that eventually peel off.

He does so by exploring the mistakes of others, and their better-thought-out and time-consuming responses yield better results.

In a chapter devoted to the benefits of confession and admitting mistakes, Honoré cites former U.S president Bill Clinton as an example of a person with a mistake or two behind him. Clinton of course, was proven a liar and nearly impeached for his extramarital relationship with a White House intern.

Yet, according to Honoré, Clinton has made it a rule in his post-presidential life to admit to ignorance or error at least once a day. He does so to keep an open mind and acknowledge that he doesn't know everything.

Honoré points out that Clinton could not have done this during his presidential tenure, given the backlash from political rivals, media and the public that would have been sure to follow.

Honoré states, however, that the opposite should be true, and points to the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force system of a "just culture." Rather than punishment and blame, a mistake with the RAF invites exploration into what went wrong and how to fix it.

When there's a problem, the RAF preference is to let someone know, and let a solution be found, rather than cause a coverup with potentially disastrous consequences.

Honoré cites Domino Pizza's "Pizza Turnaround" campaign as an example of saying sorry, then finding a solution. The company publicly apologized for lousy pizza, improved it, and then went on to record sales and a 233-per-cent leap in stock price.

Jackie Shymanski is the director of communications and public affairs at CancerCare Manitoba.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 2, 2013 J9

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