The Slowest Hiker

I love the scenic beauty of Washington State—it’s the main reason I moved here. The problem is that everyone here loves the scenic beauty, so most hiking trails are crowded. When I hike, I constantly pass big groups because they can only move as fast as the slowest hiker.

Like the ancient adage, “A chain is only as good as the weakest link,” a group is only as fast as its slowest hiker. People can interpret this situation aggressively and resort to “cutting out the weak link” or only picking fast hikers. But that’s a crude solution and a pipedream to expect everyone to be above-average.

Instead, start with the slowest hiker. Move them to the front to set the pace. If you need to move quicker—look for ways to help the slowest hiker. Move some of their weight into the bags of faster hikers or give them extra water. By lightening their load and improving their experience, the whole group will move faster.

At work, distributing loads based on ability (rather than equality) make the team more productive and efficient. Beyond groups, this applies on a personal level. When setting expectations with yourself—i.e., how many words you can write in a day—plan with the slowest hiker in mind. On days when you’re stressed and tired, how many words can you complete? How can you make those “slow” days less slow? Can you pick up more on days when you’re feeling stronger? Being realistic about this enables sustained and steady progress.

You’re as fast as your slowest hiker.